I've always heard my parents mention Fakir Mohan Senapati whenever I asked them about Oriya literature and this is one of the few books I found that wI've always heard my parents mention Fakir Mohan Senapati whenever I asked them about Oriya literature and this is one of the few books I found that was translated.
I liked the writing to a degree, although I felt like the satire turned into overkill one time too many. It was only when I read the introduction that I found out that the narrator is a character himself, the embodiment of the quintessential Oriya touter. Perhaps it all reads much better in the original, but in that case, a book with four different translators should certainly have been able to capture the subtleties. Not that the author is always subtle himself, sometimes going into rather unpleasant detail. The book meanders far too often: the first dozen or so chapters are more or less sketches and the plot starts abruptly and careens into a conclusion by the end....more
Only Kurt Vonnegut can write a book about not writing a book and get away with it. Almost.
Timequake is basically an essay on time, on destruction andOnly Kurt Vonnegut can write a book about not writing a book and get away with it. Almost.
Timequake is basically an essay on time, on destruction and on free will thrown in together with a loose tale about a timequake that sends everyone back ten years, Kilgore Trout storylettes and plenty of trademark Vonnegut quotable quotes ("... AIDS and new strains of syph and clap and the blueballs were making the rounds like Avon ladies run amok.")
I found the theme of free will interesting. Vonnegut compares World War II to a timequake: he describes his time as a soldier as a suspension of freewill. How many of us are living in a timequake even now? Do we really make decisions because we want to? It seems that giving in to your desires is the easiest thing in the world, but I've discovered that it's much easier to do what you think you "should" than to do what you love.
The little Trout stories sprinkled through are always interesting to read, as is the fact that Vonnegut pegs Trout's death down to the age of 84; Vonnegut, bless his soul, died at 84. So it goes. On the other hand, this book feels essentially incomplete: the characters, the plots never come into their own. At times, it feels downright lazy.
So, why did I like this book? Because it's honest, unpretentious and direct. In that Vonnegut always reminds me of Mark Twain and through Twain he presents his other theme. Twain said, "I have never wanted any released friend of mine restored to life since I reached manhood." Vonnegut says, "For practically everybody, the end of the world can’t come soon enough." Is this the reason why we have wars, why we simply choose to wipe out entire races? That we are, at the heart of it all, ashamed to live? ...more
There's nothing like a joke to tell you how horrific something is. Catch-22 reads like a harshly poetic nightmare. Slaughterhouse Five does a great joThere's nothing like a joke to tell you how horrific something is. Catch-22 reads like a harshly poetic nightmare. Slaughterhouse Five does a great job of combining satire and absurdism with the tragedy of war but this book, with its relentless mood whiplash between ridiculousness and ghastliness brought the war alive for me in a way few other works have. The satire tends to get a little repetitive at times but it somehow adds to the feeling of frustration that the men on Pianosa must feel. I did like Mr Heller's writing for the most part; it really succeeds in conjuring up not just scenes but also the feelings behind them - Yossarian at the beach at dusk or waiting for Orr and eating all his food or his walk through Rome towards the book which would inject a vitriolic dose of misanthropy in the most dedicated humanist. And there's I thought I would find the non-chronological, see-saw thread of the book a nuisance but like the insistently repetitive jokes, it made the story far more real and atmospheric than it would have been otherwise. I liked the flow of his language, such as "A Satanic old man fired a flower at him" ("fired a flower" - it's so satisfying to say out loud) or anything involving Milo Minderbinder and food. And the language nerd in me especially liked all the little multilingual goodies, whether it's everyone calling Scheisskopf a shithead or Yossarian punning on François Villon. The ending was done just right; in any other book I might have dismissed it as a deux ex machina but here it was a welcome finish....more
I recently read H.G Wells' A Modern Utopia where he seems to spend half the book hating on Thomas More's version of earthly paradise. So when I foundI recently read H.G Wells' A Modern Utopia where he seems to spend half the book hating on Thomas More's version of earthly paradise. So when I found Utopia while out book shopping a few days ago, I thought I'd see what the original was like.
There are two reasons that made me like Utopia better. One, it is blissfully short and two, it is far less dry than I expected. I'm not entirely sure, however, how the book is meant to be taken, considering that "utopia" means "no place" (makes you wonder about dystopia then, doesn't it?) and its narrator's name translates as Raphael Nonsenso. It seems that More deliberately treads the line between satire and seriousness for literary as well as political reasons.
Utopia itself is a mixed bag. It's a communist state where there is no money and everyone owns everything. I liked More's idea of the equal importance given to manual labour and intellectual growth. I certainly loved the six hour work day! That and the concept of law being simple enough to be understood by everyone is something that I wish would be adopted in the real world. The death sentence for repeated adultery might be a little harsh but I really have very little sympathy for infidelity unless it arises from domestic abuse, physical or mental. I also liked the Utopian idea of the celebration of death and religious freedom even though I fail to relate to their contempt towards atheists. And the Utopian's attempt to psychologically devalue gold and silver by using them as material for chamber pots was certainly unique.
On the other hand, Utopia is a place where everyone is equal but some are more equal than others. I cannot possibly consider any form of governance ideal if it continues to engage in slavery, even if some of them are "willing" slaves or condemned criminals. The very idea of slaves in Utopia is a paradox. And it is not the only one. The Utopians claim to abhor hypocrisy; they will wage war and try to make it as bloodless as possible and yet they are willing to hire a certain tribe of mercenaries since they think the Earth would be better off without them. Women can train for battle and are expected to fight alongside their husbands but they are still subordinate, they must still go down on bended knee and ask forgiveness in a ritual designed to alleviate domestic tensions. In his book, More allows priests to marry and women to be ordained - but he did not subscribe to these views in the real world. His Utopia veers from impractical idealism at times to a police state of sorts (you cannot leave your city without permission and there is no concept of a vacation because you cannot eat unless you work).
At the risk of being cynical, I have to say that Utopia could never work because a group of human beings, no matter how closely-knit will never agree to the same thing. What if someone were to value gold even if it was used to chain slaves? What if one of the Utopian officials imported to other countries decided that he rather likes having his own property and more than one set of clothes? It is easier to turn cities into identical, bland copies of each other than to do the same with human beings - which is the only way such harmony is possible.
I enjoyed reading Utopia, especially the first book. I think this is a book that I will be reading more than once. I understand that some of More's visions are indeed ideal when contrasted against the grossly unfair social and political reality of his day. However, it is difficult to be passionate about a book when its own author won't back it up in all seriousness....more