KIRAN BHAT –
WE OF THE FORSAKEN WORLD … — 2020
We are told the author has visited more than one hundred countries, but that is not really what is important with this book. Maybe that is the author’s necessary experience to construct this novel, but I think or believe that what is most important in the novel is what is in the novel, not the biography of the author. And the very first element I noticed is the fact that the novel is entirely built on a triadic architecture. And the very first triad is that of the topographic vision of this world, with even some images to make this triadic world visible.
Three different spaces are set side by side with two separations. A river that locks up the primeval world of the forest and the tribes living there, or rather dying there because of some epidemic, smallpox obviously, brought by some Thatched men who are cutting the trees in the forest, exporting the wood and leaving a desolate empty space behind them in which the primeval tribes cannot in any way survive and, in fact, they are torn apart by internal rife, one chief of the tribe deciding to impose his absolute power and to use his “supportive soldiers” to eliminate all other members of the tribe till the first-born son of this chief, who is considered effeminate and weak, decides in his turn to get rid of this father of his who has always rejected him and to bring survival to the remnants of the tribe. This primeval world is not forsaken. It is absolutely destroyed and what is surviving, those who are surviving in this tribe have to move away from their destroyed environment and their future will be alienation in one of the two other worlds.
The second and third worlds are both on the other side of the river (the river can be seen, as the metaphor of the Amazon or the Congo, or some other big river like those in “Mesopotamia” or “India”). This other side of the river is cut in two by the opposition South-North which is the direct allusion to the political division of the world between the underdeveloped or undeveloped South and the industrialized North. Those two worlds are dominated by smartphones and televisions. People are entirely fascinated and mesmerized by their screens, small or big. This is a direct criticism of our modern world where technology becomes a tremendous freedom but also a horrible enslavement. These two worlds are also separated by their two languages. Neither the South, not the North can speak or understand properly the language of the other side. We can think of many situations of this sort in the world. The South as opposed to the North in the US meaning that two American dialects and some say they are two different languages, divide the USA, and these two dialects are spoken by the whites. In fact, there should be a third one, Black American English, Ebonics as some actually call it. And there we do have a different language creolized from the dominant English of the ancient plantations, hence what has become the dialect of the South, Deep or not.
We can also think of the opposition between Tamil and Hindi in India, or between Sinhala and Tamil in Sri Lanka. Yet we cannot extend it to the whole of Asia because the language is exactly the same in the two halves of Vietnam today reunified, or because in China even if there are great differences between the various spoken dialects, the writing system is the same for all these dialects. Quite different is the case of Italy where standard northern Italian has little to do with Neapolitan Italian, a dialect which is, in fact, a different language. Same division in France between Oil that became standard French, and Occitan that remains still today a different language, not to mention Breton, Picard and the Germanic languages of Lorraine and Alsace. What is important here is the fact that the South is essentially a roadside commercial city with small stores all along the road, and, in fact, very little in the hinterland of this roadside lining up of small stores, or shops. This South is poor and has little future in itself, even if the Carpenter can have a booming business, and the Milker does have a rich farm, rich for his surrounding environment of poverty.
The last world, the North is, in fact, the only world that has some real density, some real inner contradiction between its downtown district with rich businesses and shopping malls, and its suburbs where most people who work in this downtown area are surviving at least as some kind of middle class. In this downtown area, there are also people who are more a fauna for tourists than a real human community. They are all sorts of street vendors (or hawkers), thieves and prostitutes that target the tourists and the bored middleclass workers who are looking for some kinky excitement. But even after I have said that it is important to keep in mind that the social dimension is not really the most crucial dimension of the novel. The novel is constructed on individual characters who are providing us with slices of their existential experiences or misadventures. These characters are like lurid vignettes that get often grotesque. Each one should be analyzed in detail, and these particular individuals are from the three different worlds and they have or establish connections between the main two worlds, those I have presented as the second and third worlds, both on the other non-primeval bank of the river that cuts the universe in two.
This triadic structure is the real ferment of the decaying vision given to us by the author, and this ternary ferment is utterly Shakespearian. It is the very disruption that creates history, conflict, tragedy or comedy by bringing down anything that could be balanced, that would like to be balanced, but ONE-TWO-THREE and the whole equilibrium comes tumbling down and collapses at our own feet. This world, this metaphor of our universe is condemned to die, to rot and end up in shame, crime, and death. No escape from this fate.
