20 July 2009

Carsten Jensen, Earth in the Mouth, 1991

This is an interesting experiment in self-reflection: the Danish author Jensen revisits an unpublished fictional Indian travelogue he wrote twenty years earlier, and questions himself – and indeed his younger self – on why it remained unfinished. The travelogue itself is of the kind many thousands of backpackers-as-aspiring-writers would have turned out, with the self cast as a third person and where the protagonist’s culture shock is explored to the nth degree. In fact Jensen’s alter, Thomas, excels at this as he staggers from one crisis of the ego to another, utterly overwhelmed by the alienness of India. The bracketing prologue and epilogue frame it well, and understandably Jensen never really gets to the bottom of things as his journey isn’t yet finished. A mature book, with writing that has been compared to Bruce Chatwin and Milan Kundera.  PY


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