Book Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

“I wondered what that was like, to hold someone’s hand. I bet you could sometimes find all of the mysteries of the universe in someone’s hand.”

12000020Read: 30th, April, 2020

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description: Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship–the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

It’s been such a long time since the last time I reviewed a book, maybe around two years now. This is going to be a very short review. To be true I’m afraid of writing. There are so many things on my mind, sometimes I feel that the creative part of my brain is a little dead. I guess that’s how it is when life hits you.

I have had this book on my to-read list for a very long time, and this summer when I’m back at home, I thought of finally giving it a read, and I liked it enough to just blast through it over the night, must have cried a few times, rolled my eyes and laughed at their conversations. It made me feel so many things, I just loved how real it all felt. I couldn’t put it down.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a coming to age story of two boys, Aristotle that goes by the name Ari and Dante, the guy Ari meets at the swimming pool. Dante teaches Aristotle swimming and that’s how their friendship starts to bloom. Ari and Dante are two very different individuals with one thing in common that they both don’t have friends. Ari on one hand bottle up his feelings and try to be away from people, on the other hand, Dante is all rainbow and sunshine who put himself out there and truly express himself, he was a breath of fresh air.

“I wanted to tell them that I’d never had a friend, not ever, not a real one. Until Dante. I wanted to tell them that I never knew that people like Dante existed in the world, people who looked at the stars, and knew the mysteries of water, and knew enough to know that birds belonged to the heavens and weren’t meant to be shot down from their graceful flights by mean and stupid boys. I wanted to tell them that he had changed my life and that I would never be the same, not ever.”

Their friendship starts with Ari finding Dante to be amusing, the way Dante looked at life made Ari spend more time with him. In the book, we see two boys who look at life very differently and how they learn about life from each other and simultaneously also discover themselves.

What I really liked about the book was the involvement of parents in the life of their teenage sons and how they tried to be more understanding of their growing boys. We also see the difference in Ari and Dante and how they behaved had so much to do with how they grew up. Ari bottled up everything because of how everyone in his family bottle up their demons and feelings.

“I had learned to hide what I felt. No, that’s not true. There was no learning involved. I had been born knowing how to hide what I felt.”

On the other hand, Dante’s parents are loving and they express that love which makes Dante be more expressive. However, we see the growth of both the characters and the change in their family dynamics for the good. They both learn a lot about themselves and about each other throughout their friendship.

The writing sometimes felt ordinary and at other times beautiful. The character development was good, however, some of the side characters still remained a mystery, I still don’t know how to feel about them, but maybe we are not supposed to feel much about them anyway. I didn’t know that this book has an LGBTQ theme, and that came by a surprise. Yes, I’m that stupid. However, I did realize towards the end, because the writer made it explicit.

I must say that I didn’t fully connect with the teenagers and especially Ari and how he just hated everything. But overall the book felt very human and that’s what I liked about it.

So if someone is looking for a book, that deals with a coming to age story, parent-child dynamics, friendship, a beautifully written lyrical prose should definitely give it a read.

The book is not perfect. A lot like life.

Book Review: Red Love: The Story of an East German Family by Maxim Leo

“Wolf says it’s all about the facade, that the state didn’t really demand genuine belief. You didn’t have to bend the knee or sell yourself, you just had to go along with the big spectacle of socialism.”

20697583Read: 22nd, July, 2018

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My Rating: 5 Stars

Description: Now, married with two children and the Wall a distant memory, Maxim decides to find the answers to the questions he couldn’t ask. Why did his parents, once passionately in love, grow apart? Why did his father become so angry, and his mother quit her career in journalism? And why did his grandfather Gerhard, the Socialist war hero, turn into a stranger? The story he unearths is, like his country’s past, one of hopes, lies, cruelties, betrayals but also love. In Red Love he captures, with warmth and unflinching honesty, why so many dreamed the GDR would be a new world and why, in the end, it fell apart.
Growing up in East Berlin, Maxim Leo knew not to ask questions. All he knew was that his rebellious parents, Wolf and Anne, with their dyed hair, leather jackets and insistence he call them by their first names, were a bit embarrassing. That there were some places you couldn’t play; certain things you didn’t say.

If there is something that fascinated me this year then that would be Cold War period and most importantly life in GDR. All this because of a movie, a movie! Seriously.

Red Love: A Story of an East German family written by Maxim Leo delves into the lives of three generations who spent their life, or at least major portion of their life in GDR. For some people the country provided them with hope, for some it became their identity and some lived in complete detachment.

I had this notion that people who lived in GDR must have detested it, but that notion of mine was proved wrong here. After reading this book, I realized that not all who lived there were unhappy with the country or the party.

The central players in this book are Leo’s parents, Anne and Wolf, and both his grandfathers, Gerhard and Werner. Each one of them with their different experiences in GDR. This book contained more of the family history and less of Leo’s own childhood, which can be disappointing but not completely, I enjoyed the book anyway. Grandmothers, other women and some other people were not given much space in the story, they came into the story to make an appearance and to prove their existence but they were removed from the story just as they showed up. I don’t know what happened to them.

Leo’s maternal grandfather, Gerhard, was a Jews descendant or say part Jews, with Jews father and Aryan mother. They left Germany when he was of age 10 and moved to France. After his father’s death, he tried to find his place in the world and later joined The Partisans and fought against Nazis in the World War II. After the war was over, he permanently became part of the communist party mostly because the people who helped him during the war were mostly communists and his communist friends influenced him a lot. Later during the formation of GDR, he went along with the communist party and moved to East Germany even though earlier he belonged to the West. During the end of the book, we get to know even though he lived in East Germany and was a influential person in GDR, he lived his best years in France.

“New faith for old suffering: that was the ideal behind the foundation of the GDR.”

Leo’s paternal grandfather, Werner, on the other hand fought for the Nazis in World War II, he adopted Nazism and served in the war. He belonged to worker class family and wanted to be successful and influential and show people that children from working class can also reach great heights. Later he moved to East Germany and advocated communist political party system. For most part he went along with the flow and mostly followed things as they came. I guess he did what was best for his survival, he just wanted to live and along the way also find his position in the society.

“I’m surprised that Werner allowed his professional future to be determined by a tram. The stage workshops were in Kreuzberg at the time. If other tram had come first, Werner would have remained a West Berliner, my parents would have never met, and I would have never have been born.”

The first generation that lived in GDR and also had invested in the foundation of GDR. For them GDR was the symbol of protection, peace and a fresh start.

“Heroes, survivors from the big wide world who have found their new home in the little GDR. Because they aren’t prosecuted here, because they are safe here.”

GDR gave them the hope that now they could be anything they want and that they could live without any threat to their lives.

“I think that for both my grandfathers the GDR was a kind of dreamland, in which they could forget all the depressing things that had gone before. I t was a new start, a chance to begin all over again.”

For Leo’s mother, Anne, things were different, she didn’t play any part in the foundation of GDR, for her GDR was just something that happened, even though she was born in West Germany, she had to move to the East because of her father’s ideologies. She grew up in a communist family and GDR became her identity, she couldn’t see herself without GDR. Later in life we see her deflect from those ideologies, but even then she won’t completely give upon them, she learned to balance and live in GDR without contradicting the Party even though she had different thoughts and they didn’t align with the Party’s ideologies.

