The Prevalence of Witches by Aubrey Menen

A quiet winter day with a slight chill in the air and a good book is all you need to get you through the day. Something satirical, something funny or for that matter something simply written and the book I have just finished reading has all of these components.

The Prevalence of Witches by Aubrey Menen is a rare read. I wasn’t aware of the author till Penguin India graciously sent me their Classic Menen consisting of four great reads – the first being “The Prevalence of Witches”.

The Prevalence of Witches is not your normal run-of-the-mill novel. I was instantly reminded of Saki on reading this book. The book is set in an imaginary place called Limbo (interesting play on words considering what the author is trying to tell us) whose residents do not believe science or technology and are essentially fools – who believe more in witches and mumbo-jumbo than what exists in front of their eyes. Limbo is modeled after an Indian village – dusty, forgotten, savage place where people’s superstitions get the better of them.

This story is set in a backward district of India where witchcraft thrives. The efforts of the political agent and the education officer, aided by a phony occidental “swami”, to secure true justice for a village headman on a charge of murder is the basis for this book.

The book is a satire and it spells F-U-N-N-Y in the most not so amusing manner. The Prevalence of Witches is consistently mindful of the hypocrisies of those who think of themselves as modern or progressive, and the often-dubious building blocks of what we call civilization. It is a must-read for those who need to be reminded of what good fiction and great writing stand for. I highly recommend it for its quick and biting prose.

Prevalence of Witches, The; Classic Menen; Penguin India; Rs. 399

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