Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Tom Sharpe - The Gropes, Sep 23, 2016

It is good to acknowledge how well the group of readers was shepherded by Priya during the absence of Joe, a testament to the lasting worth of communal reading that every committed member of KRG feels. For Joe's part the absence was more physical than mental, for his mind would keep coming back to how he could contribute from afar. It is now established that the simple use of the Dropbox enables full-fledged participation at a distance, barring only the real-time interaction.

Priya, Pamela, Zakia, Shoba, KumKum

Humour has been a part of the annual reading at KRG, and some of our readers have a predisposition to this genre, which makes people laugh about absurd situations and improbable causes. Those have been the most enjoyable sessions, though who could miss the abundant humour in novels such as Herzog? As Dickens said: There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.

Priya, Pamela, Zakia

We congratulate Shoba who has been appointed to the Alliance Française in Kochi and will assume her job there from Oct 2016. We hope she remains a faithful reader at KRG. We are sad to bid goodbye to Gopa, a diligent reader who left Kochi to join her husband, Michael, in Bengaluru, after an ailment. Raksha will miss her even more than we do.

Preeti wearing costume jewelry her sister designs and markets

KumKum has been a cheerleader for KRG events and her being on Whatsapp has increased the intensity of exchange between readings. Her readiness to keep in touch with the readers has been a source of convivial togetherness which I want to acknowledge. 

Sunil. Zakia, Thommo, KumKum, Priya, Shoba, Pamela, Preeti, Joe

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Poetry Session — August 5, 2016

Present: Priya, Thommo, Saraswathy, Zakia
Virtual Readers: Joe Cleetus, KumKum Cleetus
Guest: Shehnaz

The session opened with Joe’s sonorous reading of poems by Christopher Marlowe. He had selected poems from different works of the playwright and poet and the listeners were treated to an excellent choice that made them laugh and delight in the master’s works, so much so that Thommo remarked that Joe seemed to be enjoying himself thoroughly in faraway California. The remark was because of Joe’s choice of the poem where the poet enjoys an amorous afternoon.
I clinged her naked body, down she fell, 
Judge you the rest: being tired she bad me kiss, 
Jove send me more such afternoons as this

KumKum’s recorded poems were heard next. She read Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai. The work Everyone should have an abandoned Garden ...was relished by the members. 

Poems read in absentia felt more poignant and the virtual voices invited  keener listening and created a heightened atmosphere. Of course, live renditions cannot be replicated but virtual recordings caught members' attention strongly. Her final poem on the Garden of Eden drew a wry comment from Thommo, who said that all hell broke loose in the Garden of Eden that we know of!

The dropbox feature was tried at the reading and succeeded to a great extent in rendering the session paperless. This was discussed but everyone realised that a greater degree of familiarisation is needed.

Saras read Margaret Atwood’s poems, remarking that she was a difficult author to read. Her poems too were quite dark. She chose You Begin because of the images of the poet playing with toys with her daughter. Moving In The Burnt House, the other poem, had very stark imagery. The members recalled the reading of her novel The Blind Assassin and of the many twists and turns in the novel, which made ti almost almost like a Hindi TV serial. Saras mentioned that Atwood was the poet laureate of Canada.

Thommo said that he had been extremely tied up with the deadline for editing a book and hence could not devote much time to selecting and researching a poet. He read two poems - Atlantis - A Lost Sonnet by Eavan Boland and Litany by Billy Collins, an American poet laureate. 

Atlantis was discussed with reference to other cities that have disappeared in time, like El Dorado and Dwaraka. Thommo said Atlantis was the myth of nostalgia. He had been to the present town of Dwaraka on his road trip across India in a Tata Nano at the western tip of India. Saras narrated in brief the mythological story of the disappearance of Dwaraka, for Zakia and Shehnaz wished to know  the historical references.

Zakia read Dylan Thomas, Do Not Go Gentle Into The Good Night, a popular poem with members which has been read several times before.  Please consult the List of earlier poems read, which is on our website when selecting.

Priya read American poet and Pulitzer winner Conrad Aiken. She chose the poet as his birthday fell on the day of the reading, August 5. 

Though she chose Aiken on a happy coincidence, she was happy to have chanced upon a contemporary of Eliot and Ezra Pound. She told the members about his life history with a horrific childhood incident that never overtly came across in the poems, but can be discerned in subtle psychological interpretations. 

She read - Chance Meetings, All Things Lovely and Music I Heard; the latter has been set to music by a number of composers including Leonard Bernstein and Henry Cowell.  

Priya felt that the poems had the laboured feel of a Romantic/Victorian strain, unusual for a poet writing in the 20th century. Here is an example: 
Come back, true love! Sweet youth,
But goldenrod and daisies wither,
And over them blows autumn rain,
They pass, they pass, and know not whither.

