POSSESSION by Kamala Markandaya


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A fascinating English high comedy concoction set in lush Indian prose is Kamala Markandaya's newest contribution to the ever exotic, increasingly traditionalized exchange between East and West. Beautiful Lady Caroline Bell, rich, divorced, ready to be amused, discovers, through the inadvertent auspices of the narrator, Anasuya, an Indian woman writer, a fourteen-year-old goatherd artist, Valmiki, in an unlikely Southern village. She snatches him up from his former protector, a Swami settled by the caves in which Valmiki has painted, and takes him off to London, to make him in a new image. Hanging upon his now arid, now fertile moments, Caroline waits purposefully for his success, always nurturing his attachment to her and the life she represents. She vanquishes all obvious rivals in her campaign for domination -- the ex-concentration camp waif Ellie, whom Valmiki impregnates as well as paints, and later the fresh young Annabelle who disrupts a long-standing liaison... But knowledge of Ellie's suicide and his resultant guilt bring Valmiki to his spiritual senses, and through Anasuya, who has anxiously followed the course of possible corruption and who has in her way battled for the boy, Valmiki returns to India and the Swami. Caroline follows, unwilling to admit defeat, anguished to find Valmiki painting better than ever, his art ""buried"" in a hole in a hill in a country which has forgotten the meaning of art"". A final encounter between the Swami of the spirit and the lady of the world leaves a wisp of doubt as to the outcome...Feminine story-telling with delectable nuance and expertise.

Pub Date: May 27th, 1963
Publisher: Putnam-John Day