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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:

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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: The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy

“Death is finished,” he said to himself.  “It is no more!”

18386My Rating: *4 Stars*

I read this book few days back before going to sleep and I must say that this book made me think a lot.

The only reason I don’t pick up Russian books is because they are fully loaded with Russian names and in the end, I end up calling people whatever name I want to. So, the only name I remember is Ivan Ilych.(I know you don’t have to know this, but it literally sucks.)

So as the title suggests and you can totally make this out that it’s about death of a person named Ivan Ilych.

The theme of this book is Death and just so you know I love reading books that deals with death.

This book makes you think inward and ponder upon the subject of life and death, sure it does. When I started reading it, the tone of the writing was really cold and it does suit the setting that was of a funeral with some slap on the face humor which I wonder was there or it was just an effort made my Tolstoy to bring the readers out of the depressive setting that he created in his book.

Tolstoy did talk about morality and there were few situation where even I gave out a chuckle or two and then I thought how inappropriate it was. He starts with how when someone dies people for a very brief time show their sympathy, they feel a bit sad for the person who died, but they feel more happy for they didn’t, for they are alive and it’s not their time, yet.

I want to quote few lines from the funeral part of the story…

His acquaintance…

“Schwartz was waiting for him in the adjoining room with legs spread wide apart and both hands toying with his top-hat behind his back.  The mere sight of that playful, well-groomed, and elegant figure refreshed Peter Ivanovich.  He felt that Schwartz was above all these happenings and would not surrender to any depressing influences.”

Schwartz didn’t give a hoot. He was there just to mark his presence.


His wife…

“Oh, terribly!  He screamed unceasingly, not for minutes but for hours.  for the last three days he screamed incessantly.  It was unendurable.  I cannot understand how I bore it; you could hear him three rooms off.  Oh, what I have suffered!”

And then his wife said that she suffered. I ask from what? The screams of her husband that she couldn’t tolerate? OH MY GOD! Reading those lines made me feel worse.


His friend…

“The service began:  candles, groans, incense, tears, and sobs.  Peter Ivanovich stood looking gloomily down at his feet. He did not look once at the dead man, did not yield to any depressing influence, and was one of the first to leave the room…

…Peter Ivanovich found the fresh air particularly pleasant after the smell of incense, the dead body, and carbolic acid.”

He just wanted to get out of the awkward situation that he was in, the funeral. So, that at least he can feel happy about his life and that he was alive.


I suffered from all insensitivity these characters showed, made me think for once that how people really do that kind of shit all the time. Some of them feel sad when other people suffer but they feel more happy for themselves because they are all well and fine, then there are few people who don’t give a hoot about anyone, they only think about what they can get out of others suffering, how others suffering can benefit them. And some of them feel relieved that at least it’s all over so that they can move on in life.

Ivan was a nice man, he lived a well to do life, he owned a good house, had a good career, money, a good position in the society and a family. If you look at the surface he had it all. But one day when death announced itself to him, everything came crashing down.

“Ivan Ilych’s life had been most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible.”

When pain and agony made him question his life, when he looked back in time, he realized he lost all the joy with time and he started questioning life. All that he had was what the society was expecting from him, not necessarily what he wanted out of life.

“False. Everything by which you have lived and live now is all a deception, a lie, concealing both life and death from you.”

“And in imagination he began to recall the best moments of his pleasant life.  But strange to say none of those best moments of his pleasant life now seemed at all what they had then seemed—none of them except the first recollections of childhood.  There, in childhood, there had been something really pleasant with which it would be possible to live if it could return.  But the child who had experienced that happiness existed no longer, it was like a reminiscence of somebody else.

 As soon as the period began which had produced the present Ivan Ilych, all that had then seemed joys now melted before his sight and turned into something trivial and often nasty.”

Alone while suffering and waiting for his death he questioned himself and his soul. He saw his life in a different light. He suffered his destruction all alone and died everyday a little thinking that no one really cared to understand his sufferings.

“It can’t be that life is so senseless and horrible. But if it really has been so horrible and senseless, why must I die and die in agony? There is something wrong!”

And then he died and we came to an end.

“Death is finished, he said to himself. It is no more!”

And there it was “The Death of Ivan Ilych”.

It’s a short book but I believe one should read this book, it can be a heavy read for some people but worth reading. Once you’ll start reading it, I’m sure you won’t be able to put it down.

Book Review: The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

“What you end up remembering isn’t always the same as what you have witnessed.”

10746542My Rating: *5 Stars*

It was only when I finished reading the last few pages, I started recollecting all that I read…

Pretty chaotic, huh?(Ya, I’m just reminding myself.)

There was so much between those lines and this book touched me on so many different levels that I don’t know where to start. I have so many things to say.

No, I’m not gonna tell you anything about the plot, seriously no.

But again what a wonderful book it is, I’m impressed.

When I started reading this book, I was not very much into it but after reading 13 pages, I found myself glued to the pages.

