Saturday, 15 November 2014

Lust for Life - Irving Stone

Date of Reading: 22/10/2014
Author: Irving Stone
Publisher: Arrow Books
Place: London
Year: 1935
From: Prachand Narayan

          They say, if you perform a bad concert, you will be rewarded with shoes and rotten eggs; if its an excellent one, there is the thunderous applause; and as for a marvelous concert (ooh, that's the best part), there is a stunning silence to greet you from an audience who is not yet back from their musical world. 'Lust for Life' is the last one, you won't want it to get finished and the heaviness in your heart will increase as the pages get thinner and thinner.
        Three years back I heard a little remark from one of my friends, "I fell in love with Van Gogh with 'Lust for Life'"; well, it took me this much years to get my hands on it, but the waiting was worth it; it was everything that I dreamed of.
        Though its a fictional biography of the famous painter, most of the things are accurate and is based on the letters that Vincent wrote to his younger brother Theo. And second to Vincent, Theo is the person who catches a reader's eye, whose unflinching support (mentally and financially) to a good for nothing eldest brother produced an icon we know today. 

        Irving Stone has successfully captured the fullness of Van Gogh's life, (his lust for life as the title suggests) and we are introduced into the frenzy of creation and the joy of fulfillment on finishing his two famous paintings, among others, namely 'The Potato Eaters' and 'Sunflowers'. This is not just the story of Van Gogh the painter, but also Van Gogh the lover, Van Gogh the missionary and mostly Van Gogh the man. And it will surprise you for sure.
         Story begins in London where young Vincent falls in love with his land lady's daughter who, he later realises to be already engaged. With a broken heart he returns home to Holland and turned his attention to become a missionary. His mediocre speaking skills fails him in this respect, but because of his devotion he is sent to preach in Borinage, the coal mining district in Belgium. He sets to work passionately, living with the miners as one, sharing their poor circumstances and giving them the comfort of the Gospel. But when his efforts to improve the miner's conditions fail desperately, he loses his belief.
Starry Night
In this depressive conditions Theo finds him and offers him a monthly allowance so that he can pursue his dream of painting. He returns to his family in Etten where he falls in love with his widowed cousin Kay. But his proposal proves fatal to their friendship and to recover from this unrequited love he moves to Hague, searching for a master in his cousin Mauve. They got along well in the beginning but soon began to differ in their opinions. Meanwhile Vincent is exorcised from the artist community because of his relationship with Christine, a prostitute. He treats her and her child as his own but financial difficulties drove her back to the streets and Vincent too leaves for Nuenen where his parents live now.

         There he devotes himself to his passion and paints till the sun goes down. Margot, his neighbour's daughter falls in love with him, but her family opposes the marriage. Fated to choose between her family and lover, Margot attempts to kill herself, but saved in time by Vincent. He too leaves the place after finishing the painting Potato Eaters
Potato Eaters

         He stays with Theo in Paris and is introduced to the paintings of impressionists which are an explosion of bright colours. He moves to Arles and there staying in the yellow house produces the most magnificent creations in his life. But too much time under sun, makes him prone to epileptic fits and in one such occasion he cuts his left ear. This eventually lands him to the next turn in his life: St. Remy asylum where he spent an entire year.
Vincent Van Gogh
          Theo (who is now married with a child), again comes to the rescue and after spending sometime with his family, Vincent moves in with Dr. Gachet, a specialist in nervous disorders. But his brother's financial crisis worries Vincent and in a state of deep mental torture he shoots himself. Unable to comprehend his brother's death, Theo too follows him after six months due to weak health and he is buried alongside his brother.

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