The Reading Spree: First Time on Kindle

My experiments with Kindle began when a friend, Rajitha, suggested all the merits of Kindle. Thus, I embarked on giving it a try considering I had one lying around but was too old fashioned to try it out.

So I decided to find where this device was hidden in my home and then dedicated June to reading on Kindle.

I must say I am still a sucker for normal, actual books. The feel, the smell and even the action of turning a page was much missed.

But yeah, I must reluctantly admit, Kindle is definitely convenient and light. I see its merits as my dear friend suggested. I have already stored so many books to read on them! My TBR list just got a digital revamp! Sigh! Oh the list is positively infinite now!

The best thing is that I found many Japanese and Korean translations in mobi format. This was what eventually convinced me to give Kindle a try since otherwise these translations are pretty expensive to get as paperbacks!

So the three books I read on Kindle were:

  • We Of The Forsaken World by Kiran Bhat: I got this free copy from Book Sirens. It was not the best of reads but engaging enough with its world building and interconnecting narratives. The book comments on the many environmental problems of the world through its different interlinked stories. Continue reading

The Top 5: Pride Month Reads From India

The Book Cafe had done a post earlier this month on Pride Month Reads talking about five queer literature books from around the world. 

Today, for Pride Month we highlight books from India that talk about diverse queer experiences.

Here are Top 5 LGBTQIA+ Indian books to read and understand different facets of love.

  1. Cobalt Blue by Sachin Kundalkar: Translated from Marathi to English by Jerry Pinto, this novel is divided into two parts and set in Pune, Maharashtra. The novel portrays the fluidity of sexuality through two different’s character’s relationship with the same person.
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  2. Kari by Amruta Patil: This dark and gritty graphic novel is about Kari’s relationship with Mumbai and with Ruth.
    Check out more such books set in Mumbai here.
  3. Talking of Muskaan by Himanjali Sankar:  This YA novel sensitively portrays the stress, trauma and bullying that a school girl goes through because she is not attracted to boys. It is an excellent read for both parents and teens to broach and understand the issues around homosexuality and Article 377.
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  4. The Roof Beneath Their Feet by Geetanjali Shree: Chachcho and Lalna’s budding relationship on the vast, connected and common terrace of Laburnum House is a beautiful story of female friendship and more.
  5. Mitrachi Gosht by Vijay Tendulkar: Translated from Marathi as A Friend’s Story, is a play, also set n Pune, during the pre-Independence era. It is about a love triangle in a college campus. Like Cobalt Blue, it comments on both the heterosexual and homosexual relationships.

Do you have any other queer literature recommendations? Leave your suggestions in the comments below!

 

 

Poem of the Month: Fernando Pessoa

Welcome to the eighth poem of the month!

Set aside all your Monday blues with June’s poem of the month!

Last month, we celebrated Tagore’s 159th birth anniversary with the poem, Where the Mind is Without Fear

This month, in June, we celebrate the birth anniversary of another poet, Fernando Pessoa. His birthday was on 13th June.

Fernando Pessoa was a Portuguese poet. His poetry and his unique Modernist style of writing put Portugal on the map of European Modernism.

Pessoa in Portuguese means ‘a person’ and the poet is well known for embracing different sides of his own personality. However, he did not just create alter egos but completely new authors who had their own literary backgrounds and distinct style of writing.

The theme of the poem I picked for this edition of Poem of the Month is something that will resonate with us all. Because all of us fall prey at sometime or the other to thinking and fretting over the future.

Beyond The Bend In The Road
(Para além da curva da estrada)
Beyond the bend in the road
there may be a well, a castle.
There may be simply more road.
I neither know nor ask.
As long as I’m on the road before the bend
I simply look at the road before the bend,
since I can see only the road before the bend.
It would do no good to look elsewhere
or at what I can’t see.
Let’s just concentrate on where we are.
There’s beauty enough in being here, not elsewhere.
If anyone’s there beyond the bend in the road,
let them worry about what’s beyond the bend in the road.
That is the road, to them.
If we arrive there when we arrive we’ll know.
Now we only know that we’re not there.
Here there’s only the road before the bend, and before the bend
there’s the road with no bend at all.

