Posts Tagged ‘Erich Maria Remarque’

It is Christmas season and I decided to splurge on books 😁 These are not exactly Christmas reading (another reason to buy more books, of the Christmas-y type, soon – Yay!), but I was very excited when I got them today.

Arch of Triumph by Erich Maria Remarque – I loved Remarque’s classic war novel ‘All Quiet on the Western Front‘ and his novel on the Second World War, ‘A Time to Love and a Time to Die‘. Most of his novels are on a war theme, but they are all beautiful. ‘Arch of Triumph’ was recommended to me by Caroline from ‘Beauty is a Sleeping Cat’ and I can’t wait to read it. I wish they had retained the original title though – ‘Arc de Triomphe‘ sounds better, much better.

Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann – I am reading Thomas Mann’s ‘The Magic Mountain‘. Mann’s long sentences are beautifully sculpted, they are from a different, more beautiful literary era, and they are an absolute pleasure to read. ‘Buddenbrooks‘ is his first novel. The edition I got is 850 pages long – longer than ‘The Magic Mountain’ (who writes a first novel which is 850 pages long??) – but the font is big and I am so tempted to get started immediately.

Confessions of Felix Krull by Thomas Mann – This was recommended to me by Caroline from ‘Beauty is a Sleeping Cat’. The first sentence itself is vintage Mann, long and sizzling and a beautiful work of art. Looking forward to reading it soon.

Suppose a Sentence by Brian Dillon – I have wanted to read Brian Dillon’s books for a while. I thought I’ll start with this. Dillon loves words and sentences and essays and sharing his love for these beautiful things, and this book promises to be a delightful reading experience. Kaggsy from ‘Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings’ wrote a beautiful review of this book, which I loved. You can find her review here.

A Month in the Country by J.L.Carr – A month back, I hadn’t heard of J.L.Carr. Then I discovered this book. It is slim at less than a hundred pages, and it promises to be beautiful. It is amazing how we have never heard of a writer and one day we discover that writer by accident, and we wonder why we haven’t read their beautiful works before.

Have you read any of these books? What do you think about them?

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I am coming to the party nearly a month late, but here I am finally. Here are my favourite books and my favourite reading moments from last year – books which were amazing, writers who were fascinating and everything in between with some fun facts thrown in along the way.

First a small description of how my reading year went. I started off quite well, but at some point after a month or two, I got into a reading slump. And this led to a blogging slump, and though I managed to recover from the reading slump during the second part of the year, with the exception of German Literature Month, I couldn’t come out of my blogging slump. I have never had a blogging slump like this since I started blogging more than seven years back. I hope the worst is over and I hope I will be a better blogger this year.

Fun Stats

I read fifty books last year. I thought because of my reading slump, I hadn’t read much, and so I was surprised when I discovered that it was not as bad as I thought – it was a typical reading year by my standards 🙂

The breakup goes like this : Novels : 17; YA : 3; Short Stories : 7; Fairytales : 1; Plays : 1; Graphic Novel : 2; Comics : 10; Anthology : 1; Poetry : 6; Memoir : 2. That is pretty diverse – not bad.

I read 33 books by male writers and 15 books by women writers – I aim for a 50-50 split and so that was bad. It was probably because all the comics I read were by male writers. There were two books that I didn’t count here – one was an anthology which had excerpts, stories and poems by different writers and the other was a poetry collection.

With respect to the countries from which the books were from (that is the nationality of the author – not the country where the story happens), the breakup went like this : America : 10; Britain : 7; Germany : 7; Belgium : 5; Italy : 3; Switzerland : 2; Chile : 2; Japan : 2; Canada (French) : 1; Canada (English) : 1; Russia : 1; France : 1; Finland : 1; Norway : 1; Lebanon : 1; Austria : 1; China : 1; India : 1; Greece : 1; Romania : 1.

