The novel In Custody by Anita Desai is significant as Desai here explores the psyche of male protagonist outside the circumscriptions of familial ties and obligations. She makes a departure from her earlier obsessive preoccupation with the interior landscape of hypersensitive and neurotic women.
Anita Desai's in Custody': A Critical Appraisal attempts to decipher even the un-deciphered issues of the novel. It offers an exhaustive critical commentary on the novel and the novelist. The book, comprising various articles on Indian-English fiction, Anita Desai, her art of plot construction, theme, characterization, narrative technique, textual issues, imagery, symbolism, etc. explores Desai's fictional world. It highlights the textual treasure and interpretations in a very simple way for easy comprehension by the readers. It will be useful to the students and teachers of English literature, particularly Indian English literature, and researchers in these fields.
Neeru Tandon, M.A., L.L.B. (topper and gold medalist from Kanpur university), obtained her Ph.D. in Indian-English fiction. She is an editor, author, critic, feminist and a poet too. Her area of interest is contemporary fiction, mainly by Indian-English, Afro-American and Canadian women writers. She has been teaching English for the last 23 years. Presently, she is an Associate Professor at the Post-graduate Department of English, VSSD College, Kanpur. She has submitted her post-doctoral research work (D.Litt) in feminist fiction of India and America.
Dr. Tandon has written many books which include Margaret Atwood: A Jewel in Canadian Writing; Feminism: A Paradigm Shift; Emily Dickinson: A Fresh Perspective; and Anita Desai and Her Fictional World. She has also written books on Tagore's Muktadhara and Mulk Raj Anand's Untouchable, and has edited books such as Perspectives and Challenges in Indian-English Drama; and Feminine Psyche: A Post Modern Critique. A large number of scholarly papers written by her have been published in many books, national and international referred journals and e-journals. She is also a course coordinator at IGNOU (M.Phil Program on Gender Studies) and at CSJM University, Kanpur. She takes personality development and English speaking classes for professionals in various institutes. She is also Editor of Illuminati (an international journal), and Associate Editor of The Atlantic Critical Review, New Delhi.
When Booker Prize winner novelist Kiran Desai dedicated her book The Inheritance of Loss to her mother Anita Desai saying that "the debt I owe to my mother is so profound that I feel the book is hers as mush as mine", she in a remarkable act of literary filial devotion began the task of turning her mother into almost a joint Booker winner. Once again the world started thinking and talking about Anita Desai and her fictional world. Anita Desai who wrote primarily about the functioning of the human psyche in a subtle and inimitable style is known for the symbolic, sensitive and psychological fiction.
Senior Desai's novels being nominated for the Booker Prize three times further consolidated her international acceptance and reputation, showcasing her immense dexterity in handling complex interrelationships and probing deep into the psyche of her characters. The painstakingly perfected chiseling is perhaps the secret of her four decades long success. As a child, Desai used to speak German at home and Hindi, Bengali or Urdu outside, while learning English in school. Also shortlisted for the Booker, her 1984 novel, In Custody is a profound commentary on the many meanings and colours of language as it unfolds through life and art.
In Custody is woven around the life of Deven, a mild-mannered professor who seems to interview Nur, the greatest living Urdu poet of the generation. The old Nur seems to suggest the fall from glory of Urdu, the mellifluous language of great poets, and thus the history of a language emerges as the subtext of the novel. Desai's courageous attempt to render one language through another-in that case, Urdu through English-becomes a metaphor of inter-cultural translations:
Indeed in this novel as in others, she also tries to translate, from an Indian language into English without falling into the dangerous trap of reducing serious characters into caricatures or stereotypes.
In Custody presents Desai's ironic story, about literary traditions and academic illusions. Nur, an Urdu poet, is in the grip of tough situation, and Deven, a professor of Hindi, realizes that the beloved poet is not the magical genius of his imagination. In Custody was turned into a beautiful-albeit too colourful for Desai's liking-film by Istiaail Merchant in 1993. The Film Muhafiz won the 1994 President of India Gold Medal for Best Picture, and stars the noted actors Shashi Kapoor, Shabana Azmi and Om Puri.
In this critical re-appraisal of the novel I have tried to focus on factors like expectation and experience, fantasy and actuality, illusion and reality, poetry and the poet, art and life, etc. in a very simple way. I have also discussed the problem of alienation of an educated young college teacher from his own roots and culture along with existentialism, irony, problem of love and marriage, language controversy, imagery, nature portrayal, etc. Various other textual issues are discussed in the form of subjective and objective question-answers. The emphasis throughout has been on clarification and evaluation while the treatment is comprehensive and elaborate. It in no way precludes a study of the original text which is essential for a proper and genuine understanding. The book will be useful to students, teachers and researchers of English literature, especially Indian English literature. I am grateful to Atlantic Publishers and Distributors (P) Ltd, for the keen interest they have taken, and the co-operation they have extended to me in publishing this book.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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