Yes there s the much hyped crime analyzed in the broader context of presupposed guilt and innocence There s the issue of race, class and privilege factoring into the ensuing judicial process The ripples of the eventual fallout of this mishap disrupt the frail status quo that all parties on either side of the race divide were tacitly maintaining so far and pose crucial existential questions before people of all communities Then there are hypocritical Englishmen who cannot choose between preserving the sanctity of the Empire s administrative machinery and upholding their own prejudices And hypocritical Indians who righteously accuse the Englishmen of institutionalized hatred while stringently maintaining their own brand of intolerance But greater than the sum of all these thematic veins is the connecting thread of Forster s sure footed, measured prose which explores not only the inner lives of the central characters but tries to penetrate the heart of a nation state in the making.
The India depicted here is a foreign country to me a time and a place yet to be demarcated irreversibly along lines of communal identities that are presently dominating our political rhetoric It is of little appeal to the newly arrived umpteenth Englishman but, nonetheless, presents itself as an amalgamation of unrealized possibilities Not once did my brows knit together in frustration on the discovery of any passage or line even casting a whiff of Forster s bias against the people or the land My senses were stretched taut all the time in an effort to detect any Sure, Dr Aziz is a little infantilized and his importance is sometimes reduced to that of a plot device used for manufacturing the central conflict while Adela Quested, Mrs Moore and Mr Fielding appear before a reader as upright individuals who stand for the truth The other Indian characters seem to be defined by their general pettiness But these imperfect characterizations can be than forgiven in the light of what Forster does accomplishThe song of the future must transcend creed There are times when the narrator s voice dissects the drama unfolding against unfamiliar Indian landscapes with a kind of fond exasperation and times when it dissolves into a withering regret for the way the engines of civilization continue to trundle along towards some catastrophic destiny without ever pausing for the purpose of self assessment And it is the profound clarity of Forster s worldviews and his sensitivity and forthrightness in deconstructing the enigma of the Orient that elevates his writing even furtherPerhaps life is a mystery, not a muddle they could not tell Perhaps the hundred Indias which fuss and squabble so tiresomely are one, and the universe they mirror is one It s not the handicap of my Indian sentimentality after all Forster sought to extract the kernel of truth buried underneath layers of artifice and his craft could successfully flesh out the blank spaces between that which can be expressed with ease Those are always worthy enough literary achievements in my eyes.
In a novel with the line a perfectly adjusted organism would be silent it is no surprise that the centre of this cloud of writing is the idea of the difficulty, or the possible impossibility of communication and direct connection between people.
Instead understanding has to be intuitive and incommunicable, Mrs Moore knows nothing has happened but can t convince her son, how she knows or how Professor Godbole knows about her and the wasp is unclear and if we don t like telepathy as an answer then we are best off not asking the question, just as we are best off not asking what, if anything, happened in the Marabar caves Miss Quested experienced something, but even E.
M Forster screwed up the draft versions that attempted to give her point of view as that something occurred A clear statement would run counter to the intuitive direction of this novel Nothing can make sense in the unreality of our group think, some alternative means of perception, something view spoiler or Moore, then again the name could be meant to suggest Moor as though, admittedly through marriage, she has a non British outlook to start with hide spoiler
In a rather ironic piece of narration, E.
M Forster sums up my opinion of this book perfectlyMost of life is so dull that there is nothing to be said about it, and the books and talk that would describe it as interesting are obliged to exaggerate, in the hope of justifying their own existence Indeed, this book was so terribly dull Ordinary, bland and mundane are all words that spring to mind Nothing happened other than a single piece of melodrama that somehow managed to dominate the book I understand why this book is so widely read and studied From a critical postcolonial perspective, there are lots of juicy bits in here to dissect There s a lot to talk about, and I could easily write an essay on it because it raises so many important debates about race and national identity in the wake of colonialism Seeing the true face of India becomes a difficult task because it has become so obscured with foreign influence and prejudices.
