I love writers who know how to manage pathos, who are not afraid of it and do not run away from it because there is no literary struggle which is more exciting and more dangerous than the one between them and pathos. Waging war on pathos should be done by fighting it, not by annihilating it. One should be its king, not its subject; its queen, not its subject. To come as close to it as possible without it killing us. To come to its throat – a moment before it swallows us; on the target – before it shoots us; to be on its gallows – a moment before it pushes the chair underneath our legs. The risk is too great, the writer who is not ready should not approach it. Pathos is the most beautiful silk stocking of love, of feelings, but torn. If we try to fix it – it is ugly and repulsive… The task of the best of literature is not to give up the silk, but to “put on” the stocking of love, of feelings in such a way that the torn spot would not be seen. Arundhati Roy is a perfect example of how that is done. In the most love-filled relationship in the novel, the one between Musa and Tilo, she introduces poetry as necessary air of joint breathing. Their “Russian roulette” (opening a poetic book randomly and loud reading of the poem on the page that was opened) is an erotic game of seduction, but also deep faith in the anticipation of what is to come through what we love the most. (For example, if we love poetry the most, it seems convincing that the first poem we read after we open our eyes would determine the whole day, until our eyes are closed.) Apart from the many poems by concrete poets, but also by Roy herself, there are verses distributed through the novel with which the “Russian roulette” of the lovers is distributed and projected through the whole narration as a recognizable lyric contour, silhouette, shadow. This is the same technique as the already commented characterization of Anjum having two voices, projected on a much wider scale – as a constant change of the voice of narration in general.
Here are just a few examples, that is, evidence that Arundhati Roy is the queen of lyricism and pathos:
- “It was the only place in his world where he felt the air made way for him. When he arrived, it seemed to shift, to slide over, like a school friend making room for him on a classroom bench”;
- “The Petromax lantern was carried out of the room hissing like an annoyed cat”; “Anjum hadn’t meant what she said, but having said it, the idea of leaving took hold and coiled around her like a python” ;
- “He looked worn and rubbed out, like a drawing someone had tried to erase”;
- “Old secrets were folded into the furrows of her loose, parchment skin. Each wrinkle was a street, each street a carnival. Each arthritic joint a crumbling amphitheatre where stories of love and madness, stupidity, delight and unspeakable cruelty had been played out for centuries”;
- “The whisper was passed around the pavement like a parcel”;
- “Her smile made the lights come on in the room”…