“One thing does not exist: Oblivion”. The Poiesis of Everness and the Wildness of Art in Anita Desai’s “The Artist of Disappearance”

by Daniela Fargione

Anita Desai’s The Artist of Disappearance opens with the first line of “Everness” by Jorge Luis Borges to suggest that nothing can be forgotten except for what is not strong enough to become memory. If oblivion is the main theme of this collection, the eponymous story illustrates the need to preserve (mainly from forgetfulness) both cultural and natural artworks. The ethical role of the artist as transmitter of values, together with artistic travail as a tool of preservation are particularly evident in Desai’s reference to Nek Chand’s unauthorized “Rock Garden”. In this article I explore the literary representation of desecrated natural and cultural heritage, postcolonial India’s destruction of naturecultural biodiversity, the decentralization of the human, and the agency of elemental materiality.