This outstanding collection of 13 essays is about misplaced concreteness, ideologies and practices. It is a brilliant and stimulating analysis with illustrations of concepts gone astray and lack of visionary spirit in ideology and development.
The study decries the tunnel vision that is universally prevalent in every system and society; the paradox of development is that a large number of responsible persons believe that the earth and all its natural assets including flora and fauna are for the welfare of a few select human beings. The other side of the coin is also depressing, as idealists, looking beyond the tunnel, believe that they can build a world with robotic intelligence deprived of empathy and humanism.
The book is comparable to another brilliant book, A Guide To The End Of The World: Everything You Never Wanted To Know by Bill McGuire (Oxford University Press 2002). Both the books sternly warn the world about the raison d’être of disasters mostly due to the arrogance of human beings.
The author, Anand, a celebrated novelist, has extensively quoted and referred to great writers and thinkers such as John Steinbeck (Grapes of Wrath) and social scientists like William Rosen, Timothy Egan, and Paul Edwards and quoted from many Government documents and publications. Anand’s style makes it an interesting read.
The first essay is about the Great Dust Bowl of the Dirty Thirties in the United States (U.S.). The author presents a graphic account of the devastation that resulted in the largest migration in American history.
Two more essays in the book deal with significant events in America: one is about the influence of communism and another is on the participation of America in World War II.
In the essay ‘Inner Diaspora’ the author returns to the U.S. and refers to the American Dust Bowl and quotes from Steinbeck: ‘The Goddamned Okies are dirty and ignorant. They are degenerate sexual maniacs… They are thieves. They will steal anything. They have no sense of Property rights’.
He illustrates that immigrants were always unwelcome anywhere in the world, as is proven by history. The disasters of plague and Black Death in Europe (‘Eiffel Towerinte Thalappathe Paintinte Oru Tholi’) is again about the catastrophe caused by displacement resulting in the destruction of empires in Europe and the conquest of Constantinople by invaders from Central Asia.
The essay, ‘Unfinished Picture’ is about the famine of 1876-1879 in India, China and Brazil due to a drought caused by El Nino. It reveals the story behind the unfinished film of Mrinal Sen's on the Bengal Famine of 1943 that resulted in the death of millions of people.
Again, the deaths of millions in the ‘30s in the ‘Kulak holocaust’ is the subject of the study of system failure in the erstwhile Soviet Union (‘Misplaced Sets’). Referring to Dostoyevsky’s The White Night and commenting on natural seeds, the author affirms that whether it is capitalism or communism or socialism, ideologues do not listen to voices of reason or science.
The essay on the long-pending demand for betterment of socio-economic conditions for women in India deserves special mention. The last, longest and the best study is ‘Relinquished understanding’. There has been no visionary model as to what and how our country should be in the future. The author wonders whether our renaissance has been affected by negative trends in a democracy.
The well-researched and stimulating study is comparable to any one of a similar kind available globally, at least in English. It places the author on a pedestal far superior to his standing in Malayalam as a novelist.
Sthaanam Thettiya Vasthu, Anand, Mathrubhoomi Books, Rs. 125