The reading ended with all the five readers agreeing that the session, though poorly attended, was a fine evening at which Literature was the winner once again. 

Priya felt that it all turns on a few like-minded members making that extra effort so that the group, though of little note in the present-day commercial world, is kept going and enriches the lives of the members.

The Poems 

Joe — Christopher Marlowe

To listen to this segment in Joe's recorded voice click here.

A much anthologized poem of Marlowe’s, The Passionate Shepherd to His Love was recited by me in March 2011. At this session I want to take up more of Marlowe’s poetic and dramatic work.

Like Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe was born of humble parents, and went to grammar schools. He was brilliant, won a scholarship to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, got his BA and displayed the bold tendencies that later developed. He did afree translation in couplets of  Ovid’s Amores concerning the delights of illicit love. Marlowe wrote many plays. Tamburlaine, The Jew of Malta and Doctor Faustus are the most prominent. Shakespeare knew Marlowe’s work well and his plays contain many references to Marlowe, e.g. ’Come live with me and be my love’ which is the opening of Marlowe’s famous poem The Passionate Shepherd to His Love occurs exactly in The Merry Wives of Windsor by Shakespeare. There are many parallels in their lives. Both were humbly born in 1564. They attended good grammar schools where the curriculum was primarily: Latin, literature, rhetoric and oratory. Like Shakespeare Marlowe started early in the theater directly as a dramatist. 

He took his BA at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. While there Marlowe translated Ovid into rhyming couplets using the diction and rhythms of common speech:
In summer’s heat and mid­time of the day 
To rest my limbs upon a bed I lay, 
One window shut, the other open stood, 
Which gave such light as twinkles in a wood, 
Like twilight glimpse at setting of the sun 
Or night being past, and yet not day begun. 
Such light to shamefaced maidens must be shown, 
Where they may sport, and seem to be unknown. 
Then came Corinna in a long loose gown, 
Her white neck hid with tresses hanging down: 
Resembling fair Semiramis going to bed 
Or Laïs of a thousand wooers sped. I snatched her gown, being thin, the harm was small, 
Yet strived she to be covered therewithal. 
And striving thus as one that would be cast, 
Betrayed herself, and yielded at the last. 
Stark naked as she stood before mine eye, 
Not one wen in her body could I spy. 

What arms and shoulders did I touch and see, 
How apt her breasts were to be pressed by me? 
How smooth a belly under her waist saw I? 
How large a leg, and what a lusty thigh? 
To leave the rest, all liked me passing well, 
I clinged her naked body, down she fell, 
Judge you the rest: being tired she bad me kiss, 
Jove send me more such afternoons as this. 

Marlowe travelled abroad apparently on missions for the queen. His first Play, Dido, Queen of Carthage, may have been written around the time he was absconding from Cambridge although registered for the MA. His first great public success was Tamburlaine the Great written after he left Cambridge at the age of 23. He had a violent streak in him and killed a man called Bradley in a fight by stabbing him. Marlowe had several other violent encounters in London, all recorded. 

Marlowe indeed could take flight in rhetoric. Here he is in Tamburlaine Part 2, Act II, Scene VII, lines 21­29:
Our souls, whose faculties can comprehend
The wondrous architecture of the world,
And measure every wandering planet's course,
Still climbing after knowledge infinite,
And always moving as the restless spheres,
Will us to wear ourselves, and never rest,
Until we reach the ripest fruit of all,
That perfect bliss and sole felicity,
The sweet fruition of an earthly crown.

Marlowe could write verse of great beauty too:
With milk­-white harts upon an ivory sled
Thou shalt be drawn amidst the frozen pools, 
And scale the icy mountains' lofty tops,
Which with thy beauty will be soon resolv'd: 
(Tamburlaine Part One, Act I, Scene II, lines 98­101)

Here is a speech from Doctor Faustus written by a self-professed atheist. It shows that Marlowe whatever his personal beliefs, could transcend with his imagination and inhabit  the mind of a religious person:
FAUSTUS: Ah, Faustus.
Now hast thou but one bare hour to live,
And then thou must be damn'd perpetually!
Stand still, you ever­moving spheres of heaven,
That time may cease, and midnight never come;
Fair Nature's eye, rise, rise again, and make
Perpetual day; or let this hour be but
A year, a month, a week, a natural day,
That Faustus may repent and save his soul!
O lente, lente currite, noctis equi!
The stars move still, time runs, the clock will strike,
The devil will come, and Faustus must be damn'd.
O, I'll leap up to my God!­­ —Who pulls me down?­­—
See, see, where Christ's blood streams in the firmament!
One drop would save my soul, half a drop: ah, my Christ!­­—
Ah, rend not my heart for naming of my Christ!

