Tag: book reviews

Excerpts from the first chapter

PART 1-: THE LEOPARD

It was an autumn night. The inert street lamps of siqandar city stood like silent spectators of imminent doom. The wind was blowing carrying unknown melancholia, probably singing a hymn of death. Everything was silent, enmeshed in the never-ending loop of inexplicable sadness. Houses, which stood like soapboxes always led to those alleyways where light and darkness had played hide and seek.

And Maria Rosario stood alone in that silence, killed by two bullets which had pierced her heart straight away, completely shutting out her existence from this weary earth, by an unknown masked man.

Faraway, canoes were moved by skilled oarsmen, singing folk songs in rustic Pancavani, the national language of Dharmadesh. The town was surprisingly silent, which shouldn’t have been the case, as it would have been frequented by hordes of Saul singers, singing about the pain of longing and separation, and tramcars, where existences of people swayed back and forth like marionettes.

Rosario, known as the Leopard in journalistic circles, for her indomitable courage in reporting the exploitation of the Eastern province of Atamia, was hated by the ruling elite of Dharmadesh.  The Qaramats, one of the most powerful families of Dharmadesh, with huge stakes in oil, mineral and steel industries always held a grudge against her, as she exposed their illicit businesses in her daily columns in the ‘Dharmadesh Sentinel’ the newspaper she worked for.  It had shaken up the fulcrum of the society, almost creating an earthquake, whose ripples are still being felt.

She had accused that Azad Qaramat, the powerful military man of Dharmadesh had a role in the brutal murder of Porali, an environmental activist in Atamia.  Porali, son of a poor manual labourer, had organized powerful candle light marches to protest against forced disappearances and mass killings of Atamian activists.  Atamia has always remained distinct from the rest of the country of Dharmadesh, fanatically protecting its culture from the ‘fair- skinned invaders’ from the west. 80% of the land was forested, and they worshipped mountains and most of the natural phenomena as divinities.  After the ascendance of Sadanand Pinglay,the jingoistic scion of the first family of Dharmadesh, the pinglays, there were attempts to impose the Dharmadeshi culture in Atamia. This was followed by ruthless destruction of local libraries, where armed mobs set fire to thousands of years old invaluable manuscripts in broad daylight. Porali was a leading member of the Jingano language movement, which demanded official status for Jingano, the language of Atamian tribes.  But he never knew what was in store for him as on one winter night, he was dragged out of his shabby home by an enraged mob and three days later his bullet ridden body was found on the shores of Mahanadi.

*****************

The priest again relapsed to gloomy silence. The sky was filled with clouds, predicting heavy rainfall. The church was filled with lots of people and the most surprising thing was that many of them were non- believers. They came only for Rosario, whom they affectionately called as ‘ Didi’. Jesus stared at the distance from the crucifix, perhaps welcoming another benevolent soul.

“Shall we?”

The Vicar asked the congregation.  They all nodded yes in unison.  They began marching towards the cemetery, like pilgrims, chanting ‘death to the Qaramats’.

Then the rain began to fall and no one noticed the tears of the priest.

The Chariots of Gods- Erich Von Daniken

Finished reading Erich Von Daniken’s The Chariots of Gods today.

Some books would make you think about existence. Like why do we live, and are we really alone in going through all the sufferings and privations? While reading Camus, Kafka and Sartre, I often mused about the futility of life. What is the meaning of everything? In the end we are turning in to ashes. So why?

When I was a young boy, I used to look at the sky and shout at them something like –“ Anyone there?” My stupid self would have expected a reply from somewhere. I was a strong believer in reincarnation back then.

Alien theories have always fascinated me. I remember seeing some star trek movies and Kubrick’s masterpieces, and some scientists like Carl Sagan have always been an inspiration. I wanted to know more, so at some point I started reading about UFOs, aliens and all.

In 2017, I heard about this book called the chariots of Gods. I heard that it is written by a man named as Erich Von Daniken.

