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Sugar-Sticky

Gabriele Annan: Anita Desai

27 May 1999
Fasting, Feasting 
by Anita Desai.
Chatto, 240 pp., £14.99, June 1999, 0 7011 6894 3
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... if you’re good you don’t drop any.’ Well, anyone who agrees with Parks should be happy with Anita Desai. Her plots are minimal, her characters few, her voice low, her style and structure traditional, and, best of all, she is a sensitive analyst of what Parks calls ‘the inner life’; and funny, besides. But she does have one thing in common with ...

Irishtown

D.A.N. Jones

1 November 1984
Ironweed 
by William Kennedy.
Viking, 227 pp., £7.95, September 1984, 0 670 40176 5
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In Custody 
by Anita Desai.
Heinemann, 204 pp., £9.95, October 1984, 9780434186358
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Flaubert’s Parrot 
by Julian Barnes.
Cape, 190 pp., £8.50, October 1984, 0 241 11374 1
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... as discussed in an irrational, pedantic manner by a British admirer of Flaubert’s work. Anita Desai, daughter of a German mother and a Bengali father, writes about the world of Indian poets, a very male (not macho) group devoted to the Urdu language as it struggles against ‘that vegetarian monster, Hindi’. This novel, In Custody, is for me ...

Malgudi

Anita Desai

4 December 1986
Talkative Man 
by R.K. Narayan.
Heinemann, 119 pp., £7.95, September 1986, 0 434 49616 2
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... Narayan has written a postscript to his new novel which ought to have been a foreword, since it answers the exclamation practically every reader will make on seeing it: ‘Such a short novel!’ One hundred and nineteen pages of large print would hardly make a novella: it is only slightly more than a short story. Narayan is perfectly aware of this inevitable reaction from his devoted readers, who can never have enough of Malgudi ...

Other Indias

Walter Nash

15 September 1988
Ice-Candy-Man 
by Bapsi Sidhwa.
Heinemann, 277 pp., £11.95, February 1988, 0 434 70230 7
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Mistaken Identity 
by Nayantara Sahgal.
Heinemann, 194 pp., £10.95, April 1988, 0 434 66612 2
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Baumgartner’s Bombay 
by Anita Desai.
Heinemann, 230 pp., £10.95, July 1988, 0 434 18636 8
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... a denizen (the only word that fits) of Bombay, and how he comes to be there is the story Anita Desai chooses to tell in a book that puts to shame all the little epithets and pert clichés that praise may offer. Baumgartner’s Bombay is complex in event but simple in plot. There are no eddies in the narrative, no tricks of concealment and sudden ...
19 June 1997
The God of Small Things 
by Arundhati Roy.
Flamingo, 340 pp., £15.99, June 1997, 0 00 225586 3
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... seem marked by an ‘excessive Rushdie-itis’. How could they not, when even an older writer like Anita Desai has found herself affected by his raspily raucous voice? Roy, too, has had her style pawed by Rushdie’s. His fingerprints show in the way she makes a cinema usher into ‘The Man with the steel Eveready Torch’, a man who tells his customers ...

Angel Gabriel

Salman Rushdie

16 September 1982
Chronicle of a Death Foretold 
by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, translated by Gregory Rabassa.
Cape, 122 pp., £5.95, September 1982, 0 224 01990 2
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... his language is his grandmother’s. ‘She spoke that way.’ ‘She was a great storyteller.’ Anita Desai has said of Indian households that the women are the keepers of the tales, and the same appears to be the case in South America. Marquez was raised by his grandparents, meeting his mother for the first time when he was seven or eight years ...

Freedom to Tango

Michael Wood: Contemporary Indian English novels

19 April 2001
Babu Fictions: Alienation in Contemporary Indian English Novels 
by Tabish Khair.
Oxford, 407 pp., £21.50, March 2001, 0 19 565296 7
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An Obedient Father 
by Akhil Sharma.
Faber, 282 pp., £9.99, January 2001, 0 571 20673 5
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The Death of Vishnu 
by Manil Suri.
Bloomsbury, 329 pp., £16.99, February 2001, 0 7475 5270 3
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The Glass Palace 
by Amitav Ghosh.
HarperCollins, 551 pp., £16.99, July 2000, 0 00 226102 2
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... In Anita Desai’s recent novel Fasting, Feasting, there is a delicately framed moment of what looks like reconciliation. An unmarried daughter has seen her last chance of a career and a life independent from the family vanish into the demands of her mother’s real or feigned illness. Feigned, the daughter is sure: the crafty parental stranglehold ...

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