SHORTFICTION ETERNITY CONGEALED IN AN ENDLESS SECOND
Lycee Francais de Pondichery – and translated into English by Blake Smith, the seven stories in this slim volume, all somehow connected to the city of Banaras, Benares, Kashi, Varanasi, the eternal gateway to lives and worlds beyond, contemplate Fate, Death, the Inevitable.
The first story, A Paperboat on the Ganges, begins at the Lycee in Pondicherry detailing petty racism in the class room and playing field. For a rigidly realistic writer, this would have provided enough material. Madavane is interested in deeper truths and the reader becomes conscious of her increasing dread as she’s drawn into Fougerre’s story with its unbearable loss and descent into madness. Fougerre calls to mind the relentless suffering of Job in the Old Testament so it feels logical that the next story, Your Kingdom for a Lie, is about Raja Harishchandra, the legendary king, the plaything of Indra and warring bad tempered sages, who wouldn’t utter a lie though his honesty leaves him bereft of family and social standing, reduced at last to an outcaste washing bodies in the Ganga before burning them:
All day long, Harishchandra, in the company of these animals, watched the flames devour corpses that split in the heat… Death alone was his final, his only truth.