“The feeling that she must not harm the GDR because it is the safe haven that offers peace and protection to her persecuted parents.”

For her things became a little easy in East Germany also because she belonged to a influential family. She tried to speak her thoughts but stopped before things turned nasty for her. It was really necessary to create a facade if you had to live in the country without getting punishments for breaking the laws or going against GDR.

A few decades later Anne finds that letter in her Stasi File. She learns that an operational procedure had been launched against her. But later case is dropped a short time late. “Father of the woman in question is a member of the Central Committee of the SED*,” it says in the file. And this is an end to the matter, because investigations aren’t usually carried out into important party workers ad their families.

*SED – Socialist Unity Party.

Leo’s father, Wolf, an artist who didn’t really liked ideologies of the Party though he was not really sure if the system was wrong or not, but one thing he discovered earlier in life that you don’t really have to believe in the system to live in GDR only that you have to show them that you do. Like every other artist who dealt with multiple censorship and governmental control publication, he also suffered from that though he resisted it every chance he got, he tested the water to see how far he can go without getting into trouble or breaking a law.

“I don’t think Wolf was an especially political person at the time. He wasn’t yet convinced that the system was wrong. He was more concerned with himself, with his needs, with his dignity. He didn’t like being told what to do. He was allergic to other people’s rules, he wanted to determine his own life. When he felt pressure from outside he grew stubborn.”

For wolf, neither the system was in his favor nor the fall of the wall in 1989. At least the system gave him something to resist against, the fall of the wall came with, no resistance, and nothing to fight against, with the fall of the wall he saw his own downfall.

Anne found herself again and with a new found spirit because after GDR was collapsed. Now she could express her true self without hurting sentiments of her communist family and without going against the party.

There was this section in the book where Leo was not selected for Higher Education and had to go for work while some other students went to college to get further education and be the intellectuals and the influencers in the country. I’m not still sure why he was denied admission in the first place but what I learned is that The Party had a lot of power to make decisions and if they felt a family is hindering or going against their ideologies they made them suffer and comrades didn’t have the power to fight them. Another thing I learned from the desperation of Leo’s parents to get him into the university is that life in GDR for workers was not very good and they suffered the most. Leo’s family was full of intellectuals and his parents’ friends were intellectual and had good place in the society. So, that shows why they made sure he went to college and good thing that he did.

Now, I wonder what was it like to live in GDR when people concerned were workers and not the influentials.

I liked to read the history of his grandparents mostly because it gave an insight into their life and why they made those decisions they made and how they played their part in the WWII. And mostly how their decisions affected their family. It also helped in providing the distinction of how life was different for three different generations living together in the same country.

This book was a really good memoir and was very engaging. I haven’t read many books so as to compare them but this I believe is one of the best out there. Worth reading.

Book Review: The House in Paris by Elizabeth Bowen

“You feel most foreign when you no longer belong where you did…”

195993Read: 21st, June, 2018

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Estimated Reading Time: 7 minutes, 9 seconds. Contains 1432 words

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: One of Elizabeth Bowen’s most artful and psychologically acute novels, The House in Paris is a timeless masterpiece of nuance and construction, and represents the very best of Bowen’s celebrated work.

When eleven-year-old Henrietta arrives at the Fishers’ well-appointed house in Paris, she is prepared to spend her day between trains looked after by an old friend of her grandmother’s. Little does Henrietta know what fascinations the Fisher house itself contains–along with secrets that have the potential to topple a marriage and redeem the life of a peculiar young boy. By the time Henrietta leaves the house that evening, she is in possession of the kind of grave knowledge that is usually reserved only for adults.

First published in 1935, The House in Paris, is the fifth book written by Elizabeth Bowen and as I have come to know, it is also one of the best books written by her. This is the first Bowen that I have read and most probably also the last.

In the book, the writer beautifully described the surroundings and did a wonderful job in capturing all the details of the external world in a book which was being shaken up by the internal world of the characters. I like descriptive novels, I complain about fewer descriptions in books but this book was over the top in that department. I could actually visualize the surroundings when I read this book, it was a good experience, but then those visuals were there throughout the book which was insane, I got tired of it. The book wasn’t boring but a slow-burner.

In the book, the writer defined many moments using inanimate objects and bring life to them, created visuals to show the passion and the tension and added depth to what the characters were feeling and thinking.

Some examples:

“Like rain on the taxi windows, soft affections and melancholies blurred her mind; she saw inanimate things as being friendly to love.”

“Max looked at me like someone through bars in a death cell; to part is to leave him to what must be. The law takes you away.”

The concept of telling the story was odd, I never read anything in this format. She used this tri-partite structure where the first and the last part were written in “The Present” and the middle part was written in “The Past” with 10 years gap between the present and the past. The second part, The Past, was the longest of all the three parts, it took me 10 days to go through it, some days I dreaded to pick it up again. All the while I was reading this book, I was wondering if I would ever reach to the end of it. I liked the parts that were written in ‘The Present’ and most importantly I loved the last part of the book.

The story mostly dealt with the complexities of human relationships, ‘of mother and child’, ‘of lovers’, ‘of husband and wife’, and most importantly and very discreetly she also talked about ‘friendship’. There were multiple plots within the story and the writer played well with both time and point of views of different characters. Pure emotions were expressed without any corruption or falsity that actually helped in knowing the characters well, good or bad.

In the beginning, I thought the two children Leopold and Henrietta were the main characters but with time reader gets to know who the central characters really are. These two kids are actually used as a device to show reality in a different view, of how kids perceive the reality and assess it besides the central characters actually show us the reality they lived. So, we get to see two realities, the one that was perceived and the one that actually happened. This is the case of hidden realities and exposing them to the reader.

“Grownup people form a secret society, they must have something to hold by; they dare not say to a child: ‘There is nothing you do know here.”

Children think their parents’ life start with them, they see their parents realities and create their parents identities in their mind with what they see while living with them, from all that happens in the present. They don’t have any idea of what happened before they were born, what these individuals went through and what shaped their identities and personalities. There are so many secrets that are hidden beneath those faces that might never be uncovered and they have no idea about them. Sometimes those hidden realities make no much difference and sometimes they ruin families and lives.

So, yes the adults are actually the central characters and most importantly Leopold’s mother, Karen. In the past she was someone’s lover and someone’s child; now in the present, she is a mother and a wife. Throughout the book we see her relationships and roles she played in them, we read about how each relationship shaped her and how they were responsible in forming her identity and how one relationship affected the other relationship. Most importantly this is a story of love gone wrong, where passion, love, and betrayal create the central theme.

I’m not sure what was the role of Henrietta but I think she was also a device to explore Leopold because children kind of communicate with each other and also to assess the situation for readers that was unfolding in front of her in the Fisher’s house. Since she was not part of the family secrets and drama, she gave readers an honest view of the whole situation as she saw it unfold.

