The Inheritance of Loss


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What does anyone want? To live their life. To love and be loved in return. To be happy. To live a good life.

That’s what each of us wants, and so often we wonder why we can’t be allowed to have it. Why does love always fail us? Why do the people we care about betray us? Why does the world get in the way of our happiness so often?

In Kiran Desai’s novel “The Inheritance of Loss,” history is always getting in the way of happiness. Every man and woman has an elaborate history of class, money, caste, and ethnicity. Their faces and languages define them far more than their selves ever could.

Some of them are aware of this. A retired judge loathed his wife for years because she represented everything he hated in the history of his self. She was Indian, and impoverished. And he adored his Irish Setter devotedly because in her he saw reflected all that he had ever wanted to be, the simplicity of civilization.

A young girl, orphaned by Soviet-Indo politics and a bus, fell in love for the first time and discovered that the world does not let happiness alone.

It’s fascinating to watch the intersection of history, of life, and of love in a few characters. To see how loss and love and hate can be inherited from nameless and faceless ancestors. To understand the presence of time, past present and future, in every moment of our lives.


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