Oswald Pereira’s second novel, The Revenge of the Naked Princess takes the reader to unfamiliar and sinister stories of forced conversions in 16th Century India. While most of us may have heard or read about conversions to the Catholic fold, the coercions and methods used to increase the brethren of converts has been uncharted in mainstream fiction.
Pereira’s story revolves around Portuguese missionaries aided by the Portuguese army forcibly converting the Yehoorwada tribe. During the first large scale conversion, Brigadier Braganca, who is leading the conversion, rapes and kills the feisty Princess Darshana Kamya Kathodi. And it’s from here, where the story seemingly ends, does the plot actually take off.
Pereira’s tale of how the Princess eventually avenges her humiliation through supernatural forces and brings her perpetrators to justice comprises the remaining of the book. To the author’s credit, he takes a morbid and often bloody plot and imbues it with a caustic and dark humour. While the narrative is quite one-dimensional, the reader is left yearning for better fleshed out sub-plots.Pereira’s characters, however, don’t disappoint. Whether it’s the cruel Brigadier Braganca or the ambitious and hypocritical Father Francisco or the backstabbing native convert, Joseph Lawrence Pereira, the author creates indelible characters. On hindsight, perhaps he would have done well to devote a few more pages to characters such as Joseph’s wife and Braganca’s lover, Magdalene.The author’s language is simple, often a little too much, but it gets the point home. He describes fury, violence (both physical and sexual), vengeance and religion straight forwardly, often tinged with sarcasm. Powerful images, such as the spirit of the naked Princess standing in front of the people who have wronged her, remain etched in the reader’s mind. The anti-climactic ending may play spoiler refusing to provide catharsis to the readers, but it’s also the author’s promise of a sequel. Read the book for the freshness of theme and its bold treatment.