The Incompletes – a book review

I loved his “My two worlds”, and I still consider him as one of my favorite contemporary writers however little I have read.

Sergio Chejfec

But.

This was, true to its title, quite incomplete. Perhaps that’s the point – after all our memory of our life’s past events is almost always incomplete, and history however painted extravagantly with complete care and attention will always remain incomplete, and Chejfec recounts few days and whole lot in the past between him (the narrator) and his friend, who leaves him to board a ship to Moscow.

At first we are introduced to his friend Felix – who doesn’t identify himself nationally – who is a seeker of serendipities; who loves to be guided by whatever the landscape or surrounding offers, and hence embarks on a journey or multiple journeys. The main destination being Moscow, whose geography takes up the whole book.

I had trouble initially to understand the historical time this is set in – is it soviet era or post? Only well past the middle of the book we are informed that it is more of a recent past.

Before this work turning into a commentary, towards its end, on photography, and documentary depicting soviet era crimes (?) — thereby sustaining the memory of their history — there was depiction of lulling Moscow streets, neglected, dark hotel where his friend Felix stays, a lady- an owner of the hotel, and her chance discovery of bundle of money and a book, which leads her to semi-read her first book and invent Felix – her hotel stayer – to her whims by being its author, a figurine – an outsider, buried in muds of neglected earth which Felix alone discovers which he guards (path) secretively from others, particularly Masha the hotel owner, and many partially developed sketching strokes of – life in Moscow, time, memory, etc.

There are just too many elements thrown in this short novella. You start to get warmed up to a particular one and then it completely changes to something else, and once you get your head around this and work the connections between both, it changes the track completely.

It is a worth a read, but a highly disjointed and incomplete recollections on Moscow, and its troubled history and its inhabitants, an immigrant’s (Felix) status in the world (particularly through identification with vestiges of neglected corpses of history), time, memory, documentaries of memory, and guilt, and, etc, etc.

Certain passages reminded me of Sergei Loznitsa’s Documentaries, particularly portrait!

A still from the film.

I will leave you with a small passage from the book:

Now I understand: the truth is that I never planned to finish the job, or probably even start it. Instead, I saw it as a slow and secret labor, repeated over several days without making any progress. Come to think of it, this stasis was what I wanted for my own life – not inaction, but rather the absence of change, and also a task that would justify my existence to others, whatever opinions my personal choices might generate.

This I take it (though I may be wrong) is an indirection allusion to this project, which he establishes as a metaphor of a hammer (a single – perhaps a pen?) striking and knocking down whatever that has been built in this world (an act of nullifying history (of identity) – Argentinian or the whole world?)

I wait for his future next works, still hopeful of finding a work that would come closer to his masterpiece “My two worlds”. In the meanwhile, if possible I should get to his other works, though not in any near future, since I am starting Joyce and he is gonna occupy my mind for some good time to come!

My humble tribute to the master – Govindas Vishnoodas Desani

Parody of the Master by his disciple Sadvingo Sadoon Shiv in Sade

G.V. Desani

Digest:

Can a disciple choose 2 masters? Can life be only a subject of happenstance and not an equation of maths? Is classical music inferior for tragic scenes in real life? Does Ma Saraswathi peek out only after Lakshmi and Durga’s bellies are satiated?

Instruction:

Master: ListenO Slave! Let your puny pea-sized brain let my eternal knowledge, so, you degenerate and your future degenerates be rid of sin and live happily!

Slave: O my soul saver, bring me wisdom! I am your eternal humble servant!

M: Shut, you swine! I rescued you from rotting in hell. Be grateful. Now, if you will allow me to continue my teaching, your inferior soul might see the ways of pure bread!

O fool, make sure you tighten your cockles so tight that no female sight may fill it with Cupid breath! (Terror be upon him, the rat!)S: O the ever knowing sage of Madras! I humbly submit myself to your teachings of the bread so my bread can get its butter! I obey thou – I am buying a rope so I can tight my innards, master.

M: Yo wretched fool, your ilk be fried in the infested vessel for eternity. Learn to appreciate poetic speeches and don’t take my words on the surface! O gawd, with this lumpen mootaal it is getting tough!Away, go away you fool, don’t let your shadow touch mine. My Upanishadic teachings are over. I am deserting you!

S: O guru, my natha, my manu, my man, don’t flee me. Don’t make me a suttee, a damme, a slutty, a female, the better half, the ever knowing sri, the evil witch, the janani, Mary, maari! O no! I am thy humble servant forever. Here I come!

Then they both ran for 400 metres. And finally the slave won the running game.

Since, the dress code isn’t so jarringly opposite between a learned monk and a poor destitute disciple – except a few trivial things here and there – no such theatre obligations were needed to be attended!

Slave master: Kid, you had your samosas full, now let me have my fill! Let’s pray to the rays of egalite, for making the world just! Let the sun never set down in France!

Master slave: The games of the lord are mysterious. O maha mata. Ever glowing you, let me leave my breath now to be accepted by your softe hands, then hear this fella. Take away my atma now mata, I implore you, the ever kind, resplendent mother! I humble servant of thou, plis take this offering.

Thereby, he cried a drop of his inner water reserve which mixed with the corpse’s ash and became a mound of a drop size – a deity!

Ma in microcosma: Kid, the person you have profaned is none other than Vyasa of previous birth. Don’t utter a word anymore and create an imbalance in your Karma book! You may have been born in a saintly family, cute white chubby fella, all nice and all da. But leave away every bollocks notion you have been taught and know from your master the true way!

Meanwhile, the mastre is wearing a red suit, out of nowhere, with a vodka in hand.

Master: Shet, you swine! Shet it till I open it with my keys. I have to cover my body with torpor to keep it safe from your verbal diarrhoea! See?I need to empty it in a safe nuclear disposal area and then fill it with the true knowledge – milk of pure quality! Milk of my ma – Matushka Rossiya. Now, let me teach you the ways of the proletariat! Learn some real world problemas and not your imagined metaphysical word plays, you idiot, born of pure bread!

Query: How do you prove your loyalty to your master writer and attain the sole apprenticeship?

Presumption: Overdo the beloved protagonist of the writer!

An interjection: It is quite nice if it is a honeymooning chum, but what if you had enrolled to the school run by his holiness Mr. Shakespeare, and not by his holiness H H G V D?

Life encounter: Anyway, thank god it’s 10 or 1000 steps lower in tragic metre, since I aspired to be – not a Bard’s subject – the H H fella!

Gist: My buddy Garuda, my mechanical self, was having a sweet dream with a damsel, when I had my own worldly errand to attend to. Post waking him just before his crescendo and his refusal to take his limbs out of the damsel in dream has caused my right toe to bulge! A small baby of Egyptian eaglewoman tattooed on my big toe! Damme!