[O lente, lente currite, noctis equi!  is a lover’s plea that the night’s horses will delay the coming of the dawn.]

Hero and Leander tells the two lovers’ story only up to the point they consummate their passion. He probably wanted to take it further but death intervened. It also has passages that speak of the desire of man for man. Here is a passage depicting homoerotic love as Neptune the sea-­god envelops the naked limbs of Leander when he swims the Hellespont:
He watched his arms and, as they opened wide
At every stroke, betwixt them would he slide
And steal a kiss, and then run out and dance,
And, as he turned, cast many a lustful glance,
And threw him gaudy toys to please his eye,
And dive into the water, and there pry
Upon his breast, his thighs, and every limb,
And up again, and close beside him swim,
And talk of love.Leander made reply,
"You are deceived; I am no woman, I."

Two much quoted lines about spontaneous love come from this poem:
Where both deliberate, the love is slight: 
Who ever loved, that loved not at first sight?

One fateful day Marlowe went for lunch with others and after the meal there was a dispute as to who should pay the bill. Marlowe struck first but Frizer, his opponent, wrenched the dagger from Marlowe and gave him a deep wound over his right eye. Marlowe died instantly. And thus came the inglorious end of a dramatist and poet whose few works that survive have such merit, that many think he would have been a worthy rival to Shakespeare had he not died before he was 30.

Thomas Nashe called him ‘one of the wittiest knaves that ever God made.’

KumKum — poems by Yehudi Amichai

To listen to this segment in KumKum's recorded voice click here.

I will be reading 4 poems by the Israeli poet, Yehuda Amichai, who lived from 1924 to 2000. He was born in Germany. In 1935, he and his parents migrated to Pales
tine. He spent the rest of his life in Israel. Amichai is considered one of Israel's important poets. He wrote only in colloquial Hebrew, thus, starting a movement to popularize the ordinary spoken language of the common man. 

CJ Mathew, one of KRG's star members, introduced us to Amichai when he read some of his poems, two years ago.   The poems I chose are gleaned from the collection The Poetry of Yehuda Amichai by Yehuda Amichai (Author), Robert Alter (Editor). It is a thick volume, and most of the poems are translated by Robert Alter himself, and some are by other famous poets, such as Ted Hughes.   

Poem # 1 
Everyone Needs an Abandoned Garden in His Life
Everyone needs an abandoned garden in his life 
or and old house with peeling walls, 
everyone needs another forgotten world. 

People look with great longing 
at a landscape and name it with body parts: 
back of the mountain, foot of the mountain, shoulder of the mountain. 
Men of war, too, designate targets for heavy fire 
with gentle words: 
the nipple, the hollow, the crotch, the meeting point. 

For everyone needs an abandoned garden in his life 
(Adam and Eve knew everyone needs such a garden) 
or an old house, 
or at least one locked door 
that will never open again. 
(translated by Robert Alter)

Poem #2 
# 62 (among Amichai's numbered poems) 
Departure from a place where you had no love 
includes the pain of all that did not happen 
together with the longing for what will happen after you leave. 

On my last evening I saw on the floor 
of the balcony across the street 
a small and exact square of light 
bearing witness to great emotions 
which have no limits. 

And when I went early in the gray morning to the railway station 
many people were passing me 
carrying lists of wonderful strange names 
which I'll never come to know, 
postmen, tax collectors, municipal clerks 
and others. Perhaps angels. 
(translated by Amichai with Ted Hughes) 

Poem #3 
Sorrow and Joy
Sorrow and joy alternating 
like water and vapor and ice, 
sorrow and joy from the same substance. 
We knew. 

Love and unlove, two colors 
in a single rose, it's wonderful, 
an achievement of the rose's cultivator 
whose name stays with the rose. 

Many years later we met again 
without pain, each of us with our own tranquility. 
That was the Garden of Eden 
but it was also hell. 
(translated by Robert Alter) 

Poem #4 
# 48 (among Amichai's numbered poems) 
There came upon me a terrible longing 
like people in an old photograph 
who want to be back among the others 
who are looking at them 
in the good light of a lamp. 

Here in this house I think 
how love has turned into friendship 
in the chemistry of our life. 
I think about friendship which clams us for death 
and how our lives are like single threads 
without any hope of being rewoven 
into another cloth. 

Out of the desert 
come muffled sounds, 
dust prophesies dust, and airplane 
fastens above our heads 
the zipper of a huge bag of fate. 

And the memory of a girl I once loved 
moves along the valley tonight, like buses —
many lighted windows passing, many her faces. 
(translated by Amichai with Ted Hughes) 

Atlantis—A  Lost Sonnet          

How on earth did it happen, I used to wonder
that a whole city—arches, pillars, colonnades,
not to mention vehicles and animals—had all
one fine day gone under?

