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On the Map: A Mind-Expanding Exploration of the Way the World Looks by Simon Garfield

On the Map: A Mind-Expanding Exploration of the Way the World LooksOn the Map: A Mind-Expanding Exploration of the Way the World Looks by Simon Garfield

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A collection of entertaining anecdotes. Not particularly mind expanding, not at all knowledge-expanding, unfortunately. One good sample tidbit is that the popular ‘Hic sunt dracones’ (here there be dragons) is just a misrepresentation, those words never permeated medieval maps after all. Another is the origin of the expression ‘orienting oneself’. If the bulk of the anecdotes were similarly obscure or offbeat, the book might have been worth it. The poetical intro by Dava Sobel is the best chapter. Not for Mapheads, this one. Not the right kinda trivia.

Another tidbit for the curious (from the second best chapter in the book): Steinberg’s Manhattanite’s view of the world – the precursor to many of the maps that invade your facebook timelines periodically.

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“The parody has been parodied many times, but the best modern parallel, and certainly the rudest, is to be found in the work of the much travelled Bulgarian graphic designer Yanko Tsvetkov. Tsvetkov, who works under the name Alphadesigner, may well have constructed the most offensive and cynical atlas in the world, all of it stereotypical, some of it funny. His Mercator projection entitled The World According to Americans showed a Russia labelled simply ‘Commies’, and a Canada labelled ‘Vegetarians’. He has also produced the Ultimate Bigot’s Supersize Calendar of the World, which includes Europe According to the Greeks. In this one, the bulk of European citizens live in the ‘Union of Stingy Workaholics’, while the UK is categorised as ‘George Michael’.”

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Posted by on August 13, 2013 in Book Reviews, Books

 

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Makers of Modern India by Ramachandra Guha

Makers of Modern India

Makers of Modern India by Ramachandra Guha

My Rating★★★☆☆

To make the Indian experience more central to global debates is one aim of this book. Another, and perhaps greater aim, is to make Indians more aware of the richness and relevance of their modern political tradition.

After such bold claims, I was disappointed to find that the book is in fact an anthology of Indian political writing. I strongly feel a commentary would have been better to meet the professed aims of the book and could have been made more impact-full with short relevant extracts

The questionable set chosen as “Makers of Modern India” include nineteen famous and not-so-famous names:
Rammohan Roy (Part I); Syed Ahmad Khan, Jotirao Phule, Tarabai Shinde, Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Bal Gangadhar Tilak (Part II); M.K. Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore, B.R. Ambedkar, M.A. Jinnah, E.V. Ramaswami and Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay (Part III); Jawaharlal Nehru, M.S. Golwalkar, C. Rajagopalachari, Rammanohar Lohia, Jayaprakash Narayan and Verrier Elwin (Part IV); and Hamid Dalwai (Part V).

As a contemporary alternative to Argumentative Indian, I am not sure it succeeds – except by showing that a connected tradition built on boldness, challenge, contest and contrast existed in the vast correspondences that contemporary Indian thinkers were capable of producing. Guha illustrates this in a way by showing a connected series of thoughts evolving by bouncing around between the set of characters above, original thoughts arising and then being furiously debated and progressing in dramatic point-counter-point fashion (mostly Gandhian ideas of course, but still…) towards action and sometimes even more dramatic reaction in the crucible of Indian Democracy.

The essentially disputatious nature of this tradition is manifest throughout this book. The pity is that very little of this intellectual ‘tradition’ was meant for mass consumption or was based on a focused and sustained attempt at analyzing and evolving systems of thought but seem to be individual contributions to individual problems – a method that has always plagued Indian political thought and has probably resulted in the poverty of thought post-independence.

That sort of integration is probably what is needed before India can submit the results of her social and democratic experiment to the world and from it evolve a new conception of democracy relevant to a more diverse world than that existed when democracy was originally conceived. Guha has taken a first step in this direction and I sincerely hope a more synthetic attempt will follow one day.