But this vision is deeply in phase with Jacques Lacan’s conception of the individual inner and social dynamic. The individual subject, the Ego, is confronted with three poles that are both building and animating him or her. Deep in the carnal body, you have the impulses, desires, needs that have to be satisfied for survival to be possible, from eating to drinking, to emptying the exhaust and rejects of this physiological body. This has little to do with any sentiment, feeling, passion. It is only the normal functioning of the body machine. The Ego has to find in the world and in his life the various ways to satisfy these impulses, needs, and desires, and he or she has to do it with two other poles literally confronting each other in him or her. On one side the Authority of society, education and the family, most of the time, the father or some father figure, and in this novel father figures are all of them outrageous, starting with the father who is unable to tell his son what he is expecting from him, and who would anyway not get it because he does not know how to have authority over his son, and then the gallery of portraits is long. And in the Ego of the individual this Authority pole is confronted to and confronting the Ideal of the Ego, what Lacan calls the Phallus, and mind you even girls have phalluses: the dreamed, fantasized, mental construct of what the Ego would like to be, to become, to reach in his life, to achieve on this earth. The most explicit character in this novel that reveals this inner conflict between these three poles, or objectives, or limitations, or potentials, is the businessman’s wife called Lyrica, her pen name. She is so much exploded into three layers or tiers or, in fact, dangling dingles that she is unable to cope with life. Everything for her is cut up into three. Her husband has three lives. Up to 26 when she met him (she was 28) and she declares she does not know this man. In fact, she never tried to know it. She was locked up and manacled into what she was when 28 and when she met her future husband at the university in some poetry classes and creative writing seminars. His father encouraged or overlooked that freedom during these few years of university adventure since boys will be boys, sowing wild oats of all sorts. That’s the only man she was in love with, and she did not see that after these university years the son did exactly what this freedom enabled him to do: he became the businessman his father had always expected him to be, and he became an honest, hard-working, fair and just money-man, maybe banker or whatever a money-man can be. She hated this one because he did not really care anymore for her creative writing, though she was very successful.
She developed then a frustration, a dissatisfaction that led her to extreme crazy initiatives. When her son was twelve, she nearly killed him by taking him along in her attempt to commit suicide. They were both saved by the father and husband. He sent the son to some boarding-school to protect him from her. He set her on a treatment that was supposed to pacify her, in other words to vegetalize her into being just that, a vegetable, which she refused despite the power of her personal maid who is rather an enforcer of the treatment. She constantly speaks to herself or the world in repetitive triads. Here are a few:
P.189 — “I don’t wanna, I don’t wanna, I don’t wanna!”
P. 189–90 — “Be a responsible girl.” “Be a good girl.” “Be a smart girl.”
P. 191 — “I hate you, I hate you, I hate you!”
P. 192 — “I love you, I love you, I love you!” [The absolutely impossible triad, purely mental]
P.192 — “I’m not a toy, I’m not a toy, I’m not a toy!”
P.194 — “I was collapsing, I was fainting, I was getting hit by the emotions in each and every part of my nerves.”
P.196 — “Sorry, sorry, sorry,”
And even the house is triadic with three stories: P.193 — “We went down all three flights of stairs in line and into the foyer” And this “we” is the wife, the husband and the maid (the enforcing torturer) to meet the son who has finally come back. He is writing, but as a journalist, and he went back to the “South” where his mother came from (alienated herself out of), and we have met him in other sections doing his job there with people whose language he does not speak and who do not understand his northern language. Supposedly he went there to rediscover the world of his mother but without the language, it was a very mute voyage since the southern locals do not speak the northern language. What a colonial vision anyway for a journalist to go to a country whose language he does not speak, and yet he wants to interview local people and get their feelings and ideas about their life, about life in general, because for this journalist there is only one life, as there is only Civilization (capital C) for westerners in our real world, a civilization that is universal, unique and absolute. It is at times called “human rights.” Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Angela Davis, among others, explained to us how vain this notion of “human rights” is in the West when thirty million people in the USA are uninsured with a pandemic just starting to escalate at the most rapid Italian speed. In the two prisons in Denver, they discovered two days ago there were 22 COVID-19-positive prisoners in an enclosed, cramped and crammed space with permanent contact with others. Just test them all and you will find the prisoners are 80 or 90% COVID-19- positive. How many deaths will that mean in two months? But who cares since only 10, maybe 20% of them are White Anglo-Saxon Protestant individuals who have sinned and will be forgiven in due time? If they survive!
So this woman finally can reunite with her son, but she is from the South and he is from the North, so the reunion is the reunification of a drastically divorced pair, and if you add the father, that’s a drastically dramatically divorced triadic family. The wife will accept to take her medication and she will become a social zombie but able to more or less be presentable in some social or family events.
