During my reading of the book, I was almost convinced that the account of Eichmann's trial was unbiased, frank, and rational. However, I cannot fathomDuring my reading of the book, I was almost convinced that the account of Eichmann's trial was unbiased, frank, and rational. However, I cannot fathom how lack of bias can truly exist. Perhaps, behind that non-bias was Hannah Arendt's attempt to give the other side of the story which no one was looking at, even though she may not be fully convinced of this aspect herself. Or perhaps she really saw Eichmann and other cogs in the holocaust wheel as banal bureaucrats rather than anti-semitic psychopaths, to the exclusion of any other theory. In either case, she does give us an alternative possibility, a plausible possibility at that and I could love the book just for this. Her treatment of the issue is dryly sarcastic, and often devoid of the passion which is generally complementary with any discussion of the holocaust, something which seems both queer and intriguing at the same time. Like her, even I have often wondered whether someone has the right to punish a person who was simply following his state's law. After all, will any court acquit a person who took the law in his own hands because the administration was doing nothing? If a person is expected to follow the rule regardless of his beliefs, can one blame the holocaust perpetrators? (I know we can, and should, I merely ponder on the logic). I think, as a reporter,a journalist, Hannah Arendt played a good role. She posed some questions, which should be posed regardless of the decision. She forced the reader to try and understand what may have happened, at least question the psychopath theory, and she also tried to point out a few roles in the holocaust which had been pushed under the carpet - those of the Jewish organizations themselves, regardless of their reasons. At the end, she does not extol or pardon apathy and submissive playacting, considering them an equal crime, but only interjects on the nature of the criminal. ...more
Rings of Saturn by Sebald is an account of the narrator's foot journey through East Anglia, covering the counties of Suffolk and Norfolk. Whether SebaRings of Saturn by Sebald is an account of the narrator's foot journey through East Anglia, covering the counties of Suffolk and Norfolk. Whether Sebald actually undertook this journey or if the book is a complete fiction is something I have not managed to find out. The narration, however carries the conviction of memoirs and as you walk through the pages, you feel that not only Sebald, but you yourself also made that journey. Page through page, you can hear the 'rumble of thunder', smell the acrid fumes and sometimes even feel the shuddering chill as the textual clouds cover the textual sky. In so many ways, Sebald has managed to paint on a canvas through words and make his picture come alive.
As I said earlier, the journey transcends the borders of time, and it seems that in stead of being uni-dimensional, time had in stead become a hall with many doors, and you could move through these times at will, or at least at the author's will. The hall, however, is only a ghost of what lies beyond these doors. And Sebald heart-breakingly devours this ghost, through words and images, before entering through one of those doors in a flourishing time. He then makes us meet a lot of illustrious characters who live or lived in East Anglia - the learned and the eccentric, the dedicated and the talented. We see him uncovering the life of Conrad, pondering over the anatomical works of Browne or imagining himself to be a shadow of Michael Hamburger.
Many times, the book seemed to me, more than a travel account to be an account of destruction wrought over by time, almost as if time makes everything worse, and we are merely living in a fraction of the world that was. This thought is no better underlined than in these words:
...time has run it course and that life is no more than the fading reflection of an event beyond recall. We simply do not know how many of its possible mutations the world may already have gone through, or how much time, always assuming that it exists, remains.
