By Madhurima Duttagupta
Even as I continue to defend myself as an utterly straightforward person, barring the simplest complexities necessary for any reasonably reflective woman brought up in today’s quasi-modern atmosphere, I do acknowledge my unfaltering admiration for the seemingly unending sentences in literature and in one’s own writing. It is but just another style, equally honest and unadulterated as any other piece of art, requiring a skill completely linked to one’s love for vivid descriptions and spirit of wonderment while toying with words and testing their potency, each time defying the rules that govern the parts and figures of speech. Of course, this is all done while bearing in mind the insane amount of caution, craft and control one needs to exercise over the language.
A few months ago I received a message from a childhood friend who had just read one of my writings, and who happens to be a wonderful writer himself. The message read –
“I really liked the long sentences, like pulling on a pizza slice and watching the mozzarella strands stretch out, wondering how far you can get from the box while being impatient about biting into your very own piece of the pie.”
Allegedly among the very few in my generation anywhere across the globe, I am proudly guilty of this somewhat sadistic trait of indulging in complex long sentences as a writer, and I am (wishfully) tempted to use the more popular Charles Dickens’ style of writing as a reference point to rest my case on. A signature-style Dickens’ opener that typically consists of around 150 words is invariably made of a single sentence! And mind you, there are several reasons in that sole paragraph that could send you looking for a dictionary; something seldom referred to these days.
Speaking of complex and lengthy sentences, my mind zealously scrolls through a list of prolific writers like Virginia Woolf, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Sylvia Plath, and many others, who mastered the art of weaving intricately detailed and severely honest observations and ideologies into uninhibited sentences that often defy and even challenge the common sensibilities of its reader. The latter though, like an enthusiastic tourist exploring the maze-like streets of Venice, treads with as much excitement as caution as he savours the joys of getting lost even as he enjoys the alluring challenges of unraveling the unknown.
Even as a young girl, it gave me immense pleasure to understand and appreciate the humour or pathos that those adjectives and adverbs so effortlessly conveyed along with the meaning and mood as they loyally guarded and adorned every noun and verb and lent more life into every character and scene. And as I delved deeper and deeper into the layers of meanings that those seemingly unending sentences carried, I learned how much they reflected my own competence, ineptitude, experiences, and perceptions.
I have, on several occasions, tried to track the reason that might have drawn me towards complex sentences or even concepts and ideologies like those found in Virginia Woolf’s writings or Bertrand Russell’s essays. Was it the writers I followed? Unfortunately, this logic would barely throw any light on my research since I was equally drawn towards the works of writers like Satyajit Ray, Anita Desai, Roald Dahl, Sukumar Ray, Ruskin Bond, Enid Blyton, Ernest Hemingway, among an endless list of prolific writers whose works rested upon the element of soothing simplicity.
George Orwell, another word-wizard, could skillfully and almost magically craft an essay on a seemingly mundane topic like ‘how to make a perfect cup of tea’ using the simplest sentences and yet it remains so profoundly memorable and deeply engrained in my heart. In his essays, Orwell makes his writing style the sole protagonist, which the plot follows like a dutiful and obedient student.