Book review: When the River Sleeps

  The writer Easterine Kire has often mentioned, during interviews with Indian journalists, that the national media tend to sensationalize and exoticise the Northeast. She believes, quite rightly, that this ought to stop. And yet, when she writes about her home state of Nagaland, one can’t help looking at it as a place of mystery and wonder when compared to the prosaic world we inhabit alongside.

When the River Sleeps

When The River Sleeps is steeped in Naga myth and legend, documenting the conflicts that arise when an alien ideology is introduced to an indigenous culture. At the heart of the story is a lonely hunter named Vilie, a protagonist who, like Ulysses, ventures forth into action and adventure, leaving us breathless in his wake. Vilie is in search of a river of his dreams; one he hopes to catch while “it is sleeping.” In the river lies a powerful ‘heart-stone’ with the ability to make anyone who claims it extremely powerful. Naturally, getting it is no easy task.

Taking on the guise of a folk tale, Kire’s work also manages to become a powerful social novel, documenting the lives and times of an area that is so much a part of India, yet understood by few who live outside its borders.

-- When the River Sleeps, Easterine Kire, Zubaan, Rs 295

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