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Posted by on May 5, 2013 in Book Reviews, Books

 

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The Discovery of India by Jawaharlal Nehru

The Discovery of IndiaThe Discovery of India by Jawaharlal Nehru

My Rating★★★★★

It is but folly for me to attempt to review a book so close to my heart. But, on my third reading of this book, it is time to finally go beyond the beauty of the prose and the elegance of Nehru’s presentation. It is time to see if the book achieves the objectives it sets out to achieve and judge it thus. I will let my earlier one-line review stand. Here goes…

The following passage reflects the objective of the book.

To know and understand India one has to travel far in time and space, to forget for a while her present condition with all its misery and narrowness and horror, and to have glimpses of what she was and what she did. ‘To know my country’, wrote Rabindranath Tagore, ‘one has to travel to that age, when she realized her soul and thus transcended her physical boundaries, when she revealed her being in a radiant magnanimity which illumined the eastern horizon, making her recognized as their own by those in alien shores who were awakened into a surprise of life; and not now when she has withdrawn herself into a narrow barrier of obscurity, into a miserly pride of exclusiveness, into a poverty of mind that dumbly revolves around itself in an unmeaning repetition of a past that has lost its light and has no message for the pilgrims of the future.’

Does it achieve such a grand objective? It sweeps across Indian history on very able wings and the history unfolds with irresistible drama and with the glow of a golden splendor. India of old comes alive for the reader in all its old grandeur. But this is dazzle. Does the expedition go beyond that and ‘discover’ India? It does and it doesn’t. The India glimmers and fades – reappearing every time Nehru takes an unbiased look back and disappearing every time he turns his gaze eagerly to the present.

The second half of the books quickly descends into a political commentary from being a historical study – and in this transition from history to the present, the ‘discovery’ is left incomplete in the urgency to expostulate on current happenings. This is a minor failure and Nehru is quite aware of it. He has to go back to the vagueness he started with to end his quest:

Nearly five months have gone by since I took to this writing and I have covered a thousand hand-written pages with this jumble of ideas in my mind. For five months I have travelled in the past and peeped into the future and sometimes tried to balance myself on that ‘point of intersection of the timeless with time.’ These month have been full of happenings in the world and the war has advanced rapidly towards a triumphant conclusion, so far as military victories go. […] Because of this business of thinking and trying to give some expression to my thoughts, I have drawn myself away from the piercing-edge of the present and moved along the wider expanses of the past and the future. But there must be an end to this wandering. If there was no other sufficient reason for it, there is a very practical consideration which cannot be ignored. I have almost exhausted the supply of paper that I had managed to secure after considerable difficulty and it is not easy to get more of it. The discovery of India — what have I discovered? It was presumptuous of me to imagine that I could unveil her and find out what she is today and what she was in the long past. […] Yet something has bound them together and binds them still. India is a geographical and economic entity, a cultural unity amidst diversity, a bundle of contradictions held together by strong but invisible threads. Overwhelmed again and again, her spirit was never conquered, and today when she appears to be the plaything of a proud conqueror, she remains unsubdued and unconquered. About her there is the elusive quality of a legend of long ago; some enchantment seems to have held her mind. She is a myth and an idea, a dream and a vision, and yet very real and present and pervasive. There are terrifying glimpses of dark corridors which seem to lead back to primeval night, but also there is the fullness and warmth of the day about her. Shameful and repellent she is occasionally, perverse and obstinate, sometimes even a little hysteric, this lady with a past. But she is very lovable, and none of her children can forget her wherever they go or whatever strange fate befalls them. For she is part of them in her greatness as well as her failings, and they are mirrored in those deep eyes of hers that have seen so much of life’s passion and joy and folly, and looked down into wisdom’s well. Each one of them is drawn to her, though perhaps each has a different reason for that attraction or can point to no reason at all, and each sees some different aspect of her many-sided personality.

