Sunday, December 4, 2011

Review: The Artist of Disappearance by Anita Desai

The Artist of DisappearanceAward-winning, internationally acclaimed author Anita Desai ruminates on art and memory, illusion and disillusion, and the sharp divide between life’s expectations and its realities in three perfectly etched novellas. Set in India in the not-too-distant past, the stories’ dramas illuminate the ways in which Indian culture can nourish or suffocate. All are served up with Desai’s characteristic perspicuity, subtle humor, and sensitive writing.

In just a few days this book will hit the stores and I hope that many of you will go out and buy it because it is, in a word, wonderful. The rich and elegant writing transports you into the characters' worlds and makes you feel like you're right there with them, living their lives, feeling their pain, their joy, their turmoil and their bliss. It did that for me anyway. The relatively short novellas surprised me by how much substance there was in their pages, how I had to take a break between each one to reflect upon the characters, the time and place, the circumstances. This reflection wasn't a matter of choice, I really had to do it, let everything sink in, work its way through me, and that made the experience all the more fulfilling because it's not often that I find books that pack that kind of punch.
All three novellas are powerful in their own way but the third one, the one that lends its title to the collection, is my favorite because it is the most multi-faceted and most positive of the three. While Ravi is a textbook recluse his joy from creating and his lack of desire to have anyone else's approval were in such refreshing contrast to the mode of thinking which almost dictates that if one spends their time doing something the activity must be financially gainful or at least bring some sort of renown. My favorite thing about Ravi though wasn't that he was a person who created simply to create, but that he was a person who didn't become discouraged by setbacks, he just changed direction and proceeded on a different path. I think that's an excellent message since we all can become discouraged if things don't go exactly the way we plan.
There really wasn't anything that I didn't like about this book, it was deeply satisfying and made me curious to read Anita Desai's other works. I highly recommend it to anyone.


  1. Ravi sounds like an interesting character. Sometimes I feel guilty doing things 'just for fun', when they aren't productive or important, and I really shouldn't.

  2. I think we all get into that rut, at least on occasion. It's so important to remember that we also need to do things that help us replenish our energy, feed the soul, so to speak, otherwise the routine becomes terribly dreary. Fun rules!

  3. I have never heard of this and I'm ashamed. What a great find - this sounds engrossing and just plain good.

    Thank you for both the heads up on this novel and the great review!