There are books that get you hooked before you finish first couple of pages. And there are others that don’t, but changes the first impression gradually if you keep reading. I place this book ‘In the Hot Unconscious’ by Charles Foster in the second category. I was reluctant to continue reading the book even before reaching first page – right at the paragraph where Charles Foster mentions this book as a religious book! (personally I keep away from this genre of books). But I wanted to continue for two particular reasons, one to get back to my reading routine and second, a more important one – I wanted to read about India from the eyes of a foreigner. Glad I did not put down the book. Along his journey across India, Charles Foster takes the readers along with him as he narrates his experiences and perceptions about India.
When it comes to penning down the thoughts and travels, Charles Foster has his own league. With a different style of writing and interesting choice of words, it took me some time to get adjusted to his writing. Here is an example describing an evening – ‘Up by the rock, in the evening, big furry bees like whirring mice with knittting-needle probosces, dipped into the flowers in the unbrowsed places’. With these words Foster effortlessly takes the reader like riding a wave from red lanes of Kodangallur to a tea shop along Nepal border to southern tip Kanyakumari. There were quite a few times where I couldn’t stop myself to go back and read those sentances again & again. There were also few times where I had to dig into dictionary. Along with the choice of words what caught interested me more in the book was the conversations, be it with Jagjit, the cheese loathing Sikh at Nainital or Kamalesh at the Nepal border. Each conversation more intriguing, confusing and contemplating than the previous ones (barring couple of cliched ones).
Charles Foster’s epilogue comes back to where the journey started, to Kodangallur, a small town in Thrissur district of Kerala. Through out the book, I was in a constant level of confusion probably because the author doesn’t come to any conclusions as if leaving that part to the readers. There were few moments where I was lost in time and couldn’t relate to the timeline of the author’s story. Just as Foster mentions in the preface, ‘This is a tale of my own confusion. The plot is simple enough. I went to India, and then came back. It is also an attempt to see whether or not confusion matters’ – there was no attempt to tackle the confusion.
If you ask for my opinion, I won’t list the book under ‘must read’ list. But in case if you get hold of the book, there is no harm in reading just to enjoy a unique style of writing.
PS: This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.
PPS: Slightly unrelated to context in the book, there is a statement which goes like “India’s a theatre of cruel slapstick”. Couldn’t agree more looking at current affairs in our country.