Monday, October 15, 2012

Fractured Legend: A Book Review

Image Courtesy: Google
Fractured Legend is Kranthi Askani’s debut novel. The title, Fractured Legend well represents the broken and ill tendered state of the plot. The book incorporates magic realism, gothic elements as per the blurb piece.

Fractured Legend opens with a statues deliquescing, in the Book 1, “Slave”. The novel is presented in three books. Book 1 is titled “Slave”. Book 2 is called “Manuscript” and Book 3 is “A Very Long Letter”. Book 1, book 2 and book 3 are split into three chapters each. Fractured Legend connects the story of four women in a string of narratives, in which magical realism and gothic elements play a disastrous role, leaving the plot murky, uninteresting and impossible to associate with (intellectually or emotionally).

Two more artistic techniques remain surprisingly traceable in the work. One is absurdism. Absurdity lurches upon you from the first chapter of the Book 1. The non-presence of action is one of the reasons this element of absurdity dominates this chapter. Absurdism, however, does not  seem to be intentional in the craft of the author. The whole first chapter in the Book 1 does not  even start the main action of the story. This chapter revolves around the precincts of the hopeless lives of the characters the narrator fishes out from her memory. This postpones the main action farther, leaving the sense of a lack of purpose extremely evident. It is in this sense absurdity becomes strikingly evident.   

Second is the stream of consciousness. Priyambada, the narrator in Book 1 “Slave”, recounts many of her experiences and it leaves an impression much like it is stream of consciousness. The Book 2 and 3 also are full of details of abstract thoughts presented with least art and full of ambition. These two ideas—absurdism and stream of consciousness—are not elaborated in the blurb, not even mentioned once.

In the eighth page, Priyambada thinks about a man who extols the divinity of the temple. From there her thoughts drift away to the young man, who took her with him to travel all night long to his temple. His flesh too is held in a statue and comes to life only occasionally; much like Priyambada and her companions. Aardya is her close companion, a girl with genuine wits. Priyambada is close to Ardya than any other persons or statues.

Priyambada decides to take a risk with her existence and decides to transform into flesh and continue living a ‘normal’ human life. She is shown as taking this theme forward; however, the extent to which this normality is applicable to her existence is questionable. Priyambada’s life is normal like that you can observe in the conventional ‘normality’ exhibited in bollywood movies and certain daily Hindi soaps.

The Book 2, “Manuscript” is the story of Nandhini. She is a professional in killing people. Her life changes as she accepts the assignment to retrieve a manuscript kept by Ardya, who is reluctant to give away this manuscript. This story follows first person narrative as well. “Manuscript” has a whole different tone from “Slave”. If “slave” is about identity crisis and cliché feminism, the “Manuscript” is about a violent sequence of events that leave the narrator with little room to think elusive and lyrical sentences such as; “We all know that no slave girl ever made it to the end; we know that we are outcasts and are merely seen as amusement pieces, to be cast away like bed bugs,” which we come across in “Slave”.

Book 3 is a long letter written by Pravalli, Priyambada’s daughter, who hates her mother when she comes across the truth that Priyambada was a temple slave once. This story, epistolary in nature, carries no action forward and leaves the readers’ eyes droop with heavy slumber.

Kranthi Askani
Image Courtesy: Google
Fractured Legend is published by APK Publishers in 2012 and it costs Rs: 195 only. The printing and lettering of the book give the feeling of reading a compulsory text book prescribed in some pathetic universities.

Askani is a technocrat-turned writer, who deserves some credit for attempting such an endeavour to connect the stories of four women, although as a work of fiction, which is a miserable failure. Askani writes a female centered story, yet the voyeuristic fetish of phallocentrism is quite evident in the petty assertions of naked baths and similar instances.  

Fractured Legend is just another incompetent book on the block of contemporary Indian writings in English. Fortunately it is not a half baked romance.     

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