While that maybe so, this too is pardonable as even the political statements soar to heights sometimes and is amazing: (more in updates section)

The tragedy of Bengal and the famines of Orissa, Malabar, and other places are the final judgment on British rule in India. The British will certainly leave India, and their Indian Empire will become a memory, but what will they leave when they have to go, what human degradation and accumulated sorrow? Tagore saw this picture as he lay dying three years ago: ‘But what kind of India will they leave behind, what stark misery? When the stream of their centuries’ administration runs dry at last, what a waste of mud and filth they will leave behind them!’

The conclusion is a fitting one (though this passage is not really the conclusion). It was ultimately not about the Discovery of India as India is too diverse and manifold, it was an inquiry into the soul of a generation, a Discovery of their India, of the India then, of that generation, the greatest generation perhaps in our living memory:

My generation has been a troubled one in India and the world. We may carry on for a little while longer, but our day will be over and we shall give place to others, and they will live their lives and carry their burdens to the next stage of the journey. How have we played our part in this brief interlude that draws to a close? I do not know. Others of a later age will judge. By what standards do we measure success or failure? That too I do not know. We can make no complaint that life has treated us harshly, for ours has been a willing choice, and perhaps life has not been so bad to us after all. For only they can sense life who stand often on the verge of it, only they whose lives are not governed by the fear of death. In spite of all the mistakes that we may have made, we have saved ourselves from triviality and an inner shame and cowardice. That, for our individual selves, has been some achievement. ‘Man’s dearest possession is life, and since it is given to him to live but once, he must so live as not to be seared with the shame of a cowardly and trivial past, so live as not to be tortured for years without purpose, so live that dying he can say: “All my life and my strength were given to the first cause of the world — the liberation of mankind.”‘

 

If only we could also figure a path to save ourselves from triviality. If only we too could Discover the moving spirit of our own Generation.

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Posted by on May 1, 2013 in Book Reviews, Books, Thoughts

 

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Krishna: A Journey Within

Krishna: A Journey WithinKrishna: A Journey Within by Abhishek Singh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Brilliant artwork, simplicity throughout. A delight to read. Some pages soar to artistic expression that thrills while others seem like a kid playing with his favorite hero models. The text feels almost like an afterthought and I feel that I might just have enjoyed the book more if it was a set of silent stills and graphics with all meaning to be derived from your past readings while the imagery is being supplied by the author/artist.

Hardly anything is given any space in the book and it barely touches on the drama that is latent in it. This adds to the sense of a dreamy retelling that is not meant to amuse or to entertain but simply to lull you into a gentle nodding ascent, like how you used to listen to your grandmother tell these stories – the details never were to be told, they were to be enacted later in your imagination. The story plays out again and again only adding to itself by the dance of repetition and of adumbration. Abhishek has transmitted this sense of reading/listening into his artistry and catches us in that spell. This is certainly a rich successor to his previous works.

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Posted by on March 30, 2013 in Book Reviews, Books

 

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Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire

Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an EmpireIndian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire by Alex von Tunzelmann

My Rating★★★★☆

Tunzelmann has concocted a very readable and balanced history of the last days of Empire. Tunzelmann avoids demonizing any sect, individual or nation and shows the circuitous routes through which every decision was squeezed out, many tragedies averted and many more inadvertently precipitated.

He shows the human frailties and noble aspirations of all of the major participants and does not shirk away from exploring the controversial bullheadedness of Gandhi or from going into great detail about the relationship between Nehru and the Mountbattens, especially the amorous ones.

This was perhaps the best handled of all the topics by Tunzelmann – he weaves an almost spiritual love story between Nehru and Edwina that borders on the outrageous but always forces the reader to forgive two extraordinarily humane characters who happened to need each other a bit too much. Even Jinnah and Patel (and Churchill – if only he had met Nehru or Gandhi in person a bit earlier than when he did!) who are often slotted as extremists show their emotional sides and it does feel like Tunzelmann gives them their due – enough blame but also enough praise.

Tunzelmann does dwell too much on the Mountbattens – almost to the extend that the reader might well start imagining that they were the Empire that the book is meant to talk about and their “secrets” were the “Secret” that the subtitle of the book boasts about. If that is the case, the book does indeed uncover some welcome secrets about the end of “Empire”.