Ms. Fisher was one of the characters that I felt bad for, she was hit by series of disappointments in the past, and she was the only one who took good control over the situation and handled it with some sense. She was a giver, a soft person who took care of things and people.

What I found weird was how the conversations were led in this book. The characters talked in a very odd way, I don’t think people really speak like that. I quite didn’t like the conversations. The essence behind them yes, the conversations no.

The story itself I felt was secondary, the most important aspects were the characters and their doings. The ghosts of the past also influenced everything that was happening in the present, we get to know about that in a narrative in the last part, where it is revealed what Karen actually feels in the present and what she is going through and why she can’t face her past. I totally understand what she feels, and only time I sympathized with her was in the last part. It was disturbing to think about how she must feel now about everything that happened to her and how her decisions molded her life to come to this point, the whole thing made me quite uncomfortable.

Of all the three parts, the last part was more structured but none of them were very well defined. We don’t really get an ending that concludes everything but there is a hope that things might get a little better, at least that is what I felt while reading the ending.

I would say, it was an interesting read, yes, it was slow and I slog through it but that didn’t stop me from engaging with these characters who were filled with flaws and imperfections and the whole idea seemed very intriguing to me, also the reason I continued reading it till the end.

Some Quotes from the book:

“But you must grow faster, more strongly than other people. There is no question, for you, of having someone to cherish you. For the man you may be, that your father was not, the father and mother have only been instruments. Their faces and names do not matter. By deluding themselves with each other, they served you without knowing.”

“Goodbyes breed a sort of distaste for whoever you say goodbye to; this hurts, you feel, this must not happen again. Any other meeting will only lead back to this. If today goodbye is not final, someday it will be.”

“The mystery about sex comes from confusion and terror: to a mind on which these have not yet settled there is nothing you cannot tell. Grownup people form a secret society, they must have something to hold by; they dare not say to a child: ‘There is nothing you do know here.”

“Never to lie is to have no lock to your door, you are never wholly alone.”

“There is no end to the violations committed by children on children, quietly talking alone.”

Book Review: The Sorrow of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“I am proud of my heart alone, it is the sole source of everything, all our strength, happiness and misery. All the knowledge I possess everyone else can acquire, but my heart is all my own.” 

16640Read: 26th, February, 2018

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Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes, 5 seconds. Contains 819 words.

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

DescriptionThis is Goethe’s first novel, published in 1774. Written in diary form, it tells the tale of an unhappy, passionate young man hopelessly in love with Charlotte, the wife of a friend – a man who he alternately admires and detests. Goethe upset the conventional literature of his day by having his hero propose suicide as a method by which anyone might end an intolerable misery. ‘The Sorrows of Young Werther’ became an important part of the ‘Sturm und Drang movement, and greatly influenced later ‘Romanticism’. The work is semi-autobiographical – in 1772, two years before the novel was published, Goethe had passed through a similar tempestuous period, when he lost his heart to Charlotte Buff, who was at that time engaged to his friend Johann Christian Kestner.

Goethe’s epistolary novel which was published in 1774, The Sorrow of Young Werther, is his critique of Romanticism. It is a semi-autobiographical work, which was written by Goethe at the age of 24. In 1772, Goethe went through somewhat similar experience as that of Werther, and once he got hold of himself, he wrote this book as a study, Kind of, to his criticism on Romanticism. Strictly speaking, Goethe was a Pre-Romantic but he seems to be influenced by romantic outlook, but it is also true that he talks beyond the confinement of Romanticism.

After experiencing the pain of not being able to be with the woman he loved and realizing that he can never have her, Goethe actually stopped being a romantic, he realized that romantic love is attractive but it creates sever problems too and it leads to terrible disappointments in life. In this book, he brings out the downfall of being a romantic, the dark side of Romanticism and what romantic love can do to a person, and he shows this with continuous degradation of Werther and his ultimate suicide.

“I am amazed to see how deliberately I have entangled myself step by step. To have seen my position so clearly, and yet to have acted so like a child!” 

Caspar_David_Friedrich_-_Wanderer_above_the_sea_of_fogBefore we dive into knowing our Romantic hero, let’s first talk about Romanticism. I’m actually very fascinated by Romantic Era not because I’m a romantic but because this movement had a certain charm, I haven’t read many works from that era, but the music and the beauty it captures is mesmerizing. The set of ideas romantics believed in, their emphasis on emotions and individualism still exist in today’s world, we are all more or less romantics. Glorification of nature in resistance to modernization and bringing art to all the people not just aristocrats was a really good movement. After reading a little about Romanticism and Industrial revolution, I found that Industrialization and mechanization were both in favor for romantics and against their ideas. Against because of the exploitation of nature and a mechanical life but in favor because it also helped these artists in experimenting with their art. You may ask how so? If we talk about music for an example, during this time musicians could actually experiment more with their music, improvisation was done on musical instruments to bring out more sounds and all this was possible and easily done because of the technology and machinery available in the industries, which made it easier to make these instruments and make them for a large number of people in less time. Also with industrialization and increase in jobs, common people now could afford to enjoy art which was mostly dominated and enjoyed by aristocrats. How cool is that now? Very. Why did I talk about the music of all things? I believe that music was the most defining aspect of this movement. So, I like the nature aspect of it, I like the music.

Now coming to what I don’t like about Romanticism, Romantic hero, not my favorite type of character and the irrationality.

Traits of a Romantic hero:

  • Rejects established norms and conventions.
  • Rejected by Society.
  • Has himself as the center of his own existence.
  • Feels empty.
  • Talks about himself.
  • Feels lonely in crowded places.
  • And is incapable of understanding where he belongs.
  • For him, the purpose of life is romantic love.

This book does a wonderful job in capturing the beauty of nature, to show it as a pure and spiritual source of renewal, I also came to know that nature and traveling are actually most important motifs of German Romanticism. Goethe bring forward the sorrowfulness and the misery romantic love can bring in someone’s life, I’m not sure if he also trying to gain some kind of sympathy for the character here, if yes, then I’m not giving any.

I said I don’t like Romantic heroes because I can’t bring myself around the idea that there is no purpose in life without romantic love, that life is sorrowful and that life is absolutely miserable without it. I read and I watch about these characters walking around the city exploring its beauty, living their life with full madness and complete irrationality, I read about this character wandering in the city with no particular job to go to, strolling around listening to people and observing streets. I can digest something like that for 20 minutes or 4 hours while watching a short movie or reading a book, but living life like that, oh dear lord. I personally find all this very dangerous and killing yourself for passion is something I wouldn’t like to celebrate or idealize, but certainly, romantic heroes do or at least this one does. There is some kind of immaturity around this way of living.

I think what we need is a balance in life between the irrationality of Romanticism and coldness of Modernity. Enjoy the nature, celebrate your individualism and also consider the pragmatic way of life.


Book Review: The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum by Heinrich Böll

“Stop it before it grows! Look out, for Freedom of the Press is the core of everything: well-being, social progress, democracy, pluralism, diversity of opinions. And whoever attacks The Paper attacks us all.”

69880Read: 8th March 2018

Estimated Reading Time: 9 minutes 27 Seconds. Contains 1890 words.

