In the absence of scene, ideas take over – invented bibliographies, doctrinal disputes, theories of time, schools of mapmaking – but always with a physical backdrop, an illuminated library row or looming landscape.
Is The Vegetarian, devastating as it doubtlessly is, funny? The question feels almost perverse to ask, but only because the novel begins in the brilliant tradition of high, scrambling Kafkaesque comedy and then turns sharply away.
The concern takes us back to the original question: genre-based marketing labels risk reducing the individuality of books and flattening them into kitsch. But I’d like, hesitantly, to argue back: isn’t this only true if we think of magic realism as an ossified thing?
When thinking about Thailand’s next act, about the royal drama revolving around the banished-capitalist Thaksin and the prince, I couldn’t lose the image of Falstaff and Prince Hal.