Shane's Reviews > A Madhouse in Goa and nine other stories (on Ben Antao's book, on GoodReads)

Skip to first unread message

Frederick Noronha

Apr 12, 2024, 10:21:32 AMApr 12

Shane's Reviews > A Madhouse in Goa and nine other stories

A Madhouse in Goa and nine other stories
Ben Antao (Goodreads Author)

Shane's review
Dec 03, 2012

really liked it

Ben Antao boldly captures the spirit of the people of Goa as they transition from a Portuguese colony to becoming a part of India, and then as they immigrate to lands beyond, such as Africa and Canada. Wherever they are, “Getting Goa out of the Goan” remains a difficult task, and their indomitable spirits (alcoholic or ghostly), lusts, foibles and religious obeisance stand out as unique markers.

Having read all his novels, I got the impression that these 10 short stories came out as part of Antao’s exploration of the background and characters in those earlier works and therefore are an essential complement to that oeuvre. He also presents the Goan reader, his prime audience, with a dual experience via a translation of the same stories into Konkani on the reverse side of the book.

The female psyche is explored in the stories “Maria Elena” and “Margarita.” The former is a prudish, scholarly colonial with a superiority attitude towards the locals and her former colonial masters, and yet she is inferior in her selection of love partners, among them, a Spanish waiter and her elderly uncle, both named Armando. Margarita, on the other hand, is the sultry wife of an expatriate, alone in Goa, and daringly exploring her sexuality without family around.

The male character, Antao’s natural strength, is portrayed in several dimensions: Jovino, the crooked playboy on the hunt for any “available” woman, married or otherwise; the antagonistic Goan immigrants in Canada who display their one-upmanship over each other at a house party; the amoral Jacinto, who is willing to offer the bank manager his wife as collateral for a loan; the career climber, Frank, who has to change his game once he gets to Canada, and the rich simpleton, Xavier, who has to suffer the ignominy of his community for being weak in bed and therefore separated from his attractive young wife.

The subtext is rich. Is there a sexual relationship between Father Tom and his favourite altar boy Mark, hinted to by the boy’s excessive washing of the priest’s hands during mass? Is Frank the job hopper seeing more than just career opportunities when he accepts his admin assistant Rachelle’s suggestion to pick up golf? Is Sebastian entering the madhouse never to leave (reminding me of the song Hotel California – "you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.") when the priest sends his taxi away?

The last two stories, “The Guardian Angel” and “The Curse,” may sound corny by western standards but they are important in highlighting the world of superstition, and the juxtaposition of heaven, hell and earth in the life of the Goan. Roman Catholicism—with its rosaries, novenas, masses, and otherworldly spirits—is indelibly woven into the heart and soul of the Goan, despite his lustful transgressions in life.

What also must be mentioned is the geography, food, transportation, ceremonies and landmarks of Goa that Antao richly layers throughout the stories.

This is a good masala of stories that plays out in tempos that range from a fado to a mando, with lots of colourful characters drawing for us a lifestyle frozen in time, one that has probably vanished today as India rapidly modernizes to join the league of First World nations, where everything is the same and nothing is interesting.

FN * +91-9822122436 * 784 Saligao 403511 Bardez Goa 
Reply all
Reply to author
0 new messages