The Fallen Angels of Karnataka
by Hans M. Hirschi
Reviewed by Alina Oswald
[dropcap]O[/dropcap]ver the past three decades we’ve come to expect a certain kind of story from books covering—or even touching on—the subject of HIV/AIDS. Reads that dare to challenge these expectations are often considered too bold, or risk not being entirely understood or even appreciated. And yet, change is sometimes necessary. When it comes to AIDS-related literature, change can offer a new take on the way we look at and feel about this pandemic.
Hans M. Hirschi’s latest novel, The Fallen Angels of Karnataka, delivers this kind of necessary change, telling the story of a young man, Haakon, who lives in a quiet town, in the mountains of Norway, and dreams of traveling the world to find love, and adventure. Soon after he embarks on his journey, he discovers that the path to his dreams is often a winding road, at times seemingly impossible to travel.
The read stands out for many different reasons. The author doesn’t place HIV/AIDS center stage in his story. Rather, he includes it as a part of a more complex puzzle defining his characters and their life stories. And yet, HIV/AIDS is present throughout the read. It transcends space, taking readers on a journey around the world. It also transcends time, from the eighties, when AIDS used to be a feared death sentence, until today, defined, at least in part, by a present day epidemic.
Through it all, HIV/AIDS intertwines with love, loss, despair, disappointment, and also second chances. The characters in The Fallen Angels of Karnataka can choose to take their second chances…or not; second chances when it comes to life—not only surviving the disease, but also living a full life while living with HIV—and also when it comes to redemption or finding love and happiness.
The Fallen Angels of Karnataka is a story about traveling the world—not including the U.S. (the novel mentions the country’s travel ban for individuals living with HIV/AIDS; the ban was only recently lifted by President Obama). It is also a story that takes on issues such as poverty and the power of money, and child trafficking and abuse. Fallen Angels is an entertaining, eye-opening read that reshapes the way we look at HIV/AIDS, reminding us that AIDS is still a global pandemic, and also that it’s not the only, but rather one of the many issues we have to solve, still, in order to make the world a better place.
Alina Oswald is Arts Editor of A&U.