Tuesday, September 10, 2013


The first impulse one has on reading 'Sherlock holmes in japan' is that it is absolutely fearless. The novel is not so much a reinterpretation as a recreation. Vasudev Murthy has not merely put new wine in an old bottle. He has smashed the old bottles. The novel's adventurous spirit begins even before it starts when it is proclaimed subversively that the novel is actually being written as Akira yamashita. The idea of doubling, of splintered reflections each telling their own narrative is demonstrated here . Vasudev murthy is not a ubiquitous presence presiding over it all but a character and a narrator as much as an author. The palimpsest blurs and blots and out of its hieroglyphs emerges a concatenation of proliferating narrative transgressions which is not oft seen in contemporary literature.

The scenic locations capture the feel and cultural emblems of the landscape seamlessly. Japenese culture, its caprices, dynamics and variegated dimensions are presented authentically. The overturning of the Holmseian narrative occurs throughout the book. The book comes across as an indeterminate, unclassifiable genre in that it departs, form wise and narration wise, conspicuously from both the detective fiction narrative and the crime fiction narrative. It partakes of elements from both but manages to turn them on their heads and expose their subterranean absurdities.

The narrative is composed of a polyphony of voices . Voices insinuate themselves seamlessly, providing a fresh perspective on the kaleidoscope while keeping the storytelling impulse proceeding. The blending of propulsion and depth, action and human engagement is one of the biggest strengths of the novel. Each character and narrator is a conduit, a prism, refracting facets of the story and action that taken together become a rich, multifarious mosaic.

The language Vasudev Murthy deploys is rich and extensive, though never wordy and abstract. The words have been chosen carefully, judiciously and mostly playfully so that the ebbs and flows of language become, in their intersecting densities and deliberate facileness , a metonym for the story itself.

Vasudev Murthy hasn't, it must be confessed , written a classic. He has , however written a bold, ambitious, unafraid, gutsy and strong story. Indian literature in english is suffused with a certain banality, a certain kitsch quality and though its forms have expanded the scope has diminished. 'Sherlock holmes in japan' shines as a beacon of hope and an inspiration for younger novelists to leap forth fearlessly, experiment freely and break the barriers of what constitutes form. And for this the novel must be celebrated. 

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