Tag Archives: passion

Adèle by Leïla Slimani. Translated from the French by Sam Taylor

Adele Title: Adèle
Author: Leïla Slimani
Translated from the French by Sam Taylor
Publisher: Faber and Faber
ISBN: 978-0571349203
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 224
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 stars

This is a book about sex addiction and it is brilliantly written. Slimani goes into places and territories where perhaps others may not and she brings out the dark side of her characters with no remorse at all. I am not the one to enjoy erotic literature but that’s just me. Having said that, I quite liked the pace and tone of Adèle. Slimani’s writing is to the point. There is no beating around the bush and maybe that’s why it is extremely satisfying to read her.

Adèle is addicted to sex, with anyone who isn’t her husband. She lives as it may seem to have sex and that’s that, caring little about her husband or son. Her single point of satisfaction is that of her sexual needs being met, sometimes kinky, and sometimes just the plain old way. Of course Slimani tries to sketch variety of possibilities for Adèle’s behaviour: a childhood trip to Paris with her mother, who abandoned her in a hotel room to meet a man who wasn’t her father; the man who she lost her virginity to, or even the idea of being brought up in a run-down crammed apartment, indicating that she wanted more and needed to be free.

Adèle reminded of Emma Bovary and Anna Karenina but with more gumption. Here, Slimani doesn’t make her feel sorry for what she does. There is no moral compass. It is what it is. She is just driven by this inane restlessness, and there is nothing to be done to satiate it but have sex. The female lives and sexuality is at the fore of this book and Slimani very cleverly also uses other women characters and their sub-plots, reconnecting all of it to the larger picture and question: Whose body it is? To what extent we as a society accept desire, sex, and passion?

Adèle is full of physical and sexual detailing. There were times I had to bring myself not to read it, only because it was overwhelming in a great way. The writing is stark and says what it has to. The translation by Sam Taylor successfully manages to capture the dream-like compulsions of Adèle, and yet not missing out on the truth of the real world. As a read, Adèle demands a lot from the reader. It is extremely rewarding, satisfying, leaving you astounded and questioning your own beliefs, long after you are done with the book.

The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain

The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain Title: The Gustav Sonata
Author: Rose Tremain
Publisher: Chatto & Windus, Random House UK
ISBN: 978-1784740047
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 256
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

I don’t know how to begin this review. I will try. I will try to express what I feel – because what I feel about this book cannot really be put in words. “The Gustav Sonata” is one of those books that you keep coming back to after you have finished reading it. Not entirely, but in bits and pieces – to comprehend not the story but just to know that life works mysteriously sometimes and you cannot do much about it but live it for what it is.

I picked up this book on a whim. It was just one of those days when I entered Wayword and Wise and knew that I had to pick this one up. It was there – begging for my attention. When a book does that, you know you will love it, no matter what.

The book is set in a small town in Switzerland. World War II has ended but the effects remain, though not as much in this town. Gustav Perle grows up in this town and is certain of only one thing: He loves his mother who on the other hand is cool and distant with her son, never loving him, never showing him how she feels. Gustav’s only friend is the music prodigy Anton whom he adores. Anton just takes Gustav for granted since kids and well into adulthood. The story starts when they are children in 1947 and ends in 2002 when they are sixty, covering a gamut of explorations, emotions and what it means to be human.

The book is not only about their friendship, or about Gustav’s dead father or just the past and how it impacts the present and the future, but also about coming to terms with life and living it in its full glory or not. It is about a country that chose to be neutral and the impact that had on its citizens.

“The Gustav Sonata” is a big book with a big heart. It is delicate, sensible and asks the bigger questions of loyalty, betrayal, heartbreak and self-mastery in a way that no other book I’ve read has. It struck a chord in me in so many places. There were times I could not stop highlighting in the book – all I can say is that you must not let this year go by without reading this book. It will for sure change you in more than one way.

Book Review: Jamali-Kamali: A Tale of Passion in Mughal India by Karen Chase

Jamali Kamali - A Tale of Passion in Mughal India by Karen Chase Title: Jamali-Kamali: A Tale of Passion in Mughal India
Author: Karen Chase
Publisher: Mapin Publisher
ISBN: 9788189995126
Genre: Poetry, Non-Fiction, Love
Pages: 80
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

There is a tomb in Mehrauli, Delhi and a mosque as well. A mausoleum or rather a twin one, belonging to two people, buried side by side. They are called Jamali-Kamali and they are quite famous in the capital city. The mosque and tomb have verses inscribed on its walls – the ones written by Jamali and the interior design is simply breath-taking.

People speculate about Kamali, since Jamali’s identity is known. Jamali was a Sufi poet in Mughal India. Babur and Humayun both were his patrons and enjoyed what he wrote. In fact, at some point, he also went to war and did them proud. That is the story of Jamali – more or less and nothing else to it.

On the other hand, there is the question of Kamali, who isn’t known at all. There is nothing said or written about Kamali. There are a lot of speculations and a lot of rumours as well. Some say it was his wife. Some say it was Jamali’s lover. Some say it was Jamali’s nom-de-plume. There is another story as well to it – that of Kamali being Jamali’s male lover. With this in mind, Karen Chase set out to write a book of poems from both perspectives – that of Jamali and Kamali and their mad passionate love in Mughal India. Where perhaps, there was no reason to tolerate love. Love was just love – in whatever form or gender.

Karen Chase’s book begins with an introduction to the legend of Jamali-Kamali, followed by her exquisite verses, to be ended with Jamali’s own poem. The combination is lethal. There were times I had to stop reading and catch my breath as I was so overwhelmed by the writing. It is about love and it knows no shame. It is about love and it knows no gender. It doesn’t ridicule nor does it judge. Karen’s imagination runs wild. She holds nothing back in her writing and that is why it is so powerful. I recommend that people with bias read this. People who are prejudiced. People who see the world so narrowly that they miss out on its beauty. And yes, next year I sure will visit the tomb of Jamali-Kamali and say a prayer for all lovers.