At such times, the reading became very disconcerting and disturbing and I found myself wading through my memories and weighing these words, of course never finding the answer, or even knowing if it exists....more
Every holocaust book that I have read have as many similarities as they have dissimilarities. Each of them is smeared with a horror and a feeling of uEvery holocaust book that I have read have as many similarities as they have dissimilarities. Each of them is smeared with a horror and a feeling of utter hopelessness, but each one brings out an aspect of the holocaust that I had not known through previous books. Elie Wiesel's Night surprised me, because I found it unfathomable that as late as 1944 there were European Jews who did not know about the death chambers or had not heard of Auschwitz. There were towns and villages that refused to look at the truth when warned of it, recognize it to save their lives. The other aspect of the book, which though present in other books of the genre has not been so expressly dealt with, is relationships in the camps. Everyone desperately holds on to the last threads of their families - a brother, a father, a distant relative even. And yet, faced continually with the looming chimney, they are ready to abandon them in their helplessness and fend only for themselves. The need to eat and be strong enough to avoid the chimney remains the single obsession. ...more
The Penguin book of Indian journeys is a very nice collection of memoirs.Memoirs which are not necessarily travelogues, but are written by travelers.The Penguin book of Indian journeys is a very nice collection of memoirs.Memoirs which are not necessarily travelogues, but are written by travelers. These travelers journeyed to India or some parts of it and recounted their experiences in their works. This book compiles those experiences from different works to make a nostalgic dive into Indian territory. Eminent and expressive writers recount Himachal and Ladhakh, and go through the mazes of Delhi. They take the Indian trains, and live in Darjeeling. They come to face with some of the Indian oddities and stereotypes. In each experience, a part of the country is reflected through a foreign eye. Each experience triggers a memory or a wanderlust.
I particularly loved Salman Rushdie's essay on the riddle of midnight and Chatwin's On the road with Mrs. G - both a reflection of a socio-political India of the 80's...more
A perfect companion for traveling through the Himalyan Buddhist states. There is much introspection on the nature and fate of these places and on theA perfect companion for traveling through the Himalyan Buddhist states. There is much introspection on the nature and fate of these places and on the fate of Tantric Buddhism, which lies under threat from more well-spread and widely followed religions. However, it is also a lovely travelogue on Bhutan and delves deeply into it's tradition, history and contemporary way of life. The author has traveled through various regions of the country and found the most defining features of each. Since Buddhism is a central part of the culture, it finds an important place in the narrative, but political, social and economical perspectives have not been forgotten. Reading it while traveling this fantasy land, I found the book an elegant expression of what the country does to a visitor....more
I agree with the sentiments expressed by many people here - this book would never have been published except to cash in on Bolano's posthumous popularI agree with the sentiments expressed by many people here - this book would never have been published except to cash in on Bolano's posthumous popularity. Nevertheless, it brings out a candid Bolano, and some of the interviews are more conversations between writers, and hence enjoyable. The least inspiring conversation in the book is the Last Interview where Mónica Maristain asks Bolano some superficial questions which he answers in one liners, and she never delves into details - not that I am particularly interested in how much trouble his dyslexia landed him in or what kind of underwater fish did he see - those questions seemed to do nothing to bring out the man in the writer, but were mere facts - obscure and useless at that. In this interview, as in others, Bolano comes out with some cheesy lines, which he has the good sense to call cheesy before typing them, but the good sense does not stop him from making those comments anyway: My only home are my two sons, Lautaro and Alexandra . I believe he treated the interview with Ms Maristain as frivolously as she was treating it herself. What is best in the book is his conversation with Carmen Boullosa. CB is as well versed with Latin American literature as Bolano is, and they speak as equals. Bolano is more forthcoming and also thoughtful about his replies: For me, the word writing is the exact opposite of the word waiting. Instead of waiting, there is writing. Well, I’m probably wrong—it’s possible that writing is another form of waiting, of delaying things. I’d like to think otherwise In these conversations, Bolano's love for reading comes out very clearly - he seems very familiar with every Latin American writer across the centuries; he is equally at home with Western writers. He even goes onto say that Reading is more important than writing - a line which has become an introductory quote for this slim book. Overall, this volume was an enjoyable read, even if the best part of it was a reprinted review of 2666. But I sometimes got annoyed with Bolano's calculated words and his pedantic comments which kept cropping up.
