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Voices in the City by Anita Desai
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Voices in the City

by Anita Desai

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Anita Desai's Voices in the City is best described as brilliant. Very impressive. What allows it to stand head and shoulders above most other novels is its sumptious prose. Desai writes paragraphs with such loving care and filled with such bright detail and image that the paragraphs form snapshots of uncommon beauty, a kind of love poem to Calcutta. Just in the final pages alone she describes a female street performer so thin and wretched that her poverty has destroyed her sex, canceling out the roles of lover and mother, leaving a professional hermaphrodite and, a few pages later, writes of an airplane, a silver bird, diving out of the sky with shrill accusation. The whole novel is filled with images made with this kind of energy. It's remarkable writing, remarkable prose styling the equal of those we've long admired--Joyce, Nabokov, McCarthy. The final image is devastating. Desai packs her pages with the sights and sounds and smells and people of Calcutta, a Calcutta whose streets are full of smoke and rain and sunlight and the clamor of life. And in the end she leaves us with a picture of a dark avatar overlooking this din and dump of humanity, offering both hope and destruction. Three of those voices in the city belong to Nirode and his 2 sisters, Amla and Monisha. Nirode and Amla are poles apart, opposites, his the dark personality, hers the light, but each embodying in their way hope, balanced as they are on each side of the avatar/mother. It's Monisha, the daughter who was given away, abandoned and cast off, who's lost in between and beyond hope. this is a brilliant novel, full of light and darkness, life and death. ( )
  ThePerpetualOrgy | Mar 11, 2007 |
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