Monday, 30 November 2015

Book review - #IAm16ICanRape, by Kirtida Gautam

What an amazing journey this has been. Unlike a novel that exists merely to entertain, #IAm16ICanRape is a member of a class which I would describe as literary activism. Such books are rare; most writers with a sociopolitical agenda choose to pursue that agenda via the medium of non-fiction. When it is done, if it is done well, as is certainly the case here, the reader cannot remain unchanged by it. So when I say journey, it is not a mere figure of speech for reading a long book. I learned from this book, and having learned, am forever changed.

In this book, the phenomenon of rape is dissected through the media of the points of view of the many different players in the drama. We are accustomed to think of rape in terms of the criminal and the victim, but just by using this technique, Gautam clearly shows how ripples spread out from the crime, affecting many, many more people. Like a drop of ink in a bowl of clear water, its darkness spreads and spreads. This, more than anything, for me showed the whole 'rape' issue in a different and more terrible light.

If the book is viewed as a text, I am not fully competent to evaluate it, not being qualified in psychology. The reasoning laid out in the appendix seemed believable to me, but as I say, this ventures into a professional area where I'm not at home; therefore, I will not comment about the psychological reasoning given in the appendix. Viewed as a piece of literature, however, I can and do say that it is a remarkably fine piece of work, broad and deep and life-changing. Like all gifted writers, Gautam engages the reader from the beginning and maintains that engagement throughout the work, even for the rapist, a character wonderfully drawn, and rivalling any character I have ever read for sheer repulsiveness.

I had only one real criticism of the work, and it is really an issue of presentation rather than anything going to the core of the work. Throughout the book there are many phrases and sentences, even groups of several sentences, in a language which I take to be Hindi, although I am aware that India has a number of languages, so it might be something else. My point, however, is that it is not English. Although one doesn't wish to be ethnocentric, and the country and culture of India are central, even cardinal to the work, the thing is that this edition has been translated into (or perhaps written in) English, and is therefore intended for English speakers to read. It is therefore a flaw when parts of it are unable to be read. I would have much preferred to see the English for these sections given, perhaps in parentheses immediately afterwards IF the foreign language was really necessary, but I suspect that in many cases this was not so. I do not, of course, refer to single words or phrases, such as 'beta', which are accessible enough from the context.

All in all, though, a fine, fine piece of work, and for a debut novel, really extraordinary, and I should be surprised if this book does not live on as a classic text in its subject.

#IAm16ICanRape is available from AMAZON in both e-book and paperback.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks a lot for your detailed feedback and review Tabitha.