"Archetypal tale of obsession..." 
"Alluring and pleasant piece of storytelling..."
"The narrative is ingeniously constructed as a fictive museum of reminiscences..."

Review by Kalyan Panja


Melancholy of Innocence is a philo-poetic fable of love set in the late  1920 in Istanbul, just after the political revolution leading to Turkish  independence. It is an adolescent's journey into self-discovery about  the true meaning of love.

When Umit grows up under the umbrella of Sufi  spirituality, and is left to understand the meaning of life and love  through poetic influences, what happens?

One day, while roaming on the  streets of Istanbul, Umit finds a Ruh connection with Masum, a beautiful  girl eight years older than him - whom he is simply not able to forget  from his being. When coincidence of fate becomes reality, he denies his  intelligence and emotions, by following his soul's inner voice. What  does Umit do to devote himself to show his profound love for Masum?

Does  he succeed? And if he does, why this 'Melancholy of Innocence'?

The  novel inquires about the human moralities by looking philosophically  into the realm of existentialism in the way modern society identifies  love.

Melancholy of Innocence by Raj Doctor is an archetypal tale of obsession between Umit and a beautiful girl Masum in the echelons of a conventional society of Istanbul, where Umit returns in search of lost love and weave through a tale of enchantment, which happened to him thirty years back.

“How can a person love someone so much? How can you love me so much?” and that simple soft tenor of Masum sets the tone and tempo of the novel and expands around this moment, as Umir steps down at the station near Istanbul and frantically attempts to return to the past, the eternal-present that dominates his feelings which ring a bell on him of the ecstasy he experienced in his days of love, but whose return to Masum’s side is convoluted by a number of social and familial obstacles. Perhaps most disturbingly, Masum is already married now, although they also bear the labour of their past love.

The narrative follows the first phase of the blossoming of the love in the adolescent Umit’s life, where he would not miss following every trail of the fragrance Masum left behind and loses no opportunity of catching a precious glimpse of her and ultimately her charm led him straight to her home too, in guise.

Masum, as her name implies, is the definitive attraction and focus of this anthology, whose absence is continually felt even as her existence in Umit’s life grows. While he attempts to incarcerate their past, reminiscing events that make up for lost time, she evades him, absconding to an opportunity that he follows her into.

In the pen-ultimate stage of their love, Masum although eight years older than him, finally succumbs to her passions, to later give birth to a beautiful baby girl. In keeping with the many twists and surprises in this section, the journey ends, with the withdrawal of Masum and her disappearance awakens Umit to the depth of his attachment to her, prompting an ever more fraught pursuit to track her down in the optimism of convalescing his lost bliss.

From the streets of Istanbul, banks of bosphorus, the Grand Market, the Blue Mosque, and around Beyazit Square, Istanbul is like a galaxy of symbols that reminds Umit of Masum, become both parts of the adored and parts of the aficionado, as Umit proceeds to yank himself through the ever more excruciating stations of neurotic love. They encroach as corporeal representations of reminiscences, all the while giving the sagacity that this could have happened to anyone, in any city, at any moment.

Though Umit and Masum perhaps cannot be together again, Umit’s melancholy draws him night by night to Istanbul, again and again, where for more than four decades; he attempts to evoke his past bliss by just trying to catch the aroma of Masum.

The novel’s conscientious assortment of reminiscences, vistas, and characters attempts to recreate this once-known veracity of being further than transgression and remorse, in a planet at large, from gravity and time.  Raj’s bequest is to show how this fond occurrence became the central point of an ardour that outlasts the lovers themselves as they subsist and experience it.

The narrative is ingeniously constructed as a fictive museum of reminiscences where contentment means being close to the one you love. As the reader progresses all the way through encumber of Umit’s delicate memories, which kaleidoscopically refract diverse facets and faces of Masum, Raj’s masterly storytelling compellingly portrays how a simple rendezvous comes to redefine Umit’s verve.

The writer examines not only the corporal ardour which underlies their connection and their lives, but also broader themes concerning the associations involving love and memory flanked by remembrance and veracity, and among love and realism.

Like any ostentatious act of disparaging fervour, it is both excruciating and entrancing to comprehend, not only for the cataclysmic brunt on the two key lives, but also for the manner their drama ripples out during the lives subsequently. The all-encompassing social portraiture of the Melancholy of Innocence is delightfully guaranteed and the description remains gripping as it darkens from a tale of love to a study in ornate stasis.

There's at all times a drop of folly in any love, but there's also a drop of raison d'être in any psychosis. The soul desire is to grapple at love, as if it might be a tangible fixation that can be held by fingers. Umit's love drives him to acts of transitory ludicrousness, but it's on that petite pillage that his very sense depends.

Obsession is the key word, and Raj Doctor manages to draw the enthusiastic reader into Umit’s consciousness, so that his warren apparition becomes a fascination for the reader. We see his world through his eyes, and thus sense what he feels and perhaps we even identify to. Looking back, The Melancholy of Innocence, like existence itself, is not such a protracted passage after all. The book can be an exercise in fortitude but the ever-crafty Raj manages to leave a sneaky indentation of his protagonist and strolls into this minefield with tranquil poise.

Prior to anything else, it is plainly an alluring and pleasant piece of storytelling. The romance draws its splendour to fresh heights, taking literature itself to an enlivening new echelon and blurring the lines among fiction and veracity in new traditions. In sum, The Melancholy of Innocence is a splendid, spellbinding human and benevolent story, where Raj Doctor literally puts love into our hands.

Title: Melancholy Of Innocence | Author: Raj Doctor | ISBN: 9789381115053 |

Binding: Paperback | Published: 2011 | Publisher: Leadstart | Pages: 344 |

Language: English

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