Monday, July 24, 2017

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai.

When you build on lies, you build strong and solid.  It was the truth that undid you.

The Inheritance of Loss looks at the world of post-colonial India and the South Asian diaspora with a loving satirical eye.  The characters are all hopelessly wounded by the way British – and increasingly American - culture continues to dominate Indian life and politics.  We get to live with Indians hopelessly besotted with scones and tea or Talisker whiskey, ex-pat Brits who love to complain about the limits of life in India, Gorka revolutionaries who have little agenda beyond getting their share of corruption and New York restaurant workers discovering that the American Dream involves sleeping in the basements of the restaurants that are the only places that will hire them.

The author approaches these characters with a loving kind of humor that begins to seem cruel as their situations become more desperate and tragic.  While it seems to tell the story of the toppling of old colonial ideas – decades after the British left India – it is not clear that there is any real idea of what will replace that culture, let alone whether it will be worth the upheaval it causes.

Desai looks soberly at a wide variety of points of view regarding post-colonial culture and politics.  She does not find any anything any side can cheer about.

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