Book Review: The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy (2017)

51chitfapol-_sy344_bo1204203200_The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy
My Rating: 3 of 5 Stars

[Originally appeared here: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/li…]

How does a lament sound? Like a distorted sonorous wave? Hitting the crest with a shrill cry and falling to quietude with mangled whimpers? Or like a prolonged stream of soiled garble, comprehensible only to its beholder?

I don’t know on which note of the spectrum this book might fit in, but I do know that this book is a lament – lament on the daily struggles for (dignified) survival borne by the scarred populace of war-torn Kashmir, which unfortunately I can’t talk of in past tense, and the marginalized of the society (taking the transgender as the pivotal link).

The book, from where I see, is about two characters – A transgender, Anjum and a riot victim, Tilottama. Anjum, born Aftab in Old Delhi but discarded by her family for socially- unacceptable biological makeup, is adopted by a whore-house. Continue reading

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Book Review – The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1880)

the-brothers-karamazovThe Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
My Rating: 5 of 5 Stars

I finished reading this book at precisely 0205 hours a week ago. The night still lay majestically over the impending dawn, and in its blackened stillness, swayed the echoes of this imperious book. The walls of my room, at once, turned into a fortress for Dostoevsky’s army of thoughts, and I, right in the middle of it, found myself besieged with its diverse, haphazard but mighty blizzard.

I am no stranger to this rambling Russian’s precocious visions and forbearance and yet, and yet, this work, swells much beyond even his own creator and spills over…. well, almost, everything. Continue reading

Book Review: Turn of the Screw by Henry James (1898)

12948Turn of the Screw by Henry James
My Rating: 3 of 5 Stars

I often embrace the notion of writing being superior than plot to the extent of salvaging a lackluster body of the latter, very close to my heart. And it is stories like these that realign my reading meter in that direction.

Henry James’ story has no flaws per se; instead, has a pollen bearing promise to turn into a full feather. A series of apparition that haunts the governess of a house, driving her to cast her net of suspicion across all the residents, primarily the children, makes for a premise worth pursuing towards an exciting journey. But its blooming is excruciatingly contricted amid the very many winding, endless sentences, almost binding the book like a curse. I am not troubled by such literary joints, especially when they coalesce to elevate the meaning to the surface, if not make it clear to the reader. But I found myself, repeatedly in the midst of verbose blah-blahs that did nothing to advance the story; worse, stalled the little progress it had already done in first few pages. Continue reading

Book Review: Cry, Heart But Never Break by Glenn Ringtved (2001)

25329997Cry, Heart But Never Break by Glenn Ringtved
My Rating: 5 of 5 Stars

Even to the most-learned men and women, few things are as scary, swamping and tearing as death. Like an end, that ultimate exit, beyond which everything becomes void and nothing remains to return, it hovers over us like a spying cloud, always waiting for that one chance to seize our life and make it its own. How then, would one, explain its inevitability, its invincibility, its essentiality to children?

This gem of a book, majestically, rises to this task. Continue reading

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