My Rating: 4 Stars

DescriptionIn an era in which journalists will stop at nothing to break a story, Henrich Böll’s The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum has taken on heightened relevance.

A young woman’s association with a hunted man makes her the target of a journalist determined to grab headlines by portraying her as an evil woman. As the attacks on her escalate and she becomes the victim of anonymous threats, Katharina sees only one way out of her nightmare.

Turning the mystery genre on its head, the novel begins with the confession of a crime, drawing the reader into a web of sensationalism, character assassination, and the unavoidable eruption of violence.

Note: I don’t know much about East Germany and West Germany, though in the past few days after reading and watching few fictional works, I did research few things and I have marked few things that I would read in the future about totalitarian society and cold war(I’m sure, I have studied about it in history class in 9th standard, yes I’m very sure), and all that goes along with these topics. But that will take some time. So, whatever I say here is what I learned by reading the articles available on the internet and watching movies. So, if I’m wrong somewhere in saying something then please consider it as a very innocent mistake on my part, though I don’t think there would be anything of that sort.

To begin with, I would say, I really didn’t enjoy the writing, for me, it was dry or at least something was odd about it or maybe it was just new for me. I never read anything written in this format, so quite possibly that is the reason. But that doesn’t mean, I didn’t enjoy the story, I really did.

Recently I watched a German movie called, The Lives of Others, it is based in 1984 East Germany, which was ruled by GDR(German Democratic Republic). I must say, it was a really interesting movie and I loved watching it, consider it one of my favorites. But let me tell you why I’m talking about it. In East Germany ruled by GDR, things were quite tight, there were no elections(or at least of no use) and no free speech. Artists worked and executed projects and lived in their own space and underground locations. And the ones who went against them were not treated really well. GDR applied wide censorship during their existence from 1949 to 1990. All the publications were governmentally controlled and potential publications would have to pass through multiple stages of censorship. Artists lost their inspiration because they were controlled, those who were thought to be going against the government were watched. Privacy of the citizens was exploited. Government surveillance affected people’s jobs, personal freedom, and basic aspects of their lives. The East German secret police had a file on almost everyone and it was said that a large portion of the population was an informant at one time or another. East Germans lived in fear under Stasi surveillance, it was the most hated and feared institution under East German Communist Government. There actually was a terribly claustrophobic atmosphere behind that wall, things were repressive and quite boring, only one thing, the life of the people was secured. This movie showed how important love, life, and freedom are. Though all of these basic aspects were controlled during that time. Now you must be thinking why I’m talking about all this anyway.

Well, during that time things were different on the other side of the wall and that was West Germany ruled by Federal Republic of Germany(FRG). Well, unlike East Germany, West Germany was really westernized and in many ways similar to the USA. And life was not as tough as it was in East Germany. Things were colorful on the side of West while grey on the side of East.

The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum, is based in 1974 West Germany(now you see where I’m going? no?…okay read on). I discussed that movie because that movie and this book are based on two contrasting situations, while both of them really deals with same problems. That is why I read this book, because it intrigued me, already the idea of life in East Germany was fermenting at the back of my mind and then I came across this book and I read about it and instantly I wanted to read it.

Now you may wonder why I only talked about, freedom of speech and nothing else. Well, I don’t know anything else, this is something I came across and I read it and I viewed it. So, it is only acceptable for me to talk about things I know. I’m not saying anything against East Germany, I literally typed, good things about East Germany and this popped up 8 Things that were better in East Germany. Neither did I live there nor was I born.

But you should also notice that freedom of speech is not the only thing I talked about, I also talked about life, love, and freedom. Only that one side of the wall was much stricter and the other more liberal. However; we can’t say it turned out any better(hold your horses, I understand it was better) at least in the case of Katharina Blum. However; things weren’t really as golden as they may seem and they are still not and it can be said for most of the parts of the world. The problems are not intricate to one country or one place but they prevail nearly everywhere.

Now, let me talk about the book.

The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum is not only a powerful story but also shows how people with power can really disturb and abuse a person.

The other question it raises is on freedom of the press and when this freedom can be too much. The book deals with political and social paradoxes that affects a person on a very personal level, by abusing them emotionally and depriving them of human dignity.

The writer also talks about how at that time journalists and police, had a lot of power in their hands, police was not afraid to turn violent and journalists were ruthless when it came to digging up information on someone and to come up with stories. And this was very well portrayed in the book.

Katherina is shown as a woman of strong convictions who really values her rights and makes her own decision for her life and also her sexuality. However; we can also see that men don’t really like her convictions and threaten her on every chance they get, there were few instances where they tried to dehumanize her or hurt her with the use of language and twisted words, whether on paper or in person.

When Katherina was questioned by Beizmenne for the first time, where he wanted to find out her relationship with the criminal, he started with asking her a controversial question.

Beizmenne allegedly asked the maddeningly composed Katharina as she leaned against her counter: “Well, did he fuck you?”

And only afterward he looked around for pieces of evidence that would give away some clues.

Similarly, when Tötges(the journalist who ruined her life with his irresponsible journalism) came to meet her near the end of the book, he entered her house and said:

‘Why do you look at me like that, Blumikins, as if you’re scared out of your wits? How about us having a bang for a start?’

Oh, he did get a bang, just not the one he wanted.

This story also plays out how violence develops and to what extent it can lead and how it can ruin the life of the person and people who are associated with that person. The story had this atmosphere of persistent underlying anxiety and the writer created that very well, or at least I felt anxious while reading it.

One thing that was very apparent in the story is that the media really didn’t care if she was innocent or not but only that she was now a story for them. How many times we come across stories that were really developed to destroy a person, for some people it’s business, it brings in more views. They use their rights to exploit the image of a person, they twist the language and sensationalize the whole thing. It happens even today, and what is more disappointing is people like that kind of news, humans are miserable creatures that way, we tend to find some kind of pleasure when we see the downfall of others and society never cease a chance to destroy a person.

“Man should not be in the service of society, society should be in the service of man. When the man is in the service of society, you have a monster state, and that’s what is threatening the world at this minute.” — Joseph Campbell

In the story, we see how people who preached about sociopolitical ethics and values started going after Katharina and also after people who were associated with her. I think the above quote really helps in understanding a very intricate point about individuals and society. I think society can make or break a man, but what I find funny is how when a child is born, he is conditioned with how things really work in the society and he is taught about right and wrong and what does it mean to be human. After spending so much time in the society one can at least expect people’s faith in them, and there is no question in saying that faith has the power to heal a person when he is broken, but during this time when the person needs that society to be on his/her side, society turns its back.

In our world, we have forgotten the true meaning of faith in it’s most fundamental form. We put our faith on institutions, rules, and ethics(which to be true have been made many times and destroyed many times) instead of ourselves. Now consider everyone in the society doing the same thing. We let the world dictate us(each one of us in some way or the other) of what is wrong and right without giving a thought about the agendas behind the organization or groups or individual who is informing us. People in masses turn against each other, in worst case turn against an individual, and together they label, judge and discriminate.

