Tag Archives: Magic Realism

Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie

Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie Title: Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights
Author: Salman Rushdie
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton
ISBN: 978-0670088485
Genre: Literary Fiction, Magic Realism
Pages: 304
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Salman Rushdie is back after seven years to what he does best – tell a story. And not just tell a story but tell it across time, across eons perhaps, across everything and beyond your imagination. “Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights” – the word play on the title itself, adding to 1001 is in itself an indication of the master of words being back in his game. This book is different and yet so similar to his earlier books. Let’s look at what is similar and what is not, without giving away too much of the plot.

In context to his other books, here is what sets apart this one: The tone is way too mature and yet edged with wry humour, which was very evident in The Satanic Verses as well. At the same time, the feeling of alienation can be felt which was the case in “Fury”. The magnitude of “Midnight’s Children” is most certainly present, but what is lacking is more of magic realism. It is the trademark for sure, nonetheless more was expected.

The roller-coaster of a ride as the book zigzags from places, religion, fantasy, literature is something which has always been a part of his books – more so in this one and “The Moor’s Last Sigh”. In fact, at some point I thought that there was somewhere down the line a lot of recycling but with a lot of exuberance and verve. What isn’t there is the debate on religion which was a part of his earlier books mainly “Grimus” and “Shame”. What was also interesting was that at some point the innocence combined with a lot of angst that was a part of “Haroun and the Sea of Stories” could also be found as I turned the pages.

I also think that the book is heavily influenced by Marquez’s writings. The combination of magical and the realistic are interwoven beautifully in Rushdie’s latest work. At the same time, it does take some time to get into the book, however once the reader does, it is not easy to get out of the land created by Rushdie.

The book is a more matured version of Rushdie’s writings. There is a lot of profundity, with a balanced mix of magic-realism (the death of this word shall not come to be), mythology, history and of course not to forget love – at the core of the tale.

The usual elements are always there, lurking in the background, even Bombay snakes itself in in the first fifty pages with so much ease. There is also the magic realism, which is present throughout, but of course since the book is about a Jinni named Duniya and her love for a human being and how the connection of her children over time comes to be in the near future. There is an element of apocalypse with a storm striking New York skies and something called the “strangeness” which occurs in its aftermath, linking all of Duniya’s children across the world.

To me the story of “Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights” is simply breath-taking. I could not for tear myself away from the book. Where does the title come into play? The title is about the time spent by Dunia’s children fighting a war with each other as the days and nights unfold. The tales are nested, just like all his other books. There is no overtly political tone in the book, like was the case in his other works of fiction, which is very refreshing.

The story is satirical (making its jabs felt on almost every page), it is also a metaphysical fable, it is also wicked and wise at the same time. In short, it is perhaps nothing like what Rushdie has written before. The reference range in the book is also wide – given he talks of Aristotle, Mickey Mouse and Henry James as well (besides many others), so much so that your head will spin faster and faster, right when you reach mid-way.

Rushdie’s New York is another aspect about the book. He encapsulates the city like no one else ever has (I don’t only think that but also believe in it). The humour is absurdist in nature, reminding me of Gary Shteyngart.

The Arab mythology angle is dealt with in a racier manner and I could almost find myself not being able to wait for those parts to come through. There is always this sense of dread mingled with excitement while reading a Rushdie novel. This book proves to be more and beyond that. I also think that maybe the gestation helped him to create something like this.

All in all, I would say that “Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights” is the kind of book that comes along once in a while blending past, present, future, the mysticism and the real so innovatively that all you want to do then is reread it.
Here’s Salman Rushdie talking about his book:

The Three Incestuous Sisters by Audrey Niffenegger

The Three Incestuous Sisters  by Audrey Niffenegger Title: The Three Incestuous Sisters
Author: Audrey Niffenegger
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
ISBN: 9780224076869
Genre: Graphic Novel
Pages: 176
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

This one is a strange book. And at the heart of it, not so strange after all. It is all about envy, longing, and gorgeously illustrated. Though the book can be read almost immediately and maybe within fifteen minutes, you still will pore and ponder over it. The book has a very Goth appeal to it (which I personally loved) and it somehow just adds to the atmosphere and no better time to read this book than Winter.

