Sunday, October 09, 2011

Stories within a story: A book review

“What matters in the end is the truth.” The opening lines of the book describe what storyteller ‘Hasan’ hopes to find through the course of the evening at Jemma el Fna in Marrakesh.
Wandering through the various narratives, the narrator of the story, in a hope to find out what really happened the night the two foreigners disappeared, explores the depths of Marrakesh. But while he willingly allows his audience to interrupt him and narrate their individual versions, the many contradictions in the tale come forth. The reader is left to question if a truth, any truth, exists.
The slightly prolonged narrative of the many eager “storytellers” in the audience tends to drag a bit. Maybe more than a bit. But the delectable prose of the story drowns the reader in the nuances of the story. It allows one to prod on the many stories entwined in a single story, in the narratives that probably suffocate in the usually single narrative. But often, the larger picture seems vague and sometimes even lost.
“Perhaps it is because in retelling our various encounters, each one of us is intent on honesty, as well as absolute commitment to memory that inspires what we storytellers, with our voracious appetite for physical detail, call the imagination,” said Samir, a Berber merchant. This point puts succinctly the diversity of stories that are brought alive with the disappearance of a remarkably beautiful French American woman and a silent, maybe broody, Indian man.
As the evening passes, the contradictions continue to unfold with the audience unwilling to even agree on the appearance of the foreigners.  Hasan throw his bits highlights the vast difference between truth and memory and the grey area between the two. The narration brings alive not just the Moroccan people but the place and the surroundings. And in this lies the beauty of the book.
“The Djemaa is a symbol, a meeting point of all the peoples who have passed through and continue to come through this part of the world,” Khadija, the fortune­teller, declares. The statement aptly puts the wide cross section of people indulging in the story of the vanishing act of the foreigners. Not just the mere act of their disappearance but the path that led them to it.
Touching on the many nuances between truth and distortion of truth, Joydeep Roy Battacharya indulges the reader in a lively Moroccan setting full of their history and culture. The book makes for a slow but delightful read with a lot of questioning involved. It is recommended for voracious readers who prefer reading between the lines. At least once in a while. For, “the truth of my story is immaterial, as in whether or not a woman vanished or a man or both of them or neither. What matters in the end is life, the breathing of air, the breasting of waves, the movement of sand, each grain of sand a mirror of conflicting perceptions and testimonies.” And there is some truth in that.
Star rating: 3 ½
Joydeep Roy Battacharya is also the author of the book The Gabriel Club.



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5 comments:

Life Unordinary said...

what genre would you classify the book under?

Sindu said...

Makes me want to read the book - now, thats the sign of a great review! :)

Towards Harmony said...

Sounds Interesting enough. Haven't read fiction in awhile worth it you think?

Srinidhi said...

@life Unordinary: It is philosophical on many levels and deep in culture. So I am not sure. :) But a book that will make you think for sure. :)

@sindu: Thank you girl :) But do read it. :) Its such an escape. :)

@Towards harmony: It made me think about the many stories that lead to the bigger story that we never tell. :) Worth reading i think. :)

PeeVee said...

I'm not that into philosophy but for the sake of this review I'm going to give it a go:)

Good one matey!:D