Excursions Of A Bibliophile

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Archive for November, 2008

Writers on Writing – Part 1

Posted by Vish Mangalapalli on November 24, 2008

There is a mystical dimension to the craft of writing. The aura of mysticism is inherent because nobody understands the real mechanics behind writing – including the people who practise it to produce works that keep the readers in a thrall. I would be hugely disappointed if this mysticism is unravelled on some ill fated date in distant future. It is my wish that it remains an enigma and continues to confound mankind for eternity. I want the attempt of human beings to understand this mysticism assume a sort of sisyphean nature, that is, I would want us to be eternally tending towards an understanding of it and never understand it completely. There is something transcedental about writing – for the writer during the period of writing and for the reader while reading the book. Both extend beyond themselves in ways unknown to them. Everytime I read a book, a part of my reading mind is always wondering at the creative process. I am constantly obsessed with the question: how does it get done? That there are no clear answers to this is evident to me, yet I do not stop asking this question. There is a body of inspiring conversation around it in the form of writers views on writing. The originality of the thoughts of some of these writers is near numinous 

The Paris Review Magazine is one of its kind dedicated to literature.  Among others, every issue of the magazine carries a couple of interviews with a well known writer/s, poet/s or a playwright/s, dealing with the art of fiction, poetry or drama in general. Almost all of interviews are available for reading. It is while rummaging through these interviews that I started to get a peek into the views that writers hold about their profession. Here is a selection of these thoughts to enrich the content of my blogsite. These views have been sourced from The Paris Review (barring the opinions of Jhumpa Lahiri, John Irving and Graham Swift which are from Powells and Salon respectively)

Interviewer: And telling the truth is, finally, what writing is about? That wonderful quote from Montaigne about speaking the truth, not as much as you know but as much as you dare—and daring more as you grow older.
Peter Taylor: I think trying to write is a religious exercise. You are trying to understand life, and you can only get the illusion of doing it fully by writing. That is, it’s the only way I can come to understand things fully. When I create, when I put my own mark on something and form it, I begin to know the whole truth about it, how it was put together. Then you can begin to change things around. You know all this after you have written a lot. You really know. And it has become the most important thing in your life. It has nothing to do with craft, or even art, in a way. It is making sense of life. It is coming to understand yourself    
 
Interviewer: Which brings more “inner order,” fiction or nonfiction?
Francine du Plessix Gray
: Oh, fiction is a much mightier, more capable watchdog against the threat of inner disorder, of gibberish. I’ve given some thought to this, because I’ve a few friends who try to flatter me out of writing novels by saying “dozens of people around can do that better than you, so why not stick to nonfiction since very few writers can do it as well as you; you could be the John Gunther of your generation, blah-blah.” And so I’ve had to analyze why I’m impelled to go on writing novels, and I know it’s because even at the beginning of a fictional text, when it’s no more than a vapor, a perfume in my head, there’s a whole world hovering by me, a most protective and consoling presence

Interviewer: You have said at various times that, for you, literature is like a game. In what ways?
Cortazar
: For me, literature is a form of play. But I’ve always added that there are two forms of play: football, for example, which is basically a game, and then games that are very profound and serious. When children play, though they’re amusing themselves, they take it very seriously. It’s important. It’s just as serious for them now as love will be ten years from now. I remember when I was little and my parents used to say, “Okay, you’ve played enough, come take a bath now.” I found that completely idiotic, because, for me, the bath was a silly matter. It had no importance whatsoever, while playing with my friends was something serious. Literature is like that—it’s a game, but it’s a game one can put one’s life into. One can do everything for that game.

Interviewer: How does a book take shape for you?
J.G.Ballard
: That’s a vast topic and, to be honest, one I barely understand. Even in the case of a naturalistic writer, who in a sense takes his subject matter directly from the world around him, it’s difficult enough to understand how a particular fiction imposes itself. But in the case of an imaginative writer, especially one like myself with strong affinities to the surrealists, I’m barely aware of what is going on. Recurrent ideas assemble themselves, obsessions solidify themselves, one generates a set of working mythologies, like tales of gold invented to inspire a crew. I assume one is dealing with a process very close to that of dreams, a set of scenarios devised to make sense of apparently irreconcilable ideas. Just as the optical centers of the brain construct a wholly artificial three-dimensional universe through which we can move effectively, so the mind as a whole creates an imaginary world that satisfactorily explains everything, as long as it is constantly updated. So the stream of novels and stories continues . . .

