Touching and wonderfully funny. "In Custody" is woven around the yearnings and calamities of Deven, a small-town scholar from Mirpore in the north of India. An improvised college lecturer, Deven sees a way to escape from the meanness of his daily life when he is asked to interview India's greatest Urdu poet, Nur. But every attempt will only end up in desaster. A beautiful book, mingling melancholy, disappointment and lots of humour. I recommend it most warmly.
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13 internautes sur 13 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
Good depiction of real life7 janvier 2000
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It's been a while since I've read it, but am inspired to write about it since this book is far superior to the one I'm reading now by the same author (Journey to Ithaca). I loved this book. I feel that Desai truly captured the feeling of a bygone time (which was bygone already in the story). The frustration the poor lecturer felt at his failed attempts to record the great Urdu Ghazal master, which led to one disaster after another...poor loser, is felt by the reader. If you've ever been to India, you can just imagine the setting, the streets, the buildings, the city where the lecturer goes to make his recordings. The underhandedness of the Master's mistress, and the drunken stupidity of the "chumchas" is so typical, as is the nagging wife of the lecturer who just doesn't understand his artistic pursuits. Desai gave this book a wonderful ending too. Despite all that went wrong, the Master still saw through his drunken haze the sincerity of the lecturer and left him "In Custody," of his compositions. A masterful, bitter sweet ending.
11 internautes sur 11 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
Great BUT only if...31 mai 2005
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...you are familiar with Urdu and the nuances of life in the Indian sub-continent. Am not at all surprised by some of the negative reviews; it is almost impossible to understand this book if you cannot attempt to relate to an unfamiliar culture and are looking for fairy-tale character transformations. Though the main theme of the book (decadence of something that was once majestic) is universal, the means of exploring it is decidedly ethnic.
This book will give you a fascinating glimpse into the life of a minor celebrity and other commoners in small-town India. Having grown-up in India, I can swear I met a few of the characters in the book, so real they seem. Be prepared for a serious read for Anita Desai's style is that of a strict and no-nonsense school teacher. You feel some power in her sentences and any humor is unintentional; this is her lament for the (probable) extinction of Urdu. But the flow is straight-forward and the book is completely accessible and so you can finish it fairly quickly.
And while you are at it, watch the movie as well. Directed by Ismail Merchant, it captures the spirit of the book and holds its own as a mini-classic with stellar performances and mellifluous music.
4 internautes sur 4 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
Interprets the standard of Urdu Poetry very elegantly.15 février 1998
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I have read the novel, and watched the movie also. To me both seemed great. But, its absolutely not for those people who are ignorant with the standard of Urdu Language and Urdu Poetry. Urdu Language is a mixture of different beautiful languages, including Arabic and Persian. In my opinion, people related to literature, who do not understand Urdu Poetry are missing something very important. This novel In Custody is a story of a teacher who is asked by his friend to go and take interview of a very famous Urdu Poet, Nur Saahib. He was inspired by Nur Saahib poetry from his childhood, but when he meets him, Nur Saahib is not the kind of man he had an image of. Anyways, as he was bound to take his interview he does his best to do it, but different difficulties rose from Nur Saahibs wives, friends and other characters. Ultimately in the end, Nur Saahib sends his collection of Poetic Pieces to Deven (The person who interviews), and leaves this world.
Asad I Khan.
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
This may not be Anita Desai's best, at least to me, but it certainly lives up to her standard in prose. Loved it!20 juillet 2013
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This is one of the few cases where I have watched the movie before reading the book. Having watched the amazing movie couple of years back and Anita Desai's name raised my expectations really high.
Deven is a Hindi lecturer, living a modest life in a small town. But nothing is okay in his life. His wife is unhappy with him, his students do not listen to him or respect him and all those around him take advantage of him. Shadowing all these is his reminiscence of his dreams of becoming a poet that he had to give up in order to bring in money for his wife and son. When he gets a chance to interview Nur, a relatively famous Urdu poet, his enthusiasm knows no bounds. But as always, nothing is simple in Deven's life... Starting with a faulty recorder, things only go downhill as Deven tries to hold on to his enthusiasm for the language, poetry and this opportunity.
Characters in this story have similar shades even though they have different background and Deven's story really touches you. Throughout the story you wish that life would finally give him a break. You hope for a happy ending, at least for his sake right from the first half of the book. Nur is a character that again somehow will strike a sad chord in your heart. Deven's wife is a character I could understand but not really sympathise with.
From downright comical situations to the absurdities of Nur's life to Deven's own sad little life, the story flourishes with each stroke of life's different colours. I admit that it is not a happy-go-lucky or fun book. It accentuates the failures of a man's life and that makes the pace of the story feel a bit slow. Yet it was difficult for me to put it down. Frankly, this book is not for everyone. It is for more matured readers who is okay with reading a bit of heavy material, understanding that life is not all roses and petals and that most people outside the world of fiction have a lot of thorns to pick up in their lives. Even then, not all can get to the rosy petal part of their lives.
