The Brahmin by Ravi Shankar Etteth: The Success of the Storyteller

The Brahmin is a novel by Ravi Shankar Etteth. It’s a historical thriller. This book is entertaining. It provokes thoughts too. Please keep your notepads handy. You might want to scribble down some points.

Words flow deep into the recesses of the human mind when Ravi Shankar Etteth writes. I have seen this rare quality only possessed by a few writers in India.

Etteth achieves this with the stylistics of his narration. He has a lyrical language that is sensitive at its core and deeper in its scope. The Book of Shiva, a novel by Etteth also carries the same strategy of language use. Using this language, Etteth can tell a story set in ancient past, a historical realism, as well as a thriller set in present-day, like the one he has done in The Gold of Their Regrets. Ravi Shankar Etteth is one of the very few writers in India writing in the English language who has discovered his own writer’s voice. You could read a sentence (without looking at the name of the author) from any one of his books in how he introduces a particular character or scene and tell that this is written by Etteth. His language is unique and carries his personal stamp. His language reminds of the legend of the ancient storytellers of oral tradition. The curious reader and the budding writer could greatly benefit from closely observing the storytelling strategies of Ravi Shankar Etteth. When The Brahmin opens, some phrases could be seen reused in order to usher in new streams of the story to the main narrative. These repetitive phrases are abandoned as soon as the story picks up.

The reader is sucked into a torrent of thrilling events that unfurl like a mysterious magical spell. Entranced into the story the reader could get a pictorial glimpse into the landscape, the setting, and the characters. The lyrical narration could almost be heard inside your mind with adequate background score when you are reading this book. The language of Etteth is very much audible.

Creation of characters is cleverly done. It is superbly achieved in the presentation. The Brahmin, who is the central character of the novel moves through the story like a dark shadow. He is mysterious and powerful. His presence suggests danger to some people and loyalty to some others. However, he has his own views on loyalty and life: ‘Loyalty is a double-edged sword, Your Majesty. Its enemy is not betrayal, but love’ (236) he speaks to King Ashoka, another character in the novel. Supporting characters like Hao, Antochlius, and Angyo are drawn to perfection.

The Brahmin is not only a work of historical fiction. Those who enjoy soft fantasy or parable stories or stories from mythologies would also enjoy this book. This is achieved through the unique narrative strategies used by Ravi Shankar Etteth. The story moves like a thriller while the narrative language skirts the landscape of the fantastical and the mysterious. It is not just the story that grips you or thrills you but also the language used to narrate the story. Etteth writes with a style that could be enjoyable everywhere in the world and by all castes of the readers (both the lovers of commercial and literary fiction)-A global writer.

Anand Neelakantan wrote an endorsement for The Brahmin. In his short yet relevant quote, Neelakantan, author of Asura: Tale of the Vanquished, identifies the special quality of The Brahmin. “The Brahmin is that rare book that makes the division of literary and commercial fiction irrelevant.” The fact that Neelakantan has chosen to speak about his division and that The Brahmin overthrows it is the clue that suggests the birth of the ‘ultimate bestseller’. Every reader should see that. This irrevocably defines a new space for The Brahmin as a book and for Etteth as a writer in the Indian novel in English.

Ravi Shankar Etteth has authored four novels previously. His other novels are The tiger by the River (2002), The Village of the Widows (2003), The Gold of Their Regrets (2009), and The Book of Shiva (2016). He has a background in journalism and media. He works as a consulting editor with The New Indian Express Group.

The second chapter of The Brahmin is titled “A Fatal Secret”. In this chapter, the reader is given one of the biggest literary hooks I have encountered recently. A great mythological secret is unwrapping slowly. In the “Epilogue”, the readers finally see and experience this secret. I already told you how interesting it is to read the historical part of the novel. I am not a big fan of historical novels that delve too much into boasting about the research the author had done. They just print pages and pages of historical data, as if we are reading a textbook. Shouldn’t we read an actual textbook then? Why read a novel? Ravi Shankar Etteth changes that characteristic of the historical novel altogether. It becomes more than a novel on a historical event or figures.

The mythological segment of the story too is better done than many of the popular mythological writings published in Indian recently. The second chapter in itself is equivalent to reading a whole novel on the mystery of the identity of a great demon king.

As I closed the book, I eagerly wanted to know what was the next book from this writer. Here is a standing ovation to this remarkable novel by Ravi Shankar Etteth.

Author(s): Ravi Shankar Etteth
Publisher: Westland Books
Release: March 2018
Genre: Fiction/Historical
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Anu Lal is an Indo-Anglian-Southern author. Many of his short fiction, poetry, and essays are published in national and international journals. He is also a research scholar, educator, book reviewer, and a blogger.

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