In the case of Katherina Blum, media made the false accusations against her, and they led people into believing that she was a communist, and twisted the comments made by her friends and family in a way that everything sounded against her. They provoked the society in a way that everyone turned against her, they acted irrationally, called her names, and made indecent remarks on her. She received threat letters and anonymous call, some for sex and others for threatening her. Everyone tried to tarnish her dignity and honor.

Freedom of Speech and Press is really important and I’m glad we have it, but freedom comes with a responsibility which I think everyone should take, and when an organization or a group has a social standing where they have a great impact on people, or have the power to influence people, then I think it’s really important that they take responsibility of everything they are letting out is true and not just some made up story and that they should not abuse the power they have by making intrusion into human privacy and by abusing an individual emotionally.

“Because we are human, in everything we do we have a choice. And that choice is to reduce ourselves to an animal in the jungle, or to elevate ourselves to the Creator that gave us life.” (I read it somewhere, I don’t know where.)

As for the book, in the end they did bring out the beast in her and there we witness the unavoidable eruption of violence. And that is one way we turn innocents into criminals, turn against them, destroy them and bring out the beast in them.

Book Review: The Fall by Albert Camus

“Men are never convinced of your reasons, of your sincerity, of the seriousness of your sufferings, except by your death. So long as you are alive, your case is doubtful; you have a right only to their skepticism.”

WP_20180305_13_50_44_ProRead: 11th November 2017 and 6th March 2018

Estimated Reading Time: 12 minutes. Contains 2500 words approx.

My Rating: 5 Stars

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Description: Jean-Baptiste Clamence, a successful Parisian barrister, has come to recognize the deep-seated hypocrisy of his existence. His epigrammatic and, above all, discomforting monologue gradually saps, then undermines, the reader’s own complacency.

“I’ll tell you a great secret, dear fellow. Don’t wait for the last judgement, it takes place every day.”

Sartre said, ‘perhaps the most beautiful and the least understood work’ of Camus, but as it turned out this book totally spoke to me. Today, I read it for the second time, last time when I read it, I was in some kind of hurry and really didn’t look deep into this book, only this time while reading some other book, I understood few things and it only made sense for me to read it again.

I’m reading this book currently, “The Power of Myth” by Joseph Campbell and in this book his conversations with Bill Moyers about myths led me to few ideas and gave me a very different perspective about few things that Camus is trying to convey in his book, The Fall. I had so many “ahha” moments while reading this book, that I had to read, The Fall, again. So, I did just that.


Page 47, The Journey Inward

The title of the book can be read in several different ways, the biblical story of Adam and Eve, human struggle with sin(again a relation with Christian theology), the fall of the character, and fall of that woman(in a very literal sense).

Camus in this book takes the reader into the darkness of human condition.

The character is guilty of a crime of passivity and inability to act. The central scene of the bridge kind of drives the whole story, where he does not act and from there we witness his downfall, The Fall.

“Reaching the end of the bridge, I turned along the quai toward Saint-Michel, where I was then living. I had already gone some fifty meters when I heard the sound – a sound which, despite the distance, seemed immense in the silence of the night- of a body hitting the water. I stopped dead, but without turning round. Almost at once, I heard a shout, repeated several times, which was also travelling down the river, the abruptly stopped. The ensuing silence seemed interminable, as though the night has stopped dead. I wanted to run, but couldn’t move. I was trembling, I think, with cold and shock. I told myself that I had to act quickly, but I felt an irresistible weakness flood through my body. I forgot what I thought at the moment. ‘Too late, too far away…’, or something like that. I kept on listening, not moving. Then slowly, I walked away through the rain. I reported the incident to no one.”

So, I was reading this chapter called ‘Sacrifice and bliss’ in the book, The Power of Myth, where Campbell talks about an incident, about a policeman saving the life of a boy who is trying to jump. Here he is talking about Sacrifice.

Joseph Campbell: “Well, a police car was on its way up early, a little road that used to go up there(he is talking about Golden Gate Bridge), and they saw just beyond the railing that keeps cars from rolling over, a young man actually clearly about to jump and prepare himself to jump. The police car stopped. The policeman on the right jumps out to grab the boy and grabs him just as he jumped and was himself being pulled over, and would have gone over if the second cop hadn’t gotten around, grabbed him and pull the two of them back. There was a long description of this, it was a marvelous thing, in the newspapers at that time.

And the policeman was asked, “Why didn’t you let go? I mean, you would have lost your life?” And you see what had happened to that man, this is what’s known as one pointed meditation everything else in his life dropped off. His duty to his family, his duty to his job, his duty to his own career, all of his wishes and hopes for life, just disappeared and he was about to go. And his answer was, “I couldn’t let go. If I had let that young man go, I could not have lived another day of my life.”

There is a saying, “Love thy neighbor as thyself” which can also be interpreted as, Love your neighbor because he is yourself. Campbell also talked about Schopenhauer’s metaphysical realization that you and other are one and that our true reality is in our identity and unity with all life. So, when you let the other person die in front of you without you acting upon it then you to die with that person.

The passive response of this character in that situation, his inability to act, to save a life caused him all the sufferings, it is not that those sufferings were not part of him, but after this incident, he came face to face with them. He realized that all this time he was wearing a mask for others to see. He wanted to see himself above everyone, but now he knew that he was a hypocrite, and he was not the one he let everyone see. He was ashamed of his duplicity.

“I found myself on a cruise ship – on the top of deck, of course. Suddenly, far off, I noticed a black spot on the iron-grey ocean. I immediately turned away and my heart started to beat faster. When I forced myself to look, the black spot had vanished. I was going to shout, to call for help – ridiculously – when I saw it again. It was one of those patches of rubbish that ships leave in their wake. Yet I had not been able to bear looking at it: I immediately thought of a drowned person.”

His failure to save that woman haunted him for life. And now only his death could relieve him. He thought about suicide, but it was no fun for him, as he said, I like life, that’s my real weakness.

Also, he thought that people would judge him for that as well and he didn’t like getting judged by others. He wanted to avoid that at all cost.

” ‘He killed himself because he could not bear to…’ Oh, my good friend, how feeble is the imagination of men. They always think that people commit suicide for a reason. But one can very well commit suicide for two reasons. No, that idea doesn’t enter their head.” 

And now not only he was guilty of not saving the woman but also about his duplicity, he heard laughter everywhere and thought that everyone was laughing at him, judging him. He didn’t like that, he didn’t want to be laughed at, so he got away from everyone he knew. And first time in his life he felt that he was living a life of double and no more he wanted to continue it.

“So much so that we rarely confide in those who are better than we are; rather, we avoid their company. Most of the time, on the contrary, we confess to those who are like us and who share our weaknesses. This means that we do not want to correct ourselves to be improved: for that, first of all, we should have to be judged and found wanting. All we need is to be pitied and encouraged in our course. In short, we would like at the same time to be no longer guilty and not taking the effort to purify ourselves.” 

In his monologue, Jean-Baptiste Clamence takes the reader on a journey which he took in order to solve his biggest problem and that was Judgement. Here he talks about, love, sexual conquests, debauchery(meaningless sex) and infuse it with bigger ideas of freedom, slavery, and innocence, and most importantly his frustration with humanity.

