Author: Nirmal Verma
Translator: Pratik Kanjilal
Publisher: Indigo Publishing
ISBN/UPC (if available): 8188297003
Nirmal Verma's new novel begins where the stories of its characters ended. In these lonesome hills, the last secret must be wrung from the wilderness at the heart of man.
An ageing civil servant who lives only in memory, a German woman once taken for a spy, a doctor who visits patients on horseback and a philosopher who has taken to growing apples. A strange caste against the backdrop of a small town in the Himalayan foot hills where the twilight of Empire lingers on. Nirmal Verma's new novel begins where the stories of its characters ended. Their lives have already been lived, yet something remains to be done before the evening can be allowed to deepen into nightly. In these lonesome hills, the last secret must be wrung from the wilderness at the heart of man.
The last Wilderness is set in a small town a bit like mid-twentieth century Simla, in the Himalayan foothills. In its architecture and mores, it still bears the stamp of the British Raj, which once had its summer capital at Simla. Every year, the bureaucracy of the Raj went up into the hills, with files and families, to escape the murderous heat of the plains.
Mehra Sahib is a civil servant who began his career under the colonial masters, and he took up residence in the hill town at a time when European governesses to the Maharajas, like Anna, could seriously consider staying on in the hills after they retired.
The rest of the protagonists excepting the faithful household help, are of more recent vintage. They were born in independent India and grew up in a very different culture from Mehra Sahib's.
Verma locates his unaccommodated man in a rarefied atmosphere, a desolate ambience of light and dark, wind and shadows, sounds and silences, which institute a magical chiaroscuro of the sense. His is a muted and mutable world, in which Verma mediates with rare insight between experience and memory, loneliness and relationship, and man and his fate.
- The Guardian
Restraint is the keynote of Verma's fiction, reflecting the paradoxical nature of the Indian Character: emotional and often volatile, yet diffident to the point of repression. Themes of dispossession, exile and post-colonial unease are interwoven with the doomed love stories and family romances Verma favors.
- The Times Literary Supplement