I considered Vladimir Nabokov Russian, Rabih Alameddine Lebanese (though both of them probably were / are American citizens and wrote their novels in English) and Zoë Jenny Swiss (though she has started writing in English now and might have a British passport).  I also included Canada (French) and Canada (English) as separate categories because French literature from Canada is so ignored these days. Even Canadian readers don’t seem to know their French authors. It is so sad, because French-Canadian authors are so wonderful. (Nicole Brossard is my favourite.)

In terms of the language in which the books were originally written, this is how it went : English : 20; German : 10; French : 9; Italian : 3; Japanese : 2; Finnish : 1; Norwegian : 1; Chinese : 1; Tamil : 1; Greek : 1; Romanian : 1.

Most of the books were from the four big European languages – so, Hello, need more diversity here 🙂

Books I Loved

These are my favourite books from last year – books I absolutely loved. I couldn’t review many of them because of my blogging slump, which is unfortunate.

(1) The Pollen Room by Zoë Jenny – The story of a teenage girl and how she copes when her parents break up. The prose is beautiful and haunting, the story is moving and sometimes heartbreaking with some happy moments.

The Pollen Room By Zoe Jenny

(2) The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman by Denis Thériault – A beautiful epistolary love story between a Canadian postman and a Guadeloupe woman, this book is also a love letter to the Haiku poetic form.

The Peculiar Life Of A Lonely Postman Denis Theriault

(3) The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (graphic novel version) – The graphic novel version of Gaiman’s classic story of a boy who is brought up by ghosts in the graveyard. The story is beautiful, and in this edition the galaxy of artists assembled deliver a stunning work of graphic novel art. A must read for graphic novel and Gaiman fans.


(4) New and Collected Poems by Mary Oliver – Mary Oliver is one of my favourite poets and this collection has poems from many of her books. Beauty in the form of poetic art.


(5) The Summer Book by Tove Jansson – Tove Jansson’s love letter to the Finnish summer, it is also the story of a young girl and her grandmother and their experiences in an island. Though it is a whole book, it can also be read as a collection of individual short stories. My favourite story was about Moppy the cat. It is one of the finest evocations of summer that I have read, alongwith Ray Bradbury’s ‘Dandelion Wine’.


(6) An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine – The narrator of the story is a woman who used to work in a bookshop (and who is now retired). She is shy and introverted and spends most of her day reading. Every year she translates one or more famous world classics into Arabic. While telling her story and sharing with the reader what she does everyday and stories of her past, the narrator also shares her thoughts on books, reading, literature, writers, the art of translation and everything else that booklovers love to talk about and think about. This book is a love letter to reading, books, literature, translation and everything in between. I am so glad that I discovered it.


(7) Cassandra by Christa Wolf – A retelling of the Troy legend from the perspective of Cassandra the prophet, it makes one realize how different things are when we see them with a new perspective. Wolf’s stunning prose leaps out of every page and I couldn’t stop re-reading my favourite passages again and again after highlighting them. One of my alltime favourite books.


(8) A Time to Love and a Time to Die by Erich Maria Remarque – There are a few scenes in Remarque’s ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ in which the main character goes home on furlough for a few weeks. Remarque takes this small part, moves the setting to the Second World War and expands it into a whole book. After a slow start, Remarque’s trademark prose flows beautifully, the plot moves smoothly and the main characters’ thoughts on war are quite fascinating. And the heroine of the story – Elizabeth – is one of the most fascinating heroines from any war novel. This is not just a wonderful war story but is also a beautiful love story. I can’t wait to read more of Remarque’s books. I read this for the Literature and War Readalong hosted by Caroline from Beauty is a Sleeping Cat. I promised myself that I will write a proper review of this book one of these days and I hope to do so soon.


(9) Wild Words : Four Tamil Poets – This book has poems by four Tamil women poets who first came to prominence more than a decade back, because the patriarchy threatened them. Our heroines, of course, defied them, and have published many wonderful poetry collections since. I loved this passage from the introduction to the book – “It is perhaps useful to remember that the traditional values prescribed for the ‘Good’ Tamil woman were accham, madam and naanam (fearfulness, propriety, modesty or shame). Our poets have chosen instead, the opposite virtues of fearlessness, outspokenness and a ceaseless questioning of prescribed rules. It is surely significant that at different times and variously, they have claimed as their foremothers, role models and equals, Avvai, Velliviidhi and Sappho; Anna Akhmatova, Sylvia Plath and Kamala Das. And Eve, above all, who defied divine authority to pluck the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. Bad Girls indeed, all of them.”