Indeed, the book is fiercely anti imperialist and presents a compelling case for the benefits of an independent India It also highlights the injustices the Indian native faced Colonial rule is never good, and the coloniser always thinks his ways are better to the detriment of local culture, education and employment He takes over and ruins everything despite how much he naively believes that he is improving the life of those he is oppressing Despite all this the plot has no energy There were perhaps a few chapters, no that forty pages or so, where the narrative managed to gain some momentum The protagonist was imprisoned for a crime he didn t do and the bits leading up to his trial were quite engaging When the verdict was eventually reached the rest of the novel dribbled on There was no story left Yet it continued for another hundred pages This meant that for a relatively short book, this felt like a really, really, long book This is a book I SHOULD have liked I was really surprised at my reaction to this This is a book that appeals directly to my interests yet, it just seemed so painfully convoluted and dull I did, however, really appreciate E.
M Forster s prose He is a very skilful writer and a wordsmith, his sentences and paragraphs roll into each other perfectly This seems like a generic point, though I only make it because the surface level of his writing is so eloquent in places It s just a shame the plot did not carry the same level of mastery It just needed to be tighter and focused to be effective Like Heart of Darkness it occupies an uncertain place in the cannon of English literature it s not quite radical enough and prejudice free to be fully anti colonial yet is still demonstrates the need for change It s a book I could study, but never one I could enjoy Although I didn t like this, I will still be trying another one of E.
M Forster s novels in the future.
A Passage to India seems a bolder statement on Colonialism and racism than ever The Indians are thoughtful and droll, speaking about the trouble making friends with Englishmen, who become less personable the longer they are in India The British seem to a man all about keeping the Indian down, of holding the colony by force The writing is beautiful I just finished E.
L Doctorow s The March, which errs on the purplish side at times There s no such overwriting here Even when one reads slowly the prose constantly surprises And this is my second or third reading, too Few books I have found can sustain such interest over the years Lolita, Madame Bovary, Germinal, they are rare This time through I find myself astonished by Forster s skill at under describing his characters This technique adds to the fleeting, lighter than air aspect of the writing He d much rather talk about a gesture, say, or the layout of a house But the characters are left very flat, if not without description altogether We must go by their voices Under description of this sort was highly recommended by El Leonard, too, in his day He was another master of it Part Two opens with the story of the developing geology the India Venturing into the Marabar Caves, whose substance is hundreds of millions of years old, is to enter the primordial It is to be shown something ancient, far outside the mental and emotional scope of homo sapiens, who are no older than 100,000 years, and probably closer to 50,000 Forster s fascination here is with the numinous Adela and Mrs Moore have since their arrival talked of nothing than seeing the real India In her quest for this passage to India, Adela enters the caves with little knowledge of their history, and there finds herself face to face with the numinous But in its most primitive essence, which of course includes the erotic, and just like that her heretofore admirable open mindedness is overwhelmed by the true otherness of India Overwhelmed by fear, she makes an egregious category mistake a reductio ad absurdum that upends the lives of all the main characters An unwarranted charge of attempted rape is lodged against Dr Aziz.
Aziz s arrest reminded of the U.
S s current epidemic of frightened white cops shooting unarmed black men These events are equitable only to the extent that both are examples of raw racism run amok Aziz, however, will get a trial and be acquitted Our shooting victims will never get that, even posthumously, as we have seen The novel is a big nail in the coffin of the Old India Hands My God, how Forster must have been hated for writing it How dare he besmirch their generations of service in keeping the Indian down It s a very brave book Forster indicts his nation in 1924, twenty three years before Partition All the insipid reasons for being in India are trotted out and shown to be lies Britain was not in India to pass down a legacy of democratic administration, that was an unexpected and lucky outcome It doesn t matter what Niall Ferguson says about the benevolence of the so called Raj in Empire The Rise and Demise of the British World Order This was commercial exploitation at its basest That the British left slightly fewer corpses in their wake than King Leopold of Belgium did in the Congo is not an argument in their favor.
