I've never read any of Desai's work before this book. I have read her daughter's Booker Prize winning, The Inheritance of Loss, and I bought Diamond Dust when I attended a reading by both authors a couple of years ago. Today, I read the fifth of the nine stories in this book, "The Man Who Saw Himself Drown." I'm not sure I completely understood the story. The story started out with a third person narrator, detailing the movements of an older man on a business trip. After dinner one evening, he goes for a walk and eventually sees a drowned man being pulled out of the river. It's him. Most of the rest of the story is told from the drowned man's spirit's(?) point of view. At first the man doesn't believe he has really died. I can't decide if this story is just a bittersweet story about death or if it's a story about the connection or disconnection between body and spirit. I'm not a very spiritual person, and I think that might be hindering my perception of this story. I guess I'll just have to keep thinking about it for a while.
I am enjoying Desai's writing. In this story I was really struck by a couple of passages, one of which I think might hold the key to the story. But first, this one from the beginning of the story when the man enters his hotel room: "He tossed his briefcase into the armchair--there, now the room knew someone had entered it and made it his own--went into the bathroom to wash." I love the idea that a hotel room is always waiting for life--it only lives when it's inhabited. Kind of makes me feel sad for hotel rooms. :-) And I guess in a sense hotel rooms are kind of sad, temporary dwellings. Maybe Desai is comparing the hotel room to a body inhabited by a spirit. Hmmm.
The key passage in the story, I think, is this one from the end of the story after the man has accepted his death:
It seemed to me that by dying my double had not gifted me with possibility, only robbed me of all desire for one: by arriving at death, life had been closed to me. At his cremation, that was also reduced to ash.Maybe the story is about the death of the spirit and how once it dies a body can't go on living. At the beginning of the story, the man was exhausted with his life, his work life at least, but maybe that was the beginning of the death of his spirit. I don't know. Maybe I'm trying to hard. Maybe I should just enjoy the story and let it's meaning percolate in my brain whether I ever come back to it or not. I'm going to go read something else now. Later.