(10) Letters of a Peruvian Woman by Françoise de Graffigny – It is the story of a Peruvian princess who is abducted by Spanish invaders who take her to their ship, but who is later rescued by a French ship and taken to France. There her rescuer takes her to his home, tries to teach her French language and culture and treats her like family. Our Peruvian heroine becomes best friends with her rescuer’s sister. The whole story is told as a series of letters that our Peruvian heroine writes to her fiance, who is the Peruvian king. Her observations on the differences between the two cultures are very insightful and humorous, Graffigny’s prose is beautiful and the surprise in the end takes us unawares – must have been stunning when it was first published in 1747. This books deserves to be more widely read, because it is so good.


(11) Making Movies by Sidney Lumet – The director of such masterpieces like ’12 Angry Men’ and ‘Network’ shares his thoughts on how to make a movie and the challenges involved. Though the technology he talks about is dated (because the book was published in the 1990s and Lumet mostly worked in the pre-digital era), his insights are wonderful. This book is a wonderful education in the art of film-making. A must-read for all movie lovers.

Making Movies By Sidney Lumet

Honourable Mentions

The following books deserve special mentions. It is really an extended list of favourites.

(1) Dylan Dog comics – This is a comics series which I discovered last year and which was originally published in Italian. The stories are mostly set in England and the characters are supposedly English, but our hero Dylan Dog wears stylish Italian suits and it is so hard to believe that he is anything but Italian. The artwork is stunning and the stories are interesting – mostly murder mysteries or strange happenings, some of which have logical explanations and others which seem to have supernatural causes. Umberto Eco says this about Dylan Dog – “I can read the Bible, Homer and Dylan Dog for several days without being bored.” Well, I am in good company 🙂


(2) A Little, Aloud – It is an anthology of prose and poetry for reading aloud to someone we care for. I didn’t read it aloud though and I read it to myself. It has poems, short stories and excerpts from novels and memoirs and other books. This was the book which got me out of my reading slump and so I have a lot of affection for it. My favourite from the book is a story by Saki called ‘The Lumber Room’ – it is so beautiful and the main character is an adorable and charming naughty boy and we love him from the first page and the ending made me smile 🙂 If you are interested you can read it here.


(3) A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness – A beautiful story about love and loss and how a boy copes with it. And there is a monster in the story, which teaches him the truths of life. What is not to like? I have to thank Claire from ‘Word by Word’ who recommended this beautiful book to me.


(4) The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart – It is the story of a young boy who is suffering from cancer. He discovers that the cancer has come back and there is no escape this time and decides to leave home, take his dog with him and climb Mt.Rainier. It is beautiful, charming, happy, sad and has a wonderful ending. A book I read in a day.


(5) Poems that make grown men cry – The ‘men’ in the title made me hesitate (what about poems that make grown women cry) and most of the poems in the collection were by male poets and that also put me off, but I browsed the book and the poems were wonderful and I couldn’t resist getting it and reading it. It is a beautiful collection and I loved many of the poems, especially Billy Collins’ ode to his mother and Harold Pinter’s love poem. There is a companion volume which is expected this year and it is called – you guessed it – ‘Poems that make grown women cry’. I can’t wait for that.


(6) The Death’s Head Chess Club by John Donoghue – I don’t know anyone who has read this, but the fact that it had ‘chess’ in the title made me read it. It is the story of a Jewish prisoner in the Auschwitz concentration camp who is the chess champion among the prisoners and an SS officer who is trying to start a chess club among the officers. When word of the legendary chess champion inmate reaches him, the SS officer can’t resist introducing a championship between the champion officer and the champion inmate. Of course, this can never go well. Whether they do here – you should read the book to find out. A love letter to chess and how small things like this can build bridges between people who are on opposite sides of the divide. This book deserves to be more famous.


