What does the word 'World' mean to you? Earth? Human population? Civilization? Countries which have borders created by people? Geographical landmarks?
I have been thinking about it a lot ever since I read the book 'Around the world in 80 days' to my child. As most of you know, this classic book tells us how an English man Phileas Fogg and his French valet Passespartout travel around the world in 80 days to win a wager.
While reading the story, my daughter Ayushi, who is passionate about books, said,''Imagine how wonderful it would be to go to the different book stores of this world! Imagine how many books we could then read! I would call this adventure Around the world's libraries in 80 days''...
The child's imagination has set me up on a journey. I have decided to read as many books as possible from across the world in 80 days. There are many wonderful authors all across the globe. Some we have read, some we haven't. Many books are not available in Indian bookstores. But today, who really cares for such trivial difficulties? Books are available online. So I decided to read books set in various parts of our world. This would be my way of circumventing the world in 80 days. By doing this, I hope to learn more about the terrain, the culture, the people of this wonderful planet we call home. This would be my tribute to the world of literature.
My reading list as of now, is a bit sketchy. I have not decided still what all books to read. A lot depends upon the availability of a particular book. All I know is that I would like to read as many international authors as possible.
My 80 days started on June 1. I finished reading The Lover by Marguerite Duras. She was born in Saigon, a French colony which is now in Southern Vietnam. At the age of 70, she wrote L'amante, or The Lover which won her the Goncourt Prize (Le Prix Goncourt). She was an avant garde writer, and her writing style can be a bit ambiguous. But her words stay with you for a long time. And it's only later, once you have finished the book and put it down, her story starts to make sense.
The Lover is a gritty story of a poor French girl and her forbidden love affair with a rich Chinese man. When the story starts, the girl is fifteen and half. The man is twenty seven. Their troubled affair continues for one and a half years. Her manic-depressive mother encourages the girl to continue this affair for money. Her family feels this affair is a favour granted to the man as the girl is white and hence superior. Set in Saigon and Sa Dec during the French rule, this is a story with veiled references to racism, colonialism, poverty and lust.
The book is autobiographical. The girl in the story is the author herself. The novel's narration is in the first person but it often jumps to the third person. This can create a bit of ambiguity but as I said, slowly this starts to make sense.
I wish the book showcased more of the Indochina culture and way of life in the '30s. But it only talks about the love affair and very rarely discusses the cultural issues of those times.
Did I love the book? I can not say. I felt disturbed by it. I felt a little sad but I loved the ending, I thought it was a bit like a Bengali book I'd read many years ago called Na Hanyate (It does not die) by Maitreyi Devi. Those of you who have read that one can perhaps understand.
The book has only 120 pages, so I managed to finish this in 2 days.
The next one on my list is 'Cry, the beloved country' by Alan Paton. I have already finished about 100 pages of it. As this is a very famous book, a lot of you would have already read it. I hope to finish it in another 2 days.
I can not write book reviews, I do not think I am qualified to do so. Moreover, reading habits are rather personal and what appeals to me may not appeal to you. I only hope by reading about different people on the earth, I can understand our world a little better.
Those of you, who would like to join me in my quest can feel free to do so. You can either read the book that I am currently reading or pick up any other book that you would like. If you recommend it, I may include it in my reading list. I hope, after 80 days, I will be a little more literate. And don't forget to hold my hand, I will need a lot of support to finish my journey...