That’s the light Kiran Bhat is providing us with and this light or enlightenment, nirvana in Sanskrit, nibbana in Pali, is in perfect phase with his name. Kiran (Devanagari: किरण) is a unisex given name. It originates in the Sanskrit askadas kiraṇa, meaning “ray” or “ray of light” or “beam of light.” Bhat (Sanskrit: भट, Urdu: بھٹ) is a common surname in the Indian subcontinent. The Bhat surname is associated with the Brahmin varna (caste) of Hinduism. Historians state the surname is a distorted form of Bhatta, which originates from Sanskrit (भटट), meaning “scholar” according to the Brāhmaṇa [For the definition of ब्राह्मण brāhmaṇa, with the last syllable showing a Vedic accent, used as a noun as “masculine (having to do with Brahman or divine knowledge), one learned in the Veda, theologian, priest, Brāhman, a man of the first four castes”; and definition of ब्राह्मण brāhmaṇa, with only first syllable showing a Vedic accent, used as an adjective as “adjective (i) belonging to a Brāhman, Brāhmanic”, see: Arthur Anthony Macdonell, 1924, p. 199).]
The vision of women in the novel is very pessimistic about their future. Most of them are the victims of their fathers, they become prostitutes or promiscuous lovers, they get insane and commit suicide, or they become violent but are unable to commit the slightest just and fair killing because they are petrified by the male targets they could and should shoot dead or slowly dying. This level of alienation is most visible in the one-armed woman. Her alienation is so deep that she does not have the concept of “future,” she does not see anything in the future for her because the future does not exist. There are only the present and her hunger for something, food, drink sex, whatever, and when she is satisfied, no matter how and in what circumstances, she can go to bed and sleep, if she has a bed, though the steps in front of the main statue in the main square are just good enough for her, and this satisfaction will become eventually hunger again and she will look for some satisfaction remembering her past satiety. No future here for her, just the present and the past. And they tell you have to remember the past to govern your present. That’s so true with this one-armed woman, that she has no future, only her present dominated by her past. And like the Milkmaid, when she will no longer find her satisfaction in reproducing her past in her present, she will commit suicide and society will cover it up as anything accidental, incidental. The Incident, this chemical accident that killed thousands of people by liberating tons of a killing chemical in the atmosphere and river, a catastrophe that became in the press, the dominant press of course because there is no alternative, the Incident, just as if an engineer had by total accident stepped on an ant and killed it. True enough, what was the ant doing there?
Dr. Jacques COULARDEAU
we of the forsaken world …
by Kiran Bhat
P.9 — I have the capacity to enter their ontological space despite being nowhere close to them physically, and they enter mine.
Communication in virtual presence
delayed (letter) before
instant, real-time (internet and telephone) today
communication in real presence
P.30 — “You are nothing but a rude northerner coming to a land where you speak nothing and expect us to accommodate to you.”
A general situation that is common in many countries. Oil-Occitan in France. Northern Italian and Neapolitan in Italy. Yankee mid-Atlantic English versus Southern English let alone Black English. Segregation between two sections of a country. Tamil versus Sinhala in Sri Lanka. Arabic vs Kabyle in Algeria. But in this situation, the two languages are not interconnected, and the people just can’t speak both. So, they cannot speak and understand one another.
Secondary problem: the journalist who assumes the people he is visiting are going to understand and speak his own language.
P.94 — ‘Just because I’m young doesn’t mean I can’t understand things,’ or ‘I’ve lived just as bad a life as you have; it wasn’t like my father gave me love or much of anything,’ or ‘I’ll be a father to your kid, I can be just as much as a wife as your real one. All you have to do is love me.’
That Milker is strange. He sounds like a boy and is in love with the carpenter, or at least desires him. He pretends he could be both a father to the carpenter’s child and a wife to the carpenter. He is sixteen. and the carpenter is fifty.
To be compared to the accusation that the Milkmaid has given her virginity to a man twice her age.
There is like an obsession about age and age differences and that makes the whole thing being haunted by being young, by youth.
P.108 — Believe me, we have tried to get back to how it used to be, but a lot has changed for us this year, and it just isn’t working…”
After this Incident, like Covid-19, things will have changed so deeply, so thoroughly that we will never be able to go back to what it used to be before. A catastrophe of any kind, non-man-made or man-made, leaves humanity changed deeper than we can imagine.
P.109 — I don’t think love can be based on a key moment anymore. It’s based on a lifetime of support and setbacks, and if there’s one man I trust to be there more for me, it’s going to be him. I just wish I could be there for him.”
Love is not an abstract feeling or passion, but it is a fabric that is woven, a pullover that is knit and the weaving or the knitting are the essential element of any love, not the passion or the feeling or the sentiment. It sure has to do with such a psychological element, but this psychological element finds its equilibrium in the existential experience that goes along with love in life or life in love. And the negative is just as important as the positive. An epidemic is just as strong as celebrating a birthday.
P.125 — I’d have said,
The father is a would-be father who knows what he has to tell his lazy son but he does not, though he imagined in his mind what he should say, what he would have said if he had been a real father.
P.136 — Such are the mysteries of the jungle.
