Daily Archives: April 13, 2011

Book Review: Making Love by Jean-Philippe Toussaint

Title: Making Love
Author: Jean-Philippe Toussaint
Publisher: The New Press
PP: 114 Pages
Genre: Literary Fiction, Translation
Price: $19.95
ISBN: 9781565848535
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Making Love is based on a classic theme: The end of an affair. There have been so many stories and tales and novels set on this theme, that I actually do not know/have lost track of them. The one I vividly remember is “The End of the Affair” by Graham Greene and that always stands out in my memory for its brilliant writing and excellent emotional scenes as laid out. For me, I guess the next is going to be Making Love.

Making Love chronicles the death of the affair in Tokyo. It enriches what could be a typical and conventional story. However, it is Toussaint’s writing that makes it what it is – brilliant, edgy and filled with sentiments that do not make the reader sentimental.

Toussaint’s descriptions, in particular—of sterile contemporary hotels (“no noise anywhere, just the purring of the air-conditioning”), the bleak spaces of an art museum, and impersonal trains—suggest that the world the lovers are visiting has reached, like their affair, a similar dead end. The anonymous narrator begins his account as he and Marie, a dress designer and artist invited to Tokyo to show her clothes and her art, settle into their hotel room after the long flight from Paris. As he describes how their affair began, he also offhandedly remarks that he has a bottle of hydrochloric acid with him, which he hints he might throw at Marie. This acid is almost a third protagonist in the story as the narrator carries it with him or ponders using it.

It is till the end that the reader does not know the decision of the anonymous narrator – what is he going to do with the acid and why is what keeps the story going as well. What did I like about the book? The pace, the storyline, the choice of words which were minimal and yet exact. Every emotion in its place – not overdone at all, thought the danger of that was lurking in the shadows and yet the authors’ restraint is brilliant.

Making Love is one of those novellas that need to be read in the quiet and peace of your room. When the outside temperature is just right and you are snuggled in bed. That’s exactly how I read it and yes I loved it.

Book Review: The Wandering Falcon by Jamil Ahmad

Title: The Wandering Falcon

Author: Jamil Ahmad
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton
ISBN: 9780670085330
PP: 180 pages
Genre: Literary Fiction
Price: Rs. 399
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

There are boundaries between countries and maybe the boundaries exist for a reason, or do they? This question haunted me long after reading the book. There are very few books like these that leave you with lingering thoughts. Thoughts that do not seem to stop. I am often disturbed when I read about territorial issues and added to that communal violence topped with “whose land is this”? kind of sentiment. And somehow you cannot be a judge of anything that is happening in places that you are not a part of. That you have witnessed or felt. We in all probability have no right to.

So back to the book. What is it about?

It is about a boy, known as Tor Baz, the black falcon, and to put it the way I read it, he is a wanderer. The story is set before the Taliban regime, in the forbidden areas where the borders of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan meet. Tor Baz wanders between tribes and meets different men and women. Men who have only battles and wars on their minds and women who are shunted away in the name of honour. And in these encounters, he tries to make sense of everything else in between.

The tribes and the tribal race are almost extinct now. I do not know if anyone ever mentions them as well these days – even in our own country, where they exist only probably as a heritage symbol. What I loved most about the book was of course the writing and that goes without saying, however the vast canvas on which it was written – the territories unexplored, you can almost feel the heat on your back as you read the book.

The Wandering Falcon is one of those books that take you by surprise. It isn’t about the age of the author; after all writing has no age limit, isn’t it? It is the simplicity of the storyline that will keep you glued to the book. He charts the lives of the tribals who live in inhospitable conditions and often misunderstood. Jamil Ahmad also lived with the tribes and their people to understand them better and that is what struck me the most while reading the book – as all the vividness and clarity in the writing made perfect sense.

The Wandering Falcon is a book that touches on various emotions – loyalty, camaraderie, family, clan togetherness, graciousness, forgiveness and the feeling of being in a tribe. Through Tor Baz, the reader sees and experiences it all – I would highly recommend this short and fine piece of fiction. It is definitely worth a read and a re-read.