29 July, 2021

Black Crows In The Open

Jha's second novel shows he's still in tormented territory, and thriving

Jitender Gupta
Black Crows In The Open
As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect." The Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez, on being awarded the Nobel Prize, had said that this magical line of Kafka’s had liberated him. It had given him permission, as it were, to write imaginative fiction.

In the case of Raj Kamal Jha’s new novel, If You’re Afraid of Heights, a black crow serves, quite literally, as a vehicle of narration. And, in a more striking Kafkaesque parallel, the daily realities of urban India find literary expression in the form of grim, recurrent hallucinations of ordinary people. These are people who are trapped, if not in their own scarred memories, then in the inescapable obsessions of their creator.

Critics in the past had happily turned psychoanalysts and examined Jha’s preoccupation with incest and abuse. The Blue Bedspread, his prize-winning first novel, was both celebrated and dismissed for its scandalous, delicately narrated, fragmentary story of sex, shared like a consolation, between...

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