1 Nov 2005

A Fine Balance

A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry

I suppose I would sound smarter if I hadn't read Pico Ayer's afterword before writing down my thoughts, but what he says is spot on: this book is timeless.

I was sitting there trying to figure out what the story was, and I realised that the story is simply that of a bad government, or even more generally: destiny. The people whom the bad forces harm as they go along don't really suffer any discernible narrative progress. Other than learning how to live with calamity.

That, of course, makes it sound much more depressing than it really is; its fine balance comes from how much happiness the book is able to bring you amidst a sorrow that seems insurmountable.

It's just brilliant. The writing feels as natural as if the author was just making light, regular breaths, and they were floating down and lying on the page as sentences. And yet, this effortless, instinctive activity results in a remarkably structured and profound text. But then, hey, breathing is profound.

One flaw, I felt, was the Anna-Karenina-ending. That single instant wasn't as richly motivated for me as the rest of the events in the novel. It serves to highlight, though, that all the events, all the decisions and reactions of the characters, are explored through a crystalline myriad--tragic, comic, everything--of facets. It really does make you feel like you are living these people's lives.