Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Spirit Rekindled

“It didn't matter that the story had begun, because Kathakali discovered long ago that the secret of the Great Stories is that they have no secrets. The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again. The ones you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably. They don't deceive you with thrills and trick endings."
- The God of Small Things

Seeing a movie and reading a literary creation with which you identify from your experience or events of the past is a pleasurable thing.
The two such instances were , my happening to see the new version of the movie “Neelathamar” and reading the book “God of Small Things”.
The Producer and Director of the movie and Ms Arundathi Roy the author of the book must be reminded of ones gratification.
Nelthamara brought back naughty memories of achievements and disillusionments of the teen and the youth, whilst God of Small things reminded one of even certain specific days of the past and smell of the air.
It is often a refreshing feel to revisit the good times of the past. Though sometimes memories can be stoic as well!
I do not want to flaunt or curb the experience and experiments which I or any of my friends could identify with that of the hero in the movie Neeltahamara.That must always be a pleasure or disappointment to be kept in confines and only to be unleashed in the midst of bosom friends. But still am sure not many were able to suppress the reviving memories while the song “anuraga
vi lochithanayi” was played out with some nostalgic visual treats, ha ha hm !!
And when Suresh confessed in some interview that he saw the old version of Neelthamara a dozen times and more, I for one was not unsure of the reasons that kept him running back to the movie hall then.
As for the God of Small things, the days when the anti Communist procession and the blaring of specific film songs is so identifiable, in the book as well as in real life in the 60’s.The escapades in the theater ( Kottayam Annanad theater) vividly described by Arundathi Roy will am sure tickle many. Am sure my friend B would like to add upon this.
And many of us could still feel the air of places similar to “Ayemenem” where we may have spent the days during summer school closure. There was much in the God of Small things and in Neelathamara that rekindles as they are both from the same genre as I’m and many are.


kochuthresiamma p .j said...

what i found appealing about god of small things is the daring and fresh use of the language and the honesty with which the story is told.
like they say, there is only one story. all depends on how you tell it

Ashok Menath said...

KPJ, Good to see you here.
I dont however share your (Anil's too) admiration for God of Small Things. Trivialisation of social discourse is something perfected by news papers like Malayala Manorama over the years. It goes beyond the basic irreverence of malayalees. Now you translate the discourse of derision and win a booker!!
I dont mean to belittle Arundhati Roy's later non-literary interventions. Could it be a penance that she no more refers to her novel?

kochuthresiamma p .j said...

@ashok menath
if irreverence informs the malayalee's perception of the world(and it does, we know), wouldn't AR be dishonest to herself if she refrained from giving a free run to that perception from shaping her worldview in her novel? On what grounds should she take another position? a high moral ground that the malayalee approach to to life is 'wrong"?
there is no art where truth is compromised.truth is beauty, beauty truth.
your view amounts to a suggestion that art should be moralised.

and why should she keep harking back to her novel? she has told her story. like they say, everyone has one story to tell - not many choose to tell it for either lack of skill or lack of courage to tell that story honestly.sometimes i think God of small things was AR 's emptying of that trivialising tendency she inherited from the malayalee blood in her - a sort of blood letting/catharsis, after which she has moved on to social concerns.
remember that after the publication of God of small things, she confessed she can write no more novels.

Balachandran V said...

What matters to the discerning reader is not the story, but the way the story is told. Criticizing G of S T on moral grounds is either hypocritical or blissful ignorance of facts of life. Malayalee has both, in ample quantities. ONV said he felt like puking, reading the book. Good. He needed some strong medicine to purge himself of the suppressed waste inside. Pity those who fail to see the daring experimentation with language, the searing honesty, the courage to write truth, however unsavoury it may be to many. Those who condemned God of Small Things lack this - honesty,courage and skill with the language.

I realize I have inadvertently repeated KPJ! Oops! :)

Ashok Menath said...

