Sidharth Vardhan

Of Dying – a review of ‘The Death of Ivan Ilych’

(A review of ‘The Death of Ivan Ilych’ a novel by Leo Tolstoy First reviewed on February 27, 2015) “Ivan Ilych’s life had been most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible.” Leo Tolstoy (The Death of Ivan Ilych) How do you define an interesting life? Ivan has seen it all one can normally expect to see in a life – he has loved, he has married, has have children, has seen ups and downs in his professional life – yet the moment death shows its face, he comes to conclusion that his life was futile – everything is so ordinary including the very cause of his death. He comes to wonder at the meaninglessness of everything he has done: “Can it be that I have not lived as one ought?” suddenly came into his head. “But how not so, when I’ve done everything as it should be done?” Leo Tolstoy (The Death of Ivan Ilych) With each successive chapter, his health declines and death becomes more and more real, initially he is fully focused on saving his life. His family and friends, it seems to him, are not taking his disease with enough attention. “but that what was

Sex, Music and Jealousy – Kreuzer Sonata

(A review by Sidharth Vardhanof Kreuzer Sonata by Leo TolstoyFirst written on December 31, 2018 ) Kreuzer Sonata – 1901 painting Rene Francois Xavier Prinet’s painting inspired by Leo Tolstoy ‘s novel This was good, I liked two Tolstoy novellas I have read much better than the more popular epic monsters. This one is alive with a sort of energy I never expected from him. And this book even faced censorship! Both Russia and USA thought it was indecent. Well, outside DH Lawrence, it is most sex-centric book I have read that doesn’t use the word ‘sex’. Roosevelt even called him immoralist for writing the book.  Leo Tolstoy Actually Tolstoy’s fault lies in opposite direction. He is telling you how sex is a bad thing. He is telling everyone that we should offer sexual abstinence, even if it means humanity must perish – influenced by Christianity. He is the perfect example of the corrupted Christian that Nietzsche talked about in his Antichrist. (Last book I read.) I am not a fan of his epic books, but you could love the author who wrote them – compassionate, jumping in mind of one character from that of other, refusing to pass the

Review of Father and sons : On Nihilism

(Review of ‘Fathers and Sons’ a novel by Ivan TurgenevFirst written on January 10, 2019) The first time I heard of Turgenev, it was from Dostoevsky. Dostoevsky parodied Ivan Turgenev in his character ‘Karmazinov’ in novel ‘Demons’ (reviewed here) for writing ‘Fathers and Sons’. Turgenev’s novel is based on the nihilist generation and the differences they had with the previous generation – that of socialists. The ‘nihilist’ son Bazarov in the novel refuse to believe in anything based solely on authority – whether it be established sciences, practices, arts or traditions. The ‘fathers’ in the book are in too much of awe for their sons and even have some sort of guilty conscience to produce arguments for their way of thinking. However the nihilism has its own problems. (to began with, nihilism is based on ‘belief’ that nothing is worth believing and is thus paradoxical).Even if you have good reasons to defy authority, often people tend to develop it as a habit and defy authority just for sake of it. Bazarov of the story struggles with his feelings of love just because it is a feeling in established tradition. Thus, Turgenev did brought out the fact that nihilism was not

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

The Dream of a Ridiculous Man – Dostoyevsky’s Christmas Carol

(A review by Sidharth VardhanOf ‘The Dream of a Ridiculous Man’First written on November 30, 2015) “Only perhaps in our children, in their earliest years, one might find, some remote faint reflection of this beauty.” Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Dream of a Ridiculous Man) Do you remember losing that treasured innocence that we were born with? that old childish ‘innocence’ (there might be a better word to describe it, but my vocabulary is poor) – the nausea of which we live with for rest of our lives? We know, or at least we think we know, that it can’t be helped, and we would consider someone a weakling, a divine fool or ridiculous if he or she retained that innocence beyond a certain age. We even laugh at our own foolishness of old days: “They hardly remembered what they had lost, in fact, refused to believe that they had ever been happy and innocent. They even laughed at the possibility of this happiness in the past, and called it a dream.” Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Dream of a Ridiculous Man) Yet, we look at children, ever cheerful, and feel sorry for the loss they are bound to suffer one time or another in their

Morally Dead

(Review of Dead Soulsa novel by Nikolai GogolFirst written on September 28, 2015) Serfs in Russia were often referred to as souls which provides for literal meaning to the story. The symbolic meaning of title is easy to guess – people whose conscience is dead (in the story, they are mostly landlords) The first part reads as a light satire on Russian landlords and society. The tone is of gentle humor and conversational nature (often referring to ‘reader’ and ‘author’) and makes a fast read. Almost all landlords in the book are caricatures of their personality type – and so there are sentimentalists, stupid old widows, spendthrift bullies who are prone to lying, misers, intellectual without common sense, beautiful damsels just out of school with golden hair and cheek dimples and so on. Nikolai Gogol often leaves off telling-story to talk about a particular subject (servants, women, government offices, highways, horses, Russia etc) but mostly it is something humorous. Although it fails Bechdel test, it makes up for that by giving enough space to servants … And not to forget horses. Anti-hero It is when Nikolai Gogol finally started analyzing his hero, Chichikov that the book earned the fourth star.

The demons within us

(Review by Sidharth Vardhan ofDemons by Fyodor Dostoevsky Also translated into English as ‘Possessed’) Wanna start with a 1984 like quote, here is one from ‘Demons’: “‘He suggests a system of spying. Every member of the society spies on the others, and it’s his duty to inform against them. Every one belongs to all and all to every one. All are slaves and equal in their slavery. In extreme cases he advocates slander and murder, but the great thing about it is equality. To begin with, the level of education, science, and talents is lowered. A high level of education and science is only possible for great intellects, and they are not wanted. The great intellects have always seized the power and been despots. Great intellects cannot help being despots and they’ve always done more harm than good. They will be banished or put to death. Cicero will have his tongue cut out, Copernicus will have his eyes put out, Shakespeare will be stoned that’s Shigalovism. Slaves are bound to be equal. There has never been either freedom or equality without despotism, but in the herd there is bound to be equality, and that’s Shigalovism!”  Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Demons) ‘Demons’ kind of

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