Pages

An Evaluation of Anita Desai as a Novelist

Among the Indian writers who try their pen in English, Anita Desai stands apart.Anita Desai was born in Mussorie on 24th June 1937, to a Bengali father and German mother.

Anita Desai began writing fiction at the age of seven and published small pieces in children's magazines. She was eduated at Queen Mary's school first and at Miranda house, later at Delhi university, where she took her B.A. Degree in English literature in 1957.

Anita Desai got married to Ashwin Desai, she has four children. She has been living in various cities, Calcutta, Bombay, Chandigarh, Delhi and Poona. The life of people in these cities finds expression in her novels. Anita Desai wrote her first novel Cry The Peacock in (1963) which was considered by the literary world to be a poetic piece of great lyric quality. Her other novels Voices in the City (1965) Bye Bye Blackbird (1971) Where Shall we go this summer?


 
Anita Desai is one of the few gifted Indian fiction writers in English today. She finds place in book-review, journals, interviews and seminars. In critical literature on Indian writing in English Anita Desai is seldom obliterated. It is a humble venture to analyse flashback, diary-entries, self-analysis, reminations, rumbling of dialogues and descriptions of -places and people, etc. Looking inward in her characters, Anita Desai also explores the intricate facts of human experience bearing upon the central experience of psychic tensions of characters. The further chapters aim to study, analyse and focus attention on her quest for self, delineation of inner crisis and encounter with nothingness.


Anita Desai is a minstrel of the human heart, an artist shaping the contours of his inner world. She is concerned exclusively with the personal tragedy of individuals. Hardly interested in social conditions, political events and the mundane habital of the characters; she explores the interior layers of her character's mind and brings to the surface, by the suppression of nonessentials, various shades of human psyche. She brushes aside unimportant things on the part of the individual and gives us fleeting thoughts with razorlike sharp awareness of the futility of individual's existence. Thus, most of her characters are overcast by shadows and half-shadows, half-revealed and halfconcealed.

Anita's chief concern is human relationship. Her central theme is the existential predicament of an individual which she projects through incompatible couples, very sensitive wives and ill-matched husbands. Anita Desai is a mute observer perceiving everything minutely and delicately. Whenever she creates a typical situation she gives it a perfect poetic treatment to every details. Though her characters are self-conscious of the realitve around them, they carry with them a sense of loneliness, alienation and pessimism. She deals with the dislocation of normal life, recklessness of behaviour and morbidity of temperament, maladjustments in family life of contradictions.

Anita Desai dives deeply, darkly and silently; she tries to work out the inconsistencies and dichotomies of the virgin territories of modern life-style. She adds a new dimension turning inward into the realities of life and plunges into the deep-depths of the human psyche to score out its mysteries, turmoil and chaos inside the mind of her characters. It is imperative on our part to discuss her techniques of articulating such experiences of inner and outer realities. It seems that the, imagination of the novelist is horrified by emptiness of modern life, a sense of insecurity surrounds the milieu of her fiction as is the case with Saul Bellow's or Margaret Atwood's. Since she spotlights the complexities of human nature, distortion of personality and an infinite variety of individuals, we have to search out reality of life in such individuals.

As she stands influenced by Virginia Woolf, D.H. Lawrence fend Faulkner, we have to discover the theories of art propounded by these writers and also by Anita Desai in the light of her characters in her novels Cry, The Peacock and Where Shall We Go This Summer We also find in her writing an effort to discover, underline and convey the significance of things through imagery and symbols. Sometimes, she completes and sometimes she incompletes which she perceives. For truth and reality, the inner life and the outer life of the individual is anticipated in this chapter. Reference to this aspect of the novelist will be made in the light of the works of Dostoevsky, Hendry James and Proust. It is because of the fact that artist like Anita Desai knows to select from the vast amount of material and presents it significantly as if she has the psycho-analytical approach to the problems of modern life. With the help of flashback technique and interior monologues Anita Desai captures the inner qualities of life in her fiction. Thus, a more interesting technique covering a large area is a subject matter of discussion.

Being a woman novelist she sides more intensely with the heroines of her novels, yet very honestly she studies the heroes too. She does not associate with any feminist movement as she makes it clear that her concern as an artist is with individual men and women. But she is chiefly interested in exploration of psychic depths of her characters.

Most of whom react against the absurdity of life or the existentialist problems. She concentrates on characters rather than social milieu. She never creates common characters but the gives extremity of despair to her characters who are basically existentialists. Symbolism is a device to give meaning and relevance to a work of art. It is associated with certain objects to symbolize incidents, characters, words and expression. Anita Desai is very much liberal in the use of symbols. She does so either consciously or unconsciously. In this way her use of symbols beautifies the narration of stories and provides life to the situation of character. And in few cases it compensates for other deficiencies in conversations.

Anita Desai is more interested in the interior landscape of the mind than in social and political realities. In her fiction there is an effort to discover and then to underline and finally to convey the significant ones. Her protagonists are persons for whom aloneness alone is the treasure. Most of them are woman characters. They are all fragile introverts. As Meenakshi points out, Anita Desai is a rare example of an Indo-Anglian writer who achieves that difficult task of bending the English language to her purpose without either a self conscious attempt of sounding Indian or seeking the anonymous elegance of public school English, . She deals with humanistic themes. The theme that is dealt with by Anita Desai is search for values. Anita Desai's treatment of the emotional life of the characters ranks her among the foremost humanistic writers of the modern age.

Members

Translate