Friday, June 4, 2010

The World And The Lover

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...

42 comments:

Doli said...

wow! I would definitely like to try reading the same books.. I will see if I can get a hold of them in my library. It would be helpful if you could post the list before hand so that I can request the library to get them for me

Lazy Pineapple said...

I loved around the world in 80 days..such a fascinating story...

The idea of reading books from different parts of the world sounds exciting.
What kind of books do you like to read, maybe I could suggest some to you :)

I have a lot of ebooks with me..all the classics..incase you want I could email them to you...let me know.

Sakshi said...

Oh boy I must thank your first Boss again. You do come up with the most innovative ideas. Make me your Passespartout *sakshi packing her shoes for the journey* and am jumping right in.

Let me see if I can pick up the books you have recommended from the library. Please do give us the names of the Books as you read along.

All the best for the journey and am sure you are gonna have an exciting adventure.

Ps: Where is Ishita and why no blog posts from her side?

A New Beginning said...

This is a brilliant idea!!Do keep postn about them oft and on, would love to know :)

Nona said...

My best wishes to you in this quest! This is an interesting journey and I request for a running commentary of the same. The books from different culture will have a profound effect on you! As a reader, I like to learn from your learnings! :)

Aparna said...

Doli, I would post my reading list soon. I am yet to short list all the books. Meanwhile you can read The Lover and Cry the beloved country if you have not read them before.

LP, I love all kinds. Thanks for the offer of your books. So far I have read very few ebooks. I feel half the charm of reading lies in holding the book in my hand and touching it once in a while. I know I am horribly old fashioned!

Sakshi Passespartout, you can come with me any time.
Ishita is currently busy with movies, friends, music, facebook and studies, exactly in that order. She has lost all interest in blogging.

A New Beginning, thank you. I would be posting on the books. Hope you will also read along.

Nona, I would love to write on my journey but do you think people would like to read about it?

Sharmila said...

That's a wonderful thing to do Aparna. We get so caught up with our daily lives that often books get a backseat. Am tempted to start something like this ... but even though I do read real fast, am afraid I may not have enough time to finish one book in proper time.
All the best to you ... looking forward to your list. :-)

The Holy Lama said...

Books from other cultures for 80 days - that's a great idea and for Ayushi to come up with it is the best of all. And if you are trying regional literature, try any one of MT Vasudevan Nair from Malayalam.

Aparna Radhakrishnan said...

Excellent idea...for a girl to think of it is "supercalifragilisticespeialydocius"..

I am happy you took up the challenge...I would love to read the books that you are reading ...so please put up the list..

Aparna.

ZB said...

Thanks, this is exactly why i want to retire by 45. I want to read, travel, eat, breath, understand life on this planet earth. There is definitely more to life than what we believe is life. Isn't not?

Around the world....is one of the books(or THE book)which made realize that what i want in life is to travel around the world.

I want to do something like what you are doing, but with Indian literature. Esp Malayalam. Malayalam ( and also Bengali for that matter)is so much rich in world class literature, but the only problem is the language. I can hardly read it.

Really nice to know of this plan. Wish you all the best. TC:)

ZB said...
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kavita said...

It is a wonderful idea Aparna !As soon i noticed you mention these books in fb -i noted down both the names.Please keep on posting your thoughts on the books you finish reading.I would love to read NA HANYTE .

May you reach your desired goal successfully...my best wishes !!

Sandhya said...

This is a good idea from your daughter, Aparna.

Pearl Buck's books explain the Chinese lifestyle beautifully.

My best wishes to you to complete as many books as possible with a short review here. You write your version and I am sure it would be good.

starry said...

That is quite an endeavour.I love books too.Currently I am reading Eat pray Love.By Elizabeth Gilbert.the movie is going to be out soon.

Sourendu said...

Hmm. From Africa one can try Naguib Mahfous, Michael Ondaatje, Ben Okri (you've already ruled out Doris Lessing by picking Alan Paton) for starters. So many wonderful African writers actually. But between Duras and Paton you skipped a lot of countries (no matter which country you put Duras in).

wishes galore said...

hey aparna!
such a wonderful plan..Do post your reading list soon so that we too can get idea of the books.

btw i tried searching e-book "the lover" on the net but in vain..if possible can you send me the link/ website from where you get that.

Kavi said...

Reading about different people and their cultures remarkably brings us closer to them and their way of life and living !

We just need to do more of this. talk more of the similarities in our differences !

the world is such a beautiful place ! its time for some peace and joy. It could well begin reading and spreading the word

Deepa said...

A lovely (and cost effective) way to travel the world and imbibe diverse cultures! Bon voyage!

rohitha said...
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lostworld said...

Please do share the books you read Aparna !! I'd love to read .. I'm currently reading 'Anna Karenina' by Tolstoy. Have U read it? But it may not work for your marathon as its around 800 pages. Good Luck. I shall follow your journey with books.

The Panorama said...

Great pots, Aparna, I like love reading books written by authors all around the world. Am currently reading a book by Cecilie Samartin called " The broken Paradise" its about the Cuba and arounf the time Fidel Castro took over.

I have seen the film " The Lover" and liked it a lot. It doesn't say much about the Indochina culture because it was a love story after all.

