30 July, 2021

Book For All Chiroptophobics

Transgression leads to transcendence in this genre-bending novel, as shape-­shifting ideologies are left for universal humanism by characters who morph into bats

Book For All Chiroptophobics

A Secret History of Compassion is about a popular novelist, Spider, who has been commissioned by the Communist Party to write an essay on the mutually exclusive existence of a human quality like mercy, and capitalism. Spider’s project gradually turns out to be a collaborative one involving a professional executioner, Jesus Pillai, Spider’s dog and his philosopher wife, Rosi. In the course of the enterprise, the characters become bats, fly around, and voyeurism is justified as a witnessing method to miracles.

Paul Zacharia is a leading Malayalam writer and public intellectual. Some of his fiction are outstanding in their psychoanalytic astu­teness and structural strengths. He is not easily swayed by conventions, and has very often courted controversies. A Secret History is his foray into Anglo­phone fiction. It is likely to have a perplexing effect on the reader.

The seeming chaos—anything can happen at any point—and the sprawling canvas of the novel (the sky is the limit) are held in place by the slow formation of...

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