Friday, October 19, 2007

Back to Fiction

As mentioned in the last page of the ‘The Emerald Diaries’, I’m back to reading fiction and it’s a great feeling. Despite the busy schedules of materialistic pursuits of life, I have managed to read works by three different writers in the last month and a half. All the three works gave me varying degrees of pleasure and I felt like sharing them with you.

‘No Exit and other Plays’ – Jean Paul Sartre
Having read and getting influenced by almost all the works by this master, this was the first time I was in presence of the man as a playwright. One page down the first play and once again I was marveling at the brilliance of this great thinker’s mind.

All philosophers try to address the basics of life and that’s what the 4 plays in this collection try to do. The first one, ‘No Exit’ is writer’s interpretation of hell and deals with issues like guilt, morality and suffering. Though I’d love to talk about it at length but that will work as a spoiler and so,I shall refrain from the temptation.

The other plays are about subjects like existence and need for God, differing political philosophies (with a focus on Communism) and racism. All of them expressed with the genius of Mr. Sartre’s style.

‘Reef’ – Romesh Gunasekara
I came upon this author of Sri Lankan origin, for academic purposes. His collection of short stories called ‘Monkfish Moon’ had impressed me with their simplicity of plots, eye for the detail and the easy narrative style and so I picked up this one during my recent trip to the island country.

Frankly, I had expected more from 'Reef' than what I got out of it. At a macro level it’s a tale of a country mired in political turmoil. It’s narrated from the viewpoint of an adolescent cook serving at a house with some amount of old money and one middle aged bachelor.

Once again, the simple and detailed narrative style is interesting but gets staid after a while. It was good when the writer was dealing with the short story format. One expects more substance out of a novel. But, I enjoyed the familiar sprinkling of the geographical context in the novel…a context, which has become much lovable after my recent trip to the place.

Please don’t go by my views, as the book got short listed the famous Booker awards. Pick it up and decide for yourself.

‘Disgrace’ – John Maxwell Coetzee
This one got a Booker and was one of the reasons why this South African author got the coveted Nobel Prize for Literature. Having read a collection of his essays, ‘Stranger Shores’, I knew that I was going to get immersed in some good writing and content. And this work of fiction did not disappoint me at all. Right from the first sentence onwards, the unique description in present tense gripped me completely. In spite of being a slow reader I finished the book in 3 days time. Allow me to give you it's backdrop briefly.

A Cape Town literature professor, Coetzee's central character believes that ''for a man of his age, 52, divorced, he has, to his mind, solved the problem of sex rather well.'' That's the novel's first sentence, and it tells us that David Lurie hasn't solved the problem at all. This is simply the status quo whose rupture produces a story. The commas are placed beautifully in the way that they parse out his situation, bracketing off ''to his mind'' in order to suggest the limits of his solution, his regular Thursday afternoons with Soraya of Discreet Escorts.

You should surely pick up this one to know why Mr Coetzee got a well-deserved Nobel.

But, can somebody explain why Al Gore of ‘The Inconvenient Truth’ got a Nobel for Peace…beats me!


meraj said...

an excerpt from Disgrace:

"He has toyed with the idea of asking her to see him in her own time. He would like to spend an evening with her, perhaps even a whole night. But not the morning after. He knows too much about himself to subject her to a morning after, when he will be cold, surly, impatient to be alone."

phish said...

i hope you continue for a long, long time. a small surprise coming your way.

know you will enjoy it. watch this space.

phish said...

tagged you. check my blog for details.

meraj said...

as you said, i enjoyed it completely. will do my version of it, but dont know when.
ps: btw, the corkscrew was needed the other day and i realized thast its in the neighborhood. swiss knife came to my rescue. when are you back?

Smiling Dolphin said...

Wars against man aren't the only kind there are. Wars against nature and the environment are far more insidious and wreak much greater, more long term havoc. Al Gore is really working for peace with the environment which amounts to respect for the earth and not just for one specie that lives upon it. He fully deserves the Prize. Hope you liked the film can send you a DVD when I get back.