A BACKWARD PLACE by R. Prawer Jhabvala


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Mrs. Jhabvala cannot help but write well and A Backward Prate is a knowing diversion about a handful of people who manage to characterize a cross-section of Delhi life. The penetration but not the scope of her short story world (Like Birds, Like Fishes, p. 21, 1964) is here. In Delhi several kinds of Europeans meet Indians, but only in the case of Judy, English wife of Bal, does West meet East. Judy is a likable girl working to support her charming husband, who ceaselessly, untiringly and optimistically awaits his big chance as an actor by paying court to a star. Other expatriates are the aging beauty Etta, a Hungarian, reaching a critical phase in her associations with diminishing admirers, and the English Clarissa, who passionately proclaims her love for all things Indian while making a nuisance of herself. The German Hochstadts, on an exchange professorship, seriously absorb culture without involving themselves in the scene. A project to start a theatre group (instigated by Judy to give Bal a chance) threads these lives together. In the end many adjustments are made, but it is the Indians who act: Judy's boss moves from the Cultural Dais to the Literacy Institute and Bal pursues his star to Bombay. A pleasant, minor intercultural briefing.

Pub Date: Oct. 27th, 1965
Publisher: Norton