Month: December 2007

Reading this year

It was a very good year in terms of amount of reading done, though the amount of reading dwindled in the second half. Below are few lines about the authors and the books.

Orhan Pamuk – Snow, My name is Red & Other Colors: Essays and a Story:
Unlike booker, with Nobel Prize one definitely gets to know a very good writer. So I took up Snow initially in the year, which was a compelling read. Pamuk in “Snow” weaves a beautiful setting whereby he shows struggles, confusions and conflicts of a nation at one place clutching its tradition, its past and on the other hand trying to move towards modernization, read westernization. After Snow I read “My name is Red” which again beautifully presents the divide between east and west. Here the central theme was the conflict between Traditions Islamic art style of miniaturists and the emerging western influences and styles. And over the top of it is a beautifully woven murder mystery and a unique and dense writing style. Then during the year end came “Other Colors: Essays and a Story”, which is a collection of some of his nonfiction work. He writes bout his own reading, his life, his literary influences and other writers (Dostoevsky, Bernhard, Borges, Nabokov etc) his city and also on the books he has written. Quite a delightful read.

Jean-Paul Sartre – The Age of Reason:
It’s Sartre’s first installment in the “Road to freedom” series. The book attempts to elaborate the existential aspect of Freedom in absolute sense. All the drama in the novel takes place in 4 days, revolving around the Life of Mathieu, a Philosophy professor, and few people around. An absolute gem of a book.

J M Coetzee – Life and Times of Michael K., Foe & Disgrace:
Some how Coetzee is slowly become my one of the most fav. authors. Read “Slow man” last year and it didn’t ring much inside my head but it did leave something, something bit obscure, something direct, bit more fundamental. And I have been coming back to this author since then and with each book my respect for his work is growing more and more. First read “Life and Times of Michael K.”, here’s a bit I posted about it. Then read “Foe” and then “Disgrace”. These are few of Coetzee’s lines about the theme that he explores in it:

“There was something ignoble in the spectacle that I despaired. One can punish the dog, for an offense like chewing a slipper. A dog will accept the justice of that: a beating for a chewing. But desire is another story. No animal will accept the justice of being punished for following its instincts.”
“What was ignoble was that the poor dog had begun to hate its own nature. It no longer needed to be beaten. It was ready to punish itself..”

Haruki Murakami – A Wild Sheep Chase, After Dark, “Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman”, “Dance, Dance, Dance” & The Wind-up Bird Chronicle:

Read a lot of Murakami this year, though the books were not quite of the standard of “Norvergian Wood” or “Hard Boiled Wonderland & the End of the world”. Nevertheless the satisfaction and pleasure of reading Murakami was all present.

Also read “Haruki Murakami and the Music of Words” by Jay Rubin, who has translated few of Murakami’s novels

Fyodor Dostoevsky – The Brothers Karamazov & “Crime and Punishment”: Great Russian sensibilities and depth. Absorbing reads.
Milan Kundera – The Curtain: An Essay in Seven Parts & The Unbearable Lightness of Being
George Orwell – Animal Farm & 1984
My God Died Young – Sasthi Bratha
The English Patient – Michael Ondaatje: Almost like a dream.
Invisible Cities – Italo Calvino: Mesmerizing.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s: A Short Novel and Three Stories – Truman Capote
Flaubert’s Parrot – Julian Barnes
No One Here Gets Out Alive, Jim Morrison’s Biography
Styles of Radical Will – Susan Sontag
The Moon Is Down – Steinbeck
Memories of My Melancholy Whores- Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Selfish Gene – Richard Dawkins: It’s good in the beginning but then he keeps moving around the obvious.
Anton Chekov’s Short Stories

Few Disappointments:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – You Know Who
The Myth of Sisyphus – Albert Camus: Not exactly a disappointment, but I sort of expected a lot form it. May be I will read it again some day.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – R Prisig: Not as good as it looks, quite limited in scope.
The Sea, The Sea – Iris Murdoch: Too much muddled drama
Travels in the Scriptorium – Paul Auster: Donno why I picked it up.

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Burdens few Men carry

From “Time Within time“, the diaries of Tarkovsky from 1970-86.

“…the 20th century has seen the rise of a kind of emotional inflation. When we read in a newspaper that 20 million people have been butchered in Indonesia, it makes as much impression on us as an account of our hockey team winning a match. The same degree of impression! We fail to notice the monstrous discrepancy between the two events. The channels of our perception have been smoothed out to the point that we are no longer aware. However, I don’t want to preach about this. It may be that without it life would be impossible. Only the point is that there are some artists who do make us feel the true measure of the things. It is burden which they carry throughout their lives, and we must be thankful to them”

— By a math professor, Manin, while attending a university debate on Rublyou.