Shh, shh, pray it doesn’t turn dusk soon and make me brush my soul to smell, or worse enact the Shakespearean tragedy (though, I am a HHHH hero, which makes it 5 H, damme, the titles, I pity our fathers!) which I already fear I had witnessed through my French windows today!

Post life encounter rumination: Ain’t gonna lie – I though an aspirant to the tunes of “Requiem” by the genius, and want that to be played to the whole Madras when I wither away, I still am ripe plant! And moreover, I don’t wish my fellas to learn classical music through my descent, not this early! Time shall be reserved for the maestro later!

Shift in tone – A homage to the tradition I come from:

I deserve myself – more melancholia, and burtonise my existence for some more time and naturally melt down in a fine sunny day at my beloved pashmina-covered bed like a tolstoyan fella with a smile, a smile I had never had in my days – for my familia and rest of my species to feel relieved that I had not given them trouble anymore, and not cry, though humans would love a bit of a folkish extravaganza concerto to show their god-sent divine interventioned blessing affection for the late subject on that september occasion, but rather celebrate the annihilation of a bad streak/dna strand, an aberration best forgotten in the line of the illustrious family and of the larger species!

Conclusion to the query and presumption:

Damme, it seems I am in a flow only when life serves me a hot dish! Should I have these deathly encounters for the sake of my inner well being? Can my adoration to my master and jest his beloved to earn a refuge in his heart, make me blind to core and turn me a devil to desire my outer flesh suffer darkness and dissonance to light my interior soul fella who has been sleeping for 3 years with – harmonic exercises in the craft? Can one listen to B’s Pastorale symphony and shed pearls of tears while his other scrotum fried in the Dantesque vessel of 5th symphony’s 3rd and 4th movement transition phase looped to the recurring hell? Costly affairs for sure. Though, I am afraid – the Shakespearean rhetoric has been thrown at my cloak finally, yet I shan’t commit to any sides, but choose tableaux vivant with a pose of a salaam to my pater noster G V Dasani!

End of the scene!

Sadvingo Sadoon Shiv in Sade!

The forgotten genius of a foreign tongue

Govindas Vishnoodas Desani

The following are my attempt/s at a praise towards G V Desani and his masterpiece “All about H. Hatterr” – our very own Joyce, O’Brien, and Sterne!

Since Rushdie’s word carry more weight (than a no one like me, rightfully so), I share this first:

The writer I have placed alongside Narayan, G.V. Desani, has fallen so far from favour that the extraordinary All About H. Hatterr is presently out of print everywhere, even in India. Milan Kundera once said that all modern literature descends from either Richardson’s Clarissa or Sterne’s Tristram Shandy, and if Narayan is India’s Richardson then Desani is his Shandean other. Hatterr’s dazzling, puzzling, leaping prose is the first genuine effort to go beyond the Englishness of the English language. His central figure, ‘fifty-fity of the species,’ the half-breed as unabashed anti-hero, leaps and capers behind many of the texts in this book. Hard to imagine I. Allan Sealy’s Trotter-Nama without Desani. My own writing, too, learned a trick or two from him.

Having a critique appended to the work is nothing short of a masterstroke! Haha.

A snapshot of the critique from A A H H:

Myself, having been brought up on the classics, the Authorised Version and the Bard, I may submit to you, Mr H.Hatterr, that your prose composition is unacceptable. The scenario – laissez-aller – is full of serious mistakes. Least to say, an author has no right to do so. An English author must learn to write the English language, please. Why do you not write a simple, concise, straight phrase like To be or not to bewhich has all the virtues of prose composition, rhetoric, style, etc., and no ambiguity whatever, being Anglo-Saxon assonance and no Romance, as the highest English composition should be? Why do you repeat yourself, excuse me? Why do you write such difficult English language for the literati, when even the late Mr Bernard Shaw writes simple prose composition like Do not spit, the same being proved by the printed programmes and theatre cards of the gentleman’s plays in the Society’s files? Good composition is simplicity (which is the pains and price of literature). Also, why do you employ Latin-French overuse, which is not elegant English language? The critics will find out. Little dogs have long tails, you will pardon me

Following are some of my writings on this work:

No 1:

Amidst linguistic jugglery, whimsical encounters, comical escapades, jugalbandi of Oriental and occidental tongues rollicking, alapaning in high falutined pitch, reminiscent of Joyce, O’ Brien, and (no Indian counterpart, sorry) he can write, he can write lyrically! Lyrical, beauteous prose that seems to come from some other place of some other voice! And one gets to hear that much later, much later, and only for a brief moment, as if that’s just a footnote note of an abhaswara in a symphony of wondrous chaos!

Take a bow, sir! A rare, and a sole star of the foreign tongue from our land (in realm of literature) , a land which still grapples with that received knowledge!

No 2:

“It’s time to dust off your dictionary, sir!” Chimed my pet inner self for the umpteenth time, to my distressed mind. “Yes, s” I conceded, with hurt and regret. But before – what a lovely turn of phrases, cadence, tonality, rhetorical tecnics, ah hum damme damme, (opening my internet dict), post educated me – ha ha, the archaic white man’s comic flippancy, the sahib’s vain upmanship, native bardolatry, the Indian, French, Latin, American, German, Hungarian, Hindi, Hindustani, English tongues bastardising, rolling and somersaulting while booting up my local inferior mind and raising it up with a shovel and throwing up in a rainbow filled with jazz, country, Classical (west, east), Hindustani, soul, blues, and my head heady with all these cocktail presented by nymphs of a mixture of black, blue, orange, and white, I duly raised my bald hat to H.H and its creator G.V, and the beloved Bannerjji

P.S: Planning to write minimum 100 posts on this criminally neglected novel from an Indian, (Indian, sink that in, a modernist (or post) masterpiece that is compared to Joyce’s Ulysses, or O’Brien’s, or Sterne’s), thereby greatly damaging a possible literary tradition from the country. This is not even a prelude to my seething rage on the injustice meted out!I shalt come again to venge!

No 3:

Earnest plea to the defunct education committee:

I duly sign my sole protestation in this country of billions through my singular effort of drafting this letter to the most honourable (no dis) education committee, not heeding to the wise words of my alter ego “this would bring upon a great stain to the last vestiges of our family name” : that they have made a blunderous act by omitting their most venerable son of the soil a place in their school curriculum, in the section of white men writing in their pink tongue; in the section of dark men writing in their favourite foreign tongue; in the section of dark men writing in their cocktaily tongue, the consequences of which, the generations of our brethens ran behind Twain, Dickens, Shakespeare, Wordsworth, and all non-indian masters of English literature, and returned to India in search for – in vain – the same style in same lingo, from some such such learned writer to touch the shadows of those firangis!

