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Friday, October 07, 2011

The Amazing Absorbing Boy

Rabindranath Maharaj
I met Rabindranath (Robin) Maharaj at The Word on the Street last month for the first time. 

We had been exchanging emails over the last few months about his participation in the recently-concluded Festival of South Asian Literature and the Arts (FSALA-11). 

Joyce Wayne, friend and novelist, had introduced me to Robin.

Robin’s The Amazing Absorbing Boy is an absolute marvel. 

I’ll be seriously disappointed if it doesn’t win the City of Toronto Book Award. It’s already won the Ontario Trillium Award, and gathered a bouquet of fabulous reviews, with Philip Marchand claiming, that “For the record, (Maharaj) is a more accomplished writer than Vassanji and a livelier novelist than Mistry.” Now, that is serious praise.

Moreover, Robin has an engaging style of reading his work. At the TWOTS reading, Robin read a part of the following extract from chapter seven of the book. The chapter is titled Auntie Umbrella.

“It was Auntie Umbrella who appeared like a puff of sulphurous smoke. I was making my way to our apartment after work and when I spotted her outside the door I thought at first it was my imagination because I had been thinking so much of Mayaro but there was no mistaking Auntie Umbrella. Although she was my father’s sister she was the total opposite of him in looks. She was black like tar and had stumpy bandy legs that made her resemble one of these evil Dalek robots from Doctor Who. When I noticed an umbrella reinforced with bicycle spokes parked right next to a scrape-up brown suitcase, I knew for sure it was my auntie. She was trembling like mad either from vexation or the nightcoldness and when she spotted me instead of giving a hug she said, “Open the door fast, buy. This is not weather for man nor beast.” Then she pushed me aside, dragged her suitcase inside, took a long look at the apartment, and headed for my father’s bedroom.

       “What you doing here, auntie?” I asked when she came out.

       “What?” She had a habit of closing one eye whenever she was about to quote some criticizing verse from her Bible. Instead she launched into a long speech about my father; it seemed he was supposed to meet her at the airport.

       “So he knew you was coming?”

       “You hard of hearing, boy?” She glared at me with one eye.

       “So how you find this place?”

       “The Lord always protects his shepherd.”

He read another piece from the same book at the inaugural session of FSALA-11. 

His reading style adds to the humour inherent in the novel.

Quite simply, amazing!

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