I mean, I said to myself, the world was small then.
Surely a great city must have been missed?
I miss our old city —

white pepper, white pudding, you and I meeting
under fanlights and low skies to go home in it. Maybe
what really happened is

this: the old fable-makers searched hard for a word
to convey that what is gone is gone forever and
never found it. And so, in the best traditions of
where we come from, they gave their sorrow a name
and drowned it.
(Eavan Boland, 1944)


You are the bread and the knife
The crystal goblet and the wine. 
He proceeds in this way, adding:

You are the dew on the morning grass

and the burning wheel of the sun.
However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter, 
or the house of cards.
And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.

It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of the rain on the roof.
But don’t worry, I’m not the bread and the knife.
You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and — somehow — the wine.
(Billy Collins)

Priya — poems of Conrad Aiken (1889-1973)

All Lovely Things
ALL lovely things will have an ending, 
All lovely things will fade and die, 
And youth, that's now so bravely spending, 
Will beg a penny by and by. 
Fine ladies soon are all forgotten, 
And goldenrod is dust when dead, 
The sweetest flesh and flowers are rotten 
And cobwebs tent the brightest head. 
Come back, true love! Sweet youth, return!— 
But time goes on, and will, unheeding, 
Though hands will reach, and eyes will yearn, 
And the wild days set true hearts bleeding. 
Come back, true love! Sweet youth, remain!—
But goldenrod and daisies wither, 
And over them blows autumn rain, 
They pass, they pass, and know not whither. 

Chance Meetings
IN the mazes of loitering people, the watchful and furtive,
The shadows of tree-trunks and shadows of leaves,
In the drowse of the sunlight, among the low voices,
I suddenly face you,

Your dark eyes return for a space from her who is with you,
They shine into mine with a sunlit desire,
They say an 'I love you, what star do you live on?'
They smile and then darken,

And silent, I answer 'You too--I have known you,--I love you!--'
And the shadows of tree-trunks and shadows of leaves
Interlace with low voices and footsteps and sunlight
To divide us forever.

Saras — poems of Margaret Atwood

Morning in the Burned House 
In the burned house I am eating breakfast. 
You understand: there is no house, there is no breakfast, 
yet here I am. 

The spoon which was melted scrapes against  
the bowl which was melted also. 

No one else is around. 

Where have they gone to, brother and sister, 
mother and father? Off along the shore, 
Their clothes are still on the hangers, 

their dishes piled beside the sink, 
which is beside the woodstove 
with its grate and sooty kettle, 
every detail clear, 
tin cup and rippled mirror. 

The day is bright and songless, 

the lake is blue, the forest watchful. 

In the east a bank of cloud  
rises up silently like dark bread. 

I can see the swirls in the oilcloth, 
I can see the flaws in the glass, 
those flares where the sun hits them. 

I can't see my own arms and legs 
or know if this is a trap or blessing, 
finding myself back here, where everything 

in this house has long been over, 
kettle and mirror, spoon and bowl, 
including my own body, 

including the body I had then, 
including the body I have now 
as I sit at this morning table, alone and happy, 

bare child's feet on the scorched floorboards 
(I can almost see) 
in my burning clothes, the thin green shorts 

and grubby yellow T-shirt 
holding my cindery, non-existent, 
radiant flesh. 

You Begin
You begin this way: 
this is your hand, 
this is your eye, 
this is a fish, blue and flat 
on the paper, almost 
the shape of an eye 
This is your mouth, this is an O 
or a moon, whichever 
you like. 
 This is yellow. 

Outside the window 
is the rain, green 
because it is summer, and beyond that 
the trees and then the world, 
which is round and has only 
the colors of these nine crayons. 

This is the world, which is fuller 
and more difficult to learn than I have said. 

You are right to smudge it that way 
with the red and then 
the orange: the world burns. 

Once you have learned these words 
you will learn that there are more 
words than you can ever learn. 

The word hand floats above your hand 
like a small cloud over a lake. 
The word hand anchors 
your hand to this table 
your hand is a warm stone 
I hold between two words. 

This is your hand, these are my hands, this is the world, 
which is round but not flat and has more colors 
than we can see. 

It begins, it has an end, 
this is what you will 
come back to, this is your hand.

Zakia — poem of Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night, 
Old age should burn and rave at close of day; 
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. 

Though wise men at their end know dark is right, 
Because their words had forked no lightning they 
Do not go gentle into that good night. 

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright 
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay, 
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. 

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight, 
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way, 
Do not go gentle into that good night. 

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight 
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay, 
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. 

