Revisiting a Utopian City with Love and Anger

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If the story of Walker and Maes is, as Kapur writes, inseparable from the longing and naivety of the 1960s, it is further entangled with the politics of Auroville, who plunged into an identity crisis after Anne’s death. 1973. Ideological fissures stretched all the way to the Supreme Court of India: did Auroville’s teachings constitute a religion, a sect, or a spirituality? What are the differences between the three?

However, for a book so meticulous about context, Kapur’s lack of interest in Auroville’s colonial heritage is surprising, and the way he describes the land itself – “a tabula rasa fit for the new world”, this is Tamil Nadu in tact – really mesmerized me. surprised. (For a comprehensive review of Auroville’s colonial roots – and indeed the idea of ​​utopia itself – see Jessica Namakkal.) “Disturbing Utopia” Released last month.)

A louder, more disturbing omission is Maes himself. It is not easy to trace the outlines of her faith, desires, personality, and it is impossible to reconcile her contradictions – is it she who allows young Auralice to be brought up by neighbors, but insists on spoon-feeding the girl into her youth? It is a sphinx reduced to the extraordinary truth of its beauty. Walker, on the other hand, not only left a cache of correspondence, but proved to be an unusually interesting writer. Some of the most vivid prose in the book can be found in his letters (extended quotations come with dangers). Kapur has flair—the story is intriguingly structured, and I consumed it with fiery intensity—but he has a deadly appeal to clichés. In this tale of “unfinished business” and “the wreckage of history”, people contain all the necessary heaps, where “the wolf is always at the door” and the seasons pass “in the belly of the beast” (in this case). , Harvard).

If there is a mystery to be solved in this book, it is not what happened in the cabin in October 1986, when a man was dying and a woman was crying while watching him. It turns out that many people witnessed what happened; It was tragic and utterly unnecessary. The mystery lies in the origin and desire of this book, which, I think, is the reason for the decency in which Maes is concerned. This book has a real reader in mind: Auralice, who was raised in Auroville with a kind of respect and neglect that was not unusual in those days. He looked for food, and when the turmoil of his house became too much, he fled to the neighbors. Kapur, who lived with her, learned about the quality of her silences – “There are places we don’t go, things we don’t go – there are things we can’t talk about – there are things we can’t talk about,” he writes. “I think one of the reasons I wrote this book was to break down those walls.”

It achieves much more. This puts the past in a kind of balance: it shows how to keep one eye on it, all together, as a people and a place, with all its promises and corruptions. It’s a complex proposal, this book and a work of great love.

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