Did I sound moralistic? Blame it on my lack of skill with the language. Let me try to explain:

I said trivialisation goes beyond irreverence. Irreverence, as we have seen with Kunchan Nambiar, at times leads to intellectual revolt. It is an individual’s perception and reaction, which might influence the collective discourse. Trivialisation conversely is a deliberate institutional construct intended to control discourse. As Foucault said societies control discourse to ‘avert its powers and its dangers, to cope with chance events, to avoid its ponderous awesome materiality’. In the context of power and invasion, I think, trivialisation explains Foucaultian intertextual repetition which ensures that discourse takes the form of “an identity and sameness” and fits into the “major narrative” of society. What characterises the major narrative of Malayalee society? It has two facets, I believe, despair and derision both deliberate projects. So the key point of my earlier comment was discourse- ramifications of which transcend syntactical experiments of a novelist. (Trivialisation indeed is a western project to control the global discourse. Remember John Updike’s comment on GST: - “a Tiger Woodsian debut”. Yes, there can only be 18 holes of imagination and the last hole is filled with money!) My take on GST is that it falls into the major narrative, the sameness if not reinforcing it.

Do I still sound moralistic?

KPJ: Believe me, OV Vijayan’s Dharmapuranam was certainly cathartic to me as a reader. (So much for my puritan sensibilities). As a matter of fact I am against all didactic edicts.

Balan: I really puked reading another booker winner touted again as a daring experiment: ‘The White Tiger’. I too search for that purgative.

I don’t get this -‘reader’s skill with the language -- appreciation of a novel’ - logic. If we reverse engineer this logic, my skills must be at par with, say, Faulkner for I admire his Sound and Fury!

About ‘Truth, Honesty and Courage’: Come on! We are not talking about Gandhiji’s autobiography.

Anil: Why did you choose to put a follow up comment as a new post?

And finally:

I would rate Nirmala Aravind’s A Fridge, A Video and a Bride one notch above GST for its compassion.

kochuthresiamma p .j said...

arent you also trying to control discourse? the moment you adopt foucaaultian (or any other) theory for interpreting/categorising works, you too fall in the same trap -only the identity and sameness here fits into the major narrative of a particular academic society - fouccaltian in this case.
you are a victim of what you condemn. in your own way aren't you also being cannonical?

you cannot take a position on anything without being discursive.

i do not know how i gave the impression that the honesty i spoke about regarding GST was GANDHIAN. guess my linguistic skills r to be blamed:-)

believe me, at some point in life i stopped going by cannons, by absolutism. i read. if i can relate to it, i enjoy it. if i dont, i am confused. but what i can relate to, be it part of the dominant narrative or not, holds a meaning for me.i refuse to allow any theory to dictate my response to a work.

i feel if fouccault is truly internalised, we will set ourselves free from all discourses.

wonder if i make sense.

Thomas AJ said...

Reading through these comments, I agree with Ashok in his postulation that Nirmala Aravind's novel is way ahead in terms of compassion and understanding of the human predicament than GST. I think we have to go beyond 'controlling discourse' etc., Foucoldian or otherwise, to really get into the heart of a work of art. Our own age-old 'Rasa-Sidhaanta' is a perennial tool, don't you think?

kochuthresiamma p .j said...

@ Thomas AJ
i think application of rasa siddhanta to the issue in and would validate my position on this.and there is no serius problem reconcilig rasa with foucault 's theory.

is this the aj thomas that i know?

anilkurup said...

