A pot full of steaming something

Amitava Kumar admires the opening of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s “Innocence,” which appeared in a recent New Yorker. He says the author successfully portrays her characters and the relationships between them. But he’s disappointed by the insularity of the people and situations she depicts. A lack of engagement with “what are sometimes called outside forces,” according to Kumar, renders the “climax, with its filmi murder scene,” “the lowest point” of the story.

He’s even less impressed with the accompanying artwork.

Will someone advise the New Yorker to find better illustrations for the stories they publish about India? Jhabvala’s story comes accompanied by a sepia-tinted photo that seems to have been borrowed from a colonial harem. Hello? For a story that details a near-contemporary, metropolitan middle-class life? Some weeks ago, there was a story in the New Yorker by Jhumpa Lahiri, and again, for some mysterious reason, the photo accompanying it showed a part of a woman’s body, clad in a churidar-kurta, clasping in her hands what the photographer no doubt imagined was a pot full of steaming dal.


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