Thursday, May 07, 2015

Fair Tree of the Void

Writes Salil Tripathi/ on Fair Tree of the Void by Vilas Sarang (Penguin India)

Samuel Beckett required two men on a country road to create the stark symbol of 20th century absurdity in Waiting for Godot. Vilas Sarang is more economical. Give him a man and a bare, cheerless room. And instead of adding objects to complete the picture, Sarang would find in the still life sufficient inducement to create plausible yet absurd tales which are part-dream, part-reality, with a wry undertone of black humour. Yet Sarang writes with precision-all that' s essential i s there, and everything that isn't necessary is sliced out.

The lonely man in the room is not pining for a phone call or a letter. He is happy swatting flies and takes great relish in recounting those experiences. Or he tortures an insect between the hour and minute hands of a clock, in the process losing all possible relationship with time.

If the man does receive letters, they're usually in a series, signed by different names, but possibly from the same person. Then, again, they may not be. The letters, in fact, may never have been written. But it doesn't matter one way or the other.

In fact, nothing is certain in these stories, translated from the Marathi. Each tale could be the product of strange dreams, the kind that scare American sophomores to go running to their analysts. Sarang is a graduate of the school of Kafka and Camus, but despite that occidental influence, he is firmly rooted in the Indian milieu.

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