21 Following


Currently reading

Paintings in Proust: A Visual Companion to In Search of Lost Time
Eric Karpeles
In Search of Lost Time
Marcel Proust, C.K. Scott Moncrieff, Andreas Mayor, Terence Kilmartin, D.J. Enright, Richard Howard
Within a Budding Grove (In Search of Lost Time, #2)
Marcel Proust, C.K. Scott Moncrieff, Terence Kilmartin, D.J. Enright

The Holder of the World

The Holder of the World - Bharati Mukherjee Mukherjee’s novel is a fantastic journey not through history, per se, but about the aspects of the personal that inform history and its varied tellings. Many of the reviews I’ve read of The Holder of the World that were negative seemed to be expecting a historical fiction; this is far from Mukherjee’s intention here. Indeed, she is questioning the very notion of history itself in how the narrator constructs the past of her seventeenth-century ancestor, Hannah, whose very name is palindrome, implying that she can be read in the same way from any vantage point. But this is not what the narrator discovers: Mukherjee’s text is a collage of other texts from the narrator’s trips to archival sources to journal entries (some from texts that actually exist, some from texts that do not exist at all), from intertextual allusions to Hawthorne and Rowlandson to a juxtaposition of different ways to retrieve and assess different kinds of information and build histories from them—e.g. the narrator’s archival quest versus her partner’s computerized experiments in mapping memory and time.As a novel about history, this is wonderfully written, engaging, and compelling; the fractured and fragmented narrative—which sometimes jumps back and forth in time rapidly and lacks an overall cohesiveness—can be dizzying at first, but this is part of its structural integrity. The project of building one’s history is never linear, and Mukherjee’s project in bringing colonial America into dialogue with colonial England—and placing Hannah in the direct center of the Native Americans and native Indians as she journeys throughout her life—is a sophisticated attempt to discuss how power and narrative can be subverted. Not only are the stereotypical traits assigned to race and mapped on to gender at play here, with Hannah navigating her way through them, but these “negative” attributes are actually sources of freedom, movement, and liberation, both for this seventeenth-century woman and for the narrator who is intent on constructing this woman’s history.The source material is varied and rich; the historical settings are always visceral and enhanced by archival material—whether real or not, as Mukherjee seems to want to get the reader involved in questioning whether all truths are necessary in constructing a history or histories. I really enjoyed the book, and would highly recommend it to those interested in the problematical task of writing and constructing personal and cultural histories, and how the same problems at work in these attempts to reach back through time are also at play in the time period in questioning, allowing for a concurrent analysis of power, class, race, gender, and imperialism to take place while still conducting a very personal project close to one’s heart.