A 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
Autumn 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
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
Dancing Lessons for the Advanced in Age by Bohumil Hrabal
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
This little novella can, at once, be discarded as a long, never-ending chapter on corporeal pursuits from the life book of a mindless rambler, a libidinous exhorter, a senile raconteur. And for some part, one might be right in doing so. If disaster has struck you due to your prolonged exposure to the skin junk processed and reprocessed on electronic and print media, you might not be cajoled to hold back even for a second from trashing this, their way. Continue reading
Embers by Sándor Márai
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars
My fingers were interlocked around my Baba’s arm and my head was resting on his shoulders. I was stealing a glimpse of his face every now and then, convinced that the lines of exhaustion were going to creep upto his tongue any moment, tendering me an apology to relieve him of our evening chatter for the day. However, my apprehensions were misplaced. The exhaustion stood defeated in the face of the radiance that slowly, ever so gradually, filled his visage, displacing the fatigue like a magic potion, as he reached for the cassette player and put one of his most favorite songs in loop. He also fondly went on to explain me its meaning.‘Smruti Tume’, originally composed in Oriya language, is an ode to ‘memories’; in Oriya, the two words literally translate to ‘Memory, You’. The translated lyrics go like this: Continue reading
The World Doesn’t End by Charles Simic
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Throw a pebble into the pool and
see it dissolve into shimmering currents,
carrying burdens of ashen leaves that autumn
has swept beneath the silent tremors, teaming to cry
their laments; Or hide behind a ripe tree and cast a glance,
all the way to that faint window where a boy, on one palm,
is counting stars and fanning the other to soothe
his bruises and in his eyes, dances the night,
like a celebrating comet, about to go ablaze
in just a matter of Time; Time—
the lizard in the sunlight.
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
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