Category Archives: Granta Books

Multiple Choice by Alejandro Zambra

multiple-choice-by-alejandro-zambra Title: Multiple Choice
Author: Alejandro Zambra
Translated by: Megan McDowell
Publisher: Granta Books
ISBN: 978-1783782697
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 112
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

I remember loving multiple choice questions at school. I would actually look forward to that option at any exam or test, given that I could at least deduce some and get my answer and be almost sure that it would be the right option that I had chosen. Alejandro Zambra’s new book “Multiple Choice” is a book which is inventive, playful and based on the Chilean Academic Aptitude Test. It is one of the highly inventive books I have across in a long time (after Hopscotch by Cortazar I think and even he was Latin American) and I can in all honesty say that I loved it immensely.

“Multiple Choice” is a collection of micro-stories which engages the reader at every turn of the page – by giving them options to choose from. At the same time, it doesn’t really give you a choice and that’s when the clever writing of Zambra kicks in. This is not a novel for sure. It isn’t even a collection of short stories. I love the way this book breaks all norms and becomes something which no one can define. The irony lies in the postmodern prose where it challenges everything postmodern as well.

The book does take some time getting into and understanding the format – but once you do, you cannot help yourself but finish it. The book is divided into forms of multiple choice sections where as a reader you have to do either of these: exclude a term, reorder a sentence, decide on how to fill in the blanks in a sentence, eliminate sentences from a short narrative or show comprehension skills of stories. What the book then ends up doing is automatically laying ground for many perspectives to emerge from each short piece. What is interesting is the hidden political criticism that emerges in most short stories, almost defying a system in place.

Alejandro Zambra’s books are not easy to get into, as I mentioned earlier but what they do manage to do is leave a lot of thoughts lingering with the reader. “Multiple Choice” is a smart book that will make you feel clever and also underutilized at the same time. Some pieces are deeply moving as well – I loved the reading comprehension story on divorce which will choke you a bit. Sometimes the unconventional novel or a literary work challenges the way you think and rightly so. I strongly think more works of literature should do that, given the times we live in.

All said and done, “Multiple Choice” is also this good because of the fantastic translation by Megan McDowell. Every word, no matter how small stands out in the reading comprehension pieces and makes so much sense when connected with the questions at the end of it. I think that is the beauty of fiction that doesn’t follow the norm – it all ends up together one way or the other. “Multiple Choice” is deeply emotional, passionate, and political, and to forget a brilliant moving read. One of the best I’ve read in this genre and form in a while.

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill Title: Dept. of Speculation
Author: Jenny Offill
Publisher: Granta books
ISBN: 978-1847088734
Genre: Literary Fiction, Novella
Pages: 192
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Very few books manage to evoke those emotions in you which you never thought a book would manage to bring out. It happens nonetheless and you fall in love with the read. There is more to it though. You know that this read will not be like the others. It has now become special.

“Dept. of Speculation” by Jenny Offill did just that to me. It is now one of those special reads and I know I will keep going back to it again and again and again. The format of the book feels weird to begin with but when you get into it and it grows on you, then it is something else.

It is the story of a wife and a husband and the breakdown of a marriage. It is the story of the woman’s previous lovers and the husband’s lover for whom he is leaving the wife. It is the story of their child and the life they have built together. What’s there not to love about this story? Is it clichéd? Perhaps it is.

A large part of any novella or novel is in the storytelling and this is what makes this book different. The book has no answers to any problems that a couple might face in their marriage. It is not meant to be that, but the snippets of truth of a relationship are brilliantly touched on.

“Dept. of Speculation” to me is one of those rare masterpieces in literature that need to be taken notice of. It is edgy, on the brink of things, unpredictable and something that you will perhaps relate to. There is wisdom, poetry, humour, heartbreak, and some fun facts as well to give you an overall perspective. All said and done, it will make you think and make you cry as well. Go. Read it.

Book Review: The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People who Read them by Elif Batuman

The Possessed by Elif Batuman Title: The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them
Author: Elif Batuman
Publisher: Granta Books, Penguin
ISBN: 9781847083142
Genre: Non-Fiction, Books
Pages: 304
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

There is something about Russian classics which has always been quite of a challenge for me to read. It is a different thing that I have grown to love them over time, however getting acquainted with them was a bit of a challenge. The dreariness of plots, the numerous characters in almost every big Russian novel and I guess that is why I did not learn to appreciate it at the beginning. At the same time, there are other Russian books which are not as well-known or authors who have not got their due, however that I will pick up sometime later and devour them, page by page. For now, I must talk about “The Possessed” by Elif Batuman.

“The Possessed” is unlike any other book I have read. Going by the cover, I honestly thought that it would be a serious book on Russian classics and the people who have read them, however I was in for a surprise. “The Possessed” is a funny book. It is not direct humour; however there are moments of extreme laughter, and joy that come across quite unexpectedly. It is sort of a love affair of Batuman with Russian classics and how along the way she interacted with people who loved those classics as well. At the same time, there are undertones of politics (but of course) and personal opinions to people and how sometimes art imitates life and vice-versa.

There are times I felt the book to be more of a personal memoir and less of a book on Russian literature, however that opinion changed as I went further into the book and turned the pages. The references that are most close to me in the book were the ones made to Tolstoy (well there is a whole chapter on him and with good reason) and Pushkin (I guess almost every Indian child born in the 80’s grew up on his fairy tales). The writing tends to get a little academic to begin with, more so with the chapter on Babel; however it eases into the book and converts to being simple as the chapters run along.

The book alternates between Batuman’s perception and the incidents that took place with her during the course of meeting people and knowing more about the Russian masters. “The Possessed” is a good start to familiarize yourself with the Russian classics in bits and pieces if you do not know anything about them. The other part which I loved the most in the book was the summer the author spent in Samarkand – it is a pretty intriguing read. There is a lot to learn about cultures in the book and the context in which they can be sensed or used. The book was an eye-opener for me to learn more about my favourite Russian authors and in context to human nature more so. I would only recommend this read if the long gone and not-read Russian Classics interest you. The book is then almost written for you.

Affiliate Link:

Buy the book from HomeShop18 here