One final note on this Folio Society edition It s a beautiful book on acid free paper with sewn signatures, wonderful to handle Even turning the pages is a joy But the illustrations by Glynn Boyd Harte are wretched and annoying The book is best unadorned.
Adela Quested, a plain looking, young , affable, and naive English school teacher, travels to distant India in the early 1920 s, accompanied by the elderly , kind, Mrs Moore, maybe her future mother in law a widow twice, and see the real country, important, to decide if she will marry Mrs Moore s son, the magistrate, of the unimportant city of Chandrapore, disillusioned Ronny Heaslop he dislikes Indians now Conditions are very uneasy in India, the natives hate the British rulers, and seek independence, and in turn the conquerors, despise what they perceive as an inferior, local race, besides the Hindu and Muslim populations are always ready to riot against their enemies, foreign and domestic, the tense, volatile situation needs the strong hand of the British army to keep peace, but for how long Mrs Moore, like her female companion, Adela, wants to see and feel India, experience its atmosphere, no matter how alien, breathe in the romantic flavors, customs and particularly, the strange, exotic, mysterious and nevertheless engaging people, of this dangerous but fascinating nation Warned not to go alone , the old lady, does, visits a mosque, and hears a voice in the dark, telling her to take off her shoes, she had, by Dr Aziz, a young Indian, Muslim physician, ignorant foreigners, in the past, had shown disrespect, unexpectedly, they later become great friends, the two so completely different Cyril Fielding, the head of the modest local college, is the only British man to show any sympathy for the poor, native people, he hates how they are treated, the Indians, especially the English women, who do not hide their contempt Yet can friendships develop and last, between the Indian and the British, in the colonial era, such as the emotional Dr Aziz and the calm Mr.
Fielding There is not much to see in the unattractive, dirty city, no spectacular monuments, or building, nothing, the Ganges River flows leisurely by, not causing any impact, mostly ignored by the population, it isn t sacred here, occasionally a dead body is spotted, not devoured by the crocodiles, as it floats down to the oceanIn the local British Club, no Indian members of course, they gossip, drink, play cards and the highlight, tennis, when the notorious weather permits, scorching heat waves that crush the spirit, and monsoon rains pouring ceaselessly down, causing widespread, devastating flooding Still twenty miles away , in the Marabar Hills, are countless caves to explore, nobody knows what makes them exciting though, the areas only attraction, a tour is organized and led by Dr.
Aziz, composed also of Mrs.
Moore, Miss Quested, Mr.
Fielding, and prominent Indians, both Hindu and Muslims, but plans are not facts, they do not go accordingly, a disaster ensues which will effect many people, lives are changedA very interesting exploration of India, during an unique period in its history, that even today is still relevant, to her destination as a rising superpower, both economically and militarilyYes things change The past the infinite greatness of the past thrilled Walt Whitman in A Passage to India A quarter of a century later, Forster borrowed Whitman s title, but with a very different mood in mind In place of the American s wild eyed certainties, Forster gives us echoes and confusion instead of epic quests of the soul, there is only an eternal impasse of personal and cultural misunderstanding.
Animals and birds are half seen, unidentified the landscape is a featureless blur motives are illogical and rest on miscommunication All human language, in the final analysis, amounts to nothing than the dull ou boum thrown back from the Malabar caves during the fateful expedition at the heart of the novel If one had spoken vileness in that place, or quoted lofty poetry, the comment would have been the same ou boum Will Self once recommend as an exercise reducing a novel to a single word he suggested in the case of The Naked Lunch, for instance, that it would be insect For A Passage to India, that keyword would be muddle a term that recurs, gradually shedding its cosiness and accreting a sense of existential indistinctness, a kind of cosmic flou that renders good intentions, indeed all human endeavour, futile I like mysteries, says Mrs Moore, the novel s moral core, but I rather dislike muddles Elsewhere, Forster talks with something like dread of a spiritual muddledom for which no high sounding words can be found.