And you, my father, there on that sad height, 
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray. 
Do not go gentle into that good night. 
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Gopa — poem by Denise Levertov (1923-1997)

In California During the Gulf War  
Among the blight-killed eucalypts, among 
trees and bushes rusted by Christmas frosts, 
the yards and hillsides exhausted by five years of drought, 
certain airy white blossoms punctually
reappeared, and dense clusters of pale pink, dark pink —
a delicate abundance. They seemed 
like guests arriving joyfully on the accustomed 
festival day, unaware of the year’s events, not perceiving 
the sackcloth others were wearing. 

To some of us, the dejected landscape consorted well 
with our shame and bitterness. Skies ever-blue, 
daily sunshine, disgusted us like smile-buttons. 
Yet the blossoms, clinging to thin branches 
more lightly than birds alert for flight, 
lifted the sunken heart 
even against its will. But not 
as symbols of hope: they were flimsy 
as our resistance to the crimes committed 
— again, again — in our name; and yes, they return, 
year after year, and yes, they briefly shone with serene joy 
over against the dark glare 
of evil days. They are, and their presence 
is quietness ineffable — and the bombings are, were, 
no doubt will be; that quiet, that huge cacophony 
simultaneous. No promise was being accorded, the blossoms 
were not doves, there was no rainbow. And when it was claimed 
the war had ended, it had not ended.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Emily Brontë — Wuthering Heights, July 1, 2016

Wuthering Heights, first Edition 1847

Reading of Wuthering Heights, July 1, 2016
Present: Thommo, Sunil, Shoba, Kavita, Saras, Priya, Joe (remote by Dropbox), Talitha (remote by Whatsapp)
Absent: Zakia, Ammu, KumKum (away abroad), Gopa (away to Bengaluru), Pamela (sick with redeye), Preeti
Guest: Shalini Dominic

This account of the Wuthering Heights reading is offered by Priya, our faithful recorder, on behalf of fellow members of KRG. She confesses that KRG is close to her heart, but she found it difficult to do justice when it came to furnishing an account of the lively reading by the group. The book was discussed animatedly. It was an extremely enjoyable discussion and every reader present voiced opinions vigorously, even the soft spoken and gentle Shoba.

Emily Brontë,in an oil painting by her brother, Branwell

Wuthering Heights, the classic novel by Emily Brontë, is listed at No. 13 in the top 100 books by The Guardian 

“Emily Brontë's windswept masterpiece is notable not just for its wild beauty but for its daring reinvention of the novel form itself,” declares the critic Robert McCrum in that article. But several of our readers did not accord it that acclaim upon reading it. The two members who selected the book, Talitha and Pamela, were not present to defend their choice against the criticism leveled by the readers. 

Thommo cast doubts over several aspects of the story. He wondered, for example, how Heathcliff earned his wealth and returned as a rich man three years after his mysterious disappearance. The story does not elaborate Heatcliff's acquisition of wealth, and his transformation from a rough yokel to a gentleman comes about through no process described in the novel.

Thommo, Shoba

The love showered on the 'stray' orphan Heathcliff by Mr. Earnshaw was deemed incongruous when contrasted with his rough behaviour toward his own son, Linton. 

The repetition of names of characters adds to confusion – Shobha and several others made this point. Occasionally it is not clear who is being referred to, who is speaking, and who is narrating.

The marriage of Catherine Earnshaw to Edgar Linton for advancement and refinement, motivated by class prejudice, and betraying Catherine's avowed fondness for Heathcliff was seen as strange, though not inexplicable. Another curious detail is that no church service is mentioned in the book and only the crude references to religion made by Joseph in passing bear on Christianity. He is clearly obsessed, a fundamentalist in modern terms.

Kavita read the passage where Heathcliff returns to find Catherine married to Edgar. He is desperate to have a meeting with her and hangs around their home, Thrushcross Grange, until Nelly the maid agrees to act as go-between and arranges a tȇte-a-tȇte.

Sunil read the passage where Cathy asks Nelly to keep her desire to marry Edgar Linton secret. People in the two houses married each other and had no contact with the world beyond. This isolation, according to Sunil, was a reflection of the isolation in the Brontë sisters' lives which was the reason for them to remain unmarried. 

The whole story is played out between the two houses, Wuthering Heights (WH) and Thrushcross Grange (TG), and the people residing there, having the same names over two generations. 

The distance between the two houses was discussed and also the landscape in which WH and TG were set. Did a low mountain range separate the two mansions? The presence of boggy areas, crags, and open spaces, on the moors covered in frost in winter was seen to add to the coincidences. The story “moved in circles.” 

Shoba read the description Wuthering Heights and said that the house had a looming Gothic presence, malevolent in character. 

Heathcliff’s acquisition of TG too was unclear, even as his becoming master of WH by clearing Earnshaw’s gambling debts seemed unconvincing. Nelly’s flip flop and narration too was found to be full of holes. 

