Monday, 30 April 2012

The Lady from the Sea

Genre: Drama
Date of Reading: 03/03/2007
Playwright: Henrik Ibsen
Translated by: R. Farquharson Sharp, Eleanor Marx-Aveling and Linda Hannas
Publisher: J. M. Dent & Sons LTD
Place: London
Year: 1958

         Ellida Wangel, the second wife of Dr. Wangel, is called 'the lady from the sea' due to her special attachment to it. Her stepdaughters - Bolette and Hilde - are not in good terms with her (a fate under which all stepmothers suffer). To cheer her up Wangel requests the presence of Arnholm, Bolette's former teacher. He proposes to Bolette and she accepts as she sees it as her only opportunity to enter into the outside world.
         Ellida has a secret; years ago she was in love with a strange man from a ship. When he murders the captain (for that crime he had to leave abruptly), he marries her secretly and takes her ring with him. After a year or so she married Wangel; she felt that their son has the eyes of the strange man. But the child didn't pass his young age.
         Stranger returns and asks her to come back; Wangel protests, this puts Ellida into a dilemma and she decides to leave her husband. Wangel undergoes a moral transformation and lets her go. This makes her reconsider her decision; she stays, the stranger goes back.

Rating: Not Bad

--- Theme of the play is the psychological development of an idle woman who has nothing particular to occupy her life. She frets at the restrictions of wifely duty upon which her husband would insist; until, when he realises the situation sufficiently to remove his restrictions, and the idea of compulsion is gone, the woman's mental attitude correspondingly alters. She now finds no attraction in forbidden fruit, and a strong attraction in her obvious duty. (copied from introduction of the book itself)

         A play is to be seen, not to be read and so obviously this has not made much an impression on me. Ibsen's plays argue for female liberation; here Dr. Wangel can be seen as a reversal of Torvald Helmer in Ibsen's own 'A Doll's House', as he redefines the nature of marriage by acknowledging Ellida's right to choose. Bolette who builds a relation based on antique notions of female dependence reminds us of the opposite stand.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Zorba the Greek

Date of Reading: 28/02/2007
Author: Nikos Kazantzakis
Translated By: Carl Wildman
Publisher: faber and faber
Place: London
Year: 1961

Brief Summary:
          The narrator whose name is never mentioned, is a 35-year old Greek; his friends rightly call him, bookworm. One of his friends, Stavridaki is mentioned.
          Protagonist sets off to Crete in order to re-open a disused lignite mine and thereby to get some worldly experience too. When he was sitting at the restaurant, an old man of 60, Alexis Zorbescu approaches for a job displaying his versatile genius, and he makes him superindent. Zorba has a keen interest in women and here in Crete, he manages to seduce Madame Hortense on whose hotel they stay. Narrator is fascinated by his behaviour and strange ideas which contributes much to the widening of his intellectual horizon.
          The moment of departure eventually comes and the narrator is also informed of Stavridaki's death. Zorba marries again and they keep in touch. One night he dreams about Zorba and feels that he is dying; he writes an account of their life together and on completion a letter arrives confirming his death. Zorba has bequeathed his sanduri - his favourite musical instrument - to the narrator.

Rating: Not Bad

--- adapted into film in 1964, starring Anthony Quinn, Alan Bates and Irene Papas and it won an Oscar nomination.
--- character Zorba is based on George Zorbas (1867-1942), a mine worker.

Lines I Liked:
          "The belly is the firm foundation; bread, wine and meat are the first essentials; it is only with bread, wine and meat that one can create God."
          "The life of man is a road with steep rises and dips."
          "Every man has his folly, but the greatest folly of all, in my view, is not to have one."
          "Have you faith? Then a splinter from an old door becomes a sacred relic. Have you no faith? Then the whole Holy Cross itself becomes an old doorpost to you."
          "Happiness is doing your duty, and harder the duty the greater the happiness."