We are in the primeval jungle again. The various worlds that are articulated one into another are the metaphor or our hierarchized societies, each one of them, of our globalized world, but more than anything else it is the metaphor of our tiered personality, in direct connection with Lacan’s square in which each individual is torn apart by, or constructed around the four poles of this square and the two crossing dynamics in the heart of it. Authority or father against phallus or Ideal of Ego; the carnal and physiological impulses and needs versus the dream of the Ego who is pulled apart by his Ideal and virtual Phallus and his real Authority Father. The Ego, the individual is thus the focal point of three forces that dictate in a way or another his/her behavior and his/her future becoming. Impulses and needs; Authority and Father; Ideal of Ego and Phallus. The only thing missing is LOVE which, in fact, is nothing but the sexual impulse, as long as we do not take the individual in his/her own communicational survival in his/her existential environment.
P.136 — During these moons, I have seen that they have their ways to hurt the trees.
This moon-centered vision is a male-centered vision. The moon cycle is very close to the female menstrual cycle and the difference between the two is that the moon cycle only leads to another one, whereas the female menstrual cycle leads to the birth of a child, to the survival of the species. That the two are connected is sure in the several long hundred millennia of Homo Sapiens’ emergence. That’s what is missing here. The three worlds are male-centered, and women are nothing but sidekicks for bored males.
P.160 — as the girl who didn’t ‘rip your ear up.’
This girl’s story is rather trite. Sold into prostitution by her father, she is promoted into pop-singing by her pimp. Banal. Her bed-sister is a one-armed girl (there is another one-armed woman in a previous episode) who tries to kill the pimp but of course, could not. Pathetical pathos.
P.180 — saw this one-armed woman looking at me.
The bed sister of the Singing star
P.182 — “I assume it is because we all have our light, and we all have our shadow, and neither can be taken away from us until the day we die.”
banal oxymoron on light-darkness in us. The character, the one-armed woman who we know is a prostitute of the worst type who tried to shoot her pimp but could not, is not the person that can say that. The light for her is not IN her because she cannot assume that light and get out of her prostitution, away from her pimp. She has no light in her, not even the dim light of some hope to terminate her enslavement. Do unrebellious slaves have any light of hope or whatever in them?
It is, in fact, the aunt who is speaking here though it is slightly ambiguous who is speaking at this moment and it becomes clear in the next sentence.
P.183 — Your life has been hard, but you have a future. We all do.”
What a vanity, an illusionary vanity. Some are living in such alienation that they can only go on living by making their alienation a habit. They go on without even thinking of tomorrow. They only think of their next “meal” and after it of their “last meal” as if it had been their last one. They are no longer hungry, so they can die satisfied. That’s real despair and it does exist, and such people do not have a future.
P.184 — That a girl
who could take the stance of a desperado
could someday be free.
If this girl hopes for freedom, it is not for herself but for the next woman, the woman who will come after her, who will take her place, because for herself the game is over
P.186 — My husband
This woman character is easy because it is not really ambiguous, i.e. human. She is defining herself as a victim. She tries to escape from her husband and yet she cannot get away. She fantasizes her “dead” son as her real “husband,” but it is a phantasm. She knows but she cannot evade it. She is the prisoner of alienation that might only be in her psyche.
P.186 — I could divide him into three different people.
1- before 26. She was 28
2- at 26 when she courted him, or he courted her
3- when he became a money man, a businessman on his own father’s command.
This trilogy or triad is easy. before meeting someone you do not know them. You know them only when you meet someone. And then after meeting someone and when living with them you know them, but it is never that one-sided and constant, unchanging.
She does not capture the complexity of the man and she does not try to know what he was before she met him.
P.189 — ‘I tell you, my daughter wants to be a writer
She must be fantasizing as her own mother, which makes her speak of herself as her daughter.
P.189 — “I don’t wanna, I don’t wanna, I don’t wanna!”
P. 189–90 — ‘Be a responsible girl.’ ‘Be a good girl.’ ‘Be a smart girl.’
P. 191 — “I hate you, I hate you, I hate you!”
P. 192 — ‘I love you, I love you, I love
P.192 — “I’m not a toy, I’m not a toy, I’m not a toy!”
P.193 — We went
down all three flights of stairs in line and into the foyer,
P.194 — I was collapsing, I was fainting, I was getting hit by the
emotions in each and every part of my nerves.
P.196 — “Sorry, sorry, sorry,”
Triad — One more triad. Definitely Shakespearean — The impossible triad — Triadic house: three stories
P.191 — he was an honest and ethical businessman with not a lick of corruption on his fingers. He treated anyone and everyone like a calculation.
The third man
P.191 — Remember, this wasn’t the man I married.
The second man
P.194 — I was in your hometown for some months.”
He must be the uncle journalist of before