Title: The Empty Space
Author: Geetanjali Shree
Translator: Nivedita Menon
Publisher: Harper Collins India
I recently had the pleasure of reading The Empty Space, a powerful novel about death, life, and the empty spaces in-between.
|This stunning novel is far from a simple story which ''reveals itself on its own, predictably.'' The author deftly draws us into exploring the momentous empty spaces between life and death, between overwhelming tragedy and regeneration in these times of insurgency, senseless violence and killings.|
|A bomb explodes in a university café, blasting to smithereens 19 young lives, the promise they held, and the dreams of the loved ones who survived their deaths. The last mother to enter the café and identify her dead son takes home his remains packed in a box. She also returns with a three-year-old boy, who was found in a small empty space amidst the carnage, miraculously alive and breathing.|
As the little survivor grows up and tells his story, the past “barges into the present and shifts life from its centre.” The parents of the dead boy are powerless to prevent the grey pall of their loss from withering “all the dreams and seeds and fruits and flowers and bees” of the present in one sweeping stroke. The parents and society refuse to see the
surviving child as an individual in his own right. Made to take over where the dead son left off, the traumatised child refuses to speak or eat. It is as though the dead boy and he are all mixed up.
“The new one just lies in his empty space, just lies there, who notices? It’s the old one who is buried again and again and then resurrected each time.” Entangled in memories of someone else, the parents may tend to his physical needs, but emotionally they are not with him. The dead son’s presence continues to control the family’s lives.
The characters are powerfully portrayed. Their emotions, their motivation, strike us like that bomb blast, forcing us to rethink the enigma of the human condition. The surviving boy’s character shines through the bleak landscape of the book. He refuses to be negated by that one incident that becomes the driver and the keeper of the rest of his life, to languish as the ghost of someone else.