The Audacity of Survival is a memoir of the author’s debilitating illness and how his passion for his work helped him to heal.
Author Dhushiyantha Kuladeva was born in Malaysia and educated in Australia. Early in life, he discovered hand-woven rugs and became passionate about their history and artistry. His career as a rug merchant meant world travel, nightlife and general excess. Then, he was diagnosed with colon and bladder cancer at just 32 years old. This was more than a wake-up call, it was terrifying, especially given a family history of the disease. But surgery, chemotherapy and a few life-threatening complications didn’t keep Kuladeva from living as fully, and “opulently” as possible, traveling and working whenever he was well enough.
The book opens with 40 or so pages of introductions and commentary from family and friends reminiscing and singing his praises; this indicates the book may be somewhat of a thank you gift for those who stood by Kuladeva through his illness. As the story gets underway, the writing is jumbled and hard to follow in many places. The author writes, for example, about vacationing near Bali: “No matter how remote their physical surrounding [sic] appeared to be, I saw so much of creativity, and this made me realize how historically significant their existence meant to them, and this was far more than a shared ideology.”
Hyperbole also gets in the way of readers making an emotional connection with the story. An earlier passage after his surgery, for example, compares it to simultaneously reaching base camp at Mount Everest and crossing the Rubicon.
When treatment leaves him feeling depleted, Kuladeva goes back to work and his precious rugs, until he has a falling out with coworkers that’s never completely explained.
Such voids, amidst other flaws, make The Audacity of Survival an often-frustrating read, even as Kuladeva’s recovery is most certainly a triumphant achievement.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.