If the universe doesn’t care if you survive or not, if you suffer or rejoice, then what do you do?
“A Fine Balance”‘s answer is that you seek a balance between hope and despair. You try to adapt to the misfortunes that inevitably befall you. And you keep reaching for the future, for whatever’s next. You don’t allow despair to consume you.
That’s the idea, at least. It’s a good idea, and by reaching out to one another the characters in the novel learn to hold off their despair. They learn about the strength that comes from caring about other people, from facing the world together. Traditional families and tradition in general have failed them, so they fashion their own family, their own support to hold at bay the universe and the despair it threatens.
Maybe the balance between hope and despair is just an illusion, a way of getting through the day. If everyone just tried to balance hope and despair, nothing would ever change. If everyone accepted the world rather than making it accept them, how would the world change? But maybe that’s a very American thing to say.
“A Fine Balance” is what every novel should be: a study in humanity, of the human heart at war with itself, of people living their lives.