Sidharth Vardhan

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

Wole Soyinka’s ‘Of Africa’

(Review by Sidharth Vardhan’Of Africa’ by Wole Soyinka First written on October 14, 2015) The title itself was fascinating to me. Not ‘Of Nigeria’ but ‘Of Africa’. Anybody who talks of thinking beyond political boundaries quickly gets my respect. Africa’s Political map – notice political boundaries are straight lines. “The rise of extreme nationalism, often developing into outright xenophobia, barely disguised under legislative formalisms that never name their real goal – exclusion – is a symptom of the increase, not decrease, of the we-or-they mentality that appears to be sweeping across the globe.” Wole Soyinka (Of Africa) He thinks that national boundaries in Africa are all fiction. Of course, all national boundaries are fictional; but in Africa the situation is made obvious by the fact that it is a fiction created by outsiders: “Boundaries imply exclusion, and it is undeniable that this tainted seed of guaranteed future conflicts on the continent was sown at the infamous Berlin Conference of 1884.” The thing is made clearer if you were to look at political map of Africa. You would notice many national boundaries to be straight lines, as if drawn by a ruler. That is exactly what Colonial powers did in Berlin

Stepping into madman’s shoes

(Review of ‘The Sound and the Fury’ , a novel by William Faulkner First read on August 24, 2015 ) “Caddy smelled like trees.” William Faulkner (The Sound and the Fury) Hritik Roshan in a still from movie Guzarish There is a bollywood movie Gujarish about an ex-magician who meets an accident and is now suffering paralysis from neck down for several years. Finally he requests an amendment in law to make Euthanasia legal, so that he could kill himself. In one scene when he is asked if he wishes to say something before the verdict is given; he says he wishes to show a magic trick to the court. When it is allowed, his assistant brings in a box. The magician asks the lawyer of the state to volunteer, judge orders the lawyer to do so. The magician requests the lawyer to sit in the box and his assistant locks the door upon him. A few moments pass – as people expect magician to do something. He just sit calmly, till the lawyer starts screaming from inside the box. The magician starts talking about some random subject(weather) and thus further frightening the lawyer. After a couple of minutes,the magician

The Left-overs

(Review by Sidharth Vardhan of Death and the King’s Horseman: A Play by Wole Soyinka ) “Not I became the answering-nameOf the restless bird, that little oneWhom Death found nesting in the leavesWhen whisper of his coming ranBefore him on the wind.Not I has long abandoned home.This same dawn I heard him twitter in the gods’ abode.Ah, companions of this living worldWhat a thing this is, that even thoseWe call immortal Should fear to die. ” Wole Soyinka (Death and King’s Horeseman) It is based on a true incident and has in its roots, a Yoruba tradition that death of a chief must be followed by ritual suicide of the chief’s horseman because horseman’s spirit is essential for helping the chief’s spirit to ascend to other world (or it shall wander the Earth and harm people.) I think this explains the title. The king is dead and, Elsin, his horse-man is more than willing to kill himself. He feels duty bound to it – and would rather die than have his honor questioned: “Life has an end. A life that will outliveFame and friendship begs another name.What elder takes his tongue to his plate,Licks it clean of every crumb? He will encounterSilence

A Disease You will Love

(A review of ‘Love in Time of Cholera’ –  a novel by Nobel laureate  Gabriel García MárquezFirst read on May 16, 2014) Probably the only time that I will rate a book with word ‘Love’ in its title with five stars but there are very few stories so completely told – I love every single word in this book. From very first sentence Marquez captures your attention and starts a story that is like pure music, moving in perfect rhythm, moving between scenes in a perfect flow, so that you move through pages without stopping to think – the way you carry on listening to good music without trying to focus on lyrics. The tribute to love is obvious from the very beginning, “It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love. ” Gabriel García Márquez (Love in Time of Cholera) However, even the urequited love is better than no love at all. “It is a pity to still find a suicide that is not for love.” Gabriel García Márquez (Love in Time of Cholera) and later, “The only regret I will have in dying is if it is not for love.” Gabriel García

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