(7) The Marvels by Brian Selznick – Brian Selznick brings his unique style of storytelling again, combining pictures and artwork interspersed by words which move the plot to tell the parallel stories of a family of actors and a young boy who runs away from school to stay at the home of his uncle, who turns out to be odd, and in some way connected to this actor family. The artwork is stunning and the story is nice.


(8) Bluets by Maggie Nelson – I have to thank Bina from ‘If You Can Read This’ who first told me about this book. I don’t know whether to call this book a long essay or a memoir. In it, Maggie Nelson talks about love and longing, while also meditating on the colour blue and what it means to us today and what it meant to us across history. She quotes philosophers and writers who have written about everything blue and her style reminds us of Alain de Botton’s – with the book having no chapter divisions and each paragraph being numbered.


(9) Children’s Stories from Rumanian Legends by M.Gaster Delia from ‘Postcards from Asia’ told me about the Romanian legend of Harap Alb and when I thought about it, I realized that I had a collection of Romanian fairytales (which is unfortunately, out-of-print today). So, I took it out and read it and it was wonderful. I loved the fact that things were not black-and-white in these fairytales – in one story the main character falls in love with a beautiful woman (who loves him back) and then discovers that she is a demon and both the lovers run away to escape the clutches of her demon-father; in another story, there is an adorable little-devil who is always up to some mischief, creating trouble for humans. I hope to read more Romanian fairytales in the future.


So, that is the long (and hopefully not boring) account of my reading year in 2015. How was your reading year in 2015? Which were your favourite books?



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I have been on a blogging slump for a while now, because the Bard’s prophecy as he stated it in ‘King Lear’ came true, that sorrow doesn’t come single, but it comes in battalions. First both my computers crashed at around the same time and then I went into a reading slump and before I knew time flew. I got back into reading, but haven’t posted reviews of what I read. I thought I will write separate views of each book that I read in the past two months, but I know that if I try doing that, I will postpone blogging for more time. So I thought I will just post a list of books I read and brief thoughts on them. So here they are – the books and my thoughts, in the order in which I read them.

The Millstone by Margaret Drabble

I got this in a used book sale last year. It is a story set in ‘60s London. It is about a young, single woman who is a literary researcher at the university. She discovers one day that she is pregnant. Should she keep the child, or should she have an abortion? If she decides to keep her baby, will her decision adversely impact her freedom and lifestyle? Should she tell the father of the child about it? What are the choices open to a single woman who wants to have a child when the society around her doesn’t really encourage that idea? The book explores this and other related issues. I loved the story, the themes it explored and Margaret Drabble’s prose. One of my favourite books of the year. This book definitely deserves a separate review. I later discovered that Margaret Drabble is the sister of A.S.Byatt and they have a long running feud about a family tea service. How amazing a coincidence is it that one of my favourite writers and a newly discovered favourite writer are related? And they are at war? Life never ceases to surprise!

The Millstone By Margaret Drabble

Here is the first passage of the book, in case you are interested.

My career has always been marked by a strange mixture of confidence and cowardice : almost, one might say, made by it. Take, for instance, the first time I tried spending a night with a man in a hotel. I was nineteen at the time, an age appropriate for such adventures, and needless to say I was not married. I am still not married, a fact of some significance, but more of that later. The name of the boy, if I remember rightly, was Hamish. I do remember rightly. I really must try not to be deprecating. Confidence, not cowardice, is the part of myself which I admire, after all.

