Sunday, January 2, 2011

Witness the Night

Kishwar Desai
Witness the Night

Beatiful Books, 2010

The novel begins with the obscure crime scene: two in the house, the whole family is dead, blood everywhere, then a house on fire. These two have to hide the traces and portray a scene of violence: he ties her to a bed, hit in the face and then rapes. It begins to rain.

It was buzzing in the whole India, where events of the book take place, murder. Thirteen people, all relatives, were poisoned, then it additionally stabbed, and the house was eventually set on fire. The only survivor was thirteen years age girl Durga. She was tied with one hand to the bed, with traces of beatings and rape. But according to police, she is also the only suspect. Durga, while she is in post-traumatic shock, is placed in a prison camera.

The protagonist of the novel is social worker Simran Singh. Amarjit, the Chief Inspector in the Punjab, with whom Simran once studied together in college, asks her to take Durga’s case: try to talk to her, ask her what had happened in the house on the day of the murder. Simran is different from most Indian women: she is 42, she still has not married, she smokes and drinks, and practically does not hide it.
Such books are usually called clumsy combination "literary thriller". Novel really keeps the tension from first to last page. Despite the fact that the reader already knows the answer from the first chapter, Desai made an interesting choice in the structure of the novel, so that read the book is still interesting: motives of the murder are hidden from a reader; it is the most important there. As a thriller, the book has some inconsistencies in the plot. These flaws make a little sadness, but they were not significant.

Desai, on an example of one family, reveals the inside story of many aspects of India's life. Complete suppression of women, continuous corruption, slave trade, where the parents themselves sell their children. The whole conflict of the novel lies in the deep traditions of India. The birth of a girl in the family - she will be given in marriage, will give a dowry, the family will get nothing from her birth – is an unwanted event. All families want only the boys. The whole lifestyle of Indian families comes from such backgrounds. The author makes a bitter conclusion: for hundreds of years in India, essentially nothing has changed: all the same prejudices, the same poverty, the caste system, corruption is overwhelming.
Separate subplot worth a pleasure is the story of Simran. Her reflections on Indian daily life, childhood memories, and the search for causes of child abuse – all that is very thoughtful.

Desai has lyrical style. Reality violence confronts a baroque language, in which the novel is written. Periodic insertions of Indian words only heat the interest.
Final, which at first seems to be logical and correct, after a while begins to confuse and and is rejected. In fact, the main characters went on to deal with the criminals, leaving them free. They had a chance to go further and to throw criminals in jail, still taking Durga, but Simran prefer an easy option. In this mercy to criminals and deal with the conscience there is the root of troubles in India.

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