Thursday, December 09, 2010

Review of History of Hate in The Hindu


As you look at the pitch dark cover with blood splattered all over and a spooky HATE written in bold, you have an inkling of the kind of book this is.
Between the covers you meet two bizarre characters, portrayed quite credibly, whose favourite pastime is making other peoples' lives miserable. Ash, a 20-something boy with suicidal tendencies, and Sonny, a middle-aged brooding housewife with a depraved mind, have nothing in common except ‘their love for hating everything'. Ash is perpetually confused about his sexuality. Sonny has complains against almost everybody including her chemist husband who doesn't earn as much as she wants him to, and her terminally ill mother-in-law who by delaying her death is a burden on her family's limited financial resources.
To vent their frustration and dissatisfaction with their lives, both Ash and Sonny try to make as many people unhappy as possible. Here the protagonists don't play pranks or cause mischief but they do something more perverted and serious and, in one case, their victim commits suicide.
As the misdemeanours of these two dysfunctional sociopaths continue unabated, the author drops hints about their background without disturbing the flow. And that generates some sympathy for Ash who appears to be more a sick person than evil. Undoubtedly, Sonny is pure evil, whom one would love to hate. In between, there are snide but discreet remarks about the pompous and vainglorious lifestyles of South Delhi-type upper middle class. Elsewhere there are also ingenious observations concerning the urban middle class society where a person is not recognised by the content of his character but by the brand of car he drives or by the carpet area and locality of his house.
The notable thing about Kanishka's writing is his ability to create a perfect ambience, before setting his characters into action. The pace of the story is another plus. The narrative moves frantically leaving the reader breathless. The prose is razor sharp, idioms are cleverly chosen and phrases are apt.
For the strong
Unlike many debut authors, Kanishka avoids purple prose like the plague. This novel, however, is neither a leisure read nor is it for the weak-hearted, or emotionally fragile people. It is an exploration of the darkest emotions of human minds supported by some strong writing and perfectly fleshed out characters. While reading, some readers might feel nauseated and might need to take a stroll and inhale a lot of fresh air before returning to the book. Structurally speaking, the novel is character driven and episodic in nature. It doesn't follow the Aristotelian concept of mythos or plot with clearly recognisable beginning, middle, and end. But, literary novels are supposed to be more about characters than plots.  
History of Hate; Kanishka Gupta, Rupa & Co, Rs. 195.