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Enigma of Social Incongruity
May 16, 2001 07:30 AM 6113 Views



I took a hot shower and a late breakfast after finishing reading ''The Blind Assassin''. I had started reading it the previous night. I closed my eyes and soon the angel of sleep caressed my eyelids and I was sedated into a deep slumber. Slowly the characters of the book started to haunt me one by one and I was swimming in a turbulence of love, deception, perfidy and death.

Margaret Atwood, for her tenth novel ''The Blind Assassin'', was awarded the ''Booker Prize'' for the year 2000. Her magical presentation deserved the honour in all respects. In this great novel, she carries out a literary legerdemain and carves out an art of great entertainment in an enthralling and exhilarating fashion. The novelty of this wonderful creation is the manner in which the fable has been told, in a concoction of different layers - a story within a novel in a novel. Are you getting a little confused? Please don't, because once you start reading the book, the bafflement will vanish like fog in sunshine and the mesmerizing storytelling of Atwood will make the book a page-turner. Her subtle characters will form a compelling world and you will be taken to new heights of astonishment.

Ms Iris Chase Griffin, the main character of the novel, starts her narrative and tells us of the fateful afternoon of the death of her sister, Laura in 1945 at the end of World War II; thus the story begins. As we get engrossed in the narrative, Atwood presents us with a newspaper report of Laura's inquest and then with the prologue to a novel called ''The Blind Assassin'' written by Laura Chase and published posthumously.

The first person narration of Iris is like a memoir written in the present time. She describes the rise and fall of her well known Canadian family, the Chase family, and the disintegration of the same during the Depression and how she goes through an arranged marriage to save her family and unintentionally abandons her intangible and defenceless younger sister Laura. She also throws light on the circumstances that led to Laura's death.

Laura's novel ''The Blind Assassin'' deals with the illicit relationship of a young woman of the upper class society with an ordinary man who is a sympathizer of left wing activities and is hiding from the law. He writes pulp fiction for newspapers for supporting himself. The lovers meet in parks and abandoned rooms and during their amorous meetings, he tells her the story of an imaginary world of the planet ''Zycron'' and its city of ''Sakiel-Norn'', on the brink of catastrophe. A young slave boy gets involved in a plot to kill the king to abolish the class system of the society. This boy, the blind assassin, saves a young mute girl from being killed in a sacrifice.

Atwood continues to maneuvre through the interplay of the narratives and newspaper clippings. With the ease of a trapeze artist, she takes us through multiple times in a blend of enigma, delusion and family tale. She plays around our mind's eye with intelligent tricks both magical and hypnotizing. Atwood wins here as she does not create sentimentality and her dark humour superimposes grave situations. Her simile and metaphor take deep inroads to our imagination.

The events follow each other in a breath-taking manner and are unfolded layer by layer. We also get convinced that whatever Atwood is stating is much more than it seems to be. The childhood of Iris and Laura has been described with magnificence and reality. Their mother leaves the earth early after a child birth and the father takes refuge in bottles. Their tutoring ends up in shambles. In the wake of social and political changes, the transformation, of their plentiful childhood to an adulthood of family disintegration and loss of all property, has been smoothly drawn in a descending curve by Atwood with Iris the protagonist wandering on a different lane and indomitable Laura trekking along a slippery path.

''The Blind Assassin'' is an adventurous thriller, dealing with the complicated subjects of sex and class of society and it is a sortie into the moral territory of the culture of the 1930s and 40s.

When I got up from my sleep, I was invigorated, as the moral of the story became clearer to me. ''Do not see only the things you wish to see, identify your needs and responsibilities and always expose the truth in the nick of time.''

This was my first attempt to read a Margaret Atwood novel, and I am now ''The Blind Follower'' of all her other novels.

Happy Reading!!!

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Blind Assassin, The - Margaret Atwood