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Looking in the long glass, Lear cant believe he has become so old there hardly seems to have been the time to grow so old. Sixty-one. He finds his own appearance absurd: the discrepancy between his physique (lumbering) and his manner (timid). Lear has learned to bear his lack of beauty; he no longer seeks physical love. Through his sensibility and charm, he is sought after as a friend. Still he would rather have the deeper involvements of loving another and being loved. His sister had loved him, of that he is certain, but not his parents.
When he takes his bath, he is disheartened by the clumsiness of his body. A wounded octopus. He sometimes draws himself in letters to friends, emphasizing the globularity of his torso and the inadequacy of his legs. In these drawings his spectacles are always springing from his nose and sometimes he draws them with pupils like a second pair of eyes. In one drawing he sits, with his arms flung out behind him, on the shoulders of a runaway elephant...
Lear is ashamed of his epileptic condition, the demon that has pursued him all his life, and he keeps it secret with the help of his Albanian servant, Giorgio. The pair journey through Bengal to Calcutta where the landscape painter and Nonsense poet has been invited to pass the Christmas holiday with the Viceroy, Lord Northbrook. The tropical landscape seems both alien and hauntingly familiar. The people Lear meets are almost as otherworldly as he is: a feverish hotelier, a scholarly Raja, a giant minstrel.
When they reach Calcutta and find themselves among the upper social strata of the Raj, even among old friends, Lear cannot relax for a moment the demon could ruin everything.
Bengal, The Cold Weather, 1873 is funny, sad and disturbing in equal measure, its atmosphere comic and Gothic.
This is the first novel by the English travel writer Joe Roberts who wrote about Calcutta in the best-selling Abduls Taxi to Kalighat; since then he has travelled widely in West Bengal and Bangladesh, using his observations to inform this novel.
About the Author
Joe Roberts was born in Bath, in the south-west of England, where he still lives. He has travelled widely and written about his travels in three books (Three-Quarters Of A Footprint, The House of Blue Lights and Abduls Taxi to Kalighat) and countless newspaper and magazine articles in the United Kingdom, India and the United States. Joe Roberts is also a lecturer in the School of Humanities and Creative Industries at Bath Spa University. He first visited India in 1990 and has returned there as often as possible since. He is married, with three sons. Bengal, The Cold Weather, 1873 is his first novel.