Of Gods and other demons – a review of ‘Arrow of God’

(A review of ‘Arrow of God’a novel by Chinua AchebeFirst reviewed on April 4, 2019) Read it because it was listed as one of Adichie’s favourite books. The story is somewhat like ‘Things Fall Apart’ in that it narrates a story of the rise and, later, fall of a man due to values changing under a challenge from colonial rule – only this time it was a religious leader, instead of a warrior/farmer. The reading experience was greatly enhanced from my having read Carl Jung’s ‘Man and His Symbols’. To begin with, Jung had much to say about the masks and their impact on personality and the group dances in which everyone seems to be in frenzy. I bet Jung would have loved the book – especially the relationships between the people in the book and their gods. The protagonist, Ezeulu is constantly holding conversations with his god – which might be called hallucination but Jung would have called it conversing with one’s collective consciousness. Because apart from these conversations with his god, Ezeulu can be considered normal. Moreover, people actually want him to hold conversations with the god Even more interesting is the way in which people can discard

Diary of a Cynical Suicide

(A short fictionFirst written on April 3, 2019Find all parts of ‘Diary of a Cynical Suicide’ here ) 251. Today I know of the greatest frustration of all. My mind explodes with ideas and I am starved of paper to put them on, having run out of pages in my diary. If only it was possible to die of starvation of paper! I live in darkness devoid of electricity during nights…How bad it has to get until I realise that this is the time to end it? 252. Yeats once said that a thing of beauty of joy forever. In as much there is nothing beautiful as no joy lasts – that much I think I have talked about earlier. But the statement is ridiculous in another way. Even what goes down as things of beauty do not necessarily fill ‘normal’ people with joy. Normal people quickly reach out to pluck out the flower they find beautiful and thus starting it on its death, hill stations that were once seen as beautiful are now cluttered with garbage and pollution by those who find them beautiful and go there for trips or to live out of love for their beauty. A man

Man and His Symbols – an introduction to Jung’s ideas

(A review of ‘Man and His Symbols’a book by Carl JungFirst written on March 29, 2019) Hands down, it is one of the best books I have read and I wish I had read it earlier. This book is a perfect gateway into Jung’s ideas written expressly for the layman (like yours truly) to understand them. I think even if you don’t know the details, you know that his ideas provided a new dimension to psychology, taking it beyond nightmares and childhood traumas. Freud took away the extraordinary – the possessing demons as well as fantasies etc from psychology, Jung provides us with a hope that not all our time spent with those things is wasted. There are though two more ways of gaining from the book for a curious mind. For one, you gain an additional perspective, another angle of looking at things – at art, literature, philosophy, political and social conflicts, even natural sciences. Again, it seems to show the very limitations of rationalism which seems to be the basis of all our social sciences – economics (with its capitalist logic), politics and diplomacy (the ‘carry a stick and talk politely’ approach), culture (consumerism). “There is, however, a

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead – a review

(A review of ‘Drive your Pow over the bones of the dead’by Olga Tokarczuk short listed for International Booker 2019 for English translation by Antonia Lloyd-Jones ) There can be spoilers in here for it is supposed to be a whodunit, though the whodunit is so painfully that calling it a whodunit seems to be a crime against humanity. This book employs a theme that is close to me and seems to be explored more and more often by writers worldwide – that of cruelty towards animals and how it has become ingrained in our lifestyle and how little a thought we spare to it. Anna Sewell’s ‘Black Beauty’ is the first novel I remember that explores this theme and you could see it reflected in a lot of works of Coetzee (specifically ‘Elizabeth Costello’) and most recently Han Kang’s ‘The Vegetarian’ (Elizabeth Costello looks at it in more logical way, while The Vegetarian is all pathos). Much of what haunts these authors can be summed up in a single quote: ‘Auschwitz begins wherever someone looks at a slaughterhouse and thinks: they’re only animals.’ “Auschwitz start when someone looks at a slaughterhouse and thinks they are just animals” Theodor W. Adorno (btw a much

Annie Ernaux’s ‘The Years’ – the story of a generation

(A review of ‘The Years’,a novel by Annie ErnauxEnglish translation by Alison L Strayer nominated for International Booker 2019 First written on March 25, 2019 ) “We were mutating. We didn’t know what our new shape would be.” Annie Ernaux (The Years) I love the International Booker Prize’s new version. They always have at least a couple of gems in their long list. And this book is such a gem. You could start introducing it by saying that it is an autobiography, however, it ain’t just biography of a single person, rather it is a biography of a whole French generation born around 1940. Since the industrial revolution, generational differences have widened exponentially. And a single person can live to see the world change many times in his or her life and that is the case with the generation the author talks about. The generation which is the protagonist of the novel (the pronoun used is ‘we’) was raised in a peasant conservative family and grew up through second world war, cold war, death of philosophers (philosophers are to French what babas are to Indians and authors are to Russians) liberalization of economy, metro, consumerisation of society, television, sexual revolution,

