Review: Attempted Poeticide by Kaidasa


Review by Kevin Riordan


Attempted Poeticide: a novel of THE millennium

By Kaidasa, a.k.a.Yash Nandan "Kaviraj"


There is something so unreal about this voluminous work it seems at times more like a prop than a book, as when a Woody Allen character is 'working on a novel' that the viewer never really is expected to believe in. The author certainly believes in it, as if the failure to complete his cycle of novels may result in the end of civilization. It is the fifth volume in a multi-volume series of autobiographical novels. There is obsession at work both in and out of the story, which takes place to a large extent in a University library in Tigerland, where unseen academic bullies spend their time issuing fatwas against brave researchers into inequality. The 'bigoted rider' is out to destroy the poet of the title, and poetry in general, but the character, for all the pages devoted to him, is nearly as slippery as the author, about whom I can determine very little except authorship of several books of poetry, the previous autobiographical novels and scholarly works on Émile Durkheim­. He lives in New Jersey. Between the author and the autobiographical depiction, the guy's got more names than Puffy.

In the novel Ketas is "a marked man for enemies averse to his enlightened thinking, target of threats, intimidation, harassment for years." He is also a reincarnated myth, Nachiketas, destined for a Dialog with Death. But then aren't we all. He also seems inordinately worried about the Y2K problem, maybe the year 10,000.

The sentences and story loop around in a dizzying sing song that is at once musical and cacophonous. Take this perplexing description:

As I was scratching my head about the seductive verses in Latin poetry, this well-built woman wearing long black hair rolled up on the side and folded into a bun in the back with pearls strung into it for decoration stood beside me." {She did WHAT?}

What's more perplexing is that this same female, who narrates long sections of the book, may be another incarnation of his own spirit. It's a Hindu thing, perhaps.

He has fun with what he calls Indish, contrasting it with Yiddish. Despite the hysteric and windy tone of his writing, he is after an obscure and important truth, the absolute need to strive for a better bond between races, to take a proactive role in human evolution. The author has a sweeping and masterful view of history, particularly of the tribulations of India and its partition into Pakistan, and brings it forth constantly and confidently.

Parts of the story are told by the woman, Satya, seeking justice for a rape presumably perpetrated by the same academic gangsters. With antagonists like these, who needs lowbrow thugs and sinister lascars. Her 'Autobiography of Rape' is her obsessive pursuit and her marriage to a Jewish man provides a glimpse into further culture clash and concordance.

The book is at pains to prove itself an autobiographical novel, with long proofs of the validity of this claim, which makes it difficult for me to compare with any other specimens, never having encountered another example.

Kavidasa wrestles with his muse throughout, and it's hard to say who's got the upper hand, but his diversions are actually diverting, and his belabored and contorted language becomes charming, once you achieve fluency. I am tempted to say the covers are way too far apart, but to excise his many run-on modifiers, 'his death was the beginning of the end, 'corroding their conscience for right and wrong, good and evil, 'discrimination against a man of a minority' would alter the book beyond recognition. It is unlikely you'll find a livelier tale set in a library in this lifetime.