The Taste of Cheery

Taste of Cherry – Abbas Kiarostami

The movie begins with Mr. Badii moving around in his car, observing people here and there and then randomly or may be not so randomly trying to start conservation with them and in the end offering them some money for a small job. Initially he picks up guy who, surprised, thwarts him away. Then there’s another manual worker with whom he talks a bit but has to leave him in the end too. then he makes a sepoy board his car but after some talk he runs away too after he says that he needs to come, at some place that he shows him, 6 in the dawn, near a hole that he showed and then after confirming whether he’s alive or not has to put 20 shovels of soil o him in the hole. Mr. Badii then finds another person, a seminarist, who listens to him promisingly before trying to preach him a bit from Koran. Badii ultimately leaves him also though he didn’t reject the offer, but didn’t accept also.

Moving ahead Badii then finds an old man who after accepting his offer narrates an incident of his, also trying to commit suicide. He says, once after deciding to end his life he went out in his car with a rope. After reaching a tree he climbed up, as he couldn’t throw the rope over. After reaching he felt some thing soft in his hands. It was a mulberry tree. He ate one, then 2nd and then third. Meanwhile few children passed the tree and upon seeing him up there they asked him to shake the tree. Which he did and then they all ate the mulberries. Then he took some mulberries and went home, and then his wife ate them too and liked them too much. He sang one poem too and kept on talking till they reached his place. Badii who was listening nonchalantly then tries to confirm if he’s still up to the job to which he says he is. Badii after taking his leave again comes back to him to say him to make sure he’s dead before shoveling the soil in by throwing two stones(to kill him) to which he replies, he will throw three and then walks back.

Last scene is of Badii lying in the hole, face up which is after every moment or two is visible in the dark because of lightning. The movie then curiously ends with the scene showing the crew, the director and the actor.

Kiarostami is known for his plotless, unpretentious cinema, treading philosophical themes. He tries involving audience whose stereotypical thoughts he challenges and makes him imaginatively participates. Talking about the movie neither revealed are the reasons for Badii wanting to commit suicide, nor the reasons for that old man accepting to carry out Badii’s wish. What’s more important here is one’s desire and decision for committing suicide and not the reason. Will his desire be respected? The three men he meets present three different outlooks of life and their three different views on suicide. The movie moves slow with close takes on the faces of the people mainly as most of the scenes take place in the car Badii’s driving.

Few links: NYT’s article, at Rotten Tomatoes, Criterion’s Essay.

Solaris

Solaris revolves around a scientist/psychologist, Kelvin, sent to a space station around a planet Solaris. Solaris was believed to be made of some conscious material and working like a giant brain. Many hypothesis had been earlier laid down but nothing substantial could be proved. And whether the mission was to be shelved or not was to be decide upon the report that Kelvin was going to submit. As Kelvin arrives at the space station he discovers that unusual things had been happening there as the scientists on board decide to bombard the planets surface with x-rays. To which the planet responded by reading chunks of their sub consciousness and creating human replicas based on that. And also one scientist had even committed suicide and had left a note for Kelvin.

Kelvin’s treated the same way by the planet as his wife’s replica appears. Its then the main theme that Takovsky is exploring comes forward: the relation ship between a man and his conscience in the wake of changing moral definitions brought up by technological advancements.The movie is an adaptation of Stanislaw Lem’s science fiction novel by the same name. Lam, however was unsatisfied by the adaptation as the movie probes more into moral dilemmas than the science fiction aspect of the book.
As Hari, physical manifestation Kelvin’s wife, appears on scene Kelvin gets scared and confused and in a desperate attempt of get rid of her he makes her board a rocket and launches her into the space, to which the planet produces another replica of her. Understanding that it would be difficult to get rid of her Kelvin tries to face the situation. The replica of Hari is actually Kelvin’s own conscience, a part of his subconsciousness which is made up of all the perceptions and desires of his towards Hari.
As the story moves the moral conflicts between Kelvin, Hari and other scientists on board become more intensified and elaborate, so much so that Hari is even drawn to commit suicide.

Few dialogues:

Dr Snaut, one of the scientist on the station: To science? It’s a fraud! No one will ever resolve this problem, neither genius, nor idiot! We have no ambition to conquer any cosmos. We just want to extend Earth up to the Cosmos’s borders. We don’t want any more worlds. Only a mirror to see our own in. We try so hard to make contact, but we’re doomed to failure. We look ridiculous pursuing a goal we fear and that we really don’t need. Man needs man!

Kelvin, blabbering in his Brain fever: Suffering makes life seem dismal and suspect. But I won’t accept that…Is that what is more indispensable to life also harmful to it? No its not harmful, its not harmful…. Remember Tolstoy? His suffering over impossibility of loving mankind as a whole… how much time has passed since then….But Love is a feeling we can experience buy can’t explain. One can explain the concept. You love that which you can loose: yourself, a woman, a homeland. Until today love was simply unattainable to mankind, to earth…. May be we are here to experience people as a reason for love…Glabreian died, not of fear but of shame. Shame-a feeling that will same mankind..