Damme! I j’accuse Prof Radhakrishnan, (peace be upon him) one of our most respected presidents. He ought to have considered Kushwant Singh’s application recommending Desani for the nobel prize. Costly mistake. Which has deprived us of tasting the English tea served by our own masters; to claim “here you go, our very own Joyce, O’Brien, Sterne, and can stand equal to any English master writers you can scrap from your memory”. Rather we have come to such abhorrent layers to claim (I am afraid I can’t name any of the venerated writers of Indian English of the present day)

If reading this you come to an impression or conclusion that I am belittling the classic English writers from our soil, you are miles away from my stop!I Ain’t saying that there wasn’t any Tea that was served by Our own hands, no, not dismissing Tagore, Narayan, and other classical writers, but of a particular fragrance of tea, of a modernist bent (of which there is only only one, as far as I know) – we ought to have included to that simple end – at least a small footnote of the work of Desani!

It is a crime that has been committed and I am no Holmes or even a billionth-hand investigator or common sense instinct-holder, or a historian, and certainly not even an opinioner sipping chai, hence I have to be discharged of finding the causes for such a great let down by our fathers! I leave with a fact and an observation alone: His work was published in the mid 1980s in India, whereas it was originally published in 1948! If there is anyone who might come close to the tradition of Joyce’s Ulysses, O’Brien, Sterne’s style in Indian English literature ( (this is not my observation alone, but of Anthony Burgess, Eliot, Rushdie, Bellow, Forster and many well read minds), it is (was) Desani and his work “All about H. Hatter”

I have some personal grudge against the land due to this mistake, whose repercussions are there for all to see, which I am not venting out, since it is a historical act by our forefathers, and it would be unjust to hold your (our) collar for the crimes of. This was done solely to bring to your attention through which you can justly and officially do a small redemptive act of including the said gentleman’s work into your school curriculum in any manner as you see fit!

Yours truly,

A

Response: Having read your scathing criticism, nay mudslinging at our ancestors, the committee has come to unanimous decision to revoke your literary status as a “reader” and be trained in the arts of true Indian English writing, and top of this, it has asked you to submit the copy of the half bread (50-50 in his own submission) to the committee and expects to hear from your own words about your social standing, which has been deducted to be wanting badly, if we haven’t overdone our deduction game that is!

Me: Gotchme, you smarties, at a crucial point which is the most sensitive for a person of my stead! Hence, I abort my selfless act – which was solely done for the nation’s future literary status and poor kids, in the hope that no one should feel alienated by having a taste in literature in this nation, that they would have a conducive atmosphere to grow their being, but since I am the most abiding citizen of this mother land, and that I respect the institutions like my own personal privy parts I abort such a holy mission, and as ordered I insert the smuggled copy of the contentional book in question (a link has been attached for you all to savour it), and I assure I will stop calling myself a reader, but excuse me to protest for my own sanity sake – to absolve me from tortuous self masochistic exercises called reading “True Indian English writing”, and request you to extend a warm signage on my identity as: Persona non grata!

Now, you know my social standing!

P.S: Having gone through the above motions as a chapter in a book or a brief scene in a film, and seen the trouble in such a selfless act, I have decided not to begin it!

Leaving you with a mouthful of Desani:

‘O mother ! ‘ he discourses, not sparing my feelings, and sob- bing in the interim, ‘O begetter ! O woman ! O sufferer of the pangs of child-birth ! O jewel ! the soles of her feet as enticing
as a mango blossom! As spice from Madras! Her speech
sweet, as the dates of Arabi ! Her voice caressing, as the touch
of the Chameli flower! A sweetheart-wife, her abdomen en- dowed her by no other than the goddess Sachi ! Forehead by
Shakuntala! Buttocks by Ahilya! Navel by Mandodari! Legs
by Kadambari ! Belly by Madhavi ! Nipples by Rambha ! Teeth
by Hidamba ! Chin by Chitrangada ! Nose by Sita ! Insides by
Urvashi! Veins by Devaki! Elbows by Savitri! Tongue by
Gargi! Head by Kunti! Bones by Madari! Divine, immortal
heroines all! Mana by Radha, Shakti, Parvati, the Mother of
the gods! O the smiter-of-hearts ! O the fay! A sweetheart-wife, a sweetheart-wife, blessed with an angels-envied bosom,
as seductive as a lake of honey ! Ah, the clinging sweetness of her lips!

The mother faces her son, impassive and speechless, and
eyeing him askance . .

In the interim, I am apprehending!
Regardless of the feller’s solemn word to Banerrji, I am apprehending, since nearly the entire attribute and the limb-and-feature of the figure has already been dealt with, indexed,
and poetically compared, I entertain fears of what other limb-or-feature next!
Presently, the Roarer loses all count of self. He covers his face with the hem of his turban and sobs like hell! The entire assembly is soundless. Meanwhile, this feller continues to ventilate passion without
restraint!
He has an inspired look in his eyes, his arms are lifted skywards, and he further raises his voice. ‘A sweetheart-wife, enshaming nymphs! A sweetheart-wife,
as lustrous as a cluster-of-flowers, wrought in mercury! Oh,
God!’
Then, the unexpected takes place!
He goes flat on his stomach, in the humblest of postures,
tries to raise his arms to the ceiling, and he prays!
Tears of humility are running down his cheeks as he faces
his Maker. The feller with the self-confidence and the roar of *» lion is a pathetic figure now, humbly approaching his Preserver. In that position, his voice achieves the tenor tonic sol-fa, the highest raving pitch yet!
‘Almighty! Heavenly Father!’ he resounds, ‘God! A sweet-heart-wife as rare as Thy most beloved created! Thy own
darling! Thy own Splendour. Thy multi-dimensional Reality
incarnate ! O God !’
He is weeping and banging his head against the floor!
His wife – a rank miserable specimen of womanhood compared to his idyllic sweetheart – is there, sitting, immobilised!


Banerrji saves the situation. He gets up and puts his arms around the feller. As co-host, I hastily follow suit. ‘Control yourself, man! It’s all right!’ I manage to say. ‘It’s all right! Nothing to cry about! You will get over it! Everything is all right ! Everything is fine!

While, damme, I am consoling this feller in my ceremonial
semi-nude, the eye wanders . .

