Thursday, June 09, 2005

Timeout : Bookwarmth

He is happy indeed. Some friends seem to take notice in him, his thoughts, his quirks. Ani and Runglee want to know what he reads.

Born in non-America, most of his friends still belong to worlds elsewhere. They often eat with hands, and speak non-English. What befuddles him is that they all seem to read only English! That cannot be! Probably character strings mentioning French or Bengali or Tamil or Swahili books are auto-deleted by Blogspot.

Total Number of Books he owns:
Books cannot be owned. They choose who they want to spend their day with. They are fireflies. They flit from reader to reader, giving them warm moments as they pass by. They are gypsies – they tell you faraway stories and take you along. There are some people who try to cage up books in shelves by writing their names on them – but should you force gypsies to settle down and become, say clerks or shoemakers?

So, a few books are living with him now – some of them belong to others, and some of them are waiting to belong to others.

Last Book he Bought:
Suhasini’r Pometom, by Kamalkumar Majumdar. He has not finished reading it. Still in the midst of the first sentence – just that the first sentence is the only sentence and is 150 pages long. The only word he can use about this book is unique – he has not read any such writing before, and in any language.

Last Book he Read:
The crisis of Global Capitalism, by George Soros. This book is neither about finance nor about Marx. It is a re-reading of Karl Popper’s Open Society. Here Soros makes some beautiful points about the social scientific enquiry and its differences with natural scientific thought. Often the best ideas in economics have come from men who were involved with the discipline not through the academic vocation but through hands-on practice – Keynes and Maurice Allais are two classic examples. Soros has hit the nail on the head in his interpretation of how academic thinking shapes and distorts the subject of thought - the economic actions of human beings.

Five Books That Mean A Lot To Him:

· Sanchayita (The definitive collection of Tagore poems) – He grew up with it. It has been there with him since his dim infanthood – and every time he goes back to it there is a feeling of homecoming. Even today he is discovering his own private Rabindranath – shade by shade of feeling.

· Pather Panchali: He discovered the faraway with Bibhutibhushan. It was such a delight – he can still touch many moments (with all the colours, smells, sounds, feelings and images still fresh) of his first reading of this book, which happened when he was fourteen.

· A Hundred Years of Solitude: Pure magic. It is like the entire spectrum of human imagination and the entire range of human history all collapsed into a few hundred pages. Reality and fantasy, life and love dance away into each other.

· Laughable Loves / The book of Laughter and Forgetting – He always feels naked in front of Kundera. Funny how this guy, with his deep dark humour, takes him to parts of his own being which he had often been hiding from himself. Enlightening, embarrassing.

· The Outsider: It’s a chilling book. More so, because he realises that he has a Mersault in him. He knows that being Mersault is dangerous, but he enjoys watching the world like in a movie screen, he enjoys watching himself walking, running, loving and hating by being a third person. He thanks Camus for giving such a heroic, tragic face to rationality.

· Firey Esho chaka: This is a thin book of poems, published in two other editions under two other names, by the most powerful Bengali poet of his time – Binoy Majumdar. Like a true intellectual, Binoy has loved and lost, published only one book, gone mad and has been spending time doing Mathematics. Or so the legend goes. There is a story to a copy of this book that came into his hands. He got it from his library (yes, American libraries do keep single publications of lesser known Bengali poets) – and then found that that particular copy was personally signed by Binoy and gifted to Clinton Sealy, the noted Bengali scholar in the University of Chicago. He had a strong craving to claim to the library that he had lost the book, but finally did not do so.

He looks back and discovers that not one of these books was originally written in English.

Since all his other friends have been taken by Ani, he tags Priya and Vishnupriya, and hurries back to the cafe' looking for his muse.