Kiran Bhat’s We of the Forsaken World has understated ambitions despite its relative brevity. Bhat makes his aims clear in an eloquent introduction; he dispenses with traditional linear narrative in favor of a more encompassing vision allowing him the latitude to synthesize his intensely humanistic vision in disparate narratives that, nonetheless, connect in subtle thematic ways. Though the bulk of the book features first person narration, it is ultimately a novel of voices and Bhat intersperses the main narrative thrust with alternate points of views from an assortment of characters.
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This sounds like a recipe for a disjointed work, but it isn’t in Bhat’s hands. He exhibits tremendous skill synthesizing these various voices into a coherent whole and it unfolds for readers in a smooth and agreeable manner. His dialogue is authentic without ever seeming affected. Many great novelists are, likewise, great listeners and Bhat proves that true repeatedly over the course of We of the Forsaken World. The dialogue, however, never has a strict ornamental quality – Bhat utilizes his dialogue in a functional way that develops character and advances the story.
His descriptive powers are considerable without ever seeming overwrought. Bhat does an exceptional job conveying physical action and his writing style lends itself to this with minimal effort. Bhat writes in short concise sentences and rarely engages readers with extended passages of exposition. There is a good balance between dialogue and descriptive writing throughout the book and Bhat handles transitions between different voices and settings with deft skill.
Despite its unusual components, Bhat observes classical dramatic structure. Each of Bhat’s characters is searching for something; the object of their search is often internal, but the external figures in as well. The dominant mood of the novel is reflective, but the novel’s vigorous language and consistent energy never allows readers to relax. He holds your attention in a masterful way.
Western readers will experience no sense of displacement reading about characters far removed from the mainstream of industrial societies. One of the abiding virtues of We of the Forsaken World is a level of humanity transcending borders; the motivations, fears, and passions underlying the actions of Bhat’s characters are relatable and recognizable and he writes with great feeling and empathy about the novel’s primary figures.
There is a poetic touch present throughout the novel and it ends on that note. The entirety of the novel builds to that point with great skill and Bhat capitalizes on that in a satisfying way. It behooves any lover of great literature to explore offerings from other societies and Kiran Bhat’s novel offers a vision of the world that is textually quite different from anything you will encounter in Western literature. His novel We of the Forsaken World confront human experience in a multitude of forms without flinching and has an abundant heart that never seems exhausted. Bhat emerges from these pages as a fiction writer you must reckon with; he has a plethora of tools at his disposal and makes expert use of each one.