But, from a political and historic standpoint, there were not many secrets that Tunzelmann brings to the fore. He does throw light on some of the most-discussed events such as the drawing of the Kashmir boundary lines, the allocation of Punjab districts, the annexation of Hyderabad etc and how all of these were such intensely personal decisions – different people at the helm might have resulted in drastically different outcomes – they were less politically motivated than emotionally driven.

For these insights, Indian Summer was a thoroughly readable and unbiased book and well worth reading to understand the inscrutable and amazing human actors that populated one of the most dramatic events of the century.

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Posted by on February 3, 2013 in Book Reviews, Books

 

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The Girl With The Dragon Boots

Pippi LongstockingPippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

My Rating★★★★☆

Having read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, where Lisbeth is identified as a real world Pippi, I have been planning to read the supposed inspiration for a long time. For the first few chapters, it is hard to imagine how Larsson could have based the character of Lisbeth on Pippi. Eventually I learned to warp Pippi’s world and squeeze it into the supposedly real world filled with rapists and thieves, where little girls have no super strength to get by on. I could then start to see how Larsson could have imagined, reading Pippi as an adult, that each of pippi’s little ‘adventures’ could have been a tragedy. Out of a thousand, one might survive. He decided to write about that one, a modern-day Pippi. For, you probably still need Pippi’s attitude to survive in a modern-day Sweden even if you don’t have her super powers – Lisbeth might have been an orphan and a rebel just like Pippi, she might only have her hacking skills as a proxy for Pippi’s super-strength, but at the end of the day both could kick some ass.

The review you have just read above is meant to illustrate how my reading of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo influenced my reading of Pippi Longstocking. Is it fair to even think of Lisbeth and of Larsson’s interpretation of the tale while reading it? Probably not. I wish I could read it far away from Lisbeth’s shadow. Do I blame Larsson now for spoiling some good fun? Probably yes. I just wish I had read Astrid first – of course I might never have heard of Pippi if not for Larsson. This is an issue I have faced with many books where the source is as enjoyable as the book that referred me to it, but less enjoyable for having read the referring work. How to get around this? Shall I drop everything and run to a bookstore the moment the slightest footnote pops up? They better stock up before I read Ulysses then.

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Posted by on January 22, 2013 in Book Reviews, Books, Thoughts

 

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Review: Chariots of the Gods by Erich von Däniken

Chariots of the GodsChariots of the Gods by Erich von Däniken

My Rating★★☆☆☆

Däniken must have won some mighty awards for this one, right? Right?

I have to admit that it was seriously entertaining though, mostly in imagining who it was who played the practical joke on Däniken each time he sticks his neck out on an imagined ‘fact’.

Just to sum up the book: how can anyone imagine a concept like Time Travel without having experienced/seen it? Surely Victorian England was visited and ruled by the Time Lords who then vanished. leaving us to roil in our longing stories. People who have read the book, please laugh along with me…

This is not to deny that there are mysteries in the past, but then so are there in any field of human study – that does not mean that we have to postulate such excesses based on so little evidence. I can’t resist going off on the same vein again – How can anyone imagine talking animals? Surely ancient India was home to intelligent animals as well as the sporadic aliens, all conspiring to befuddle the poor humans into worshiping them and then mythologizing them.

The mistake is to rigidly try to classify the myths as facts or stories. If only Däniken had taken the time to understand the power of symbolism in myth-making… hell, he could have done that purely by reading a few comic books!

By the way, was it only me or was Däniken’s usage of the word “utopia” just all over the place and far away from the accepted meaning?

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Posted by on December 14, 2012 in Book Reviews, Books

 

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Ragnarok: The End of The Gods – A Re-view

RagnarokRagnarok by A.S. Byatt

My Rating★★★☆☆

Ragnarok: Twilight of the Reader

While the others in the Cannongate series re-imagined the stories, Byatt reread it. And then told the tale of reading it. Underwhelming? To an extent, yes. But, the Norse myths are magnificent enough to come alive of themselves even when the author decides to color them distant.