50 Great Short Stories edited by Milton Crane

This was the book which helped me get out of the reading slump. So, happy, happy, happy! I have had this book for years, but never got around to reading it. I am very happy that I finally gave it a chance. This collection was compiled nearly sixty years back and so it reflected the taste of that era – it had mostly stories by American and British writers with some French and Russian writers thrown in. The classics were all there (just trying to impress you that I know one or two things about short stories, which clearly is not true) – ‘The Garden Party’ by Katherine Mansfield, ‘The Standard of Living’ by Dorothy Parker, ‘The Masque of Red Death’ by Edgar Allan Poe, ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find’ by Flannery O’Connor. Many of the big writers were covered – in addition to the above, there were stories by Ernest Hemingway, V.S.Pritchett, Guy de Maupassant, O’Henry, Anton Chekhov, James Joyce, John Steinbeck, James Thurber, Virginia Woolf, Katharine Anne Porter, among others. Because of the era in which it was compiled, there were fewer women writers featured than men – from what I could count there were only nine women writers featured (that is just 18% – bad, bad!) Also, there were no writers who were not European or North American. Also, some of the legends were missing – Raymond Carver, John Cheever, Alice Munro – but this was probably because they weren’t famous or around when the book was published. But if we ignore such things, using which we judge books and people in the twenty-first century, the collection is quite good. 

50 Great Short Stories By Milton Crane

My favourite stories in the book were these – ‘The Summer of the Beautiful White Horse’ by William Saroyan (a beautiful evocation of childhood and summer), ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find’ by Flannery O’Connor (made me remember my favourite Bogie (Humphrey Bogart) movie ‘The Petrified Forest’), ‘The Man of the House’ by Frank O’Connor (in which the roles are reversed and a young boy takes care of his mother when she falls sick), ‘The Death of a Bachelor’ by Arthur Schnitzler (with every story I read, Schnitzler keeps getting better and better. This is another story of his about an affair, told in the quintessentially gripping Schnitzler style – I should really read all his works one day), ‘The Tale’ by Joseph Conrad (a classic Conrad story in which the sea is the most important character and the atmosphere it evokes is mysterious and the plot is interesting but not really important – atleast for readers like me), ‘Putois’ by Anatole France (about the power of imagination), ‘A.V.Laider’ by Max Beerbohm (a surprising discovery for me. I want to read more of Beerbohm’s stories) and ‘The Chrysanthemums’ by John Steinbeck (about a woman who yearns to be free).

I also read Katherine Mansfield’s ‘The Garden Party’ one more time and couldn’t get it once again, though this time I appreciated Mansfield’s prose and loved it. I also got to read a story by the Flaubert scholar Francis Steegmuller for the first time. I first read about Steegmuller in Anne Fadiman’s essay collection ‘Ex Libris’ in which Fadiman describes how Steegmuller and his wife, the novelist Shirley Hazzard, frequently read ‘Romeo and Juliet’ together and how that was the book they read together on the day he died. It was nice to finally read a story by him.

If you are looking for a solid, traditional short story collection, you will love this.

Short Shorts edited by Irving Howe and Ilana Wiener Howe

Short Shorts By Irving Howe And Ilana Wiener Howe

This had short stories which were really short – most were less than four or five pages long. It is a book which we can easily read while commuting to work on a bus or on a train. The book was not great in terms of the women writers featured (just six of the 38 stories featured were by women writers – bad, bad!), but in terms of diversity, it was pretty good (25 out of the 38 stories were originally not written in English – there were quite a few German and Italian writers covered and there was even a Japanese writer featured). I didn’t like this collection as much as the previous one, as I felt that it didn’t fulfill the potential of the idea. I think there are better short shorts out there which could have been featured. My favourite stories from the book were these – ‘Alyosha the pot’ by Leo Tolstoy, ‘Swaddling Clothes’ by Yukio Mishima, ‘Homage to Isaac Babel’ by Doris Lessing, ‘The Blue Bouquet’ by Octavio Paz, ‘Wants’ by Grace Paley, ‘The Laugher’ by Heinrich Boll, ‘News from the World’ by Paula Fox.

The Newton Letter by John Banville

The Newton Letter By John Banville

I have had this novella by John Banville for years. Thought it was time to read it now. The plot is quite simple. A writer, who is working on Isaac Newton’s biography, moves to the countryside so that he can quietly work on his project. There he has an affair with the landlady’s niece. Then he discovers that he is not really in love with the niece, but is actually in love with the landlady. But with John Banville, it is rarely about the plot, but it is everything about the prose. With every book of his that I read, I love his gorgeous prose more and more. There were passages like this :

…she would break away from me and be suddenly strange and incomprehensible, as sometimes a word, one’s own name even, will briefly detach itself from its meaning and become a hole in the mesh of the world.

