In Continents of Exile, Ved Mehta has set himself the task of remembering and interpreting his life. In the seven volumes published before 1994, he examined his own development up to his graduation from the University of Oxford. Mehta’s quest for self-understanding is also an introduction to the several different cultures through which Mehta has passed. From childhood Mehta has been an outsider seeking to understand worlds of which he is not fully a part. The loss of his eyesight at age three made him an exile in the world of the sighted, and his almost heroic struggle to secure an education sent him into exile—to Bombay from his native Punjab, to the United States, and to England. In describing his experiences, Mehta also gives the reader the flavor of different worlds, including India before and after its partition into India and Pakistan in 1947, Arkansas during segregation, suburban California in the tranquil 1950’s, Oxford before the upheavals of the 1960’s, and the world of blindness.
Continents of Exile is in some ways a sequel to Mehta’s first book, Face to Face (1957). That book, written while Mehta was still an undergraduate, tells the story of his life up to almost the point reached in the seven later volumes. It lacks, however, the breadth, frankness, and detachment of the later volumes. In Continents of Exile, Mehta explores the power of memory. He has discovered that, with the aid of some...
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