The way I read the book, the story is about the travails of a young Indian who must make the long and labyrinthine transition from boy to man.
A difficult job when a large offset of one's opportunities in middle class India is being beholden to family, with conservative family elders and conversations in a minefield of verbal taboos.
It is hard to hold down an adult conversation with elders—always an uncomfortable thing—and incurably hard to avoid.
To wit, when you are spoken to as a perennial child right into your adulthood, there is little scope for quiet and confident assertiveness and individualism. Personas must change to suit whatever pleases the current conversation.
And all this while there's the business of growing up to contend with. Sometimes so difficult a job that many don't ever fully make it to what might be considered manhood—at least by the the stereotypical norms of the rest of the world.
An ethic that is skilfully captured by my guest today the author, Jerry Pinto.
You might say that Jerry understands the Indian middle class. His book The Education of Yuri is what people in literature would call, a bildungsroman—which is a novel about the growing up years.
It is a story of a feckless 15-year old middle class Indian teen who must make decisions about where his life is headed in the time of changing goalposts, moods and largely predictable hormones.
Jerry Pinto’s narrative sucks you into the story.
The Education Of Yuri captures the college ethic of the 70s and hits you with a litany of cultural references from the decades. Those who grew up around then would smile at references like…
“Ground Control to Major Tom”
James Hadley Chase's "No Orchids For Miss Blandish"
Hotel California… "Bring your alibis"
The 70s also were a time when the contrasting pressures of what someone wanted to do and what was good for them could be hard to handle.
So Jerry places his protagonist in a situation where he is largely free of oppressive family pressures and through Yuri’s experiences, he allows the reader a view of how society was structured.
Yuri’s decision to abandon his course in the sciences in favour of the liberal arts being an example.
And then Jerry captures the disposition of the 70s English language major and empties out his literary arsenal in this book and uses these artfully in his descriptions of Yuri’s normal life of friendships, tawdry sexual escapades, romance and inevitably, poetry.
I've been a fan of his writing—his columns and books—for many years. And it is therefore my pleasure to present him on my show.
ABOUT JERRY PINTO
Jerry Pinto is a writer and poet based in Mumbai. His books include the novels Em and the Big Hoom (winner of the Hindu Prize and the Crossword Book Award) and Murder in Mahim (winner of the Valley of Words Award, and shortlisted for the Crossword Award); the non-fiction book Helen: The Life and Times of an H-Bomb (winner of the National Award for the Best Book on Cinema); and two books of poetry, I Want a Poem and Other Poems and Asylum. Jerry Pinto received the Windham-Campbell Prize and the Sahitya Akademi Award.
Buy The Education Of Yuri: https://amzn.to/3DJ9Ejl
WHAT'S THAT WORD?!
Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in "What's That Word?!", where they discuss the interesting origins of the word, "FECKLESS"
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