Source: https://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/Portuguese/FernandoPessoa.php#anchor_Toc503461474

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Poem of The Month: Rabindranath Tagore

Welcome to the seventh poem of the month!

Earlier this month, on May 7th, Rabindranath Tagore’s 159th birth anniversary was celebrated. While I, like many other Indians, would instantly recall Tagore’s story of The Kabulliwallah, I have personally not read many of his poems. But there is one that I have read perhaps in school and still remember. It is called, “Where the Mind is Without Fear.”

The poem was written more than a 100 years ago to speak about a different context, about a new India. But such is the power of words that it still rings true today.

It is titled, “Chitto Jetha Bhoyshunno” in Bengali. Tagore himself translated it in English and the translated version was included in the Nobel winning anthology, Geetanjali.

Where the mind is without fear
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

Source: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45668/gitanjali-35

Originally written to usher in a new dawn and a way of thinking unshackled by the colonial ruler, the poem still speaks to me today.

British rule of India was not the only dark period that India has gone through. Independence brought in its own challenges. Now, in 2020, as we will celebrate 73 years of Independence, we still struggle with our shackles of narrow mindedness, religious bigotry, sexism and casteism.

We are far from free in these regards and it feels like we have taken 10 steps back into a void where we remain slaves to political spewing, refusing to think and understand on our own. Social media and Whatsapp forwards have limited our ways of thinking, manipulating us into being mere puppets. So, yes, I still dream like in the poem, a world where we regain our sense of reasoning and act upon our ever widening thoughts.

I still dream that the country will awake into a world where it does not fear expressing a different point of view or giving out constructive criticism, where knowledge is not limited or linked to only a few political pandits.

May we all overcome this inexplicable darkness that has overtaken our country today.


Do you have a favourite poem you absolutely love? Share them with The Book Cafe as part of the Poem of the Month! Click here to know more.

Guest Post: Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo 

Guest Post by Rajitha S

Rajitha is a 29 -year-old from Hyderabad. After working here and there, and tiring out, she is currently relaxing while waiting for inspiration to do something exciting. 


Disclaimer: 

If your masculinity is fragile, this review might make you feel like a victim. You are going to read it as a personal attack on your existence as a male. It could make you restless. You will feel hurt and may express anger and irritation. Please know that this is not about you. It is about the way of life of more than half of the global population and the system of patriarchy that led you to think the way you do, while dictating the lives of every human. It’s not your fault. There is no intended sarcasm either. Really.  

The Life of Every Woman

When you have lived your life as a woman there are some things, many things in fact, which can be added into the manual – ‘What to Expect When You Are a Woman.’ Most of the things included in this manual will hold true to women irrespective of where they were born, raised, their work place or the family they marry into. There are of course, numerous, (I really mean uncountable) extraordinary circumstances that women are forced into, which could only be a bonus in the manual. The book Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 is something like that.  

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When you read this book as a woman, there will be at least one situation you have likely been in with small differences here and there. It applies to modern, ancient, rural, urban, privileged, entitled, poor, rich of women– whichever category you wish to put yourself in. It creates a everywoman character. 
Like when young Jiyoung was followed by an unknown boy while on her way home, I remembered the time when a group of boys followed me for several days. I was scared, blamed myself but finally told my mother about it. I didn’t know the boys but some people (at that point I believed that they mattered to me) said I must have done something, because why would or how would boys from another school decide to follow me, among all the girls in my school.  Mine was a girls’ convent school. I was also told, ‘Ohh, you have been doing these things also these days?” and I kept thinking, but what did I do? Later, I just changed the narrative in my head to believe these people. Of course I provoked them, or why would they come after me? 
Just like Jiyoung’s father asked her why she had to attend a class so far away and which ends so late. Also, that she needs to stop wearing skirts so short, and stop smiling at people. 

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Dasuram’s Script: New Writing from Odisha

This is a collection of 16 short stories written in Odia and translated into English by Mona Lisa Jena. All of the stories vividly bring out varied aspects of society. They merge the modern with traditional, the mystical with scientific, folklore with technology. The titular story is about a Kui folk singer, Dasuram, who sings of freedom from the shackles of poverty and oppression. He gets arrested on charges of being a Naxal and while in prison, invents a script for the Kui language.

