"Written late in Anita Desai's illustrious career, these three novellas ruminate on art and memory, illusion and disillusion, and the sharp divide between life's expectations and dreams and its realities. Set in India in the not too distant past, the stories' diverse surroundings and dramas frame universal themes, which illuminate the ways in which various aspects of the Indian culture can nourish or suffocate. All are served up with Desai's characteristic perspicuity, subtle humor and quiet, sensitive writing. Overwhelmed by their own lack of purpose, the men and women who populate these tales set out on unexpected journeys that present them with a fresh sense hope and opportunity. In "The Museum of Final Journeys," a bored and officious junior civil servant imagines he's about to discover a museum filled with priceless treasures; in "Translation," a middle-aged woman has the chance to translate an unknown writer and in the process, impress the woman she most admires; in "The Artist of Disappearance," adocumentary film crew, looking to expose the ecological havoc of illegal mining and logging, stumbles upon an artistic creation of unspeakable beauty, hidden from the world by its creator, a local recluse. But these are not heroic characters, and when confronted with defining moments, they struggle against their circumstances, their passivity and the disappointments of their daily lives, like so many flies in a spider's web. An impeccable craftsman, Desai remains evenhanded, elegantly setting the stage for all attendant human frailties to play out." --
Assuming that literary beauty and social criticism are mutually reinforcing, Anita Desai (FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN, etc.) links the three novellas presented within THE ARTIST OF DISAPPERANCE through the titular themes. Each is about art--sometimes it is institutional, as in "The Museum of Final Journeys"; at other times it is secret and personal, as in the final piece, which shares the collection's title. Desai is considering art and the artist, however, in the midst of 21st-century India's radical social and economic upheavals, and this is where she locates the moments and processes of "disappearance." Throughout the three novellas, Desai chips away at the modern idea of art as something one possesses, as something that gains its value through the market and through ownership. With her characteristic touch, Desai spins out these big ideas through tales of sympathetic and flawed characters: a frustrated writer-turned-civil servant who stumbles upon a wealthy family's horded collections; a disillusioned English teacher who gets a chance to publish; and a solitary man living on a mountain who creates arrangements of leaves and stones for no one to see.
- Juvenile Fiction, Fiction + Literature Genres
- People + Places / Asia, Literary
- December 6, 2011
- December 6, 2011
- Anita Desai