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The Calcutta Chromosome by Amitav Ghosh

The Calcutta Chromosome: A Novel of Fevers, Delirium & DiscoveryThe Calcutta Chromosome: A Novel of Fevers, Delirium & Discovery by Amitav Ghosh

My Rating★★★★☆

What was that Mr. Ghosh? An attempt at a new genre? A bold stroke at creating a uniquely Indian view on science and how it would have been if science research was driven by mystics and cults? A spi-sci-fi book?

***Spoiler Alert*** . It is a pity that all the science falls flat the moment it wanders beyond the known and the proven. It could have been so much better. However, because Ghosh keeps all the science strictly to the unreliable Murugan, it seems acceptable or at least pardonable – even when it is utter nonsense, we can take it as a man’s eccentricities and carry on in the ride he has created for himself.

If the narrator had not climbed aboard the same train for the ride, not to mention adding the unnecessary ghost train (or did I miss its significance all together?) and the comic book ending, I would have given the book an additional star to complete a fiver – it entertained me that much, and when unexpected entertainment finds you, it is exhilarating. The book under-delivered on literary merit but over-delivered on pure fun and that works, sometimes.

I fully expect it to be the worst of Ghosh’s works but I also know that I will not approach anything by him with the faint dread-steeped respect with which we approach most modern literary giants for the first time.

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Posted by on April 16, 2013 in Book Reviews, Books

 

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Nabokov’s Lolita

LolitaLolita by Vladimir Nabokov
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Still dazed by the stupor of melancholy and perversion that Humbert Humbert has exposed my poor brain to. Still trying to make sense of the monster/poet/victim and of Lolita, the symbol of our age. Who exploited whom, who were the villains and who were to be punished, these thoughts are still swirling in my head; desperately trying to ascribe meaning beyond the mere acts of the novel, to read into the disparities between nature and actions. A see-saw of poetry and debauchery. I also wonder how much I missed out on due to my handicap of not knowing french.

The primary effect of this beauty and poetry is that we keep geting charmed by this old-world, aristocratic protagonist who can talk in such a poetic way and then he gently turns around and reminds us of what he is contemplating doing to that young girl and we draw back in revulsion again, only to be ensnared in his honeyed prose a few lines later. And so it goes, tiring you out and enchanting you.

So, a review will come as soon as I can reconcile the beauty of the novel with its deep, dark underbelly and some meaning that is not merely moral emerges.

That might take many readings and I am not sure that is something I am willing to put myself through. But a review, however small, helps clarify the book in my head and, for that I will try.

Another thing I want to make sense of is this – Nabokov’s account of the old newspaper story that inspired him to start a work such as Lolita presented in the novel’s afterword “On a Book Entitled Lolita” – The story was about “an ape in the Jardin des Plantes, who after months of coaxing by the scientists, produced the first drawing ever charcoaled by an animal: the sketch showed the bars of the poor creature’s cage.” – Isn’t that just surreal? The connection with Humbert is right there at the edge of my imagination, in his own prison maybe and maybe in the prison that was his life’s lust. I don’t now, but what pleasure to ponder.

One thing I can confidently say even with my shock at the rest of the novel is that the opening paragraph is perhaps the most beautiful and alluring one I have ever read – It draws you into this perverse universe where every dark secret thought is open to scrutiny like some succubi, a beautiful mermaid or Lamia who lures you only to crucify you. The mind thrills and the eyes laze over the paragraph and you are aglow in the ecstasy the rest of the book seems to promise, thinking of the beauty that is waiting for you in those pages, the plays of language, the thrill of appreciating such wonder and you are happy that this book, Lolita, that you have heard so much about is going to be a delight. But of course, the book is just like a nymph as described in it, it tantalizes with ethereal beauty only to expose our world to the harsh reality of man’s nature – at least I think so. The book is the real Lolita not any character in it.

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Posted by on February 7, 2012 in Book Reviews, Books, Poetry, Thoughts

 

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