Sidharth Vardhan

Samarkand – A Review of Amin Maalouf Book

(A review of Samarkand,a novel by Amin Maalouuf First reviewed on May 6, 2019) “Omar Khayyam mourned his disciple with the same dignity, the same resignation and the same discreet agony as he had mourned other friends. ‘We were drinking the same wine, but they got drunk two or three rounds before me.’” Amin Maalouf (Samarkand) Among other things, this book has among its motifs – Omar Khayyam, Hassan-i Sabbah, Persian liberation efforts at the beginning of 20th century, Titanic, Mongols etc. Omar Khayyam Have you ever detests the ‘x’ of algebra during your math classes, well Omar Khayyam is the source of that ‘x’. “to represent the unknown in this treatise on algebra, Khayyam used the Arabic term shay, which means thing. This word, spelled xay in Spanish scientific works, was gradually replaced by its first letter, x, which became the universal symbol for the unknown.” Amin Maalouf (Samarkand) He was a polymath – a true polymath, not one of the modern-day self-claimed ones who learn basics of many fields without mastering any. Omar wrote thesis in maths and astronomy and wrote incredible poems famous all over the world – and that had a really strong influence on sufi

Of Han Kang’s ‘Human Acts’

(A review of ‘Human Acts’a novel by Han Kang) “I still remember the moment when my gaze fell upon the mutilated face of a young woman, her features slashed through with a bayonet. Soundlessly, and without fuss, some tender thing deep inside me broke. Something that, until then, I hadn’t realised was there.” Han Kang (Human Acts) A semi-fictional account of unnecessarily violent supression of a student uprising in Han Kang’s home town, Gwangju, South Korea in 1980 through point of view of inter-related characters. I guess it would have been brutal to expect another ‘The Vegetarian’ from her but this is beautiful in its own way – showing what it means having to live through such incidences – how it changes the way one sees the world: “Is it true that human beings are fundamentally cruel? Is the experience of cruelty the only thing we share as a species? Is the dignity that we cling to nothing but self-delusion, masking from ourselves the single truth: that each one of us is capable of being reduced to an insect, a ravening beast, a lump of meat? To be degraded, slaughtered – is this the essential of humankind, one which history

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

Of Svetlana Alexievich’s Zinky Boys

(A review of the book ‘Zinky Boys’,by Noble Laureate Svetlana AlexievichFirst written on November 3, 2018) “‘I cried when I read your article, but I shan’t read the whole book, because of an elementary sense of self-preservation. I’m not sure whether we ought to know so much about ourselves. Perhaps it’s just too frightening. It leaves a great void in my soul. You begin to lose faith in your fellow-man and fear him instead.’” From Svetlana Alexievich’s Zinky Boys This is the second book I have that is written by Svetlana Alexievich and her books really do make me wonder about why I read. On one hand, her books are about truth – and plain, ugly truth at that which needs to be told or it would be suppressed, and thus exactly the kind of books that should be read on the priority basis. On other hand, her books are so depressing – being full of accounts of lost and wasted lives; making one wonder whether there really is any point in reading them. Svetlana Alexievich Zinky boys sidharth vardhan review analysis Though not as depressing as Chernobyl diaries, this one is full of sad accounts of all those whose

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

Man Tiger – a review

(A review ofMan Tiger, a novel by Eka Kurniawn,long listed for International Booker in 2016First written on November 20, 2017) Even if you leave alone magical realism, there is a hint of Marquez in this author’s prose. If that doesn’t sell the book, I don’t know what will. Just look at this: “After two days in the hospital, Komar asked to be taken home and said firmly to Mameh, “Don’t call for any more doctors. I’m healthy enough to wait for my grave to be dug.” Eka Kuniawan (Man Tiger) “The city government was said to have given him a plot of land in the heroes’ cemetery as a reward for his service, something he described as an invitation to die quickly.” Eka Kuniawan (Man Tiger) The references to classics and mythological tales celebrate storytelling traditions. In fact, the story itself is a retelling of an ancient myth. The story itself, told in a non-linear manner and from a shifting point of view, though is very simple – that of two dysfunctional families. The tiger seemed to me no more than symbol of repressed anger of a kid over domestic violence (child becomes tiger the way Bruce becomes hulk) and mistreatment

On Judas and other traitors

(Review of ‘Judas’ by Amos OzThe English translation by Raquel García Lozano was short-listed for Man-Booker in 2017First written on February 8, 2018) On Hurting God There must seem something paradoxical to some of the religious folks in the idea that anyone could in anyway hurt God or his relative. They thus want to argue that such people who might have done something against God were, in fact, folks who just wanted to give the God (and relations) leverage to create drama or God made them that way for drama. Many versions of Ramayana would have you believe that Ravana, in fact, was a devotee of Rama and, all he did, was to get killed from same ( talk about Machoist love!). Bible said God made Pharaoh refuses Moses’ offers so that he could bring plagues to Egypt to prove his existence (and then they blame me for creating scenes!) a Borges version said Pharaoh was intentionally serving God by refusing Moses’ offers (and letting his people suffer and die). On Judas It is thus natural that a similar argument should be visited upon Judas by some of Christians. How could anyone betray Jesus? No, it makes more sense to

The Vegetarian by Han Kang: An insane desire to be non-violent

(A review of ‘The Vegetarian’a novel by Han KangEnglish translation by Deborah Smith won International Man Booker PrizeFirst written on October 28, 2016) ““Why, is it such a bad thing to die?” Han Kang (The Vegetarian) In ‘The Killing Joke’, Joker (me!) says ‘All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy’. In Han Kang’s International Booker Winner, The Vegetarian, the protagonist Yeong-hye needed only a single dream. Whether it is prompted as an indirect consequence of beatings she got from her father, the memories of which had long remained latent in her subconscious, or something else; the dream made her resolved to become a Vegetarian. The sight of meat fills her with disgust she has for the violence – which goes with my theory that madness is sometimes seeing things too clearly. She shows similar disgust for sex and again, tries to commit suicide when her father tries to force-feed her. Joker, the clown criminal from The Batman comics sidharth vardhan review analysis the vegetarian han kang But violence is essential to human life, as an old Indian saying goes ‘we kill as we breathe’. And thus, an artistic adventure she undertook for