Sidharth Vardhan

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

Of White Things

(A review of Han Kang’s novel ‘The White Book’, the English translation by Deborah Smith was shortlisted for International Man BookerFirst written on March 15, 2019) “In the spring, when I decided to write about white things the first thing I did was to make a list. Swaddling bands. Newborn gown. Salt. Snow. Ice. Moon. Rice. Waves. Yulan. White bird. “Laughing Whitely”. Blank paper. White dog. White hair. Shroud. With each item I wrote down, a ripple of agitation ran through me. I felt that yes, I needed to write this book and that the process of writing it would be transformative, would itself transform, into something like white ointment applied to a swelling, like gauze laid over a wound …… I step recklessly into time I have not yet lived, into this book I have not yet written. Han Kang (The White Book) Warsaw After World War II Warsaw Now Han Kang is a genius. I could give her a noble prize. This book sits somewhere in the subset between a novel and the act of writing it and a collection of prose-poems and between truth and imagination. The fragments are themed on white objects as the author is

Absolam, Absolam!

(Review of ‘Absolam, Absolam!’a novel by William Faulkner first written on October 31, 2016) “Tell about the South. What’s it like there. What do they do there. Why do they live there. Why do they live at all.” William Faulkner (Absolam, Absolam!)  Our social systems (in particular capitalism) are such that some qualities such as bravery, courage, hard work, physical strength, cunning, intelligence etc are rewarded while others the softer ones like compassion, kindness, honesty etc not only remain unrewarded but also come with a price for one of who possess them. In fact, only incentives, besides a clear conscience (which is a hardly a thing to bother about), are other-worldly, that is, those promised by religions in afterlife. Now in such a society, people will be discouraged (like Thomas Sutpen) to hold onto those softer qualities – unless they have a really strong conscience, and thus we have a society which is liable to doom. Nietzsche was critical of soft qualities but Faulkner thinks it is lack of soft qualities which brought the failure of Southern States. The story of Sutpens is an allegory to effect. Another reason is medivel sense of honor. With the need for a son to

Respectablity of Rich – Theory of Leisure Class

(Review of by Thorstein Veblen’s’The Theory of Leisure Class’First written on July 8, 2015) “For the last half of my life, I’ve learned to say ‘sir’. Its word you use when you’ve come down in the world.” Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Brother Karamazov) There were times in my early teens when I was confounded when upon being called by such titles like ‘sir’ by some manual-laborer, some tourist guide or like, a person much older than me – I’m a very absent-minded and in some way abnormal person and often end up in being ignorant of things which most people have already got used to – even now I feel uncomfortable being waited upon, which is at times embarrass my friends. Anyway, this observation shocked me because I didn’t fit any grounds for such respect known to me- the person in the question was obviously older and unlike me was earning and self-dependent. I, I was just a kid. Why such respect? With time I learned it was simply because I was richer. This book has a term for this phenomenon – Pecuniary respect. To date and even in the best of minds; other things being equal, a wealthy person, even one

The Palace Walk : A study in Patriarchy and Politics

(A review by Sidharth Vardhanof Palace Walk by Naguib MahfouzFirst written on November 3, 2016) The Cairo trilogy by Naguib Mahfouz is a work of Tolstoyan proportions, drawing a picture of a place during a certain period through its portrayal of a large number of well-developed complex characters. Though mostly it is a story of a joint family, it expands into the political and socio-religious arena of its times. There is a lot more to this book than I will go into this review of its the first installment of the trilogy, Palace Walk. Palace Walk The amorality of the narrator works for me most of the time but sometimes it is really irritating, particularly initially when he is talking about double standards of al-Sayyid Ahmad. When it comes to running his family, Ahmed is quite a traditionalist even for his own times (the 1910s and 1920s) – ‘strict’ (the polite word for oppressive) both as husband and father; so much that his (second) wife, Amina isn’t allowed to leave the house without his permission even after nearly two decades of marriage. When she gives in to the temptation to visit a pilgrimage place in the city (which she hadn’t

Onions and Potatos : review of ‘The Tin Drum’