In the room, the man of the evening is in Banerrjis arms . . .
I am nursing . .
A touching scene!
Meanwhile, the eye wanders . .
Oh, hell!
I see heaps of faces glued to the french windows!
The whole neighbourhood, and more, watching us, having an eye-full, and vastly interested!
‘Banerrji, damme, man,’ I spoke to the chap from rank
emotion, ‘no hell of a need for the Roarer to raise the pitch he
did! No dam’ need, none at all! Damme, the entire neighbourhood has been attracted to listen to his banshee ! I told you
to ask him to pipe down !
‘Excuse me, Mr H. Hatterr,’ he says crisply, ‘but I have
already promised to take up the matter of your neighbours
editorially. Meanwhile, we have to humanely revive this bard. He has had an overwhelming mystic stroke. From the material form of a female, his fancy has risen to the Formless, the Creator Himself! The amatory has become esoteric! His is truly the ascription of the erotic to the spiritual! He has met his Bardic Fate! He is in tune with the Infinite! The grand ne
plus ultra, Mr H. Hatterr, promised by the sages to the true
practitioners of the Hindu Art of Love !’
‘Damme, Banerrji, to hell with the Hindu Art of Love! We
are being watched! I haven’t got my trousers on, man! The
peeping toms outside the windows!’
‘Your duty as host and litterateur . . .’ ‘All I am saying, damme, is that we are being watched by the busybodies! Man, they have seen the entire proceedings!’ ‘There is no harm in that! Share and share alike. This bard’s rhapsodisation has been significant enough to be heard by
millions! He achieved a very high literary standard indeed!’
Wham!
Under Banerrji’s treatment, the Roarer revives. Revives, nothing: only, he decides to get on his feet and
stop sobbing like hell. ‘Even such a sweetheart-wife,’ he is yelling at the seven in the room, and the multitude outside the french windows,
‘would resemble a cloud of dust, O pundit folk! were she ill-treated, beaten with a broom, and deprived of her clothing
While he is still at it – hell, the Red Light! that depriving of her clothing reference ! – midst the pattering of rain, I hear the wheels of a carriage up the drive and the neighing of a horse!
I listen, of course, perforce . .
The shades of those in the bush and those without, nee
Rialto, the waxed Kiss-curl, mine frau, arrived! though not due till Monday!
Oi, yoi, yoi!
The voice, unmistakable!
‘Major Appadine-Sinclair,’ she is saying, ‘won’t you come
in? ‘And, Zounds, before I have a moment’s respite, the khansamah-butier’s name is shouted, and, ‘Where are the servants, as it were? Anybody in? Koi hai? You can’t trust anyone!

Damme, within, in the drawing-room, is being held a symposium, and, without, in the compound, midst helter-skelter of the prying neighbours, now seeking shelter from the sudden
intensified shower – serve ’em dam’ well right! – a vulgar
uproar from this woman because the servants aren’t in the verandah to unload her meagre bags and offer garlands of
roses to appreciate her unexpected arrival!
Before I can devise a way out, the drawing-room door is flung open!
And enter Appadine-Sinclair (dam’ his 2|-in. stiff collar!), the waxed Kiss-curl (wearing a green oil-cloth pixie-hood), and
a middle-aged female (locally known as Lydia Ltd, Les Modes)
with dripping plumage in her tarboosh headgear!
They perceive me squatting on the floor, in the semi-nude,
the over-dressed bard on his feet, and solemn faces all round.
The gathering is nonplussed!
The spouse recovers first. ‘Christmas!’ she exclaims, surveying the scene. And looking
contemptuously at the hairy chest and the apricot turban combination, she demands, rushing at me, ‘What is the meaning of
this, Harry? Where is all the furniture?’
I am bound to reply.
‘I am receiving a title, dear. These ladies and gentlemen . . .’ Before I could say more, the Killer is on his feet.

‘Pundit H. Hatterr,’ he protests, in the plainest possible ver-nacular, ‘as the reception committee, I must supplicate! Who is this fat woman?’
He did it! With his cliche, he cut her to the quick!
While all this is going on, I continue to sit on the floor, clad
in the square, the apricot silk on the head, without my
trousers, looking like a cross between a brass monkey and a
sick kitten, silently enduring!
Posthaste, the man Appadine-Sinclair decides to withdraw
to the dining-room, adjusting his monocle, and muttering
loftily, in his best Varsity Bleat, to the tarboosh-bonnet (Lydia
Ltd), who is patting her blancmange-bowl coiffure incessantly,
‘A native secret society, by jove, what?’
Damme, almost said to the feller, in his own tone and
lexicon, ‘Cheer-o! Cheer-hol Same to you! Blaw, blaw!
Appadine-bloomin’-Sinclair! Huntin’ and shootin’! Good
show! Good show! Ain’t cricket, Featherstonehaugh ! Play
the game, Cholmeley-Smythe! A century, old bean! A daisycutter! A pink ‘un, Cru’shank! You are a Briton, sir! A real biightah, suh! A sahib, a durai, a tuan, a thakin, and a bwana,
bay Jove! A fine dato, Finerty-Millicheep ! Fore, there, fore! O mother, O begetter, O jewel! O bearer of the pangs of childbirth! Mama mia, madre, matka, anya, mata meri! may
Appadine-Sinclair’s dago arteries be squashed for turning up at
this inauspicious moment!’
Meanwhile, luck ! the Kiss-curl retreats!
Before humblest apologies can be made, and before I can
beg that the proceedings should terminate forthwith, with conferring of the degree, and without further ado, the devil’s own
is afoot and about!
She is in the house, on the premises, burning, and blistering,
most likely viewing her precious furniture being laundered in the rain. Too soon, she returns to the drawing-room . .
She enters, wham, plus the six-bore : and the steel clip oversize cartridge belt! And she threatens to shoot all present and promises to consign the cadavers to the Ganges!


The long and winding door that leads to your door

It was quite a long back, in the year of Corona 1, that I started to turn into a flaneur! It would have been another normal day in Chennai, with the sun marching with its flashy teeth for all to witness till the turn of dusk, but it wasn’t the case that time. The streets were deserted except for birds and animals. Instead of Sun’s Pallavi after its Ragam and Tanam in early April, it was Varuna who was tuning his tanpura for an elaborate concert! It should have come as a big surprise for the inhabitants but they were all huddled inside and had a much bigger problem to worry about. Me trying to tune my heart’s rhythm to nature’s, observed it easily. My heart’s seething passion and rage about the world’s condition and my inability to fit into the dull machine for survival were extinguished by Varuna’s cooling breath!  
 
