Major Works of Anita Desai, the Indian Novelist

2230 Words Jan 11th, 2009 9 Pages
Major Works of Anita Desai, the Indian Novelist
Most of Desai's works engage the complexities of modern Indian culture from a feminine perspective while highlighting the female Indian predicament of maintaining self-identity as an individual woman. Cry, the Peacock, Desai's first novel, chronicles the morbid dread, descent into madness, and suicide of Maya, a young Delhi housewife who is trapped in a loveless, arranged marriage to the much older Gautama, a misogynistic lawyer. The novel foreshadows several of the major recurring themes in Desai's works—the problems of independence and communication, the influence of the West, and the tensions between religious and domestic interaction. Set in the late 1950s, Voices in the City depicts
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A novella for young people, The Village by the Sea tells the story of a family beset by misfortune in the traditional fishing village of Thul, on the west coast of India near Bombay. With the mother ill and bedridden and the father an unemployed, abusive alcoholic, the brunt of the family responsibilities devolve upon the elder children, the adolescents Lila and Hari, both of whom have stopped attending school in order to fulfill these duties and care for their two younger siblings.
Since the mid-1980s, Desai has shown a definite shift in her narrative voice, favoring dialogue over interior monologue and focusing on underprivileged characters rather than her usually bourgeois protagonists. In Custody revolves around Deven Sharma, a middle-aged man who once dreamt of becoming a poet but who was forced to take a job teaching Hindi in order to support his wife and child. A sharply incisive social comedy, In Custody dramatizes the tensions between worldly and spiritual concerns through Deven's almost-obsessive attempts to interview Nur, the greatest living Urdu poet. Based on Desai's own Eurasian heritage but narrated from a male perspective, Baumgartner's Bombay (1988) concerns themes of alterity and hybridity. The novel—Desai's first to feature a non-Indian protagonist—recounts the tragic life and violent death of Hugo Baumgartner, a Jew who has emigrated to