Don Juanism:

“Some people shout: ‘Love me!’ Others: ‘Don’t love me!’ But there is a group, the worst and most miserable, who say: ‘Don’t love me, but be faithful!'”

Camus’ reflection on Don Juanism can be seen in this book as well(after his essay, The Myth of Sisyphus).

In the starting of the book also we can see Clamence as a womanizer, who loved to be with different women and seeks pleasure in seducing them and binding them just for himself, while he fools around with other women.

“So true is this that even when some of them provide me with only a small degree of pleasure, I still tried to resume our relations from time to time, helped no doubt by that peculiar desire which is stimulated by absence, followed by a suddenly rediscovered intimacy; but also to make sure that the bond between us was still there and that it was up to me alone to revive it. Sometimes, I would even go so far as to make them swear that they would not belong to any other man, in order to set my mind at rest on that point once and for all…

…But by swearing, they freed me while binding themselves. Once they would not be anyone else’s, I could bring myself to break with them – something that, otherwise, it was almost always impossible for me to do.”— Oh how I cringed while reading this, I also cringed when I read about Don Juan in The Myth of Sisyphus, kind of makes me hate men, but then we also have Don Juana, so I can’t really complaint.

But later in the book, he takes refuse among women and alcohol, they made him forget his suffering or I would rather say his life crisis, at least for a while, or at least when he was in their company.

“Because I desired eternal life, I slept with whores and drank for whole nights on end. The next morning, of course, I had the bitter taste of mortality in my mouth; but for long hours I had glided blissfully.”

On Freedom, Slavery, and Innocence:

“Surely the great thing that stops us escaping from it is that we are the first to condemn ourselves. So we must start by extending condemnation to everyone, without discrimination, so as to start extenuating it.”

I’m innocent so I’m free, because if I was guilty then I would be in a prison, but since I’m not in a prison, I’m innocent. But by saying all of this to yourself, you really don’t solve the problem, you are still you and you do know what is true. A person may approve himself to be innocent but even then deep down he knows what he truly is and then even though he has his freedom, he dies in the prison of his own thoughts. So, for Clamence even his freedom didn’t help him escape his problems, and for him, it turned out to be a burden in the long run. Now, it was not only the judgement of others he feared but also his personal judgement. You can fool people into believing what you want them to believe in, but how can you fool yourself once you know yourself.

“I didn’t know that freedom is not a reward or a decoration that you toast in champagne… Oh, no! On the contrary, it’s hard graft and a long-distance run, all alone, very exhausting…

…Alone in a dreary room, alone in the dock before the judges, and alone to make up your mind, before yourself and before the judgement of others. At the end of every freedom there is a sentence, which is why freedom is too heavy to bear, especially when you have a temperature, or you are grieving, or you love nobody.”

Since freedom didn’t work for him because it put a burden on him to prove himself to be innocent over and over again. So, he became a supporter of slavery, he thought it was better to accept your guilt, give up your freedom and submit yourself, he now supported the idea that no one really is innocent, everyone is guilty of something, then why bury yourself in constant obligation of proving yourself innocent, when in reality you are not.

“In any case, we cannot be certain of anyone’s innocence, while we can pronounce everyone guilty. Each man bears witness to the crime of all the others: this is my faith and hope.” 

According to him, it is better to declare your guilt so as to avoid judgement because now what is there for other people to judge. Clamence said, everyone, is riding the same boat, and he makes the reader reflect on his own faults and crisis. He said he is only superior to other people because he knows that he is on that boat and now all he could do is to make people realize that they are also riding the same boat as himself.

“The more I accuse myself, the more I have the right to judge you. Better still: I incite you to judge yourself, which relieves me by that much more. My dear fellow, we are strange and miserable creatures and we have only to go back over our lives to find any number of opportunities to astonish and shock ourselves.”

Camus in this book takes his reader on a ride of self-reflection and universality of human suffering. And in the process also confesses his true being, again as the narrator said, I accuse myself and I incite you to judge yourself. In all this turmoil, he makes the reader see the fall of this character, Jean-Baptiste Clamence and uncovers a person who at the beginning looks flawless and of high morals but within the layers, he is just another monster waiting to be discovered. In this journey, Camus doesn’t give the reader any answer, or any possible solution to solve the problem, but what he does is show the reader everything that doesn’t really work and shows him the absurdity of the whole problem. With the fall of Clamence, Camus actually gives his reader a way to save himself.

“I was wrong to tell you that the main thing was to avoid judgement. The main thing is to be able to let oneself do anything, while from time to time loudly declaring one’s own unworthiness. I allow myself everything, once again, and this time without laughing. I haven’t changed my way of life: I still love myself and I still use people. It’s just that confessing my sins permits me to start again with a lighter heart and to gratify myself twice, firstly enjoying my nature, and then a delicious repentance.”

Book Review: Hell by Henri Barbusse

“I do not recall my own first glance of love, my own first gift of love. Yet it happened. Those divine simplicities are erased from my heart. Good God, then what do I retain that is of value?”

48180Read: 16th October, 2017

Estimated Reading Time: 7 minutes 40 seconds. Contains 1534 words.

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My Rating: 5 Stars

Description:A young man staying in a Paris boarding house finds a hole in the wall above his bed. Alternately voyeur and seer, he obsessively studies the private moments and secret activities of his neighbors: childbirth, first love, marriage, betrayal, illness and death all present themselves to him through this spy hole. Decades ahead of its time, “Hell” shocked and scandalized the reviewing public when first released in English in 1966. Even so, the New Republic praised “the beauty of the book’s nervous yet fluid rhythms… The book sweeps, away life’s illusions.”

It was a strange little book and it hit me in a good way. Its been a few months now, but I remember how I cherished this book and I would totally love to experience what this character experienced, I’m a sucker for slice of life stories and here in this book there were many. I love watching people, people are fascinating that way. I don’t think I ever get bored while waiting for someone or while standing in the queue or even while traveling, I either read or there are always so many people to watch.

“There is no paradise except that which we create in the great tomb of the churches. There is no hell, no inferno except the frenzy of living.”

Hell, a novel by Henri Barbusse was written in the year of 1908(I’m not sure though, it might be the year of publication), also know as The Inferno, is story of an unnamed narrator who lives in a boarding house and there he finds a hole pierced in the wall which gives him access to look into the adjacent room, and there he gets to see the life of people unfold in front of him without them having any clue. The whole story occupies less than a month of time but makes the narrator, as well as the reader, reflect upon the philosophy of life and most importantly reflect upon their own life. So, this man in this book confronts the realities of life.

“Like everybody else, I am a copy of the truth spelled out in the room, which is, “I am alone and I want what I have not and what I shall never have.” It is by this need that people live, and by this need that people die.”

I’m going to divide this review based on different topics, like love, or rather, lack of it, death and innocence. There are many things in this book that one can talk about; however, I’m going to talk about the ones that moved me and touched me.

I like how James Joyce once wrote that: “For myself, I always write about Dublin because if I can get to the heart of Dublin I can get to the heart of all the cities of the world. In the particular is contained the universal.”