The visitor Lockwood’s arrival at WH, to recuperate was seen as strange, since people generally go to the bright seaside scene for recovery, unless Lockwood had consumption, which is nowhere indicated. 

The sickly Linton was discussed and so was Joseph’s biblical language. Joseph was Heathcliff’s trusted man. Was the relationship of Heathcliff and Catherine a spiritual? This was briefly discussed and the consensus was against the hypothesis. 

Talitha sent her reading passage by Whatsapp; it was taken from Wuthering Heights - Open Guide To Literature, by Graham Holderneff. Holderneff speaks about the book’s avant-garde style of story telling where the reader’s attention is focused on the narrative; the author remains entirely in the background. Holderneff defines this as 'the objectivity of impersonal narrative and the subjectivity of the first person.' 

Talitha pronounced Lockwood an unreliable narrator, and Nelly too, she felt, cannot be counted on for a faithful retelling of the tale. Talitha pointed out the Gothic elements in the novel. She urged readers to notice Joseph’s interesting use of dialectal language, and to pay attention to the number of verbs used by him in Chapter 3. 

Saras said she ploughed through the novel dutifully and “hated it.” 

Saras, Sunil

Priya liked the language and the descriptions of the house and the landscapes. The complexity of Heathcliff’s character makes for good psychoanalysis, attempting to understand how his torture in youth at the hands Hindley shaped his lifelong desire for revenge.

Joe sent his reading as a voice file from Boston. Priya thought it was excellent. 'It almost felt like being in a theatre watching two actors,' she said. It was sweet of her to say we were missed (Joe and KumKum, that is), but the absence was felt on both sides. Joe's was a connected reading of three passages, weaving three scenes from the novel (The grave-digging scene, the final meeting between Heathcliff & Catherine, and the death of Heathcliff) into a narrative with commentary. 

Another point that was discussed was about Emily Brontë and her brother writing the novel together, which is why it led to so much confusion.  The novel was published under a pseudonym and after her death, Charlotte  Brontë published an amended second edition which is now the standard.

The end to a very lively session came when the group, barring two – Shoba and Priya – wondered why the book is regarded as a classic? Why is it read at all?

Sunil, Kavita, Priya, Saras, Shalini, Shoba, Thommo

Newcomer Shalini Dominic had read the book in school and expressed her desire to be part of KRG. She is an avid reader.

Shalini, Kavita



‘Now, who is that?’ asked Mr. Heathcliff, turning to Cathy. ‘Can you tell?’ ‘Your son?’ she said, having doubtfully surveyed, first one and then the other. 

