An Obedient Father

An Obedient Father

by Akhil Sharma

I refuse to accept even properly placed blame, lying outright that somebody else misplaced the completed forms or spilled tea on them, even though I was the last one to sign them out, or had the soggy papers still on my desk.As an inspector for the Physical Education Department in the Delhi school system, Ram Karan supports his widowed daughter and eight-year-old granddaughter by collecting bribes for a small-time Congress Party boss.

An astonishing character study, a portrait of a family--and a country--tormented by the past, An Obedient Father recalls Dostoyevsky's guilt-ridden anti-heroes in a debut that is also as fully formed as The Moviegoer.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Fiction
  • Rating: 3.34
  • Pages: 288
  • Publish Date: April 7th 2014 by W. W. Norton Company
  • Isbn10: 0393337812
  • Isbn13: 9780393337815

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Sharma does not shy away from the ugliest, most difficult subjects but writes about them so fluidly that you find yourself going along at a steady clip, jaw dropping wider and wider. It seems it was hard for Sharma to turn his talents into the same success while talking about structural political and economic abuse as it was for him to talk about familial, personal abuse.

The list of novels about vile and depraved men is as long as the arm of a person with really long arms. But I had recently read Family Life, Akhil Sharmas excellent short novel about another type of personal catastrophe (severe brain damage).

The main character is an aging corrupt politician (corrupt politician - isn't that redundant in India?) who repeatedly committed a horrific crime (rape) against his daughter years ago for which he was never really punished. (I'm struggling with the rating because I think the book was well-written but the story itself...)

I admire Indian writers for their works after I read The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga, The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai, and A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry, one of my top favorite novels. An Obedient Father by Akhil Sharma is another reason for me to fall in love with Indian writers. This is also similar to the books above which deals with poverty and corruption in India although it may not be considered as fine as those other writers works. I am not sure of my linguistic theory, but my point is that I enjoyed reading the sentences of this novel. You might suppose that the obedient father as the main character narrates his corrupt life in a government agency , or you might feel for him because of his being the bread winner of the family, accountable for the fiasco his children bring about. Since I was concentrating on the emotions the main characters are unable to express regardless of the settings, what they do, where they go, what the governments business is all about, I came to the point that I got bored and wanted to rush through the last pages. In fact, I found some scenes inconceivable but possible in real life like when Anita told her neighbors and relatives about what her obedient father did to her when she was very young. Apart from the emotions I have been pointing out, it deals with sexual harassment and rape which do not seem to be fictitiously cultural in India since I have read such theme in two Indian novels indicating that this is a social issue people across the globe should learn.

Getting the reader to feel this way is pretty remarkable. The author was able to keep this balance because he allowed us inside Ram's daughter's head as well (and allowing us to get out of Ram's head made it a bit easier to read).

Despite the fact this part of the story covers some pretty major political events and a real time of turmoil in India's history, it's not this side of the book that really shocks. A real rollercoaster ride, and the kind that makes you feel ill after.

An Obedient father feels like a long book even though it is just 300 pages.

La corruption qui gangrène la vie politique indienne et dont Ram Karan est un agent zélé. On l'aura compris : ce roman plonge dans la fange de l'âme humaine avec une délectation qui peut susciter la nausée. Lorsque son héros raconte ses virées dans des bordels d'adolescentes on n'est pas loin de l'overdose. Et la peinture nuancée de ce héros méprisable, si elle évite le manichéisme facile que ce genre d'histoires peut susciter, n'est pas loin de provoquer une réaction de rejet.

Mr. Karan is simply a man caught up in the predictable cycle, and his personal actions (and non actions) affect both his family and the public life of his country. Throughout the book, you'll wonder about Mr. Karan: is he a good man?