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Company of Liars by Karen Maitland

Now I am a great fan of historical fiction but have been a bit averse to the genre because most tell the stories of kings, princesses, and prostitutes with very campy romantic plots that have been recycled and overused to the point of it being absolutely unbearable to those who are looking for a bit more variety in their historical fictions.

Well with Karen Maitland’s Company of Liars, I’ve at last found a book that I simply cannot recommend highly enough.

This novel is completely driven by enigmatic and likable characters (enough with the prostitute with the heart of gold bit!). Needless to say, nobody gets embroiled in a passionate and forbidden love affair, nor are there prostitutes to be delivered into the arms of merry monarchs after a life of misery and suffering. Instead, readers are transported to 14th century England to the time of the Black Plague as nine desperate strangers attempt to escape death as it inexorably surrounds them. We follow this group of strangers across their travels throughout countrysides and villages as the readers truly get a sense of the time and period as lived by people gripped by the plague (Ain’t that refreshing? A historical period not described through the eyes of a princess or prostitute but just ordinary, simple folk). Truly, what made this book a true gem are the characters. We have nine strangers with distinct and believable personas (yes there is a young girl who can seemingly predict the future but this trait only adds to the unexpected ‘creepy’ factor in this novel as she is not your average ‘helpless, young, blonde peasant’) and the mix of the bunch as the plot twists and turns is what makes this a real page-turner.

Additionally, it was hard to say where the story was gonna go. All we are given at the beginning is that this rag-tag group is trying to escape the plague…. and as you read on you genuinely do start to care about each character (even the horrid, nasty one(s)). As one gets absorbed with the struggles that the group of travellers face, readers also become familiar with each character bit by bit. A process that I truly relished and enjoyed as Maitland writes ever so vividly but without exaggeration. The dialogue between characters and description of settings are very readable- Maitland is very straight-forward with her words without feeling the need to romanticize every paragraph.

However you do have to ask yourself why you would want to read a book set in this time period? Is it to learn more about the plague? Or is it to get absorbed in a wonderful fictional story contained in such a setting. Some reviewers did not like this book because of a historical factual slip or two but really it is the characters and their story within the backdrop of the plague that makes this book a winner. Who cares if one little event mentioned in passing by the author didn’t actually happen when the author said it did? It had zero consequences on the plot and lives of the characters. There are more exciting and unsettling things going on with the story to be bothered by an inconsequential slip.

However a word of caution: As one settles into the story, the reader must not forget what this book is called: COMPANY OF LIARS…. yes, and when a story is this good with characters so well written- I almost forgot that there is plenty of deception going on, but what about and why? For the most part we have the leader of the group doing most of the narration- a very likable central figure… and as he tells the story and others in the group tell theirs as well, it is a little bit unnerving and quite the psychological delight to try and guess what the lies being told are and for what purpose? As soon as you decide which characters you like and which you don’t…. and the creepy little girl starts to give hints as to what may be going on…. and a single sentence gives you a hint that a character you adore may not be what he seems…. it’s this VERY SUBTLE and yet ensnaring mind-game that makes this book a must-read and a page-turner in every sense of the word.

Company of Liars; Maitland, Karen; Penguin UK; £7.99

It Rained All Night by Buddhadeva Bose

I wonder when will people understand the importance of literature and the freedom of authors to express what they feel like and do not go around banning books just because they are written with verve and hold a mirror to how we live.

It Rained All Night by Buddhadeva Bose is one such book that was banned in 1970, the original title being Raat Bhor Brishti. The police at that time did not even spare the manuscript and it was burnt to ashes. Later though the high court overruled the banned and set the book free.

I did not even realise the book was banned till I researched some on it. I am certain that it was banned on the ground of vulgarity and some such thing, however my question remains: So why can’t a wife look outside her marriage for physical fulfillment, if her husband fails to meet them? Just alone for this I guess the book would have been banned today as well, considering the dark ages we now live in.

The plot of the book is simple: Maloti, an attractive Middle-Class Bengali girl, marries the pendantic college lecturer, Noyonangshu – and too for love, only to discover him to be, “insecure, sexually timid” and confused.

Noyonangshu on the other hand is quite liberal with his ideas with reference to the nuclear family concept and wants his wife to enjoy the very best. He is aware of her trysts with his friend Jayanto who seems to match her desire and intensity.

The entire book juggles between the socio-political and the sexual awakening of its characters in a time when Calcutta and Bengal were shaping it self for greater things. I enjoyed reading the book and loved what the author had to say for instance where marriage is concerned and how it is not needed in an evolved society like ours (really?).

Marriage! What a complex, difficult, necessary and fantastically durable institution it is – yet so fragile. Two human beings will spend their entire lives together. Not five or 15 years, but their entire lives – what more atrocious a tyranny, what more inhuman an ideal could there be

Buddhadeva Bose’s writing is crisp and to the point.  It is racy and not cluttered at all. In fact the reader is often looking forward to what is in store next. The style though is disjointed and has a series of monologues of the internal storms of each character and what they go through as situations come along.

It captures the conflict of values in a beautiful and unsentimentilizing manner. It does not through sentiments in your face and yet emotion is at the core of the book. At this point, I would like to say that the translation is superb by Clinton B. Seely. It does not take away the essence of the book like most translated works. All in all this book is unforgettable. In almost every way.

Book: ‘It Rained All Night’ by Buddhadeva Bose; Translator: Clinton B. Seely; Publisher: Penguin Books-India; Price: Rs 150