Byatt gives her reasoning for this approach in the end – saying that she believes myths should not be humanized and the experience of imbibing the story of a myth, of how the story permeates the life, of how myth shapes an individuals and then a society’s internal life is what gives a myth its true meaning.

She wanted to mythologize this process – of how a myth can shape a life. And through her Thin Child, she might have done this to an extent, though she let me down on my expectations of a fun and thrilling adventure in the frigid, intimidating and exhilarating strangeness of the Norse landscapes.

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Posted by on December 7, 2012 in Book Reviews, Books

 

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The Unreal Wastelands & Labyrinths – What Memory Keeps and Throws Away; An Exercise in Recollection: in flashes and distortions.

The Waste Land and Other PoemsThe Waste Land and Other Poems by T.S. Eliot

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Unreal Wastelands & Labyrinths – What Memory Keeps and Throws Away; An Exercise in Recollection: in flashes and distortions.

.

____________________________

You! Hypocrite lecteur! – mon semblable, – mon frère!

____________________________

Chimes follow the Fire Sermon:

A rat crept softly through the vegetation;
departed. A cold blast at the back, So rudely forc’d, like Philomela.
It was Tiresias’, it was he who doomed all men,
throbbing between two lives, knowing which?

Et O ces voix d’enfants, chantant dans la coupole!
Excuse my demotic French!

****

Let us go then, him (that carbuncular young man), and you –
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

You may come or go, but speak not
of Michelangelo.

When there is not solitude even in the Mountains,
When even the sound of water could dry your thirst,
Then you can lift your hands and sing of dead pine trees.

Have you yet been led,
through paths of insidious intent,
through every tedious argument,
To that overwhelming question?

****

Gentile or Jew
O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.

Sweet Thames, sweating oil and tar,
Sweet Thames, run on softly till I end my song,
for I speak not loud or long,
for I speak not clear or clean,
for I speak in the hoarse whispers of the last man,
for it was I who murdered you,
and Ganga, right under the nose, of mighty Himavant!

You who were living is now dead.
We who were living are now dying –
With a little patience!

Break The Bough, and hang yourself from it,
Sweeney, Prufrock, The Fisher King and the sterile others,
all will follow first,
like corpses etherised on well-lit tables.

****

Remember me, me – Tiresias, once more, for we are all him,
yet not.

The present will always look at the mirror,
and see only a Wasteland,
The Past is always the heavenly spring,
running dry now.

Perspective,
Thy name is Poetry.

****

London Bridge is falling down falling down falling down
These fragments you have shored against my ruins.

Why is it impossible to say just what I mean!

Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.

****

shantih shantih shantih

****

.

.

____________________________

You! Hypocrite reader, my likeness, my brother!

____________________________

.

.

.

Do I dare
Disturb the universe?

.

.

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Posted by on November 18, 2012 in Book Reviews, Books, Creative, Poetry, Thoughts

 

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Yo, Claudio

I, ClaudiusI, Claudius by Robert Graves

My Rating★★★★★

The review I really have in mind will be attempted for this book only after I finish reading Claudius the God (to quench the burning curiosity of how this ‘Clau-Clau-Claudius’, a man, who in the first shock of being made emperor had this outrageous thought come rushing to his mind – “So, I’m Emperor, am I? What nonsense! But at least I’ll be able to make people read my books now.”, will conduct himself as a God-Emperor), The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic, so that I can apply the same criteria for reviewing any work of history, as suggested by Claudius (original source for much of Pliny’s work) himself, through Livius and Pollio (all works unfortunately lost).

Meanwhile, have a short and enjoyable snapshot sampling of the book by going through the-easy-to-follow family tree given below. Ah, the tales that can be told while tracing those lines…

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Posted by on September 7, 2012 in Book Reviews, Books

 

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Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair GameMoneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis

My Rating★★★☆☆

It was a better story before I knew the whole story.

