Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence

21.5.08

Displaced Persons

Not being entirely foreign to displacement myself lately, albeit merely through a minor transposition of keys, that such a theme should be ubiquitous in recent reading was unsurprising. Best first:

Imre Kertész, Liquidation (trans Tim Wilkinson): Mr. Waggish [spoilert] gets at the gist; I'd add that comparison to Ozick's The Messiah of Stockholm seems apposite (though my timing in reading this, just after the fate of Nabokov's unfinished novel was resolved, was purely coincidental).

Carlos Fuentes, The Death of Artemio Cruz (trans Alfred Mac Adam): The deathbed being the point of departure, Cruz takes leave of his senses (or vice versa) while recollection of his life (Fuentes, el memorioso?) encapsulates the Mexican Revolution and its aftermath, not to mention other displacements, well, just one: it's modernism/stream-of-consciousness adapted to new ground. While I don't know quite how I missed this during the Boom, waiting for retranslation proved rewarding.

Anita Desai, Baumgartner's Bombay: The epigraph is the opening of T.S.Eliot's East Coker, the whole of which resonates through the novel (the closing could serve above as well). Baumgartner, a German Jew settled in Bombay, abides his time as the life he has pursued and the death pursuing him from Berlin to Calcutta catch up with him. I found it well executed but structurally conventional (though in curious contrast to her trajectory); YMMV. It's the first I've read of hers, and won't be the last.

Bruce Schechter, My Brain is Open: The Mathematical Journeys of Paul Erdös: Biography of the itinerant mathematician and Hungarian refugee, retailing many anecdotes and light (and sloppy) math along the way; essentially another magazine treatment (JAPaulos thereon). The topic just can't miss, but Erdös deserves a better biographer.
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Elsewhere, snark-hunter extraordinaire Mahendra Singh has made available his work in progress for your exagmination. Wonderfully befitting as it is, the blog adds the frisson of his running commentary, which I hope he'll append as backmatter when the time for publication rolls around (promise binding?) ...

3 Comments:

Anonymous Cuchulain said...

Dave, Fuentes' Death of Artemio Cruz was brilliant. Good to see the title again. Makes me want to reread. Probably his best novel and one of the best of the Boom.

Have read just one Anita Desai novel, Clear Light of Day, which I remember loving. Wonderful prose stylist. And she's quite the novelist overall. I recommend that one highly.

21/5/08 21:24  
Anonymous cuchulain said...

Forgot to add: Also loved Ozick's Messiah. We both are fans of Bruno, if I remember correctly. And she did a wonderful job of making the imaginative and imaginary case for the survival of his lost masterpiece. One of my favorite novels all time. Amazing for its brevity as well.

21/5/08 21:26  
Blogger mahendra singh said...

Thanks for the link and recommendation. I am delighted to reciprocate by recommending to you another Anita Desai novel, "In Custody". I think this slyly humorous story of cultural and social decline will pique your interest. Her prose style is a rarity these days, always serving the art, never the ego!

This novel was also made into an excellent film with Om Puri and Shabana Azmi, very strongly recommended, hard to find though.


The notion of appending my commentary to the Snark has occurred to me … the photo-editing fees may prove prohibitive though.

22/5/08 09:52  

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