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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Girl with
the Golden Parasol

Uday Prakash

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To purchase The Girl with the Golden Parasol

Title: The Girl with the Golden Parasol
Author: Uday Prakash
Genre: Novel
Written: 2001 (Eng. 2008)
Length: 208 pages
Original in: Hindi
Availability: The Girl with the Golden Parasol - US
The Girl with the Golden Parasol - UK
The Girl with the Golden Parasol - Canada
पीली छतरीवाली लड़की - India
Das Mädchen mit dem gelben Schirm - Deutschland
  • Hindi title: पीली छतरीवाली लड़की
  • Translated and with an Introduction by Jason Grunebaum

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Our Assessment:

B+ : appealingly stylized

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Publishers Weekly . 24/6/2013 .
The Telegraph . 27/6/2008 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "Despite the novel's choppy execution and frequent rants, Rahul's passion for truth, justice, and Anjali make this story compelling." - Publishers Weekly

  • "Witty, irreverent and serious in turns, this is an entertaining, albeit a bit clichéd, coming-of-age novel. Grunebaum deserves credit for the excellent translation, which is seamless, free-flowing, without the jerks that commonly mar Indian English." - The Telegraph (Calcutta)

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Girl with the Golden Parasol is built up on a fairly simple and conventional story: Rahul falls in love with fellow university student Anjali, the daughter of a wealthy state-level cabinet minister. Anjali is a strict Brahmin, Rahul decidedly lower caste, and caste issues and differences are a significant part of the novel -- as is an India rapidly transforming in this new age of globalization that has already determined many of the clear winners and (masses of) clear losers.
       Rahul enrolls at a university: "known as the 'Cambridge of India'" in the central-Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. He has already completed an MSc in organic chemistry, but he didn't like the thought of the man he'd become if he pursued the career opportunities available to him with that degree, so he initially plans on getting an MA in anthropology. However, when he meets 'the girl with the golden parasol', Anjali, he switches majors -- to Hindi, which is what she is studying.
       Rahul is quickly and then constantly confronted with the fact that he is one of the few non-Brahmin students in the department, and that just as practically all his teachers are Brahmin so too are the authors of the assigned textbooks. Brahmins have a hold over the field -- and not just at the university:

     There couldn't possibly be another place on this planet where one gang of caste members has seized control of an entire language.
     "It is a total solar eclipse of literature, culture, and language here in this country!"
       Similarly, an ugly brand of Hindu nationalism undermines any larger concept of India. Students from the more remote regions of India, especially the north-east, are treated as second-class citizens, and it's clear that:
     The Hindu Raj was more or less already in place. All that remained was to stretch one's patience for a few more riots, a bit more bloodshed, and the completion of a single temple.
       The university administrators (and many of the professors) are entirely corrupt, and the place is falling apart. Brazenly, local thugs show up on campus to extort money from those that have just been sent some from home; they are tipped off by the postman who, like everyone, can be bought off. The students do get together and try to fight the worst of these injustices, but the consequences (and the newspaper reports) of the events show just how far corruption reaches, as journalists, the police, the government, and the university administrators all are more or less in bed with the outright criminals, and there is little concern for the students' welfare, well-being, or future.
       In part, The Girl with the Golden Parasol is a conventional campus novel, describing what Rahul and his close friends go through, and following his affair with Anjali as it blossoms, finds them happily united -- and then is threatened. Another significant aspect of the novel is its often close to strident socio-political critique, as Prakash takes on the establishment and, for example, how they've even seized control over the language he writes in, Hindi. India is presented here as a nation modernizing so rapidly that those left by the wayside in the wake of this influx of money, connections, and greed are readily forgotten -- a nation that has lost its compass and meaning, even as many seek to root it in their literally exclusive caste tradition.
       The Girl with the Golden Parasol is, occasionally, tendentious, as Prakash paints a black and white picture where those in power are shown only in the darkest, basest black. What makes it an impressive novel, however, is Prakash's stylized presentation of his material: there's an artfulness to all of it that really is quite remarkable, and that turning of phrase and the shifts in tone and perspective means even where he hammers home his message it doesn't simply fall flat and dull. There's a distinct 'foreignness' to the text, in part because of how Grunebaum approaches the translation, but also simply because no one would write in this way in English. So parts of the story also seem underdeveloped -- there's little sense of anything academic about this setting, for example, with little actual studying or learning going on, even as a variety of titles and texts are cited -- and many events and details are not followed through as they are in most 'Western' novels. Nevertheless, Prakash presents a very full story, which telescopes from the intimacy of young love to a whole state-of-the-nation overview (and condemnation ...).
       Yes, The Girl with the Golden Parasol is about caste and its lingering hold in India, and it is about corruption in an age of globalization, and India's notions of national identity, and colonialism. But it's not simply 'about' these things -- or simply a young-love story, either -- as Prakash succeeds in weaving all these together in a surprisingly compelling and compact novel.
       Of considerable interest and appeal.

- M.A.Orthofer, 28 April 2013

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The Girl with the Golden Parasol: Reviews: Other works by Uday Prakash under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Indian author Uday Prakash (उदय प्रकाश) was born in 1951.

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© 2013-2022 the complete review

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