Over the last few weeks I have gone into hibernation, I just want to be warm and sleep for days on end. So I’ve been feeling like I’ve been slacking a bit, and not just in terms of the blog… My reading lists for this month (or year) didn’t get completed because I suddenly got really busy doing other life things and neglected reading. I also got Netflix so that didn’t help much. It also looks like I wont be finishing my goodreads reading challenge for the year.
On the bright side though…maybe its quality over quantity?! This year, I have read more widely than before and took my passion for literature and its power for representation more seriously (et voila this blog!). I have also recently started a book club with a few like-minded friends scattered around the globe. I’m really excited about it and the possibility of reading more widely and getting to know everyone’s taste in literature.
The first book of our book club is ‘One Hundred Shadows’, another Tilted Axis publication, a Korean translation written by Hwang Jungeun and translated by Jung Yewon.
OHS is about of Eungyo and Mujae and their growing relationship, the changing landscape of urban cosmopolitan cities and specifically the electronics park that they both work in. Although it is a very short book, it took me a while to read because of the slow and slightly confusing narrative. The book only starts getting interesting halfway through when you realise that the author has merged the urban, technological and modern city with supernatural folklore. It paints a unique picture of the city that is both surrounded by modern technology and also supernatural forces that threaten to lead your mind and body astray.
This book explores both socio-economic struggles of the modern city; such as poverty and loneliness but also philosophical issues through the metaphor of the ‘shadow’. Here, shadows are dangerous malignant forces that can detach themselves for your body. Everybody in in the OHS world is wary of their shadow ‘rising’ away from their body and leading them astray, almost to the point that it strips you of who you really are. Instead of being inanimate products of light, reflection and darkness, shadows are the very essence of you… it makes you think what is my shadow? What is the one thing that if taken away from me would strip me of my life but leave me alive?
As I mentioned this was a slow read for me, I didn’t feel fully drawn in and wanted the characters to be developed a bit more. However, I wonder if that’s because it is a piece of translation and because I don’t speak/read Korean I missed out on a lot of the cultural knowledge required to appreciate this work fully. For me language is more than the written word but a set of cultural and historical codes. Even Yewon, who translated this, said in an interview that she “was almost sad that I couldn’t just have people learn Korean and read this book in the original”. Do you guys read translated works of fiction? How do you feel about it?
Between the Assassinations is a collection of short stories looking at the years between the assassinations of India’s third Prime Minister Indira Gandhi (1984) and her son (also Prime Minister) Rajiv Gandhi’s (1991). Adiga explores this time of political uncertainty and increasing modernisation in India through the unique lens of the inhabitants of a small coastal town in South-West India; Kittur. Moving beyond his vaguely Malgudi Day’s style of writing, at the heart of it, this book tells the story of the (still) ignored people of India; the poor, the farmers, the labourers, the invisible, silent mass.
I’m so excited to write about this I don’t know where to start…
I went into London Book Reviews on my lunchbreak to get a copy of Island of Lost girls which has been recommended to me by many people but I just haven’t got around to getting it for some reason. Instead I bought Panty, on a whim, and I’m so glad I did!
Panty is originally written in Bengali by Sangeeta Bandhyopadhyay (SB) and has been translated into English by Arunava Sinha. SB is described as “the woman who reintroduced hardcore sexuality into Bengali literature” so I was both intrigued and bit wary of a mills and boonesque horror awaiting me. Instead, I was met with a no-nonsense portrayal of contemporary Indian society, which explores female sexuality as only one of its themes. Among other things Panty deals with issues of nationhood, religion and questions what it means to be a feminist through a complicated relationship between the protagonist and her lover/boyfriend/partner? (we never find out).
A big frustration of mine is that I can read my mother tongue, Kannada. I spent my early years learning Hindi and English and only speaking Kannada at home and with family. This is hugely annoying for me, especially because I know that Kannada literature has so many rich stories to offer. It also really annoys me that I can’t read street signs, shop signs, truck signs etc. etc. (which is actually a weird pass-time of mine) when I’m back in India. The overall effect of being so well versed with the narrative of a language but being blind to its writing and physical language is a disorienting one.
The last few weeks have been crazy busy especially with my dreaded dissertation and I have been feeling all sorts of emotions – not to mention boredom and being forced to take a step back from my first love (books if you don’t already know). It’s been a tough few weeks basically!
But I found solace in the unlikeliest of places; Instagram. Which is suprising because you can spend a lot of time of on social media feeling shit about your self and comparing yourself to others and generally feeling crappy about yourself – trying to measure up to the completely bogus standards of wealth, beauty, success and ‘normality’ set up around us (rant over). So when I come across accounts like Ena Ganguly, Maza-Dohta (Pavana Reddy) and Harman Kaur‘s I really get excited. I love the way in which these woman are reclaiming their Voice among all the noise and the way in which they unapologetically practice the personal is political motto.
They are helping me discover poetry. A form of writing I have shied away from and could never really get into. Mainly because at school you’re forced to read Wordsworth and Shakespeare and the other guy that wrote about daffodils and rolling hills etc. Who have their own merits, I’m sure, but someone told me that poetry is supposed to ‘speak to you’ and I really didn’t get what these men were trying to tell me. But when I came across these women poets of colour on Instagram I felt like they were reading my mind!
I’m will let their work speak for itself;
Check them out on Instagram!
It’s been a while since I fell in love with a book like this, Helen Oyeyemi’s Mr.Fox is one of those rare books that pull you in and won’t let you go till you’re done. A note of caution though, it is not ‘light reading’ and makes you do some work, but it is definitely worth it in the end. Continue reading
Last week I had the immense privilege of attending a lecture by the great post-colonial thinker Gayatri Spivak at LSE. Spivak’s work has literally been life changing for me, so I was really excited to see her in action. Apart from her obviously beautiful mind I was struck by her spark and sense of humour and positivity. She had pneumonia but still travelled all the way to make this lecture simply because she committed to it.
While I can go on about how much I love Spivak, she said something specific about the way in which we as readers – or listeners and consumers of everyday media – have forgotten how to read, which really got me thinking. She pointed out that all texts “express a certain desire” which should not be confused with the “fulfilment of that desire”. In other words, we have become lazy in the way we receive media. We take what we read, hear or watch as a fact rather than somebodies perspective. So I tried to keep her advice in mind when reading Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street.