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The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
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The Inheritance of Loss (original 2005; edition 2006)

by Kiran Desai

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5,164158866 (3.42)1 / 444
Member:PaperbackPirate
Title:The Inheritance of Loss
Authors:Kiran Desai
Info:Grove/Atlantic (2006), Mass Market Paperback, 357 pages
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The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai (2005)

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English (150)  Finnish (1)  Swedish (1)  Dutch (1)  Catalan (1)  German (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (156)
Showing 1-5 of 150 (next | show all)
It was an awful thing, the downing of a proud man. He might kill the witness.

I was in the midst of my pre-reviewing laze that consists of gathering up thoughts and quotes and semi-but-not-really-pigeonholing-various-things when without warning the word 'satire' reared its head. It's not a word I get along with, what with its all too frequent usage as a blockade, a safety blanket, a "but it's a satire so I can say anything I want?!?!" that guarantees neither quality nor even simple entertainment, but if there's one example that I'll accept with nary a quibble, it's Swift's [A Modest Proposal]. It's a piece that makes you laugh while questioning while you're laughing because you are also crying but not nearly as much as you should be while also recognizing the logic that is only the extension of a present day condition that seems practical and common sensical until it isn't because now you're eating human babies. Don't get me wrong, the slippery slope analogy is a fallacy alright, but more fucked up things than government sanctioned cannibalism of newborns has happened on a more official scale.

One day the Indian girls hoped to be gentry, but right now, despite being unwelcome in the neighborhood, they were in the student stage of vehemently siding with the poor people who wished them gone.

So it's a satire of immigration and all its ways of the Dream, an entity so bloated by desperate whispers and Hollywood explosions and in the case of India postcolonialism/racism/previous cash cow (oh the double entendre) of the ultimate White Man's Burden Spiel that anyone expecting something along the lines of narrative flow is going to have issues. In cowboy tropes you'd call it "gritty", but despite the shit and boogers and homeless mental illness and abject poverty without a single shred of sentiment and socially encouraged rape there's no time for macho solipsism when there's lampooning of every single privilege to be done. Granted, there is some but how you feel about it by the end will tell you more about yourself than you are comfortable with imagining.

Saeed, he relished the whole game, the way the country flexed his wits and rewarded him; he charmed it, cajoled it, cheated it, felt great tenderness and loyalty toward it. When it came time, he who had jigged open every back door, he who had, with photocopier, Wite-Out, and paper cutter, spectacularly sabotaged the system (one skilled person at the photocopy machine, he assured Biju, could bring America to its knees), he would pledge emotional allegiance to the flag with tears in his eyes and conviction in his voice. The country recognized something in Saeed, he in it, and it was a mutual love affair. Ups and downs, sometimes more sour than sweet, maybe, but nonetheless, beyond anything the INS could imagine, it was an old-fashioned romance.

On the scale of [The Namesake] to [The God of Small Things] this matches quite nicely within the rating disparities (four stars in the range from two to five) because of its embrace of both horror and happiness. It's also hilarious, which goes a long way in touching on Big Issues that really do need to be considered without being sucked in. As Shaw/Chaplin/Wilde/some dead white guy (the assumption of course but maybe it's wrong) reputedly said, make them laugh, else they'll kill you. It seems to have worked out well in the case of the Booker, but as for the ratings...eh. I'll settle for poking them with a stick.

Just ordinary humans in ordinary opaque boiled-egg light, without grace, without revelation, composite of contradictions, easy principles, arguing about what they half believed in or even what they didn't believe in at all, desiring comfort as much as raw austerity, authenticity as much as playacting, desiring coziness of family as much as to abandon it forever.

