Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Inheritance of Loss

I just read The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai (Grove Press, NY 2006), and felt great appreciation and not a little envy at her ability to write descriptively.  I recommend it highly.  The story takes place in West Bengal near the Himalayas.  Here is a sample from pages 278-279:

She passed by fields and small clusters of houses, became confused in a capillary web of paths that crisscrossed the mountains, perpendicular as creepers, dividing and petering into more paths leading to huts perched along eyebrow-width ledges in the thick bamboo.  Tin roofs promised tetanus; outhouses gestured into the ether so that droppings would fall into the valley.  Bamboo cleaved in half carried water to patches of corn and pumpkin, and wormlike tubes attached to pumps led from a stream to the shacks.  They looked pretty in the sun, these little homes, babies crawling about with bottoms red through pants with the behinds cut so they could do their susu and potty; fuchsia and roses -- for everyone in Kalimpong loved flowers and even amid botanical profusion added to it.  Sai knew that once the day failed, through, you wouldn't be able to ignore the poverty, and it would become obvious that in these homes it was cramped and wet, the smoke thick enough to choke you, the inhabitants eating meagerly in the candlelight too dim to see by, rats and snakes in the rafters fighting over insects and birds' eggs.  You knew that rain collected down below and made the earth floor muddy, that all the men drank too much, reality skidding into nightmare, brawls, and beating. 

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