You know how they say, when you remember a past event, you’re actually remembering the last time you remembered it.

We can never really forget memories, sometimes they are hidden beneath other memories, sometimes we don’t even know we have those memories until someone makes us remember them. Then there are memories which don’t hold any importance in our lives, but sometimes they uncover themselves and help us make sense out of thing.

Sometimes small things make us remember something from our past. It can be a voice, smell, some sound, a place, or even a touch, sometimes they bring back all the memories which we never knew we know, and sometimes these things make us remember important event of our lives– About someone we met years ago, or a place we traveled long back, it can be anything.

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“How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts? And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to challenge our account, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life. Told to others, but—mainly—to ourselves.”

 In this book, we have an unreliable narrator, Tony. Now you may ask, “why am I calling him unreliable?”, because this person is telling us about the events that happened in his past, he is remembering his past. But the thing is sometimes people tend to mold things, they mold their life stories according to what suits them, yes they do. And sometimes time affects our memories, sometimes they fade away and sometimes we don’t remember the accurate account of an event. And here in this story memory is the hero.

“It strikes me that this may be one of the differences between youth and age: when we are young, we invent different futures for ourselves; when we are old, we invent different pasts for others.”

Tony is a pretentious, self-indulgent male, who always wanted things to turn the way he wanted them to be. But, as it always happen, they didn’t. His life didn’t turn out the way he wanted.

“This was another of our fears: that Life wouldn’t turn out to be like Literature.”

The ending gave few details which were disturbing, now that I think of them. Sometimes, the book was depressing, sometimes I found the narrator annoying because he is self-centered and self-righteous.

I liked how events unfolded, I really liked looking back at time and how the writer tried to connect all the dots in the last passage, every word in his book counts. This book made me think forward and backward, just to make the sense out of the ending.

I totally recommend this book to everyone.

Happy Reading!

7 Inspirational Books that You should Read: Do You Really Need Them? This Will Help You Decide!

quotescover-PNG-41 Yesterday I wrote an answer to a question on Quora.

Then today I thought why not write a post similar to it. So, here it is.

There are few inspiration novels that I love and today I’m sharing with you 7 books out of many wonderful books that I love and adore.

Few of them are just brilliant and are must read books and you I’m telling you that you really need to read them(well you can decide for yourself, I was just kidding).

I consider each one of them worthy of anyone’s time.


“The Giver” by Lois Lowry

“If everything’s the same, then there aren’t any choices! I want to wake up in the morning and decide things!”

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Why?The Giver had made me shed a tear more than a few times.

Think of life as black and white. The world of “sameness” and “uniformity”, where there is no love, no happiness, no sadness, no warmth, no color, no death, and no anger. This book depicts the world of dullness and monotony. Now think of a world where you assigned everything, maybe your future occupation, your life partner and whatever you can think of.

I’m not very crazy about the ending. But this book did teach me, that we need change in our world and not just the change but also the courage to make that change. This book tell you that you can do everything you set your mind to. It also make us realize that when we allow people to choose for themselves, you instill hope in them.

“Jonathan Livingston Seagull” by Richard Bach

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When I was in 10th standard my English teacher suggested this book to us students and she told, that one of the person she met read this book and, he told her that, this book changed him, changed the way he think and the way he lives his life.

So,that time I decided, that I should also read this book and in 2011, I actually gave this book a read, with one another book from Richard Bach called “Illusion”.

This book is a fable and a short read, BUT a good read indeed!

Yes, as few readers complained, there is nothing new in this book. All the same stuff about will power and self imagination of limitlessness. But you know, This fable had quite a different way of defining heaven..in “perfection”, in “realization of limitless self”. Listening to your heart, and that true determination and hard practice can give you mastery in whatever field you want, the sense of effortlessness..not only to produce the results each time but to understand & conquer the principles underlying the ways which produce these results.

“..Jonathan asked to Chiang,” Well, what happens from here? Where are we going? Is there no place as heaven?” and Chiang replied, ” No, Jon, there is no such place. Heaven is not a place, and it is not even time. Heaven is being perfect. You will begin to touch heaven, Jonathan, in the moment that you touch perfect speed. And that isn’t flying a thousand miles an hour or at speed of light. Because any number is limit, and perfection doesn’t have limits. Perfect speed, my son, is being there, instantly…anywhere anytime anyplace.”

“The Time Keeper”by Mitch Albom

“It is never to late or too soon, it is when it is supposed to be.”

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why? Book Review

This book basically tells you that don’t take time for granted, don’t wish it away, don’t take it in your hands. Love it or hate it, time keeps moving forward.

 

 

 

“Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor E. Frankl

“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”

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Why?If you ask me to make a list of 10 must read book, this book will be on the top. When I read it this book gave me a Mind Orgasm.

After reading this book, now every time I take up anything that take up a whole lot of time. I always ask myself, “Will this be meaningful to me?” and if the answer is a big “No”. I don’t do it. Save a lot of time.