Sex, Music and Jealousy – Kreuzer Sonata

(A review by Sidharth Vardhanof Kreuzer Sonata by Leo TolstoyFirst written on December 31, 2018 ) Kreuzer Sonata – 1901 painting Rene Francois Xavier Prinet’s painting inspired by Leo Tolstoy ‘s novel This was good, I liked two Tolstoy novellas I have read much better than the more popular epic monsters. This one is alive with a sort of energy I never expected from him. And this book even faced censorship! Both Russia and USA thought it was indecent. Well, outside DH Lawrence, it is most sex-centric book I have read that doesn’t use the word ‘sex’. Roosevelt even called him immoralist for writing the book.  Leo Tolstoy Actually Tolstoy’s fault lies in opposite direction. He is telling you how sex is a bad thing. He is telling everyone that we should offer sexual abstinence, even if it means humanity must perish – influenced by Christianity. He is the perfect example of the corrupted Christian that Nietzsche talked about in his Antichrist. (Last book I read.) I am not a fan of his epic books, but you could love the author who wrote them – compassionate, jumping in mind of one character from that of other, refusing to pass the

They, The Robots

(A review by Sidharth VardhanOf I, Robot by Isaac AsimovFirst written on November 26, 2015) “If one and a half chickens lay one and a half eggs in one and a half days, how many eggs will none chickens lays in nine days?” Isaac Asimov (I, Robot) This is incredible, the best of all science fiction I have read yet. As Fredrick Pohl put it: “A good science fiction story should be able to predict not the automobile but the traffic jam.” Fredrick Pohl Asimov not only does that – and he goes one step further, he proposes a solution for the metaphorical traffic jam – in this case ethical issues related to AI, in form of his popular ‘three laws of robotics’ : 1) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. 2) A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. 3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law. The laws, as you can see, have nothing to do with the mechanics but rather their

Who’s the Mr. Capital-G in here? – a review of Children of Gebalaawi

(A review by Sidharth Vardhanof Children of Gebalaawi by Naguib Mahfouz First written on December 13, 2015) This is an allegory on the history of prophets of Abraham religions – Adam, Moses, Jesus, Mohammad represented as far as humanly possible. Gebelaawi, the creator of an alley, favored his son (from a servant) Adham over his other sons of higher birth including Idris (Iblis). Idris walked out on his father and later tricked Adham into the temptation of knowing Gebelaawi’s will causing G to throw him out. “Your mind stays in the place it’s been thrown out of.” Naguib Mahfouz (Children of Gebelaawi) Another book cover of ‘Children of Gebelaawi’ probably showing Adham in Gebelaawi’s house Adham lived on hoping to get back the comfortable life that was once his, scorn-ing at life to sustain which you have to earn: “Only an animal worries all the time about the next meal. “ Naguib Mahfouz (Children of Gebelaawi) Adham lived a miserable life – the memory of lost paradise can bring more suffering than residence in hell, he saw one of his sons kill the other. However, Gebelaawi promised Adham on later’s death bed that his children will get the life he

On Innocence

I’m not much into romantic stories – I mean how much of ‘Ellen, I love you’ and ‘Newland, it is wrong’ one can bear? More so, love triangles – and why they call it love triangles. Just look at this one – Archer has relations with May and Ellen but the two women do not love each other, so where is the third side of the triangle? Shouldn’t it be called love angle or love V? In fact, if you think about it, a love triangle is only possible when at least one of three people is homosexual or bisexual … well, that is just the kind of thing I wonder about when not working on my paper on quantum mechanics involved in the motion of Nitrogen particles in low atmospheric temperatures. Also, I don’t much like leisure classes; for me they represent half the things that are wrong with the world – they are hypocrites, full of ideas of ‘society’ and ‘common folks’, vain, sinfully rich, are always talking about useless subjects like- other equally boring people, balls, marriages, clothes (clothes! Clothes!), food etc. The good thing is Wharton doesn’t much like them either. Different Forms of Innocence There

I couldn’t make ‘The Sense of Ending’

(A review of ‘The Sense of the Ending’,a novel by Julian Barnes2011 Booker Prize winner) “What you end up remembering isn’t always the same as what you have witnessed.” Julian Barnes (The Sense of the Ending) A still from 2011 movie of same name inspired from the book Have you ever wished that there should have been a delete or edit button to change your memories? No, there is no such button but there definitely exist internalized mechanisms which can do those things for us – although a little slowly over time but definitely calculated to make life easy. The truth in our memories is slowly killed over time : “How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts? And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to challenge our account, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life. Told to others, but—mainly—to ourselves.” Julian Barnes (The Sense of the Ending) Or.. “We live with such easy assumptions, don’t we? For instance, that memory equals events plus time. But it’s all much odder than this. Who was