Happy Birthday, Fyodor Dostoevsky!

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Yes, I know it was yesterday. But like your books, I suppose, you too wouldn’t care for worldly conventions; conventions like wishing someone on their birthday. So, I have taken the liberty, and without feeling guilty, of wishing you birthday a day late. Just why though? You can’t hear me. You can’t see me. Heck, you don’t even know I exist! Then why?

Well, because I can hear you. Continue reading

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Book Review: Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami (2018)

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Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami
My Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars

If I close my eyes tight, what shall I see? If I shut out all the noises I can sense, what shall I hear? If I shun the world completely, what shall I feel? A dark nothingness? Or a blinding muddle of overlapping images? Heartbeats of silence, may be? Or forewarnings of myriad nature? Forgotten memories, perhaps? Or Unforeseen happenstances?

The options are many but the answers, scare. And a protagonist embroiled in a similar dilemma propels this part real, part supernatural tale of phantasmagorical dimensions.

Continue reading

Book Review: All The Lives We Never Lived by Anuradha Roy (2018)

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All the Lives We Never Lived by Anuradha Roy
My Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

Letters. Those intimate little bits of paper and ink that hold many worlds, some known and some hidden. A best friend who takes all our secrets and refrains from being judgemental. Also, an enemy who slays every icy vein and renders us defenceless. A lap that cradles at night to keep our insomnia at bay. Also, a gust that denudes our pretences and tramps on our breathing. Of many dimensions and flights – of success and euphoria, of defeat and grief, of desire and melancholy, of murder and regret, of timidity and guilt, of opportunities and lost chances – are letters.

And they emerge as the only thread binding a mother and her son, separated not just by miles but times too. Continue reading

Book Review: Less by Andrew Sean Greer (2018)

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Less by Andrew Sean Greer
My Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

How long can you walk in another person’s shoes without feeling the pinch of it? A few minutes? Some hours perhaps? Or a couple of days? Now, what if I tell you it doesn’t hurt to walk in those shoes? Will you choose to walk longer in them? Will you come to wear the skin a little tighter? Will you understand its soft corners a little better? Will you accept its rough edges a little easily?

In Arthur Less’, I did.

No, I am neither a failed author nor have I been in a relationship with a celebrity. Also, I haven’t been left in the lurch by a partner of nine years. Oh, and I haven’t received the news of my ex getting married while pushing fifty, yet.  Continue reading

Book Review: Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini

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Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini
My Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

[Originally appeared here: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/l…]

For long now, Khaled Hosseini has cemented his position as an author who imparts a subtle yet searing voice to the victims of war, riots and displacement, especially in the Islamic countries. We have clutched our hearts and have sobbed silent tears at his Hassan’s redemption and Mariam’s journey.  And Sea Prayer, at its core, harbors a similar cry for life.

A father with his young son, Marwan pressed to his chest, is awaiting a ship that shall take them away from home. Because their home, Syria, has been bombed and violated beyond dignity, the residents must abandon it for dear life. Continue reading

Book Review: Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski (1982)

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Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski
My Rating: 2 of 5 Stars

Ham on Rye is flanked by sauces of happenstance and its delectability depends on the preferences of one’s reading tongue. Mine, for one, could not bear its sour, unsavoury ingredients.

In this bildungsroman, which is semi-autobiographical too, the protagonist, Henry Chinaski loads his bag of dilemma and expletives, and throws its weight around with nonchalance and non-disruptive disdain. The backdrop of the Great Depression, fuels the negative sentiments and Chinaski finds its shackles, throughout the novel, difficult to break away from.

This was my first Bukowski and it didn’t go entirely uneventful, thankfully. Continue reading

Poem Review: मधुशाला by Harivansh Rai Bachchan(1935)

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मधुशाला by Harivansh Rai Bachchan
My Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

यह १३५ बेशकीमती रुबाइयाँ मात्र किसी मधुशाला के लिए एक क़सीदा नहीं है अपितु गाती हुई रूपक है ज़िन्दगी की , वह ज़िन्दगी जो उजाले और अंधेरे से, न्यायनीति और भेदभाव से ,आलिंगन और अभाव से परिपूर्ण है |

अपनी कलम को नीली स्याही में डुबाये, हमारा दीवाना सा वर्णनकर्ता लिखता चला जाता है; लिखता है गुनगुनाते हुए जीवन की नीरसता की गाथा, जिसमे उसके विचारों की टोकरी को मात्र एक हाला का प्याला, किसी मधुशाला का निवाला, संभाले हुए हैं | एक छेड़ती हुई प्रेमिका की तरह मधुशाला शानदार अमृत-पान के वादे के साथ आकर्षित करती है लेकिन उन मदिराओं को ज़रा दूर सिरका देती है; शायद मिलन से पूर्व उस दीवाने के पैरों की स्थिरता की अपेक्षा में | लेकिन जीवन की शासकों के नीति के विपरीत, यहां लोगों के अपने सपनों के पीछे भागने पर कोई पाबंदी नहीं है | जाति, संस्कृति, धर्म और स्थिति भुला कर , मधुशाला सभी को समा लेती है और इसी अदा से उसका आकर्षण बहुत गुना बढ़ जाता है | हमारा वर्णनकर्ता यह मानता हैं की हवा में उड़ी कोई स्वाश भी उन्मादता से अनछुई नहीं है ; अरे वह शहीद भी तो आज़ादी के नशे में जिया करता है ! Continue reading

Book Review: My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises by Fredrik Backman (2013)

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My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises by Fredrik Backman
My Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

[Originally appeared here (with edits): http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/li…]

Ah! What have I read here? A delightful take on life? A sensitive take on grief? A wise take on relationships? Perhaps all of it. And more.

