The Serpent And The Rope
- Author: Raja Rao
- Publisher: Penguin Books India
- ISBN: 9780143422334
The Serpent and the Rope introduces to American readers India's greatest novelist. Reflecting the flavor and wholeness of the traditional Indian way of life, where fact and fable, philosophy and the matter-of-fact blend into one, this semi-autobiographical novel can be called timeless, just as India herself seems timeless and other-worldly by virtue of her unchanging rituals.
But the novel also portrays a very definite period of time, describing the full implications of the meeting of East and West on the most intimate plane through the story of Rama, an Indian, and Madeleine, a French girl, who meet at a French university shortly after World War II. Their marriage is the central theme of the book, and it is in telling the story of this marriage that Rama reveals, more deeply than most writers are able to suggest in their lifetime, the meaning of love. For these two people it becomes a question either of preserving their identities or of sacrificing an inherited background to make their marriage a success. Family ties on both sides do not help, and Rama's trip back to India for his father's illness forcibly reminds him of the underlying contrasts between India and Europe, and of a certain conflict between them and himself. While there he meets his friend Pratap's fiancée, Savithri, an event which is to bring many forgotten questions to the surface and to alter the whole perspective of his life. When Rama returns to France, he and Madeleine have to face their problems and find their own solutions.
To express his fundamental and universal message, Raja Rao has created a memorable style, a compound of the unhurried breath of the Eastern sense of time with a fresh and personal imagery. Together with the compelling story he unfolds, this provides for a remarkable new literary experience.