Yes, there's life affirmation and critical theories and a multifarious web of Srs Bzns, but it made me laugh, and it didn't even need a single dead baby to do it. ( )
  Korrick | Oct 23, 2014 |
This book is rich, lush in its layers of emotional detail. Mostly about people who have left their historical homes behind in search of a better life discovering that not only is their new, modern life empty, but they can't go forward and can't go back. (That's actually a fairly trite oversimplification, but if I could write subtle truths about identity and belonging the way Desai can, I might have a Booker as well. As is, you'll all have to settle for my crass approximations of her genius.)

None of the characters seem lovable on the page, but I was amazed as I progressed through the book at how much love went into each of them. Even the men who acted in seemingly selfish and cruel ways had stories that explain, if never excusing, their twisted behaviors. Sai's visit to Gyan's family house is a perfect example of this. That scene was the novel in a nutshell for me, encapsulating the heart of what Desai was able to reveal about the world and humanity.

This is a difficult book, emotionally, but Desai so clearly is able to love her characters that all the tragedy somehow seem all right. These people are so capable of being loved, it has to be all right. Right? ( )
  nnschiller | Sep 18, 2014 |
Great book. Nothing like it I have ever read ( )
  rajveerspace | Mar 25, 2014 |
Between 1986 and 1988, the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland and Kamtapur based on ethnic lines grew strong. Riots between the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) and the West Bengal government reached a stand-off after a forty-day strike. The town was virtually under siege, and the state government called in the Indian army to maintain law and order. This led to the formation of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council, a body that was given semi-autonomous powers to govern the Darjeeling district, except the area under the Siliguri subdivision. Since 2007, the demand for a separate Gorkhaland state has been revived by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and its supporters in the Darjeeling hills. The Kamtapur People's Party and its supporters' movement for a separate Kamtapur state covering North Bengal have gained momentum. (from Wikipedia)

[The Inheritance of Loss] by Kiran Desai
Kalimpong an Indian Hill station and it's surrounds form the backdrop to Desia's 2006 Man Booker prize winning novel, with the riots in the 1980's resulting from agitation by the Gorkha National Liberation Front forming a centre piece for the story. It's strength lies in its portrayal of life in a post colonial India town, which is home to a number of nationalities and conscious of its history as a crossroads for Tibetan refugees and Chinese incursions. It's weakness lies in a sort of cut and paste structure that does not serve well its central story line which does not come across as strongly as it might have done.

The inheritance of loss is a loss of identity and the themes running through this novel are of individuals struggling to come to terms with displacement of one sort or another. A retired Indian judge who has never recovered from his education in England and the resulting alienation he feels when returning to India is set against the story of his cook's son who is desperately trying to make his way as an illegal immigrant in the United States of America. The colourful elderly residents around Kalimpong; Noni and Lola, Uncle Potty and father Booty are foreigners in a country they have made their home and there is a sense of them clinging onto a life that threatens to be swept away by the Nationalists movement. These people are out of place and out of time, but their situation is in some respects similar to the younger generation; Sai the judges granddaughter and her boyfriend Gyan who being Nepalese is caught up in a struggle that he barely understands and of course Biju the cook's son trying to figure out just what he is doing in the USA.

Desai places the reader convincingly in the crumbling houses and crumbling lives of the community in Kalimpong. The hill station with it's beautiful flora and breath taking views of the Himalayas is contrasted with downtown scruffiness and abject poverty on its outskirts. Her characters are well drawn, but she laughs at them perhaps a little too cruelly at times, these are people that deserve our sympathy a little more than Desai allows us to have for them. I get the feeling she is looking down on her characters rather than looking through them and her superior attitude grates on me a little. Desai is not above having a swipe at other authors writing about India; V S Naipaul for instance and those English writers whose impressions "did not correspond with the truth."

