Showing posts from June, 2008
Dr. ZhivagoBy Boris Pasternak
I read this book first as a teenager. What had stuck in my memory through all those years was the love story – of the poet and doctor Yuri Zhivago and his Lara. I came across it recently and was compelled to read it again. Strange that my memory had left out so much of what touched me this time – the inhumanity of ideology, the simplicity of belief, the value of the individual spirit. I cried reading it then, I still cried today.
Pasternak refused the Nobel for this work. Not surprising, since he wrote this book inside the USSR, where it was banned. It is a brave work, written during a totalitarian regime and he was sure to have suffered for writing it. Like his protagonist – Yuri Zhivago.
The setting, almost in itself a character in the book, is Russia on its way to becoming the USSR – the first world war, followed by the October revolution, the civil war that follows it and the establishment of the Bolshevik order. It is the toughest of times for the bourg…
AtonementLove stories. I am a sucker for them, especially the doomed ones and the unrequited ones, the searing passionate ones. Think Heathcliff and Catherine in Wuthering Heights, Count Lazlo and Katherine in The English Patient, Dr. Zhivago and Lara, Sydney Carton and Lucie in The Tale of Two Cities, the Vicomte and Madame de Tourvel in Dangerous Liaisons.
It therefore was no surprise when I found myself choking up when I saw Atonement this weekend on DVD. Ian McEwan’s classic book I had already read. And loved enough to rank among my top 10 favourites of all time. So I had approached the movie with a great amount of trepidation - I normally hate movie adaptations of books I love. But the movie was pretty much a faithful rendition of the book and it had actors who I thought were pretty brilliant – so it wasn’t at all bad. Of course it does not have that absolute ‘punch in your guts’ kind of feel that the book leaves you with. But I would recommend it very highly for anyone without th…
KolamThe snow-white rice powder dribbled through her fingers onto the freshly-washed floor of the front porch. It was her simple no-frills kolam design. Just that single stroke around the 5 dots. It took her 3 minutes to finish it, rounded and complete, unassuming unobtrusive white, no sharp intrusions into the space around, not drawing attention, its presence only noticed when absent. Like her, she thought, without irony or self-pity. And went about her day just like any other.Looking In
It is twenty years later and she can see the scene clearly in her head. The sun is hard at work outside while she lies in bed gazing at the picture, a calendar picture. The girl with long curly light hair, luminous washed-clean skin, long legs in soft denim, round frames on her eyes; she is a glossy picture of freshness, youth, possibilities. She sits on a green grassy ground of a college campus, with a big bound book open on her lap. The girl on the outside is looking in, seeing a blue-jeaned w…
The Enchantress of FlorenceSalman RushdieA new book from Rushdie always promises to be a treat. This is one, albeit with a slightly confusing aftertaste.The book has all the requisite elements to make it a Rushdie block buster – fabulous storytellers and their stories within stories, unbelievably beautiful princesses and kings who are all too human, history and magic, the Arabian Nights feel. There is the sensory overload of the colour and enchantment of places that have come to signify the magic of the East – Tabriz and Samarkand, Ferghana and Herat, Sikri and Stamboul. And of course the constant attempt to make connections between the East and the West.
Renaissance Florence and Akbar’s court in Sikri are the West and the East. And in the travels between the two, we make excursions into the Ottoman empire and the Safavid, encountering figures that we know through history books and most of who in Rushdie’s skilled hands come alive as real people.
A stranger comes to Akbar’s court in Si…