Sunday, October 14, 2012

Jesus- A story of Enlightenment

Novel: Jesus- A story of Enlightenment
Author: Deepak Chopra
Publ: Harper Collins
ISBN: 978-81-7223-777-6

A prerequisite to reading this book is to have read the gospels. I had read them years ago and have forgotten many of the details of Jesus's life and the people and incidents and their interrelations. Being a non-Christian, the benefit of the knowledge of Jesus's life that a Christian naturally gathers as a part of growing up itself wasn't there either. So if you plan on giving this book a try, do brush up your Jesus lessons before embarking upon it. Or else you are going to waste a good part of your time spent on it.

This book is a fictional account of Jesus's life. It is an attempt by the author to reconstruct Jesus through the power of literary imagination. This is not the story of Jesus that we know. This is not about his sermons on the mount or his miracles or the God that he is or about crucifixion or salvation. This is not about anything that is there in the gospels, but about what is not there. This is the story of Jesus that is missing from the gospels, or in other words, it is the story of the 'lost years'. We see in the Bible Jesus as a kid of twelve years debating with the rabbis at the temple. And the next chronological mention about him is when he is an adult of 30 years. Where did he disappear to all the years in between? That's what Deepak Chopra is telling us through a fictional narrative. A mysterious holy man who meets Jesus narrates to us the story.

There was more than one path open before Chopra to start off with his endeavour. He could have written a biography, but then it needed solid recorded facts, which are unfortunately not available. Then there was the possibility of  writing a spiritual fantasy where the author is totally free to allow his imagination to run free in any direction it wants. But it would sound too presumptuous. Then there was the third possibility of working backwards on the little facts available in the gospels and complete a puzzle. And that's what Chopra did. And I guess it was the most brilliant and prudent choice, though one that could prove utterly disastrous. But somehow, it didn't turn out to be as disastrous as feared. At the same time, it didn't sound that intriguing as the author perhaps wanted it to be either. But then, that could indeed be the indispensable fate of such works. This could perhaps be the maximum that's possible. I guess non-fiction is a better option to deal with things as these.

Half of the book looks like what could be aptly called a 'Jesus thriller'. Jesus the hero, with Judas and Mary. The adventures and travels. Could this be treated as an historic novel? Historic novels are generally based on real facts and characters recorded in history. And I don't generally have much admiration for or affinity to what is categorised as the historic novel. And I know it is because it is an attempt to create fiction out of facts which sounds unnecessary, out of place. Instead non-fiction could do the thing a hundred times better. I never liked War and Peace. And I have understood that it's not my kind of thing. At the same time, I feel da Vinci Code was a better bet in this aspect, its questionable quality level as a work of literature notwithstanding. In it, the story takes place in our own times and the characters are living in the same age as ours. Only they are trying to make some studies about a past age, and it's about Jesus too. Even the movie Titanic could boast of a better setting. Although the tragedy of Titanic is a thing of history, the movie shows the story of two characters that are fictional yet plausible. And I crazily love A Tale of Two Cities. This book by Deepak Chopra closely resembles this kind of framework, but with the one difference_ and it's a crucial one_ that the major characters are from recorded history and the incidents fictional. A dangerous terrain to tread on indeed, unless it is to build up a comic story as Rushdie always does with reckless abandon.

Chopra's conjecture seeks to complete the gospel. He describes Jesus as a man that gradually progresses in the path of spiritual fulfillment. As mentioned above, the kind of treatment can never attain the level of success it earnestly desires and perhaps deserves, nevertheless, someone had to tell this story sooner or later.

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