Almost every book on randomness I have read had a reference to Moneyball and I had built up my own version about this story (I had even told a few people that version!) and it imagined everybody doing what Billy Beane was doing, and Billy Beane doing some sort of probability distribution among all players and randomly picking his team, winning emphatically, and thus proving that a truly random pick of players is the equivalent of a true-simulation of the market and just like how no considered selection of stock picks can ever outperform the market in the long run, a truly random representation of the baseball market cannot be outperformed by the interventionist methods of other teams over a long season. That is the story I wanted to hear. My apologies to anyone to whom I have spouted this story – it is not true. It is still probable though, when the next radical Billy Beane comes along in sports.

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Posted by on August 19, 2012 in Book Reviews, Books, Thoughts

 

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The Brothers Karamazov: On Romancing The Devil

The Brothers KaramazovThe Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

My Rating★★★★★

On Romancing The Devil

Warning: This review might contain spoilers even outside the hidden ‘spoiler alert’ regions. I honestly am not capable of discriminating.

The book is not about the murder or about who did it, those things were very apparent before half the book was completed, the narrator taking special pains to spoil all suspense for his readers at the very beginning (harkening back to the days of greek drama and Euripides – according to whom, the effect of a story, even a whodunnit, was not in epic suspense about what was going to happen next, but in those great scenes of lyrical rhetorics in which the passion and dialectic of the protagonists reached heights of eloquence. Everything was to portend pathos, not action, which was always there only as a container for the pathos, to give it form). This was probably done so that the typical clue-seeking aspects of a mystery does not detract his reader from addressing the real, the painful questions littered all across his treatise, almost with indecent abandon. *spoiler* After all, we were shown by Dostoevsky varying degrees of foreshadowings of every event that eventually became turning points in the plot – starting with the numerous leading comments of the narrator including the one in the opening paragraph, Zosima’s prediction of suffering for and apology to Dimitri and Smerdyakov’s not so subtle clues to Ivan among many others. And do not forget that Dostoyevsky even gave us the alternate route that Mitya could have taken in the Zosima narrative – the parallels in that story are too numerous to list out here. *spoiler ends*[After all, we were shown by Dostoevsky varying degrees of foreshadowings of every event that eventually became turning points in the plot – starting with the numerous leading comments of the narrator including the one in the opening paragraph, Zosima’s prediction of suffering for and apology to Dimitri and Smerdyakov’s not so subtle clues to Ivan among many others. And do not forget that Dostoyevsky even gave us the alternate route that Mitya could have taken in the Zossima narrative – the parallels i that story are too numerous to list out here. (hide spoiler)]

No, this story is not about the murder or about the murderer or about his motivations or about the suspense for his final fate. The story is about the reaction – it was all about the jury. Many theories abound about how the Karamazov family represents Russia/humanity/all characters but the reality is that they represent individualities; while it is that terrible faceless jury, always adressed to and never addressed by, that represents humanity. The job of the country, the society, of the whole human race is to judge, to determine the fate of individuals based on the stories that they construct, literally out of thin air, out of the small pieces of a life that they can only ever observe. The best character sketches, fictional or otherwise can only ever be the minutest portion of a real character – but from that tiniest of slivers we build this ambiguous thing called ‘character’, as if such a thing can possibly exist for a creature as fickle-minded and forgetful of himself as man. Character of a man is the greatest myth, propagated best by novelists, as no story can proceed without a ‘constant’ man who behave with some level of predictability or with predictable unpredictability, but real life is the result of adding a minimum of three more ‘unpredictable’ as adjectives to that earlier description, to come close to describing even the simplest and most boring idiot alive. But yet we construct stories, to understand, to predict, to know how to behave, we even make up stories about ourselves so that we may have an illusion of control over who we are – so that we do not melt into the amorphous protean mass that is the rest of humanity – my story separates me from all of them. I construct, therefore I am.

These are the romances that Dostoevsky wields his best work against and the trial is a trial of reason, of reality pitted against the overwhelming circumstantial evidence in favor of romance, of the myth of character, of individuality, of cause and effect, of there being anything predictable when such a wild variable as a human mind is part of the equation, how can such an equation be anything but ‘indeterminate’ (to borrow Dostoevsky’s own expression)?

