Review: One Love and the Many Lives of Osip B by CP Surendran

Poet and fiction author CP Surendran’s new novel is greatest described as a mirror held as much as our occasions. In it, a pupil falls in love together with his trainer and pursues her relentlessly. That’s Osip B’s one love – his English trainer Elizabeth Hill on the fictitious St George’s Residential Faculty, Kasauli. A fortuitous sexual encounter results in Osip’s obsession. We be taught from the narrative that it was an impulsive motion on Elizabeth’s half. She doesn’t imagine in romantic love and is apprehensive about getting emotionally hooked up. In the direction of the center of the narrative, she berates Osip over his conception of affection:

“It makes you are feeling like consuming ice lotions and makes you miss your bus, however wars nonetheless occur. As do riots and arson. Love! Love will not be peace, do you see? Everybody loves a minimum of one different particular person. And nonetheless there may be a lot violence. All of them have cherished and would kill different loves…. Do you perceive? It’s higher to be younger and never loving.”

371pp, ₹695; Niyogi Books

When she suspects that she is pregnant with Osip’s little one, she flees, and he pursues her – first to Delhi after which to Oxford. Lastly, they reunite as lovers and return to the town within the top of summer season. Then issues go fully improper as karma catches up with Elizabeth.

This love obsession, pursuit, fulfilment and falling aside kind however a mere thread that holds collectively portraits of latest realities – a nationwide narrative fraught with greed for energy and the abuse of it, insidious divisive insurance policies, manipulative media homes invested in every part however journalistic values, and godmen propping them up, amongst others.

After which there may be the spectacle of liberalism underneath assault from all sides – the Proper, the Left and the Centre. Within the phrases of Arjun Bedi, the septuagenarian whisky-guzzling poet-turned journalist, an all-weather mentor to Osip:

“By no means articulate your adolescent theories exterior these partitions. They’ll lynch you. The Proper will lynch you… The Left too. They’ll discover another cause. You and I are the sort who will get lynched by one group or the opposite. The cow vigilantes in addition to the cow eaters. If neither, then the State. You and I need to provide to one another the solace of affirmation, so onerous to return by in these occasions of common worry that every coronary heart harbours for the opposite.”

Sarcastically, this senior journalist is the topic of a #MeToo marketing campaign, which he finds himself in largely by his items written way back (and one occasion of drunken exhibitionism). In the direction of the top of the novel, his long-neglected, cancer-patient spouse tears off his façade to disclose his contrite, perplexed face.

The true protagonist of the novel, nonetheless, is the perpetually bedridden Comrade Niranjan Menon, Osip’s adoptive grandfather. The novel operates superimposed on the looming presence of this patriarch. There are references to him or quotes from him on each different web page. Nicknamed “Bolshevik Menon,” he’s seemingly within the clutches of Alzheimer’s.

On Niranjan’s go to to the USSR in 1961, his witnessing of the exhumation of Stalin and the attendant revelations of the dictator’s inhuman acts power him right into a numbed silence. On his return, three years later (he was imprisoned for having spat on Stalin’s bust in revulsion), he tells Gloria Innaley (actually “Yesterday” in Malayalam), his spouse: “They’re knee-deep within the blood, the black Marias, the mysterious cellphone calls, the back-to-back funerals. The State, The Social gathering. The Mob. It’s all true. Thank God he’s gone, and Khrushchev is in”. It’s this Niranjan who names Osip after Osip Mandelstam, the celebrated Soviet dissident poet who died throughout Stalin’s Nice Purge.

Poet Osip Mandelstam who died in Stalin’s Nice Purge. The central character within the novel, Osip B, is known as after Mandelstam. (NKVD / Wikimedia Commons)

Osip and his grandfather share a uncommon psychosis which leads to the boy being separated from Niranjan and despatched to St George’s. The affliction causes a a number of character syndrome or “many lives” in Osip. Having soaked up Niranjan’s tales, he experiences eras in historical past as if he has lived by them. Even Elizabeth taunts him saying he has a number of outdated males inside him. His inside monologues are largely muddled, with visions from the previous, or historical past, invading his consciousness. Whereas in Delhi, in pursuit of Elizabeth, his drunken hallucinations combined together with his sickness and visions of a single Chief, projected on hoardings and signage in every single place, crushing residents within the metal embrace of unification, fill the reader with a well-known sense of foreboding.

Niranjan – the principle leitmotif of the novel – serves as a metaphor for the Communist Social gathering’s inception, progress, and eventual ossification. Hyperactive in his younger days (having personally eradicated 23 Social gathering enemies), he undergoes a catastrophic trauma across the dichotomy between beliefs and observe and lies moribund, just like the embalmed physique of Lenin in what was initially the Lenin-Stalin Mausoleum (Stalin’s physique was eliminated in October 1961) in Purple Sq., Moscow.

Creator CP Surendran (Courtesy the writer)

Aside from all these characters, there are the tales of Anand and Idris, Osip’s associates and accomplices, and others. The motion features a ludicrous occasion of corpse-lifting for ransom, the lynching of Idris’s father for dealing in beef, and the influential politician Andrade exploiting Sangita Ering, a gullible tribal lady from the Northeast, who bears his illegitimate son, Anand. The novel’s precise story is of orphans like Osip, Anand, and Idris, with their identities perpetually in query, dwelling by the angst of those unsure occasions.

CP Surendran confronts the stark realities of the current by darkish irony, farcical narrative strands and caricatures. At the start a poet, his language is tight and lyrical directly, and he works round metaphors and archetypes. Alliterations and assonances may be noticed in his prose. His pithy reflections and meditations on the occasions we dwell in, because the voice of the talking topic or as that of a personality, deliver us to a realisation of what’s taking place and what’s going to occur. However don’t name this a dystopian novel. It isn’t a damaging projection of the long run. It’s a witnessing for posterity.

AJ Thomas is a poet, creator, translator and former editor of Indian Literature, the bi-monthly English journal of the Sahitya Akademi.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.