First Among Equals – A review of the novel ‘Birds That Fly Ahead’


“Everybody is a book of blood; wherever we’re opened, we’re red.” – Clive Barker

Author C. Radhakrishnan’s novel ‘Birds That Fly Ahead’ is another book in a series centered around a lead protagonist chronicling the class struggle led by a left leaning extremist movement that mowed through India decades ago and the remnants of which can still be seen today in various trickles and forms. Arjun is a revolutionary, the state has charged him with various cases of murder and heists. But what is the truth? Did he commit all those murders as they claim? Can the murders and violence he perpetrated ever be justified? And if he’s not to blame, then who should be held accountable? These are some of the questions we seek answers to in this epic novel saddling both philosophical and political reverberations with ease.

The change in the mood of the narrative shifts dramatically with changes in the story, like a three act play you will see your own mood shift from end to the other while progressing through the set-up, the confrontation and eventual resolution. There’s also some wonderful dialogue writing in the book and this back and forth between characters is captivating to listen to. Some may call it a tad superficial, sure but when you are creating this magical narrative on paper, such illusions will have a bit of artificiality to them. But it will still leave you mesmerized and in awe of the language and the beauty of thoughts expressed. The best thing about Kairali Narayanan’s translation is that she has been able to absorb and present in entirety the earthy beauty of the author’s prose from Malayalam word for word.

Arjun is a byproduct of his circumstances and fate, he grows up quickly than his peers, his evolution speeded up as necessitated by the need to find a solution and escape from the life handed down to him. There’s an interesting array of secondary characters that provide stability and wholeness to the story. The author himself appears as the narrator/journalist who becomes the ears and mouth of the reader, hearing what Arjun has to say and asking him whatever’s on our mind. The three Urmilas’ along with Anuradha reveal the strength and complexity of womanhood and the echelon of love these species are capable of. The editor, the professor and the tribal headman form the trifecta of patriarchal wisdom and knowledge, their philosophical diatribes also reveal the writer’s mind and his attitude towards life. Their disclosures are as good any that you find in the eastern or western school of philosophy.

Though not discriminatory, the book’s narrative might be able to weave its magic among only a section of the audience even after it’s rebirth in the English language. Because Birds That Fly Ahead isn’t just a simple novel dealing with a sole emotion, it’s an epic book with mighty ambitions that makes you think hard and deep about life and one which succeeds in portraying hard hitting and raw emotions.

Product Details

Paperback: 500 pages

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (30 April 2015)

ISBN-10: 1511898321

ISBN-13: 978-1511898324

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