Similarly, in this book through a small hole on the wall we get to see life, not the grand aspect of it if we consider the whole world, but how it can be contained even in the stories of people we come across in our lives. It is true, in the particular is contained the universal.

In this book, the reader along with the narrator, get to witness, incest, marriage, adultery, birth, lesbianism, lost passion, young love, the first kiss, illness and death and the emotions associated with them.

On Love:

WP_20180219_20_38_33_Pro (3)

I feel strange about this, but if I really extract from all that I have read, then I can say that Barbusse played with this theme on very many different levels.

“We deceive ourselves a good deal about love. It is almost never what they say.”

Adultery and lost passion: Here we get to see a husband and wife, and the strangeness that creeps between them.

You think you know a person, you enjoy being with them, and you feel safe in their company and, one day out of nowhere the strangeness creeps in, you look at that familiar face that you loved for months or for years, but somehow now you see a stranger in them and you no more feel safe and somewhere deep down you know that you lost something and that is how it is with everything that transcends time. If I talk about myself then I can say that I hate that strangeness and I find it absurd.

Other person doesn’t have to be your lover, it can be a friend, maybe a best friend, your sibling or even your parents.

“Perhaps she denied herself to him.”

Here we come across lost passion between husband and wife, and their loveless marriage.

“Because he did not know her, because she was different from the one whom he knew. To have what one has not.”

Narrator: “I’m sorry for the men and women who go through life together in the chains of indifference. I am sorry for the poor heart that has what it has for a short a time. I am sorry for the men who have the heart not to love any more.”

The reader also gets to see, the lover of the wife, but even there I don’t find the fulfillment, they might have had a wonderful start, like every other love affair, but like every other love affair, it ends in disappointment.(I may be generalizing a lot here, sorry)

“Do you know what we are?

he murmured. “Everything we say, everything we think, everything we believe, is fictitious. We know nothing. Nothing is sure or solid.”

Old man’s Young Love:

“Everything reminded me of her. I was full of her, and yet she was no more!”

The dying old man talks about the girl he loved when he was young and who he lost to some disease(I forgot which one). I really liked his story, and since I don’t want to spoil it for you, I’ll just say, whatever they both created together had a great value for him because that contained the love they had for each other, only that now when he looks back, he doesn’t feel same about them, those things were no exception, it was only the experience that they both shared with each other that made those things worth it.  Nothing is really exceptional, it is only what you associate it with that makes it exceptional. You have to read the book to see what I’m talking about.

Two young lovers:

In the book, we also come across the innocence of young lovers and their vulnerability to the newness of things and first experiences.

“Once more their lips joined. Their mouths and their eyes were those of Adam and Eve. I recalled the ancestral lesson from which sacred history and human history flow as from a fountain. They wandered in the penetrating light of paradise without knowledge. They were as if they did not exist. When – through triumphant curiosity, though forbidden by God himself – they learned the secret, the sky was darkened. The certainty of a future of sorrow had fallen upon them. Angels pursued them like vultures. They grovelled on the ground from day to day, but they had created love, they had replaced divine riches by the poverty of belonging to each other.”

On Death: I don’t have much to say here, but I can quote all that I liked.

“We do not die. Each human being is alone in the world. It seems absurd, contradictory to say this, yet it is so… All we can say is: I am alone.

And that is why we do not die. Once, bowed in the evening light, the dead man had said, “After my death, life will continue. Every detail in the world will continue to occupy the same place quietly. All the traces of my passing will die little by little, and the void I leave behind will be filled once more.”

        He was mistaken in saying so. He carried all the truth with him. Yet we, saw him die. He was dead for us, but not for himself…

“Every human being is the whole truth.”…. We do not die since we are alone. It is others who die. And this sentence, which comes to my lips tremulously, at once baleful and beaming with light, announces that death is a false god.

         But what of others? Granted that I have the great wisdom to rid myself of the haunting dread of my own death, there remains the death of others and the death of so many feelings and so much sweetness. It is not the conception of truth that will change sorrow. Sorrow, like joy, is absolute.”

And this is how the book ends, “I believe that the only thing which confronts the heart and the reason is the shadow of that which the heart and the reason cry for. I believe that around us there is only one word, the immense word which takes us out of our solitude, NOTHING. I believe that this does not signify our nothingness or our misfortune, but, on the contrary, our realization and our deification, since everything is within us.”

I loved reading this book and I must say this book is so human and one of my favorite books from the year of 2017. To end this, I would just say, “Don’t look around because everything you need is within you.”

Book Review: Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata

“The sound of the freezing of snow over the land seemed to roar deep into the earth. There was no moon. The stars, almost too many of them to be true, came forward so brightly that it was as if they were falling with the swiftness of the void.” 

10571801Read: 11th February 2018

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes 35 seconds. Contains 719 words.

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My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: Shimamura is tired of the bustling city. He takes the train through the snow to the mountains of the west coast of Japan to meet with a geisha he believes he loves. Beautiful and innocent, Komako is tightly bound by the rules of a rural geisha and lives a life of servitude and seclusion that is alien to Shimamura – their love offers no freedom to either of them.

Snow Country is both delicate and subtle, reflecting in Kawabata’s exact, lyrical writing the unspoken love and the understated passion of the young Japanese couple.

What a day it was to read this book, it started with gray undertone in the sky to a storm accompanied by strong winds and hail. As I’m writing this I can still feel the cold damp air coming in through the window and I wonder what destruction it must have caused to those crop laden fields. Now there is silence all around and I can see only one person walking on the street in the dark of the night and as creepy as it may sound I’m sitting beside the window of my room watching him.

Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata is a lyrical prose, and as what I have read in the introduction by Edward G Seidensticker, this book is an attempt to infuse poetic form haiku with a novel.

Kawabata in this book beautiful described the nature and landscape of the Snow Country and I think this is the most descriptive book that I have ever read. The theme of this book and the description of the landscape complements each other very well. As far as the story is concerned I thought it was less of a plot-driven story but the story focused more on expressing human emotions and a slice of life that these characters were leading incorporated with nature, I also believe that setting of Snow Country was an integral part that worked well with the theme of the story and also helped the writer to fuse the poetic form with a novel.

The reason I said that this story focus on “slice of life that these characters were leading” is because we don’t get to know the complete story about these characters, we only get to know a part of their life, the one they are sharing with each other.

To be true when I started reading this book, I was confused, it’s only when the writer started dropping names I figured it out. So, in the beginning, I was confused and a little frustrated but then after a while, things started making sense. So, I guess this book needs patience.

I loved the opening scene, but with time I realized there are so many of them and I just enjoyed it as a whole and I must say that the writer never missed a chance to bring out the beauty of the surrounding.

“In the depths of the mirror the evening landscape moved by, the mirror and the reflected figures like motion pictures superimposed one on the other. The figures and the background were unrelated, and yet the figures, transparent and intangible, and the background, dim in the gathering darkness, melted into a sort of symbolic world, not of this world. Particularly when a light out in the mountains shone in the centre of the girl’s face, Shimamura felt his chest rise at the inexpressible beauty of it.” 