The first half of the movie is quite slow with long shots of Kelvin with nature. The main intent of Tarkovsky being to make the viewer feel the same nostalgia that Kelvin feels towards earth and people around in the second half of the story. As expected, few of the long shots are of exceptional beauty. The movie ends with the planet’s ocean making islands on its surface which reflect the subconsciousness, after fellow scientists bombarded the planet’s surface with Kelvin’s encephalogram. And in the last few scenes Tarkovsky shows one island forming the things that matter the most to Kelvin or, rather what Tarkovsky wanted to convey, are of most importance in the wake of such moral dilemmas.

When asked in an interview about the main theme of the movie Trkovsky replied:

.in the course of its development humanity is constantly struggling between spiritual, moral entropy, the dissipation of ethical principles, on the one hand, and on the other – the aspiration towards a moral ideal. The endless inner struggle of man, who wants to be freed from all moral restraint, but at the same time seeks a meaning for his own movement, in the form of an ideal – that is the dichotomy that constantly produces intense inner conflict in the life of the individual and of society..[..]..the story of Hari’s relationship with Kelvin is the story of the relationship between man and his own conscience. It’s about man’s concern with his own spirit, when he has no possibility of doing anything about it, when he is constantly drawn into the exploration and development of technology.

Year end post

So another year comes to an end. It’s hard to classify this year with any terms or with any other year of my life. So much happened this year and yet I am at the same place where I was a year back. Nothing eventful happened in worldly terms and yet I am not the same person I was an year back. May be, taking a term from Murakami’s dictionary, I can say that my Elephant factory was at full swing and yet nothing concrete or substantial was produced there. Funny are the worlds of words & thoughts and I was held captive by them.

Year started good with me reading more and more, getting immersed more and more into the worlds of Camus, Kafka, Dostoevsky and Murakami. I got so indulged in that world that my existence almost became a wormhole existence.

Whenever people around me have changed. Be it my school changing or our house shifting or my coming to college after schooling or my job after that. I have always, initially been out of place everywhere with every change. And then after some time I become more at home with the new place and people, more understanding towards them, though can’t say how much they understand me after that time. I have always been conscious of that and some time back I started calling that coming a full circle.

This year I entered more into this world of literature, cinema and philosophy, more concretely this world of art. With every writer and with every director, as I proceeded more into it I got more displaced, not from that world but from reality and people around me, and some how I never came to that good old full circle. May be because of the kind of things I have been following in that world which are most of the time divorced from the reality around me. I have been kind of spiraling instead and getting swallowed more inside like a worm hole.

And so much so that there even was a period of 6-8 days where I almost felt like Gregor Samasa. Almost every day in that period I used to woke up at 6-7 in the morning and then lie there in the bed thinking, if I will become Gregor Samasa today, though I eventually got up every day only to get back to the same place next day. Even I can’t say for sure if I wanted that spell to break or not, at that time.

Then there came another period when I was almost desperate to leave every thing and go to some college and study philosophy or Literature. Then pondered over going abroad for that or choosing some Indian university, also met few philo professors but eventually just couldn’t cross the greatest divide.

In the mean time kept on watching cinema and reading Literature. They were the only lifeline of mine.

Then in the last quarter I had to do some prep for CAT and all, which is partially continuing even now and may take few weeks more. Yeah, CAT..Wondering why? Its just I want to do some entrepreneurial stuff, which I think will keep me close to few things that I like without much bother will also keep the people around me, whom I care for, happy.

So this pretty much sums up the year for me. Yeah, I know I wrote too less abt the books and movies. They actually deserve a big separate post which I will be writing soon.

Well, that all abt the much hyped year end posts.

National Geographic Photo Contest

Here few images from National Geographic Photo Contest. More here.

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Caged monkeys await their fate at a medical laboratory in Hubei Province, China.

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People Winner
Brother and sister in Tibet

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Women going through windows

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From 1982 to 1987 in the Luwero District, Uganda, more than 100,000 civilians were massacred in an attempt to clear the area of rebels. Because of the enormous number of deaths and the intense fighting, bodies were left to rot in the streets. When peace was brought to the area upon the defeat of President Obote, westerners collected the bones for export. President Museveni ordered a memorial erected in honor of those who’d died. The memorial is a small room where skeletons lie in a 40-foot-deep pit in the town of Nakaseke. Today, Dominica Batakanwa is the caretaker.

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Children run in the street in Havana, Cuba.

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Jumping mullet in the Seychelles islands