The writer show us the capacity of hope. This book for me is a perspective changer.

“Outliers: The Story of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell

“Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.”

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Why?This book is more of a influential book but let me add it to this list because perhaps it was also inspirational for me.

You do need to read this book!

I call this book, “Outliers don’t exist” because Outliers may not be Outliers after all. You’ll get to know this after reading this book.

“Walden” by Henry David Thoreau

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”

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Why?For me this book was inspiring. Since in 21st century people are living life in a rut. The opportunity to dig your way out of it and to get away so as to get in touch with nature, to discover, to really think about life sounds to me like a really good thing to do.

“Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand

“I love you so much that nothing can matter to me – not even you…Only my love- not your answer. Not even your indifference”

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Why?Whether you agree with this woman or not(please say you don’t). This book is certainly enticing and enchanting. I’m not really fan of this woman, but this is one of my favorite book and it is entertaining too.

“To say “I love you” one must know first how to say the “I”.”

This book is remarkable.

I liked Howard’s struggle to resist society’s way and remain true to himself . To maintain his individuality. And I liked how the book argues that individuals, not society, makes history.

It’s a tale of triumph and defeat.


So these are the 7 inspirational novels that I wanted to share with you. Some other day I’ll add more books to this list. Till then enjoy these!

Happy Reading!

 

Book Review: Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

“’I hate you’ she said to me one afternoon. ‘I really, really hate you.’ Call me sensitive, couldn’t help but take it personally.”

4137My Rating: *2.5 Stars*

I tell you what, how about you give a brief look at the book jacket. You see that review by OBSERVER?

It states: ‘A humorist par excellence, he can make Woody Allen appear ham-tongued, Oscar Wilde a drag’

Well, that statement that you just read is a joke, a bad joke! I lost faith in humanity after reading this book because of that statement.

Seriously you compared a guy, who I didn’t know exist with Woody Allen and Oscar Wilde? Well good! But then you called both of these amazing people ham-tongued and a drag? Are you shitting me? And compared them with this person? Why oh why?

Okay I’m not gonna exaggerate, the book is just fine, but why did I read this book? Ya, because I wanted to read some humorous stuff. Total waste of time and I was expecting it to be hilarious, but it wasn’t. That is it!

I really don’t care about David Sedaris. I really don’t. What I read in this book is a story of a self-indulgent, pretentious white male, ghh!!!

Okay so hi there! you are a book lover? you want to read a good book? something humorous? do you have a whole lot of time? or you don’t have?

Whatever be your reason don’t read this, total waste. I won’t recommend this book.

If you literally want to read some fun stuff, if you want a good laugh and want some good dosage of humor. Then please go read Oscar Wilde and Woody Allen, I assure you they will make you laugh, they’ll tell you something fun. And you’ll actually enjoy.

Happy Reading!

Book Review: One Day by David Nicholls

“So – whatever happened to you?’
‘Life. Life happened.”

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My Rating: *3 Stars*

When did I read this book? hmm…3 years back first semester break, the time when I was 18. I remember I had nothing good to do and then I decided to buy, guess what? , some romance novels.

So I got this book, one Julie James book(which was awesome) and few mills & boon(when I sent the pictures of what all I bought one of my friend literally asked me after seeing those mills and boon books “Why did you buy condoms?”, I know *sigh*). Don’t judge I was feeling lonely and hormonal.

Back to this book.

If you want to smile, laugh, cry, cringe, sigh or just plain sit on a roller-coaster of emotions, then read this book.

Okay few things I really loved, few things not so much.

Well, not my favorite book but then the story is rare and entertaining.

The best part of this book? Emma, yes the female lead. She was nerdy(and I love nerdy people), funny(in a weird way), down-to-earth and amazing person.

Dexter? I didn’t like him at first. I don’t like bad guys and he was seriously not a nice guy. So, it took me some time to actually like him and then came the end. I hated him for most of the part.

The book in itself is cheesy and then Dexter made it corny. This is not true love thing because I have no idea how can people live with such denial, and lies for so many years. It’s kinda degrading.

Well the guy in this book, remind me of someone I know and seriously I can’t understand these people. I don’t know what they get out of cheating on so many people.

Cheesy? Because again a story, where the guy is totally fucked up and then he realize that the girl who was there all along is “The One” and then he turn himself into this amazing loving person(Ya that story) and they end up together.

“You can live your whole life not realizing that what you’re looking for is right in front of you.”

The end.

I didn’t like this book very much because I totally detest this kind of man.So, I’m biased here.

I won’t recommend this book, you can read it if you want(you can definitely read, don’t listen to me. I’m getting old) . Yes, you can totally watch the movie, One Day (It’s better).

One-Day-movie

Why did I add this picture? because well two beautiful people. Duh!

Update:

This song totally reminds of this book, so here it is, “Say You Love Me” by Jessie Ware