L’affaire Life, Fiction and the Monsoon


The monsoon rain is dashing outside in this late night hour, as I sit beside a thick volume of The Shadow of the Wind turned to page 143 and gazing at the line I just finished reading.

Everything on that page spoke of another time: the strokes that depended on the ink-pot, the words scratched on the thick paper by the tip of the nib, the rugged feel of the paper.

Much like what the lines of fiction do to me – speak of another time and another space, forming such mental imageries as if you were being transported through time into that world – the world that fiction is made of. And every time I raise my head from the tinted pages of a book, I feel suddenly ejected from the hallucination of those imageries into the blinding pace of the real world.

Fiction tends to touch you, at times in strange ways. There are times when I’m surprised how much a character resembles me in his thoughts, as if I were actually him. Like Yambo (the protagonist in Umberto Eco’s The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana) did.

It was one such monsoon morning, many years back. I was staring out at the lashing rain and the chill wind seeping in with a whooshing sound between the edges of the window, until I began rummaging the non-existent bookshelves in my then home, dusting worm-eaten editions of what appeared to be Tinkle, Gokulam, Champak, Chandamama and Misha torn beyond recognition. A quick trip down memory lane reading the words from the books which bore no interest for my then grownup mind, made me go through the erstwhile thought processes of my preceding years; the times when Suppandi and Shikari Shambu held my rapt attention, and the talking animals of Champakvan gave an unfailing smirk.

At the beginning of the novel The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, Yambo loses his episodic memory due to a stroke and can remember everything he has ever read, but does not remember his family, his past, or even his own name. Yambo goes to his childhood home, and searches through old newspapers, books, magazines and comic books to see if he can rediscover his lost past.

I noticed Gokulam’s cartoons of classroom satire that did to me then, what Dilbert cartoon does to me today. Perhaps that’s how I developed a liking for corporate satire, and the cartoon adorned walls of my work cubicle. Misha was my favorite, that I carried with me to school, reading during the long commutation. Not much has changed even now; from carrying a book with me to work to the hour-long commute, the patterns of childhood still stick on.

Somewhere between the lines of fiction lie the roots of what has become of you today. Yambo is unsuccessful in regaining past memories, though he relives the story of his generation from the books in his childhood home. But remembering is only a process and not the destination. As Umberto Eco deliciously puts it,

Everything is so much involved in and is so much a process of its opposite that, as it is almost fair to call death a process of life and life a process of death, so it is to call memory a process of forgetting and forgetting a process of remembering.

Fiction has a liberating effect. I seek refuge in fiction, when reality becomes a bit difficult to handle. Like an umbrella lets you enjoy the monsoon, even as it shelters you all the while.


6 Responses to “L’affaire Life, Fiction and the Monsoon”

  1. True Kishore. Fiction possibly is liberating because it reflects and leads life in many ways.

  2. 2 Jax

    Reading fiction without imagination is eating without a sense of taste…

  3. 3 usha

    “I seek refuge in fiction, when reality becomes a bit difficult to handle.”
    I do that too.
    Coming back to the post, very well written. I haven’t read UMberto Eco – now I want to, after what you have written. Wouldn’t be great sometime to lose our memory and rediscove our life and the people in it all anew?

  4. 4 Amrita

    Guess who’s been tagged? You have! congratulations! :D

  5. 5 Tanay

    Kishore, you are tagged.

  1. 1 reading fantasy - Readings & Rereadings

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