Posts Tagged ‘the nine-chambered heart’

36396222

image: via goodreads

The unfolding of a woman

Janice Pariat’s novella The Nine-Chambered Heart is a collection of nine stories tied together by a single woman. The nine also references the paper folds that make up an origami heart – at least the one that I attempted. Eight people, men and women, who have loved or desired the young woman describe her and their relationship with her. Written in the second person, the narratives read like conversational letters of confusion, love, concern, nostalgia, and bitterness that the lovers felt.

A single narrator holds court in each chapter and is described with a title related to the role that he/she plays in the unnamed woman’s life at different stages. Only the Butcher appears twice. People and places have no names. Only the animals do: China, India, Scapara, Layla, Gramsci. There are cities with rivers and those without.

Over the course of the nine narratives, the reader sees the woman only from the perspective of various people. The multiple perspectives move on a ‘Rashomon’ tangent and as in the movie, the readers don’t get to know the woman in her entirety; she remains incomplete, an enigma, a mere sum of perceptions. A fear of abandonment along with a need for love and the pain of loss ripple through the narratives. Perhaps that explains the lack of names which brings with them the possibility of attachment that’s longed for and yet feared.

Most of the narratives offer the protagonist in small and similar bites, something of her background, her quirks, her love for cats and origami, her fragility, the aloofness she exudes. It is only in The Lighthouse Keeper’s narrative that a side of the woman is presented that jars against the impressions gathered from the others.

The most striking feature in The Nine-Chambered Heart is the well-crafted sentences, each precise and poetic. The novella is not something that a reader would down in a single gulp but something that one would want to slowly savor. And then round back for second helpings.

Title: The Nine-Chambered Heart
Author: Janice Pariat
Genre: Novella, Literary Fiction
Publisher: The Borough Press, 2018
ISBN: 978-0008272548

© Anuradha Prasad 2019

Advertisements