(Review by Sidharth Vardhan’The Tin Drum’ – a novel by Nobel laureate Günter GrassFirst written on May 24, 2015) In the very first chapter of Nobel laureate Gunter Grass’ incredible novel ‘The Tin Drum’, I was reminded of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight Children(MC) because of the narrator Oscar’s conversational tone of narrative – same as that of Saleem Shinai of MC. Once MC was in my mind couldn’t help locating similarities – both narrators start their stories with the first meeting of their maternal grandparents, both like talking about sex, both of them feel need to hide from the world (Oskar in grandmother’s skirts, Shinai in laundry box) etc. Still, there are enough differences, MC is more magical realism, ‘The Tin Drum’ is more about the unreliable narrator Unreliable Narrator Did I already mentioned ‘unreliable narrator’? Yes, I did. In fact, tell me, why would you consider a narrator unreliable? Maybe he is out of mind or delusional, or he is a habitual liar, or he is full of inferiority or superiority complexes, or he had lied to you before, or he is full of guilt. Oscar fulfills all these conditions. ‘The Tin Drum’ begins with lines: “GRANTED: I AM an

An Hour of Beautiful Writing

(A review by Sidharth Vardhanof The Hour of the Starby Clarice LispectorFirst written on April 27, 2017) “Every once in a while she wandered into the better neighborhoods and gazed at the shop windows glittering with jewels and satin clothes — just to mortify herself a bit. Because she needed to find herself and suffering a little is a way of finding.” Clarice Lispector (Hour of the Star) One of these days, I’m going to put out a list of 100 most iconic book characters I have read and Macabea of this little book is going to be one of them. She is beautiful, she is healthy, she is confident, she is clever, she is witty, she is wealthy, she is wise ….. Okay, she is very opposite of all these things. She was a typist who was a terrible dresser, lived on only hot dogs and love coca cola.That is kind of people I like. Her poverty falls short only of her stupidity. But it is because of this stupidity, that she is happy – she doesn’t understand how sad and miserable she is. In a world where people are defined those very qualities, she is lacking in, she

Helplessness of those raised to be rich

(A review by Sidharth Vardhan of ‘House of Mirth’ by Edith Wharton First written on February 6, 2017 ) “Her whole being dilated in an atmosphere of luxury. It was the background she required, the only climate she could breathe in.” Edith Wharton (House of Mirth) Lily Bart is such a ‘friend’ and has been raised to be such a wife of a rich man. The only thing she knows well and is good at is ‘manners’ of leisure class – and these manners won’t earn her any money. Higher standards of living are addictive and she is addicted, but she doesn’t have any wealth of her own. And since she can’t earn, marrying a rich man is her only option – which seems difficult as she is aging (it is a society where an unmarried women nearing thirties is likely to attract suspicions and prejudice attached to the phrase ‘old maiden’, another thing still visible in India) and, moreover, she also wants to marry for love. To her misfortune, she happened to be a character in Wharton’s realistic novel, instead of being a character in one of Austen’s happily-ever-after tales. “She was so evidently the victim of the civilization

Androids and Electronic Sheep

(A review by Sidharth Vardhan’Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’by Philip K. Dick First written on July 15, 2017) Have you ever wondered how we are living in a world where people are becoming more and more mechanical while machines are being turned into more and more human-like? I mean look at it, on one hand, we have people to whom, mobiles have become as important for lungs. They can’t imagine their lives without them – they set alarms on mobiles to determine when to wake up, they carry the thing in their pockets (in their hands at times when it is one of those large smart-phones and their pockets are too small). Not only that, the phones create a virtual reality for them – with music and videos and so on. I read a comic book once about these aliens who had become cyborg over time – they got so many things to carry around, that they decided it is just convenient to build the thing in their body. I am not sure how many of us will mind such an in-built mobile, you know it frees your hands for sex and stuff. On the other hand, we have

‘On Chesil Bech’: A Review

(A review by Sidharth Vardhanof ‘On Chesil Beach’a man-booker short-listed novel by Ian McEwanNominated for Booker prize in 2007First written on February 2, 2019) This is an amazing piece of writing. If psychology detail of characters is your kink, you will love this novel. Like many readers, I was a bit frustrated by flashbacks though they did seem to be of value – not to mention there was some really beautiful writing. You get to see that the Edward had a mentally ill mother which would explain his anger (other examples of violent display of which are also visible in flashbacks) and you get to see how Florance is conflict averse (she would leave her house in order to avoid any communication with the vaguest hint of conflict) so it makes sense that she kept delaying most awkward conversation of her life. Sex has something of aggressiveness inside it, something of our animal nature which frightens her who seems to have none of that aggression to herself. A shot from the movie based on book Moreover, sex needs a second nature, away from normal social nature. The couple who has known each other for so long are embarrassed to show

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