I was walking towards my home when I noticed how the clouds were following me from behind, opening their palm like a gray umbrella as if to protect me from my burning turmoil inside. An instance of an external act by an external agent influencing the internal world of a walker! In normal times this would have lasted for 5 minutes before I would have entered my nest, but it wasn’t so that day. The spatial and temporal nature of the world extended beyond mathematical logic. Roads winded and slithered as if a drop of watercolour had fallen into the palette of earth, cuckoos sprouting out of clocks were in deep slumber listening to drones of the renewed earth, cat’s yawn in postprandial kick slowly extended and almost froze to a gaping, a practice jet that should have whizzed past leaving a gaseous line was calculating its path through fractal geometry! Everything seemed as if out of a silent black and white movie stretched to its extreme – beyond the film roll, tearing in its seams – for just a 1-second output! A costly slo-mo production indeed! The protagonist was the only element that was acting in real-time. I was walking normally, but I felt an element of foreign force impinging on my free will! I thought I would reach my home when all these creatures and elements would have just performed their 1-second activity. Less did I know what’s going to come! My sense of time and space got disrupted. What seemed to be my home wasn’t even the mouth or tail of my street! And I had walked 1 hour by then or my body felt so. My street, which was lengthy and straight on normal times turned into a slithering dragon body. Cry of corpse started to rise up from the earth I was trodding on, each of my steps produced a different range of human cries. I tried to run out of horror, but I felt I was just a speck of small dust in an infinite loop, going round and round in hope of reaching my destination only to realise the Kafkaesque structure I was in! Where would be my home in this never-ending dragon body which is my street? I looked up at the sky. It seemed there was a duel taking place between Surya and Varuna. I pleaded to both the lords to make my world normal again, but I was unaware this was a fight for us the mortals and only one should win. Finally, blackness surrounded the entire place, I stopped in my tracks. The thunder god rejoiced shouting hurray for their king’s victory, and Surya got rid of his shackles and ate away the dragon to welcome the winning guest, and we the earthlings were showered with thundering applause for patiently believing the nature! I was the only one to witness this epic drama that was unfurling in the sky. The earth’s call was finally answered by Varuna’s Bandish and upon the first notes of Raag Megh falling on the earth, the normalcy slowly returned. I started running towards my home, my inner chamber door, and curled up peacefully as I read Proust’s opening passage in “In search of lost time” to the tune of nature’s music! Goodnight to me as well as Proust!                 

2021 – A reading year in review

Delacroix, Eugene; Faust and Mephistopheles; The Wallace Collection; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/faust-and-mephistopheles-209338

Another year passes by and the humanity eagerly expects the fiery siren of the dragon to vanish at a faster rate, but dragon metamorphoses into plenty of denomination that humanity has finally run out of linguistic gift to name them!

Personally, it has been a decent year for me – after all I am still alive like you readers, unlike some of my acquaintances who had perished into the fire of that dragon!

Has it been productive though? I don’t think so!

Let’s come to my reading. I read around 20 or more odd books. Most of them were read in the first half of 2021. Took a big time slumber in the second half of the year!

Mostly it has been fiction. Here is the list of books:

  1. The third policeman – https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3741863687 – my first O’Brien finally, and I learnt he was more than just a writer of humor!
  2. Requiem : A hallucination, by Tabucchi – https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3749170603
    Pretty sweet book, made me connect towards the culture (particularly culinary, surprisingly, since me being a vegetarian) of Portugal.
  3. A simple heart, by Flaubert – reread! https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/398155.A_Simple_Heart
  4. Chess story, by Zweig – https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3773688208 – Brilliant work!
  5. The Luzhin Defense, by Nabokov – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8153.The_Luzhin_Defense – this is the second Nabokov I have read, fell short of expectations!
  6. Secret europe, Howard John – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13508106-secret-europe – I loved this much less explored corners of literary fictions.
  7. In Partial Disgrace, Charles Newmann – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/14433736-in-partial-disgrace – Highly disappointed by this. After waiting for years a copy turned up and I wish I hadn’t come across that news.
  8. The Posthumous memoir of bras cubas, by Machado de assis – https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/4026016141 – Masterpiece!
  9. The death of Francis Bacon, by Max porter – https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/4026178739 – I am more of an inviter or rather an unwanted guest of experimental prose, but this was quite difficult for me! Would love to check his other works!
  10. Autoportrait, by Edouard Leve – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11684851-autoportrait – strange short story! Digged the style pretty much!
  11. The employees, by Olga Ravn – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/53780642-the-employees – was shortlisted for international booker prize 2021. It was fine, a basic sci-fi. Didn’t get the hype!
  12. The no world concerto, by Porta – https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/4030893113 – another book I waited for long to only be underwhelmed. It wasn’t bad though!
  13. The president’s room, by Ricardo Romero – https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/4032846258
  14. Imaginary lives, by Schwob – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2440272.Imaginary_Lives – an interesting collection of short tales! Should read more from this writer.
  15. Dissipatio H.G, by Guido Morselli – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9706031-dissipatio-h-g – Brilliant work. Highly recommended! Got this as a recommendation from the “Orpheus” Youtube channel.
  16. Personae, by Sergio de la pava – https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/4045564996 – my first Pava. Settled for this in place of his acclaimed “A naked singularity” for time constraint. It was a mixed fare, but still very promising, he shines when he is the sing!
  17. The figure in the carpet, by Henry James – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2153351.The_Figure_in_the_Carpet – Loved it!!
  18. Voyage around my room: Selected works of Javier de Maistre – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/328699.Voyage_Around_My_Room – whenever you feel bored for the lack of entertainment, hobby, pastime (if at all), pick this book, you will never complain ever! I enjoyed this, so you would, mostly!
  19. Raging joys, sublime violations, Chandler Brossard – https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/4098259072 – talk about indulgences of chasers of obscurity? This would be an exception even for that tribe. I enjoyed this nevertheless.
    Still, I should stop myself from chasing the odd beauties in place for classics!
  20. A cup of rage, Nassar Raduan – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24874291-a-cup-of-rage – saw this on my twitter feed, recommended by a reader who had adorned it with all the lavish praises imaginable. Short work which tried to be a Bernhard, but fell gloriously as many do while trying to mimic his inimitable style.

That’s all there was to my reading. Of course I had grazed a few more book, which I think don’t fit the bill here.

I hope to improve my reading this year. Let’s see! In place of short works, novellas or extended novellas I read in 2021, I hope to read more standard, or even 1 or 2 maximalist fictions. Also I am planning to read non fictions, history books this year. There is lot of catching up I need to do on classics, lest I forget and go back to the vices of my tribe!

On top of it all, I hope I can further and deepen my appreciation for literature! There is a lot to improve, I am afraid I am starting to sense the effects of short attention span lately!

Memory is one topic that keeps knocking and surfacing in my interior chamber to remind me of how pitiable my ability in remembering (there by allowing me to converse in the books I read) whatever I had read, whatever impression I had formed, whatever interpretation I had developed while reading it.
I am not sure how that can be improved, but I do badly want something to improve in that realm this year, however possible! Or else, it feels it points towards something quite significant, albeit scary fact of life – utter futility and temporality of everything a human does!

