Clayfaces by Shiladitya Sarkar: Book Review

Clayfaces by Shiladitya Sarkar

Title: Clayfaces

Language: English
Author: Shiladitya Sarkar
Genre: Fiction, Indian Writing
Publisher: Blue Pencil
ISBN-10: ‎ 8195666094
ISBN-13: ‎ 978-8195666096
Binding: Paperback
Price: Rs. 375 (Buy from Amazon for 337). Also available at Flipkart &
Pages: 244

Short Review of Clayfaces by Shiladitya Sarkar:

The book is a decent take on sibling rivalry, the life of the average artist, the clique that forms around them, and how life comes full circle. The story is set in rural Bengal and tells the story of an artist (Nayan) and his dwarf brother (Khudu) from the viewpoint of the artist’s muse/fan/biographer (Brinda). With a dash of satire, obtuse humor, and flashbacks, Shiladitya Sarkar weaves a languidly flowing tale that initially labors but picks up pace to keep the reader interested.

This is a book for those who like to take their time in reading a book over days/weeks. Clayfaces is not for those looking for a fast fiction book to be done in a day.

The Detailed Review of Clayfaces by Shiladitya Sarkar:

I’ll be honest with you. I was given a copy of Clayfaces by Shiladitya Sarkar by the publisher Blue Pencil. The title seemed interesting, and I was vaguely aware of the author. Beyond that, I was unsure what I was signing up for.

The book cover of Clayfaces is a painting by the author himself. The painting appears to be a half-done mask, probably by a potter who has left his work midway to attend to some other mundane activity. I interpret the cover as depicting the humdrum life of an artist who has lost his mojo and will go to any extent to get it back.

This cover sets the tone for the rest of the book, questioning how our identities are shaped by our interactions with the ones we grow up with. The dynamics between Nayan, the artist, and Khudu, the dwarf brother, form the basis of this novel. Khudu regrets the life that Nayan lives. Khudu feels that life is easy for his brother and not for him.

The negativity is not due to his short stature but instead based on his interpretations of how to live. Nayan is laid back, and Khudu is the exact opposite. Using sports and literature, Clayfaces by Shiladitya Sarkar delves into how life is shaped by our interpretations of what is correct and wrong.

Using languid prose, Shiladitya Sarkar weaves an intriguing tale of sibling rivalry, the power of love and care that shapes our destinies. How, despite growing up together, our interpretations of the same can make us bitter about our circumstances. The writing takes you back to the rustic environs of our rural lifestyle and is clutter-free.

The one drawback for me is that the language will not go well with the younger generation, who prefer simpler words. Some characters are excessively drawn out, while others are mentioned in passing, despite having more significant roles.

As a whole, I did find myself liking this novel which I completed for 2 weeks. I waited another week to write this review so that I could firm up on what my exact feelings for this book were.

Positives:  It doesn’t make you rush to finish it in one go. You can take your time rolling the emotions, the literature, and the story around your thought process.

Negatives:  A slow start, use of complex words, and a detachment from modern ways of life are some of the drawbacks this book has.

Who will enjoy this? People who like to read interpersonal relationship stories. People who have a lot of time on their hands and wish to understand the nuances of what makes people tick, psychology and how others interpret human behaviour.

Buy or Don’t Buy? Buy if you like slow-paced novels that can be read over some time. (You can buy from Amazon)

Book Blurb: 

Khudu, a brusque, fiery-voiced dwarf, and Nayan, a controversial writer, at odds with himself in the autumn of his life—two unequal brothers with layers of reservation and contempt against one another—what compelled them to hole up in a secluded bungalow after snapping off every contact with the outside world.

And why would Khudu, hitherto contemptuous of his brother’s legacy, invite a controversial media figure to write Nayan’s official biography—the man once rejected by Brinda, Nayan’s ex-girlfriend?

The spite of a spurned lover, a new way of squaring off, or a play of chance—Brinda teams up with Rupam, a rival biographer with revenge on his mind, for answers.

They track down the female trapezist, in whose possession are Khudu’s three journals—scathing documents that unmask the myths about Nayan, the literary culture he lives in, and Khudu’s machinations to humiliate his brother.

Dwarfed by identity and teed off by the insults he has received from the world, will Khudu succeed in the game he is drawn to?

Clayfaces explores this duality—through ingenuity, humor, and compassion—the warring pulls behind our acceptance and rejection, adoration and rebuff on an ever-changing axis of greed, obligation, power play, and redemption—themes that echo contemporary society and culture, leaving the reader with only one question: Who is this little dwarf inside us all?

About Shiladitya Sarkar

Clayfaces is a novel by writer, painter, and art critic Shiladitya Sarkar. His previous books include Thirst of a Minstrel, Abstract Reality, and Day’s End Stories: Life After Sundown in Small-Town India, an anthology where he is one of the featured authors.

He has contributed essays on art, politics, and culture to leading publications. He has exhibited his work in the United Kingdom, Singapore, Hong Kong, the USA, South Korea, the West Indies and India. Sarkar is an invited faculty member at FTII, Pune, and SRFTI, Kolkata.

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