کتاب زندگی خانوادگی

اثر آکهیل شارما از انتشارات نوای مکتوب - مترجم: پریسا شیریان-برندگان جوایز ادبی

همان‌طور كه پياده به آن سمت خيابان كه ايستگاه اتوبوس در آن‌جا بود می‌رفتم، آخرين تصويری كه از بيرجو در خانه ديدم را به ياد آوردم، كه در اتاق تاريك و ساكتش با دهانی باز بر روی تختش خوابيده بود و خرخر می‌كرد. ياد مادرم افتادم چون صبح او را ديدم كه ملحفه‌ها و روبالشی‌های كثيف شب قبل بيرجو را به زور در ماشين لباس‌شويی‌مان می‌چپاند. نه تنها زندگی‌ام از برادرم بهتر بود، بلكه انگار از مادرم هم خوش‌شانس‌تر بودم. دلم می‌خواست جيغ بزنم تا از دردهايم خالی شوم. شايد بخشی از وجودم از اين‌كه وضعيتم بهتر از بيرجو است خوشحال باشد، اما هرگز نمی‌خواستم روزی را ببينم كه در آن از مادرم هم خوش‌شانس‌تر هستم. اين‌كه بخت و اقبال بهتری از مادرم داشته باشم برايم حكم متفاوت بودن از او را داشت، انگار كه از او دور افتاده باشم، انگار اين شانس و اقبال مرا از او و زندگی‌اش جدا می‌كرد؛


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This book is about an immigrant experience crushed by the results of a medical tragedy. The ambitious expectations of East Indian parents for their son’s future academic success suddenly disappeared when their son is permanently brain damaged by a swimming pool accident.

The story is told in first person by a younger son as the family slowly drifts into a form of dysfunction totally focused on the mother’s nonstop care of their helpless older son and the fathers battle with alcoholism. Meanwhile, the younger son seems to be forgotten.

This book reads like a memoir, but the author says it is a semi-autobiographical novel. I interpret that to mean that the emotion and memories underlying the story are true, but that narrative details may have been changed to communicate more fully the feelings involved in living through the experiences described.

Much of this story was so painful I could hardly tolerate it. Through much of the book I felt uncomfortable learning about embarrassing secrets of this particular family and some of the ways of the Indian immigrant community that seem strange to an outsider. Should I as an Anglo-outsider be allowed to know these things? Perhaps Im being too sensitive.

The following quotation from the book describes the self-consciousness of the Indian students in high school.
We were all a little shy about the lives we lived at home. At home we didn’t eat the food that white kids ate. At home our mothers and sometimes our fathers dressed in odd clothes. Out holidays were not the same as white people’s. Our parents worshiped gods who rode on mice. To attack someone based on his or her family brought up so much of our own shame that we didn’t have the heart to be mean.
The reader can take hope from the fact that the resilience of the younger son enables him to survive and in the end thrive. The narrative is told in a droll ironic sad-sack (a la David Sedaris) style that some people call humorous. But I found it sad (except for the very end).

The following short review is from the PageADay Calendar for November 3, 2016:
Called a “supreme storyteller” by The Philadelphia Inquirer, novelist Akhil Sharma commands an outstanding and compelling narrative voice. The year is 1978, and the Mishra family is living in Delhi. Eventually the two boys, Ajay and Birju, are able to emigrate with their mother to America, where their father awaits them. But tragedy strikes soon after they arrive in the New World, and Ajays brother is left incapacitated. With humor and sophistication, this incredibly gifted author unflinchingly reveals the Indian immigrants experience in America.
FAMILY LIFE: A NOVEL, by Akhil Sharma (W. W. Norton, 2014)

مشاهده لینک اصلی
I received this advanced readers copy from GRs Giveaways Program.

For a good part of this book, I thought it was a Young Adult book because the narrator is a child. The tone is quite plainspoken, simple. This contrasts with and magnifies the profoundly devastating pain and confusion the boy experiences.

The tone, though, doesnt change as the narrator matures, for instance into high school. The tone remains simple and here I believe its continuation reflects the deep melancholy of his life on several levels. Theres a hopelessness that pervades and is ceaseless, and as reader I wanted something to counter that, some resolution, an insight to lead to a change. This did not occur, not after several hurdles were jumped and challenges endured.

The gloom that begins the book cannot be shaken or disrupted.

مشاهده لینک اصلی
I’ve read a couple of memoirs about caring for a family member with a severe brain injury: The Last Act of Love by Cathy Rentzenbrink and Beyond the High Blue Air by Lu Spinney. Compared to those, the tone of this autobiographical novel is so distant, so dispassionate that I had trouble feeling much sympathy for the immigrant family at its heart, despite the awfulness of their lives after Birju hits his head in a swimming pool and lies underwater for three long, brain-killing minutes. As they give up on interventions medical and supernatural, the father turns to drink, the mother is coping on the surface but quietly destroyed inside, and younger brother Ajay – the narrator, a child for most of the book – turns his emotions off and emulates Hemingway to write his family’s story as simply as possible. But lines like these are only going through the motions; they didn’t make me feel anything: “It seemed unfair that something like this could happen and the world go on” and “‘Daddy, I am so sad.’ / ‘You’re sad?’ my father said angrily. ‘I want to hang myself every day.’”

مشاهده لینک اصلی
This is a deeply moving story with a lot of sadness and loneliness, but it is also a story about unconditional love . The story is narrated by Ajay , who at 8 years old in the late 1970s, emigrates from India to the United States with his mother, father, and his older brother, Birju. They are a family seeking a better life, but when Birju has an accident and is mentally and physically incapacitated, “ the family life” becomes a daily struggle for all of them , as they try to care for Birju.

Your heart will be broken for Birju and the loss of what could have been for him. Your heart will continue to be broken when you see through Ajay’s eyes what this does to the family over the years. Ajay is lonely and sometimes bullied, but Sharma manages to infuse some humor, when we see 9 year old Ajay praying to God, who for him has the face of Clark Kent to help him pass his math test. You can’t help but laugh (and cry) at Ajay’s attempt to find a girlfriend by passing notes saying “I love you” and whispering in a girl’s ear the same as he passes her in the hall.

You feel the mother’s sorrow and the father’s pain, and Ajay’s guilt and sadness as they go through life. While the book also depicts the immigrant experience, it was mostly for me, a coming of age story in the face of family adversity, the love of a family and how much they will do for each other. It is for me about the resilience of a young boy who becomes a man at a far too young age.





مشاهده لینک اصلی
A simple and brutal story of a familys tragedy. Survival and salvation are not always the same thing, but in this narrative, survival feels like salvation. The simplicity of the narrative is profound, a lyricism to match the exactness of the horror. Love does all sorts of things to people, but in Akhil Sharmas book it is sublime and horror all at once. The novel is masterful.

مشاهده لینک اصلی
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