 Erich Von Daniken, born in Switzerland, published the book in 1968, making it an international best seller. Since then I wanted to have a look at it. Last month I bought it and started to read. I cannot say it’s a classic, sadly.

Erich Von Daniken proposes that our earth had visitations from intelligent civilizations from the cosmos, and they have contributed in developing our culture. He states that everything of the antiquity, from Pyramids,  the Mayan civilization, The Inca civilization, Indian mythologies all were inspired by these mostly benevolent beings.

Erich Von Daniken,  as one of the pioneers in the field of the ancient astronaut theory, offers you some strange proofs that superior intelligences have visited the earth in the past.

The issue here is that, Erich Von Daniken’s theories aren’t that much conclusive and it’s very easy to term them as pseudoscience, at least this is what I think.

Can’t say it’s an awesome book, but he has tried his best in presenting his hypothesis that superior intelligences have visited the earth from other planets and had helped human kind in developing a culture.

Personally I do not believe much of the theory; still it’s a good read.

The Gardens of Light- Amin Maloouf

212933

This is my first book by Amin Maalouf.

Such a spectacular read!!! The story of Mani, now a completely forgotten figure, but the religion, known as Manichaeism, had once thrived all over the world. It was the religion of light and dark, the eternal loving father and the prince of darkness.

The story starts in the 3rd century, when a Parthian Warrior, by name Patek, gets mesmerized by a Jewish sage known as Sittai, who came to Babylonia from Palmyra, which was then a bastion of diverse cultures, populated by different religions. He has a young wife, by name Maryam, who loves him dearly. He decides to leave her in order to join the sect of the palm groves led by Sittai. Some days before the birth of her son, the prophet, she would have a dream in which the angels would take away her infant son which would terrify her!!!

The group bans everything related to earthly pleasures, saying it would contaminate the inner spiritual light. They would even take possession of Mani, the son of Patek, and the boy would grow up in the midst of these ascetics. But he rebels after getting a visitation from his ‘heavenly twin’, who inspires him to found his own new religious order.

He leaves the group, travels as wide as to India, and learns more about figures such as Lord Buddha, and his religion would take elements from Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and Christianity. It was a message of peace, and everlasting love, where people could openly believe in whatever they want.

Soon, he would meet the Sassanian Sovereign, Shapur, who gets impressed. He gives Mani the much-needed protection to profess his faith. But in a curious twist of events, Shapur dies, succeeded by his son Hormisdas, who would eventually get poisoned by Kerder, the Chief Magi. The elder son of Shapur, Bahram would ascend the throne and with the orders of the evil Magi, he would see Mani executed.

This is a novel within the style of a Hollywood movie. Some characters you can’t ever forget, such as the eternal companion of Mani, Malchos, Denagh, the girl with the plaits, Chloe, who had a crush on Mani, Shapur, the divine emperor, Kerder, the evil Magi, Maalouf has a distinct and flowery style, with intense, vivid imageries.

My rating- 4/5

The Confusions of Young Torless- Robert Musil

Recently I finished ‘The confusions of Young Torless’.

This is an early masterpiece of Robert Musil, whose fame rests on his epic work- The man without qualities.

I can’t say it was an easy read as this is such a dense novel. The plot is very different, even disturbing at times, but his way of writing is marvelous.

Plot      

It’s all about young Torless, who is sent to a boarding school, far away from his loving parents. There he become friends with two other fellow students, namely Reiting and Beineberg, and with Beineberg he’d often visit a local prostitute named as Bozena, and indulge in all types of youthful activities. Torless, eager to experience the world in his youthful enthusiasm is torn between two worlds, one that of his parents, the familiar world where people lead seemingly perfect lives and the other one of sordid adventures. There he’d be meeting Basini, a fellow pupil, and the plot then moves in to deeper intrigues and eroticism.

Character Sketches

Torless

Torless is a young boy, who absolutely loves and respects his parents. He is confused about so many things. A deep thinker, who is a budding intellectual, he has his own concepts about morality and his own world views at this young age. He doesn’t like the treatment meted out to Basini by Reiting and Beineberg, but is too confused to protest. Musil has portrayed him beautifully.

