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Short notes on books I’ve finished reading recently:

The Simoquin Prophecies: I would have probably never read this book (being guilty of having judged a book by its cover) had it not been gifted to me by a friend; and what an utterly enjoyable read I would have deprived myself of! The book is choc-o-bloc with witty allusions to mythology (mostly Indian), fairy tales, allegories and all things supernatural. References to some of the renowned works are obvious - “In a hole in the ground there lived a Rabbit”. Some others are a little discreet - “A boy even lost his thumb while trying to spy on Asvin’s archery lessons”. And I am told that I need to be from a certain part of our country (West Bengal) to appreciate a lot of nuances and innuendos, fully.

This debut novel by Samit Basu is not exactly an edifying example of modern Indian English literature, but do pick it up if you are looking to be thoroughly entertained.

A Brave New World: The first half of the twentieth century was more turbulent than the next 55 years that have followed. The world witnessed two of its greatest calamities in the two World Wars. Amidst uncertainty and chaos of the emerging world order, Great Depression, unabated scientific progress and just few years before the Second World War was written Aldous Huxley’s A Brave New World. While Orwell, more than 17 years later, was to allude to the dangers of a communist regime, Huxley draws our attention to dangers of blatant consumerism. Huxley’s society is a Capitalist one. It is a society continually veiled in false utopia. It is a class society, where members of each section of the society are ‘manufactured’ and conditioned in factories, to fulfill their pre-destined roles. Promiscuity is openly encouraged; even preached. Narcotics are regularly prescribed to induce a sense of well-being; to keep worrisome thoughts from nagging people into thinking outside of the governed norms. The institute of family, the fundamental unit of society as we know it, has been purged (I found this aspect, amongst others, starkly similar to 1984). The society of Huxley, therefore, like society imagined by Orwell, is a totalitarian one. Both of them rely on thought control and differ only in the means used for exercising that control.

Huxley, 19 years later, backed A Brave New World with A Brave New World Revisited. In this book he takes stock of the world post the Second World War and argues that how frighteningly close we have come to the morbid fiction that his earlier work was. I am yet to lay my hands on the latter, but the former is highly recommended.

The Double Tongue: was to be William Golding’s last novel. Left in second draft at Golding’s sudden death in 1993, it was published in 1995. This novel takes us to the twilight of the Greek civilization. The protagonist of the novel, an oracle at Delphi, tells us the story of her life right from her childhood days to the day that she was brought to Delphi to succeed the then oracles. In the backdrop is the drama and turmoil of the Greek society. The story sends a chill down your spine ands leaves you with a strange feeling of desolate nothingness.

The book, like other works of Golding that I’ve read, is very well researched. In fact it left me feeling so ignorant (the hallmark of a good book) about the Greek civilization that I have been compelled to pick a translation of works of Herodotus to further my education on the subject!
posted: 8.11.04

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