Le Hunte, Bem 1964-

views updated

Le HUNTE, Bem 1964-

PERSONAL: Born 1964, in Calcutta, India; married; children: two sons. Education: Attended Cambridge University.

ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, HarperSan-Francisco, 353 Sacramento St., Suite 500, San Francisco, CA 94111-3653.

CAREER: Copywriter, novelist. Doordarshan (India's national television station), scriptwriter, 1980s.

AWARDS, HONORS: New South Wales (Australia) Writer's fellowship, 2001.


The Seduction of Silence, Penguin Books (New York, NY), 2001.

SIDELIGHTS: Bem Le Hunte was the last of four children born to an Indian mother and an English father. She grew up in both India and London, England, and as an adult, she lived in Australia and the United States. Her eldest brother was born in England while her parents were both studying English literature at Cambridge. Her twin sisters were born in Bombay, India, and she was born in Calcutta where her parents worked for her grandfather, who was in the iron ore business. The family relocated to the remote village of Orissa, where her mother founded a school. The family was wealthy, and the children were waited on by servants who satisfied their every whim.

Le Hunte's father loved India but missed England, however, and he took his family to London. The children helped with the housework, as there were no servants. They suffered discrimination and were called "Pakis" and other racist names. Once a year Le Hunte's grandparents paid for the family to visit India, and for six weeks the children would again be treated like royalty.

Le Hunte was a successful copywriter before she turned to fiction. She also wrote scripts for Doordarshan, India's national television station, most of which were for short documentaries on women's issues for UNICEF. She emigrated from London to Sydney, Australia, and was pregnant with her second child when she traveled to the foothills of the Himalayas to write her first book, The Seduction of Silence.

It is in these mountains that the characters Aakash and his son, Rain, search for escape and enlightenment in Le Hunte's novel, which begins with the soul of Aakash being reincarnated through his descendent, a baby girl born four generations into the future. In the first of the five parts, the story reaches back to the time when, as a young man, Aakash runs Prakriti, an ayurvedic Himalayan farm. He enters an unfortunate marriage to the shrewish Jyoti Ma, and eventually he, Rain, and a servant boy Rain befriended move into the forests to dedicate their lives to meditation.

Persimmon reviewer Eve Kushner noted that in the first part, "Le Hunte sprinkles generous amounts of Hindu philosophy" and said it "frequently feels like an allegory or a fairy tale; bountiful Prakriti seems archetypally perfect (Le Hunte compares it to Eden), and the primeval forest teems with snakes and gurus who possess unearthly powers. It isn't always clear why Le Hunte employs mythical tones here, but it seems as though she wants to set Prakriti apart in time and space." However, Kushner continued, "If part one is about paradise, the remainder of the book is about paradise lost."

The family members of the three middle generations are women who struggle through difficult relationships and marriages, including one that is Indian-English, reflecting the political failure of the relationship between England and India that exists during those decades. The story reflects the pain family members inflict on each other and how history often repeats itself.

"Nevertheless," wrote Kushner, "[Le Hunte] manages to keep the tone so buoyant—with ample humor, skillful foreshadowing, and some wonderful phrasing—that this lengthy tale never loses energy." Anderson Tepper wrote in the New York Times Book Review that Le Hunte's novel "is so full of the airy language of spiritual gurus that it practically levitates on is own."

Le Hunte told Todd Alexander in an interview for Dymocks that she meditates twice a day and said she is "certain that helps to make inspiration more accessible." She also said that "the spirituality in The Seduction of Silence is the impulse that dictated the narrative. For me, a spiritual life is a necessary partner for material existence—it gives meaning and depth. Yes, I do think that modern cultures tend to neglect this part of their histories. In our culture, there's an apartheid between spirituality and material life. Yet there's a huge interest in spirituality, as a kind of hankering for something that we've been denied. Something we all know we need if we're going to feel complete and fulfilled."

A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote that "the magic realist touches scattered throughout the novel have won Le Hunte comparisons to Isabel Allende and Salman Rushdie, but Le Hunte has a snappy, more commercial style." Booklist's Deborah Donovan found The Seduction of Silence "a glorious melange of family saga, social commentary, and treatise on spirituality," and a Kirkus Reviews contributor called it "a splendidly conceived saga weaving the history of an entire culture into the portrait of one family: vivid, compelling, utterly fascinating."



Booklist, January 1, 2003, Deborah Donovan, review of The Seduction of Silence, p. 848.

Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 2002, review of TheSeduction of Silence, p. 1557.

New York Times Book Review, January 26, 2003, Anderson Tepper, review of The Seduction of Silence, p. 24.

Publishers Weekly, December 2, 2002, review of TheSeduction of Silence, p. 35.


Bem Le Hunte Home Page,http://www.harpercollins.com.au/bemlehunte/ (October 2, 2003).

DesiJournal: Chronicles of the Indian Diaspora,http://www.desijournal.com/ (July 8, 2003), Poornima Apte, review of The Seduction of Silence.

Dymocks,http://www.dymocks.com.au/ (October 2, 2003), Todd Alexander, interview with Le Hunte.

Persimmon,http://www.persimmon-mag.com/ (spring, 2003), Eve Kushner, review of The Seduction of Silence.*

About this article

Le Hunte, Bem 1964-

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article