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The Goddess of Kara Dongri is about how Sudhansu is caught up in the fight about naming a temple in a village that he visited as a child during his vacation. He remembers a mountain made of white flint but cannot find it when he returns. He sees that the village has transformed from an idyllic haven into a busy one. Yet the folklore remains intact. The mountain of white flint may have been sacrificed to modernization but the stories of a deity residing there still float around, and to appease that goddess, a temple was built by the villagers themselves. The story succinctly captures the tenuous flux many places in India are caught between because of relentlessly moving towards modernization at the cost of environment and culture.

That House is a simple, almost fable like story about the follies of coveting perfection. Aruna and her husband scrape through and struggle to build a modest house in Brundabanur colony. Close by was a house that was never completed because the owner was a mistress who wanted to create a dream house which was not fulfilled because the house was empty and not occupied by a husband and a child. The story reiterates quite a lot of stereotypes associated with motherhood and role of a woman in a society especially the idea that a woman can attain happiness only when she marries and has a legitimate family. In the story, the woman is a mistress and hence is devoid of any true love which is the reason given to explain her imperfect house which though grand and complex, can never give her true happiness.

This Story Should not be Remembered by Manoj Kumar Panda pays homage to the timelessness of time itself through the character of Kandha Budha, who has become a living legend of his village. He has worked for two kings, Dalaganjana and Pruthwiraj; he has killed tigers with his bare hands, and had even caught the dacoit Bakharia Binjhal for the British government. The story remarks upon the continuity of time and of stories and the ironic existence of anything through these very stories.

This collection of stories often relies on motifs from folklore to create rich thematic narratives.

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Guest Post: The Vegetarian’s Inexplicable Aftertaste 

Guest Post by Rajitha S

Rajitha is a 29 -year-old from Hyderabad. After working here and there, and tiring out, she is currently relaxing while waiting for inspiration to do something exciting. 


When dearie Aakanksha (:P) asked me to review The Vegetarian, (also the one who suggested this read), I first hesitated and then agreed. After that, I took a lot of time to write it. I am still not sure about how to describe this reading experience. There is an unexplainable, pleasing aftertaste.  May be, you can take this as the first reason to read the book.     

The Vegetarian by Han Kang was first published in South Korea in 2007. It was later translated into English and re-published in 2015. Here, I would like to mention that my choice of books then was limited, and also awful. Many years later, with a much-evolved taste in books (promise), I list The Vegetarian as one of my best reads of 2020. 

The aftertaste I was talking about, it lingers for a long time. I’ll tell you why, without revealing many details. 

First, the plot line. The book is set in South Korea and is the story of a woman, Yoeng- Hye who decides to become a vegetarian.

The reason, ‘I had a dream’, she says.

The book is divided into three parts, and each part is narrated from the perspective of three different people. The most interesting aspect here is the tone of narration which varies with the personality of a character. For instance, the first part of the book is from the perspective of a middle-class man, complaining about his wife’s changing lifestyle. It is written in a way that you’d feel he’s sitting across the table and moping about his pathetic life to you personally, seeking pity and approval. This changes in the second part, where the tone becomes slightly more sensitive because, well, I don’t want to give it away. Same with the third part.    

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The Yacoubian Building

The Yacoubian Building by Alaa al Aswany was originally written in Arabic. The novel is translated from Arabic by Humphrey Davies. The Yacoubian Building centres on characters that live in the old and quaint Yacoubian Building. Their lives intersect and connect in so many different strands that are unknown even to them.

The Good

The many characters that weave in and out the narrative of The Yacoubian Building is the highlight of the novel. These characters show the city’s diversity, its class divisions and the problems the different classes face because of belonging to that particular class. Their narratives touch upon the history of the city, particularly its colonial past and how Cairo became a city that was open to several communities and people of different ethnicity. The building itself has a unique history of its own. It was constructed by an Armenian millionaire, Hagop Yacoubian, to mimic a kind of colonial European grandeur.

