Novella Books

Pretty as porcelain: Review of Anukrti Upadhyay’s ‘Kintsugi’

Anukrti Upadhyay’s Kintsugi is meant to be a comment on being a woman in a world hell-bent on breaking you, or perhaps on brittle and tawdry affairs of the heart and the attempts we make to yet bind this brokenness in gold.

That much one can surmise from the title, which refers to the Japanese art of repairing damaged pottery with gold lacquer. The novella fails to add much else to any sort of coherent end.

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In the story, there are women who fight to take over jewellery-making, a traditionally male-dominated craft; women struggle with desire and rebellion; women grapple with apathy and sexuality — themes that promise much literary adventure. Yet, in their treatment, so much is sanitised that the result is disappointingly bland.

The book tells the stories of six individuals whose sprawling lives intertwine, unified by the pervading cyclicity of grief. Upadhyay achieves this fairly seamlessly, with small moments that do speak to the reader.

Most of the time, however, these moments end right as you begin to take them in. Before you can be properly invested in the lives of the characters, the narrative snatches your attention away to another section, a different character. The conversations, feelings and inner lives are left unexplored, with city, beach and colour probed at their cost.

For instance, I am left with a richer impression of a sheeshphool, a flower-ornament for hair, than of any of the relationships portrayed.

The narration is breezy — perhaps too much so for its heavy theme. The rich visual imagery could have been used to cast an emotional core but Upadhyay is unable to do this. In the end, the fleeting moments fail to cohere and too little is said on what is truly crucial.

Kintsugi might have worked better as a film: as a novel, it is pretty as porcelain and as lifeless.

Kintsugi; Anukrti Upadhyay, Fourth Estate India, ₹499

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Printable version | Jan 16, 2021 5:37:12 AM |

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