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Book Review: Dvarca by Madhav Mathur

By Imteyaz Alam

2-dvarca-coverImagine a country with one race, one language, and one religion where the state intrudes into the personal life of citizens. The state decides pregnancy and the traits of progeny to be born, distributes a quota of a type of food for each individual, decides the profession of people and promotes one language and one religion. The control is draconian and the thought process is manipulated and conditioned. It is boastfully declared that “Multi-culturism is dead”. It is a futuristic imaginary country depicted by Madhav Mathur in his new novel Dvarca.

Madhav Mathur, a Singapore-based writer, works for an MNC. Dvarca is the second novel by this writer-filmmaker. His first novel is The Diary of an Unreasonable Man. His award-winning films The Insomniac and The Outsiders have been screened at numerous festivals.

At a time when the ultranationalists and right wing forces are taking centrestage across the globe, Dvarca is well-timed. The book depicts the future but has an imprint of the past and is quite relevant to the present as well. The author has a deep knowledge of mythology and history. The author also has a sharp observation of current developments. Madhav Mathur has skillfully crafted the story nicely, blending it with mythology, history, science and fiction.

The craft and story of Dvarca resembles George Orwell’s 1984. The telescreen of 1984 is modern interactive television. Two Minutes Hate is celebrated as the Hour of Honour. The Big brother of 1984 is the great leader called Shastriji. The network of spies in 1984 is replaced with the omnipresent DD — Distant Directives — that tracks the movement of every individual. Every right or wrong is done for the country and for religion. The motto of the fictional country is “THINK THE SAME ACT THE SAME BE THE SAME”. One country, one language, one way of life that is Navmarg is enforced by state apparatus. Uniformity is celebrated and diversity is hated. The people are blinded with hate against other countries, other languages, and other cultures. They are indoctrinated to believe and accept whatever comes from the state. “ASK NOT WHAT GOD AND COUNTRY CAN DO FOR YOU.” “ASK WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR GOD AND COUNTRY.” The line between sport and war is blurred.

The title of the book is based on the ancient city Dvārakā., the city of great religious importance. The present-day Dwarka situated in the state of Gujarat, India is one of the char dhams (the four abodes/seats). The very title of the novel lays the foundation of the book on which the author constructs the edifice. The novel is full of allusion to history and mythology. The names of characters and events are named after characters from Hindu mythology. The women are named Jyotis, Miras, Aditis whereas men are named as Gandharva, Nakul, Arjuns, Vishwakarma etc. They are further identified by kalaava (wrist band) which shows the position of the individual in the hierarchical society of Dvarca.

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‘The Sound of the Mountain’: Yasunari Kawabata’s slow-burning meditation on getting older

By Louise George Kittaka

The first Japanese winner of the Nobel Prize in literature in 1968, Yasunari Kawabata, deals with the gradual decline that comes with aging in “The Sound of the Mountain.”

Family patriarch Shingo Ogata, a businessman nearing retirement, lives with his wife, son and daughter-in-law in Kamakura. Shingo has an affinity for the natural world, which serves as a metaphor for his feelings and reactions to events around him.

He is forced to ponder his own past performance as husband and father when both the marriages of his adult children run into trouble: Daughter Fusako leaves her husband, arriving home with her two small daughters, while her brother, Shuichi, neglects his own wife, Kikuyo, and brazenly carries on an affair. Read more

Source: The Japan Times


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Book Review: Roots of today’s Middle East chaos found on the battlefields of World War I

By Lisa Kaki

The end of the World War I marked the end of the Ottoman Empire and the emergence of new countries. Lebanon and Syria were both created by France in the 1920s. These arbitrary boundaries, which opened a new chapter in the region, have been at the center of conflicts ever since. The Civil War that began in Lebanon in 1975 and lasted 15 years caused the deaths of 120,000 people.

Syria has also been devastated by a bloody war in which Europe was conspicuous by its absence. At a time when many Arab countries are divided by political and sectarian passions, a lot of discussion focuses on the Great War’s partition plans. In a timely and meticulously researched book, Eugene Rogan sheds light on the neglected Middle-Eastern theater of World War I.