Basini

He deserves our sympathy. He is too young and may be too confused as well. He doesn’t know how to protest and is simply manipulated by the duo of Reiting and Beineberg.

Reiting and Beineberg   

Among them, Beineberg is a metaphysical thinker, fascinated by the Oriental philosophy. His father, who was in India, has been his biggest influence.

Reiting is your typical ruthless and cunning bully. He is too clever and would go any extent to achieve his aims.

Parents of Torless

They are kind hearted and loving, living their little contented bourgeoisie lives. Torless is often disturbed by the gap between their perfect lives and the one he has been forced to lead at the school.

Bozena

Bozena is the local prostitute. She had such big dreams once, but now she has ended up as nothing. Surely we can sympathize with her, but she is very cruel and brutal at the same time.

Comments

This is an autobiographical novel, derived from the experiences of Musil at an Austrian military academy.

This is a marvelous work by Musil. As I said earlier, this is a dense novel. I had to reread many paragraphs until I could connect the dots and form a bigger picture. Still its really worthy of the effort!!!

Rating

3/5

Journey to the end of the night- Louis Ferdinand Celine

Finished Celine’s Journey to the End the night yesterday.

This novel is widely regarded as one of the greatest novels of the 20th century. It took me 13 long days to finish it.

This one is obviously a different book, and I dare say a special one.

Plot

Told in first person, this is all about the travails of Ferdinand Bardamu, a medical student,the alter ego of the author himself. It all starts during the war years, when Bardamu joins the army, but after witnessing some terrible events he starts doubting his own sanity. During that time he gets acquainted with Leon Robinson, another fellow soldier, who would haunt him throughout the story.

After returning from the front, Bardamu starts an affair with Lola, an American woman, who would ditch him sooner, after hearing his views on Patriotism (Bardamu despises the wretched war), plunging him in to the abysses of insanity.

Later, he starts making out with Musyne, a promiscuous woman, but it also ends badly.

Broken, he then shifts to Africa, boarding a ship where the passenger would treat him with contempt and suspicion. There too he would witness the selfishness and thuggery of human beings, making him depressed. Sold as a slave to a ship to America, he reaches this great country, where again he’d be meeting Lola .Their encounter ends badly and he returns to France, to work as a doctor,  and also works sometime at an asylum where he meets the interesting figure of Baryton, who would find his own spiritual salvation by studying English. Here he again meets Robinson, which culminates in the murder of an elderly woman named as Henrouille, and eventually in the murder of Robinson by his lover, Madelon. The novel ends when Bardamu goes to the police station to depose before the cops.

Character Sketches

Ferdinand Bardamu

A medical student. He is a womanizer and a pessimist.

Leon Robinson

A thug. He gets killed in the end by his lover, a cunning woman named as Madelon. Robinson is so self centred. He is also the murderer of Grandma Henrouille.

Madame Henrouille

A wicked woman. Her only ambition is to get rid of her mother in law, Grandma Henrouille, and with the connivance of Robinson she achieves it.

Lola

A woman, a beautiful one with lofty ideals about patriotism and masculinity. She gets pissed off when Bardamu tells about his own ideas on war and patriotism.

Baryton

The superior of Bardamu at the asylum. He hates the lunatics, and he finds his own spiritual salvation in English. Bardamu teaches him English, and finally he leaves France in search of his ‘destiny’.

Madelon

A cunning woman. She develops an affair with Bardamus and at the same time dotes on Robinson. In the end, she kills Robinson.

Comments

Celine views Patriotism and racial superiority  as absurd things. In this aspect, there are parallels between Bardamu and Paul Baumer (the protagonist of All quiet on the Western front) albeit in a different way. This is a misanthropic universe no doubt about that.The whole plot reeks of a fetid pessimism. Bardamu is helpless,at times a  wicked misanthrope, who has his own moments of altruism though they are rare.

Rating

5/5