Book Review: The Archivist

The Archivist by Nony Singh

The Archivist by Nony Singh

A secret becomes a secret, once it is shared. When shared repeatedly, it becomes a fact. With time, a fact transforms into a story. And if the story finds itself on the pages of a book, it evolves into a memory. Often, sooner or later, memory slips into oblivion. However, The Archivist defies this oblivion and completes its journey—the story gives way to memory and memory to consciousness—you hold the book and you find her tickling your palms. In your mind, you keep building a museum of these encounters, until you are on the last page. You look back, only to realise that you have built something greater than a museum; an invisible city where your many encounters with Nony Singh reside, away from the cynicism of an external gaze.

A treasure chest of family photos, The Archivist effortlessly transcends its form into the unguarded realm of memories and chance. The mother of photographer and bookmaker Dayanita Singh, Nony Singh couples the love of a mother with the intuitiveness of an artist to ensure that any comparison between the journeys of her daughters is rendered futile. Defeated, one ends up being a part of both their stories, without having to choose between the two.

Simultaneously with The Archivist, I was reading W Somerset Maugham’s novel, The Moon and the Sixpence, where the protagonist Charles Strickland, a stockbroker, abandons his family to live as a painter. His singular obsession destroys many lives, including his own, but he achieves unparalleled greatness in his art. The book is a vivid portrayal of the mentality of a genius. The Archivist is also a portrayal of genius, but in strict contrast to that of Strickland. Nony has lived a life of compassion and love. Nony’s journey began where Strickland’s ended—an artist who made every story, every memory and every role she played, her own. Nony’s life is her canvas, her photograph… her great masterpiece.

Chandan Gomes

Title: The Archivist
Author: Nony Singh
ISBN: 978-93-51268-59-8
Publisher: Dreamvilla Productions
Price: Rs. 1500

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