January 2023 Book Club
Our book club wasn’t able to meet up the last few months of last year because of our busy schedules, so we decided to combine two books and discuss them in January! It was great seeing each other online again and exchanging views on translated literature – this time round, Argentine writer Agustina Bazterrica’s Tender is the Flesh (tr. Sarah Moses) that we had read for Halloween last October, and Kannada author Vivek Shanbhag’s Ghachar Ghochar (tr. Srinath Perur).
Tender of the Flesh hasn’t been the easiest novel to digest because of its elaborate depiction of the horrendous treatment of humans by humans in a dystopian society where a virus has contaminated all animal meat and the only meat left edible is human meat. I found it easier to wade through the novel by replacing the humans with animals, which set me thinking about how we have been treating animals – the breeding, skinning, killing. It was interesting to hear from each other on the decision to become a vegetarian, the emotions we feel when eating animals, the intelligence of animals like octopuses.
Bazterrica’s skilful writing also comes through in her ability to string a myriad of emotions across the story: grief, love, horror, pain. The twist at the end of the story is clever and further reinforces the dystopianism of the novel, highlighting the innate desires and malice of mankind as a result of which they may think that the means justify the ends.
Ghachar Ghochar is far more light-hearted as it centres on the psychological drama of a middle-class Indian family. Shanbhag guides the reader through an Indian family’s transition from poverty to riches, portraying how each family member’s personality changes or remains the same.
Is wealth a blessing or a curse? There’s no easy answer in this novel. I suppose the appeal of this novel lies in that the familial scenes are quite universal in that every family is broken or messy in similar ways. I also like the Coffee House as it serves as a refuge for their customers from their everyday troubles, and the waiter who dispenses advice and words of comfort that hit all the right, commonplace notes for a person grappling with familial troubles.
Join us in February as we discuss Indian writer Geetanjali Shree’s Tomb of Sand (tr. Daisy Rockwell), which won the International Booker Prize last year.
Everyone is welcome to join our book club. We meet online every last weekend of the month. For more updates, follow us on Instagram and Facebook!