Among the colorful characters are Zaki Bey, who is the oldest resident of the building; Hatim Rasheed, a closet homosexual who is also the editor of a French language newspaper, Le Caire; Hagg Azam, Taha el Shazli, Busayna and many others.

Hagg Azam is a businessman who ventures into politics.

Taha el Shazli is a hardworking student who aspires to join the police but his aspiration is thwarted because of class: his father is a doorman which is unfairly used as a yardstick to judge Taha’s ability. Thwarted by an unfair system, Taha gets demoralised and influenced by extremist movements which leads to his bitter end. Taha’s story was a nuanced criticism of the failure of the systems that allows young ambitious individuals to perish by providing space to terrorist elements to mushroom.

The depiction of the homosexual relationship between Hatim and his partner along with showcasing the underground gay scene depicts Cairo in a different light: a city that is trying to free itself from the shackles of strict religious morality.

The Bad

The opening of The Yacoubian Building reveals that Zaki Bey is the oldest resident of the building and speaks of him as a legendary figure. But by the third page, the novel depicting him as a womaniser was a complete let down of the cosmopolitan and nostalgic opening. This could be overlooked too as being only one character’s flaw. However, majority of the male characters are shown lusting over women (except the homosexual couple). The women also are shown as considering this male lust as a norm, accepting it as how things are between men and women. This deprives both male and female characters of any humanity or individuality.

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Top 5: Catty Catty Bang Bang: Part 2!

It is February 22nd! Anddd today is National Cat Day in Japan.

Thus, we at The Book Cafe want to celebrate it by presenting the Top 5 books from Japanese Literature that feature none other than our favourite feline creatures, CATS!

Japan loves its cats. They feature in legends and folklore. There are even shrines dedicated to them such as Nekonomiya (Shrine of the Cat) in Yamagata Prefecture or the Nekojinja (Cat Shrine) on the island of Tashirojima in the Miyagi Prefecture. And of course the ubiquitous maneki neko (the beckoning cat) beckons through most shops and restaurants.

Unsurprisingly, Japanese literature also boasts of several books that centre on cats or have cats as prominent characters.

Let’s take a look at the Top 5 Japanese novels that are about cats:

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Short Story of the Month: The New Year’s Tree by Mikhail Zoshchenko

Welcome to the second Short Story of the Month!

It is a brand new year! 2020! Love the sound of it and it makes me think that something wonderful is going to happen to one and all this lovely year.

Since it is new year, the short story The Book Cafe is going to be reading is related to both Christmas and New Year. The short story is titled The New Year’s Tree by Mikhail Zoshchenko.

What is the short story about?

In The New Year’s Tree by Mikhail Zoshchenko, the protagonist, Minka, is recalling his first memory of the Christmas Tree or the New Year Tree (yolka) as it is known in the story. The story is set in the Soviet Union where it was forbidden to celebrate Christmas and hence this name was adopted. Minka speaks of a specific incident which had a long lasting impact on his behaviour.

He was five. He clearly remembers the New Year Tree and how it was then filled with presents and candies that Minka and his sister, Lyolya, were competing over. The presents and candies were meant to be given to other needy children as a gesture of kindness but childish quarreling of the siblings, children and the mothers led to the guests leaving until the father put an end to such ungracious behavior from his kids and decided to give the presents to the needy children as had been agreed upon before.

Analysis:

Since the story centres on a childhood memory, the tone has a touch of naivete and innocence while at the same time showing covetous behaviour among children. The sense of playfulness is clear in bickering over eating Christmas sweets between Minka and Lyolya. The story has a definite moral lesson about the benefits of being kind and sharing with others. Michka at the end states that it was because of that day 35 years ago that made him more considerate and selfless. He also attributes his happiness and good health to those characteristics as well. That lesson in itself is an important manifestation of the Christmas spirit and the joy of giving.

Where to read it?

The story is translated from Russian by Ross Ufberg and is part of the anthology, A Very Russian Christmas: The Greatest Russian Holiday Stories of All Time.

You can read the short story here. Read and enjoy! I promise it will not take more than 15 minutes to read and in that 15 minutes you can relive the warmth and joyousness associated with Christmas and New Year.

