The Indian Clerk

In 1993, novelist David Leavitt, known as a “gay writer” for his early novels and story collections, wrote the book While England Sleeps which was inspired by Stephen Spender’s autobiography World Within World. The book had some explicit sex scenes which did not go well with Spender and so he sued. The publisher eventually removed those passages.

In 2007, he has returned back with the same theme with a book titled The Indian Clerk, and the protagonists this time are Godfrey Harold Hardy and Srinivasa Ramanujam and the book is about their relationship. Leavitt’s speciality is in writing a rare type of literary fiction in which he takes people who really existed and plays around with the facts. His second speciality is in writing explicit sex. This would be like Jeffrey Kripal meeting Harold Robbins, but with the defence that it is  historical fiction.

Alice claims to be easing his culture shock, while Hardy hopes to develop his mind. In both cases, however, their fascination has a sexually predatory edge: Hardy “cannot deny that it excites him, the prospect of rescuing a young genius from poverty and obscurity and watching him flourish. … Or perhaps what excites him is the vision he has conjured up, in spite of himself, of Ramanujan: a young Gurkha, brandishing a sword.”

The real G. H. Hardy famously called his association with Ramanujan “the one romantic incident in my life,” and Leavitt’s Hardy makes the same claim. But what he makes of their relationship is much more subtle than a love affair. Initially frustrated by the young genius’s tendency to pursue several ideas in an associative fashion, Hardy eventually realizes he has come in contact with a mind that expands his notion of their discipline. At the same time, the relationship brings Hardy — emotionally as well as sexually closeted — into the messy realm of human friendship, where even the most well-intentioned attempts to rescue another adult can result in further injury.[Lust for Numbers]

Here is an idea for historical fiction: While flying from Bangalore on a trip to observe the Ram Sethu, David Leavitt ‘s plane crashes and he gets stranded in a farm somewhere near Erode. As days pass he realizes that no one will rescue him from the paste and colored-paper  exotic East, in which brave Englishmen battled natives for the cause of empire. Soon the lone donkey in the farm starts looking very attractive.

I don’t think Leavitt will object because it fiction after all.

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