The Chambers 20th Century Dictionary gives the meaning of derangement as “disorder, insanity” so the title Derangements (note the plural) of Rajorshi Chakraborti’s second novel may suggest that someone, somewhere is psychotic.
There are two books here and it is clearly put to us at the beginning that one book is the memoir of a great writer, who, incidentally, has the same name as the author, and the other book is a fictional crime story of a serial killer turned hired assassin written by the great writer. Chapters alternate between the memoir and the novel, merging at some points to give meaning to this ‘disordered’ structure. The author, who I don’t think is at all psychotic, does take great care to explain this, both through an introduction provided by a fictional editor and through a preface to the memoir. The book even finishes with a three chapter long epilogue written by the great writer’s wife, who wants to put her side of things as well.
It is perfectly common for various threads of a plot to be written from different viewpoint characters â€“ the technique is used to explore motivation and to create sympathy with characters who might otherwise be one-dimensional ‘baddies’. In this case, both books are written in the first person and there is a perhaps uncomfortably long time before the link between these two voices becomes apparent. During this time, the reader wonders whether the great writer and the assassin are the same person, or whether the encompassing plot will bring them together across the continents and decades as proponent and victim, or whether the second story is, in fact, as we are told at the beginning, but tend to forget, a work of pure fiction, created by a paranoid writer, and the novel is the journey of his paranoia.
Derangements could work perfectly well on the level of a mystery or crime novel and would satisfy most people without the multi levels of fiction â€“ but that isn’t enough for Chakraborti. “During the time that my writing wan’t successful,” he says,” it really clarified for me why I write. I do it because of the journey.” Thus Derangements is an opportunity for the philosopher in him to expound his political world view and the teacher in him to expound it through narrative. That there is a lot of ‘tell, don’t show’ is an interesting technique for a teacher of creative writing but Derangements is full of broken rules.
In the best books, the reader does play his or her part in the interpretation of the story and this is something that Chakraborti keeps in mind. He asks only that readers meet him half way with an open mind and an element of trust. The clues are there but the fact that they are there, doesn’t mean you have to follow them.
Published in India by Harper Collins ISBN 978817223765 3
Available from www.oxfordbookstore.com