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Christ Recrucified

Saturday, 28 April 2012

The Museum of Innocence

Date of Reading: 21/04/2012
Author: Orhan Pamuk
Subtitle: A Novel
Translated from Turkish by: Maureen Freely
Publisher: faber and faber
Place: New York
Year: 2010
Rs. 399

          Kemal is a wealthy heir with handsome prospects; he is educated from America and is now about to be engaged to the beautiful Sibel. All change when his path is crossed with Fusun, a charming 18-year old girl who is also his distant relative. Year is 1975.
          Kemal falls head over heals in love and a fruitful affair is started despite their 12-year age difference; she was a virgin. Turkey was on its modernisation (or Europeanisation) process, but virginity was still an issue in marriage.
          After his engagement with Sibel, Fusun's parents take her away leaving Kemal with a forlorn heart. He sooths the aching desire by cradling the things of Fusun and breathing her smell in Merhamet apartments where they had made love. Sibel comes to know of everything and tries her best to help him get over this obsession. In the end their engagement is broken off.
          Kemal goes to his beloved with the intention of proposing, but Fusun was already married to Feridun, a script writer; Kemal though crushed, continues to visit the place as a producer to Feridun's films. Eight years pass in this way during which he takes the things Fusun has touched (even cigarette butts, salt shaker, handkerchief etc.) and replaces them with expensive ones; Feridun has directed a successful movie though Fusun was not the heroine in spite of her strong wishes; Government has been overthrown by the military - but all this has become a blur for Kemal being himself an outcast among his own people.
          The much anticipated moment comes when Fusun gets a divorce due to Feridun's infidelity. Together with Kemal, she plans a European tour and gets engaged on the way. It turns out that she and Feridun had not had any marital relationship. But after the day of engagement, Fusun gets drunk and in her obstinacy takes the wheel from Kemal; the car gets crashed and she dies on the spot itself.
          Kemal's only solace now is his collection; he travels wide to visit museums (comes even to India) and finally sets up a museum in Fusun's house where he stays too. To give the visitor the same emotions as he feels, he approaches Orhan Pamuk to write a book about his life with Fusun connecting it with the things in the museum. It is written in Kemal's voice, but towards the end Pamuk himself steps in. Kemal's business was ruined but he dies as a happy man at the age of 65.

Rating: Bad

          I am a great admirer of Pamuk, but this one though bought with great expectations, disappoints. Firstly, book is too long (728 pages) and there are no such page turning incidents as expected from a large work of fiction.

Pamuk in the Museum of Innocence

          Half of it is spent in describing Kemal's desire for Fusun and on getting repeated accounts, it turns out boring. Consequently, the image of Kemal generated is as a foolish rich kid who is trapped by a women's beauty and wastes his life (all the other characters think so too).
          We feel no sympathy for Fusun; she is obstinate and can never wash her hands off from Kemal's suffering. Why did she take eight years for the divorce? As he says,"It was not long before it occurred to me that if her dream came true and she became a star, she would take to abusing not just me but Feridun too, possibly even leaving us both".
          But this is Kemal's part of the story, and can be questioned. He also refers the tortures that Fusun undergoes as a child by males; but she is no damsel in distress. As in the driving licence incident, she does not bend when the suppression comes on account of being a woman.
         Feridun is to be pitied, as a victim trapped between these lovers - at least he does well in his world.
          The interesting part is the life in Turkey interwoven with the story - the aristocratic class striving hard to be modern, hotels in Bosphorus, military dictatorship of 1980s, the films and T.V. programmes - which unfortunately is not that stressed.
          Perhaps I must not be a judge of Kemal. He has lived his life for what he desired and as his name signified "completeness", he strives for it. It is to be noted that Ataturk, the founder and first President of Republic of Turkey is also named as Mustafa Kemal. I like the last lines and share it here:
"My last words in the book are these, Orhan Bay, please don't forget them..."
"I wont". . .
"Let everyone know, I lived a very happy life."

The building that will house the museum

--- Pamuk is working on establishing an actual Museum of Innocence, based on the museum described in the book. It is to be housed in Cukurcuma neighbourhood and will display a collection evocative of everyday life and culture of Istanbul during the period in which the novel is set.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

A Tea Break

          My apologies for this brief interval . . . There was a storm at my place (not a domestic storm, but a real one!) and electricity was out for five days [lucky that the Rural Development Minister is from this place, otherwise it would have lasted a month].
          Well, at last it came and we were celebrating with a loud applause ( and other primitive sounds) . . . ktuck, the disaster struck again; the phone is out of order. It would not have troubled me much, if the Internet was not connected with it. And this has brought the depressed me into this cafe, totally pissed out as my time table has gone all wrong, and here I can feel my pockets being emptied too.
          But these days were not all that bad: I finished two books (almost), had a fierce quarrel with my sis for some bookmarks, an iron ladder on the terrace is thrown out by the wind, same fate to two cashew trees (my chili plants and fruit trees have managed to survive in spite of my brother's evil prediction); mother's bedroom is flooded with water, and dust behaved in the same way in papa's room.
          On the whole a great weekend, though I didn't like the bit about carrying water from the well. My hands still ache! 

