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.
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Book Review: The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares (1940)

94486The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares
My Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

Insane. Insane. Again. Insane.

“Then I resumed my efforts, moving to other parts of the wall. Chips fell, and, when large pieces of the wall began to come down, I kept on pounding, bleary-eyed, with an urgency that was far greater than the size of the iron bar, until the resistance of the wall (which seemed unaffected by the force of my repeated pounding) pushed me to the floor, frantic and exhausted. First I saw, then I touched, the pieces of masonry— they were smooth on one side, harsh, earthy on the other: then, in a vision so lucid it seemed ephemeral and supernatural, my eyes saw the blue continuity of the tile, the undamaged and whole wall, the closed room.”

‘Reasoned Imagination’ – That is how Borges describes this mind-boggling attempt of Adolfo Bioy Casares, in what, that my humble mind can ascertain, is a superlative member of post-modernist, abstract fiction canon. Continue reading

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: 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: 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)

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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: 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