Friday, November 19, 2010

Great Expectations!

The title of the post derives itself from a yet to be read by me novel by Charles Dickens. A copy of the novel has been under my custody for just under a decade now and I must admit, here, the fact that for all this long time, it has been there in my priority list of the things to do. The last decade has seen me making and then abandoning too many of such lists. All this time, there have been items from the English literature that have formed a constant part of such lists. Great Expectations is one of them. The another one, The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, was there in that list till last year when I finally completed it. Its not my laziness that I have not been able to complete these novels in all this time, its only my lack of interest in literature that I have already referred to in my earlier posts on this blog. Things have come and gone from the priority list, most of them bypassing these novels in the process, but one thing is for sure that these novels have always managed to maintain their position there in the list. With time, their glamour decreased and so did my enthusiasm towards them. Still, a hope of completing these novels are present.
Anyways, the post is not, in any way, about Dickens' Great Expectations. It is about my own expectations from two books that I have recently bought. The last weekend saw me visiting Kolkata where an evening was planned for window shopping at a mall. The evening went as was planned except for the fact that I found a real rich book store there. Having already mentioned my lack of interest in literature, it was probably my first time to witness such a rich book store. Maybe, this was the first time when I actually showed some interests towards a book store and hence, such a book store that might seem mediocre to many others, looked rich to me. Finding too many of books at a place felt me with a fear and an enthusiasm at the same time; the fear of books that I have already described here and the enthusiasm of getting over this fear this time round. With a determination in my mind, encouragement by my companion there and suggestions from my brother, I finally managed to lay my hands upon two books, Shashi Tharoor's The Great Indian Novel and Fyodor Dostoyevsky's The House of the Dead.
Anybody can deduce from the name of the authors itself that I am a complete novice to this field of reading. Two different novels on two different themes by two completely different authors from two totally different era, was all what I could find there. Nothing, at all, common between them. Even for me, it was hard to discern my actual taste. Where Tharoor is a 21st century Indian politician, statesman, columnist, author, activist, Dostoyevsky is a 19th century Russian writer, essayist sometimes a nihilistic, sometimes a rebel, sometimes a cynic. The simultaneous selection of such two completely different authors must be bewildering to many (atleast, it is, to me).
My knowledge about the two authors is also not complete. Whatever I have mentioned about them above is acquired in recent times from various sources on the internet. For Tharoor, the way he and his tweets have managed to create a hype in recent times has let me to know about him more and more. Maybe, this was how, I knew about the book and hence, finding it compelled me to buy it. I won't deny that my love to Indian political history was also a considerable factor for my selection of this book. For Dostoyevsky, the selection was mostly due to the strong inescapable suggestion by my elder brother. Amongst his penned novels, the selection of this particular book was completely based on the volume of the book. This seemed the least voluminous in the lot and hence, came the selection. Having said all this, I must make it clear that I was not completely unknown of Dostoyevsky before buying this book. My first encounter with him was reading his short story, White Nights, a story of the dreamer that it most simply can be described was fairly well liked by me. Reading him once again never seemed a bad idea for me.
Now comes the expectation part. The first and the foremost expectation common to both the book is that I would be able to finish them. For Tharoor's novel, I have already started it and what I could make out of it is that it must be a satirical presentation of an epic that Mahabharata WAS, in relation to another epic that the Indian political game IS. For Dostoyevsky's novel, reading itself, the introduction on the back, fills me with a certain amount of depression, a doom. A character who dies and dies again in the search of real death is all that I can expect from this. Nihilism and pessimism is echoing from the book and giving me a feeling that I could end up being sad at the end. Yet, strangely, a feeling of optimism is what I am getting at present. Its strange but true, maybe this is the beauty of Dostoyevsky, maybe this is the beauty of literature that I have been away from, maybe this is what I am going to witness with it this time.
Will keep posting my updates on the books as I move on with them.

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