A man adrift in Jalandhar
The first volume of an ambitious novel sequence by one of the greatest Hindi writers of the 20th century
Of literature’s many paradoxes, one of the most persistent is the dependence of so many writers who call themselves realists on protagonists who are anything but. Like all good paradoxes, this one too points to an important truth. From Miguel de Cervantes onwards, naïve protagonists in fiction—their hearts filled with noble ideals, believing, if not that the world is a just place, then certainly that a more just world can be made—provide a point of view on human nature that eventually unsettles readers just as much as their fictional milieu unsettles them. Of course, they may come across as purely comic if they, like Don Quixote, refuse to learn anything. But equally, should they learn to adapt themselves to their circumstances, we sense something tragic about their realism, and feel the need to defend or rescue exactly what they are abandoning.
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