Half Of What I Say
Half Of What I Say
This intricate, brilliantly written novel will appeal to sophisticated with-it readers everywhere.”
About The Novel
Half Of What I Say is a political romance set in contemporary India. As the title suggests, we humans are incomplete creatures. We see things in half, our best efforts are only half-understood, we misrecognize whom we love, and we live in worlds half-fulfilled. Vyas, one of the main protagonists of the novel, is such a man.
All Vyas wants is to go home to his beloved wife Tanaz. But his job as chief censor for the Lokshakti, the Indian State’s corrupt anti-corruption bureau, keeps them apart. Lonely and deeply conflicted over his sinister duties, Vyas writes Tanaz a confessional love-letter (hand-written and multi-page, naturally), which unfortunately ends up with Durga Dhasal, scholar, humanist and and all-around political nuisance. When the Lokshakti murders Dhasal, Vyas has to find the incriminating letter before it is too late.
The trail leads Vyas to other people with other necessities, including: Bilkis Ansari, patriotic cannon-fodder and true friend; Kannagi, a scientist torn between exit and loyalty; Anand Dixit, a businessman who collects ruins; Saya, a beguiling actress who was once Shahzadi Jahanara; and Mir Alam Mir, an eunuch poet fond of Jewish jokes. The quest for a letter leads Vyas to a subversive new myth that cannot exist in Vyas’ world. The lost letter leads Vyas to Vyas. A happy ending, so to speak.
About the title
The title comes from Gibran’s Sand & Foam. There’s a verse which goes: Half of what I say is meaningless, but I have to say it nonetheless, so that the other half may reach you. I cannot control how you’ll read the story and you cannot control how I wrote it. If I could control your response, I would find another profession. If you could control mine, what I have to say would just be your echo. At the heart of storytelling lies this primitive freedom. It’s a freedom that shapes all our arrangements; that is, it is a political freedom.
That is the heavy funda version. A simpler one is that my wonderful editor Himanjali Sankar and I were racking our brains what to call the masterpiece. This title bubbled up.
I began writing the novel about six years ago. At the time, Anna Hazare had just captured the country’s imagination with his anti-corruption movement. I was totally fascinated by the propaganda, counter-propaganda, the passions it aroused. It was clear what the people didn’t want: corruption. But it wasn’t clear what people did want. They were united by a common negative, a unity supported by an extravagant suspension of disbelief. In other words, they were being led by a story. It made me very uneasy. Modern tyrannies are often mass movements gone terribly wrong. I started to think about what stories do, about how we misrecognize objects of our desire, and about how it would be if a political regime truly took the power of stories seriously.
“Anil Menon’s brave, brash, bizarre novel Half of What I Say is ultimately about itself. About the centrality of narrative that underpins our quests, large and small, real and fictive; about the importance of lost letters and found selves.
—Devapriya Roy / Scroll.in
“You can’t power-read this over 400-page novel. There are too many threads and ongoing linkages between the characters, though compartmentalised in discrete chapters or sections. Time seems suspended. While the plot is synchronic, there is a feel of unhitched time throughout — leaving the impression that some of the action is happening in parallel, most of which is cross-referenced. Menon is a wordsmith, with a talent for verbosity,but thankfully relieved with humour, sometimes brilliant. I can’t remember laughing out loud while reading fction until now. The world is ready for this book. It is a paradigm changer.”
—Richard Cohen / Biblio