Harsimran Kaur ON Nov 07, 2022 IN BOOK REVIEW, The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida By Shehan Karunatilaka
The wind serpently slithers to the direction where the ‘name’ is called. Maali Almeida is in a hurry—the name ‘Maali’ echoes in his ear, though untreasured now as he is no more alive. But, it’s the name that has evil stuck to its spirit which looms rather ignominiously in the variegated ‘In Between’ vignette of past retrievals.
He is an obnoxious disparaged entity among the dead—the loathsome pretas, ghosts and ghouls are pedestrians walking along colluding and colliding, fervently siphoning a colloquial disarray of emotions.
Maali Almeida, a photographer, a gambler and an indisputable fixer of trapping the concentrated stock from the consommé of sabotages and massacres is dead. He finds himself in the vast swathe of dead-likes; some mercilessly butchered with the over-bearing cuts and cross, invisible hands and skulls with bodies strangulated by clocking of nerves and the not so forgetful memories incarnadined by the incorrigible acts of the past lives.
Maali groans among the tusk-tusk of the lady handling the ledger, instructing rather invidiously of the seven moons and the peripatetic travels to reach the light before the seventh moon ends. Maali has a story too—incomplete and inconspicuous which he must not let extinguish as it expounds the soul and spirit of the Srilanka crushed by the intransigence of the rabble-rousers.
He perches on the Mara tree waiting for the wind to zoom in into the retrospective validations of the past. He has seven moons to find the caecum of where his life met the irretraceable death—the how’s’, the why’s and thereby the formidable task of retrieving the blasphemous photographs to break the incendiary identity conflict that ravaged Srilanka through the 26 years of Civil war.
Winner of the Booker Prize 2022, ‘The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida’ by Shehan Karunatilaka is a nostalgic divergence of memories buried deep in the seismic entrapment of the soul by the unconscious dilemmas of the mind.
What you leave behind is best forgotten but what if you don’t want to?
What if a ray of banished memories are a pot-boiler of the varsities of an incumbent mind?
A tale of despicable tragedies knitted by violent despair and desecration of a different ideological mind-set—the pride of the Sinhalese vs. the bête noir Tamils, the tragedies encrusted on the innocents are a deep-rooted truth captured by Maali, the photographer. He fears the unknown as truth can sometimes be catastrophic and give rise to an incandescent temper of the drivers of intolerance. Even in the midst of dead pan creatures with a sordid whiff of cadence here and there, Maali finds a sheltering carapace under comrade Sena who helps him in churning the truth of his clandestine death. He also has the privilege of 3 whispers proffered by the empress of death—the Mahakali.
All through the book, the reader acts as a soothsayer,
- Will Maali be able to uncover the reason for his death?
- Will he ever be able to whisper to the man and woman he loves to retrieve the photos surresptiously hidden thereby exposing the evanescence of life in the cruel way?
Life ebbs but we still carry the profligacy of our sweet will as stiffened nodules blocked in varicose veins, opening of which produces a crimson layer of enfeebled emotions unable to be healed. Maali insist of recovering them and tears apart the venoms and virulence to the play the game of life again.
Death is unpalpable; an unfathomable end beyond comprehension. The book is a journey through the dead minds impervious to their life’s belonging weighing death under different weights—some soliciting an imprecation of the insouciant Gods while the lighter ones tagging an incurious precision of the mind.
But, sometimes death can be a burden—Maali feels the repugnant distillation of faded inequities as he travels the seven moons accompanied by the cadence of the unsaid and the cacophony of the dead people he meets during his journey of truth.
A tempting tale of the dead and their profligacy!