Thursday, January 03, 2013

"behind the beautiful forevers"

This National Book Award winner for non-fiction has seen plenty of commentary.  It's a brilliant easily flowing narrative detailing the lives of those living in a relatively small Mumbai slum, just 3000 people at the edge of the international airport.

In fact, the story is told in such a way that it could be fiction and it made me wonder.  How can "In Cold Blood", "The Executioner's Song", "What is the What", and even "In the Garden of the Beasts" all be classified as fiction and "behind the beautiful flowers" not so.  The author's note at the end goes to great lengths to describe this as pure journalism, with all events fully documented through first hand knowledge, through many witnessed interviews, through thousands of public records, and underscored by the fact that all names used are the real names of the subjects.  It seems to be an almost unprecedented journalistic effort. 

It really doesn't matter how it is classified.  Katherine Boo describes an almost, more than almost, nightmarish world of blatant never ending corruption by all authorities, extreme poverty, lives overwhelmed by filth and disease, poor exploiting poor rather than feeling any possibility of focusing their resentments elsewhere, and yet with all of this, a certain resiliance by some that seems amazing.


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