Jamilia … a review

I first heard about the book Jamilia a long time ago, in context of Kyrgyztan. I cannot remember what it was now… I got my hands on the Telegram copy a few weeks ago. It is only a novella, took me only about an hour and a half to read it. It is a beautiful love story and is the first major novel by Chingiz Aytmatov.

The novel is the story if Jamilia, as told by her brother-in-law Seit, a young Kyrgyz artist. Jamilia’s husband is at the front at war and this books talks of her love of Daniyar, a local cripple. While nothing earth-shattering happens, the book recounts the tender emotions of love and the sense of society very beautifully. The story is backdropped against the collective farming culture which was in its peak in that period.

During the Soviet era, Aitmatov was known as the “intellectual father of the Kyrgyz people” and as the “voice of Central Asia.” Under Stalin, he was a tax collector, a warehouse worker and a machinist, before studying veterinary medicine and literature and eventually becoming the most popular Soviet writer.

I’d recommend the book, and I think free versions are available on the web too.

An Atlas of Impossible Longing … a review

It has been a long time since I read an Indian author writing in English. I cannot say I have read a lot of them anyway, but Amitav Ghosh has always been close to my heart. And I still remember reading The Hungry Tide a long time ago and how it touched me.

This novel by Anuradha Roy touches on some similar themes. The idea of caste in rural Bengal, the frequent floods, the ache of unrequited love are all similar and deftly captured. The story of two generations of young men and women, whose live just meander along with little or no meaning, with the passage of time is written in a poignant way.

There is a Macondo-esque village in this novel, a kind of place that has life infused in it easily and one can almost imagine it standing as a still witness to the coming and goings of its characters. I also loved the descriptions and imagery in the passing of the seasons and the effects upon the soft green lands.

Roy’s writing is very beautiful, and it lends itself well to the theme of longing. I hadn’t even heard of her but will definitely keep an eye out for more of her works. I’ll leave you with this quote…

“A veritable atlas. What rivers of desire, what mountains of ambition. Want, want, hope, hope, this is what your palm say, your palm is nothing but an atlas of impossible longings.”

Dubliners … a review

The only Irish author I can claim to have read extensively is Oscar Wilde. At the end of this month, I might be travelling to Dublin for work and so I thought, as part of the Classics Challenge, why not James Joyce? I have always associated Joyce with Ulysses and the size of it has been off-putting. I have also been under the mistaken impression that all of his works are long.

I was wrong. Even at the bookstore, I was surprised by the thinness of this book. ‘Practically a novella…’ I thought to myself. Wrong again! As it turns out, Dubliners is a book of short stories… major Joyce ignorance.

It is a delightful read. Enthused by the short story dip in and out aspect, I delved into it with gusto. The stories are like walking down the city streets. It is a mix of all the caricatures that you would see on city streets – the jilted lover, the reluctant wife, the whore, and the saint. The stories, themselves, cover the entire gamut of emotions. The style of writing reminded me of Dickens, but without the ramblings. The plot delves in straight to the point and does business.

Dublin is brought out through its residents, isn’t that lovely?  I was transported to the Irish country capital even before I got there. I would thoroughly recommend this book as a quick but meaningful read. And ths has definitely made me want to read more of his works. I am looking forward to Dublin.