‘Yes, yes,’ answered he: ‘but is this the only time you have beheld him? Think! Ah! you have a short memory. Linton, don’t you recall your cousin, that you used to tease us so with wishing to see?’ 
‘What, Linton!’ cried Cathy, kindling into joyful surprise at the name. ‘Is that little Linton? He’s taller than I am! Are you Linton?’ 
The youth stepped forward, and acknowledged himself: she kissed him fervently, and they gazed with wonder at the change time had wrought in the appearance of each. Catherine had reached her full height; her figure was both plump and slender, elastic as steel, and her whole aspect sparkling with health and spirits. Linton’s looks and movements were very languid, and his form extremely slight; but there was a grace in his manner that mitigated these defects, and rendered him not unpleasing. After exchanging numerous marks of fondness with him, his cousin went to Mr. Heathcliff, who lingered by the door, dividing his attention between the objects inside and those that lay without: pretending, that is, to observe the latter, and really noting the former alone. 
‘And you are my uncle, then!’ she cried, reaching up to salute him. ‘I thought I liked you, though you were cross at first. Why don’t you visit at the Grange with Linton? To live all these years such close neighbours, and never see us, is odd: what have you done so for?’ 
‘I visited it once or twice too often before you were born,’ he answered. ‘There— damn it! If you have any kisses to spare, give them to Linton: they are thrown away on me.’ 
‘Naughty Ellen!’ exclaimed Catherine, flying to attack me next with her lavish caresses. ‘Wicked Ellen! to try to hinder me from entering. But I’ll take this walk every morning in future: may I, uncle? and sometimes bring papa. Won’t you be glad to see us?’ 
‘Of course,’ replied the uncle, with a hardly suppressed grimace, resulting from his deep aversion to both the proposed visitors. ‘But stay,’ he continued, turning towards the young lady. ‘Now I think of it, I’d better tell you. Mr. Linton has a prejudice against me: we quarrelled at one time of our lives, with unchristian ferocity; and, if you mention coming here to him, he’ll put a veto on your visits altogether. Therefore, you must not mention it, unless you be careless of seeing your cousin hereafter: you may come, if you will, but you must not mention it.’ 
‘Why did you quarrel?’ asked Catherine, considerably crestfallen. 
‘He thought me too poor to wed his sister,’ answered Heathcliff, ‘and was grieved that I got her: his pride was hurt, and he’ll never forgive it.’ 
‘That’s wrong!’ said the young lady: ‘some time I’ll tell him so. But Linton and I have no share in your quarrel. I’ll not come here, then; he shall come to the Grange.’ 
‘It will be too far for me,’ murmured her cousin: ‘to walk four miles would kill me. No, come here, Miss Catherine, now and then: not every morning, but once or twice a week.’ 
The father launched towards his son a glance of bitter contempt. 
‘I am afraid, Nelly, I shall lose my labour,’ he muttered to me. ‘Miss Catherine, as the ninny calls her, will discover his value, and send him to the devil. Now, if it had been Hareton!—Do you know that, twenty times a day, I covet Hareton, with all his degradation? I’d have loved the lad had he been some one else. But I think he’s safe from her love. I’ll pit him against that paltry creature, unless it bestir itself briskly. We calculate it will scarcely last till it is eighteen. Oh, confound the vapid thing! He’s absorbed in drying his feet, and never looks at her.—Linton!’ 
‘Yes, father,’ answered the boy. 
‘Have you nothing to show your cousin anywhere about, not even a rabbit or a weasel’s nest? Take her into the garden, before you change your shoes; and into the stable to see your horse.’ 
‘Wouldn’t you rather sit here?’ asked Linton, addressing Cathy in a tone which expressed reluctance to move again. 
‘I don’t know,’ she replied, casting a longing look to the door, and evidently eager to be active. 
He kept his seat, and shrank closer to the fire. Heathcliff rose, and went into the kitchen, and from thence to the yard, calling out for Hareton. Hareton responded, and presently the two re-entered. The young man had been washing himself, as was visible by the glow on his cheeks and his wetted hair. 
‘Oh, I’ll ask you, uncle,’ cried Miss Cathy, recollecting the housekeeper’s assertion. ‘That is not my cousin, is he?’ 
‘Yes,’ he, replied, ‘your mother’s nephew. Don’t you like him!’ Catherine looked queer.
‘Is he not a handsome lad?’ he continued. 
The uncivil little thing stood on tiptoe, and whispered a sentence in Heathcliff’s ear. He laughed; Hareton darkened: I perceived he was very sensitive to suspected slights, and had obviously a dim notion of his inferiority. But his master or guardian chased the frown by exclaiming— 
‘You’ll be the favourite among us, Hareton! She says you are a—What was it? Well, something very flattering. Here! you go with her round the farm. And behave like a gentleman, mind! Don’t use any bad words; and don’t stare when the young lady is not looking at you, and be ready to hide your face when she is; and, when you speak, say your words slowly, and keep your hands out of your pockets. Be off, and entertain her as nicely as you can.’ 


‘Is he a ghoul or a vampire?’ I mused. I had read of such hideous incarnate
demons. And then I set myself to reflect how I had tended him in infancy, and watched him grow to youth, and followed him almost through his whole course; and what absurd nonsense it was to yield to that sense of horror. ‘But where did he come from, the little dark thing, harboured by a good man to his bane?’ muttered Superstition, as I dozed into unconsciousness. And I began, half dreaming, to weary myself with imagining some fit parentage for him; and, repeating my waking meditations, I tracked his existence over again, with grim variations; at last, picturing his death and funeral: of which, all I can remember is, being exceedingly vexed at having the task of dictating an inscription for his monument, and consulting the sexton about it; and, as he had no surname, and we could not tell his age, we were  obliged to content ourselves with the single word, ‘Heathcliff.’ That came true: we were. If you enter the kirkyard, you’ll read, on his headstone, only that, and the date of his death. 

