Thursday, January 29, 2015

Reading: A Science Fiction Novel

I thought I would just read the book and not write about it. It's science fiction or at least that was my impression when I started reading it. Rarely I read science fiction. Blame my attitude, I have a habit of frowning on any writing that is not realistic. Cormac McCarthy once said in an interview that anything that does not deal realistically with life or death of human beings is not real writing. More or less, I've got the same view as far as literature is concerned.

But the book was compelling. A mesmerizing writing style and a wonderful display of imagination. It was about some nerds, all employees of a shady corporation, in a planet far far away from our earth - devoting their talent and energy to build a human habitation designed - of course for profit - exclusively for those who have been tired of the world which is now the festering scumhole.

A fresh idea. And there is a vivid portrait of the planet's contours, its climate, and its somewhat strange inhabitants.

The protagonist is a pastor who is apparently brought in to infuse the new habitation with religion (Christianity, of course). Truth to tell, being anti-religion, I didn't initially like the pastor much, but he's an honest, serious guy and has intense feel for the planet's little guys.

But half the narrative is that of our familiar earth where the pastor's wife lives a precarious life, going through violence, lawlessness and a lot of natural calamities. This comes in the form of e-mails written by her. Very realistic, though grim.

The pastor, at one point, gets tired of this new place, and gets crazy to return to the world, to unite with his wife.

What's the point of the book? Could not crack. May be one should not look for any message out of such books.

I didn't like the end of the book, but I must say I enjoyed the book.

The Book: The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Toying with Ideas

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Recommended reading: A conversation about Stefan Zweig and Joseph Roth

Monday, January 12, 2015

Rodrigo Rey Rosa on Roberto Bolano

I’ve read a number of Bolaño’s books, but not all of them (I’m a very slow reader). I think that in his final books, and especially in 2666, Bolaño achieved something that very few writers manage: a style that permitted him to address any theme, something like a machine for converting any sort of information or perception into a literary experience.
--Rodrigo Rey Rosa

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Reading: In the Light of What We Know/ Zia Haider Rahman

Sometimes I read  two books simultaneously, switching from one book to the other for a change when the book I'm reading begins to tire me. It was on one such occasion I got hold of a third book: In the Light of What We Know.

When I was casually glancing at the first chapter, I got simply hooked. I continued reading and forgot about the books that I was reading. Then I read on and on. It's an immersive reading experience. I could separate myself from the book only when I was done with it.

For me, the draw of the book was not so much the storyline as the telling of the story. Each chapter starts with two or more epigraphs, and you see Jafar, the protagonist, or the writer, his friend, telling the story from his perspective. First person account, no chronology, there is often a drift into another time another place, and you have lot of real, serious stuff to read and consider.

It's a grand and compelling narrative. Too many settings, too many events. Things happen - in a phantasmagorical way - in London, Dacca, Islamabad, Kabul and elsewhere. And you find Jafar everywhere in the thick of events, not just as an observer, but as kind of an activist. For one whose journey began inconspicuously from an obscure village in Sylhet in Bangladesh, and who raised himself up in a hard way, these were just too much. Despite his talent, intellect and wisdom, Jafar's story is a sad one, but thought-provoking and deeply haunting.

 Zia has a free-wheeling style, and it looks like he does not care about the way he gets across what he wants to say. And he dwells on umpteen things starting from mathematics to international politics to banking to literature to philosophy. What versatility! Zia knows how to incorporate non-literary stuff in a literary novel.

I believe Zia has exhausted himself writing this novel. Will he be able to write a second novel, I  wonder.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Michel Houellebecq Quote

Friday, January 2, 2015

2015 is the Year of Literature in Russia

Pushkin, Gogol and Akhmatova to be symbols of Russia's Year of Literature

The decreeing of 2015 as "The year of Literature" in Russia looks a bit weird. I don't know if Vladimir Putin has any hidden agenda behind it(Is Mr Putin a literature lover, by the way?), but I welcome it considering that literature has already taken a backseat and very few people talk literature these days, and even those who talk it like to sub-categorize it under Entertainment.

I wonder if Mikhail Shiskin is going to participate in any of those "interesting, large-scale" events that will be held across Russia round the year.

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