A few thoughts on The Persecution of Madhav Tripathi, by Aditya Sudarshan (SPOILERS ahead, in case you are going to read it in the near future)
- I’m glad I’m writing this post here on my own blog instead of being paid for it. It leaves me no sense of guilt of short changing anybody.
- First, the good: Sudarshan’s language is good and the writing is smooth. If he was successfully channelling Agatha Christie in his first book (A Nice Quiet Holiday, which I'd recommend), here he’s probably channelling Kafka. None of that awkward “deti hai to de warna kat le” kind of English. Another good: the book is short, just above 200 pages. So you get done quickly.
- Having gotten that out of the way: WHAT THE ****? TWO HUNDRED PAGES just to tell the target audience that it’s too privileged and smug for its own good? With a bunch of scenes out of drug-addled nightmares thrown in? (“The dragonfly began to gnash its teeth. The sound overpowered the room (or something like that)”) I get it, this is an experimental book, with an aspiration towards high literature, but as far as I know it isn’t the function of high literature to make us throw the book across the room.
- Never mind that last paragraph. On to the putative story: Madhav Tripathi, a government officer, get caught in some sort of conspiracy where a shadowy rebel group is after him. He thinks of himself as a fine, upstanding person (though not above reprimanding policemen who dare to think of him as a common person). His circle of friends is also composed of similar upstanding higher-middle-class people who form the “system” of society. As he goes further and further into the mess – getting kidnapped, running to a farmhouse to hide away, venturing into labyrinthian slums, and so on – he find himself hemmed in by the society’s “do-gooders” who actually care about the downtrodden and forgotten. His circle keeps getting smaller and smaller. The narration takes his side throughout, although he becomes clear that Sudarshan is poking fun at him.
- The scenes get more and more bizarre as we go on (as I said, Kafka). Existential dread and dementia are theories we come up with, though no clarification is offered. It ends in a "was it all real or not?" kind of shift (I know, spoilers. Sorry. But needed here). That ending made me feel like I'd wasted my time.