Thursday, 19 April 2012

The Mill on the Floss

Date of Reading: 24/02/2007
Author: George Eliot
Abridged by: Betty McCulloch
Publisher: Collins
Place: Glasgow
Year: 1974

          Dorlcote mill is located on the bank of river Floss. Mr. Tulliver, the owner has two children - Tom and Maggi. This is their story. Mrs. Tulliver has belonged to an upper-class family and has three sisters -- Mrs. Glegg, Mrs. Pullet and Mrs. Deane.
          Tom is sent to Mr. Stelling for further studies where he is later joined by Philip Wakem. Philip's father is a lawyer and is in constant rivalry with Mr. Tulliver. When Maggi visits Tom, she makes a firm friendship with Philip.
          When Tom was 16, his father loses a case to Wakem and consequently loses his property. A compromise is made and Tulliver is made the manager of the mill; Tom is forced to work hard to pay off their other debts. Meanwhile the affinity between Philip and Maggi grows into love, and against the wishes of her father and brother, she secretly meets with him; and together they go for long walks through the woods. Tom discovers this soon enough and he makes Maggi promise that they won't meet again without his permission.
          Mr. Tulliver dies; Maggi goes to work as a teacher on a distant place. Lucy Deane, her rich cousin, invites her home to spend time so that she can make her entrance to the aristocratic world. Maggi manages to withdraw her promise from Tom but he won't agree to a marriage. On Philip's compulsion, his father sells the mill to Mr. Deane and thus it comes to the hands of Tom eventually.
          Complication arises when Stephen Guest, Lucy's lover falls in love with Maggi; and on the occasion of being thrown together in a boat alone, he persuades her to elope with her, but Maggi refuses on account of her relation with Philip and returns to shore. But Tom along with others, suspects that something has indeed happened and Maggi lives a brief period as an outcast, Stephen having fled to Holland.
          Then comes the flood as a deus ex machina; Maggi takes a boat and rowes towards home to save Tom. In a brief tender moment the brother and sister embraces and they die together. Stephen and Lucy marries but Philip remains alone. He visits the tomb of the siblings where it is written: "In their death they were not divided".

Rating: Excellent

--- Story is based partly on Eliot's own experiences with her family and her brother Isaac. Like the character Maggi, she was disorderly and energetic and did not fit to the picture of usual women, causing her family a great deal of trouble.
    By the time this work was published, she has earned much notoriety through her living with the writer George Henry Lewes, who was married, though separated from his wife. Her brother might be the most offended.
--- this is one of the first novels to consider the lives and problems of middle class.
--- book is adopted for film in 1997, starring Emily Watson, Cheryl Campbell and James Frain.


Wednesday, 18 April 2012

The Fifth Mountain

Date of Reading: 23/01/2007
Author: Paulo Coelho
Publisher: Harper Collins with India Today Group
Place: New Delhi
Year: 2005

          This is a re-telling of the life of Prophet Elijah in Bible. Time is ninth century B.C.; 23 year old Elijah of Gilead, hears voices and has visions. When Jezebel, the Phoenician princess wed to King Ahab, orders all to worship Baal or be executed, he listens to an angel and flees to Akbar where a widow and her son shelter him.
          Akbar is a Phoenician city and the high priest there regards him as the fit gift to the queen when the time comes. When the widow's son dies, Elijah raises him with the help of God; he falls in love too with the widow. Then the Assyrians come to attack Tyre and Cydon, but they have to pass through Akbar. High priest rejects their proposal of peace disregarding the protests of Elijah and the governor.
          Though Elijah tries to escape with the widow and the son, God stops him on the way. Widow gets killed in the attack and the city is completely destroyed. Elijah and the widow's son gathers the people together and rebuilds it again.
          Elijah returns to Israel; and widow's son is elected as the new governor of Akbar. Now it is a part of Lebanon.

Rating: Excellent

Lines I Liked:
          "God is all-powerful. If He limited Himself to doing only that which we call good we could not call Him the Almighty".
          "There are moments when tribulations occur in our lives, and we cannot avoid them. But they are there for some reason. Only when we have overcome them do we understand why they were there".
          "Sometimes it was necessary to struggle with God".
          "There are moments when God demands obedience. But there are moments in which He wishes to test our will and challenges us to understand his love".

