The Buried Giant – Book review- Kazuo Ishiguro

 

I  just finished another of Ishiguro’s  novel  , “The Buried Giant ” and I again get this compelling feeling to share it with you all .

This book was written during the times of King Arthur when author found out that there were historical voids  so that  author could  fill   those voids with his brush of  imagination .

This book is a toil of ten years  and was published in 2015.

I have shared with you his previous bestsellers on my blog and author  Ishiguro needs no introductions . He is a British author of Japanese descent and is the Nobel Prize winner in Literature in 2017

As in his past  books, we embark on another fabled journey but this time   to the ancient world of  post King Arthur’s rule where Britons and Saxons are at a  never ending war. It’s a world of Kings , knights Ogres ,demons  .People still  live and die by swords .

In these times ,our protagonists, Axl and Beatrice , poor farmers, who live in a community and are not being treated very fairly by the other cohabitants of the community,  decide to embark on a journey to meet their son who is a couple of days away from them .

But a bizarre  amnesia has seemed to  engulf the whole area  and they have all forgotten their recent and remote pasts .This amnesia is to such an extent that Axl and Beatrice  do not even remember their son’s face .

So as we  travel through the country side ,the valleys ,through the forests and meet many interesting characters we cannot  help but compare our present day world to the author’s world in the novel.

The Saxon village where Axl and Beatrice reach to counsel  with the lady healer, they find out about the lad Edwin ,who had been rescued by a visiting  Saxon warrior from the Ogres .He has a bite mark which the villagers think is  from an Ogre and that would turn him against his own people .Superstitions, self centeredness takes over the villagers  and they want to kill that  small boy .

The warrior, Wistan, is on a secret mission, who has been chosen by his Saxon King to kill the She Dragon Querig  ,who’s breath is causing the amnesic mist in the area. Sir Gawain , who is the nephew of King Arthur and is a Knight , has been the protector of the She Dragon .As per King’s wishes ,he wanted the mist to prevail so that foes could live as friends and the senseless war could be stopped .

Axl and Beatrice are an old couple in love with each other and profess their love for each other in every possible manner and would not be out of sight from each other even for a second but when they regain their memory after the She Dragon is  killed and mist of amnesia is cleared Axl, remembers that theirs  was  not a perfect marriage and there were clinks in the armor which he needs to overlook to make his marriage going

As with Ishiguro’s novels there is always more than it meets the eyes and we  cannot help but wonder that though we are reading a novel set in the past but we could very much be in a present .We still let illiteracy , superstition ,selfishness  drive us

We  know ,there is no such thing as infinite justice and we all need this mist of “Forget and Forgiveness for a peaceful coexistence    but as in the novel, the strong warrior, Wistan not only kills Gawain but also sows the seeds of hatred ,disharmony ,violence for the next generation through the lad Edwin  so that peace never gets a chance and  War perpetuates.

Author again draws our attention that we need to keep the bigger picture in mind and let our love be the winner and not hate .

It is a full length  novel some times it gets a little repetitive specially the interactions between the old couple and the story looses its emotional pull and pace  at some points but all in all there still  remains lots of questions unanswered during the read , so one would like to finish the book .

The setting of the story also does not change and we again get to  revisit the United Kingdom

Master story teller as Ishiguro is , the  language has its distinct flavor and though we are reading simple English we know we are at a different historical  era.

Mankind is in the era of scientific boom but we have not changed our basic characteristics  and the   themes of  our stories are  ageless ,timeless and generation less . Unless we are ready to Bury the Giant , peace and prosperity would always elude us  .Even when Sir Gawain tried to protect the mist of forgiveness we are still pretty much at the mercy of likes of Wistan who see their emancipation only by vengeance, violence and war and unfortunately they  are still winning

 

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FROM THE HOLY MOUNTAIN -A journey in the shadow of Byzantium-Author William Dalrymple

As I have mentioned in my previous blogs that I am a great history buff and anything related to history , I cannot keep away from it .In  the past ,I have restricted myself to Indian history as  relating to it was easy but the book I am going to share with you today is a travel book with its unique historical back drop .

