Wed Jan 30 2008
Time Out Ratings<strong>Rating: </strong>5/5
The grim specter of political violence hangs over Hari Kunzru’s My Revolutions, and tempts readers to add it to the growing list of post-9/11 novels that parse the means and ends of terrorism. But Kunzru’s book, which shifts between a man’s staid suburban present and his radical London past, resists labels. Self-assured and without cumbersome references to the current political clime, My Revolutions is more than a voyeuristic peek into the mind of the terrorist: It is a compelling meditation on violence and the nature of terror itself.
The novel is the confession of Michael Frame—né Chris Carver—whose quiet middle age with wife and stepdaughter belies his agitprop younger years. As a student in the ’70s, Carver falls in with a radical anti-Vietnam group, and moves quickly from public demonstrations to bombings. When his conviction falters in the face of escalating carnage, Carver betrays his fellow revolutionaries and disappears. Guilt-ridden and politically unmoored, he descends into addiction and hiding, emerging years later as Michael Frame and slowly rejoining the ranks of the world. But when an acquaintance from the past reappears threatening to expose him, Frame must weather the revolution that brings Chris Carver back from the dead.
Kunzru has written a taut, urgent work. He is equally adept at capturing the vitriolic certainty of Carver the radical and the numbed regret of Frame the reformed man. It’s a testament to Kunzru’s dexterity that each side of this splintered whole speaks convincingly, even movingly. But the novel’s real achievement is to show that, despite the swell and ebb of political convictions, mere speech falters. The act of violence, durable and subsuming, is impossible to escape.