“The Fall of the Ottomans – The Great War in the Middle East 1914-1920” fills a void. Very little is known about the Turkish and Arab experiences of the Great War and its centenary also attracted little attention in the Middle East. Read more

Source: Arab News


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Book Review: The Parachute Paradox unrolls Palestinian artist Steve Sabella’s quest for a sense of identity

By Joseph Dana

The number of books about Israel and Palestine published every year can feel oppressive to the average reader. Coupled with the constant stream of news, it is clear that there is untappable desire for discussion about the conflict. Yet, new books tend follow the same patterns in terms of approach, construction and content. An in-depth history of one stage of the conflict, a compelling argument to achieve peace or, perhaps, a convincing strategy to challenge the status quo. On rare occasions, an original narrative of the conflict, imbued with honesty and sensitivity, is published.

Steve Sabella’s memoir, The Parachute Paradox, is one such narrative, but it has flown under the mainstream radar. That might have something to do with its author and the unorthodox style of the book. Sabella is an artist from Jerusalem. His art, which has garnered him acclaim from Berlin to Dubai, wrestles with notions of identity in Palestine.

The Parachute Paradox is devoid of the pretension normally associated with conflict memoirs. Sabella doesn’t have anything to prove with his story. As he describes his upbringing in Jerusalem’s Old City and what life was like for his Christian family, Sabella is having a conversation with himself as much as with the reader. He floats between Palestine and Israel, but life in the seam creates more identity problems than it solves. Read more

Source: The National


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Book Review: Sauptik: Blood and Flowers by Amruta Patil

By Nilesh Mondal

sauptikMythology remains a vast source of interesting and sometimes intimidating stories that writers have constantly been trying to draw from. Whether it is the subtle parallels drawn from mythology, or the more direct approach of retelling or reimagining epics and adapting them into more contemporary narratives, both have been tried by many writers to varying degree of success. However, Amruta Patil’s second attempt to combine the tales of Mahabharata and the knowledge from Puranas, after the highly successful Adi Parva: Churning of the Ocean, is neither of the two. It is one which deals with Indian mythology head on; narrating the epic we’ve known and loved always with glorious precision and straight-forwardness.

This is why Sauptik: Blood and Flowers sets a precedent for a very different kind of mythological retelling, one that is both devastatingly thought-provoking and disarmingly honest, one which depends entirely on the epics themselves to impart readers with lessons on life and justice, and the art of war.

From the very beginning, we know this isn’t going to be the usual run-of-the-mill bit of story-telling, since Sauptik is first and foremost, a graphic novel. I’d leave the analytical scrutiny of Amruta Patil’s artwork to those more experienced in those fields. To me, the usual reader, the artwork serves both as a reminder of a bygone era of paintings done by artisans in a king’s court, done on fabric and papyrus and other media, and a sense of aesthetics that is a complete departure from the prevalent genres of digital manipulation of art. In her art, done as a mixture of techniques ranging from watercolour to acrylic paints to charcoal to collages, battles and scenarios come alive in their entire magnificence. She also drops the conventional rectangular structure used in most comic books, instead experimenting with various alternatives, sometimes splaying the art over the entirety of the pages, sometimes having multiple scenes unfold on the same page, etc. The use of motifs and symbols of importance as depicted in the epic and Puranas are layered and repetitive. All in all, it is a visually stimulating collection of artwork rich in colours and details, which keeps the reader riveted throughout the entire book.

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Book Review: A trilogy of Maoism, one of the worst tyrannies of the 20th century

By Ryle Dwyer

Ryle Dwyer reads a trilogy that traces the life and crimes of the tyrant responsible for the deaths of millions of his fellow countrymen.

The Tragedy of Liberation

Mao’s Great Famine

The Cultural Revolution

Frank Dikötter

Bloomsbury, £10.99 each

‘Mao actually toasted unfolding civil war’

ALTHOUGH Mao Zedong is the central character in Frank Dikötter’s trilogy, it is not a biography but a fascinating history of China during Mao’s years in power, from 1945 to 1976.

The three books were not published in chronological order. Mao’s Great Famine — covering 1958 to 1962 — was the first published. That is a ground-breaking horror story of which most people on this side of the world are probably unaware. The insightful account undoubtedly sparked interest in what actually happened during the rest of Mao’s career.

The insightful account undoubtedly sparked interest in what actually happened during the rest of Mao’s career.

As a professor at the University of Hong Kong, Frank Dikötter casts an informed outsider’s eye on the story. Originally from the Netherlands, he was reared in Switzerland and the United States. He writes in a fluent style with an eye for interesting detail.

