f u g u e   s t a t e   p r e s s
P.O. Box 80, Cooper Station
New York, NY 10276
208-693-6152 fax

read an excerpt

Streets that Smell of Dying Roses
by Prakash Kona
$14.00    246 pp.   ISBN 1-879193-10-8

Order This Book

Though Streets that Smell of Dying Roses experiments with or jettisons nearly every element of standard prose, there is much sense at work in its pages. Good sense. Magical sense. Theory positively oozes from every vignette, encouraging the reader to step lively or carefully depending on the author's drumwork. Sentences run on; gender questions, already obscure, become fluid; punctuation adheres to form then disappears, leaving the onlooker wandering in a prose poem daymare that runs a circuitous loop through the dirty, sensuous streets of Hyderabad.
     In accompanying literature, Kona professes to believe in "the power of alternate discourses," and Streets clearly utilizes alternative forms. It should come as no surprise that Kona cut his doctoral teeth on Derrida and Chomsky. This is visionary work.
     ...This is the book that many younger authors have tried to write and failed--one that disassembles language, narrative and structure, throwing them all into a molten semantic stream. Understanding, falling into, and melding with the flow of this stream was one of the more enjoyable literary experiences I've had in recent years. A comparison to Joyce's Ulysses seems apt, both in breadth of experiment and to only a slightly lesser extent, quality. On the strength of this work, Prakash Kona seems poised for greatness. Highly recommended.
--Charles Allen Wyman, The Absinthe Literary Review

Smells and sounds and sights and sensations of streets and feet and prostitutes and vagrants and grubby children people the tales of these interwoven street scenes amidst a swirling heat so thick one can feel it jumping off the page...Preoccupation with social equality is paramount here; poverty is both feared and despised, though recognized with a steely determination to present things as they truly are...This is an experimental work of the highest order...
--Mad Hatter's Review

An unusual and captivating novel where a cosmic presence always lurks behind the grim realism of the Hyderabad streets, an ontology of the soulless skies and the grinding hopelessness of the streets. Deeper truths reside in this novel thick with local color, with parables upon parables, even without the structure of parables. As should be obvious, the reviewer has a great deal of enthusiasm for this arresting and singular novel.
--Arnold Skemer, Zyx

"Joy is finite, but grief infinite." So goes the unofficial premise of this hauntingly beautiful and meditative treatise on the aura of the streets, in particular those of Hyderabad, India, not only the birthplace of the author but a place where tradition, modernity, fear, loathing, joy, and oppression live simultaneously. But while Kona's eye seems never to waver from the deprivations and animal instincts inherent in the underbelly of street life, joy and exaltation are found here, too, often in unexpected places. Kona's style is at times hallucinatory, ethereal, gritty, and poetic. It is a meandering narrative, a rough guide of sorts to living in one's surroundings, wherever that may be, with eyes and heart wide open. Kona's narrative is sensory in the extreme sense: one can feel the oppressive heat, smell the rotting and decay, and at once feel empathy for the lacking and be moved by the innocence of their situation. Preoccupation for social equality is paramount here, and poverty is both feared and despised, though recognized with a steely determination to present things as they truly are. With clarity and vision, though begging more questions than providing answers, Kona stimulates the social and moral conscience. When Kona writes, "I never thought a street could be more real than the streets of Hyderabad," we believe him because by the end of the narrative, satisfyingly, we feel exactly the same way.
--Michelle Reale, Review of Contemporary Fiction

Prakash Kona's Streets that Smell of Dying Roses reads like a complicated hallucination in prose. The streets in question are those of Hyderabad, India, and the book seems to be neither an elegy nor an ode, but a lament: "The street like a nail stuck to the flesh. I spent years of my life pulling it out of myself. With terrible pain in consequence." Dedicated to the revolutionary poet Nazim Hikmet, Streets is composed almost exclusively of interior monologues, soliloquies that carefully measure the intersection of human and material worth.
     Frequent references to shadows, dust, and light emphasize the ephemeral nature of the narrator's experience of Hyderabad, and the impermanence of various narrative fragments infuses the text with a Buddhist vision ("Forms make their own forms.") Yet Streets is no Orientalist holiday; if you're looking for "Eastern wisdom" or decorative poetics, look elsewhere. Kona, who completed his doctoral work with a comparative study of Chomsky, Derrida, and Wittgenstein at the University of Mississippi, has produced a text that is centrally concerned with the historical nature of the enslavement of language: "Once the colonizer recognized that this tongue could be a source of material value he gave it a language of his own."
     Although Kona draws frequently from a Marxist lexicon--"Culture is an outcome of necessity coordinating with the limitation of resources"--Streets pushes beyond a purely theoretical apprehension and manifests a more personal relation of the individual to the word. Lyric passages are saturated with the latent quality of dispossession characteristic of the postcolonial speaker, combined with what we might call the way of the artist: "I could have been a builder of mausoleums. I did not see a point in entombing names. They are words that remain in the end....To juggle with figures as if all words meant the same thing is a crime of conscience."
     True to the name of the book's publisher, Kona keeps the reader in a fugue state, entrancing us with his unflinching examination of a subjectivity participating in a marginalized discourse. Here, the words of a waking dream transcend the unidentified dreamer: "Does sleep have a patent over dreams? The immunity of my eyes to dust comes from living on polluted streets....You provide a language to the revolution. It is not your language."
--Sun Yung Shin, Rain Taxi

Kona?s streets have no names; they "refuse to be encapsulated in words." The street is "a voyeur." The writer's Hyderabadi streets, however, can be anywhere in the world. Nor is he preoccupied with giving the streets a body. Here is a key to the countless doors of the novel: "I must dilute the essences of my body in order to tell a story." This is exactly what Kona does. He dilutes the bodies of the streets to tell you about their souls....What cascades from his pen is only poetry: "I was the street that kissed the feet of boy and girl who walked upon it." The novel has hardly any characters in flesh and blood, let alone heroes and heroines. Thus, you cannot call it a novel in the conventional mould. It is not even a novel. But then, does the genre matter? Forget the genre and enjoy reading.
--M. Mukundan, India Today

An intense experience of prose poetry or possibly poetic philosophy. Much is Indian circular logic at work, which can be beautiful to behold. Some of Kona?s philosophy and word choices remind me of Rumi, the 13th-century mystic and poet whose work I admire so much.
--Jessica Powers, Newpages

Indolent, inflamed, political, perfumed, tactile and tragic, Prakash Kona's first novel Streets that Smell of Dying Roses is a hovering meditation on the dust of Hyderabad, the interior life of the street, poverty, sexuality, minglings of gender, and the power structures that attempt to make love and language into weapons. Written in the extraordinary language of a poet of India whose prose is sensitive to the effects of English as a colonizer's tongue, this series of vignettes forms a single vision of surpassing seriousness and beauty.

Streets that Smell of Dying Roses grows out of Prakash Kona's identification with alternate voices. His work, saturated by his awareness of the poverty of his country, is also informed by literary influences he has absorbed: among others, Marx, Dostoevsky, Gramsci, Pasolini, Genet, Saint Francis of Assisi, Derrida, Emma Goldman, and the Buddha.

About the author: Prakash Kona lives in Hyderabad, India. He completed his doctoral studies with a comparative study of Chomsky, Derrida and Wittgenstein at the University of Mississippi, Oxford, MS. He has recently returned to Hyderabad after a stint as assistant professor of English Literature and Humanities at Eastern Mediterranean University in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Prakash believes in, among other things, the power of alternate discourses and the ideal of a classless society. He is the author of two previous books of poetry published in Calcutta.

talk to us