BY FARHAD SORABJEE
Review by Helen Calcutt
Novels that aspire to the conditions of the elements, where the mythical and spiritual weight of their presence is at the very heart of the text, have perhaps fallen out of fashion. In both poetry and fiction, language that is impalpably dry, witty – dare I say ‘urban’ – is favoured over the kind that ‘lives and breathes’ on the page. A great deal of modern fiction offers a kind of grey distortion: a flatness, which makes for both a tiresome and disappointing read. This makes the appearance of Farhad Sorabjee’s God on Every Wind all the more refreshing.
At last, an author not only concerned with the conventions of good storytelling (and it is good storytelling) but also the patterning of language, the depth and vision of the imagery, the richness of the text. There’s a lot of information, and for those unfamiliar with particular Indian and/or West African traditions, the book demands careful attention. And why not? It’s an absolute pleasure to read, and re-read a sentence concerned not only with the placing of the words, but also the musicality in their ordering. The descriptions are, to quote, ‘gusts of pure bliss’ and although at times a little bumbling and disjointed, the pace is beautifully executed.
The novel’s beginning is sonorously magical; fresh, and unfamiliar: ‘The rain came late to the last monsoon in the life of Philomena Avan DaCruz. In the evening angry clouds prowled the horizon over the Arabian Sea. But the next morning they were gone and the sun was back, sucking solace from ponds and watering holes…’ Oh the rain, the rain. This is a beautiful opening metaphor, an introduction to both place and character. Nothing clunks or sinks; the gentle imagery lifts and glides across the paper. In the opening alone, Sorabjee has managed to unveil what Wordsworth called ‘the light of things’, and this sets the tone for the rest of the book. There are moments of poetic revelation, conjured in a single phrase, an image, or even an entire paragraph. Plot, character and reviewing obligations aside, I found myself reading God on Every Wind for these moments – and it didn’t disappoint. They recurred without fail to the end of the book.
Love and loss, rebellion and allegiance, are interwoven into the detailed fabric of God on Every Wind. We begin with an introduction to Philomena, the history of her family, and their residence, the Casa de Familia DaCruz. We are then introduced to her father and mother, through to the birth of her brother Lancelot, and then eventually, her own rather dramatic entrance into the world. The turn of events from here are generally unexpected, and there’s a lot to be taken in…Continue reading
The 23rd of June see’s the return of the Berriew Arts Festival, just a stone’s throw from the parish of R.S. Thomas, in the absurdly beautiful Andrew Logan Gallery, situated on the banks of the River Rhiw.
I’ll be running a writing course that weekend, with inspired river walks, workshops, and one to one tutorials, accompanied by the wonderful writer & poet Paul Henry. There will also be a chance to share and perform your own work to a large and appreciative audience on the Sunday evening, open to all members of the public.
To celebrate the launch of the festival, I’ve written this – Outer Music and Inner Music: The Incantations of the Wild, published in the Wales Arts Review. This should give you some idea of the angle of the workshop, at least from my perspective. I’m very big on ‘place’ as inspiration – and for this I’ll make no exceptions.