Beginning Of The End

Review of 2012 Nights; VipulRikhi; FINGERPRINT!; Rs195; pp 260

– Darsana Mohan

Humankind has always been obsessed with the concept of Armageddon. We’ve numerous stories and movies dedicated to it and even a renewed interest in the genre of Dystopia: stories set in the world following the destruction. On the surface, 2012 Nights seems like one of those end-of-the world genre books, one that’s especially dedicated to the apocalyptic significance of this year(now obsolete) but fortunately, this is a tale that does not need the shadow of an imminent doom to prove its point.

2012 Nights invites you into its labyrinth of stories with the lines:“Is this world ending because you have consumed all tales, or are you here consuming tales because the world is ending?”What we’re offered to consume is a combination of myriad tales and stories based on old folklore and mythology but served up with satirical connotations of how these tales reflect the state of the world and humanity. The basic mode of storytelling here is a sort of homage to Arabian Nights -the protagonist narrates the stories to his cat every night much like the newlywed queen narrates to her sister. A part of me liked to believe that we, the readers, play the role of the king and are simply overhearing the narrator’s discourse. Very much like the king, the reader is representative of humankind which holds the power to change the course of things but has refused to do so till now.

The narrator here is a neurotic middle-aged writer whose preoccupation with the doomsday rumours has left him abandoned by his wife and friends.’ Abandonment’ maybe a little too harsh because it would imply a sort of helplessness on the part of the narrator but his loneliness is, to a certain degree, his own fault. With a crumbling marriage and a stubborn dedication to wallow in self-pity, the readers are confined within the rooms of his embittered mind.  What follows are tales, spun in the darkness of the night, laden with the follies and mistakes humans have made, and forewarnings of their consequences. The book offers a glimpse into our gory history and the tell-tale signs of manmade apocalypses, concealed within layers and layers of intricate stories.

Vipul Rikhi is a capable writer and his command over the language is impressive. He excels in the art of storytelling but there were instances where he failed to maintain the pacing of the novel. To me personally, the strength of the novel lies in its retellings and also in ‘Book 2: The Writer’s Corner.’ While ‘Book 3’, save the last few pages, reminded me of a soapbox speech ranted in frustration.  The book holds up a mirror to society and asks it to recognise how ugly it has become. While humans are genuinely reluctant to make admission of such sort on account of how it would disturb our apathy, 2012 Nights makes sure we are left with at least a sense of the horror at our actions.

I would have appreciated it if some of the narrator’s thoughts weren’t so repetitive, a defect he himself admits, but I will concede to the fact that he is a man in the throes of obsession. However, as a reader, you’re left with too much despair and disgust and nothing to anchor you to any hope for redemption. I realise that may be the point of it.

In David Foster Wallace’s essay/ graduation speech ‘This is Water’, he talks of the need to monitor one’s thinking.  He talks about the deep hatred we could develop if we do not choose what to think about at certain junctures in life and, somehow, reading 2012 Nights showed me how it felt to be stuck in such a phase of ruthless fixation on our failure as humans without backing it up by action.

All in all, it’s an enjoyable book but it is a tad bit repetitive. 2012 Nights serves to awaken you out of complacency and question the legacy humans are leaving behind.

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Rating: 9.3/10 (9 votes cast)
Beginning Of The End, 9.3 out of 10 based on 9 ratings

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This entry was posted on Saturday, December 22nd, 2012 at 7:13 pm and is filed under Fiction, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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