But hey, it is still worth trying! (a small self note, if you might allow!)

Wishing you all a happy 2022! Let our inner reading muse shine as much as possible!

Virginia Woolf’s String Quartet – A review

A serious review/interpretation of Virginia Woolf’s String Quartet

Note: It is Quite Exhaustive!

Music flows, and so does Woolf’s stream of conscious writing; which sweeps us under – not by its stream but – its torrent; leaves us insufficiently quenched after feeding us with her dripping honey language – which is not only a verbal expression of a quartet music masked in a metaphor of love, but also a comment on the social mores, modern vs tradition, Classical Venice vs Modernist London – that we return home/world saying: Starry night – as does the lady listener says to her maid, after she comes to her home after her senses, by horns blaring at the end of the concert, signalling a doom, a fall, from the ornate venetian structures, designed by Angels listening to Mozart’s music, where lovers frolic near the nudging moon, drunk in childish love, while well knowing the tragedy of such feelings, to the desert called London where lovers keep running in the opposite direction and get tremendously frustrated by endless mirage of lover’s feet, that they choke and dash to their comfy homes, alone!

Social setting of a classical concert:

The narrator of the story (assuming it is a lady, though a man could rightly fit, or is it?) is a misfit to the place where she decides to open herself to the man, whom she meets after many years. And judging by the mention of Venice as the last met place (7 years ago) – an occasional classical music lover friend to be turned lover. Poor narrator/listener/Woolf! She is a foreigner, a modernist in the hall which sneers at foreigners; a place run by a strict code of class manners.

Sorry to digress here, this last comment reminds me of an incident that took place in my part of world.

If my memory serves well, we were to have a symphony concert, conducted by the honourable Zubin Mehta, at Chennai, 6 or 7 years back, which categorically stated that the audience are permitted only if they come in “Coat”

Now this is an unneccesary statement. Who goes to a classical concert wearing anything but coat and suit. But we are in India, so it needs a special prior announcement. And there was this article in “The Hindu” then, debating whether is it right to impose a dress code for audience.

The point of this digression is quite simple – classical concert hall possesses a certain class and code that you have to abide by.

Now back to the story.

The listener is a misfit because:

“since it’s all a matter of flats and hats and sea gulls, or so it seems to be for a hundred people sitting here well dressed, walled in, furred, replete. Not that I can boast, since I too sit passive on a gilt chair

First sign of non-identifying herself to her class.

Second time, but now a more stronger statement, comes when mentioning Mozart, when she is pulled back from her thoughts:

But the tune, like all his tunes, makes one despair—I mean hope. What do I mean? That’s the worst of music! I want to dance, laugh, eat pink cakes, yellow cakes, drink thin, sharp wine. Or an indecent story, now—I could relish that.”

And it goes on. This makes it plainly evident that the person isn’t a classical music lover, though there are some activities above, which a classical music lover may enjoy while listening his Mozart!

“The older one grows the more one likes indecency. Hall, hah! I’m laughing. What at? You said nothing, nor did the old gentleman opposite … But suppose—suppose—Hush!”

This is hilarious! Love her anarchic wit! As we all know when a classical concert is in session, there is pin drop silence, and that’s what Woolf wants to break!

Love under the melody of Mozart:

Apart from few bits of “Supposed dialogues”, it’s full of colourful thoughts (also a dark one) the lady dreams up, stroked by Mozart’s music.

The images of meeting a stranger lover under the hazy moonlight shines brilliantly for few passages before brought back by a comment, which makes her comment:

“That’s the worst of music—these silly dreams.”

And immediately getting distracted – in the physical world for a change – by a mundane thing – old lady walking out; starting again on music, but expression through words fail:

“How lovely! How well they play! How—how—how!”

She doesn’t say how. And we all know how difficult it is to express music through our language. In my opinion, it would always end up as a distilled form; a subtraction of actual experience. You may stack up sheaf after sheaf pouring down every imaginable words in your language, describing the greatness of Beethoven or Mozart, or other masters, but just the opening notes of, say, 5th symphony, or pastoral symphony, or late string quartets, or moonlight sonata or any of Beethoven’s masterpiece will be far greater in its expression – effect on listener, than those bundle of words!

The lady continues to observe her surroundings, her fellow audience, rather than to continue to listen her music.

If not observing the surroundings, her thought goes back to her imaginary place with her lover. And now it turns dark for a change!

“He followed me down the corridor, and, as we turned the corner, trod on the lace of my petticoat. What could I do but cry ‘Ah!’ and stop to finger it? At which he drew his sword, made passes as if he were stabbing something to death, and cried, ‘Mad! Mad! Mad!’ Whereupon I screamed…”

Once a friend of mine remarked:

While I do like classical music, I find them fixated on tragedy, melancholy and pathos! And a happy light only shows its head for 1 piece or movement for every 1000 dark clouds.

While my friend may be right partially, the other side of it (as we all know, classical music is anything but mono) emerges now, and here comes Mozart the rescue:

“Whereupon I screamed, and the Prince, who was writing in the large vellum book in the oriel window, came out in his velvet skull-cap and furred slippers, snatched a rapier from the wall—the King of Spain’s gift, you know—on which I escaped, flinging on this cloak to hide the ravages to my skirt—to hide … But listen! the horns!”

Ah, the horns in a string quartet?

Horns, trumpets, yes, the sign of the final crescendo and end of concert is here:

“The gentleman replies so fast to the lady, (the musical exchanges of two performers, or final exchanges between the lovers ) and she runs up the scale with such witty exchange of compliment now culminating in a sob of passion, that the words are indistinguishable though the meaning is plain enough—love, laughter, flight, pursuit, celestial bliss—all floated out on the gayest ripple of tender endearment—until the sound of the silver horns, at first far distant, gradually sounds more and more distinctly, as if seneschals were saluting the dawn or proclaiming ominously the escape of the lovers …”

That’s it. End of concert and love escapade!

Venice vs London; Classical vs Modern:

“But this city to which we travel has neither stone nor marble; hangs enduring; stands unshakable; nor does a face, nor does a flag greet or welcome. Leave then to perish your hope; droop in the desert my joy; naked advance. Bare are the pillars; auspicious to none; casting no shade; resplendent; severe.”

Perhaps it isn’t about any female meeting a guy to express love, but two separate sides of Woolf meets and tries to conjoin, make love, but diverge apart as the story ends. That she is a product of modernism in body and classical in spirit.

Perhaps the best picture/art expressing this short story, would be one of the greatest paintings of all time.

