Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Review: Man of Glass by Tabish Khair

By John Cheeran
Tabish Khair, the Denmark-based poet and author, has attempted something refreshing by transcreating the works of three writers from across centuries, cultures, literary genre and language in his new collection of poetry, Man of Glass. The result, then, is lines such as
“If blood doesn’t drip from every line of love-verse
It’s only fit to go on sale with Dan Browns.”
That was a re-rendering of Ghalib for you. In Man of Glass (in an obvious reference to Hans Christian Andersen) Khair has retold Kalidasa’s play Abhijnana Shakuntalam. The poet, however, makes it clear that his Shakuntala is the daughter of a secular Muslim scholar, brought up in an environment of quoted Urdu poetry and given a classical Hindu name by her parents; her loss and betrayal take place in a world where the total income of 582 million people in the developing countries is about 10m per cent of the combined income of the world’s top 200 billionaires. May be, it’s an ideal situation to have a crisis of identity as happened to Kalidasa’s Shakuntala.
Khair makes deft use of Kalidasa, Ghlaib and Andersen to discuss and reflect on contemporary issues such as immigration, strife in Iraq and Afghanistan, love and genocide, neatly giving his poetry a certain cutting edge and bluntness.
The best of poetry and prose capture truths that hold good across centuries and barriers. May be after sifting through news wires for a living, the following lines strike you hard.
“Once when he returned with his face slapped,
I took him out of school
Not you, I told the teacher, not you
Life has blows enough in its bloody bag for him.”
Quite true. And to those who ask what profit is there in reading poetry, one should say that it may help you lessen the impact of the crushing blows life reserves for you.

Title: Man of Glass
Author: Tabish Khair
Publisher: HarperCollins

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