 

Let us know in the comments below what you thought about the short story!

Happy Reading!


This is part of the series called, Short Story of the Month. Click here to find out more!

Looking Back and Ahead: 2019 Highlights!

Doesn’t 2020 sound exciting? Just the sense of symmetry and the roundness of the number makes me believe that it would be a great year! Pretty odd huh? Turns out I do show favouritism to even numbers!

Though of course Climate Change is truly upon us and we do stare at a bleak future, which many politicians refuse to see. The Oxford Word of the Year for 2019 was also Climate Emergency. I think I will also remember 2019 for its freak weather show, particularly rain and snow in India along with some strange, contradictory decisions I made.

Yet I do think we all can do out bits even though our politicians and policymakers let us down.

For starters, let us reduce our plastic usage and be conscientious about it. Why use something for just 15 minutes, that which is going to last on this planet for about 50 more years?

But there are many more things one can do as well!

But on to books for now!

So what was new on The Book Cafe in 2019?

Several new series!

  • This included the very cool: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly which is a great way to clearly recommend books.
  • The very cool The Reading Spree series where I showcase the books that I read in a particular month!
  • Another nascent one was the Pick it Up, which I plan to do monthly on the books recommended by The Book Cafe!
  • The blog also started two very ambitious series, Poem and Short Short Story of the Month. Poem of the Month is my way to share some of my favourite poems to increase a love for poetry. Short Story of the Month is for those hard pressed on time and money but still want to read. Short stories are here to rescue you. I will only pick those that one can read online. This way it helps you read without spending too much time and money. Hopefully can continue Short Story of the Month and Poem of the Month diligently.

Books I did read from 2018’s wish list:

  • I did manage to read A Strangeness in My Mind from my wish list last year! It was biggest book I have read this year and after a long time had enough time on my hands to commit to a lengthy book! Yay to me!
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  • I also did strike off Touching Earth by Rani Manicka and The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter from my to read list that I made in December 2018. Though to be honest, I do need to reread The Bloody Chamber as I did not fully absorb it that well, except the hilariously retold, Puss in the Boots.

My Favourite Reads of 2019:
The Oscars 2019 for my Favourite Books go to:

The Best Character: Aliya in The Women’s Courtyard by Khadija Mastur.

The Best Setting: Tiger Hills by Sarita Mandanna. The novel is set in the beautiful Coorg. It was my first book of the year 2019!

The Best Book to Make you Emotional/Cry: Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin.

The Best Parallel Time Lines: The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht.

The Best Style: Daura by Anukriti Upadhyay concocts a mesmerising tale within the form of a utterly disparate and mundane government report.

The Best Poetry: It is a tie between The Bees by Carol Ann Duffy, The Narrow Road to the Interior by Basho and Selected Poems by Anna Akhmatova.

The Best YA novel: Talking of Muskaan by Himanjali Sankar.

The Best Bildungsroman: The Patiala Quartet by Neel Kamal Puri.

The Best Children’s Novel: It is again a tie between Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach and Vinod Kumar Shukla’s fantastical, Hari Ghaas ki Chhappar Waali Jhopdi Aur Bona Pahad.

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Quick Reviews: Bara

Bara by U.R. Anantmurthy can be read in one sitting. It is a short book with an intense depth.

What is the book about?

Bara is modeled on the author’s own experience of meeting a civil servant who was trying to resolve the drought prevalent in his district.

The novel is translated from Kannada by Chandan Gowda, who teaches at Azim Premji University in Bengaluru.

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Blurb Appreciation Reviews: When the Doves Disappeared

The Blurb Appreciation Reviews presents its fifth review!

When the Doves Disappeared written originally in Finnish by Sofi Oksanen. The novel is set in Estonia during WWII and later on when it became part of the Soviet Union.

This was my first novel I read that was set in Estonia. I read it as part of the Women in Translation month in August. Take a look at the other books that I read in that month!

The novel is translated into English by Lola M. Rogers.

