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 Heat and Dust

   
 

Travel as Orientation!

   

 

  

 

Escape the winter and travel East!  

India as a land of both intense beauty and heartbreaking poverty, an earthly paradise that Westerners have been flocking to for centuries in search of both material and spiritual wealth.  This is the India that Ruth Prawer Jhabvala describes with a precise lyricism in her Booker Prize-winning 1975 novel, Heat and Dust.  A land of extremes, of heightened passions, that welcomes foreigners with open arms but which can also destroy them, as the narrator warns, if they are caught off-guard. 

The novel tells the story of the Olivia, a Colonial Englishwoman in India, and her amorous transformation and the sometimes subtle and fascinating intrigues that accompany her metamorphosis.  It is the 1920's and Olivia slowly grows bored with her attractive but ordinary husband Douglas and the suffocatingly provincial town they have been stationed in.  A growing attraction for India and the seductive, dangerous Nawab leads to her shocking elopement with the Indian prince.  Her step-granddaughter, intrigued by the letters Olivia left behind, follows in her footsteps some fifty years later, and the novel is her attempt to unlock the mysteries of the old scandal. 

We are on Olivia's side from the very beginning: her husband is emotionally cold, unable to grasp the subtleties, and seems unwilling, as E.M. Forster counseled, to 'only connect.'  The idea of leaving one's culture to complete one's education or to discover one's true self is an old theme.  The novel as a form of Grand Tour - the educational journey of discovery through France and Italy that wealthy young British men took to immerse themselves in art and culture, the very foundations of Western culture; Forster himself took the idea to marvelous extreme in A Room with a View.

Jhabvala's novel champions the emancipation of both the individual and her innermost desires.  Olivia finds in India a country that though complicated and contradictory, sets her free.  Once she has found her heart's calling, she does not hesitate to act.  Olivia never returns to England.

Jhabvala wrote many of the screenplays for the films of Merchant & Ivory, including an adaptation of Heat and Dust as well as the award-winning A Room with a View

 

Read: Heat and Dust, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

See: Heat and Dust 

See: A Room with a View 

 

Tags:  india

 

 

 

       
 

 
       
     

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