Sidharth Vardhan

Morally Dead

(Review of Dead Soulsa novel by Nikolai GogolFirst written on September 28, 2015) Serfs in Russia were often referred to as souls which provides for literal meaning to the story. The symbolic meaning of title is easy to guess – people whose conscience is dead (in the story, they are mostly landlords) The first part reads as a light satire on Russian landlords and society. The tone is of gentle humor and conversational nature (often referring to ‘reader’ and ‘author’) and makes a fast read. Almost all landlords in the book are caricatures of their personality type – and so there are sentimentalists, stupid old widows, spendthrift bullies who are prone to lying, misers, intellectual without common sense, beautiful damsels just out of school with golden hair and cheek dimples and so on. Nikolai Gogol often leaves off telling-story to talk about a particular subject (servants, women, government offices, highways, horses, Russia etc) but mostly it is something humorous. Although it fails Bechdel test, it makes up for that by giving enough space to servants … And not to forget horses. Anti-hero It is when Nikolai Gogol finally started analyzing his hero, Chichikov that the book earned the fourth star.

Funny Noise

(Review of ‘Dead Noise’, a novel by Don DeLilloFirst written on November 23, 2015) Let us start with an analytical question – How many question-marks per page do you think an average novel has? The book made me curious. Anna Kareina has 1800 odd question marks in about 1300 pages; i.e., about one and half ‘?’ per page- same rate as that of ‘If on a Winter Night’s soldier’ while in Arabian Nights it is approximately 1.3 question marks per page. Proust’s Swann Song had a little less than one question mark per page. In case of White Noise, it was over 1200 question marks in about 300 pages. That is 4 question marks per page, more than doubled the rate in Anna Kareina, the highest contender here. And it shows, and shows enough for me to put in my mind the silly curiosity. I kept on wandering why there are so many questions. Is this a novel that asks unanswerable questions? Or is it some new literary technique to bring out existential issues? Or some kind of joke or satire? Or some kind of annoying habit that author thinks is cool? Has anyone else felt like throwing nuclear bomb

The Left-overs

(Review by Sidharth Vardhan of Death and the King’s Horseman: A Play by Wole Soyinka ) “Not I became the answering-nameOf the restless bird, that little oneWhom Death found nesting in the leavesWhen whisper of his coming ranBefore him on the wind.Not I has long abandoned home.This same dawn I heard him twitter in the gods’ abode.Ah, companions of this living worldWhat a thing this is, that even thoseWe call immortal Should fear to die. ” Wole Soyinka (Death and King’s Horeseman) It is based on a true incident and has in its roots, a Yoruba tradition that death of a chief must be followed by ritual suicide of the chief’s horseman because horseman’s spirit is essential for helping the chief’s spirit to ascend to other world (or it shall wander the Earth and harm people.) I think this explains the title. The king is dead and, Elsin, his horse-man is more than willing to kill himself. He feels duty bound to it – and would rather die than have his honor questioned: “Life has an end. A life that will outliveFame and friendship begs another name.What elder takes his tongue to his plate,Licks it clean of every crumb? He will encounterSilence

The Urgency

(A short story by Sidharth VardhanFirst written on October 5, 2015) “We have to be there as soon as possible.” That was objective. The idea was clear. It was never officially stated but it couldn’t be clearer – a natural deduction given the urgency everyone had shown would tell you that they knew it too. After all, it was natural to reach the destination as soon as possible. They all had to dive as fast. He did. He was really fast, ahead of them all. The others, it seemed, had lost their focus in chattering. He had just finished giving them fifth phone call – and they were still so far away. Moreover, it seemed from their tones that they think of him to be really pushy. He had reached there first, all alone and started waiting for them. The urgency shown at the beginning of the journey was still fresh in him, slowly turning into frustration with time. Why would they stop so regularly and start chatting when they were always behind? Was there the unstated rule that one must entertain oneself while on the way? But that didn’t seem to be the truth – you can’t be doing

