Sidharth Vardhan

Review of Midaq Alley

(A review by Sidharth Vardhanof Midaq Alley by Naguib MahfouzFirst written on October 1, 2016) I can see why it is called Naguib Mahfouz’s best novel (although I personally like his ‘Children of the Alley’ more). It has a large number of well-developed and complex characters built with great psychological insight. The Egypt of second world war comes alive in these pages. The lower-middle-class characters – barbers, sweet shop owners etc which populate the book are very much like people belonging to similar classes that I have met in India. Their psychology, their motivations which Mahfouz draws out so beautifully are universal though. The sexual desires suppressed because of social pressure, the strong desire to move up from one’s station in life, the constant consciousness of luxuries that are beyond one’s reach – which also turn some people towards corrupt ways. In this novel this desire also makes the youth (among which it is felt most) take part in the war as British army. Of course, once the war is over, the army lays them and their dreams out. One feels for Hamida whose fate is similar to those who, like her, ignore their emotional needs in face of the

Chronicle of a Death Foretold – a review

(A review by Sidharth Vardhanof ‘Chronicle of a Death Foretold’ –  a novel by Nobel laureate  Gabriel García Márquez) ‘Chronicle of a Death Foretold’ is a journalistic account of a murder, and not at all detective-like at that. In very first pages both the murderers and the murdered are revealed. It is only the writing style of Gabriel Marquez that makes this average story so enjoyable. , Gabriel put the Santigo’s flip side in the very beginning and then goes on to reveal the motive of murder which makes you believe that the murder may have some justification. Slowly though we realize he probably didn’t do the thing he was murdered for. The character gets more humane in later half; still, his behavior, especially in those last moments is strange. The chronicle shows you the hollow nature of society. A really, really expensive marriage wouldn’t survive a day. Angela Vicaro’s writing letters to her husband for seventeen years is something so weird that you won’t believe it to be real if you didn’t know otherwise – especially because she didn’t want to be married to him in the first place. Then there is the fact that only hours before the murder,

Coetzee’s retelling of Foe’s Robinson Crusoe

“We must make Friday’s silence speak, as well as the silence surrounding Friday.” Defoe /Daniel Foe’s novel Robinson Crusoe was Coetzee’s childhood favorite novel. At first, he had thought it was a memoir of the title character. In fact, Foe published the book as an account of a real castaway. The realization that the character was fictional, this intermixing of real and fictional, had a huge impact on him. Besides this novel, Coetzee also visited the Robinson Crusoe in the short story he read as Nobel prize acceptance speech, ‘He and His Man’. The theme of which can be summed up in the following quote (from ‘Foe’): “Cruso rescued will be a deep disappointment to the world; the idea of a Cruso on his island is a better thing than the true Cruso tight-lipped and sullen in an alien England.” That is the case here as well. Besides being an adventure novel, Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (I haven’t read the book) is a symbol of British Nationalism in its worst form “He is the true prototype of the British colonist. … The whole Anglo-Saxon spirit in Crusoe: the manly independence, the unconscious cruelty, the persistence, the slow yet efficient intelligence, the