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
Nazi Literature in the Americas by Roberto Bolaño My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Somewhere in the midst of this book, Bolaño spells out in explicit words what I suspected to be the undercurrents from the word go:
….a novel about order and disorder, justice and injustice, God and the Void.
So there I was – witnessing a swashbuckling cavalcade of ideas, overflowing from the chariot of Bolaño’s mind; irreducible owing to their weight, hypnotic owing to their flight.
My first Bolaño could not have been a better book. 30 essays written as biographies of fictitious authors, who lived under the tremulous skies of Nazism and dabbled in poetry and science fiction, magical realism and political sagas, span the length and breadth of the written word; presenting an inclusive, although explosive, picture of Bolaño’s thoughts that bodes well with establishing acquaintance with his ideologies too, perhaps. Continue reading
Blindness 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
We Are All Completely Besides Ourselves by Karen Jay Fowler
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
In everyone’s life, there are people who stay and people who go and people who are taken against their will.
Who do you remember the most? I asked myself. Those who make part of my primary circle of existence and have enriched my being with their presence? Or those who came and then departed for good, leaving an indelible mark on my life, as it looks today? Or those who, by all means that I could fathom, were supposed to be a part of my life but were disengaged from me with a menacing strike of destiny? I can’t say, honestly. Then I rearranged the words and popped the question to myself again. This time, the answer was clear.
The question: Who do I miss the most? Continue reading
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Kurt Vonnegut. Four syllables, once pronounced, suspends in the air like a rock star swishing his name into the air for chanters to latch on and treble the echo. Slaughter-House Five, god knows how many syllables (depending on stress-points of your tongue), once sprinkled from the nozzle of mouth, hangs again in the air like a vagabond wrapper not finding a parapet to land. Perhaps both could have gone their way and not bothered to float into my fairly tranquil world. But they chose to break the silence. So it goes. Continue reading
Ulysses by James Joyce
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Some works are not written; they are lived. The authors write not with ink, but with breaths. Every breath that finds its way in, sucks in a piece of the world and releases it into the author’s being, letting it permeate, gauge, prod, absorb and contemplate, and packages it like a farewell gift onto the back of the breath being puffed out. And since the saga of this breath-taking game continues for a few years till the red starts blinking, we get a work that resembles distilled crystals, found at the end of a purification process of worldly chemicals.
Fuelled by my love for Stephen , when I instinctively picked up Ulysses to read last year, I knew I was entering a labyrinth of diverse and encrypted observations, thanks to its inescapably cult reputation. I was aware I won’t understand half of it. And I felt okay to be in that space. Continue reading
Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli
My Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Like Valeria, I stare at the faces in the crowd; the crowd of short paragraphs hurrying across the surface of this book, intermingling with the innate desire to escape the mound without any considerable collision.
Like each paragraph, I anoint a barren, precise tone; a tone synthesizing topical fervor and ornate truants, rendering authenticity to a near magical premise.
Like the topical fervor, I vacillate between two worlds; the fact that I am fictionalizing and the fiction that I am factualizing. Continue reading
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Where do I begin unloading this colossal bag of thoughts that are raging in my mind since yesterday? Well, my friend, you seem to be the victim today. So be it. Don’t term me evil; it is just the scent of one, I lived with for the last five days.
Actually, this work is hardly anything except for a bunch of letters, from a senior to a junior; it is nothing more than a series of succinct correspondence, gathered cannily and disbursed even more astutely to the promising newbies. Now, have we all not rubbed shoulders with atleast once such genial senior in our lives? Incidentally, this exchange happens to be between Uncle Screwtape and Wormwood who, well, under a generous dignity granted by Lewis, call themselves “Tempters”; I refer to them as Devil (Spirit). And they are up against “Him”; the one who lives in the churches and to whom the world attributes its goodness and life. Continue reading
Chess Story by Stefan Zweig
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars
“Wanting to play chess against yourself is a paradox, like jumping over your own shadow.”
But what fun is life if words like manic, insanity, paradox and contradiction are not put to test once in a while? Even at the cost of years of discipline and rationality?
Stefan Zweig surely put his own constructs up the wall when he created this ingenious piece of art. Yes, it was pure art; outright splendid form of art that overwhelms the realms of conventional thinking and forces the mind to stretch itself.
A World Chess Champion, heralded as one of the best ever to play the game, in his casual quest of pocketing a few dollars, enroute to a tournament, encounters a sudden change of fortune, when a remarkable twist of moves from a rather ordinary looking, albeit a tad hysterical, middle-aged man, hands him his first defeat in many years. Continue reading
The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Muted – I am in an alien way,
Post – reading this weird novel about a
Horn – that despite many mouths, remains
Muted – across the
Post – offices of circuitous US lands although the blare of this
Horn – is audible to a secretive group that moves in
Muted – shadows and sews in its hem, high
Post – bearers and zany professors who insist to
Horn – out any intruders who, in public or
Muted – way, attempt to
Post – any letters sent with this
Horn – bearing stamp to any Continue reading