- Red Sorghum – Mo Yan
Red sorghum is a kaleidoscopic pastoral painting that refuses to let the dictums of chronology and reality interfere with its storytelling. Three generations of the Shandong family take us through the Sino-Japanese war and the ensuing civil war between the numerous warring factions in the China of the 50s. The imagery of sorghum is its burning glory is brought out for comparison with the state of humans around it and the aphorisms are so rooted to the countryside that the depictions seem remote and magical. Combining the fascination of rural myth and blinding folk-tale with the realistic horrors of war and human struggle bundles this master piece by the Nobel laureate into the sphere of magical realism – only, the horrors and the omnipresent sadness permeate the lives of what were otherwise crude forest dwellers who fought only for love.
Frequently termed the quintessential guide to understanding the dichotomy of the colonial saheb’s personal relations with the ruled, this classic by EM Forester is essential read for everyone who refuses to let the generalizations sway his understanding of how things were between the two. In no expansive terms or vague stereotypes does the author lean towards serving a patronizing or overly sympathetic picture of the times. What is presented however, is a peek into the minds of the browns as well as the pinko-whites and it results into a work that never ceases to surprise. While the politics of the novel is a topic for a lengthier discussion, the book surmises the boundaries of the interaction that could reasonably happen between the two incompatible class of people. It’s only later in the book, that the requirements of a commercial novel brings out a caricature in Dr. Aziz but even then, the likes of Mr. Fielding tend to bind the narrative thread in a non-linear fashion. In trying to understand how the realities of administering a factious and uncivil clan of oppressed people changed the personal affectations of the colonial yoke, one is thrown deep into the quagmire of personal and political conflicts and that of understanding and categorizing the sense of balance that inevitably falls between the two.
- One hundred years of solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
I had read Love in the time of cholera a long while back when the whole idea of magical realism was unknown to me. The tragic story of the two lovers presented a simple interpretation to me and I took to it by what came to me. I wonder if the sense of enjoyment that the second Marquez book gave me calls for a second read of the earlier love story. The Buendia’s 100 year five-generational trundle into anonymity and their senile departure from this world is the womb of this saga that transcends the borders of reality with a disdainful panache. The parallel world that these citizens of Macando reside in and the absurdity that the “immigrants” wrought on the settlement calls for a more serious and didactic read than what it seemingly looks like. The principle of magical realism originates from this novel – my “reason” to pick this book. Gunter Grass and Vladimir Nabokov are next on my list because the genre never seems to bore me. Read it for the sheer pleasure of gliding through a detailed day-by-day one hundred year account/history of this magnanimous family that procreate, fight, fidget, converse and lie among themselves, invariably entwining themselves with the chestnut tree that the patriarch in the novel finds himself binded to as his hey day rapidly sets on him.