Archive for February, 2013


http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-literaryreview/crime-born-of-passion/article4373936.ece

But the book’s lingering quality — its ability to stay under a reader’s skin long after its secrets had been disclosed — hinged on its portrayal of two characters who match wits: one a brilliant physicist-sleuth named Yukawa (also known as Detective Galileo) and the other a criminal with almost unfathomable, monk-like reserves of personal dedication and forbearance.

When it is revealed, a reader’s instinctive response might be to snort and say “Impossible” (which is what the detectives listening to Yukawa do). I even felt a little cheated at first, as if the author had blindsided me by stepping outside the permissible limits of the genre. But further reflection shifted my perception of what was possible and what wasn’t; I began to see the peculiar internal logic of the denouement in light of the personalities and the lifestyles involved, and the crime no longer appeared unfeasible.

The actual writing has some of the functional woodenness that you find in most commercial fiction of this sort — too many references to a character’s eyes “widening in surprise”, for example, or hands gripping a phone tightly when unexpected news is received — but these are tics of the genre, easy enough to ignore up to a point. (Besides, as has often been observed, when Japanese is translated into English, the results can seem a little stilted and over-formal, especially when the reader is from a culture that doesn’t understand why a detective might remove his shoes outside a house before going in to question a murder suspect.)

This book is about a crime born of very deep passion, but with no sudden bursts of action, no explicit violence or dramatic confrontations, it is unnerving in ways that more conventional thrillers are not. And despite the fact that the setting is a homogenous modern city and the characters are in some ways indistinguishable from upper-middle-class people living anywhere in the world, there is something distinctly Japanese about it, something of the deceptive placidity of the filmmaker Ozu or the novelist Ishiguro. There is a sense of a neat and ordered contemporary world with mystical rumblings beneath its surface, reminiscent of the Sheep Man in Haruki Murakami’s novels, hidden in a forgotten corner of a glass-and-steel skyscraper, or a videotape being employed by supernatural forces in Koji Suzuki’s Ring series. Higashino’s book is set in a world of tidy kitchens with coffee-makers and bottled mineral water, of sophisticated dinners and dating parties, but beneath it all is something more primal. The image one is left with at the end is the indelible one of a predatory spider watching quietly, patiently over her web.

http://www.isahitya.com/index.php/english-sahitya/interviews/345-in-talk-to-isahitya-vikram-sampath

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-literaryreview/no-longer-the-literary-equivalent-of-woodstock/article4373944.ece

Just one day at the fest could have you seesawing. On the one hand you had Delhi aunties and their designer bags waging seat battles. They went everywhere, anywhere they could get a seat — it didn’t seem to matter whether it was two Dalit writers in Tamil or Prasoon Joshi condemning item numbers or even Amish Tripathi. On the other hand, you had enthralling minds like the young archiver Vikram Sampath, who is struggling to make ancient Indian music free and accessible to all via his website; the quietly dazzling Anjan Sunderam who is being hailed as a young Kapuscinski by Pico Iyer; the insuppressibly witty Howard Jacobson; and the thrill of watching Ashis Nandy and Tarun Tejpal expressively disembowel ill-informed moderators and audacious questioners.

This gets us to the “question rounds between the panellists and authors, after the sessions” — the one way in which JLF flattens the differences. If you somehow manage to finagle the mike, you can also join the elitists in drawing the fundamentals of our society. Or, like I did, watch with horror and bemusement as a young girl in cashmere shawl and horn-rimmed intelligent-looking glasses, actually argue that the Amazon Kindle doesn’t smell like a book.

This year was special as one of my favourite writers, Pico Iyer, spoke about another of my favourite writer, Graham Greene. I have always associated them with the unglamorous side of a writer’s life. Ceaseless media-shy literary warriors, monks among the literary cheerleaders and exhibitionists. Eloquent, dignified with a soft, caring voice they may be, but are/were fast talkers too. They reconnect you with the fantastical world of imagination that is the utmost gift of being a child. And that’s what we love about authors: they are refined out of existence, superbly above it all, and provide no answers beyond the ones hidden in one’s books. But now that Pico Iyer has wrecked my heart by appearing in public consistently (I take solace in the fact that he refused interviews and claimed that he hated travel writing), I am running out of models and icons who will not cave in to the stress of the market or the enticement of taking a little dip in the puddle of celebrity-hood.

That is one big reason, if you ask me, why I ended up spending my evenings with dead writers under the orange and white awning of the Penguin store at the fest: Bronte, Dickens, Kafka, Tolstoy, Greene. They can’t come back from the dead to claim their share of the limelight under that neem tree close to the book stall. Far from the infuriating crowds, buried deep into the earth, they are comfy with their solitude and do not suffer from nervous breakdowns if denied the regular supply of the thrills of the mass media. I go to them, finger the beautiful new embossed collectible covers in bright hues of red, orange and yellow that Penguin has dressed them in, sip nimbu paani in their company and learn to cherish my solitude from them. And as advised by Einstein, look deep inside me, often to find profound shallowness.  So there’s no point fighting it. I will deny it till the day before the festival begins, maybe even book a flight to Goa just to make sure I don’t get there on that day. But there is no point combating what the cosmos intends. I will go back again next year. And listen to Pico Iyer talk about his new journeys around the world.

