Rohinton Mistry Long Fiction Analysis

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Rohinton Mistry became one of a number of well-respected writers in Canada, including Michael Ondaatje, M. G. Vassanji, and Neil Bissoondath, who are associated with India or other parts of South Asia. What sets Mistry apart is his Parsi identity and his focus on Parsi life in his writings. At the same time, though, he is praised for speaking to universal human concerns in his fiction. He himself has said that since the Parsi are a dwindling minority, his works are documents bearing witness to their way of life, but he added that the Parsi way of life has not been his major concern. Similarly, although politics plays a major role in his fiction, he insists that he is only secondarily writing about politics.

Critics disagree about the importance to attribute to politics and Parsi life in Mistry’s works and also over his relation to traditional realism. Some even refer to him as an antirealist or a postcolonial subverter of such traditions as realism. However, others consider his works to tend toward realism, presenting a true-to-life portrayal of Parsi life in particular and the human condition in general, with a special emphasis on the politics of India in the years after independence. Mistry writes about suffering and the oppressed, and is quite critical of what he describes as the corruption and brutality in India under the rule of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

As a Parsi from Bombay now living in Toronto, Mistry is sometimes seen as doubly displaced, having been a minority first in India and then in Canada. Mistry himself says being in Canada gives him the perspective to write about India, but some Indian critics have said he is out of touch with Indian reality in general and the Hindu experience in particular. He is often praised, however, for presenting an outsider’s view and for being sensitive to human frailties.

Mistry is sometimes associated with literary modernism, that is, with a view of the universe in which inexplicable forces hold sway over humans, unable to control their own destinies. Modernist poets William Butler Yeats and T. S. Eliot are sometimes cited as influences, and Mistry quotes from Eliot in an epigraph to Such a Long Journey. Mistry is also generally considered a writer much interested in memory, loss, and the patterns people impose on existence. He is much given to literary allusions and flashbacks, and he wins praise for his gently ironic tone.

Such a Long Journey

Such a Long Journey is the novel in which Mistry most successfully combines the specifics of Parsi life with universal human concerns. Gustad Noble, a Parsi bank clerk in Bombay, says his daily Zoroastrian prayers (Zoroastrianism being the religion of the Parsi community) and tries to cope with the difficulties of life amid bothersome mosquitoes, arguments with his wife, a son who will not obey him, a daughter who is perhaps seriously ill, and a good friend who seems to have abandoned him. This friend then involves him in a dangerous government mission.

Through the first part of the novel, Gustad feels betrayed and mistreated, and he seeks to retreat behind blackout papers on his windows and a large wall surrounding his apartment building. By the end of the...

(The entire section is 1327 words.)