Interviewer: You said that language and the power of imagination were the same thing. What did you mean by that?
BÖLL
: That behind every word a whole world is hidden that must be imagined. Actually, every word has a great burden of memories, not only just of one person but of all mankind. Take a word such as bread, or war; take a word such as chair or bed or heaven. Behind every word is a whole world. I’m afraid that most people use words as something to throw away without sensing the burden that lies in a word. Of course, that is what is significant about poetry, or the lyric, in which this can be brought about more intensively than in prose, although prose has the same function

John Steinbeck: The craft or art of writing is the clumsy attempt to find symbols for the wordlessness. In utter loneliness a writer tries to explain the inexplicable. And sometimes if he is very fortunate and if the time is right, a very little of what he is trying to do trickles through—not ever much. And if he is a writer wise enough to know it can’t be done, then he is not a writer at all. A good writer always works at the impossible………..Writing is a very silly business at best. There is a ridiculousness putting down a picture of life. And to add to the joke  — one must withdraw from life to set the picture down…………… Having gone through all this nonsense, what emerges may be the palest of reflections. Oh! it’s a real horse’s ass business. The mountain labours and groans and strains and the tiniest of rodents come out. And the greatest foolishness lies in the fact that to do it at all, the writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. Not that it is necessary to be remembered but there is one purpose in writing, beyond  simply doing it interestingly. It is the duty of the writer to lift up, to extend, to encourage. If the written word has contributed anything at all to our developing species and half developed culture it is this: Great writing has been a staff to lean on, a mother to consult; a wisdome to pick up stumbling folly, a strength in weakness and a courage to support sick cowardice. And how any negative or despairing approach can pretend to be literature I do not know…… A strange and mystic business, writing. Almost, no progress has been made since it was invented. The Book of the Dead  is as good and as highly developed as anything in the 20th century and much better than the most. And yet in spite of the lack of this continuing excellence, hundreds of thousands of people are in my shoes – praying feverishly for relief from their word pangs

Interviewer: Do you enjoy writing?
William Styron
: I certainly don’t. I get a fine, warm feeling when I’m doing well, but that pleasure is pretty much negated by the pain of getting started each day. Let’s face it, writing is hell

Garcia Marquez: In One Hundred Years of Solitude I used the insomnia plague as something of a literary trick since it’s the opposite of the sleeping plague…… Ultimately, literature is nothing but carpentry.Both are very hard work. Writing something is almost as hard as making a table. With both you are working with reality, a material just as hard as wood. Both are full of tricks and techniques. Basically very little magic and a lot of hard work are involved. And as Proust, I think, said, it takes ten percent inspiration and ninety percent perspiration. I never have done any carpentry, but it’s the job I admire most, especially because you can never find anyone to do it for you

Interviewer: I noticed you call it coaching rather than teaching. I don’t think I’ve ever heard that phrase used to refer to that relationship
Barth: Coaching is more accurate. God knows whether we should be doing it in the universities at all. I happen to think there’s some justification for having courses in so-called creative writing. I know from happy experience with young writers that the muses make no distinction between undergraduates and graduate students. The muses know only expert writers and less expert writers. A beginner—such as I was when, with the swamp still on my shoes, I came into John Hopkins as an undergraduate—needs to be taught that literature is there; here are some examples of it, and here’s how the great writers do it. That’s teaching. In time, a writer, or any artist, stops making mistakes on a crude, first level, and begins making mistakes on the next, more elevated level. And then finally you begin to make your mistakes on the highest level—let’s say the upper slopes of slippery Parnassus—and it’s at that point you need coaching. Now sometimes coaching means advising the skier to come down off the advanced slope and back to the bunny hill for a while, back to the snowplow. One must be gentle about it

Interviewer: How much do you revise, generally?
Jhumpa Lahiri
: That’s really all I do. It’s all a process for me of continued revision. I worked on most of the stories in this book for several years. When I finished some, and I published some, along the way, then I considered them done, but I still worked on them for a considerable length of time, and the ones I didn’t publish, I continued to work on. Most of these stories were simmering for two to three years, minimum

