10 May, 2021

Justice Repaid In Bitter Dividends

A Tamil classic doesn’t extol the central act of class violence; it speaks of life and futility

Justice Repaid In Bitter Dividends

At one level, Heat reads like an ordinary novel. A 15-year old boy murders a rich landlord in the heat of revenge. With the help of his father and other relatives, he spends a few days in hiding.  Finally, he decides to surrender. At another level, it is one of the most extraordinary creations of Indian ­literature, as it deals with the theme of revenge in a canvas that is real, with all attendant complexities of life.

I first read the novel in Tamil when it appeared in 1982 and was captivated by its storytelling technique. The narration was in the third person, but it sounded as if the boy himself was standing behind the author and directing him. What was then unforgettable about Heat was its pulsating portrayal of strong family bonds that entwined its characters. Now, over 35 years later, when I read the novel in English again, I could still feel the bond—alive, perhaps stronger.

Poomani says in his afterword that the boy had to face many trials, like a tender shoot ravaged by insects. But Chidambaram is as tough as they come. He...

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