Saturday, January 3, 2009

Going Greene

In my mania to read Graham Greene, I managed to read The Honorary Counsel, This Gun for Hire, A Burnt Out Case, and the Stamboul Train in rapid succession. Is my obsession over? I hope so.

Anyway, I will take up The Honorary Counsel out of the four books. It epitomises Graham Greene at his best, although it may not be his best book.

I am constantly amazed at how simple, yet how profound Greene can make his writing. The dilemma of a man far away from his home, seeking solace in the trivialities of a small, but deadly town, is narrated in agonising detail.

The story belongs to Dr. Plah, a medical doctor of mixed origin- father is an Englishman, while the mother is an Argentinian. The story is set in a small town outside Buenos Aeries, where Dr. Plah bumps into the honorary English Counsel, and with one other English teacher, constitutes the entire English related population of the town. The trouble starts when the Counsel is mistaken for the American ambassador, and kidnapped for exchange of prisoners by childhood friends of Dr. Plah.

The story then revolves around the kidnappers and the Counsel, with Dr. Plah playing a key role. The evolution of relationships between the Counsel, the kidnapper, Dr. Plah and his lover ( the counsel’s wife) take on almost Kafkaesque proportions. The ebb and tide of relations and the tensions of the situation builds up as Dr. Plah confronts his past in the form of the kidnapper, while his guilty conscious forces him to make amateurish attempts to save the Counsel.

Green’s literary style is used effectively to act as the society’s mirror, and his keen observations on man’s dilemmas and anxiety brings one to reflect on one’s lifestyle. He is as relevant today as he was in the last century. It is this enduring quality which spans generations, makes him very relevant today. It is a shame he missed the Nobel Prize. I do wish that his books were not so highly priced by Vintage. He deserves a much wider audience

Odds and Ends

Now that the Olympics in China is behind us, it may interesting to see if we remember anything. I do remember that nobody at home sat through the opening ceremony. It was all jazz and glitter, but without a soul. Controlled societies like China will tend to ignore the human aspect, while in search of materialistic gains. The attempt to fool everybody by having a playback singer for the little girl sticks to one’s mind. Phelps gold medals and a middle aged mother attempting a gold medal in swimming are other notables.

My mother brushed off the whole show as a soap opera, and I cannot say I disagree.

Delhi Chronicles

Now that the winter is truly here, and the warm clothes are out of the boxes smelling of mothballs, one has started enjoying the sun again. Shelling peanuts and struggling to break off pieces of gajak (peanuts embedded in jaggery) from the big cake, and soaking in the sun sitting on a charpoy while reading a book is the thing to do during winters. The sun sets at at about 5:30 p.m. nowadays, so going for THE walk in the dark is cold and troubling. Listening to an audio book is the only thing making this worthwhile. This year the winter seems to be normal, and the temperature did fall a little bit in end November, but has climbed back again to make Delhi the best destination for tourists this side of the Suez canal, the carnage in Mumbai notwithstanding.

The fog is coming in nowadays and that makes the Delhi winters what they are. The air travellers get hit by delays, but hey, the smell of winter, the chillness of the fog, the warmth of that cuppa tea, and the fuzzy good feeling of a Sunday wandering on Janpath is what Delhi winters is all about. Enjoy while it lasts guys.

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