And this :

In moments like that you can feel memory gathering its material, beady-eyed and voracious, like a demented photographer. I don’t mean the big scenes, the sunsets and car crashes. I mean the creased black-and-white snaps taken in a bad light, with a lop-sided horizon and that smudged thumb-print in the foreground. Such are the pictures of Charlotte, in my mind. In the best of them she is not present at all, someone jogged my elbow, or the film was faulty. Or perhaps she was present and has withdrawn, with a pained smile. Only her glow remains. Here is an empty chair in rain-light, cut flowers on a workbench, an open window with lightning flickering distantly in the dark. Her absence throbs in these views more powerfully, more poignantly than any presence.

And this :

I left the room and closed the door carefully behind me, as if the slightest violence would scatter the shards of something in there shattered but still all of a precarious piece.

And this :

Spring is a ferocious and faintly mad season in this part of the world. At night I can hear the ice unpacking in the bay, a groaning and a tremendous deep drumming, as if something vast were being born out there.

And this :

When I search for the words to describe her I can’t find them. Such words don’t exist. They would need to be no more than forms of intent, balanced on the brink of saying, another version of silence. Every mention I make of her is a failure. Even when I say just her name it sounds like an exaggeration. When I write it down it seems impossibly swollen, as if my pen had slipped eight or nine redundant letters into it. Her physical presence itself seemed overdone, a clumsy representation of the essential she. That essence was only to be glimpsed obliquely, on the outer edge of vision, an image always there and always fleeting, like the afterglow of a bright light on the retina.

Well, if you want to read more such gorgeous passages, read the book. There are worse things to do in life than reading a John Banville book.

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

I haven’t read an Edith Wharton book before. So I thought I will start with this slim novella. The story is about a man called Ethan Frome who lives in the countryside with his wife who is permanently unwell because of real and imaginary illnesses. His wife gets one of her cousins to help her out with household work. And Ethan and this cousin, Mattie, fall in love. What happens next – such stories never end happily – is the rest of the story. I loved Edith Wharton’s prose and her description of smalltown America of a bygone era. Though the story was mostly bleak and grim, it had a surprising ending. You should read it to find out what it is. I will be reading more Edith Wharton books.

Ethan Frome By Edith Wharton

A sample of Wharton’s beautiful prose :

The sudden heat of his tone made her colour mount again, not with a rush, but gradually, delicately like the reflection of a thought stealing slowly across her heart.

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

I have wanted to read a James Baldwin novel for a while and I thought this was one. But it turned out to be a nonfiction book. It seemed to be Baldwin’s manifesto for the Civil Rights movement in the ‘60s. The prose is simple, the ideas are powerful and the book is inspiring.

The Fire Next Time By James Baldwin

My favourite passage from the book is this :

Life is tragic simply because the earth turns and the sun inexorably rises and sets, and one day, for each of us, the sun will go down for the last, last time. Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, which is the only fact we have. It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death – ought to decide, indeed, to earn one’s death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life. One is responsible to life : It is the small beacon in that terrifying darkness from which we come and to which we shall return. One must negotiate this passage as nobly as possible, for the sake of those who are coming after us.

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

As this is the centenary of the First World War, I thought I will read a novel which is set during the war. And which better novel to read than Erich Maria Remarque’s classic. I even pushed it as a book club choice last month. Unfortunately, most of my book club mates didn’t read the book. But I did. And loved it. I think I can say this – this is my most favourite literary war novel till date. This is more a statement of my ignorance (I have read very few literary war novels) than anything else. But still. I couldn’t stop highlighting while reading book. I think every page has a quotable quote or a beautiful passage. The book takes us through the whole life of a young soldier from the time he enlists to what happens on a daily basis at the front. Remarque is quite frank about his portrayal of war and the insights that the book delivers are beautiful and relevant even today. There are similarities between the book and the Stanley Kubrick movie ‘Full Metal Jacket’ – I am guessing the novelist who wrote the book on which the Kubrick movie was based on was originally inspired by Remarque’s book. This is a book that I will be reading again. If I have to give it a rating, I will give it five stars out of five.

