The narrator of the lead story in this collection occupies an ‘unclaimed terrain’, as do many of Ajay Navaria’s characters. Journeying from a Dantewada village in India’s east to the town of Nagpur and from there to Mumbai, the Byronic protagonist is raped, works as a masseur and then as a gigolo even while pursuing his education. The city teaches him the many meanings of labour, and he is freed – if ultimately destroyed – by its infinite possibilities for self-invention.
As complex as they are political, Navaria’s characters – ranging from a brahmin labourer to a dalit male prostitute – are neither black nor white, neither clearly good nor evil. They inhabit a grey zone; they linger in the transitional space between past object and future subject, between caste and democracy.
Unclaimed Terrain represents Giramondo’s commitment to South Asian literature and to writing which explores social difference and inequality.