When the concert starts, she compares surging up of music with the waters of Rhone (perhaps wine of Rhone – a beautiful image), and finally with all this tryst with classical love, ends up saying: Starry night!

Misreading millenials’ language

I don’t know why I considered “based” as biased. It wasn’t based on any solid basis of fact, but rather it was based on the sound of based ( perhaps I don’t like I, don’It know!), visual resemblance of those two words and more importantly the circumstances “based” was finding itself in FB posts and comments.

After knowing “based” means that one doesn’t care a keratin, and reading the complete history of its origin, which my happy-to-forget-brain forgot cleanly or should I say completely, I was pondering the basis for based being based. Though language, and particularly English is a peculiar chap (is all cute and nice), still words have an inner logic or an accepted logic at best.

To top it, the word “based”, already as a long history of usage which the common folks have accepted , and any deviation, and not abberation! Don’t get me started on abberation! I had enough of that from Sorrentino earlier this year! So as I was saying, any deviation is fair only if it is deviating from the already accepted notion. That is only from point A (accepted usage, hey an A and an A match) to B or any alphabet or point in space . The point is that the origination of the current use should point to point A or point F, depending on the current time frame of the word’s history, and not suddenly fall from the sky, replacing already existing notion.


Since I am on a flow in misreading millenials’ word usages and the fact that I just used the letter F, iF you noticed, I had liked to point to another of my perverse reading. Perhaps the term “perverse reading” answers that.

I don’t know why I read f as uck (F*) and not as follow! Yuck!

Do people feel it is an hollow effort to write ollow following F? How would they follow if they find it hollow to follow f with – ollow? So it becomes just f and effs my mind to f? F*. I don’t know!

May be f (F*) and based means something if placed side by side.

The “following” is ” based”on my reading:

The fact that millenials don’t care a tinge (sorry, just flexing my word-muscle, don’t read it wrongly, I say!) about the word based and go about their own usage – Based, in all places, so they don’t care about follow, so they end up with just f. Which also means they don’t give a f (F*) for it, which actually they do, since that is why it is f and not ollowing. Screw the language, mon!

Not your usual biographies or events

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Goethe in his early 40s published his “Metamorphosis of Plants”, which started out as a search for a monotheistic system of botany and ended up as polytheistic system.
Decades later, before his death he had a vision of a gigantic man lying on ocean and from that man’s navel came out a shoot of lotus plant.

ghent-altarpiece
The Ghent Altarpiece or Adoration of the Mystic Lamb,completed in 1432 by Jan van Eyck, is considered the first great painting of the Renaissance.

Mother Mary was so engrossed in her reading of scripture,as she usually was, that she was unaware when the word was revealed by the angel, setting forth an entirely different Christian history.
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A learned man, centuries ago wrote a collection of couplets which was later termed as Thirukural, never knew that he would find a literary cousin in 20th century Soviet Union named Daniil Kharms, and he in turn never knew that his weird subversive style will turn into authoritative style of 21st century public writing. (Stalin laughs!)
Jorge-Luis-Borges
Bibliophile and writer Alberto Manguel when reading to blind Borges was unsure whether Borges has fallen asleep or he is still listening. After confirming that he is asleep, Manguel continued to read the book nevertheless, since he was enjoying the book. When he came to Borges’s house tomorrow morning for reading, Borges welcomed him by saying, wasn’t the description of Bartelby by Melville a bit anarchistic in nature. Manguel was surprised to hear that, since Borges, he thought, had already fallen asleep when Bartleby is introduced in the story. Later the day when thinking about it he was even more surprised that not only Borges should have been awake but he had exactly echoed the tentative interpretation of Bartleby made by him. But contrary to whatever conclusions Manguel made, Borges had indeed fallen asleep.
Georges_Perec
A critic of oulipo from France, wrote once that Perec had written a book called la disparition with 25 letters of the french language.
saraswati-with-book
In orthodox Hinduism it is prohibited to salivate your hand to turn the pages of the book, since book is a form of god saraswathi.
Adolf_Behrman_-_Talmudysci
Photo: Talmud Readers by Adolf Behrman
Jews were perhaps the first ideal readers of book, and the image of a bent man, almost touching his nose to the book and see sawing to the rhythm of the word became the standard practice worldwide. It was later speculated and believed that a closer physical communion with a book is said to be the effective method for reading.
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A dashing and adventurous dante named Emilio Lascano Tegui — or one should say a self acclaimed viscount named Tegui — was an Argentinian author of couple of brilliant avant garde books, in which one is titled as “On elegance while sleeping”, had by his pompous nature had overestimated the hand of history. A Friend of Picasso, Appolinaire and mingled in groups, which had some of the greater minds like Borges, is very scarcely translated, completely forgotten in his own land (considered as the haven for literary figures), now sleeps elegantly in cupboards of only 250 households approximately, of which only one in India.

The sense of an ending – A book review

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This is my first from this author.

I am puzzled why this has good to great ratings, with many of my trusted pals praising lavishly both the book and author.

I have a serious contention with the theory of memory the author proposed, that got expressed through the letter’s contents the protagonist sends to his ex-girlfriend and friend (who is his boyfriend then) decades back.

Here the protagonist claims that he had completely forgot about the content, words, tone of it. Quite unbelievable. Or perhaps it isn’t, but nevertheless it has its flaws.

As far as I know, most of us would never remember (or we would, it is different for different people) vividly, with every details of a significant past event, however important it may be. But we would always remember the general essence of it, particularly the taste/feelings of the event it had left on us. To take a book or a film for example (by that I don’t dilute the seriousness, but just to give an example), we might remember how we liked, or disliked the film in general, even to the level that we may know why it was so. There are of course other instances, like we may not even remember anything about it except the fact that we have read or watched it. Those, as it is evident (or philosophically self evident, to borrow a phrase from the book) were trivial accidents of our life with no impact on us whatsoever.

But in this book we are talking about first love of the protagonist and one that involves his remarkable friend too. So no trivial phase. Though I agree that the protagonist could have forgotten the contents of the letter he had written to them, he never would have forgotten what was the tone of it (let’s leave the consequence of the letter’s word to the last), or the feelings he had about them joining.

Or he had wantedly erased it from his memories, not just the letter, but the whole college love and fall out, etc. Possible. But in the book, when the death of the friend is informed, the protagonist and his friends discuss the suicide seriously without the protagonist thinking about the hurt he had inflicted through his letter (considering how few months back it would have had happened unlike an old man recollecting a spur of the moment letter decades back), though that could not be the reason for the suicide, at least it should have been fresh, after all that was the last bit of communication he had with his friend.