All Quiet On The Western Front By Erich Maria Remarque

Two of my favourite passages out of the many I loved :

Kropp, on the other hand, is more philosophical. He reckons that all declarations of war ought to be made into a kind of festival, with entrance tickets and music, like they have at bullfights. Then the ministers and generals of the two countries would have to come into the ring, wearing boxing shorts, and armed with rubber truncheons, and have a go at each other. Whoever is left on his feet, his country is declared the winner. That would be simpler and fairer than things are out here, where the wrong people are fighting each other.

The silence spreads. I talk. I have to talk. So I talk to him and tell him directly. ‘I didn’t mean to kill you, mate. If you were to jump in her again, I wouldn’t do it, not so long as you were sensible too. But earlier on you were just an idea to me, a concept in my mind that called up an automatic response – it was that concept that I stabbed. It is only now that I can see that you are a human being like me. I just thought about your hand-grenades, your bayonet and your weapons – now I can see your wife, and your face, and what we have in common. Forgive me, comrade! We always realize too late. Why don’t they keep on reminding us that you are all miserable wretches just like us, that your mothers worry themselves just as much as ours and that we’re all just as scared of death, and that we die the same way and feel the same pain. Forgive me, comrade, how could you be my enemy? If we threw these uniforms and weapons away you could be just as much my brother as Kat and Albert. Take twenty years from my life, comrade, and get up again – take more, because I don’t know what I am going to do with the years I’ve got.’

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

I have wanted to read this book for the past few years because it was highly recommended by a friend. I got to read it finally. There are two story arcs – one is set in the present time (that is 2059-60 AD) and the other is forty years before that. In the present time, news comes out that a group of Jesuit priests and scientists have gone on a mission to a distant planet in another solar system and some strange things happened there and only one priest was able to come back. No one knows what happened. This priest refuses to speak. We are told the story of what happened through events in the past and through the story told by this priest Emilio Sandoz. The things I liked about the book – the story is interesting, the characters are real and likeable, the descriptions are beautiful and the dialogue is snappy, fresh and stylish, like it is in the best movies. I loved the character of Anne Edwards – in my opinion she was the heroine of the whole story. The thing I had problems with – the book explores the theme of faith through science fiction and I am not sure whether that worked well. I don’t think it did. But other readers feel differently.

The Sparrow By Mary Doria Russell

Some of my favourite passages :

“You know what’s the most terrifying thing about admitting that you’re in love? You are just naked. You put yourself in harm’s way and you lay down all your defenses. No clothes, no weapons. Nowhere to hide. Completely vulnerable. The only thing that makes it tolerable is to believe the other person loves you back and that you can trust him not to hurt you.”

“Sailing is the perfect antidote for age, Reyes. Everything you do on a sailboat is done slowly and thoughtfully. Most of the time, an old body is entirely capable of doing whatever needs to be done while you’re cruising. And if the sea is determined to teach you a lesson, well, a young back is no more capable than an old one of resisting an ocean, so experience counts more than ever.”

There are times, when we are in the midst of life – moments of confrontation with birth or death, or moments of beauty when nature or love is fully revealed, or moments of terrible loneliness – times when a holy and awesome awareness comes upon us. It may come as deep inner stillness or as a rush of overflowing emotion. It may seem to come from beyond us, without any provocation, or from within us, evoked by music or by a sleeping child. If we open our hearts at such moments, creation reveals itself to us in all its unity and fullness. And when we return from such a moment of awareness, our hearts long to find some way to capture it in words forever, so that we can remain faithful to its higher truth.


So, that is what I read during the last two months. Or rather, that is what I read this summer 🙂 What did you read this summer? Have you read any of the above books? What do you think about them?

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