Sectarian and Sexual Lines in Indian Writing in English
Chapter 14: Representation of the Diaspora: Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss
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Representation of the Diaspora: Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss
Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss (2006) and Anita Desai’s Fire on the Mountain (1977) share a similar setting, thus seeming, perhaps, to give new meaning to the term mother–daughter fiction, making the literary literal in one way. Nanda, a protagonist in Desai mère’s story, lives in a secluded house on a ridge in the Himalayas alone with her servant, until Raka, her granddaughter, comes to live with her. Nanda’s seclusion, the result of her painful, secret humiliation, her unbearable memories as a neglected wife, her servitude to her unfaithful husband, thus comes to be exposed. In Desai fille’s The Inheritance of Loss, Jemubhai, a retired judge, similarly lives alone with his cook in an isolated house in Kalimpong, at the foot of a Himalayas, “with the solace of being a foreigner in his own country” (29), until his orphaned granddaughter comes to live with him. Her arrival upsets him, bringing back memories of his journey to England in 1939, memories of humiliation which caused his Anglophilia and self-hatred.
The atmosphere of the houses in both texts is thus one of intense solitude suddenly disrupted, however, their similarity ends here. The Inheritance of Loss is full of stylistic playfulness, touches of comedy, subtlety of logic, and central characters who search for affection and closeness, while Fire on the Mountain portrays female characters whose...
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