At the centre of this book, is an almost-eight-years old, Elsa. When her best (and quirky) friend, her grandmother, leaves her a series of letters upon her death to be delivered to their intended receivers, she sets onto a thrilling journey of discoveries. What was the primary purpose of the letters you ask? You guessed it. To say sorry.

Among Elsa’s neighbours are eccentric chatterboxes and drunken workaholics, weird hounds and mysterious lurkers. Her mother is her punch-bag over teen issues (if Elsa can be called a teen that is) and her Dad is her word collector who can stand everything except a grammatically incorrect sentence. Well, mostly. Continue reading

Book Review: Commonwealth by Ann Patchett (2016)

Commonwealth

[Originally appeared here (with edits)]

How does a car-ride feel across a long, stretched road? Bumpy? Restless? Exhilarating? Tiresome? While a whole bunch of elements might prompt us to arrive at one or many words, there is, perhaps, a single word that can bring the responses of most of us onto a common plain – unforgettable.

Ann Patchett takes us on one such ride. In Commonwealth, she takes two families and follows their six children across a time span of 50 odd years.

Continue reading

Book Review: Confessions of a Mask by Yukio Mishima (1958)

Yukio Mishima: The Turbulent Life Of A Conflicted Martyr

Confessions of a Mask by Yukio Mishima
My Rating: 3 of 5 Stars

Confession , as a word, has a strong connotation – prelude to its utterance is a hesitation, and that hesitation alone, is sufficient to engulf the confession-maker with an odour that reeks of both delay and guilt.

But Mishima’s protagonist can take the liberty, because he is behind a mask. His frail body that fails him in school, denigrating his boyish flavour to a handful of jokes, holds up its masculine remnants at nights, because he is behind a mask. His impressionable juvenile mind that refuses to be grinded between familial ties bordering on love and authority, surrenders to erotic one-upmanship of images on discarded and hidden magazines, because he is behind a mask. His hasty, dubious shot at making a girlfriend and heaping her with a partner’s touch despite wriggling out of it mentally (and physically), continues to go unreprimanded because he is behind a mask. His unexpected but secretly nurtured corporeal attraction towards his senior, Omi, survives the onslaught of conservatives, because he is behind a mask.

It is not pain that hovers about his straining chest, his tense abdomen, his slightly contorted hips, but some flicker of melancholy pleasure like music. Were it not for the arrows with their shafts deeply sunk into his left armpit and right side, he would seem more a Roman athlete resting from fatigue, leaning against a dusky tree in a garden.
I had a presentiment then that there is in this world a kind of desire like stinging pain. Looking up at that dirty youth, I was choked by desire, thinking, “I want to change into him,” thinking, “I want to be him.

But masks fall, and with them, fall something that cannot be defined in lumps of clay or words.

Mishima’s tale is an exploration undertaken by a young man into the lanes of his sexuality. This journey turns daunting because during it, he encounters, not just his homosexuality, but his homosexuality hanging as an ugly prop over the backdrop of a war-ravaged land in WWII. Part-autobiographical, part-allegoric, Mishima rips open his heart to bare his innermost battles and jumps in its midst as the lone wager from both sides. Even in his salacious exploits, one can notice his disdain towards the outcomes of war.

I was the only one who did not have genuine lung trouble. I was pretending instead that I had a bad heart. In those days, one had to have either medals or illness.

His initiation of the reader into the Tokyo of 1940s is authentic, and unenthused, and thus, not without merit. The beauty captured in his language dances to its master’s intent, which is, yet again, expectedly tainted with hues of melancholy and unfulfillment.

And later, as I looked down at the city from a window of the elevated train, the snow scene, not yet having caught the rays of the rising sun, looked more gloomy than beautiful. The snow seemed like a dirty bandage hiding the open wounds of the city, hiding those irregular gashes of haphazard streets and tortuous alleys, courtyards and occasional plots of bare ground, that form the only beauty to be found in the panorama of our cities.

In his account of beauty and love, affection and bravery, friendship and isolation, lies a seething pain that is not hungry for an antidote; instead, it breathes on its charred body, heavily and without restraint. The narrative turns, in time, raucously masochistic, and this is precisely where I leave his company for my errands. His obsessive relationship with the nature of his confessions, which emerge dyed in dark, dingy varnishes, run like a treasured vinyl but repeated runs rob it of its haunting melody and its crushing palpability. But one doesn’t discard such souvenirs because….

The moment for parting stood waiting eagerly. A vulgar blues was being kneaded into time.

Read all my reviews.

 

[Image courtesy culturetrip.com]