Book Review: Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda (1924)

41iokieyzpl-_sx310_bo1204203200_Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda
My Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

Tempting as it may appear to wrap the poetic pearls from this collection of Neruda’s heartbeats into a warm shawl of erotic wool, do resist it and pause.

These loquacious verses that assemble at the nape of a lover or ripple playfully across the soft mountains of a beloved’s waist, magnify when viewed through the dual lenses of night and water .

I have said that you sang in the wind
like pines and like masts.
Like them you are tall and taciturn,
and you are sad, all at once, like a voyage.

You gather things to you like an old road.
You are peopled with echoes and nostalgic voices.
I awoke and at times birds fled and migrated
that had been sleeping in your soul.
Continue reading

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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

Book Review: Here by Wislawa Szymborska (2009)

7929177 Here by Wislawa Szymborska
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars

 

“She wants me to live only for her and with her. Ideally in a dark, locked room, but my plans still feature today’s sun, clouds in progress, ongoing roads.”

With this singular clarity, Wislawa Szymborska views memory. By running a casual yet assertive hand, she makes the memory cursive; memory that is stitched into seamless minute knots connecting the present, illuminating the present.

Here is a solace, a silent hurrah. Written in small, fresh bud-like paragraphs, this collection of poems comes with the agenda of a butterfly – fragile at first sight, intriguing at second sight, rejuvenating at third sight and unforgettable after its flight.

Since her love for art found life and prosperity under difficult, turbulent times, her perspective emerged as a rough-cut diamond. Continue reading

Book Review: The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (1952)

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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

Book Review: Honeymoon by Patrick Modiano (1990)

323530Honeymoon 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

Book Review: Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (1937)

of-mice-and-menOf Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars

It takes courage to stand up and speak. It also takes courage to sit down and listen.

These are the words on one of my most favorite posters. What always keeps me hooked to these lines is the validity of the trait, courage, from both ends of the spectrum. It holds good, irrespective of the side one stands at. Whether there is merit in holding on or giving in, is a matter of perspective which often remains stranded on the crossroads of past experiences and future expectations. And crossroads always bear the mark of confusion, don’t they? Continue reading

Book Review: Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett (1952)

17716Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars

[Curtains Fall]

Stage: I lived good, within all of you. Heck! You would not even survive a second without me. Why? I even took that wretched boot and that stinky feet on my chest!

Feet: Ha.. Stinky you say! Did you ever eavesdrop into Beckett’s mind when he was scribbling? Ah, I was the one who inspired him. Not some dumbheads as they would like to believe.

Human: Come on, now! Really? Like can someone be so obnoxiously imbecile? No wonder you both have no identity without me. Subtract my dialogue and that truck-load of humor and you are like that filthy hat, empty. Continue reading

Book Review: Life and Times of Michael K by J M Coetzee (1983)

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

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, J M COETZEE!

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Happy Birthday, Mr. Coetzee!

It’s a day late but not more can pass without I sending you a birthday wish. I met your pen only last year; a delightful meeting by all means. I found your pen, by which I measure all the writers, with a visibly lackluster body but an impeccably sharp nib. That something so plain and vanilla can burst into something so searing and aching was one of the high points of my last year’s reading. I am reminded of Life and Times of Michael K with a muffled groan; a groan that Michael never released but a groan that filled my innards with abhorrent vulnerability. Continue reading

Book Review: Death in Venice by Thomas Mann (1912)

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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