on the shelf
Let’s meet in the roaring sea
FSG: 304 pages, $27
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In “Let’s meet at the raging sea”, first novel by Akil Kumarasamy, An unnamed young woman mourns the sudden death of her mother. She lives in her mother’s house, surrounded by her mother’s archives, surrounded by mundane belongings and treasures of dubious authenticity, leaving everything that is a record of her mother’s existence untouched. I’m trying to Perhaps to balance this stagnation and preservation, she is preoccupied with translating her manuscripts.
Kumarasamy navigates between our future, the unnamed narrator’s present (carbon score is a problem, AI much improved) and the section of the manuscript she’s translating. She described the document, written in the late 1990s, as “a complete set of facts or not fiction about a group of female medical students who are all under the age of 21 and who are not full doctors or mystics. memoir.” Written in the ancient Tamil language, the manuscript connects the protagonist to the past, when her mother lived.
The narrator’s life is quiet at first. She works for her ML Consulting and trains high paying coders her AI program. She goes home to watch TV with her cousin Rosalyn. Rosalyn is obsessed with a reality show called “Soldier’s Diary,” which follows US forces deployed in an unspecified “stabilization zone.” After her childhood neighbor Sal’s parents were killed in a self-driving car incident (driving algorithms victimized Ahmed for a white woman and her toddler), Sal moved into her childhood home, It reunites her with the main character who has been separated for many years.
The inserted section of the translated manuscript depicts a group of teenage girls living and studying on what is believed to be the coast of the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. “How many freshmen? [medical] Could the student operate on the patient? The girls write obliquely referring to Sri Lanka’s civil war and refugees fleeing the island nation for the Indian coast. “Our parents prayed in temples, mosques and churches, thanking the Lord for the misfortunes of others,” they bitterly continue. “As long as people suffer, we will be hired.”
For girls who aim to become “not just doctors, but saviors,” the suffering is essential in life beyond training. They take her three senior students, Avvaiyar, Baseema and Leela, down a path they call radical compassion.
Pain and compassion circulate throughout both stories. In the hero chapter, Rosalyn finds a homeless veteran nicknamed Cheese, who appeared in “The Soldier’s Diary”. and take him home. By letting him stay, the protagonist aims to practice her own fundamental compassion, which proves difficult. Not only are they treating hungry and even poorer refugees, but they also deliberately begin to practice their mentor’s diverse approaches to fundamental compassion, from self-denial to physical pleasure.
“Meet Us by the Roaring Sea” is under 300 pages and there’s certainly a lot going on, but it all feels beautifully balanced — the chapters are spliced together and the translated manuscript and the hero’s life echo each other. Human and technological horrors fill the background of both stories. On the one hand, civil wars, government corruption, missing fishermen, and television broadcasts stir and fill the news. Another is the proliferation of the military, the complete encroachment of privacy, his AI of eugenics, and climate change.
Many novels have worked in the form of a book within a book — an annotated manuscript of Jordy Rosenberg’s Confessions of a Fox. Academic imitation of his text in AS Byatt’s “Possession”. A translated Greek manuscript of Anthony Doerr’s Cloud Cuckoo Land. A novel within a novel of “Trust Exercise” by Susan Choi.
The beauty of this mechanism is that it has been and can be used in many different ways for different purposes. In “Meet Us by the Roaring Sea,” translations within the novel show how humans, across vastly different times, places, and cultures, ultimately share similar concerns: health and family – whether chosen, inherited or forced together. —and also the need to nourish beyond necessities to nourish what some might call the soul, to help alleviate, endure, or accept the suffering inherent in the human experience.
Personally, I love novels playing with forms and storytelling modes, but some find these devices too gimmicky or overt. Beyond the fact that an unnamed narrator translates the manuscript, “See you at the Roaring Sea” partly sidesteps this, as the connections between sections are never spelled out. Kumarasamy is also a sentence to sentence, completely authoritative writer.
Both threads of the novel also avoid common narrative voices, opting instead for the narrator’s current second person. Sections of Tamil manuscripts and first person plural. As a result, each has a dream-like quality that stands a little apart, signifying self-replacement. For girls, this reflects the deliberate practice of learning “how to empty yourself, embrace someone else, and feel your pain deeply until it’s yours.” The narrator needs to take in these voices from another era and feel their pain and joy deeply enough to empty himself as well to create a translation that truly respects and expresses them. there is.
Towards the end of the novel, the protagonist admits that she is “away from this world and vulnerable to it”. A deceptively simple statement that neatly sums up the overarching theme of existing alongside open experience. The tension of seeming contradictions and the sure hand of intelligence that guides the book make Meet Us by the Roaring Sea. It’s a lot of fun to read.
Masad is a book and culture critic and author of “All My Mother’s Lovers.”