I read only a few pages of the book and while it is a fascinating read, it is too descriptive and long for me to read now. Maybe a couple of decades a...moreI read only a few pages of the book and while it is a fascinating read, it is too descriptive and long for me to read now. Maybe a couple of decades ago I had more patience for this sort of writing. Still, it was wonderful to discover the existence of this book and it came as a pleasant surprise that such a work even existed in Urdu and was widely read till a half a century or so back.(less)
A careful selection of one of the greatest thinkers of modern India and a messiah of the 'untouchable' castes, the Dalits. It includes his essay 'The...moreA careful selection of one of the greatest thinkers of modern India and a messiah of the 'untouchable' castes, the Dalits. It includes his essay 'The Annihilation of Caste' as well as his reply to Mahatma Gandhi's critical review of the essay.(less)
The following are some notes made while reading the novel:
"A quote that I liked on page 427: When I think back on that day, I see all those colourful umbrellas and raincoats, all the mud puddles on the street, and the dying fish and croaking frogs in some of the standing water. That torrential rainfall of the early 1990s exposed much of the corruption masked by the prosperity of the age."
Page 500 ------------ Fast moving events- Ximen Bao, the concubine whose two sons are the main protagonists, dies. Her funeral is a big affair with a numerous Party dignitaries attending it, the cavalcade consisting of 40 cars. Ximen Jiefang owns up his parentage by recognizing that his father's name was Ximen? and not Lan?. He is killed in a suicide attack by his former mentor and believer in Mao's collectivization pro Hang Taiyue?.
On page 488 ----------- As I inch towards the end, the novel becomes more interesting as layers of meaning are revealed. The novelist Mo Yan himself appears in the novel, as a "crafty writer". Yet he seems to have a soft corner for the Lan Jiefang, the county chief who falls for a girl 20 years his junior, and is portrayed as a hero because he renounces his powerful position for his new found love. It is tricky and difficult to make out if Mo Yan is playing tricks to circumvent the censors. Or perhaps, Mo Yan is trying to deliberately make a hero out of a much older man ditching his wife who supported him in his years of struggle. This is not clear and the reader is left to make his own judgement. I am inclined to assume that Mo Yan is playing it both ways and by retaining the ambiguity, he is also saving his own skin.
I am now on page 450. The novel has taken a turn for the better. After a very long middle that meandered through the years of the Cultural Revolution, collectivization of agriculture followed by de- collectivization during the early Den Xiaoping years, the novel now explores the 1990s that saw the definitive turn towards capitalism and its ideals- of making money. The party officials, descendants of Ximen, have now gotten rich. While one of them continues to mouth the slogans of the early CPC, he also plans to make the Ximen village a place of leisure and relaxation for the rich. Jinfang(?), now a county chief, is smitten by a young girl twenty years his junior- literally and metaphorically, symbolizing the emergence of the "gentrified" apparatchik. For the reader, the novel could not be more delightful than it is now. The dreadful middle, always a challenge for both the writer and the reader of a long novel, is over. To Mo Yan's credit, it might have been a deliberate ruse to bore and wear out the censors !
I have just begun reading Part III of Mo Yan's "Life and Death are wearing me out" (a little over one third of the book) and have mixed feelings about it. What works for me is the narrative of post- revolutionary China, particularly about the Cultural Revolution. What also works are the different points of view, a robust sense of humour amidst a tumultus period if China's post- Revolution history and a literary flourish that make the book a page turner.
What doesn't seem to be working is the quirkiness of the narrative, tangential diversions and exaggeration- much in the style of Garcia Marquez in "One Hundred Years of Solitude" which I liked the first time I read "One Hundred..." but found it irritating while reading the second time.
Mo Yan's style also contrasts with another book that I happened to be reading alongside- "Everything Flows" by Vasili Grossman.
The collectivization of the peasantry, among other changes in the post Revolutionary Soviet Union up to Stalin's death are very similar to those in China in the 1950s and 60s. Yet, the contrast between the two writers could not be more striking- Mo Yan is verbose and humourous while Grossman has used tight prose and is uniformly serious, digressing into long soliloquies on Lenin, Stalin and a grand sweep on Russia's thousand years of history. It was refreshing to read a simply written, straightforward novella that was no less - if not more, engaging than "Life and Death...". I finished the 200 page "Everything Flows" in a couple of weeks, much moved by its sparse but surgically precise prose.
I continue to plough through "Life and Death are wearing me out", and if I am not worn out by the time it is finished, will post a longer review.(less)
I hate to give a one star rating to anything by McLeod, who has made a rich and lifelong contribution to the study of Sikh religion. However, this boo...moreI hate to give a one star rating to anything by McLeod, who has made a rich and lifelong contribution to the study of Sikh religion. However, this book is disappointing, the style is archaic and overly academic to the point of being unreadable. The reason seems to be that it is practically a rehash of his PhD thesis in 1968. Much more information and analysis has been done on the subject since then, including by Mcleod himself, to make this book redundant.(less)
Reading Borges is somewhat like reading blogs, the stories are short even though dense and packed. In this collection, I particularly liked The Garden...moreReading Borges is somewhat like reading blogs, the stories are short even though dense and packed. In this collection, I particularly liked The Garden of Forking Paths. The others were re- reads and most of them are quite enjoyable. Reading Borges makes me feel that fiction is also a means of innocent pleasure, and that is what attracted me towards reading as a child. Borges made me re-live that wondrous childhood once again.(less)
Hair raising book that both mesmerizes and horrifies the reader. As a reader from India, I could feel that all the action could well have taken place...moreHair raising book that both mesmerizes and horrifies the reader. As a reader from India, I could feel that all the action could well have taken place anywhere in the Indian sub- continent- where honor killing is still practiced. It is not a co- incidence that the victim, Santiago Nasar, is of Arab descent, an "outsider" in the country that his father had adopted. Marquez at his best.(less)