John Irving: Being a writer is a strenuous marriage between careful observation and just as carefully imagining the truths you have not had the opportunity to see. The rest is the necessary strict toiling with the language; for me this means writing and rewriting sentences until they sound as spontaneous as good conversation

Graham Swift: I really do have tremendous faith in writing as a leap into the unknown. But it is a leap that you take with the sort of rope of the imagination to hang on to. The imagination is a wonderful thing: it can cross the gap between you and some experiences you have never had personally, or to some person who is entirely out of nowhere and not someone you’ve known. That’s the excitement, and of course it’s the real creative element in writing

John Cheever: Cocteau said that writing is a force of the memory that is not understood. I agree with this. Raymond Chandler described it as a direct line to sub conscious.The books you really love, give the sense, when you first open them, of having been there. It is a creation, almost like a chamber in the memory. Places that one has never been to, things that one has never seen or heard, but their fitness is so sound, that you’ve been there somehow….. Fiction is meant to illuminate, to explode, to refresh. I dont think there is any consecutive moral philosophy in fiction beyond excellence. Accuteness of feeling and velocity have always seemed to me terribly important. People look for morals in fiction because there has always been confusion between fiction and philosophy

Interviewer: Do you enjoy writing?
John Dos Passos
: That depends sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t…. Well you get a great deal off your chest – emotions, impressions, opinions. Curiosity urges you on – the driving force. What is collected must be got rid off. That’s one thing to be said about writing. There is a great sense of relief in a fat volume

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A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush – Eric Newby – A review

Posted by Vish Mangalapalli on November 22, 2008

Book reviews are interesting because it’s necessary to keep an eye on what’s good and what’s bad in the books of a society worked so heavily by advertising, public relations and so on. Writing reviews isn’t really analytical it’s for the most part quick reactions – joys and rages. I certainly never write a review about a book I don’t think worth reviewing, a flat out bad book, unless it’s an enormously fashionable bad bookJohn Gardner

When it comes to reading travel writing I have started to display tendencies of an addict. Maybe my own subliminal desire for carefree travel and the unconstrained freedom that I associate with travel seem to lie behind this craving. Only time, that great healer, will tell if these cravings will be sumptuously fed or starved to wither dry. The more I read, the more I am coming to realise that travel writing is neither about travel nor about places. It is mostly about people. A people encountered on the move. And people come as a package i.e. they bring along with them many interesting aspects related to culture, language, food, living, tastes, outlooks and above all peculiar idiosyncrasies and prejudices. It is this focus on people which is an integral part of this genre of writing that saves it from the levity that it is eminently capable of slipping into. Also what makes reading about these encounters interesting is that very often they bring forth a lurking element of surprise inherent in the alternative worldviews that the writer and the readers are not aware of and are discovering as they go along. Viewed in this context, travel is a mere mechanism that makes this discovery possible. The more sympathetic and sensitive a travel writer is towards depicting these alternative worldviews the more enjoyable it gets. Lastly, societies move on, the writer too moves on. But his observations and encounters are permanently etched as a snapshot of a personal or general history for the posterity. And well depicted snapshots are evocative of a touching nostalgia. It is this aspect of travel writing that I find appealing. As a good example, consider William Dalrymple‘s “City of Djinns” — the Delhi he wrote about and the Delhi of today have no comparison at all, yet as portrait of times gone by, it is a wonderfully endearing and heartwarming picture. It is very reflective of the the old aphorism that one never stands in the same river twice. As an admirer, I am constantly aware of this aspect of travel writing. 

Wanderlust – that willingness to be completely consumed by the vagrant mood is a puzzling behaviour in human beings. It is visible in different forms in different societies. For a long while I reeled under the impression that it is an upper class, urban and predominantly western trait. On reflection it does not appear so. In the East and West Asia, for ages people have been undertaking pilgrimages and atleast this phenomenon appears to be impervious to class categorisation. The words “Yatra”, “Hejira”, “Haj” denote this aspect of travel. There is the “Gap Year” in West which is especially dedicted to travel between end of school and commencement of university. And I think this is a recent phenomenon in affluent and developed societies. However, I am not aware of any engaging travel writing relating to pilgrimage or the Gap Years. The motives behind the desire to travel to unknown climes, braving constraints has always remained an enigma for me – especially when they are spur of the moment kind of decisions. One such spur of the moment decision that resulted in a wonderfully engaging travel and a concomitant travelogue has been Eric Newby‘s “A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush“. In the recent past, BBC 4 ran a brilliant 3 part series on travel writing called “Traveller’s Century” covering Eric Newby, Laurie Lee and Patrick Fermor. While the latter two are completely new to me, Eric Newby was familiar on account of an aborted attempt of reading his classic “Slowly Down the Ganges“. The series prompted me into realising that it is an act of remiss that is worthy of correction. While I could not lay my hands on “Slowly Down the Ganges“, I managed to read his “A Short Walk in The Hindu Kush” over the weekend. That it is yet another classic in travel writing is evident from the word go

