Heat and Dust by Ruth Prawer JhabvalaA young English woman goes to India to reconstruct the life of Olivia, her grandfather's first wife. Olivia had married Douglas in England some 50 years earlier and moved with him to Satipur, India. After she first met the Nawab—at a dinner party at his palace in Khatm—she was certain he would, within the week, visit her in Satipur. She was correct he arrived with his full retinue and stayed the day. It was after that first visit she began writing Marcia. Olivia and the Nawab first become friends and then lovers. When she realized she was pregnant, she told the Nawab and then her husband Douglas and she had the Begum, the Nawab's mother, arrange an abortion.
Heat and Dust Summary & Study Guide
Looking back over the Booker club so far , I was surprised to note that I've become something of an apologist for the award. Before I started reading I had cynically assumed that many of the winners would conform to a pattern of unchallenging mediocrity. They probably wouldn't be bad books, but they certainly wouldn't be great. They'd basically set a load of chatter against a vaguely exotic background and substitute a meandering trawl through middle English values with some weeping for a real plot. As far as the years went, I was wrong. The novels have been gloriously mad , tragic , furious , revolutionary , hilarious , difficult and exacting.
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Forster suggested in " A Passage to India " that the subcontinent would forever be beyond the understanding of Western analytical minds, and that attempts to impose European ways upon it were bound to be futile and likely to be ridiculous. The heroine of the earlier love story is Olivia Rivers Greta Scacchi , a free spirit whose independent ways do not fit in with the hidebound values of the British. Her husband demands that she conform, that she stay with the other British wives, share their values and interests, and keep India itself at arm's length. Olivia does not see it that way. She explores on her own.
T hose two obliterating forces in the title are what officers of the British Raj famously and self-pityingly resented. Other colonialists saw empire as a personal adventure and an arena of secret delight and shame, a personal drama obscured by the dazzling glare and discomfiting dustclouds. Heat and Dust, the movie adapted by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala from her own Booker-winning novel, directed by James Ivory and produced by Ismail Merchant, is now revived in British cinemas. After 37 years, Heat and Dust stands up as an intelligent, ambitious, substantial picture — with flaws but also intriguing aspects that were perhaps not sufficiently understood at the time. It is double-stranded.
Ruth Prawer Jhabvala is an enviably productive writer—eight novels, three books of stories in two decades—whose seemingly inexhaustible subject is contemporary India. Unlike any other foreign novelist in English, Mrs. Jhabvala has been struggling admirably to break away from the dubious contentments of the minor novelist who prefers not to make things too difficult for herself or her readers, and has tried to place her experience of India in less conventionally realistic, more demanding forms than she chose for her many domestic comedies of manners. In serious writers such deliberate assaults on habit are of course not a matter of esthetic whimsy but a way of coping with a changing point of view, and it is clear that Mrs. Jhabvala's attitudes toward India have been growing more ambivalent.
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