The Tragedy of Liberation, covering the communist victory in the Chinese revolution, provides in-depth insights into human depravity. Read more

Source: Irish Examiner


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Book Review: In the Garden of My Freedom by Rukmini Dey

By Lakshmi Menon

freedomContrary to popular belief, there is no singular language of poetry. Every writer is unique in the way that they bring words together to create feeling and emotion, and every poem is a reflection of the world that they inhabit. A book of poems, then, is often an exercise in world building at the end of which the reader is left with a new vision with which to see what is around them, the vision that the poet lent them through their verse.

Rukmini Dey’s In the Garden of My Freedom, from Writers Workshop, is a collection of poetry on subjects ranging from the spiritual to the mathematic, the latter being somewhat appropriate given that Dey is a professor of the subject, but more so as the poems in the collection combine to give us a very real, almost tangible look into Dey’s world.

The very first poem, “The Bird Watcher”, introduces the reader to the simplicity of her verse where a young boy prowls after birds in a jungle as his mother watches,

“Seeing him, a bird alighted

On my heart.”

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Book Review: Perumal Murugan’s ‘Pyre’, may its heat singe some sense into you!

By Anjana Balakrishnan

Perumal Murugan’s fiction has the enchanting ability to fill you with dread. To all appearances, his stories are straightforward and simple. But a couple of pages in, you start feeling the robust muscle of society coiling around your neck in a chokehold. Over the next hundred or so pages you find yourself sitting upright in your chair, bed or floor, willing yourself to read as fast you can while simultaneously hoping never to get to the end of the story.

What makes his writing even more chilling is the knowledge that this story could be true in thousands of villages in India, however removed you are from them. Why villages alone? These stories of caste brutalities could be true in a majority of families in India.

Originally written in Tamil as Pookkuzhi (2013), and translated into English in 2016 by Aniruddhan Vasudevan, Pyre is Kumaresan and Saroja’s love story laced with the poison of caste. Read more

Source: The News Minute


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A story that runs hot to Albert Camus’ cold

By Manal Shakir

“The Meursault Investigation” by Kamel Daoud is a retelling of the 1942 French novel by Albert Camus. Camus’ book, “The Stranger,” tells the story of Meursault, a man who resigns himself to a desensitized life with little care in the world. The book begins with the death of Meursault’s mother, and his indifference to her passing.

His apathy continues throughout the story, even when one day, while wandering on the beach he shoots and kills an Arab man for which he is eventually tried and found guilty. Camus never elaborates on the identity of the murdered man other than calling him an Arab. In Kamel Daoud’s retelling, he unfolds the story of the victim, giving him a name and a face and historical context, which is interwoven with the trials and tribulations of living under French colonial rule in Algeria and finally independence.

The opening line of Daoud’s book, “Mama’s still alive today,” is a direct antithesis to Camus’ opening, “Mother died today.” Unlike Camus’ book, Daoud’s story is told from the perspective of Meursault’s victim’s brother, Harun, in the coastal city of Oran, Algeria. Read more

Source: Arab News


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In This Thriller, an Israeli Doctor Can’t Escape His Irresponsibility

By Ayelet Tsabari

WAKING LIONS
By Ayelet Gundar-Goshen
Translated by Sondra Silverston
341 pp. Little, Brown & Company. $26.

Eitan Green, the protagonist of the Israeli author Ayelet Gundar-Goshen’s novel “Waking Lions,” is a respected neurosurgeon who has been forced by a professional dispute to relocate from Tel Aviv to Beersheba, a desert town where dust is everywhere, “a thin white layer, like the icing on a birthday cake no one wants.” Speeding through a remote area in his S.U.V. late one night, he hits an Eritrean man walking by the roadside. And when he decides that the victim is beyond help, he impulsively flees the scene.

The next morning, the victim’s widow shows up at Eitan’s doorstep, holding his wallet and demanding not his money but his expertise. Soon she has blackmailed him into treating illegal immigrants from the northeast of Africa at an abandoned garage that has been turned into an underground hospital. The novel that follows — part psychological thriller, part morality play — takes readers through the wilderness of the Negev desert and its underworld of Israeli drug dealers, Bedouin gangs and desperate refugees. Read more

Source: The New York Times