The plot of this book is, at times, heart poundingly dramatic, but Forster is careful to make sure that even this is founded on doubt and indecision In fact, what one thinks of as the plot of A Passage to India is a storyline that arises, reaches its climax, and is resolved entirely within the second of the book s three acts What then, you might ask, is the point of parts one and three Well, among other things they prevent the plot from seeming too tidy there is always something before the beginning, something after the end, to frustrate neat conclusions Adventures do occur, he says, but not punctually Life isn t tidy it s a muddle.
British India is a perfect setting for this kind of exploration not only does it play host to numerous individual confusions, it is itself, as it were, the political embodiment of such a confusion One of the wonderful things about this book is that the obvious hypocrisy and conflict between the English and the Indians is not left to stand alone, as a heavy handed message, but is echoed by similar divisions between Muslim and Hindu, man and woman, young and old, devotee and atheist Still, it is the gulf of understanding between the British rulers and their Indian subjects that provides the most interesting material for Forster s bitter social comedy Most of the Brits are deliciously dislikable, couching their racism in patriotic slogans, droning through the national anthem every evening at the Club, and like one of the wives learning only enough of the language to speak to the servants so she knew none of the politer forms, and of the verbs only the imperative mood.
The heroes of this book are those that try to reach across this divide, or to challenge the assumptions of their own side Your sentiments are those of a god, she said quietly, but it was his manner rather than his sentiments that annoyed her.
Trying to recover his temper, he said, India likes gods And Englishmen like posing as gods These attempts don t work, and the reason they don t work is that cultural or racial divides are the book suggests only a special case of that spiritual muddledom that is a universal constant Still, the worldview isn t as bleak as it might seem That famous not yet in the book s closing lines is a lot hopeful than a no , and if we re prevented from coming together by our tangled and violent past, that also raises the possibility that a better future can be laid down by the present we choose to enact now, every day, with each other For what is the present, after all, as Walt Whitman asked, but a growth out of the past
A Passage to Indiais set in the time the British ruled India Forster wrote this book after visiting India and having first hand seen the real relationship of the ruling British and the ruled natives Since he had personal experience, it was easy for him to paint a true and accurate picture of how the British administrators governed the natives First and foremost, Forster saw it was to be oppressive he was not happy with the way the natives were treated He observed a difference in the British who ruled India on behalf of the British Crown and couldn t comprehend how the liberal minded youth who were full of goodwill toward the native brethren became hard conservatives once in India in official capacity He also observed that when the Indians live in British soil the personal relations between the two races were on friendly grounds but in Indian soil, the relationship between the two races were strained with distrust and hostility All his observations and his personal views over them led him in producing one of the best written fictions on East and West The cultural and religious difference between the two races was, according to Forster, the main impediment for closer relations The different cultures have different manners and different ways of lives They cannot be compared with one another to determine which is superior They are just different If one culture tries and acts superior, then hostility is the inevitable result This was the major mistake the British administrators did From their point of view the natives were uncivilized and they wanted to make them civilized By trying to make them civilized , the British were imposing their culture and their way of life on the natives They were of the view that what Indians needed were justice, discipline and peace There they made the mistake, for the natives greatly resented this What they really wanted was the British to understand, accept and respect their culture, their religion and their way of life To be treated as a nonentity in your own country is a painful experience Every race has their pride and wounded pride can lead to calamities Failure to understand this was the key to hostility between the ruling and the ruled.
On the other hand, Forster doesn t defend the natives either He exposes their weakness, their flaws and their hypocrisies which made me ponder that after all we should view all these actions from pure human perspective Irrespective of the difference in race, ethnicity, culture and religion, we are all human and as humans we do have inherent flaws and if we want to live harmoniously and with peaceful human relations, we have to check our flaws and be kind and tolerant towards others The story through which Forster says it all is good but not great The first part of this three part story was so slow that my first impression was that I would not be able to push it through I love Forster s writing It is absolutely beautiful And that is what held the thread for me without breaking But I admit that it was very trying In part two, the story picks up the pace and although I still struggled through some of the chapters, the reading experience became much pleasing Forster had chosen a good set of characters to set out the story Although I didn t like many of the characters except Mr Fielding who I personally thought resemble the author they essentially contributed well to his story I feel that it never crosses Forster s mind that the reader should like his characters I think he is concerned that we understand them rather than like them.