William Dalrymple , one of my favorite authors is an authentic historian , who I have been following for the last so many years .He is of Scottish descent and has won numerous awards for travel writing and extensively researched history .

Author  has an intimate connection with India and his affection for the country is real .He  has embraced India more than many of us could and  through his eyes we have rediscovered New Delhi and India many times over .

His first published book ”In  Xanadu- A Quest “  is my most favorite , till date and I have a personally signed copy of the book , when I got it autographed from him at a Mini lit fest in New Delhi ,a couple of years back .I am sure, I would share this  book “In Xanadu -A Quest “  in my future blogs ,where he retraces the steps of Marco Polo from Jerusalem to Inner Mongolia in China .It is a travel writing full of interesting incidents and anecdotes  and   is written in a lighter vein and that’s what makes it all the more enjoyable .

In the book “From the Holy Mountain “ we take  both an  inward and outward journey of  the Holy land which was taken by an Orthodox Monk ,John Moschos in 587 AD with one of his young students ,Sophronius .

Author Dalrymple  took us on this journey almost 1500 years later .

John Moschos  later compressed the journey into a book called “Spiritual Meadow” . John Moschos ,in the book ,mentions about his personnel experiences with other monks ,the various miracle stories ,the ecstatic vision and other practices of Eastern monasticism .Interestingly ,Author Dalrymple ,during his journey found that so many of those practices were still prevalent even today , may be in some modified version .

Dalrymple  began his journey in Greece and then via Istanbul in Turkey ,Syria ,Lebanon , Israel  and then concluded in Egypt .The journey included a part of Byzantine empire ,of middle ages ,which was considered eastern Roman empire, under Great King Constantinople ,who in his later life embraced Christianity .

Christianity has been historically a middle eastern religion with its origin in Judaism .In the initial years it was practiced in secrecy as it had conflict with Judaism and early Pagan Roman practices .Then the church meant gathering or community , rather  than a building or structure .Such teachings or  churches were founded by early disciples of Jesus  as they travelled to the various parts of the world .

It became legal to practice Christianity under Emperor Constantinople in Roman Empire  around 313 AD .His vision was to bring the whole Roman Empire together .But the practices of the Christians in the eastern parts  of the Empire were very  different than that of the western counterpart .Orthodox Christianity or the Eastern Christians gave more stress on  physical and mental ascetism .Such practices also mirrored in Sufism , Vendantic mysticism and Buddhist psychology .

Whereas the head of the Western counterpart is Pope , Eastern Christianity is spread out under various religious heads  with individualistic teachings ,in various parts of the World .

As author visited these ancient monasteries, he gave us numerous accounts of  how the orthodox monks competed against each other in physical and mental deprivation for a divine connection .It was interesting to note that such practices overlap among the various religions of those times . As  per author’s comments, rules for practicing religions were  more porous as compared . Even  today , people  in the rural area of the land of  different faiths, during their difficult times , prayed  at the shrines of these orthodox monks and  performed  animal sacrifices .

In ancient days people with money, commissioned important buildings and works of art to give them a societal presence .Similarly ,in   Emperor Constantinople’s time the concept of  Basilica was gradually taking shape and churches were being built , where people would come together and stress on inner transformation rather than outer ritualistic Pagan practices.

Author has a keen eye for architecture as we have  noted in his past books and he describes the monasteries in great details whatever he could as most of them are in states of great dilapidation secondary to antiquity ,violence and no maintenance . But it was amazing to know  that few of those which are still in one piece and functional are practicing the faith exactly what they did 1500 years earlier .

In the book “Spiritual Meadow “ ,John Moschos  described about the practices of miracle healing by the Saints of those times . Author presented many such instances in his usual tongue in cheek fashion where present day monks are preaching about the Saints .