That was the grand trial, the inquisition of reason. But how can the defense stand up in favor of reality without explaining to the jury (to humanity) why they see things not as they are, that they have made up a story that is perfect but is never real as no story can ever be – as no cause can really cause a definite effect when human beings are involved? You have to tell a story to convince the jury. You have to tell a story to defend the fact that stories do not exist. A story now, about stories. Or multiple stories to show how all stories are false if only one can be allowed to be true. The only other option is that all are true, simultaneously. By proving which you include your own story in that ‘self-consuming’ super-set and doom your own argument. There is the irresolvable conflict of the trial, of the story, of the novel, of life. You cannot discredit the myth of the story without the help of a story as the jury that judges cannot understand, cannot comprehend any reality outside of a story, human beings cannot think outside their romances. They will continue to exist as prisoners to their own stories. That is why it is a comedy and not a tragedy, as no one died and no one killed and it remains akin to a sphinx setting us a riddle which he cannot solve himself. But, judgment had to be passed as the story was told. One story among many.

——–

An expanded review might follow and will try to address some of the big themes of the book, enumerated below:

1) On Fatherhood – The second big theme of the book. Possibly the real theme, the above only being my own story…

2) On Crime & the Efficacy of Punishment – On how men will always rise to be worthy of their punishment/mercy; On suffering and salvation and on how no judgement can be stronger, more effective or more damning/redemptive than moral self-judgement; On how would Ivan’s ecclesiastical courts eventually would have behaved – would they have behaved as predicted by him in his prose poem and let christ go, unlike the real court? So, in the end his alternate vision of Satan’s court is what really shown by the current judicial apparitions? But in the fable who was it that really forgave the inquisitor or the inquisitee? And in the overall story too, who forgives whom in the end? Christ or Humanity, Satan or Church, Dimitri or Russia?

3) On Collateral Damage – inflicted by the main story on side stories, on how the small side stories are over shadowed, no murdered by the main one and without any risk of conviction.

4) On the Institution of Religion– On morality and the question of the necessity of religion; On the basis for faith; On the implications of faith/lack of faith to the story one tells about oneself; On how Philip Pullman took the easy way out by expanding Dostoevsky’s story for his widely acclaimed novel; On the enormous burden of free will; On the dependence of men on the security of miracles that is the source of all hell and of all action.

5) On the Characters – On how Dostoevsky took the cream of his best-conceived characters from the universe of his creation, from across all his best works to populate his magnum opus, his story about stories, to trace out their path with the ultimate illusion of realism, with the ultimate ambition and to show/realize how it should always, always fall apart; On how he reflected the whole universe in a small lake and created a novel about all novels, disproving and affirming them simultaneously, murdering its own parents in its own fulfillment; On how they might have their Hamlets, but we have our Karamazov’s.

6) On Hope & Redemption – On how ultimately Zosima’s world view trumps the cynical aspects that dominated the book; On how Zosima predicted it all at the very beginning and apologized to Dimitri on behalf of all mankind – ‘taking everyone’s sin upon himself”, thus creating an inverted reflection of the christ figure, its image playing on both Dimitri and on Zosima for that split second and then passing on to Alyosha until finally projected back to Dimitri, in the ultimate paradox, where he becomes at last a christ figure and a buddha figure, exemplifying self-knowledge and enlightenment through true suffering; On how even the Karamazov name can be inspiring and be cause for cheers even though it represents the worst (best?) of humanity; On The Sermon at the Stone.

7) On Nihilism – On the absurdity of life and trying to explain it. But oh wait, this is what I talked of in paragraph length already.

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Ps. By the way, when you read this, keep your ears tuned towards the end – for somewhere in the distance you might hear the laugh of the Grand Inquisitor echoing faintly.

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View all my reviews.

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2012 in Book Reviews, Books, Philosophy, Thoughts

 

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