Before I end the review I would like to share a conversation in the story that really struck me hard During this conversation, Dr Aziz tells Mr Fielding that once they become free of British rule that they can be fully friends That was the most thought provoking sentence of the entire book Although he cannot hear me, I just wanted to shout out and tell him Well done, Forster When Adela Quested And Her Elderly Companion Mrs Moore Arrive In The Indian Town Of Chandrapore, They Quickly Feel Trapped By Its Insular And Prejudiced Anglo Indian Community Determined To Escape The Parochial English Enclave And Explore The Real India , They Seek The Guidance Of The Charming And Mercurial Dr Aziz, A Cultivated Indian Muslim But A Mysterious Incident Occurs While They Are Exploring The Marabar Caves With Aziz, And The Well Respected Doctor Soon Finds Himself At The Centre Of A Scandal That Rouses Violent Passions Among Both The British And Their Indian Subjects A Masterful Portrait Of A Society In The Grip Of Imperialism, A Passage to India Compellingly Depicts The Fate Of Individuals Caught Between The Great Political And Cultural Conflicts Of The Modern World In His Introduction, Pankaj Mishra Outlines Forster S Complex Engagement With Indian Society And Culture This Edition Reproduces The Abinger Text And Notes, And Also Includes Four Of Forster S Essays On India, A Chronology And Further Reading This is so far my favorite book by E.
M Forster I tried A Room with a View first and gave that three stars This one, set in India probably about a decade or two before independence, mirrors British colonialism and the multicultural diversity of the land This one has much meat on its bones Religion, multi ethnicity, colonialism, imperialism, the dogged belief in the superiority of the rulers over the ruled and most specifically how very difficult it is to communicate over cultural barriers These are the topics we look at in this book And friendship How does it begin How is it kept alive Dr Aziz says one is an Oriental if when meeting a stranger you know if he is or is not a friend It says in the book, friend is the Persian expression for God Another character says to Dr Aziz, Your hands are unkind.
There is no pain, but there is cruelty He is an Oriental in spirit , but he isn t since he is British Am I confusing Does this interest you Well read the book In both books readers see how well Forster draws the feel of a place, of an era and of the people What distinguishes Forster s writing from others is his ability to create an atmosphere that feels utterly tangible Wherever the scene is set you see, feel, hear and sense a distinguishable tone, mood or ambience I did feel this in both books This seems to be a common denominator for Forster s writing style It is worth reading one of Forster s books just to experience this Having experienced it you will not forget it Secondly, Forster s lines not only draw a memorable atmosphere, but they also give the reader food for thought Here follow a few very short quotesUntil his heart was involved he heard nothing The original sound may be harmless but the echo was evil We may hate one another, but we hate you mostthe BritishNothing is private in India No one here matters Those who matter don t come The moon caught in the shawl of night with its stars.
For me the last line is utterly beautiful I should have jotted down of the beautiful lines, not just the ones that got me thinking I do not believe this book will satisfy everyone It is not for those who are looking for action It is instead the kind of book you put down and then go on thinking about Who the characters are can best be judged on completion of the book, when you have properly seen and thought carefully about all that has occurred I loved how diverse cultures are shown, primarily Hindu and Muslim and British expatriates I didn t understand, but did appreciate the different religious traditions and celebrations depicted.
The audiobook narration by Sam Dastor was OK, so that I have given two stars In the beginning I had trouble with the speed and pronunciation of foreign names The voice he uses for women could certainly be improved, particularly the younger ones They are all too squeaky and shrill He dramatizes too much for my liking When he just plain reads what is happening without added dramatics, it is good.
I liked the book a lot I really appreciate the writing, how India is drawn and how the book makes you think.