Taking everything into consideration I think Desai's novel is a success, because of her characterisation and her insight into her themes of alienation in a post colonial world. She writes well enough sprinkling her text with Indian and Anglo-Indian expressions that lend it all some authenticity. However I am not entirely convinced with the novel's structure, the continual breaking up of the text into short sections within a chapter makes that cut and paste feeling all too apparent, there are bits pasted in that might have been better to leave out. In my opinion the novel lacks a heart and so I would rate it at 3.5 stars. ( )
3 vote baswood | Jan 9, 2014 |
The book takes place in post-Independence India, with occasional flashbacks to the colonial rule under the British. And while India gained independence, it still struggled with the many diverse cultures within its borders. Desai brings a story in the Kalimpong area at the base of the Himalayas. It is less a story with a plot than a study of the characters, a retired judge, his orphaned granddaughter, the family cook, the cook’s son an undocumented worker in the US and assorted neighbors. And it is a study of loss as a character in many forms, loss of parents, loss of a known way of life with its hierarchy of place in society, loss of a first love, and loss of opportunities. The language was rich, bringing forth the colors, scents, feel of this corner of India.

While I enjoyed reading the book, it left a feeling of sadness due all the loss. For my reading experience I would have preferred a little more of a plot and things tied up a bit more neatly. But I’m glad I finally took the time to read this from my TBR. ( )
  punxsygal | Jan 1, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kiran Desaiprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Drews, KristiinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lai, Chin-YeeCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Boast of Quietness

Writings of light assault the darkness, more prodigious than meteors.

The tall unknowable city takes over the countryside.

Sure of my life and my death, I observe the ambitious and would like to understand them.

Their day is greedy as a lariat in the air.

Their night is a rest from the rage within steel, quick to attack.

They speak of humanity.

My humanity is in feeling we are all voices of the same poverty.

They speak of homeland.

My homeland is the rhythm of a guitar, a few portraits, an old sword, the willow grove's visible prayer as evening falls.

Time is living me.

More silent than my shadow, I pass through the loftily covetous multitude.

They are indispensable, singular, worthy of tomorrow.

My name is someone and anyone.

I walk slowly, like one who comes from so far away he doesn't expect to arrive.

-Jorge Luis Borges
Dedication
To my mother with so much love
First words
All day, the colours had been those of dusk, mist moving like a water creature across the great flanks of mountains possessed of ocean shadows and depths.
Quotations
An accident, they said, and there was nobody to blame - it was just fate in the way fate has of providing the destitute with a greater quota of accidents for which nobody can be blamed.
Just ordinary humans in ordinary opaque boiled-egg light, without grace, without revelation, composite of contradictions, easy principles, arguing about what they half believed in or even what they didn't believe in at all, desiring comfort as much as raw austerity, authenticity as much as playacting, desiring coziness of family as much as to abandon it forever.
...and he felt a flash of jealousy as do friends when they lose another to love, especially those who have understood that friendship is enough, steadier, healthier, easier on the heart. Something that always added and never took away. (Ch 39)
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0802142818, Paperback)

In a crumbling, isolated house at the foot of Mount Kanchenjunga in the Himalayas lives an embittered judge who wants only to retire in peace, when his orphaned granddaughter, Sai, arrives on his doorstep. The judge’s cook watches over her distractedly, for his thoughts are often on his son, Biju, who is hopscotching from one gritty New York restaurant to another. Kiran Desai’s brilliant novel, published to huge acclaim, is a story of joy and despair. Her characters face numerous choices that majestically illuminate the consequences of colonialism as it collides with the modern world.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:37:28 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

In a crumbling, isolated house at the foot of Mount Kanchenjunga in the Himalayas lives an embittered judge who wants only to retire in peace, when his orphaned granddaughter, Sai, arrives on his doorstep. The judgeʾs cook watches over her distractedly, for his thoughts are often on his son, Biju, who is hopscotching from one gritty New York restaurant to another. Kiran Desaiʾs brilliant novel, published to huge acclaim, is a story of joy and despair. Her characters face numerous choices that majestically illuminate the consequences of colonialism as it collides with the modern world. Winner of 2006 Man Booker Prize.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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Two editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141027282, 0141399368

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