Wednesday, August 11, 2010

G.V. Desani sample

It seems to me that my discerning readership would benefit from a taste of the richly comic writing of G.V. Desani, from his 1948 novel All About H. Hatterr.

Early in the book, the irrepressible H. Hatterr seeks the advice of his bookish Anglophilic pal Banerrji on dealing with his dhobin (Indian washerwoman) who has conceived a crush on him.

'Damme, Banerrji,' I confided in my pal, 'I am in a hell of a trouble!'

'Is in the morning the pharoah's spirit really troubled, as the Good Book says? I am deeply sorry.'

'Damme, old feller, you don't understand! I am in a hell of a mess. A woman is enamored of me!'

'I don't mind, Mr H. Hatterr. Good luck to her. Whereas, I deplore and deprecate sensual Leda-and-Zeus love, I am wholeheartedly for romance. Is her name Priscilla, or is it Daphne? Is it a boy and girl affair? I am anxious to know if you could concur with the bard Walt Whitman, and sing to her, As I lay my head in your lap, camerado? In other words, do you reciprocate her kind regards?'

'I loathe the very sight of her. I have told her so.'

'Undaunted? She has my sympathy. On her part, excuse me, it might be a genuine Darby and Joan feeling. If so, Mr Robert Bridges rightly protests, Quit in a single kiss?'

'Damme, Banerrji, a woman of her age ought to know better! I place her nearer sixty than fifty.'

'Does she suffer from a morbid fascination of the male-sex anatomy? Is she an Elephant?'

'Kindly explain that interrogation, old feller. I have lived a sheltered life.'

'Well, Mr H. Hatterr,' said my pal, 'as an Indian, and a Hindu student-gentleman, I am deeply attached to the ancient classics. According to the sages, all women can be summed up and recognized under four species. In other words, the Lotus, the Art, the Sea-Shell, and the Elephant. These are the four sorts of Woman. The Lotus-woman is A1 vintage. She has a face as pleasing as the Moon. She is lovely as a lily. She launches a thousand ships, as Mr Marlowe says. Her complexion is fine and her eyes are beautiful. In fact, the lady is worth washing in asses' milk. She is dainty, like a rose. She eats little and sleeps lightly...'

'Thanks for the enlightenment. You know what a heavy sleeper my wife is, don't you? And she is no rose either.'

'I am gradually coming to her, Mr H. Hatterr. Let me now sound you on the Art-woman. She is middle height, her body has the scent of honey, and she is a light sleeper as well. The Sea-Shell, on the other hand, is hard-hearted, fault-finding, and she prefers scarlet colour to any other. Her sleep is also disturbed. Lastly, may I refer you to the Elephant-woman? Excuse me, I don't like her. She has male contours. She is narrow of hip, broad of shoulder, and her voice is tenor. She is short, stout, and a glutton. Her walk has no lithe grace of a serpent. Instead, she rolls her hips. She sleeps very soundly, as you said, and perspires a great deal.'

'Thank you! My perspiring, hip-rolling, and soundly sleeping wife thanks you! Where I come from, man, we recognise only two kinds of Woman. The good and the rotten. This dhobin woman is rotten.'


Hasten to the bookstore and buy this wonderful book before it goes out of print again!

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