CAN YOU TRAVEL NURISTAN. JUNE? thus begins the wonderful journey of Newby with his friend Hugh Carless from London to Nuristan in Afghanistan via Turkey, an accidental foray into Armenian border, Tehran, Kabul and then to Nuristan in the mountain ranges of Hindu Kush through the famous Panjshir Valley with an almost successful attempt in climbing (mount) Mir Samir. In car and on foot the destination is reached despite the hard weather conditions and extremely inhospitable terrain. The Afghanistan that successive world powers have managed to reduce to modern day rubble as part of their powerplay appears to be a different world in the 60’s when Newby visited it. Although full of nomadic tribal societies with regular skirmishes, it still appeared to have been a cohesively knit place with semblance of order and sanity –  a so-so economy driven by susbistence agriculture. It is almost redundant to say that the picture is vastly different today. As one reads along Newby provides an interesting but broken glimpses of the historical developments within Afghanistan and its engagement with the bigger world outside. Laced with a lucid narrative and tongue in cheek humor anecdotes around people encounters “A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush“, has been a thoroughly entertaining read

A distinguishing character of Newby‘s writing is the constant presence of a gentleman’s approach to commenting on other people, their customs and traditions. Barring a couple of instances, one gets to see the inclusive understanding of a broad, inquistive and a ready for adventure mind throughout the book. Even if there is a disagreement it is at best a grumble at the state of affairs and never a raspy complaining. Contrast this with  Paul Theroux’s writing, although utterly enjoyable there are traces of haughtiness which I could feel as I was turning the pages of his “The Great Railway Bazaar

The author Sam Ewig once said that “Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don’t turn up at all” — Newby clearly comes out as the adventure loving traveller willing to turn up his sleeves in the face of hardwork and hardships his short walk entailed. A gem of travel writing worth reading at any stage in one’s reading life

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Cannery Row — John Steinbeck — A review

Posted by Vish Mangalapalli on November 15, 2008

Interviewer: These questions that inquire into craftsmanship really are annoyance?

Hemingway: A sensible question is neither a delight nor an annoyance. I still believe, though, that it is very bad for a writer to talk about how he writes. He writes to be read by the eye and no explanations or dissertations should be necessary. You can be sure that there is much more there than will be read at any first reading and having made this it is not the writer’s province to explain it or to run guided tours through the more difficult country of his work – Hemingway in an interview for the magazine Paris Review

In my idle moments I play a mental game in which I imagine the world literature to be a huge sprawling building with all sorts of tenements. And I keep slotting writers into these tenements. The ones whom I am impressed with end up getting the penthouses. Everytime I encounter a new writer the order of the habitat changes. Some get promoted from lower to higher floors while some naturally get demoted. Nobody is ejected – all have a welcome residence in my building. It is just that they get the slotting they deserve. Despite doing this many times over resulting in a blurred shuffle, a few writers have retained their penthouses intact and the more I read them, the more they seem to stay put. One such writer who has remained a permanent resident in these imaginary penthouses of mine has been John Steinbeck. He is a writer whom I am coming to respect quite a lot for his incomparable range, depth and humanism. I completed reading his Cannery Row over the weekend. I remember reading it as a student and as I reread, I was able to recall with a significant amount of clarity the characters and situations in the book. I would prefer to think that the clarity of my recall is more to do with Steinbeck‘s ability to write what I would like to call “graphic fiction” than my own power of recall. That to me is the strength of Steinbeck. He (could) write about the subject on hand with such a depth of feeling, perspective, understanding, passion, love and compassion that it is difficult for a reader not to get absorbed, moved, touched and impressed. His subjects have a range which is difficult to draw a boundary around.Yet his central preoccupation remains human beings and their lives

