Tag Archives: Greek

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

Home Fire Title: Home Fire
Author: Kamila Shamsie
Publisher: Bloomsbury
ISBN: 9781408886786
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 264
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

I will try doing some justice to the book with my review. I will only try. “Home Fire” is one of those books that come when you least expect them to and leave you stunned, make you feel a thousand things, and then pretend that nothing has ever happened. There is the storm and also the lull at the same time. When that happens to me, while reading a book, I know that the book will stay for a long time.

Shamsie’s prose is so evocative and tender that you can feel the characters trying very hard to balance themselves – their emotions and their motives more than anything else. “Home Fire” as most people have said and so will I, is an adaptation or inspired by “Antigone”. Antigone, a teenage girl is forced to choose between obeying the law of the land (her uncle, the king of Thebes, has forbidden the burial of a traitor who happens to be her brother Polynices who declared war on the city and in the process kills his own brother Eteocles) and religious law and sentiments toward her brother. The good brother gets the funeral and the so-called bad brother doesn’t. Antigone then must decide if she wants to give Polynices a burial or not, the punishment for which is death penalty.

I remember watching Antigone a long time ago. Ratna Pathak Shah was Antigone and I could not get images out of the play out of my mind as I read “Home Fire”. Art does cross boundaries. Anyway, back to “Home Fire”. This is the same dilemma faced by Aneeka, as of course Home Fire is loosely based on the play by Sophocles. Aneeka’s twin brother Parvaiz has left London to work for the media arm of Isis, after knowing about their father’s death. Their sister Isma tells the police where he is gone and Aneeka is most angry, almost to the point of telling her that they have no sister. Isma is the older sister to the twins who has taken care of them like a mother. She is the voice of reason, while Aneeka’s voice is that of strong emotion. Isma meets Eamonn (, while she is studying in the US and he is on a holiday. There is a connection. However, on his return to US of A, he falls in love with Aneeka, who will go to any lengths to go home and search for her brother.

Shamsie raises the issues of love, freedom, longing, exile (from a beloved and from a country), what home truly is and of course the most underlined theme of all: xenophobia and what it is to be Muslim in modern times. There is so much going on in the book that I had to stop, hold my breath or sometimes just wait till I finish gasping and then turn the pages once again. Her writing is stunning and more than anything else, she has this quality to speak with you and anyone else through her emotions. Her words are universal. She also makes Antigone accessible but after a while the story of Antigone is merely a skeletal framework while the story of Aneeka, Isma and Parvaiz is what keeps you glued.

“Home Fire” truly deserves a place not only in the long-list for the Man Booker Prize 2017 but also in the short-list and perhaps even the winner. The book makes you see your world for what it is and is most emotional of her works if you ask me. In fact, I think, this is my most favourite of her books. A read which you will not forget.

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From A to X: A Story in Letters by John Berger

Alright. So I finally finished reading “From A to X: A Story in Letters” by John Berger and it was nice. It was not an awesome piece of writing or something to write home about, however it felt nice reading parts of it. What is it about? Well, it is about letters literally written from a wife to her husband who is in prison for being a part of a terrorist group for two life sentences. So she sets out writing him letters about the life she is leading, the daily ongoings in their town Suse, who died, who is living, about her work at the pharmacy and above all she keeps reminding him about their love.

It is a sparsely love story though. I wanted to know more about the characters. Their lives, their tales, their emotions, what they go through when a country is at war, when its men are imprisoned – I wanted to know it all and sadly this short book did not give me that insight.

The Lonely A’ida writes to Xavier (hence from A to X). We see Xavier’s notes made at the back of the letters which are of a political subtext and bits and pieces of his affection for his lover. There is so much longing in some of the sentences that I could not help but cry.

“Now I look down at my hands that want to touch you and they seem obsolete because they haven’t touched you for so long.”

“No other man is like you. Everything is made of the same stuff, and everyone is put together differently.”

There is a lot of caring in the book – almost to counter effect the cruelty and indifference of the world. This is the first fiction form that I am reading which is written by Berger. I have only read his essays and “Ways of Seeing” earlier. Berger sees keenly and pens what most writers according to me miss sometimes. For instance, when A’ida speaks of the neighbor, a young woman whose lover was hauled out of bed, taken to the river Zab and shot. Months later the same woman notices someone on television who bears an uncanny resemblance to her dead lover and this sighting more than the actual killing undoes her.

At the end of the day, while I closed the book and went to bed, I thought of A’ida and Xavier. Of how I wanted them to meet. And of how I did not. Because then there would be no magic left.