The Crazed Wind by Nod Ghosh
Australia: Truth Serum Press (2018)
RRP: $24.99. Pb, 140pp
Reviewed by Sandra Arnold
Nod Ghosh’s first novella-in-flash, The Crazed Wind, is a collection of fifty-eight linked semi-autobiographical stories including prose poems and fictional pieces. The physical wind is from the monsoon that blasts through the narrator’s visit to her father in India and is also a metaphorical wind that blows through the family history, uncovering secrets and deep hurts.
The narrator has been estranged from her father for eleven years and this visit is to try to heal old wounds and listen to her father’s stories before it is too late. Her father left India after the Partition and went to the UK to seek a better life. After twenty seven years he returned to India with his wife, leaving his three adult children behind, disappointed that his two daughters had chosen a different way of life and set of values than those he wanted for them.
Through the stories her father tells her, father and daughter draw closer as she gathers some understanding of the cultural and personal conflicts that made him behave the way he did. Some stories are too difficult for him to tell and gaps remain by the time the narrator is ready to return to New Zealand where she now lives. Other stories trigger uncomfortable memories such as her mother saying in ‘This is what we learn at the workplace‘:
‘If only you had done something to make your father proud.’ My mother’s words resonated. Although I had flinched at the relegation of my status as a scientist, I hadn’t corrected her. No matter how hard I worked I was labelled an idiot by my own flesh and ‒
I worked with blood, the life force that is in all of us. I could tell you the key wavelengths of the absorption spectra attributed to haemoglobin, the red pigment in blood. It is the red of traffic light stops and danger. It is the red of meat, undercooked and raw. It is also the red of hope and love. (p. 67)
Gradually an uneasy truce is forged with her father and some of the sadness of the past is resolved as best it can be, symbolised by the narrator throwing out old rubbish that has accumulated over the years in her father’s house.
In flash fiction much of the story is relayed through what is left unstated. For example, in ‘The Thickening of Blood‘ the narrator says: ‘When my daughter is born, she is the catalyst that severs our ties for good. She is the glue that links me to my partner, the one you could not eradicate.’ Through this and glimpses in other stories, the reader finds clues about what caused the estrangement though this is not made explicit. In ‘The Porch Swing’, father and daughter are attempting to find common ground after years of absence, but are careful to avoid certain topics: ‘…both aware the fuse might ignite any time.’ (p. 64)
Nod Ghosh, an accomplished practitioner who has published many flash fiction pieces in international journals and anthologies, has put together a collection which is a brilliant example of what the form can achieve by engaging the reader in the spaces in the story. Her writing is lyrical and compassionate. It cuts straight to the heart as in the final story ‘Swimming‘ where the narrator comes to terms with her memories and her sadness:
Let us meet again in a pre-monsoon dawn.
Let crazed winds drive us mad.
Let us dance with joy.
Let us hold hands and laugh at how seriously we took ourselves.
Let us tumble in the water that waits for us all. (p. 137)
Sandra Arnold lives in Canterbury. Her two most recent books, Ash (Mākaro Press, NZ) and Soul Etchings (Retreat West Books, UK) are forthcoming in 2019. She holds a PhD in Creative Writing from Central Queensland University, Australia.