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
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
“He was full of resolution but he had little hope.”
And often, like a seductive oasis, this little hope beguiles the heart to endure battles of gargantuan magnitude, letting seep every second the realization of the effort turning as much futile as it may be fruitful.
Fisherman Santiago lives in a barren land, bearing just a few hope saplings, which he patiently waits to bear fruit. He is frugal and easily happy, but his simpleton living has not tamed his aspirations, lofty by his standards. He wants to catch a BIG fish, something so commanding and magnificent that it can seal his tenacity and authority, among his community, his friends and above all, his doubting self. Continue reading
Honeymoon by Patrick Modiano
My Rating: 2 of 5 stars
I felt a vague twinge of remorse: has a reader the right to criticize certain details under the pretext that she considers them superfluous?
Beginning my review by borrowing a line from the novel and infusing it with my words means two things: one, the novel did not leave me without anything and two, the novel did not stay with me enough.
Honeymoon; the title alone was a powerful catalyst to tilt the scales in its favour, overpowering its more compelling cousins namely Missing Person and The Search Warrant to emerge as my first choice to explore the Modiano world. But like many honeymoons of recent times, the euphoria around the event was far more jubilant than the event itself. Continue reading
Life and Times of Michael K by J M Coetzee
My Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
“War is the father of all and king of all. Some he shows as gods, others as men. Some he makes slaves and others, free.”
But how does one differentiate between The Slave and The Free? Is that Man a slave, whose captivity by the victor frees him of his worldly expectations? Or should we call that Man, free who has no kin to bother about since they have all been enslaved in the war fire? Is it possible to live a life without succumbing to either side? Or is it inevitable to be one without being the other? Continue reading
The Loser by Thomas Bernhard
My Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Grey – The color that most of the characters created during large part of twentieth century and whole of twenty-first century till date, are painted in. Cruelly banishing the evergreen Black and all-star White to secondary positions,Grey has risen in ranks to be the heroic hue of all ‘famous’ characters. The modern reader in me haughtily merges this contemporary thought into her conversations and discusses the ‘grey’ shades of the latest literary protagonist she has encountered. But the conventional reader in me? Oh, she curses! Throws slang, moans hoarse. To all those authors who wiped the clear, unambiguous White (read good) and Black (read bad) from her book world, she casts a teary eye and howls a simple question: Why? Continue reading
Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars
As long as we breathe, we live. We do not possess the power to embrace death at will. So, we live. And for living, we cling to a purpose. The purpose may be clear or clouded, animate or inanimate, expressed or hidden, stable or fickle but we have it nonetheless. Even the person accused of leading a purposeless life is surviving on the shredded purpose of vagrancy.
So it doesn’t come as a surprise that even Gustav Aschenbach, notwithstanding the fame and dignity safely held in his bag of accolades, gropes for purpose in his new found state of ripe mind. Nothing is a bigger curse for a writer than to have hit a plateau from where all the previous works appear a distant dream and the present air leaves nothing for the fertile imagination to latch on. Continue reading
Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
The evening lessons were always the most difficult. Drained of ambulating the willing grey cells throughout the carnage of day classes, the young readers, almost resignedly, filled the quiet room at the end of the corridor. A subdued tête-à-tête, almost at once, broke into a charlatan laughter and the very next moment, died in their bosoms as Professor Pnin entered the classroom.
Straightening the meagre crop on his head and adjusting (and re-adjusting) his tortoise-shell glasses, he cleared his throat.
Pnin: Good Evening.
Class: Good Evening, Professor.
Pnin (cheerily): I am glad to see the attendance has brimmed to full today. [Pause] Alright then. Would all of you open your notes now? We shall take each one of your observations on Turgenev’s prose and discuss threadbare their meaning and implications on the Russian Literature fabric.
[Silence] Continue reading
The Complete Short Stories of Marcel Proust by Marcel Proust
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
That is where my soul lies right now.
Elevated, with the soft avalanche of rippling visions,
erupting from the nubile eyes of a young Proust, from a lowly level that
seethed with diminished dignity and blackened clarity
to a mezzanine level, worthy of a corner seat
in a giant hall of evolved consciousness.
Analysing discarded memories from the forgotten boxes,
left lying beneath unpleasant mounds of soiled fates and muddy losses,
had seldom turned so aromatic an episode, so imminent an occurrence.
Like a foreigner, unknowingly leaving his secret trail in a new land,
Proust suspends slings from the trees of solitude and
provides levers for the uneven roads of melancholy
for the subsequent travellers to embrace,
a road that is guiding rather than deflecting. Continue reading
Love In The Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Márquez
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars
When glistening drops of dew swivelled across the leaves,
When hazy films of sun lifted their candid veils;
When morning spring walked the aisle of the autumn road,
I saw a face whose reflection, since years, I have behold.
In envious vanity, she swayed her hair,
In rapturous youth, she erred everywhere;
But stoic her nod was to my pure passion
Which sent me blazing waves of heartburn.
Running behind her, became my moral;
Worshipping her being, was a religion;
In those auburn eyes, my heart would lie still
And yet it would flutter, like about to begin. Continue reading
Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of.
Flipping through the pages, my heart leaped many times; those waves bearing the ring of countenance were from still stream but the ones with ripples of accusation roared thunder. Accusation? Accusation hurled towards whom? The fictional characters delicately brought to life by the stinging brush of the author or the guilty, manipulative, egocentric, conceited character of mine? Did my fingers pause typing these words defining myself? They did. And it also confirmed my worst fears: I am no angel and the pristine white enveloping me is a well-fabricated dwelling that I carry with temporary aplomb, aware somewhere deep inside that some of its bricks are turning cancerous by my vices. Continue reading