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Little can prepare you for the experience of reading Renee Gladman’s Ravickian quartet and encountering the oddity, humour, and singular intelligence of her mind Gladman began writing the series in 2003, drawing on a private language she had invented with a friend The linguistic game developed and eventually gave birth to Ravicka — a fictional city-state with an absurd, charming, and troubled local population   I want to state from the outset that these novels remind me of little else I have encountered in contemporary literature Ravicka has textual predecessors — Gladman overtly nods to Samuel Beckett, Anne Carson, and Julio Cortázar — but immersion in Ravicka feels, somehow, more like watching contemporary dance or experimental film than reading a novel Absurdity abounds, non-sequitur is employed liberally, and syntax seems more significant than setting or plot Nonetheless — and herein lies Gladman’s achievement — these novels are provocative and profound   To date, four of Gladman’s ten published works are set in Ravicka  The experimental collection of essays Calamities (2016) and a new monograph of Gladman’s drawings, Prose Architectures (2017),  complement the Ravicka project, but her first novel, Event Factory (2010), remains the best port of entry into this extraordinary city ‘From the sky there was no sign of Ravicka Yet, I arrived; I met many people The city was large, yellow, and tender,’ writes the unnamed protagonist, a linguist who arrives in Ravicka when her plane fails to depart after a layover The only novel in the series told from the perspective of a visitor from outside, Event Factory offers an introduction to Ravicka’s foreign culture and strange landscape, where Earth’s physical laws are either suspended or queered   Mostly, the novels offer the mere suggestion of a plot The Ravickians, the second in the series, ostensibly tells the story of a famous novelist trying to cross the city to attend her friend’s poetry reading But it is more a meditation on the impossibility of translation — a fugue-like discourse on community, longing, poetics and friendship taking place on moving trains and in fields, and closing with twelve fractious chapters of polyvocal conversations, taking
Renee Gladman’s ‘Houses of Ravicka’

Book Review

October 2017

Phoebe Clarke

Art Review

October 2017

Eleanor Antin, Romans & Kings

Daniel Culpan

Art Review

October 2017

For the past five decades, feminist conceptual artist Eleanor Antin has created an anti-essentialist chronicle of herself. Working within...

Art Review

October 2017

Juliana Huxtable, PNI

Isobel Harbison

Art Review

October 2017

‘IN SUNLIGHT I WAS PLASTICINE PERFORMANCE’, Juliana Huxtable wrote about her teenage years, in her first book published earlier...

The characters in We That Are Young reside at ‘The Farm’ – a sprawling house in New Delhi complete with its own topiary of fat peacocks, bulbous pink flowers with English names, Fendi furniture, and a room in which it snows at the press of a button It’s not far removed from reality – Antilla, the world’s first billion-dollar residence for a single family of four, is a 40-storey building that towers over the suburbs of South Mumbai, replete with a staff of over 600 people, its own electrical power grid, ten-storey parking for a collection of unusable vintage cars, and a room, of course, where it snows on demand In dialogue with Shakespeare’s King Lear, Taneja’s debut novel explores the lives of a family that owns a multinational conglomerate, ‘The Company’, to which each character’s fate (and inheritance) is inextricably tied We have our patriarch, the Lear figure, Devraj; his three daughters Sita, Radha and Gargi; and his right-hand man Ranjit’s two sons, Jeet and Jivan The embarrassment of riches makes for an irresistible, if outlandish, setting; Taneja vividly indulges our intrigue in the way the rich conduct their daily lives, letting her words ooze out their luxury – filthy, yet so desirable After a particularly gruesome scene in which Radha administers the plucking out of a man’s eyes, she steps back into her suite and calls for a pot of first flush Assam, and rose macaroons   A reinterpretation of Shakespeare is the perfect postcolonial conquest: he remains the epitome of the Western canon, patriarchal, and repeatedly failing to include representations of the ‘other’ without recourse to parody Mainstream appropriations of Shakespeare in South Asia, such as Bollywood filmmaker Vishal Bharadwaj’s trilogy Maqbool (Macbeth), Omkara (Othello), and Haider (Hamlet), have generally taken us to rural settings, wherein tragedy is relegated to a matter of the lower castes Taneja, a Shakespearean academic and human rights activist, eschews such stereotypes, and goes straight for the jugular: the innate hypocrisy of the Indian class and caste system ‘It’s not about land, it’s about money,’ states the first line of the book, taking

Book Review

October 2017

Preti Taneja’s ‘We That Are Young’

Skye Arundhati Thomas

Book Review

October 2017

The characters in We That Are Young reside at ‘The Farm’ – a sprawling house in New Delhi complete...

Book Review

October 2017

Chris Kraus’s ‘After Kathy Acker’

Jennifer Hodgson

Book Review

October 2017

Acker by Kraus is a tantalising prospect. How do you go about writing a biography of an inveterate self-mythologiser,...

Art Review

October 2017

Gothenburg Biennial 2017

Kristian Vistrup Madsen

Art Review

October 2017

Secularity, the theme of this year’s Gothenburg International Biennial for Contemporary Art (GIBCA), is often imagined as something akin...

 

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