"Voices in the City" is an excellent novel by Anita Desai set at the backdrop of contemporary Kolkata, former Calcutta, with its intellectual characters. Anita Desai is a renowned Indian author known for her insightful portrayals of human relationships and the intricacies of Indian society. Set in post-colonial Kolkata, the story revolves around the lives of four central characters: Monisha, Nirode, Ila, and Hari, each grappling with their own inner demons and confronting the challenges of an evolving urban landscape. First published in 1965, Voices in the City tells the story of three siblings as they struggle to find meaning while living in the Colonial India’s capital city- Calcutta.
An intense storytelling and a matured crispness enlaces the "Voices in the city". The middle class and the voices of the middle class intellectuals weave the storyline of "voices of the city' while aptly justifying the title.
Synopsis of "Voices in the City": 'Voices in the City' is an unforgettable story of a Bohemian brother and his two sisters caught in the countercurrents of changing social values. In many ways the story reflects a vivid picture of India's social transition. Anita Desai being the winner of the Sahitya Akademi Award wrote the fascinating novel and describes the corrosive effects of city life upon an Indian family.
This creation of Anita Desai is set in the backdrop of contemporary Kolkata. The central character Nirode is a journalist here, so the readers see the place with his eyes and different corners of the city has come up with a journalistic point of view. The bohemian lifestyle gets a clear picture while the author narrates the story. This novel is beautifully illustrated and states that Kolkata can be the place for bohemians. This book is worth reading to get the feel of social transition, which is described in a lucid manner.
Monisha, the youngest of the four, is a sensitive and introspective individual burdened by the weight of familial expectations. She seeks solace in art and literature, using them as means to escape the confines of her mundane existence. Monisha's aspirations clash with the traditional values upheld by her mother, Sarla, who envisions a more conventional path for her daughter.
Nirode, Monisha's brother, embodies the clash between tradition and modernity. As an aspiring writer, he grapples with the tension between his artistic ambitions and the responsibility he feels towards his family. Nirode's pursuit of a bohemian lifestyle, fueled by his association with the artistic circle of Kolkata, further distances him from his roots and the realities of his family's struggling financial situation.
Ila, Nirode's wife, is a complex character deeply affected by her own insecurities and marital dissatisfaction. Alienated from her husband's artistic world, she finds solace in an affair with a family friend, but this only exacerbates her inner turmoil. Ila's internal struggle is a reflection of the changing dynamics within Indian society, where traditional gender roles are being reevaluated and challenged.
Hari, Monisha's childhood friend, personifies the marginalized and dispossessed sections of society. Trapped in a cycle of poverty, he struggles to find his place in the rapidly transforming city. Hari's story sheds light on the social disparities and injustices prevalent in post-colonial India, highlighting the struggles faced by those on the fringes of society.
As the narrative progresses, the lives of these characters intertwine, leading to moments of conflict, self-discovery, and profound introspection. Desai masterfully delves into their inner worlds, exploring themes of identity, alienation, and the search for meaning in an ever-changing urban landscape.
"Voices in the City" captures the essence of Kolkata, painting a vivid portrait of the city's pulsating streets, bustling markets, and decaying neighborhoods. Through the characters' experiences, Desai sheds light on the complex social and cultural fabric of post-colonial India, examining the tensions between tradition and progress, the individual and society.
Anita Desai's writing is characterized by her astute observations, lyrical prose, and deep psychological insights. In "Voices in the City," she skillfully weaves together multiple narrative threads, creating a rich tapestry of human experiences and emotions. The novel serves as a compelling exploration of the human condition, urging readers to contemplate the complexities of personal identity, societal expectations, and the enduring power of the human spirit.
About the Author
Anita Desai is a highly esteemed Indian author who has made significant contributions to the realm of literature. Born on June 24, 1937, in Mussoorie, India, Desai possesses a remarkable ability to delve into the intricacies of human emotions and the complexities of Indian society. Her profound storytelling and keen observations have garnered critical acclaim and a dedicated readership.
Daughter of a German mother and an Indian father she grew up during World War II and could see the anxiety her German mother was experiencing about the traumatic situation in Germany. After the war she found her known Germany devastated. Her mother never returned there. Anita herself did not visit until she was an adult. She is an alumnus of Mt. Holyoke and Smith Colleges. Born Anita Mazumdar, Desai is married and has four children. She is known as a novelist, short story writer and also children author. The author has won the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize for her novel 'Fire on the Mountain' and her children's book 'The Village by the Sea' in the year of 1982. She has also won the Guardian Children's Fiction Award.
Over the course of her career, Anita Desai has received numerous accolades, including multiple nominations for the prestigious Booker Prize. She has been recognized for her ability to capture the essence of Indian life, presenting both the beauty and challenges of a rapidly changing society.