As we travelled with the author through the modern day cities and onto the remote places of worship ,we noted the political turmoil ,unrest and a constant fear of persecution among the  minority residents .Christianity has systematically  been routed out  from its  place of  origin and more  and more people are  moving west wards for a better and secure life .

These areas from time immemorial has been under great strife .Cradle of three great religions of the world ,Christianity ,Islam and Judaism  has always  been  a socio politically disturbed region.   Peace never returned to these areas and this   journey itself   seemed  like  a challenging adventure .

Amongst the many other present days ironies of the Modern World ,The Holy Land ,has not witnessed a lasting peace for the last two centuries  and we really pray for a miracle when the true essence of Humanity and Religion would prevail.

Wishing you all  a happy Easter weekend .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness – Book review – Author [Arundhati Roy ]

The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness – Book review – Author [Arundhati Roy ]

happiness

After a  long wait and long means really long ,after  almost two decades, we did get to read Arundhati Roy’s second fiction .She is an Indian author who writes in English and is based in India .Her first book  ,God Of Small Things , catapulted her as one of the most brilliant writers of her time .It won her the Man Booker Prize and the book was translated into almost forty languages .The book was a masterpiece in itself and I do not know how many times I have read it .She has many non fictions to her credit in between the works of her fiction .

The book “Ministry Of Utmost Happiness” is in two parts . In the first part her protagonist is from that part of society who are considered anomalies of the society . They are acknowledged and tolerated.and with time they are supposed to fade away .

Anjum , who is a transgender is a resident of the Older part Of Delhi .Older part of Delhi is famous for its delicious meals, poetry , historical monuments and narrow bylanes . Her mother inspite  of knowing about her ambiguous sex , tried to raise her as a male child as it is the preferred sex .But all her mother’s efforts fail . Anjum’s inner conflicts prevails over her social obligations and she decides to break free . She moves to a place called “khwabgah “[Dream Palace } where after initiation rites she is inducted into the group of transgenders.The residents of Khwabgah call the real  world” Duniya”.

Anjum is happy in  her new life and accepts the usual challenges of a transgender . She gets her share of fame as she becomes some kind of spokesperson for the transgenders . Mother hood happens to her accidentally as she finds an abandoned girl on the steps of  a Mosque .The child is raised by all the residents of the commune  and Anjum takes her responsibilities very seriously

But life takes a dramatic turn when she goes on a pilgrimage to pray for her child’s good health .She returns as a different person and suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and decides to leave her home for the most unexpected destination which she calls her as her new home .

In the second part , we move to the newer part of Delhi where again author has chosen a very unconventional protagonist .She is an architect  who has no family and she supports herself by doing various part time jobs .She does not have a sought after complexion and has  equally unaccepted ways of life , but  she is being wooed by three men .She is a soul mate for one and marries the other two . As protagonist Tilo ,follows her love , we get to see the disturbed State of Jammu and Kashmir in close quarters where India is fighting a proxy war .

In a very fascinating way ,author connects both the parts of the book as both her protagonists very interestingly meet each other .

Author has once again aced in her art and had been brilliant in this venture .As her protagonists navigate their lives , she introduces numerous characters who had been described to perfection which makes this book a must read . Author describes interesting anecdotes throughout and those who are familiar with those geographical areas would really relish them Political commentary continues throughout the book and she touches upon various political mile stones of the 80s .She presents various political character of those times and gives them wrapping of her own personnel interpretation which gives the book a humorous touch .  She is honest , brave and stark about her opinions  when she describes the religious riots of Gujrat or Post assassination riots of Mrs Gandhi or Union Carbide gas leakage .

Both the protagonists are considered other than normal in Indian society .Her treatment of both the characters are so close to real that one marvels at our own country and its paradoxes to the extreme .

Though India is vying for one of the top economic powers of the World , it is a very traditional country in spirit .The surface calm holds it all together but any slight ripple breaks it all loose .Any aberration from the perceived normal brings out the worst in the society and one keeps wondering what caused this bipolar behavior. The gentle Indian changes into some thing else.