The Blurb:

As the blurb points out, When the Doves Disappeared takes place through two timelines. This parallel style is quite effective in making the reader think and figure out the pieces of what is happening or has happened to the story’s main characters, Edgar and Roland.

The novel explores a different, lesser known side of history namely Estonia’s struggle in World War 2 especially against the Nazi rule and its eventual capture by Soviet forces. The Soviet side had initially come to Estonia as saviours but later they also turned into captors of all Estonians, denying them freedom.

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Swarnlata

Translated from Assamese by Udayon Misra, Swarnlata is a historical fiction about three girls growing up in Nagaon in Assam during the 1800s’ in the Pre-Independence era. It is written by Tilottoma Misra.

The eponymous character is the daughter of Nagaon’s Assistant Commissioner, Gunabhiram Barua, who has accepted the Brahmo faith and married a widow, Bishnupriya, which at that time was a revolutionary and scandalous step to take.

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Lakhi is widowed at a very tender age, even before her marriage takes place. With Gunabhiram and her father’s support, she decides to continue with her education, which she had started with Swarnalata and her private tutor.

Tora’s mother, Golapi, converted to Christianity when the Baptist Missionary, Miles Bronson, provided her with a job at the mission school at Nagaon as a chowkidarni after her husband’s death. She saw faith in this religion and Tora followed her mother’s footsteps by studying in that school and eventually becoming a teacher there as well. However, Tora does suffer from self doubt about the faith’s complicity with the British rule and its ever increasing cruelty. This facet of Tora’s personality brings out a significant idea of how and why people converted and even if natives did become Christians, they were still considered savage subjects.

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A Rag Doll after my Heart

A Rag Doll after my Heart, is written by Anuradha Vaidya and translated into English from the original Marathi by Shruti Nargundkar.

The story is told in verses and hence the description as a ‘poetic novel.’ It is a straightforward story of a mother’s relationship with her daughter, who is fashioned out of rag clothes, since her mother was not bestowed with a child like the others. The nosy Indian society of course maliciously points fingers at this anomaly of a daughter, even accusing the mother of trying to act like God by creating a daughter/doll from rags. Only God can create, so why have you as well?

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With this Frankensteinesque beginning, also begins their odd journey embedded within a larger metaphor of life as a game, with its set rules, that doles out the fates/destinies to all the people. The writer has used this overarching metaphor and within it several others to refer to their bond or the daughter’s journey such as the most important one that of the doll and daughter, or a bird or a fish or even horticultural metaphors. These metaphors within metaphors beautifully encapsulates the emotions of mother and daughter but the larger metaphor is a tad bit overused and can wear out the reader.

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Guest Post: The Women’s Courtyard – A Complex and Thought-Provoking Look at Feminity and Suffocating Traditions

Guest Post by Arun Kumar

Arun Kumar is a Software professional with an unbridled passion for the world of cinema and books. He believes in an enriching film culture – from watching great cinema to engaging with its connoisseurs. Currently, he blogs at Passion for Movies and Passion for Books.


!!!!SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!

These exalted humans are really something, she thought, when they don’t believe in God they even consider the very word ‘God’ to be false, but when they do come around to believing, they begin to see divinity even in the threshold beneath the feet of saints.”

Urdu novelist Khadija Mastur’s The Women’s Courtyard (originally published in 1962 under the title ‘Aangan’ and succinctly translated to English by Daisy Rockwell in 2018) is set in the backdrop of the final stages of the Indian Independence movement. But this isn’t a narrative that offers a familiar retelling of the political uprisings to break free from the British Raj or provides an account of the communally charged politics that lead to the trauma of Partition. That also doesn’t mean Khadija’s poignant literary creation is apolitical. The novel rather speaks of how a society that demands freedom from its colonizers is firmly bound to the rigid codes of class hierarchy and patriarchy.

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The Women’s Courtyard, as its title suggests, revolves around ordinary Muslim women, confined to their house’s inner courtyard. They are largely cut off from the outside world and deeply embroiled in the narrow-minded cultural practices. Aliya, the young protagonist of the novel, dreams of breaking away from the chains of domesticity. She identifies the traditional romantic legends as the means to dis-empower women. Her skepticism about love is aroused after the suicides of her elder sister Tehmina and her best friend, Kusum, whose lives are overturned by the traditional narrative of romantic bliss. Aliya’s father and uncle are swept up under the ideological storm and the politics of freedom struggle so that they only exhibit aloofness when it comes to dealing with their family’s economic ruin.

