Category Archives: Telegram Books

Book Review: With Borges by Alberto Manguel

With Borges by Alberto Manguel Title: With Borges
Author: Alberto Manguel
Publisher: Telegram Books
ISBN: 978-1-84659-005-4
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 77
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

The world is full of strange coincidences. Stories that you hear. Some that are true and some that you want to believe happened. Then there are the coincidences that happen to you. That you find very hard to believe. One such coincidence took place in the life of Alberto Manguel – a celebrated writer and bibliophile, which changed his life in more than one way. He was all of sixteen, working at a bookstore, and one fine day in 1964, in Buenos Aires, walks a writer in to the shop, asking Alberto if he would be interested in a part-time job reading aloud to him as he is blind. The writer was none other than Jorge Luis Borges. That changed in lot of ways the way the sixteen-year old would view the world from thereon. He would also chronicle his experiences with Borges in a book called, “With Borges”, which I have just finished reading.

“With Borges” is a simply written book. It is almost a dedication to Borges and to his love of words and stories. Borges somehow knew that he would end up blind, just like his father and maybe this led him to memorizing everything, well almost everything. Words, stories, verses, the structure of his house and the books in the library, of which he was the director. Manguel traces the life of a writer and of the person in this short and brilliant work of seventy-seven pages. For me, reading this book was an experience of envy – I was envious at the encounter and how that culminated to a beautiful friendship. To me that was the most important quality of this memoir.

There are parts that I could not help but underline and reread them. The ones where they talk books and what Borges wants to read. I wished the parts on Borges’s craft were a little more elaborated on. There is only this much that seventy-seven pages can do, however Manguel does not waste a single word. No word also seems out of place or not needed – almost like a short story written by Borges. Manguel talks about the way he also transcribed some of Borges’s writing for him – it was as though the writer knew what he wanted to write, the power of imagination but after all was not gone. I started reading Borges when I was nineteen and since then I haven’t stopped. I go back to his stories time and again and they somehow infuse new life in me at the end of it. This memoir almost did that. Manguel’s writing is beautiful in the sense that it is honest. From speaking of Borges’s mood swings to the way he was about literature to also his bookshelves, Alberto covers every single ground. I guess it is experiences such as these that also sometimes led Manguel to heavily feature Borges in almost all his books.

One thing I am sure of – I will certainly go back and reread this gem of a book on Borges, on reading, on bibliophiles, on the need to continue to read even though you cannot, to see the world with your dreams and to the love of reading. This short masterpiece has it all. A must read for budding readers and writers.

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Book Review: The Cloud Messenger by Aamer Hussein

Title: The Cloud Messenger
Author: Aamer Hussein
Publisher: Telegram Books
Genre: Literary Fiction
ISBN: 978-9350291535
PP: 208 Pages
Price: Rs. 250
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

After reading, ‘Another Gulmohar Tree’ by Aamer Hussein, I was convinced that no one could write better about relationships than him and he yet again proved me right, as I turned the last page of ‘The Cloud Messenger’ with a lingering sadness in my heart. Aamer Hussein knows how to tug at those heart-strings and he does it with a magic so wonderfully woven that it becomes very difficult for the reader to not be under its spell.

The Cloud Messenger takes place in London – the distant rainy place that Mehran finds himself in after leaving Karachi in his teens. It is in London that most of his adult life unfolds – his loves, his work, his love for poetry and his hours spent dreaming, sending ‘cloud messages’ to other places and other lands.

Mehran does not seem to belong anywhere, no matter how hard he tries. He moves from lover to lover and from city to city, but no avail. What I loved about the book was the conflict, the deep-set insecurities that haunt us all and yet we do not admit to them – the book opened that window for me.

‘The Cloud Messenger’ is as much about the creative writing process as it is about lost love. Hussein is at his best when describing the hesitancy and doubts that assail Mehran as he tries to record certain memories from childhood. I suspect these passages may be partly autobiographical. Marvi, now Mehran’s lover, is dismissive, calling Mehran’s work ‘bourgeois indulgence that doesn’t take the reader anywhere”.

Mehran realises that he is not yet equipped to transform himself from a translator of poetry into a writer: ‘one day he would have to be a messenger to himself, carrying stories from the places of his past to his present place … to find himself a form, build a vehicle for his longing … not yet though. He isn’t ready.”

There is a lyrical quality to Hussein’s novel, and the snippets of love poetry he weaves into the narrative resonate with Mehran’s spiritual journey and his rites of passage as a writer. For me this was similar to Another Gulmohar Tree and highly entertaining without getting sentimental about love and its outcomes. There is no fixed ending to the book. It hangs without any structure – almost like love and poetry intermingling and no conclusion found. That was also one of the factors that drove me to think about the book and its characters at a deeper level. Read the book. Get transported to a different land. Of dreams and messages, and of love and its nature.