The threshold of tolerance is getting lower day by day and  counter expression by violence is getting to be the new normal .The recent outrage and protests that a Movie “Padmavat” has caused amongst the Northern part of India has taken us by surprise .It is a film based on the story of an ancient  Rajput queen , Padmavati ,who commits self immolation also known as” Sati” when her husband looses the kingdom to an enemy King . Sati had been a past tradition which had been prohibited by law in the colonial India . A mere film which could cause so much outrage in the country makes us wonder that how could  the same India, which is vying to be the biggest world IT human resource could react to a cinematic expression in such a way !

Wishing you all a happy February .

 

 

 

The Remains of the Day

The Remains of the Day – A literary treasure

 

It’s been  almost seven months that  I am posting something new  on my blog site .I  was not being lazy .My professional duties kept me away. In the process , reading took a back seat .But in my hearts of heart , I knew something was amiss.

I  have never had a chance to read Kazuo Ishiguro before and it was my loss .He is this year’s Nobel Prize Winner for literature .He is of Japanese descent based in the UK .I  had mostly confined myself to the books written by Indian authors who were writing in English Language . But once I read his  book , I realized  I  what  I  was  missing out .I have ordered some of his books online and along the line I hope to share them with you .

Lately my blogs have been about books written by authors of critical acclaim .I neither have the capacity nor intention to review those books .But when I read something worthwhile ,I feel more people  with similar interests should experience the same inner bliss.

History always attracts me and in the book “The Remains of the Day ” the backdrop is of the period of  during the World Wars .We get to read a lot of literature of those times as European Continent was undergoing upheavals and newer equations were being visualized between the countries of the Continent .UK was one of the key players in the Wars which changed the path of the history .

The Story teller of this book is an English Butler , Stevens, who is an older gentleman who is currently being employed by an American Master .Stevens   embodies all the qualities of a true gentleman and  a perfect butler .In the past , he  was employed by a British Lord , Lord Darlington . Lord Darlington had a significant political influence in his country and had  association with great political figures of the time . Their abode was called Darlington Hall and they held meetings of great importance there . He had a staff under him to manage the household and the great events that took place there .He took great pride in his profession and would continually try to excel himself . He would also follow the Hand book of the great butlers to be the best of the best

Stevens never allowed himself any other privileges in life . His only aim in his life was to be of complete assistance to his Lord  and in the process there could be his small contribution in shaping the history of his country and the World .His dedication was so complete that anything that proved a hindrance was never allowed by him to happen .

As his ailing father lays in the death bed in the same house ,he did not deem it appropriate to be at his bedside as it would have caused inconvenience to his Lord and his great mission .A  house keeper who worked under him and both of them were interested in each other but he never encouraged her or himself to go forward on that path .

But there is no force in this world that  can stop the changing times .Darlington  Hall changed hands and he gets his employment with the new Master . His American master is very generous and offers him his car and gas money to take a break and visit the country side which he had never done before .There is another interest as he would be meeting the same house keeper at the end of the journey .

Author takes us on  this journey as Steven introspects about his life revisits his convictions .What seemed right and true in his younger days did not seem now. His perfect life had some big voids that was impossible to fill now .

Author  is brilliant in his art form and has used very simple English .We get a glimpse of the  Britain’s country side and the rural life of those days . The higher standard that people held themselves accountable to  in those days  are getting rarer and rarer day by day .Author reiterates that as we approach our twilight years we realize that loved ones are the  most treasured possessions of our life and they should be chased with the same intensity as other goals of life .

It’s  a book which will be in your memory forever and I am looking forward to reading and sharing other books by the same author .

Happy Holidays .

