Book Review: Ignorance by Milan Kundera (2000)

41gljwkfwil-_sy344_bo1204203200_Ignorance by Milan Kundera
My Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

“The more vast the amount of time we’ve left behind us, the more irresistible is the voice calling us to return to it.”

In this poignant recount of two people, forced to bid goodbye to their native country, in the diminished, yet flickering hope of finding a brighter tomorrow in an alien land, almost 20 years ago from the present, unravels a story replete with more questions than answers. Irena and Josef have found comfortable refuge in their respective abodes at Paris and Copenhagen and have led a fairly decent life, battling through tags of émigrés and periods of insuperable doubts. Irena has outlived her husband, Martin, reared her two daughters dutifully and seems comfortably living her life with her partner, Gustaf , many years her senior. Josef, after leading a few years of blissful matrimony with his Danish wife, had to surrender her to death which clutched the hands of a severe disease to bring down the curtains. Continue reading

Book Review: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman (2017)

9780393609097_p0_v5_s192x300Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
My Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

[Originally appeared here]

Of all the fiction in this world, I find the ones rooted in mythology the most enticing; not because there is an element of otherworldly magic in them but because somewhere deep down, a bewitching veil of truth hovers above them. The characters we read of, the prowess we fall to, the betrayals we appal at and the spells we dive in, have all a debatable root which almost like our very own samudra manthan of the Hindu mythology, can be twisted this way or that. As most myths are made lesser of primary evidence and more of a secondary interpretation, there is a hidden little room of sorts from where you can see as far as you can, like Heimdall in this book. He is a kind of parallel to Mahabharata’s Sanjaya. Continue reading

Book Review: The Vegetarian by Han Kang (2007)

51bdxkezzol-_sx325_bo1204203200_The Vegetarian by Han Kang
My Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

[Originally appeared here (with edits)]

Many of us, if stretch a little, can recall the question that appeared in our science textbooks in primary schools: choose the living and non-living thing from the following options. While we conveniently tagged all humans, animals and plants to the ‘living’ side, everything else chugged to the ‘non living’ side. But did the divide stand the test of time?

Han Kang pushes this very divide to scintillating heights, reducing the line into a mere fissure, facilitating travel from one living form to another. So, we meet a young Yeong-hye in South Korea, a compliant wife in a patriarchal society, suddenly renouncing meat at the behest of a curious dream. Continue reading

Book Review: A Heart So White by Javier Marías (1992)

heart-so-whiteA Heart So White by Javier Marías
My Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

What do I wish to hear? About the present? The past, may be? Or a little tune on the waiting future? Do I wish to eavesdrop on my best friend to find out what she thinks of me when I am not around? Am I tempted to open a letter addressed to my partner with no overt allusion to my name or salutation on the envelope? Am I inclined to return to an unknown place just so I can hear a random conversation complete in my mind? Do I wish to pause a few seconds longer at the traffic so I can hear the banter in the adjacent car? Am I willing to take that pain? Am I willing to take that time? Am I willing to listen?

Javier Marías’ tale is the silence that bids its time between two words, it is the unscrupulous clock that ticks for one and cheats another, it is the nebulous doubt that lies suspended between the free and the bound. Continue reading

Book Review: A Personal Anthology by Jorge Luis Borges (1961)

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A Personal Anthology by Jorge Luis Borges

My Rating: 5 of 5 Stars

 

Borges and I

I:

Borges:

I:

Borges:

I: Do you like silence?

Borges: What silence?

I: The one you are filling up this space with right now?

Borges: This, is my ground. Contemplation, not Silence, my weapon. Thought, my battle.

I: A battle you are at advantage to withdraw from any time?

Borges (with a pre-emptive look): Is that so? Help me then, young lady.

I: Help you? With what?

Borges: With withdrawing from this battle.

I: Well, you are the originator. You should be the one to end it.

Borges (at once, hysterical): Oh I wish I was! How I wish I was! (settles back into sombreness)

Continue reading

Book Review: Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin (1956)

38462Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
My Rating: 5 of 5 Stars

‘Those who love from a distance are not seduced by lust.’

