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Issue 94 - Generation Games

Whisky Magazine Issue 94
March 2011


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Generation Games

Jefferson Chase delves into another whisky laden tome

The title alone of Kieran Desai's 2006 novel, The Inheritance of Loss, confronts us readers with a question. How can a deeply individual, personal experience such as loss be passed through generations?

The novel is set mostly in India and hops between a number of characters with interwoven life stories. They include an embittered retired judge passing his days in a decrepit isolated estate; his orphaned granddaughter, Sai, who comes to live with him; a self-abasing servant; the servant's son, who lives illegally in the US; and Sai's tutor/lover who becomes embroiled in an ethnic separatist rebellion.

It's perhaps easiest to focus on the judge, whose actions prompt much of the plot. As a young man, he left India to study at Cambridge.

When he returned home, he discovered he no longer belonged in either of the two worlds he knew: He found he began to be mistaken for something he wasn't – a man of dignity. This accidental poise became more important than any other thing. He envied the English. He loathed Indians. He worked at being English with the passion of hatred and for what he would become, he would be despised by absolutely everyone… Conflicts of identity and the hatreds they engender is the main theme of this novel.

An example occurs early on, when a band of Gurkha rebels show up and start looting the judge's estate. Copying mannerisms they've learned from American movies, they taunt the judge, ordering him to fix them a meal: The judge found himself in the kitche...

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