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Seeing Red

!!!! Spoilers Ahead!!!!

I had diligently followed the idea of Women in Translation Month in August and the last book in my list was the intensely terrifying Seeing Red by Chilean author, Lina Meruane.

(On a side note: Click here and see the other books that were part of my Women in Translation month)

Translated from Spanish Megan McDowell, Seeing Red, narrates the story of Lucina, a Chilean national, who moved to New York and is pursuing her PhD. One night at a party, something strange – yet something that she has been forewarned about – happens!

Her eyes haemmorage; blood gushes through her veins in her eyes leaving her vision clouded. She returns home with her partner, Ignacio, trying to make sense of this new reality. The months that follow show Lucina navigating through this new found blindness: they move to a new place and she tries to orient herself there, she goes back to Chile for a vacation where her relatives provide her with unsolicited advice about her impending eye operation. Even her parents who are themselves doctors, are stunned by Lucina’s illness.

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Quick Reviews: Gigi and the Cat

Gigi and The Cat by the acclaimed French writer, Colette, are two novellas published together by Vintage and I read them as part of Women in Translation Month.

Don’t know what that is?

Find out here!

What is this book about?

Gigi and The Cat consists of two stories: one is titled Gigi and the other, The Cat. Translated from French, both the stories adeptly capture the vivacity of the fin de siecle in Paris.

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Gigi is about the eponymous protagonist, ebullient girl of 15, dictated by her grandmamma who lavishly rains on her several rules of how to behave like a woman. Both her grandmamma and mother think that she is a simple, childish, naive girl who is unable to understand the intricacies of class and its politics. However, when an admirable suitor, Gaston Lachaille, confesses his love to her, Gigi or Gilberte, employs her own tactic of figuring out how to handle the situation, breaking away from her grandmother and mother’s advice.

La Chatte or in English, The Cat, is a much more complex story narrated in rich, detailed prose. The Cat outlines the love of the protagonist, Alain, towards his beautiful cat, Saha. The story then unravels how his marriage to Camille Malmert affects Saha and Alain’s relation with Saha. The story takes a plunge into Alain’s thoughts and emotions toward Saha, Camille, and his life in general, especially his deep love for the house he grew up in. Alain’s love for Saha is clear in the way he fondly calls out her name (with an aspirated ‘h’) and behaves with her ever so lovingly. His instinct toward Saha and his ability to know her inside out irks Camille to a certain extent, though she does try to come to terms with the cat.

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Women in Translation Month!

Starting the Women in Translation month with this promising read:

Because August is Women in Translation Month!

Let’s celebrate it and put the limelight on more women writers!

When the Doves Disappeared is an intriguing tale about Soviet occupation of Estonia which is told through the interweaving of two separate timelines!

I am excited to dig into my first book from Estonia!

Click here to read more about Women in Translation month and about endless lists of books by women writers that have been translated.

Travel Diaries: Narrow Road to the Interior and Other Writings

Narrow Road to the Interior and Other Writings, written in Japanese by Matsuo Basho and translated by Sam Hamill, is published by Shambala Classics. Matsuo Basho is famous for reinventing the haiku and imbuing it with true qualities of simplicity and natural beauty. This book is a beautiful haibun that chronicles Basho’s travels to the northern parts of Japan in late 17th century. Haibun is a form of writing that combines haiku and prose. Essentially, Narrow Road to the Interior or Oku no Hosomichi is a travelogue wherein Basho beautifully pens down his thoughts and journeys using both prose and haiku. The haikus often remark on particular incidents or scenes that Basho found memorable.

Read more about haibun here.

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The travelogue begins with these inviting lines,

The moon and sun are eternal travelers. Even the years wander on. A lifetime adrift in a boat, or in old age leading a tired horse into the years, every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.

Such an alluring beginning immediately pulls the reader in and reflect on the idea of journey itself.

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