|In Generation 14 I continue my experiments with language, hybrid forms and ways of eliciting concentrated reader engagement. This time I turned to the ‘low’ Western genre of sci-fi in which to set afloat the main story. I wanted to work within the tropes of the traditional novel with a beginning, middle and end. Into this framework I inset ‘high’ ancient Indian aesthetic conventions of the rasa theory to forge emotional intensities and seek alternative modes of suspenseful storytelling.Rather than having the plot driven by a built up of characters’ conflicts and a series of mounting climaxes, I worked through a concept of rasa theory: focusing on a single rasa or emotion in each embedded story.
The main clone story that covers these stories like a gossamer glove parallels its strategy. This also means that the emotional saturation of the inset story strewn through the narrative is at the same pitchas the ending of the main glove story.Unstated but essential changes in the central character Clone 14/54/ G are adumbrated though inflections in language. For instance say an object she identifies as red in the beginning becomes scarlet in the middle section and ruby towards the end to suggest her increasing understanding of beauty. This, I also hoped, would make the reader participate in a deep and subtle way in the clone’s enhanced perception of reality.
Another preoccupation of mine is to still time through aesthetics. In Gen 14, inset stories are set in the past whereas the character’s experiences are way in the future. This militates against an easy psychological reading of reality. Instead, the mysterious and the shifting then become one’s home ground which, in turn, urges one to straddle layers of time in one’s imagination, and perhaps touch a state of equipoise: the becoming moment.
I hadn’t all this neatly planned when I began Gen 14. The clone emerged suddenly one day after day after day of restless walking, trying to reach what I wanted to explore. The rest followed in bursts over five years of working late in the evening, after I’d hung a bag out for milk packets at my door. I now work early mornings well before the milk arrives, before the sun is up. I seem to need to work in darkness in order, I hope, to reach a hole of light.
|“I am a fourteenth generation Clone and something has gone wrong with me.Not that my DNA is altered, not that I am a mutant. Not that any function need be eliminated. It’s nothing obvious. It’s terminal, and secret.Let me put it this way: I remember.”In a world where memory is forbidden and sexuality taboo, Clone 14/54/G is unique. Haunted by her past lives and caught in a struggle between the forces of oppression and those of liberty, language and love, she keeps a secret journal.
Set in the 24th century, the novel journeys back and forth across millennia to explore ideas of plural identity, and what it means to be human. This extraordinary novel is unlike any other coming from the subcontinent, and heralds a new generation of fantasy writing from India.
Intense, poetic, and erotic, Generation 14 is a serious and vivid reflection on repression and the fragility of freedoms, and a dazzlingly imaginative political satire.Priya Sarukkai Chabria’s Generation 14 undoubtedly inaugurates a new kind of writing on the Indian continent. There is little in the by-now substantial body of Indian literature in English that has led up to a novel of this kind. Generically, it draws upon but refuses to be subsumed by science fiction of the dystopian variety. The formal inclusiveness of Chabria’s prose only mines, and strengthens, the book’s plea for accepting and recognizing the splendour of difference, otherness, and plurality. Its adventurous foray into vastly different times, spaces, and consciousnesses whether animal, human, and what can only be called post-human, is thus intrinsic to Chabria’s artistic plan.… Echoes from these “voice-tombs” infiltrate and punctuate the main narrative in passages of stunning clarity, warmth and richness…The immense power of these “visitations” from the past comes from the sure skill with which entire worlds of meaning and emotion and the numerous, conflicting layers in them are gestured at with such economy. ..one cannot be struck by the many-sidedness of these histories: not only because they are “histories from below”, defiantly voicing the standpoints of those who remain unseen, unheard, and unimportant in the grand scheme of things, but also because, by being so, they are not histories of unmitigated pain and horror. The unique, carefully-chosen standpoint from which each story is told also creates imaginative space for compassion in the midst of all the grotesquery. It is by way of this redemptive space, imagination’s greatest victory, that the novel offers a ray of hope, both to Clone 14/54/G’s perplexed world and to ours.
– Stuti Khanna ,DNA , 8th June 08.“Chabria’s is an extraordinary poetic imagination” – Tim Parks, author of Europa“Priya Sarukkai Chabria is remarkable both as poet and novelist and her twin aspects are clearly evident in Generation 14 , for while the book is, on the one hand, a piece of ambitious and inventive science-fiction about cloning and control, it is, also, most importantly, concerned with the poetry of belonging, selfhood and commitment. The scenes are vividly visualised and carried through at a convincing pace. Chabria depicts a violent world out of which revolutionary forces emerge out of history to round out a new world that is an echo of the lost, awakening the new to a deeper, more humane consciousness.” – George Szitres, winner of the T S Eliot Memorial Poetry Prize“…this book is far from derivative. In fact, it is refreshingly different from what you might expect….The book is set as much in the past as it is in the future. Detailed, finely imaginative set pieces transport the reader to various historical epochs…The imagery is very strong, and the strongest parts of the book work almost like movies, with vividly imagined scenes chasing each other across the page…Her (the clone’s) hesitant navigation through a world rendered unfamiliar by her expanding consciousness is mirrored in the way she and her world appear to the reader. The clone finds away out of her enclosing and threatening world, as it happens, through a series of actions that affirm she is, indeed, human. What this novel is ultimately about is what makes us so. The set pieces are all brutal, in their own ways, the relationships exploitative. Sarukkai Chabria seems clear that the world hasn’t suddenly become a bleak place: we’ve been working hard at making it so for thousands of years… For those bored with the merely dystopian, there is hope at the end.” – Avtar Singh, Time Out Delhi and Mumbai , 22nd Feb – 6th March 08“For her second novel, poet and writer Priya Sarukkai Chabria brings to life forgotten voices… We hear voices from the past through her protagonist, a 14 th generation clone, number 14/54/G living in the 24 th century… nothing quite prepares us for Chabria’s clone…. the premise is imaginative – and irreverent…her prose is as eloquent as her poetry.” – Sudipta Datta, The Financial Times , March 9th 2008
“The necessary questions the author raises … revolve around the meaning of a shared humanity and the necessity of plurality of expression. …the author displays considerable chutzpah in writing these narratives…Sarukkai-Chabria is also a poet, and this is evident from the prose she employs, which is resonant and allusive . At times, this rises to an exalted, almost Vedic, pitch … There is much imaginative depth and richness to be found in Generation 14 …” – Sanjay Sipahimalani, Tekelka, Febuary 18th, 2008
“Chabria’s lucid and poetic prose makes her work stand apart…. By using a phantasmagoria of ‘visitations’ in her work, Chabria explores the possible reasons and side-steps the usual clichés. Weaving in episodes of Indian history and appropriating the fabulist form, the author reveals a plurality of voices in her work. A parrot, a fish, a wolf, a monk and a disconsolate mother in the wake of Ashoka’s Kalinga war make for a thoroughly interesting read and are evidence to a contemporary quest for tolerance.” – Mamta Badkar, Verve, March 2008
“Chabria imaginatively explores the possibilities of memory, the nature of history, the reasons why clones are forbidden from remembering. She muses on the transgressive potential of history and, along the way, delivers to us charming whimsical characters like Couplet and Verse, who play with literature and imagination and help the Clone.” – Ira Singh, Sahara Times , April 13th -19th, 2008
“Written tautly, this is sci-fi with a poetic touch.”– The Telegraph, May 9th 2008
“… great poetic power and beauty.”