Sunday, January 5, 2014

"The Grammarian," by Annapurna Potluri

My heart beat a little faster when I found, browsing in the library new books section, a novel I had read no reviews of, but that called out to me because it focused on a linguist studying Telegu in South India about a hundred years ago. First, I am an (applied) linguist, and enjoyed the descriptions of the language. Second, Telegu is the language my family and I learned and spoke when we were in India, and the area where the main character, the French Alexandre, did his research was in Andhra Pradesh, where we lived much of our time in India. The names of the cities, districts, rivers were so familiar. And although I have, alas, long ago forgotten most of the Telegu I knew (I very occasionally dream a few words of it...), I did recognize some words mentioned in this book. So this novel, “The Grammarian” (Counterpoint, 2013), by Annapurna Potluri, despite the different time period and other differences, took me back to my childhood and adolescence. The story focuses on Alexandre’s stay with a wealthy Indian family, the Adivis, and especially on the relationships he develops with the grandmother of the family and with the adolescent daughter who is crippled by polio. That daughter, Anjali, is clever, well-read, and wants news of the wider world; she is also sad and feels left out of the world of love and passion. Their chaste relationship is misinterpreted, and separation is inevitable. But they always remember each other, as Alexandre goes back to France, his family, and his illustrious academic career, and Anjali goes on to become a political radical fighting for Indian independence. The story occasionally dips many years backward in time, and then many years forward, and touches on war, politics, culture, poetry, and much more. Despite the destruction and bloodshed of several wars, there is a thread of appreciation of life, love, and literature throughout. The story is told in an almost dreamy fashion. It is hard for me to know if readers who do not share my connection to the topics and settings of the novel would like it as much as I did. But I think that even aside from those connections, the novel would be of interest to many readers.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Site Meter