Ghachar Ghochar, A Novella

I recently read Ghachar Ghochar, a novella by Vivek Shanbhag. The original is in Kannada, but I read the English translation by Srinath Perur.

The novel is slim; it runs to a little more than 100 pages. This is significant, because within these pages, the author still tells a wonderful story. It’s a story that leaves a lot unsaid, for the reader to fill in the details.

I think this “unsaid”-ness owes to the author’s choice of the storyteller. The novel is a first-person narrative. The storyteller, however, gets no name. Perhaps it is a hint on how unimportant he really is in the world he lives in. Because, as we read, we realize that our unnamed protagonist is too timid, not wise to the ways of the world.

What kind of a story would such a person tell? How would that story look like if something evil, perhaps even macabre, were to happen in his life? Surely it would be a Gordian knot, a tangle, all Ghachar Ghochar.

This first-person narrative style element, and the contrast we gradually perceive between the cruel world he inhabits and his meek personality, already make this an outstanding story. To do so in such few pages is indeed mark of exceptional talent.

Vivek Shanbhag (tr. Srinath Perur), Ghachar Ghochar, Penguin Books, 2017.

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