HYDERABAD: Kafkaesque. There has been much usage by wordsmiths of this eponymous adjective. And the author from whom this adjective has been derived himself has been part of titles of books and numerous essays. If Haruki Murakami’s ‘Kafka on the Shore’ made it to the top lists as a page-turner, it was the Kafkaesque element that added to the writer’s depth. In the recent book of Zafar Anjum titled ‘Kafka in Ayodhya’ one finds the vagueness of life that the author tries to chisel by instilling exquisite details in the plots and somewhat succeeds. Some of the characters stay with you, and some vapourise if the deep recesses of your mind don’t connect with the thought processes the author makes them go through.
In most of the stories Zafar remains a silent writer. He presents the characters from a distance. They do most of the talking as he presents them as if sitting in the chair of an erudite clerk who documents the coming and going of the characters. The narrative looks distant like starlight filtering through glass windows. You see them walking, you hear their words, but can’t really catch them. In the title story, your mind wanders to the town Ayodhya and the incidents of Babri Masjid attached to it. The story talks about the much-awaited judgment and the author’s rendezvous with the perceptions expressed through journalists. The author himself is Kafka in the story. The story is an attempt to begin the search for belief, its coming apart. It relies on the telescopic vision of the author, when if reached near, gets blurred. He creates the awareness of this paradox by textual construction of the development in the story. That’s how the short crisp sentences make for a speed-read.
There are eight stories in the book. The stories are of people, varied people who are lonely, emotionally-famished and need a sympathetic eye to keep a watch on them. He gives the narrative realistic treatment that oscillates from being vague to having pointed ends. The tone of the words is characterised by sentimental and psychical exhaustion. The subtle sparks of hopefulness fizzle and die in between sentences. For example the story ‘Waiting for Angels’ you get the psychotic tremors that rattle the main character. Usage of words like ‘culture shulture’ are very Rushdiesque and add subtle humour in the somewhat morbidly dark plot. While in this story he explores the psyche of his lone characters, in a story like ‘The Thousand Yard Stare’ the clipped sentences merged with fast changing scenes hint urgency which is what keeps the story intact. The words try to execute pain in the mind. But stop at a certain pace.
Some images are interesting but appear regular in nature. The book has the impression of being an interesting read with its melange of stories. The way the author uses his telescopic vision is what qualifies it as a successful read that makes you think