August 9th, 2011
The year that Kiran Desai won the Booker Prize, I was working at Random House of Canada. She attended a party, that I think was thrown because it was the International Festival of Authors, and I remember thinking that she was both regal and beautiful — I was in awe. Normally, I don’t get starstruck by authors, especially ones where I have never read their work, but I was incredibly familiar with her mother’s writing (many courses in post-colonial literature and a slight obsession with Baumgarter’s Bombay), and found myself hovering around her trying to get a word in edgewise or at least shake her hand. Neither happened. I’m sad about that now, only because, years and years later, I have finally gotten around to finishing The Inheritance of Loss, and did not find it lacking in the least. In fact, it ultimately lives up to the image I have of Desai: tall, gracious, and utterly beautiful.
The Inheritance of Loss follows the lives of a select group of people living near the Kalimpong mountains. They are as cut off from the world around them as they are, ultimately, from themselves — their geography forming an incredible metaphor for the loss each character has in terms of self-awareness as the novel progresses. There’s the judge, Jemubhai Patel, who hides away in his decrepit, falling down house because he’s both determined and disabused by his own false societal notions (an Indian who aspires to be English, he feels cut-off from his own society and therefore physically removes himself from it), and his cook, whose son, Biju has escaped to America and is forever in search of an elusive green card — both men have been living together for decades upholding a false sense of classicism as the house, the world, and their archaic notions crumble down around them. (more…)