DO write about the books you read. I love reading book reviews:)

Nona said...

@Aparna - Yes! I'm sure there would be people to read that! I also want to know about other cultures too! You are in a way trying to understand different cultures by going around in 80 novels. :)

Aparna said...

Sharmila, will try to post a list as soon as possible.

Holy Lama, I initially thought of reading Indian books but there are no good enough translations. However I would keep my eyes open for Vasudevan Nair.

Aparna, one reading list coming up soon...

ZB, I read Bengali books too, but I feel the quality has gone down in the recent years.

Kavita, read Cry the beloved country, it's beautiful and I have not even finished it. And if you could get your hands on Na Hanyate, please go ahead. You will not regret it.

Sandhya, will review the books definitely. And I have read Pearl Buck and have loved her work.

Starry, read Eat Pray Love a year back and honestly did not really like it.May be it is more for an American audience.

Sourendu, I plan to cover the countries between Duras and Paton, just you wait.

Wishes Galore, I bought The Lover from a bookshop. It is published by Harper Perennial and costs Rs 395. You can go to Flipkart.com to buy books online...I did not buy any e-book.

Kavi, I am trying to do my bit :)

Deepa, yes it is indeed a less expensive way of travelling the world. Though I must say that books also cost a lot of money these days:)

Lostworld, Anna Karenina is one book I would love to read but may be next time when I do not have a deadline.

Panorama, do you recommend the book you are reading? I want to read a book from Cuba.

Nona, will do the review then. And 80 novels is too much, I want to read as many as possible in 80 days. May be I can do around 12.

Nu said...

With you on this Aparna ! Books and the love for it !! Can't express !

Though I've not target of days as such but I've decided to finish a book max in one week which is not impossible at all !

Right now I'm reading 'The shadow of the wind' which I had mentioned in my blog post...

As of now I'm liking it...let's see how it comes to an end :)

Neena Sharma said...

Good luck Aparna! Do try to include Chimamnda Adichie, a Nigerian author I adore. She has written several novels but you might want to pick up her short story collection first. Title — The thing around your neck.

lifedoeshaveameaning said...

I want to join in too.But I am not sure if I can get to buy the books here/online and that too within the 80 days....But I will try and follow...Thanks to Ayushi, you are on a voyage. Good Luck....

manjujoglekar said...

Great idea, Aparna! I hope you are able to complete reading a lot of books in 80 days.

I read 'Cry the Beloved Country' when in college- a very moving and thought provoking book!

manjujoglekar said...

Great idea, Aparna! I hope you are able to complete reading a lot of books in 80 days.

I read 'Cry the Beloved Country' when in college- a very moving and thought provoking book!

慧玲PierreJ_Good9999 said...

認清問題就等於已經解決了一半的問題。 ....................................................

The Panorama said...

Aparna, I do recommend it though I feel the writer is quite politically biased as an American. Her total contempt for socialism is very strong but the book makes an interesting read. Maybe it's a Cuba that Castro doesn't want the world to know about.

Meira said...

wonderful, Aparna! What a lovely journey !

ani_aset said...

brilliant idea..i would like to join you in this, but i would rather read the books that have been bought long long time ago first :)

Keats The Sunshine Girl said...

Books certainly open up our world . So 'aye' to travelling round the world in 80 days with them:)

Anu said...

wow! what an idea! do post your reading list soon and then i can add my suggestions... and shall also try to read some of the ones on your list..... hats off to your daughter for such her thought....and kudos to you for taking it up...

琳欣劉元慈 said...

處順境須謹慎,處逆境要忍耐。........................................

RGB said...

Bon Voyage! And pls do post the reviews / excerpts of the books and places you found interesting, so we can follow them.

Roshni Mitra Chintalapati said...

that's a great idea and definitely do post your reading list. I am at present reading The Reluctant Hobbit by Tolkiens. I haven't read any of his books. I just finished The Rice Mother about WWII in Malaysia. You might like it though it too is disturbing.

Destiny's child... said...

that's interesting...a very nice way to learn more about the world. Have fun! :)

Sumandebray said...

This is great journey you have embarked on... Bon Voyage!

Nikita Banerjee said...

I have been wanting to read this book for a while! :) thanks. Will get it soon!

I love story sessions.

Gayathri said...

WoW! So that's where the story starts from!! I read your latest post before this!

Aparna said...

Nu, I used to read a lot in college. I still do but now I tend to pick up the fast reads. I do not have the time to savour the slow moving novels anymore. Let's see how far I can go with my latest venture.

Neena, will definitely try Adichie, somebody else has also recommended her.

Anirudhh, finish those books fast!

Lifedoeshaveameaning, try...you will love Cry the beloved country.

Manju, Thanks. I loved Cry...it is a very touching book.

Keats the sunshine girl, thanks.

Anu, thanks, so many of my blog post ideas come from my daughters!

Saroj, will try to get the book.

RGB, will try and write as much as possible about my voyage! Thanks.

Roshni, I want to read the Rice Mother, let's see if I can get it here.

Destiny's child, thanks.

Suman, thank you!

Nikita, I'd recommend this one for the unique style.

Gayathri, yes, this is how the journey started!