Monday, 16 April 2012

Silas Marner

Date of Reading: 08/01/2007
Author: George Eliot
Subtitle: The Weaver of Raveloe
Publisher: Noble and Noble Publishers
Place: USA
Year: 1953

          Silas Marner, the weaver of Raveloe, leads a secluded life. His native place was Lantern Yard, where he was falsely accused of stealing the funds of the Calvinist congregation there. There is a strong suggestion that his friend William Dane has framed him; he leaves the place with a broken heart with no intention of communicating with any wretched human. All these fifteen years in Raveloe, he has done nothing but work from which he amassed some gold coins.
          Squire Cass is one of the major families in the village; Mr. Squire has two sons - Godfrey and Dunstan. Godfrey is in love with Miss. Nancy Lammenter though he has a wife and child in secret. Dunstan has made use of this fact to blackmail him frequently.
          A new light comes to Silas' life when his money is robbed by Dunstan and the thief is not found. In New Year's Eve, Godfrey's secret wife Molly travels to the Red House (Mr. Squire's house) to prove her relation with Godfrey; the heavy snow prevents this and she dies in front of Marner's house. Her little child crawls into his home; Silas takes her with the assistance of Mrs. Dolly Winthrop and christens her as Eppi. Godfrey is happy for his daughter and marries his sweetheart without any regrets.
         Sixteen years pass. Eppi is now an eighteen year old beauty and is engaged to Aaron, Mrs. Winthrop's son. Dunstan's dead body is found during the drainage of the fields still clutching the money of Silas. Godfrey's much longed marriage do not produce any children and he confesses his guilt to Nancy; together they decide to adopt Eppi. But Eppi chooses Silas over her biological father and the prosperity that is offered. 
          She and Marner visits his native village which to his dismay is been completely swept away and is replaced by a large factory. Novel ends with the marriage of Eppi and Aaron.

Rating: Very Good

          Though a little difficult to read, Mary Ann Evans has made this her most comforting novel. As Wordsworth says,
    "A child, more than all other gifts
     That earth can offer to declining man
     Brings hope with it, and forward looking
          Novel explores the issue of redemptive love and throughout the work she is careful to maintain a poetic justice. Although it seems like a simple moral story with a happy ending, the text includes several pointed criticisms of organised religion, the role of the gentry and negative impacts of the industrialisation.
          Silas may be the title character, but he is by and large a passive one, acted upon rather than acting on others. In a more wider sense, there is not much difference between him and Vladimir and Estragon in Waiting for Godot. All of them are waiting for something to change their lives; but for Silas, Godot comes at last.
          Novel has been the base for much theatre and film adaptations.
  • Ben Kingsley played Silas Marner in a 1985 BBC adaptation with Patsy Kensit as the grown-up Eppi.
  • The critically acclaimed 1954 Indian film 'Bangaru Papa', in Telungu, starring S.V.Ranga Rao and Krishna Kumari, is also based on award-winning short story writer Palagummi Padmaraju's loose adaptation of Silas Marner.
  • The novel was adapted as 'Sukhdas' in Hindi by the Indian writer Premchand.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

The Financial Expert

Date of Reading: 24/11/2006
Author: R. K. Narayan
Publisher: Indial Thought Publications
Place: Mysore
Year: 1992

          Margayya has a flair for minor financial transactions which are an integral part of Indian life. We first meet him sitting in the shade of a banyan tree, advising the people of Malgudi how to extract loans from the Co-operative Bank. A brush with the secretary of the bank, and an accident in which his spoilt son Balu throws his account book down a drain, cut short his career as a financier.
         Then his fairy Godmother comes in the form of Dr. Pal who gives him a manuscript of the book 'Bed Life' concerning marriage and sex. This on publication becomes an instant success and with the money Margayya starts a money lending business which makes him rich.
          But Balu again proves a nuisance. He doesn't pass his matriculation and once he even runs away to Mysore. So as all the parents do, he fixes Balu's marriage with Brinda to make him straight-headed. After the birth of his child, he demands his share; Margayya finds Dr. Pal working behind all this, and in anger beats him with his sandal. Now Pal is pissed off and he works against him. As a result of the rumours Margayya's depositors demand their money back, which makes him poor overnight.
          His family home is saved with the help of his brother. Margayya asks his son to sit under the banyan tree and start his former business but Balu is too dignified to do such a thing. So Margayya himself goes to his profession with the determination to continue it until his death.