3 internautes sur 4 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
Is there a way to save a dying culture?29 juillet 2008
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This novel was written in 1984. It is long before the emerging power of India today in the field of software and computer technology. It is centered on one junior lecturer in Hindi literature in a provincial college, the archetype of failed ambition and thwarted interests, a typical prisoner of a situation that does not and cannot provide him with the future he wants but also of his own lack of technical, economic and moral qualifications to confront the real world. A novel about frustration. Deven is a frustrated Urdu poet, Urdu intellectual, husband and father who married the wife that was arranged and chosen by his family, Hindi lecturer because he does not really like Hindi literature and does it only for survival, adventurer who accepts to do something he had dreamed of for years but without understanding the obstacles he will have to negotiate. So he ends up completely at the mercy of others, subservient to others, the perfect victimized prey of all kinds of incompetent publisher, editor, high-tech dealer and technicians, a poet and his wives, a brothel Madame and her bouncer, etc. Even and especially his supposed friends. In other words he is in custody, i.e. in jail. But there is something worse in this situation. Deven is unable to set limits to other people and hence to protect himself because he feels in charge of taking in custody what they represent. That is particularly true of the poet Nur. He becomes then the custodian of the poet, of his poetry and he does not realize that this positive side of the relation not only gives him a responsibility to take care of this poetry that is entrusted to him, but also makes him the exploited slave of the poet himself. By taking the poet's poetry in custody, becoming the poet's custodian he is at the same time taken in custody, i.e. jailed, trapped by the poet and his wives, the dealer and his helpers, the publisher and editor, even his own wife and son. This double-entendre of custody is nothing but the tip of the iceberg. Deep under, another duality is galloping with rage, the heritage from Indian history with the two colonizations of the recent centuries: the Mughal empire and then the British empire. This is represented in the division of Indian society between the Moslem and Hindi communities. The former smaller but more enterprising in commerce and business, particularly wide open to the Moslem world, the Middle East and the Arab world. The latter more closed onto itself as a full entity that has the tendency to reject others, hence to become jingoistic. Each community is built around its praying place, a Mosque or a Temple. We discover, in a vaguely specified background, the British created the problem because the resistance from the Moslem community was repressed by them, encouraging the jingoism of the other community. They sowed the very seed that was going to destroy them: the hostility between the two communities, religions, cultures, and even languages, Urdu versus Hindi. They played against the Moslem because they were the masters when they arrived, because they were slightly afraid of them since they were a lot more organized, unified and politicized than the Hindi community. They organized a historical backlash against them by repressing the 1857-58 mutiny and taking over the whole country. The book actually centers on Urdu, Urdu poetry and an old dying Urdu poet. Urdu and Hindi are two branches of exactly the same Indo-Aryan language, Hindustani. Hence they come from the same melting pot that was the Iranian plateau and Indo-Iranian languages that gave the two branches of Indo-Aryan languages in the east and Indo-European languages in the west. Urdu was re-persianized through Islam with an important Arabic and Turkish influence and is written from right to left. Hindi kept its Sanskrit origins and was not influenced by Islam and is written from left to right. This writing specificity shows the opposition between the two dialects of the same language resulting from history. Urdu poetry is the direct heir of Mughal culture and is thus pushed aside by Hindi literature. The book makes us feel the opposition between these two worlds, cultures, visions of life from beginning to end. The Urdu poet often expresses the Islamic vision of life, a place where you must suffer to atone for your sins. The Hindi philosophy is also expressed with a strong stress on the good things you must do in your life for your merit to be as high as possible when death and rebirth come by. This leads to two attitudes towards the world and other people. On one side a dominant and exploitative attitude. On the other side a contemplative and submissive attitude. The two are perfectly represented in Murad, the editor, and Nur, the poet, both Moslem on one side, and Deven on the other side. The way people speak to and address one another shows the difference in communities: you address a Moslem as Sahib and a Hindi as Bhai. At times the Moslems seem to have the tendency to call everyone Sahib, but that is marginal in the book. When the author herself speaks of someone by name he is granted the term Mister. In spite of a deep consciousness of women's predicament in this society, with polygamy on the Moslem side and monogamy on the Hindi side, both submissive for the woman or women, the only woman who expresses this predicament directly is the poet's second wife, an ex-prostitute who is absolutely obsessional and excessive out of frustration and over-compensation leaning towards tyrannical domination. A quarter of a century later things the various communities of a multi-cultural society like India still have great difficulties living together and reaching a consensus of tolerance within accepted and acknowledged differences.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris Dauphine, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne & University Versailles Saint Quentin en Yvelines