The Three Incestuous Sisters - 1

The book as the title suggests, is about three sisters, Bettine, Ophile and Clothilde, who live together in a lonely house by the sea, miles away from the city, when a stranger named Paris arrives and everything changes for the sisters.

The Three Incestuous Sisters - 2

Bettine, the youngest, falls in love with Paris. The oldest, Ophile also feels that she loves the young man and then the whole story falls into place, with the middle sister Clothilde playing her own role.

The Three Incestuous Sisters - 3

Niffenegger’s writing is simple and weird in most places, as you will experience when reading the book. The relationship between the three sisters is strange and then there is also the element of magic involved.

The Three Incestuous Sisters - 4

There is a lot which is left to the reader to deduce from the story. There are fewer sentences and everything is said through pictures, which is befitting for a book like this one.

The Three Incestuous Sisters - 5

And to top it all, the book is not creepy at all as the title suggests. The relationships are almost mystical in nature and pass time like sand through a sieve. It is a beautifully conceptualized book and I cannot give away much or else it will turn out to be a spoiler. All I can say is that you need to experience “The Three Incestuous Sisters” for yourself and trust me you will not forget it.

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Book Review: The Threads of the Heart by Carole Martinez

The Threads of the Heart by Carole Martinez Title: The Threads of the Heart
Author: Carole Martinez
Publisher: Europa Editions
ISBN: 978-1609450878
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 400
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I used to think that there would be no one who would write like Marquez. No one who would be able to create the same magic and weave words that remain stuck in memory and stories that do not get erased, stories that you do not want to forget, long after you have read them. And then to soak the book in entirely, with every word and sentence almost resonating is not easy for an author. The readers more so can act on a whim and drop a book if they want to. The writer on the other hand continues to write. Back to the Marquez track; I have just finished reading, “The Threads of the Heart” by Carole Martinez and this has been the only book in a very long time that has reminded me of Marquez’s writing like no other. A cracker of a read and at the same time, way too emotional and wondrous.

“The Threads of the Heart” is a story of women in a family. The men are almost non-existent or are around as props. Carole Martinez sets her book in Spain and takes it all the way to Africa. That is another thing that struck me and kept me glued to the book. The book centers on Frasquita, who the people of her village believe has healing powers. They think of her to be a sorceress even. She possesses a gift, handed down in her family to generations of women – that of creating gowns and garments that almost seem to have a life of their own. They are capable of anything when worn and sometimes when not. That is Frasquita’s magic. As usual, she is envied for her gift. She and her children are banished from the village. She undertakes a journey to Africa on foot and that is when her life begins.

The writing as I said, reminded me of Marquez and other Latin American writers or writers who write of distant lands and magic thrown in for good measure. What got me going with this book was but of course the way it was written and at the same time, the way the characters were shaped and the plot that moved in various directions. The minor characters had their own charm however Frasquita took my breath away, every time she appeared in the pages. She is an adulteress, she believes in free love and above all she believes that love and magic can heal anything and wants a better life for her family. The story is narrated by her youngest daughter and I loved the third person perspective. The first half is full of magic, the second half is full of issues (or at least that is what came across to me).

The book was originally written in French and translated to English by Howard Curtis. I do not know how the book is in French – the way it is written and the way it reaches out to the readers; however its translation (considering I have only read that) is super. Over all, I loved the read. It was different, magical and truly stupendous.

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Book Review: The Cripple and his Talismans by Anosh Irani

The Cripple and his Talismans by Anosh Irani Title: The Cripple and his Talismans
Author: Anosh Irani
Publisher: 4th Estate, Harper Collins India
ISBN: 978-93-5029-603-5
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 232
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

“The Cripple and his Talismans” by Anosh Irani is a unique book. Of course I have read of books that have magic realism as the central theme and all of that, yet somehow this book seemed interesting and different from what I had read in the past. There was this urgency in the book that made me want to know what happens next and at the same time, a sense of stability that allowed me close the book after a couple of chapters and mull over what I had just read. It is almost confusingly therapeutic and disturbing when a book does that to you.

I had first heard of Anosh Irani when I encountered him in one of his sessions at the Jaipur Literature Festival 2013. Before that I am surprised that I hadn’t heard much about him. Maybe I was too busy exploring other writers. However, once I got to know about The Cripple and his Talismans, I had to read it. It seemed too intriguing and inviting. At the same time, it was first published in 2004 and only published in India now, in 2013 by Harper Collins. So that is in brief about what dragged me to reading this book.

