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Chinese Herbs

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Narayan is the best of the Indian writers in English -- graceful, economical, realistic but drawn to fantasy, gently humorous -- and the fictional territory of Malgudi he has created is perhaps as important a contribution to modern literature as Patrick White's Sarsaparilla or even Hardy's Wessex. He writes so consistently well that it is painful to limit him to a single book, but The Vendor of Sweets can be taken as a way into the others. Its hero is Jagan, middle-aged, a widower with a son, the owner of a sweetmeat shop whose products contradict his own dietary philosophy. He is a follower of Gandhi, a vegetarian, a spinner of his own cloth, and a reader of the Bhagavad Gita. His son Mali seems to him to be a typical product of the post-partition age -- lazy, a juicy couture outlet wastrel -- but he lavishes on him a troubled affection. Mali becomes an entrepreneur on the Western pattern, returning to Malgudi with a half-American wife and a desire to increase India's literary production through a novel-writing machine (shades of Nineteen Eighty-Four). This machine is not altogether implausible: it is to have keys louis vuitton outlet for plots, characters, climaxes; it will convert literature into a major industry. The progressive Mali battles comically with the traditionalist Jagan; the son ends in jail and the father in a more than Gandhian seclusion. The life of Malgudi goes on. This life is beautifully caught, and its aromatic centre is the sweetmeat kitchen, with its blasts of ghee, nutmeg and saffron. Jagan says: "I have always resisted the use of essences for flavouring or colouring. You can get any flavour from Germany; it is easy to deceive even the most fastidious nowadays." But the fastidious Jagan is not deceived by the synthetic flavour of the new world his son imports: he stands, ly and pathetically, for old India. This book sums up much of what modern India is about. Richler, a Montreal Jew like Saul Bellow, has elected to be one of the literary voices of Canada, unseduced by the land below the Great Lakes. As cosmopolitan a writer as his fellow countryman Robertson Davies, he has set this, one of the bitterest satires of the post-war age, in the swinging London of the sixties. His hero is a Canadian publisher, a genuine hero of World War II with a Victoria Cross, whose innocence and decency are set upon by the new gods of cynicism and permissiveness. His son goes to a progressive school coach outlet where children are juicy couture bags taught to masturbate in front of the "Little Fibber" juvenile brassiere television commercials and where an adaptation of the Marquis de Sade is the school Christmas play. His wife prefers the embraces of his never-washed friend Ziggy to his own hygienic caresses. This friend naturally betrays him, publicizing him as the epitome of uptight reaction. On a television show his heroism is a joke, his rescue of men under fire given a homosexual interpretation. A super-tycoon called the Star Maker, whose body is renewed by transplants from selected victims, seeks his lymph system. Every word he utters is perverted by his enemies into a racist smear. We do not see him die. We even expect his last minute rescue from the smart forces of evil, but his would-be rescuer is a girl so soaked in film that she converts real life into a series of jump-cuts, assumes she has already saved him, and leaves him to the final comic horror. A thorough gentile, he is presented as the archetypal Jew, the gratuitous victim of persecution. All this sounds grim, but the book is grimly . Written in the middle of the swinging sixties, it has a very clear vision of coach outlet Western moral decay.This was probably the first full-length exercise in the fiction of hypothesis, or alternative history, and, with Kingsley Amis's The Alteration (which I have no room to include), still the best. We have to imagine that Queen Elizabeth I was assassinated in 1588, that there was a massacre of English Catholics and Spanish invasion of a land torn and divided. England, restored to the Church of Rome, "deployed her forces in gucci the service of the Popes, smashing the Protestants of the Netherlands, destroying the power of the German city-states in the long-drawn Lutheran wars. The New-worlders of the North American continent remained under the rule of Spain: Cook planted in Australasia the cobalt flag of the throne of Peter."After a two-page prologue, we find ourselves in England in 1968, but an England prada outlet online still Catholic and technologically backward. There are steam trains, complicated semaphore systems, but there is no electricity. The Inquisition is at its repressive work, the Church's grip is vicelike, but there are signs that rebellion is coming. In a coda to Pavane we meet a young American of the future who finds a letter to some extent excusing Roman repression: "the ways of the Church were mysterious, her policies never plain. The Popes knew, as we knew, that given electricity men would be drawn to the atom -- Did she oppress? Did she hang and burn? A little, yes. But there was no Belsen, no Buchenwald. No Passchendaele." The Church possessed the knowledge required for building a technological civilization, but she kept it to herself. But "when she knew dominion had ended, she gave back what all thought she had stolen; the knowledge she was keeping in trust." We can accept that or not as we wish. The virtue of the book lies less in its ideas than in its invention of gucci outlet a modern England that is also medieval: it is a striking work of the imagination. The setting is Victorian England. The hero is Charles, respectable, well-to-do, thoughtful, progressive. He is engaged to Ernestina, a rich, attractive, but highly conventional girl, but he falls in love with the beautiful, tragic, mysterious Sarah who is known to Lyme Regis (where the action begins) as "the French lieutenant's woman" because of some louis vuitton outlet store disreputable but romantic episode in her past life. The situation, that of the amorous triangle, is familiar in fiction. What makes this book highly original is that it has three possible endings, all different. "What happened to Sarah I do not know -- whatever it was she never troubled Charles again in person, however long she may have lingered in his memory." That is one ending; another and truer one sends Charles in pursuit of Sarah and the consummation of his love. The novel is very modern in that it admits that fiction is lying and manipulation. A true louis vuitton bags Victorian novel accepted a kind of covenant with the reader, whereby both reader and writer believed they were engaged in following a record of historical or biographical truth. But today we have learned from Jorge Luis Borges that fiction is play and trickery. A novelist can give his hero red hair in the first chapter, make him bald in the third, restore him to hirsuteness, though this time prada black, in the fifth.Fowles does not go so far, but he plays a game in which he pretends that his characters have escaped from his control and have a kind of existential freedom that renders them wayward and unpredictable. The author himself appears, disguised as an old man in a railway compartment, bewildered, not knowing where his personages are. The piquancy lies in the conflict between Victorian convention and the modern view of fiction. The author, when not sitting in that railway compartment, is a contemporary anthropologist who surveys this strange world of a century ago with a kind of fascinated horror





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