The book revolves around isolation and loneliness, around decaying love and separation. There were several plot developments throughout the book and so many things were left unanswered. Kawabata didn’t really talk a lot about the background stories of these characters neither do I know what kind of relationship was shared by Yoko, Komako and the music teacher’s son nor do I know anything about Shimamura’s family back in Tokyo and what kind relationship does he have with his wife and children. On one hand, I’m not very clear about Shimamura’s character, I found him cold, unemotional and impotent while, on the other hand, I found the character of Komako very interesting and at times I was worried about her for all the possibilities and impossibilities that lies ahead of her to face.

Even if I let alone the story, this book is still worth reading for all the beauty that is contained in it and the imagery that the writer has created.

Book Review: Demian by Hermann Hesse

“I have no right to call myself one who knows. I was one who seeks, and I still am, but I no longer seek in the stars or in books; I’m beginning to hear the teachings of my blood pulsing within me.”

16171233Read: 12th October 2017

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes 22 seconds. Contain 875 words.

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My Rating: 5 Stars

Description: Emil Sinclair is a young boy raised in a bourgeois home, amidst what is described as a Scheinwelt, a play on words that means “world of light” as well as “world of illusion”. Emil’s entire existence can be summarized as a struggle between two worlds: the show world of illusion (related to the Hindu concept of maya) and the real world, the world of spiritual truth. In the course of the novel, accompanied and prompted by his mysterious classmate ‘Max Demian’, he detaches from and revolts against the superficial ideals of the world of appearances and eventually awakens into a realization of self.

Back when Demian was first published in 1919 it was written under the pseudonym, Emil Sinclair, who is the narrator of the story.

This book is a coming to age novel, and Hesse in this book talks about the meaning of life and celebrating different parts of life and living life under the opposing forces of godly and devilish elements, their interdependence and the idea that both of these elements are necessary.

The protagonist in this book goes through big transitions, from the world where he is safe and secure, where nothing could go wrong, to the world which is harsh and cruel, where he has to fight and protect himself.

“The things we see,” Pistorius said softly, “are the same things that are within us. There is no reality except the one contained within us. That is why so many people live such an unreal life. They take the images outside them for reality and never allow the world within to assert itself.”

Emil Sinclair in this book is confused about life and where it is going, he tries to find mentors throughout the book in different people that he meets while growing up. Max Demian, Eva, and Pistorius are some of the people that influence Emil in finding his true self and make him learn to look within to find answers to life questions. These characters help Emil to develop self-realization and make him learn to listen to the deepest desire of his soul and not to what society has to say.

Most importantly this book shows how our identities are shaped by the people we encounter and how some of them help us in spiritual and intellectual growth.

“An enlightened man had but one duty – to seek the way to himself, to reach inner certainty, to grope his way forward, no matter where it led.”

In this book, both Demian and Eva can be seen as divine figures. Demian was portrayed as both feminine and masculine figure, he was strong and shows a great care for Emil and ultimately leads Emil to self-realization. I thought of Demian and Eva to be divine because they had all the elements of femininity and masculinity infused together in them, these qualities mark some kind of completion and perfection which I’m not sure how to describe. Both of them are also presented as real characters and sometimes as a figment of Sinclair’s imagination. I really enjoyed the conversations between Demian and Sinclair.

I liked how Abraxas was used as a symbol of both good and evil and to show how good and bad are contained together in this world.

“Our God’s name is Abraxas and he is God and Satan and he contains both the luminous and the dark world.”

Midway through the book Sinclair start seeing himself in Demian and Eva, and we can see that he has attained what he admired in them. And in the end when Demian say that if you call I won’t come, but remember I’m in you. I thought with time he developed something in himself that he was looking up for in Demian and Eva and by the end, their purpose was over and he was left on his own.

It is same in the case of life, people can help you, guide you or show you directions but it’s your final decision that counts and it’s your own intuition that you listen to and need so as to function. Seeking input from others is good but yours is more important because, in the end, you need to make a final decision for yourself.

“Gaze into the fire, into the clouds, and as soon as the inner voices begin to speak… surrender to them. Don’t ask first whether it’s permitted, or would please your teachers or father or some god. You will ruin yourself if you do that.” 

The last chapter gave me goosebumps it almost felt apocalyptic and the scene, where the goddess figure engulfed people and stars leaped out of her, was magnificent and epic. I did read about it in the introduction, of that scene having a correspondence with mother Earth giving life and taking the dead back to her womb.

There are so many things in this book that I can talk about but it so vast and contain so many different ideas that I feel overwhelmed to talk about all of them at once.

Demian was recommended to me by one of my Goodreads friends and I loved reading it, the story and it mysticism captivated me until the very end. It was a small book so it didn’t take me long to devour it completely.



Book Review: Post Office by Charles Bukowski

“Can you remember who you were, before the world told you who you should be?”

38434Read: 16th June 2017

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 22 seconds. Contains 476 words.

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My Rating: 4 Stars

I can’t understand Bukowski, not even slightly relatable. I find him disgusting and even after that I like reading him, I mean his books. And when I need some push to work my way through then it is his poem that helps me, Roll the dice. “If you are going to try, go all the way.”(I literally have the whole narration saved in my mobile.)

This is Charles Bukowski’s first book, published in 1971. It’s a story of a man named Henry Chinaski “Hank”, Bukowski’s literary alter ego.

To start with, I found this book quite funny, it has funny moments and very crude at times. His writing is not tender and he certainly doesn’t talk much about feelings.

The main character is not very aspirational and keeps losing everything and most of it because of his own faults. He is alcoholic, a womanizer, screw all the time. He is seriously all about booze, women, and sex. I find him dark and depressive though sometimes funny, most of the time disgusting.

I don’t really recommend his books to anyone because what should I even say, Oh! do you want to read a book by someone who speaks dirty, use condescending language to portray female characters, a misogynist, and takes self-deprecation to a new height, or I would say do you want to read a book by someone who’s writing can be ugly, offensive and violent but truthful, who is hostile towards women but that is not it, he is actually hostile toward humankind.

So would you like to read it? It’s good(But if you can’t take offense don’t blame me.)

Now coming to the good part, even though the character is an alcoholic he is not totally doomed, deep down he knows that he can’t just die homeless as an alcoholic, so he does work even though the work sucks, he did survive, poorly but still.

“the first place smelled like work, so I took the second.”

He does love his dog and shows kindness to an alcoholic ex-lover. He is not all bad but he’s not good either, never felt sorry for this guy.

The character hates bureaucracy and he has to deal with it throughout the book while he works at the Post office and he finds it stupid and pointless.

I skipped the part with betting on horses, I can’t read anything related to fishing and betting on horses, I do the same thing with Hemingway, I can’t stand it. They write about it, I don’t read it. I skip it and I just assume that they just talked about betting and then losing and winning money.

I like this book and I gave this 4 stars also because of my personal bias towards this guy. I recommend it because everyone should read some Bukowski in their lifetime. I like his poems and short stories more than his novels, seriously. Poems are really good.