In The Ring of Recollection, Nancy Batty challenges the critical orthodoxy that Shashi Deshpande's fiction is transparently realistic and narrowly focused on domestic and women's issues. This study shifts attention towards the labyrinthine structure and modernist style of most of Deshpande's writing. Features hitherto viewed as deviations from her realism, or even as flaws, are re-situated in the light of a gothic poetics that works to uncover a structural trope of transgenerational secrecy, beginning with Deshpande's early detective fiction and extending to her most recent work.
Linking a fourth-century Sanskrit play by Kalidasa (Shakuntala) and the psychoanalytic theories of Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok, Batty offers in-depth reinterpretations of five of Deshpande's major novels, published over a period of twenty years (1980-2000): The Dark Holds No Terrors; That Long Silence; The Binding Vine; A Matter of Time; and Small Remedies. These novels have established Deshpande's critical reputation as a `woman's' writer whose major concern is to break the "long silence" of Indian women. Batty shifts the ground of analysis by establishing that Deshpande's fictional world encompasses more than just female characters, and that the trope of silence extends not only to her male characters but also to communities, in a society where silence about shameful past events can control the destinies of entire families. Thus we see in her novels characters whose lives are disturbed, haunted, and sometimes even controlled not just by traumatic events but also by transgenerational family secrets to which they often do not have access. Moreover, the breaking of silence - the revelatory opening of family crypts - can have devastating consequences. Restoration of memory may have the power to reorganize the past and change the future, but it rarely possesses the magic required to reunite lovers or to restore wholeness to shattered lives.
The Ring of Recollection offers a major reappraisal of one of India's most prolific and respected contemporary writers.
Publisher: Brill ISBN: 9789042031005 Number of pages: 305 Weight: 699 g Dimensions: 235 x 155 x 23 mm
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