If one were to look at the core of Cannery Row, one quickly realises that the subject matter is ordinary and mundane. It is about the life of people on the fringes of society (in Cannery Row) and their jostling to address the impulses of ordinary demands of life. And what sort of a society is it? In Steinbeck‘s own words “Its inhabitants are, as the man once said, ‘whores, pimps, gamblers, and sons of bitches,’ by which he meant Everybody. Had the man looked through another peep-hole he might have said: ‘Saints and angels and martyrs and holy men,’ and he would have meant the same thing” and who are these inhabitants? The migrant chinese trader “Lee Chong”, the scientifically inclined “Doc”, brothel running “Madam Dora”, failed as an artist but skilful boat builder “Henri” and the lovable, carefree, reckless and alcohol-loving pack of “Mack, Hughie, Hazel, Jones, Eddie” – the grand denizens of Palace FlopHouse – a ramshackle erstwhile storehouse owned by Lee Chong. Very clealry Doc is the central character in the book and Steinbeck builds his character quite brilliantly  – “He can kill anything for need, but he could not even hurt a feeling for pleasure” …. Everyone who knew him was indebted to him. And everyone who thought of him thought next: ‘ I really must do something nice for Doc“. It is this desire to do something nice for Doc that motivates Mack and his pack to organise a party for Doc. The initial attempt fails but the second attempt succeeds. The extent to which the denizens of Cannery Row go to make this party a success is at the center of the narrative. Around this Steinbeck builds a brilliant portrayal of his wonderful characters and their touching interactions with one another and makes it a memorable reading experience

In diverse aspects related to fiction like character delineation, dialogue and situation building Steinbeck leaves his unique mark in this book, yet, the area where Steinbeck shines through is his observation and ascribing of greatness to motives and behaviours of the ordinary people who go about their lives without much thinking or circumspection. Consider what Doc says about Mack and his rogue pack: “Look at them. There are your true philosophers. I think” he went on “that Mack and boys know everything that has ever happened in the world and possibly everything that will happen. I think they survive in this particular world better than other people. In a time when people tear themselves to pieces with ambition and nervousness and covetousness, they are relaxed. All of our so called successful men are sick men, with bad stomachs, and bad souls, but Mack and the boys are healthy and curiously clean. They can do what they want. They can satisfy their appetites without calling them something else’…. “They are all very clever if they want something. They just know the nature of things too well to be caught in that wanting“. It is this observation of depth and saintliness in the so called ordinary human beings and its portrayal that is touching and heartwarming in this book. Throughout the book, Steinbeck throws light on this noble aspect of human existence. Consider when Doc reflects loudly: “It has always seemed strange to me” said Doc. “The things we admire in men, kindness, genorosity, openness, honesty, understanding, and feeling are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits that we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism, and self interest are traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second” . Maybe it is this quality of Steinbeck‘s writing that drew me into a reread in the first place and allowed me to enjoy once again my time with the book

From the perspective of explaining the approach to narrative in Cannery Row, Steinbeck goes onto say that “When you collect marine animals there are certain flat worms that are so delicate that they are almost impossible to capture the whole, for they break and tatter under the touch. You must let them ooze and crawl of their own will on to a knife blade and then lift them gently into your bottle of sea water. And perhaps that might be the right way to write this book – to open the page and to let the stories crawl in by themselves“. And yes the story, the characters, their motives and outlooks  ooze and crawl quite nicely and surround and remain with the reader long after the last page of this small novel is shut

For anybody who wants to start on Steinbeck, Cannery Row can be one definitive introduction

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Moments Of Reprieve — Primo Levi — A review

Posted by Vish Mangalapalli on November 2, 2008

A well run second hand bookshop is like an eddy. At no two points does it look the same. The flow of books keeps changing and changing so often that in it a buyer is always like the eternally hopeful fisherman for a new catch. Is it going to be a better catch than the previous one — that one cannot say with certainty. You might fish with an intention to get a trout but may end up with a mackarel — or the other way round.  The uncertainty of the catch makes the whole experience piquant. And what of the fisherman? Given an eddy, an experienced fisherman knows the watery geography well and where the catch is normally abundant. There is a growing knowledge where and when the mackarels and trout frequent. It is on one of these trips to a favourite eddy of mine that I managed a rich haul of rare catch. Standing side by side and almost new, I found — “The Periodic Table“, “The Drowned And The Saved” and “Moments of Reprieve” all by Primo Levi. I netted all the three and picked up the last for my sampling