Apparently my casual comment on petite Arundati Roy and her “God of small things” has triggered some sort of electronic whipping.
If you folks would recollect the post “Spirit Rekindled”, you will notice that I commented as a lay person and the comment normally should not have invited attention.
I guess that you would agree that at times with certain work of art or literature one will strike a chord. And that was all I mentioned. One will revisit a certain past while reading a novel, watching a play or a movie.
I also mentioned in a continuation post that AR is no Marquez or a story teller in the mould of any other classical writers. Malayalam and I m sure other Indian vernacular has generous assembly of literary figures who would dwarf AR many times over, (one need not go to the west for comparison). And as she said she may not have the canvas in her to pen another novel. But her writings on her current passion ie social, economic and environmental issues bear the mark of incisiveness, knowledge forthright attitude and above all courage to tell the blunt truth even if its is unpleasant and inconvenient. There is no element of trivialization or hypocrisy.

But I did feel in Ashok’s comment that he too was a bit moralistic. And that is the banal side of Mallus (that includes me as well). Hence I thought I should pen my thoughts on Malayalees high moral discourse and blatant hypocrisy. In GST , AR in deft and innovative use of English was able to tell her story with no qualms what so ever and without an iota of consternation for the moral- high priests. Perhaps her revolt against the banality of Malayalee brought forth the novel GST. Who knows she may have puked living through the pseudo moral discourses in the Syrian catholic society.

But one thing good came about to me personally from this discussion-and I could collect some information about Foucault. And I have the following quotes on Michel Foucault.” Foucault didn't really go for making clear statements of his 'argument', even some of his basic claims are open to other people coming along and saying "I hardly think that Foucault would have wanted you to feel that he was saying that...” But in the real world you've just got to have the courage to say "I got this from Foucault". Or just can mutter about "Foucauldian ideas" in a defensive way; you choose. Some people hide behind long words and potentially meaningless phrases when discussing French philosophers, but others feel that if you're genuinely clever you don't do that. Again: your choice”.

Ashok Menath said...

Me, a member of Foucaldian academic society? Schooling in Malayalam medium and a laboured 3rd class BSc degree are my credentials, period. I can’t hope to be anywhere near the vicinity of such clubs, I am afraid.

I don’t know anything about ‘Rasa Sidhanta’. I don’t know anything about Foucault either. I just said that I don’t share the general admiration for a particular novel. I had my own reservations about the “central message”, if you like, of that novel. I never questioned anybody’s liking for it. But I was misread as being moralistic, cowardly and what not! Foucault and his abstractions were thus part of my snobbish attempt to give an air of seriousness to what I said. I just picked some random quotes from the internet. It could as well have been Bakhtin, Saussure, Lacan or Derrida. All of them must be available for free in the net.

Now that ‘copper is out’ (Copper out! Copper out! Was it Jagathi or someone else? I can’t even remember in which movie), let me retract!

kochuthresiamma p .j said...

@asok menath
had decided to call it quits on this post, but i notices a statement which i find difficult to let pass . "schooling in malayalam medium" - since when is this a disqualification for high thinking? some of the best scholars i've come across in my limited circle are 'schooled in malayalam medium".

anilkurup said...

From what I know of you, your statement “Schooling in Malayalam medium and a labored 3rd class BSc degree are my credentials…..” is self contradictory. You who prides and excels in verbatim recital of poems and verses from Malayalam literature with equal panache as you do in English have no reason to belittle your schooling in Malayalam medium .The Dutch prides in good understanding and use of at least four languages. Their mother tongue Dutch, then English, French and German. With a reasonable numbers knowing good Portuguese or Italian! But they amongst themselves prides in speaking their mother tongue Dutch. And unfortunately its is only we malayalees who feel that an educational background based on Malayalam is inferior, or a handicap.
I’m sure none in our circle of friends and acquaintance could even spell ‘Rasa Sidhanta’. Let alone understand or even heard of Foucaldian ideas .So in the final analysis whether you are acquainted with these or not is the moot point. If you know good and if you don’t, good still. But do not be derisive about your malayalam medium schooling.
There was only an expression and there were no statements when I began this topic on the movie and the novel.
And I’m sure you will recollect Voltaire’s words, “I detest (here I would say disagree) what you say, but I’m prepared to die for your right to say that”.
Let Arundati Roy and her tribe live in peace!