“The Cripple and his Talismans” is like the title suggests, about a cripple. A man in search of his lost arm. He wakes up one day and his arm is missing. Along the way on his so-called conquest to find his arm, he meets a variety of people – a woman who sells rainbows to a coffin maker to a giant, to a homeless boy riding the trains, which all lead him to one person – an underworld don at that, and the only one who can tell him about the clues along the way and explain the dilemma he is in.

All the action takes place in Bombay and that to me was the crux of the story. The city, its smells, the places make for the crux of the tale. To a very large extent, while reading the book, I was wondering about how Anosh now lives in Canada and all his books are set in the city he was born and grew up. To me that says a lot about the writer. More so, this being Anosh’s first book, it is quite experimental and adventurous for a first book and the same time, it is very-well written.

The journey of the man in search of his missing arm is often hilarious, sad, and at the same time human and absurd. Anosh mentioned about this book that it came to him in a dream, almost a vision, where he saw a basement, and arms hanging from the ceiling and he knew that he had to write this book and he did.

“The Cripple and his Talismans” is not an easy read. It demands a lot from the reader. The writing is simple and yet the situations aren’t. The characters jump off from every page and take the reader unaware. The writing radiates, teeming with the city’s boisterousness and energy and its laziness sometimes on a Sunday afternoon. To read something like “The Cripple and his Talismans” and not get affected by it, by its sheer magnitude, insanity, and almost a shock-like quality is not a possible feat.

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Book Review: Memory Wall : Stories by Anthony Doerr


Title: Memory Wall: Stories
Author: Anthony Doerr
Publisher: Scribner
PP: 256 Pages
ISBN: 9781439182802
Price: $24.00
Source: Author
Genre: Short Stories, Literary Fiction
Rating: 4/5

Aldous Huxley once famously said, “Every man’s memory is his private literature.” In this luminous collection of short stories (including an 83 page novella), Anthony Doerr probes the fragility and endurance of memory, in locales that vary from South Africa to Hamburg…from Lithuania to Wyoming…and from the heinousness of the Holocaust to an immediate dystopian future.

This masterful collection is bookmarked by an opening and an ending story with two diverse elderly women as key protagonists. The title story, Memory Wall, presents the elderly Alma, who lives in South Africa where she undergoes periodic “harvesting” of memories, stored on a series of numbered cartridges. By “hooking herself up”, she is able to recreate experiences to stave off her worsening dementia. She falls victim to a criminal and his accomplice “memory hunter” who attempt to rummage through these cartridges to find the location of a rare and lucrative gorgon fossil – one that will be the ticket to the good life that has been denied them. The young accomplice muses, “Dr. Amnesty’s cartridges, the South African Museum, Harold’s fossils, Chefe Carpenter’s collection, Alma’s memory wall – weren’t they all ways of trying to defy erasure? What is memory anyway? How can it be such a frail, perishable thing?”

The ending story also focuses on an elderly woman – in this case, Esther, an orphan and an epileptic, who was spared the fate of her many close friends in Birkenau. Now in her early 80s and living in suburban Cleveland, her seizures are getting worse and she returns again and again in her mind to poignant, nightmarish memories of her times in ravaged Hamburg, as she relives her survivors guilt. As he watches her deterioration, her grandson Robert reflects, “Every hour…all over the globe, an infinite number of memories disappear, whole glowing atlases dragged into graves. But during the same hour, children are moving about, surveying territory that to them is totally new.”

As in most short story collections, each reader will likely have his or her favorites. One of mine is the fable-like Village 113; the Three Gorges Dam is about to be built, submerging a village and forcing its inhabitants to relocate. The tale is relayed by seed keeper, whose engineer son is spearheading the project. Doerr writes, “Memory is a house with ten thousand rooms; it is a village slated to be inundated.” The seed keeper and the schoolteacher are quite literally drowning in memories.

Each of Anthony Doerr’s well-crafted stories focuses on the most important things in life: birth, death, survival, solace, but most of all the memories that – according to the epigraph from Luis Buñuel – are “our coherence, our reason, our feeling, even our action.”