Mr. Levi is an Italian Jew and a holocaust survivor. He has had first hand experience of the horrors of Auschwitz and most of his writing is about the experiences of these hell holes which were representations of depths of inexplicable madness when western civilization “descend(ed)s to hell with trumpets and drums“. My own introduction to holocaust literature was through Elie Weasel’s – “Night” and Victor Frankl‘s “Man’s Search For Meaning“. While my memories of the latter are vague, “Night”  to me has been a moving book of extraordinary anguish. In one of my old diaries, I had noted some lines from the book — “Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever.Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never“. Even to this day I cannot recall Night without feeling horrified, sad and moved. Reading  “Moments of Reprieve” led to a very similar experience

Yet there is a fundamental difference between these two books.”Moments of Reprieve” focuses on the extraordinary grace of human beings in one of the most inhuman conditions witnessed in history. The book is a collection of narratives around incidents and human beings that Primo Levi is either involved or gets to observe. As I read on I started owning a very large portion of the anguish while in “Night” the authorial anguish is shared equally by the writer and the reader. That is the beauty of the writing of Primo Levi. He writes with the clarity of his mind’s eye. Every word is essential and anything that is superfluous has no room in his writing (in this book). John Berger once said that  “The boon of language is not tenderness. All that it holds, it holds with exactitude and without pity.” Yet as I read “Moments of Reprieve“, I started to realise that Mr.Levi’s writing evoked feelings that were tender even while they were described with a great sense of exactitude and lack of pity. Consider a couple of wonderful paragraphs that evoke this sense of precision. The first is about Wolf – an interred mate who plays violin in the Camp risking his life….”A timid spring at last arrived. And in one of the first stretches of sunshine there was a work-free Sunday afternoon, fragile and precious as a peach blossom… Wolf played for himself but all those who came by stopped to listen with a greedy look. Like bears catching the scent of honey, avid, timid and perplexed. A few steps away lay Elias, his belly on the ground, staring at Wolf, almost spellbound. On his gladiator’s face hovered that veil of contented stupor one sometimes sees on the faces of the dead, that makes one think they really had for an instant, on the threshhold, the vision of a better world” (The Elias mentioned there is another brute mate of theirs who has a bloody fight with Wolf a few days before this incident) or the code of violence in the Camp that is described without any pity and as a matter of fact….”For this very reason, punches and slaps passed among us as daily language, and we soon learned to distinguish meaningful blows from the others inflicted out of savagery, to create pain and humiliation, and which often resulted in death. A slap like Eddy’s was akin to the friendly smack you give a dog or the whack you adminsiter to a donkey to convey or reinforce an order or prohibition. Nothing more in short than a non verbal communication. Among the many miseries in the Camp, blows of this nature were by far the least painful. Which is equivalent to saying that our manner of living was not very different from that of donkeys and dogs“. In the context of the utter suffering that people go through in the Camps words like these cannot fail to move a reader. Yet through the book I never found Mr.Levi breaking the restraint and being anguished. A calm and all knowing flow of words is what one gets to see

As time moves on and newer generations replace the older ones it is but natural that these tragic incidents start fading from the collective memories of public. In the process there is every chance that people get tempted to repeat history. The writings of authors like Primo Levi have the capacity to act as an antidote for this potential relapse. While on the topic… I cannot but recall a wonderful essay by Howard Zinn titled …”A Larger Consciousness” — where he cautions against the dangers of limiting the spirit of condemnation of the holocaust related horrors only to Jews and the need for including all forms of large scale atrocities into this scheme of condemnation.

That Primo Levi is an extraordinary writer and is a seminal contributor to the holocaust literature is very evident. I look forward to reading his other books “If This Is A Man“, “The Truce” , “The Periodic Table“, “The Drowned And The Saved” — both for their reportedly moving quality and more importantly as a stark reminder of the extraordinarily horrible proceedings of a dark chapter in the history of mankind

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