Rating: Not Bad

          Supported by Graham Greene, R.K. Narayan has made a seal in Indian English Writing, and though I like his Swami and Friends, I don't feel the same for this one. Incidents happen too quickly without giving an emotional appeal. Margayya, as a character is too distant. He completes a circle, reaching where he has begun at the end of the story but his fall or rise do not make much heart pain to the concerned reader.
          But the adaptation of Indian philosophy to the story is a commendable achievement. Name Margayya itself indicates, " one who shows the path ". Title is ironical as Margayya fails in his own life despite being called as a financial expert. Story is divided into five parts corresponding to the five parts in a Shakespearean tragedy.
         The fault with Indian English Writing is that though they pretend to give a glance of Indian life, compared to native writings it is insufficient. All of them have a basic hidden agenda (which is obvious to all) ie, to please the western audience which is better done by abusing or mocking one's own land.
          The taste of India is to be found in its native literature and the other is just the copy of the copy and therefore as Plato says, is twice removed from reality. 

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The Insulted and Injured

Date of Reading: 18/12/2006
Author: Fyodor Dostoevsky
Publisher: The Windmill Press
Place: Great Britain
Year: 1915

          Novel is also known as The Insulted and Humiliated. Protagonist is Vanya or Ivan Petrovitch, a penniless young author, who is based on author's own life experiences. He becomes the confident of all the other characters and is therefore able to explain their thoughts and motivations and the narration is in first person. 
          As an orphan child Vanya was looked after by Nikolay Sergeyitch and Anna Andreyevna along with their daughter Natasha. They were rich once, but a case with Prince Valkovsky ruins everything and they were forced to move to Petersburg. Natasha has fallen in love with Alyosha, the Prince's son and together they elope. Nikolay curses curses his daughter and sever all ties between them.
          Vanya was in Petersburg too, staying at a rented house in Klugen's building and he helps the two of them. The formal inhabitant of his place was a Mr. Smith and his dog Azorka. After his death in front of his eyes, Vanya finds Smith's grand daughter, Nellie, in Vassileyevsky island. Her mother, Smith's daughter, has run away with his documents with her lover but after the birth of Nellie, they got separated. Nellie's mother died of consumption, being too late to be forgiven by her father. With the help of an an old friend named Masloboev Vanya brings the sick Nellie to his home.
          Meanwhile, following his father's plans Alyosha falls for another woman called Katherina and eventually chooses her over Natasha who suffers everything silently. Nellie's story opens the eyes of Nikolay and he welcomes Natasha back; Nellie also stays with them. Soon it is revealed that Nellie is Prince Valkovsky's daughter; she dies soon too. Natasha and Vanya recognises their mutual love and decides to lead a life together.

Rating: Good

          This is Dostoevsky's first major work of fiction after his Siberian exile and the first of the long novels that made him famous. Language is smooth and splendid, but the story bores a little at some places. There are too much mental conflicts and lack of actions which ofcourse is the trade mark of all his novels.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Tell Me Your Dreams

Date of Reading: 14/11/2006
Author: Sidney Sheldon
Publisher: Harper Collins
Place: London
Year: 1998

          Work is based on actual events and the incidents revolve around Ashley Patterson, the daughter of the well known surgeon Steven Peterson. Her co-workers are Toni Prescott, an outgoing singer and dancer, and Alette Peters, a shy artist; they do not get along well.
          Ashley fears that somebody is following her, trying to kill her. She even requests a police escort, but the next morning, the police officer assigned to duty is found dead. Two other murders have already taken place, with an identical pattern. All the murdered men had been castrated and were having sex before being murdered. Ashley is arrested for committing these and her father persuades David, an attorney who owes him to argue the case on her behalf. This, in a way, changes his life too.
         David finds through hypnotising that Ashley suffers from Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) and the twist in the story comes when Toni and Alette are proven to be her alter persons who in fact is responsible for the murders. She is sent to Dr. Keller for treatment and David on winning the case decides to take criminal law again.
          Ashley's disease turns out to be the result of being molested by her own father during childhood. She gets cured and re-enter the world outside.

Rating: Splendid

         You will never forget MPD after reading this, and always will be intrigued by it.
--- Thanks to Roshni who recommended this book to me, who I am sure is reading this.
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