 

 

 

 

Societal scums

In Bengaluru, certain miscreants molested women during the  New Year revelry .Bengaluru is a southern city in India . It is also an   IT  hub  and is considered an emancipated city .It is unlike its capital sister city where such occurrences are common ongoing events.No amount of public education ,legal threats or women empowerment is  causing its natural death .So instead of containment , it’s  growing its National growth .

The triggers for such behaviors are not known .On an unknown cue certain individual behave in an obsessive manner and their neurosis is relieved once these beastly acts are performed .National conscience is awakened and  and there is an introspection on a large scale but  it has been found that these maladies are very difficult to  eradicate.

Though women have outperformed men at different levels . the truth is as far as bodily strength is concerned they are the weaker sex .This is a sad , unfortunate and harsh fact .This primitive truth and trait raises its ugly  head time and again .

Genesis of this behavior is multi factorial .Sexism starts at home .Equality just does not happen nor is it accepted .Males are treated as superior race and women are objectified .Unsaid rules of dress code ,physical location of a place or the time of the day are needed to be followed as safety precautions .

India is a traditional country and this kind of medieval mindset has taken deep roots . Every body is at their wits end that  road to recovery is so long .

Cure can begin at home . Sons  need to be raised too.Moms have a greater role to play in social engineering as they are in a better position to do so .They have a greater impact on their offspring and hence on societal building blocks .

Excellent educational coating has no use without a moral filling .

 

 

 

Uncertain Air

As the country gears up for the take over by the President elect ,an air of helpless uncertainty hangs  close to the ground . Election results bestowed upon him the immunity for  unpredictability and he would happily saunter the  unprecedented course .We cannot lawfully complain .We all had a tacit approval to it  .The next few years would be full of surprises unless some divine intervention proves it all wrong .

In India , people are still absorbing the shock of demonetization and trying to figure out the actual reason behind it . Economists have one word for it .”Bewilderment”.

Though Demonetization is ideologically right but its sudden,partial , arbitrary execution was difficult to accept . It was not a well worked out plan and  it turned out to be a work in progress with its every day changing rules .

Old habits die hard and people are still trying to cling to their old accustomed ways of accounting wealth .That is the National new year resolution .But there are lots of unanswered questions which has no clear answers.

Would the newer currency fade away in future?

Would all and sundry get IT notices?

What would be the dealings in real estate?

Would farm workers woes ever end?

We all must have felt that there is a gradual drift of the political scenario and we are being ruled by rules never heard before.National and international treaties are being threatened and would soon be  changed to a pay for service mode .The newer ways of dealing would soon boomerang in some form or the other and we  all would have to pay a price for making or not making a choice at the right time.

Surprised Stupor

surprise

As we step out of 2016,we are still trying to come to terms with the surprises of 2016 .Biggest surprise came from Uncle Sam when we were still not ready for the first woman President of America .Her experience and qualifications lost ground to the fact that she was a career politician . Physical and mental inertia among the democrat voters did not have a plan B .By proving all the polls wrong , Republicans swept the majority and President elect is promising to undo the doings of the past  8 years .

In India , we were given a practical lesson in renunciation  to pave the way for Nirvana .Our  religion is all about renunciation but we try  to cling to worldly  possessions .In India , there is a significant parallel economy of unaccounted wealth .We like to hoard wealth , flaunt wealth but really do not like the practice of distribution of wealth .

In Incredible India , paradox  rules .We unearth ridiculous amount of wealth but are quick to innovate ways to hide it during the demonetization .People have died in the queues of Bank and ATM’s getting out their own money but our Bollywood crazy populace has still managed to give more than 100 crores business to our new releases .We dream of a cashless society but our infrastructure and Banking system is in a miserable state .

After the year of Brexit , as the new world takes shape ,we still wonder , if the elections of the greatest country of the world could be hacked by rogue states and the concept of credibility of a nation could be lost .

We wonder if the promise of an isolated world is the  winner’s slogan world over .

We wonder if one of the  the fastest growing economy of the developing world could be derailed by fanciful and discriminatory laws .

Hopefully we get a better  picture in 2017 .