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-literaryreview/damning-indictment/article4373940.ece

The clash between the normative or what should be and the realistic or what is remains at the heart of all art. Given the conformist nature of our society, this conflict is especially relevant for an Indian artist.

Yet, for all its greatness, I cannot read Tess of the d’Urbervilles in the beginning of 2013 without being saddened by how relevant it is in today’s India. The Delhi gang rape in December has opened up a groundswell of revulsion. Let us hope that this results in a substantial and lasting change in attitude, ushering in an era where we Indians may read Hardy’s novel the way his fellow Britons read it — as a classic of an era long past.

The Hindu : Arts / Books : One for the bookseller.

Colin Franklin’s memoir, Obsessions and Confessions of a Book Life (published jointly by Oak Knoll Press, The Book of Kells, Bernard Quartich Limited, 2012) written in his 89th year is a book for booksellers. A bibliophile will take deep pleasure in it, but a bookseller will feel a closer kinship and resonance with Franklin’s accurate, precise, and stylish recollection of transactions between dealer and collector. I was charmed by Franklin’s diffidence; can a rare book dealer even afford to be as diffident and shy today? Did his diffidence belong to that time — those days — or does it stem from him being a scholar-book dealer? The minutiae of bookselling made him awkward.

He was often embarrassed about selling, asking prices or quoting them; even thinking of referring to someone as customer made him uncomfortable. Franklin thinks catalogues are self-advertisements and, after doing about some eight of them, he stopped noting that they felt like ‘an infinitely vulgar form of self offering’. Instead he exhibited at international antiquarian book fairs and talks of how they are composed of invariably painful moments, inescapable boredom, some discoveries and surprises — best of all, at end of day, dining out with other booksellers and gossiping.

‘No bookseller is free of the fear that he will never sell another book’.

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-sundaymagazine/cancer-cuisine/article4373998.ece

http://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/leisure/the-faces-that-make-the-fte/article4360253.eceHappy consumers are not the only ones that look forward to Numaish. For some Hyderabadis it is less a shopper’s paradise and more a place of vocation; Zeenab Annez speaks to the groups of people who make Numaish safe and enjoyable to the visitors-    …..Whether in fashion, food, home décor or electronics, Numaish has always been up to date with the latest trends in the market but there is one thing that stubbornly refuses to change according to consumer taste: the music. As radio announcer Rashid aptly puts in “You will not hear any ‘Munni badnaam hui’ here,” and he is right. As one walks through the stalls, shopkeepers and sales boys lip-sync involuntarily to the catchy tunes they have been hearing for the past few weeks. Spend enough time there and you will find yourself doing the same.  The man in charge, Ajay Jaswal of Ajay Sounds boasts of a large collection of old Hindi classics.

The Hindu : Arts / Magazine : Are we facing an evolutionary crisis?.

It seems that the human race is beginning to lose its intellectual and emotional abilities.

Albert Einstein, in Out of My Later Years, warned us not to trust our intellect because it had no conscience though it had muscles.

But the suspicion that the attributes of mind — intellect, intelligence, wit, et al — are proving to be increasingly less dependable for the fundamental needs of life (peace, happiness and a certain stability of faith in the very purpose of life) has been felt for sometime now.

Concrete cases were cited that could lead to the hypothesis that deep within man a hitherto ignored constituent of consciousness was demanding recognition and its suppression could lead to several problems, mental, emotional and physical. What had been for ages an experience only with Yogis and mystics, an aspect of consciousness that was its very basis and which sustained the whole structure of our being despite its other constituents like mind and emotions constantly fighting among themselves, was probably at last trying to assert itself, slowly but surely, in the life of a greater number of people.

According to Sri Aurobindo, “At present mankind is undergoing an evolutionary crisis in which is concealed a choice of its destiny; for a stage has been reached in which the human mind has achieved in certain directions an enormous development while in others it stands arrested and bewildered and can no longer find its way.” Sri Aurobindo envisions a future when the mind could be transformed into a Supramental gnosis.

Dr. Crabtree’s thesis leaves us with a choice between two attitudes: we resign to a future when technology would mould our fate, our mind growing cipher, or we cultivate a collective aspiration to release what remains involved in our consciousness. To a professor who was logically convinced of Sri Aurobindo’s vision but wondered if the ugly man of today could really grow into something beautiful, a rustic school teacher told, “If a wonder like the lotus could bloom out of mud with the Sun’s Grace, why cant out of our muddy mind bloom the Supramental with the Divine’s Grace? We may replace Divine’s Grace with Evolutionary thrust, if we please.