The Monkeys by fire ; The Old Man in the Woods

(A short fiction by Sidharth VardhanA tribute to KafkaSeptember 24, 2015) We monkeys have sat by this ever-burning fire for generations because we are afraid to go outside the perimeter of its light into the dark. Although we have tried to look beyond into the darkness every day hoping to find something; yet all of us are afraid to go outside in dark. And this fear is not baseless, for whoever has entered the darkness has never returned. Thus this fire has a very central role to play in our lives. It has been there for as long as memory goes back into the past. One is often tempted to ask who created it in the first place – you can depend upon monkeys to let their curiosity rule them. While over the years, the organized efforts have been made to increase it by feeding wood and thus increasing perimeter of its light – one must add ‘quite successfully’; the question of its origins remain debatable. Some argue that it was always there – but the imagination finds it hard to deal with infinities. These days it is even contested that it was a result of an explosion. However, a

An Unwanted Friend

(A short fiction by Sidharth Vardhan First written on November 8, 2015) There is this man who seems to have taken the notion in his mind that I’m his friend …  which I’m not. To be honest, I’m scared of him, don’t like him, wish to run away at the mere sight of him. Still, he manages to find me – and starts telling me about his sufferings, he doesn’t seem to be able to talk about anything else. I found myself incapable of consoling him, though I do really feel sorry for him whenever he is around – I’m thus left sad without helping him an ounce.  His listlessness is contiguous, sometimes it makes me go without food for days. I guess you will understand when I say I feel frustrated with all this. And he is always finding me only when I would be alone. Not always, of course, I still find my moments of blissful solitude which as you know I treasure above all else, though those moments are becoming increasingly rare. Still, I’m always scared of him finding me and so continuously seek company. I find his pity – whether it is self-pity or pity on me

A Disease You will Love

(A review of ‘Love in Time of Cholera’ –  a novel by Nobel laureate  Gabriel García MárquezFirst read on May 16, 2014) Probably the only time that I will rate a book with word ‘Love’ in its title with five stars but there are very few stories so completely told – I love every single word in this book. From very first sentence Marquez captures your attention and starts a story that is like pure music, moving in perfect rhythm, moving between scenes in a perfect flow, so that you move through pages without stopping to think – the way you carry on listening to good music without trying to focus on lyrics. The tribute to love is obvious from the very beginning, “It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love. ” Gabriel García Márquez (Love in Time of Cholera) However, even the urequited love is better than no love at all. “It is a pity to still find a suicide that is not for love.” Gabriel García Márquez (Love in Time of Cholera) and later, “The only regret I will have in dying is if it is not for love.” Gabriel García

The demons within us

(Review by Sidharth Vardhan ofDemons by Fyodor Dostoevsky Also translated into English as ‘Possessed’) Wanna start with a 1984 like quote, here is one from ‘Demons’: “‘He suggests a system of spying. Every member of the society spies on the others, and it’s his duty to inform against them. Every one belongs to all and all to every one. All are slaves and equal in their slavery. In extreme cases he advocates slander and murder, but the great thing about it is equality. To begin with, the level of education, science, and talents is lowered. A high level of education and science is only possible for great intellects, and they are not wanted. The great intellects have always seized the power and been despots. Great intellects cannot help being despots and they’ve always done more harm than good. They will be banished or put to death. Cicero will have his tongue cut out, Copernicus will have his eyes put out, Shakespeare will be stoned that’s Shigalovism. Slaves are bound to be equal. There has never been either freedom or equality without despotism, but in the herd there is bound to be equality, and that’s Shigalovism!”  Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Demons) ‘Demons’ kind of

Good, Bad and beyond

(A review of ‘Beyond Good and Evil’,a book by Friedrich Nietzsche First written on December 25, 2014) “I obviously do everything to be “hard to understand” myself” Friedrich Nietzsche (Beyond Good and Evil) This kind of admission doesn’t excite confidence in humble readers; does it Nietzsche? The best of the book is mostly in that chapter of aphorisms which take about an hour to read. In the rest of the book; it is mostly author blabbering -at first condemning philosophers and church (which I can still bear for the occasional beautiful observation he offers every now and then); and then detail his prejudices about nations and about ideal women (which made me take that star away). In between though there is a little bit of beauty which can’t be thrown away – the notion of herd morality; slave morality the idea of laughing philosophers etc. More Quotes “Madness is something rare in individuals — but in groups, parties, peoples, and ages, it is the rule.” Friedrich Nietzsche (Beyond Good and Evil) “The text has disappeared under the interpretation.” Friedrich Nietzsche (Beyond Good and Evil) “One loves ultimately one’s desires, not the thing desired.” Friedrich Nietzsche (Beyond Good and Evil) “Objection,

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