Lord of the Senses (Stories)
By: Vikram Kolmannskog
Genre/Themes:LGBTQ/Gay, Fiction, Drama, Short Stories, Religion, Multi-Culture, Anti-Classism (18+)
Release Date: September 6, 2019
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Synopsis: A groundbreaking collection of frank, provocative short stories from gay Indian-Norwegian Vikram Kolmannskog, published to coincide with the anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexuality in India.
From the forest-fringed suburbs of Oslo to the bustling heart of Bombay; from the timeless banks of the Ganges to the never-closing nightclubs of Berlin, Lord of the Senses captures a headily contemporary sense of what it is to be queer, cosmopolitan, spiritual and sexual.
~~With a combination of an extended month of unanticipated work, and several hiccups at the beginning of the school year for my cousin—this post is well overdue.~~
In terms of context and themes, Lord of the Senses does not hold any punches. The stories are straightforward, in your face, honest, revealing, open and unapologetic with a lot of the erotic material the stories cover. That’s not to say that the book needs to be apologetic or reined in. Moreover, since the stories build on this sense of caution, due to shameful (and dangerous) social judgment, the secretive means of being affectionate with their partners and the openness of these stories seem to counteract those barriers.
Trying to condense all of the themes and genres we can pick up in this book was a challenge as I did not want to spiral down any mythological or fantasy rabbit-holes, but Shredded Dates and Raven Leela were two of the main contenders for my notes on that.
And I love the simplistic bittersweetness we get from the shorts Raja, Nanima and Roger Toilet, Growing Up Queer, The Sunset Point, and The Sacred Heart. Moments and pieces from each of those just seemed to linger with me the longest as I moved on to the next story.
Lord of the Senses should not be viewed as a book entirely made up of short stories that have physically erotic scenes—even though it does—but rather, a collection of stories intent on invoking a connection of each character to the reader. Hence, another aspect I liked in this book was the different levels of (sometimes anonymous) intimacy; emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
The writer takes us on these brief journeys with each character/tale conveying these strong, open, and liberatingly potent perspectives. Some of which came directly from the deeply obscured minds of the characters, that as an outsider, I felt like I had been intruding on their private thoughts.
While organizing my thoughts to mention how the micro-detailed descriptions interlaced with the intricate sensory markers, and scenery specifics of these stories help to transport your mind to some of these places—I ended up reading this great interview with Vikram.
He brings up points on how some of the pieces in Lord of the Senses have developed from drafts over the years and through the course of the movement for equal rights for the LGBTQ community in India. In the interview, Vikram also speaks about his desire to not only have his stories tether connections to the LGBTQ community within India. But also, to straight individuals outside of the community with ties to India as a means of highlighting, as I understood it, just how similar we all are at our core.
Lord of the Senses is the first book I have read that centered on LGBTQ characters of Indian-descent, so I enjoyed the subtle ways in which this book made me think and learn about details I had not considered before. Such as the way the stories depict and explore the complex layers of classism and religion among the characters. On top of the already difficult and challenging means of forming safe, compatible, and lasting connections with potential partners within the community.
At the same time, one of the points Lord of the Senses conveyed that I enjoyed the most was the difference in the dynamics of the relationships we see in these stories. From romantic to familial, to the inner-personal thoughts and ideas on identity. Likewise, the notes about the Gods, and the consistently whimsical underlying trail of fantasies that evolve and take shape, here-and-there, throughout the book.
On a personal note, short stories always leave me in this state of trepidation as I fear the good times and happiness will inevitably end, and while reading some of the shorts in Lord of the Senses, I felt this feeling magnified. Maybe it was a mixture of the way some of them dipped their toes into those fantasies and the overly self-aware tone of each protagonist. Or it had something to do with how unpredictable, yet in-the-moment, each piece was. I felt this effect grounded and moved me through each scene with the characters as the stories progressed.
By the time I finished the book, I felt I had traveled through a vast labyrinth of this blended contemporary and traditional seesawing network, which could potentially reflect present-day India’s Queer community—or not at all. Regardless, this book has piqued an interest to seek out other books centered on the LGBTQ community in India and I hope it’s piqued an interest in you too.
As I’m sure the collection and characters from Lord of the Senses will have readers shocked, moved, smiling, enthralled, perplexed, gutted, intrigued, empathetic—but overall captivated by their stories and perspectives.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Vikram Kolmannskog is a gay man of dual heritage, born to an Indian mother and a Norwegian father. He is based in Oslo, Norway, but considers both India and Norway his homes. He is also the author of Poetry Is Possible: Selected Poems, The Empty Chair: Tales from Gestalt Therapy, and Taste and See: A Queer Prayer.
It was a thrill to read this book and share my thoughts on it with all of you.
Until the next post,
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