Monday, November 11, 2013
The Snarkrunners of Bengal
THE HUNTING OF THE SNARK by Lewis Carroll, a graphic novel by this artist and explained here, page by page, panel by panel, squiggle by squiggle … right now we're in Fit the Seventh … the Banker, played by Karl Marx, will soon discover that a certain pesky specter haunting Europe is none other than the dreaded Hindustani Bandersnatch! …
We've arrived at the central conceit of this particular Fit of the Snark. The Banker, played here by the Eminent Continental Steamer, Karl Marx, is about to be assaulted by his nemesis, the Bandersnatch. You can see the latter's oddly mishapen hand clutching at the rotund Teuton's bloated ankle.
Karl Marx never visited the Old Delhi Railway Station, nor did the Admirable Carroll but we can be fairly certain that if they did, the general tenor of their surroundings would have appeared much as this artist has depicted them. The animal and mannequin headed bystanders, the bazaar atmosphere of narghila-puffing loafers, complete with a snake-charmer awakening the mysterious inhabitant of his basket, it's all there.
Perhaps the less-travelled reader will be taken aback by this local color but those of you who ever wandered into Old Delhi will heave an appreciative, paan-fumed sigh. It's all there, the latter will confirm, and the artist has done a slap-up job of capturing the ineffable, nonsensical air of the place.
In short, thanks to a little judicious visual interpolation and conflation by yours truly, the poet Carroll has done a superb job — despite himself — of conveying the air of a place where he had never been and probably never wished to be. And that is the very essence of hunting a Snark, a beast which conceals itself by cleverly non-existing wherever you are — you need to be where you aren't to pick up its ineffable trail.
To be where you cannot possibly be, that is the Snark Hunter's essential dilemma and you might as well get over it right now. It's not logical, Carrollian Nonsense, so go ahead and heave out your pathetic shriek of despair as you understand — too late! — that it's useless to fly!
Take a locally crosshatched scooter rickshaw instead, sahib, and above all, don't drink the water.