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

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

‘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

Review of ‘Frankenstein in Baghdad’

(A review by ofFrankenstein in Baghdada novel by Ahmed Saadawishortlisted for International Man Booker 2018For English translation by Jonathan WrightFirst written on May 20, 2018) Shouldn’t it rather be called Frankenstein’s Monster? The book sure picks up the atmosphere of Iraq suffering from aftereffects of war and terrorism. The very idea of making a complete dead body out of parts of victims of bomb blasts which couldn’t be identified with their owner is something that could occur easily to someone living in Baghdad and, for whom, bombs are a daily occurrence. In fact, the characters who seem to be prospering the most are those gaining from ruins – one of them gets rich by buying old junk from those migrating out and other by buying or illegally occupying their properties. Then there is the fact that monster like Baghdad contains elements of various communities. Another element would be religion: “There were people who had survived many deaths in the time of the dictatorship only to find themselves face-to-face with a pointless death in the age of “democracy”—when, for example, a motorbike ran into them in the middle of the road. Believers lost their faith when those who had shared their beliefs and

Die My Love by Harwicz – a review

(A review ofDie My Love by Ariana HarwiczTranslation to English by Sarah Moseslonglisted for International Booker 2018First written on May 5, 2018) “I’m fed up with the fact that it’s not okay to bad-mouth your own baby or walk around firing a gun.” Ariana Harwicz (Die My Love) I know, right? As somebody of other said human beings are born free, but everywhere they are in chains. Chains of different types – social, religious, national etc. In this case, they are of family. The chains of expectations as to how mother should talk, behave, feel. I mean we all know that everyone can not be a cook, but we do always expect everyone to be a good parent. Specially mothers. Die My Love Ariana Harwicz If you think about it, all freedoms boil down to just one freedom – the freedom to be oneself. And being a parent (again, specially mothers in a traditional patriarchal families) must take a heavy toll on one’s freedom – for you are no longer doing what you want to do, but are struck looking after those stupid, smelling, needy little creatures that won’t even thank you for the trouble (okay, why are people bothered

Flights by Olga Tokarczuk – a review

(A review by Sidharth Vardhanof Flights by Olga TokarczukOriginal Title  – Bieguni (polish)Winner of International Booker 2018 for English translation by Jennifer CroftFirst written on May 31, 2018) “Age all in your mind. Gender grammatical. I actually buy my books in paperback, so that I can leave them without remorse on the platform, for someone else to find. I don’t collect anything.” Olga Tokarczuk (Flights) This book can be a kind of bible for the people with restless legs – people whose biggest fear that they will have to spend all their life in one place; to whom travel is the religion, road is the home and their own house merely a comfortable hotel. The narrator is one such person: “Standing there on the embankment, staring into the current, I realized that – in spite of all the risks involved – a thing in motion will always be better than a thing at rest; that change will always be a nobler thing than permanence; that that which is static will degenerate and decay, turn to ash, while that which is in motion is able to last for all eternity. From then on, the river was like a needle inserted into my

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