Thus crooned a honeyed, longing voice I happened to hear two days back. Perhaps the essence was expressed before; in manifold arrangement of words, in wavy placement of multiple strings. But sometimes, something utterly simple, almost omnipresent, comes and strikes us somewhere with a profundity which all at once, makes it new, unparalleled, uncompressing in nature.

Giovanni comes as such a maddening gust of life. A gust, I say, because he doesn’t know restraint. He has never met the mild, is unaware of modesty. And when this rolling ball of enthusiasm chances upon David, the quintessential tranquil land of many secrets and desires, he gushes all over him like a pregnant cumulus cloud, bursting open at last. Continue reading

Book Review: Autumn by Ali Smith (2016)

28446947Autumn by Ali Smith
My Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

 

[Originally appeared here.] 

She has done it in the past; and she does it again here. Ali Smith’s fixation on, and a visible mastery of, story-telling across timeline, in no particular order, shines in this experimental, breezy novel as well.

Centred around the 30-something Elisabeth Demand and her centenarian friend, Daniel Gluck, Autumn is a long, vibrant, occasionally melancholic, sometimes acerbic but entirely warming season of their friendship. Elisabeth, with a ‘s’, is a history of art professor, whose interest was originally kindled in the subject she currently teaches, by the liberal hours she had spent with Daniel, her then-babysitter. As a genial neighbour to Elisabeth’s busy mother, he had agreed to be her caretaker, and in turn, had relished the artistic discourse with the little Ms. Demand. Fast forward a good twenty plus years and Daniel is now a patient in a day care, under the constant vigil of nurses and in wait of, perhaps, the same palliative cacophony of Elisabeth’s inquisitive murmur. Continue reading

Book Review: Nazi Literature in the Americas by Roberto Bolaño (1996)

517abx9863l-_sy344_bo1204203200_Nazi Literature in the Americas by Roberto Bolaño                                          My Rating: 4 of 5 stars 

Somewhere in the midst of this book, Bolaño spells out in explicit words what I suspected to be the undercurrents from the word go:

….a novel about order and disorder, justice and injustice, God and the Void.

So there I was – witnessing a swashbuckling cavalcade of ideas, overflowing from the chariot of Bolaño’s mind; irreducible owing to their weight, hypnotic owing to their flight.

My first Bolaño could not have been a better book. 30 essays written as biographies of fictitious authors, who lived under the tremulous skies of Nazism and dabbled in poetry and science fiction, magical realism and political sagas, span the length and breadth of the written word; presenting an inclusive, although explosive, picture of Bolaño’s thoughts that bodes well with establishing acquaintance with his ideologies too, perhaps. Continue reading

Book Review: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (2016)

41jfvzl72yl-_sx336_bo1204203200_When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi                                                             My Rating: 5 of 5 Stars

[Originally appeared here (with edits)]

It has been a few days since I turned the last page of this book. But the numbness reappears the instant I allow the pages to unfold in my memory. The silence which suddenly parts to let these memories seep in and cloud my vision, fills the air. Even as I grapple to make ‘sense’ of what it means to lose a dear, dear one, I, ironically, already know that very‘sense’ to be ephemeral. No part of my being accepts death; they all adjust the lens to view it as a part of life.

Paul was a neurosurgeon by profession, and passion, at Stanford University School of Medicine. Standing at the threshold of seeing his dream come true, one built on a decade and half of relentless academic pursuits and tireless hours at residency, he witnesses a cruel twist of destiny; he is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, just months before his scheduled graduation. Continue reading

Book Review: Blindness by José Saramago (1995)

51cfnhz5p7lBlindness by José Saramago
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars

 

Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.

What an irony that a book which holds, loss, filth, loot, stomp, cruelty, disorientation, putrefaction, injustice, helplessness, murder, rape, misery, nakedness, abandonment, death and unimaginable suffering in its bosom, left me with a climactic emotion of beauty, overwhelming beauty. Beauty of what you ask? That of resilience, that of courage, that of insurmountable human spirit which perhaps hits its zenith when it is brutally pinned to the bottommost pit.

Blindness has a chilling plot – a city where people start going blind, without a warning or faintest history. Continue reading