But the climax twist (if you could neglect the earlier revelation) was way too much. I am not even getting into the detail of how it all sounded completely stupid and how, I now suspect the writer wanted to do twist for the twist sake.

The only interesting bits were the early ones involving their classroom lectures and philosophising.

Though I could agree at one point, the words do have some effect, but not to this level.

Not sure why this author is getting this much praise!

Or may be he is all right about the time and memory part, just that I feel otherwise and mainly not convinced from the story in the least.

My two worlds -A Book Review

If this work of fiction alone is sufficient to gauge this writer, then it is more than safe to say that Chejfec is a unique writer who writes, not with any plot per se, rather it serving as an instrument, an addendum to what Enrique Vila Matas describes as a writer of the Incidental.

Sergio Chejfec

The book, through the eyes of flaneur, conjures a mystical air to our supposedly quotidian surrounding, allows the writer-character to ruminate on his eccentric philosophy of walking, detachment from the speeding world and its people, on present time as a flexible string stretching to not only the past but pulling the unknown future as a spectre.

Why it is titled my two worlds? Is it the everlasting stress on the past, that he laments missing the action of the present, as a normal lost-in-thought-yet-stays-in-present or as the book towards the end suggests – staticity vs action ( from getting up to go in search of a stranger’s shoe or watch from his position the still lake )? Now, usually when one describes a condition like this, we particularly stress on the second (no 2) possibility, which assumes that the said person is already is in the first state, in this case contemplating the still lake or the static. But the character here wants to be in neither of those worlds, or in both (the latter, which he confesses always the case is), hence to tread a middle part he adopts something, to decipher it you need to read the book.

One of the beauties of reading literature is that we are able to see the world in a never before perspective and here comes to fore one of the most sought out day or days (if you consider the entire life) of one’s life – the birthday.

At each point in time, the way we view birthday changes, but one thing remains constant and you all people perhaps would agree with me – it will always put a smile on the people around us, even for a fleeting second it might be, it does nevertheless.
Also whether one likes it or not, or however one lives or views himself or herself, he or she for a day becomes the centre of attraction, all the gaze falls on him/ her, with whatever reaction or response it may create on them.

At one point here, there comes a moment, where the future is pulled back to present, with a help from a Borges quote, to present a lovely,  other worldly description, of the moment arriving and the character feeling shy after realizing the momentous importance bestowed on him by his strange companions.

From the book:

I was ensconced in my birthday month, and what’s more, the day itself was only a few days off. By now I’m sufficiently acquainted with the fatal succession of nights—Borges said this, I believe—to understand that no distraction or idea can stop time from being realized and the future from arriving. It’s not that I wanted to postpone my birthday, it was my certainty that it made no difference to start thinking about it in advance, though I hadn’t expected to, in that park in the south of Brazil.
Then I happened to have the thought, as I mentioned before, of the two friends whose birthdays seemed to them an opportunity, or alibi, for writing about themselves in relation to time, or to life and its possible changes, and the impact all this had on them. And as I remembered them, an odd thing happened, my birthday vanished from the horizon as a looming eventuality, to assume the validity of the present itself. I felt, as I say, truly ensconced in the day of my birthday. I mean, in one way or another, reality had organized itself in such a way as to anticipate this date, and it inspired in me a feeling of solidarity and concord toward both friends and their books, and one of gratitude toward the carp and the turtles for prompting the moment and having allowed me to preside over that near-secret aquatic celebration. Consequently, from where I sat, I could devote myself to contemplating the calm waters of the lake, and also to reconsidering for a moment these most recent events and thanks to them, understanding that the whole park in its entirety had worked as an unexpected catalyst for my birthday.
A young waiter had left me the menu, only to take refuge immediately inside the café, probably wanting to benefit from the air conditioning. By now a brief age had gone by since his first appearance—short if one takes into consideration the span of a lifetime, long compared with the time most anyone would spend deciding what to order. For a moment, I thought I saw him keeping an eye on me from one of the windows. Not openly, like someone looking straight out, but diagonally, most of his body hidden behind the wall and his face peeking out a bit. I didn’t give much thought to him, because at the same time I discovered I was being observed from another angle: swan No. 15 was headed right toward where I was sitting.
It had its eyes riveted on me, as if it were trying to memorize what it would say when it arrived and wanted to get a head start. I recognized the swan because the father and daughter were aboard, their heads peeking out from behind the animal’s neck, one on either side. I recall that the girl was laughing as the father talked, and that her laughter became heartier just after her father said something and she looked at me. They were talking about and laughing at me, I supposed. It was the worst that could happen to me that day, being sensitized to the opinions of others in such a way. Perhaps I was mistaken, but it’s not easy to overlook certain signs, especially when someone wants to disguise them. The swan kept coming nearer, despite almost touching the shore and having the entire lake to itself, spread out behind it like a mirrored metal fan, tinged slightly with green because of the reflections of the plant life. The father and daughter seemed to be in control of the boat; but seeing them like that, sunken up to their necks inside the enormous body, made me think of them as involuntary yet unnecessary participants in the actual scene that was unfolding.

End of the unfinished quote ( I noticed the word limit had exceeded!)

And not to say a word on his digressions is a crime. Digressions are tricky trick to present as we know. The celebrated writer Javier Marias, who is known for his digressions, of whose works I have read only one – A heart so white, failed miserably at it, at least for me.

Chejfec thankfully, brings digressions at its most beautiful and effective form – with multiple threads branching out, connecting  and coming to its source. And even in the digressions, the stress and play on time is evident and something fresh for the style. And to my dismay I fear I won’t be able to share one of my favourite digressions from the book, which curiously takes its theme as nothing but the ‘time’ itself.

I yet to read anything else by the author, but if he keeps up to the expectations he has kicked start in me, he is easily one of the greatest writers working currently.

P.S: When i searched YouTube to see if there are any videos and excerpt readings of the author, I was so surprised to note that, in the few videos available, he had come all the way down in my country, as close to my state, and gave a talk and reading of his work at the Kochi Biennale.

I still know, that I have not conveyed my thoughts on the work properly, the way I would have loved it to be. But yet, I think I need to introduce this writer, however shoddy my output may be, to the people who follow my reviews here, in the hope that they too would find the same beauty in this work.

Ah, a word on the translation. I always forget to acknowledge the translators, without whom, we, the anglophones, never would have had the opportunity to enjoy these literary treasures.

I am no expert, but I can imagine the difficulty  it would have posed for the translator ( Margaret B.Carson) to bring this unconventional work to its form it is now.

And also, heartful thanks to the open letter publications to bring out these unique writers to us!! I am tracking more of their works and which I would be reading soon enough.

A small caution : Just keep to it if you find the initial bits difficult to follow. It took me 30 pages to orient myself to the style.