Thursday, December 26, 2013

Book Review: Bhava (Kannada novel) by U R Ananthmurthy

This short novel (which can be read in one sitting) explores the psychological depths of people (central characters of the novel) who did not or could not remain committed to their partners but got indulged into illicit relationships and live life with dual mindset.

The story begins with Vishwanath Shastry meeting a stranger (Dinakar) in a train and he realizes that he could be his last son who was believed to be dead in the womb along with his mother. But he is not sure of whether he is the biological father as he suspects a Pundit who was close to his wife would be his father. That relationship of Shastry's wife outside the marriage had makes him angry and he attempts to end her life when she get pregnant. He thinks she is dead in that attempt but becomes aware later that she is not dead but disappeared from the house along with fine gold and jewellery. Meeting this person Dinakar who is on his way to find Seetamma, a person who was well known to him and his wife brings back the old memories and his duality over whether Dinakar is his son or not grows further.

Dinakar too has his version of story. He has faint memories of his mother who was dead when he was five and does not know who is his father. His successful stint as a TV journalist does not help him in finding the purpose of life and his inability to remain loyal to any woman he comes across as mates adds to his confusion. He is on the way to Kerala in the form of a devotee of Lord Ayyappa but wants to meet Seetamma whom he considers his second mother. During the visit, he becomes aware from Sitamma's son Narayana (who was his friend also) that he has a grown up son from a relationship he had when he was young. And this son of Dinakar, named Prasada is also in the suffering of knowing who is his real father and is on the way to become a Sannyasi, a renouncing stage of life.

This plot exposes the intricacies of human mind and behavior through main characters of Shastry and Dinakar. While Seetamma and his son Narayana shows the positive aspects of a broader thinking, the lack of it in the central characters shows the how individuals form different opinions, how they are influenced by different circumstances of life and take an entirely different path despite living in the same society.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Book Review: Ithaca by David Davidar

This is the story about a person behind the story tellers, a publisher. The protagonist of this story, a person of Indian origin, working for an international publishing firm, climbs up the career ladder for being with a right person (a star author of Angel’s series of books) at the right time, which helps him earn name and money for his firm. But all is not well in his personal life and his relationship with his wife, who is also part of publishing industry, has turned soar. 

To find peace with himself, he tries a vacation in an uncommon place, Thimphu in Bhutan. As heads back to his office in London, he finds that his star author, who was in his old age and facing personal trauma, is no more alive. In the absence of a new book in the Angel’s series, his firm has nothing significant to offer, so the financials of the firm take a hit. And the company becomes an acquisition target. To defend the position of his firm, he has to do whatever it takes. As per advice of CEO of the firm, he heads to meet the translator of his star author, and to his surprise he finds there was a last piece of unpublished work. His company pays a hefty amount to acquire the rights and plans a series of events to promote and distribute the rights of the book to other languages and media, and the promotional event in Frankfurt fair gets the attention he expected and on the other note, reconciliation efforts with his wife seems to be paying off. 

Despite pulling off a new book which has all the potential to improve financials, his firm gets acquired by a bigger firm which is run by a ruthless and ambitious person. And the unexpected developments, that the book was not an original piece of work by the start author but a desperate attempt of his translator putting together pieces from an already published work by another author. This attracts criticism by the media and the protagonist of the story gets fired. He returns to India, his village in a hilly station and gets consoled by an unusual person, a postman of the village. He accepts that no one can escape fate but looks forward optimistically to find a new direction in life.