Sebald's voice is unmistakable in all his works. All his narrators, the reliable and unreliable ones, speak in his voice. The characters narrated by tSebald's voice is unmistakable in all his works. All his narrators, the reliable and unreliable ones, speak in his voice. The characters narrated by those narrators speak in his voice. To me, these works are as intimate as you could get with him. And yet, somehow these conversations have been able to achieve a slightly higher degree of intimacy, and I think most of its due to the understanding between the two people conversing.
the emergence of memory is an anthology which was published after Sebald's death. It is a collection of five conversations and four articles/essays which have previously appeared in various publications. They make a good collection, particularly the conversations, tied together by Lynne Schwartz's introduction which touches upon each of Sebald's works available in English, a little bit on his life, and his fascination for death and destruction. Some of the recurrent motifs in Sebald's works are explored here, and the editor has explained that some of these interviews/essays have been chosen to emphasize those motifs, but also to bring forth facets of all of Sebald's works. She also excuses herself for selecting Michael Hoffmann's essay on Sebald as 'one dissenting voice' as a 'skeptical corrective to what otherwise might be a gush of nearly unqualified enthusiasm.'
The two best conversations from this collection are 'Who is WG Sebald?' with Carole Angier which originally appeared in the Jewish Quarterly in 1997, and 'A poem of an invisible subject' with Michael Silverblatt of KCRW which was originally a voice broadcast in 2001. In his conversation with Carole Angier, Sebald talks primarily about Emigrants, but also somewhat of his disappointments with growing up in Germany, about being shown a film about concentration camps, but hurriedly, without explanations. Carole Angier seems to say little during the conversation, but offers some of her perceptions as she recollects the interview (He can tell me this. I think, because his mother will never read the Jeweish Quarterly). She tries to understand the stories of the real people behind the Emigrants, and whether Sebald felt any discomfort in changing the stories of his models. Sebald evades answering this, and his discomfort becomes evident in this evasion. He has mentioned in a few places his unease with 'the questionable business of writing'. Silverblatt's conversation has already been much discussed and praised for its perceptiveness. It is very perceptive ofcourse, and probes Sebald on his writing influences. The influence of 19th century German prose, or Thomas Bernhard. But this interview also brings out in the open the fact that Sebald kept circling the theme of holocaust without dealing with it directly in the prose. Sebald agreed:
I've always felt that it was necessary above all to write about the history of persecution, of vilification of minorities, the attempt, well nigh achieved, to eradicate a whole people. And I was, in pursuing these ideas, at the same time conscious that its practically impossible to do this; to write about concentration camps in my view is practically impossible. So you need to find ways of convincing the reader that this is something on your mind but that you do not necessarily roll out on every other page. ....there is no point in exaggerating that which is already horrific.
In the conversation with Joseph Cuomo, Sebald discusses lot more about writing, about the conflict between conjuring lies and giving liberty to imagination. It is a must-read to understand some of his conflicts. Sebald has been most expansive here. Some of the excerpts of this interview can be found online. Amongst the essays, there is only Ruth Franklin's Rings of Smoke worth talking of. She has discussed each of Sebald's work, sieving through them, quoting the most essentials parts of them and connecting them together. And despite her enthusiasm for Sebald, she offers a counterpoint to his essays in On the natural history of destruction. I do not even want to credit Michael Hoffmann's essay - it is an insult to counter-balance. There is unabashed criticism, but no critique and the reasons for his dissatisfaction in Sebald are altogether unclear. Overall a good collection, though i think the essays could have been sacrificed for more interviews....more
An elaborate and articulate expression of what Tarkovsky imagined each of his movies to be, what mattered to him most as a film-maker, and how he learAn elaborate and articulate expression of what Tarkovsky imagined each of his movies to be, what mattered to him most as a film-maker, and how he learned and improved in his art as he grew older by each movie. It is a must read not only for fans of his films but also for aspiring film-makers....more
In this book, Cocteau has put together small essays on various topics. Some of these essays are very personal and honest in nature (like On Childhood)In this book, Cocteau has put together small essays on various topics. Some of these essays are very personal and honest in nature (like On Childhood). These are lovely to read, specially because the writer seems to be speaking from the heart. These are short, and ideas don't appear to be grandstanded. But in the later essays, the voice begins to get impersonal, and the ideas insincere. For example the ideas on lines, beauty, etc. are a bit preachy and also dense. It is at this point that my interest began to wane off. In both kinds of essays however, Cocteau shows an uncanny capacity to observe the world around him and within him. He finds patterns, and commits them to paper in a concise manner. I have read some beautiful quotes in this book to which I will have to return....more