Book Review | Strange revenge – Lifestyle News

Revenge is a dish best served cold. Or so thought the school teacher, the central character in The Solitude of a Shadow, the first novel of Tamil writer Devibharathi’s to be translated into English. The unnamed man has been waiting for 30 years to heap vengeance on a town bigwig who sexually assaulted his minor sister. When the moment finally arrives, he finds himself unravelling.

Devibharathi’s writings in the past three decades have established him as a major figure in Tamil literature, mainly due to his exploration of caste and gender politics through powerful storytelling across the genres of drama, short stories, novels and essays. Nizhalin Thanimai, the original Tamil title of The Shadow of a Solitude, is his first novel published in 2012. Debibharathi’s readers in English are familiar with Farewell, Mahatma, the English translation of a collection of his Tamil short stories published in 2014 that probed the idea of freedom.

In The Shadow of a Solitude, the author goes back a few decades in history to set the stage for one man’s struggle to come to terms with the weight of caste and gender bondage. The book begins in a small town’s government school where its only clerk arrives to join duty. It soon emerges that his main purpose in the town was to find a loan shark responsible for the lifelong trauma of his sister so that he can be punished for his atrocities.Who is Sanjiv Goenka, one of India’s richest business tycoons? He owns KL Rahul-led Lucknow Super Giants and has Rs 28,390 crore net worthMeet Ritika Sajdeh, Rohit Sharma’s wife – She is a successful sports manager handling multi-crore brand endorsements and contractsThe Great Indian Kapil Show: Kapil Sharma’s salary is 20 times more than Sunil Grover’s – Check out how much others are charging for the Netflix showIn Images | Inside lavish lifestyle of Indian billionaire Sudha Reddy: Private jets, palatial Hyderabad home, custom Rolls Royce, and more

The nameless clerk sets about his task meticulously, in the process befriending Karunakaran, the loan shark who has grown to control most of the town’s matters. Gaining a foothold in Karunakaran’s house, the clerk waits for the right time to settle scores, as we realise, by stabbing him to death. A murder is not easy to commit, the clerk soon finds out. Things begin to spin out of control as he pursues his goal by changing tactics.

Devibharathi draws a fine line between crime and retribution as he dissects the societal prejudices running through caste and gender identities. The school clerk belongs to a lower caste while the loan shark enjoys the privileges of a higher caste. As he moves to take revenge for the attack on his sister three decades ago, the clerk comes across moments where the burden of social bias hangs heavily over his shoulder.

The novel, narrated by the school clerk with events of the present and past colliding at regular intervals, moves from the ghostly shadows of the sins of caste and crime with a bewitching sense of time and space. The clerk’s mind is overshadowed by doubts over his aims that he sets for himself and his sister. Does his goal make him a perpetrator of crimes like Karunakaran himself? Questions like this plague his mind, extending the creative canvas of the novel to morality and ethics of human behaviour and relationships. Devibharathi’s translator N Kalyan Raman, who also translated Farewell, Mahatma, wades his language through a whirlpool of ethical and philosophical pauses to steer the narrative to its conclusion. The novel joins a growing list of translated works from Indian languages in recent years that have raised the lid on the bewildering backwardness of mind and body as society races to further its modernity.

Book: The Solitude of a Shadow

Author: Devibharathi

Translated from the Tamil by N Kalyan Raman

Publisher: HarperCollins

Pp 208, Rs 399

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