Dawn restored me to common sense. I rose, and went into the garden, as soon as I could see, to ascertain if there were any footmarks under his window. There were none. ‘He has stayed at home,’ I thought, ‘and he’ll be all right to-day.’ I prepared breakfast for the household, as was my usual custom, but told Hareton and Catherine to get theirs ere the master came down, for he lay late. They preferred taking it out of doors, under the trees, and I set a little table to accommodate them. 
On my re-entrance, I found Mr. Heathcliff below. He and Joseph were conversing about some farming business; he gave clear, minute directions concerning the matter discussed, but he spoke rapidly, and turned his head continually aside, and had the same excited expression, even more exaggerated. When Joseph quitted the room he took his seat in the place he generally chose, and I put a basin of coffee before him. He drew it nearer, and then rested his arms on the table, and looked at the opposite wall, as I supposed, surveying one particular portion, up and down, with glittering, restless eyes, and with such eager interest that he stopped breathing during half a minute together. 
‘Come now,’ I exclaimed, pushing some bread against his hand, ‘eat and drink that, while it is hot: it has been waiting near an hour.’ 
He didn’t notice me, and yet he smiled. I’d rather have seen him gnash his teeth than smile so. 
‘Mr. Heathcliff! master!’ I cried, ‘don’t, for God’s sake, stare as if you saw an unearthly vision.’ 
‘Don’t, for God’s sake, shout so loud,’ he replied. ‘Turn round, and tell me, are we by ourselves?’ 
‘Of course,’ was my answer; ‘of course we are.’ 
Still, I involuntarily obeyed him, as if I was not quite sure. With a sweep of his hand he cleared a vacant space in front among the breakfast things, and leant forward to gaze more at his ease. 
Now, I perceived he was not looking at the wall; for when I regarded him alone, it seemed exactly that he gazed at something within two yards’ distance. And whatever it was, it communicated, apparently, both pleasure and pain in exquisite extremes: at least the anguished, yet raptured, expression of his countenance suggested that idea. The fancied object was not fixed, either: his eyes pursued it with unwearied diligence, and, even in speaking to me, were never weaned away. I vainly reminded him of his protracted abstinence from food: if he stirred to touch anything in compliance with my entreaties, if he stretched his hand out to get a piece of bread, his fingers clenched before they reached it, and remained on the table, forgetful of their aim. 
I sat, a model of patience, trying to attract his absorbed attention from its engrossing speculation; till he grew irritable, and got up, asking why I would not allow him to have his own time in taking his meals? and saying that on the next occasion I needn’t wait: I might set the things down and go. Having uttered these words he left the house, slowly sauntered down the garden path, and disappeared through the gate. 
The hours crept anxiously by: another evening came. I did not retire to rest till late, and when I did, I could not sleep. He returned after midnight, and, instead of going to bed, shut himself into the room beneath. I listened, and tossed about, and, finally, dressed and descended. It was too irksome to lie there, harassing my brain with a hundred idle misgivings. 
I distinguished Mr. Heathcliff’s step, restlessly measuring the floor, and he frequently broke the silence by a deep inspiration, resembling a groan. He muttered detached words also; the only one I could catch was the name of Catherine, coupled with some wild term of endearment or suffering; and spoken as one would speak to a person present; low and earnest, and wrung from the depth of his soul. I had not courage to walk straight into the apartment; but I desired to divert him from his reverie, and therefore fell foul of the kitchen fire, stirred it, and began to scrape the cinders. It drew him forth sooner than I expected. He opened the door immediately, and said—‘Nelly, come here—is it morning? Come in with your light.’ 
‘It is striking four,’ I answered. ‘You want a candle to take up-stairs: you might have lit one at this fire.’ 
‘No, I don’t wish to go up-stairs,’ he said. ‘Come in, and kindle me a fire, and do anything there is to do about the room.’ 
‘I must blow the coals red first, before I can carry any,’ I replied, getting a chair and the bellows. 
He roamed to and fro, meantime, in a state approaching distraction; his heavy sighs succeeding each other so thick as to leave no space for common breathing between. 
‘When day breaks I’ll send for Green,’ he said; ‘I wish to make some legal inquiries of him while I can bestow a thought on those matters, and while I can act calmly. I have not written my will yet; and how to leave my property I cannot determine. I wish I could annihilate it from the face of the earth.’ 
‘I would not talk so, Mr. Heathcliff,’ I interposed. ‘Let your will be a while: you’ll be spared to repent of your many injustices yet! I never expected that your nerves would be disordered: they are, at present, marvellously so, however; and almost entirely through your own fault. The way you’ve passed these three last days might knock up a Titan. Do take some food, and some repose. You need only look at yourself in a glass to see how you require both. Your cheeks are hollow, and your eyes blood-shot, like a person starving with hunger and going blind with loss of sleep.’ 
‘It is not my fault that I cannot eat or rest,’ he replied. ‘I assure you it is through no settled designs. I’ll do both, as soon as I possibly can. But you might as well bid a man struggling in the water rest within arms’ length of the shore! I must reach it first, and then I’ll rest. Well, never mind Mr. Green: as to repenting of my injustices, I’ve done no injustice, and I repent of nothing. I’m too happy; and yet I’m not happy enough. My soul’s bliss kills my body, but does not satisfy itself.’ 
‘Happy, master?’ I cried. ‘Strange happiness! If you would hear me without being angry, I might offer some advice that would make you happier.’ 
‘What is that?’ he asked. ‘Give it.’ 
‘You are aware, Mr. Heathcliff,’ I said, ‘that from the time you were thirteen years old you have lived a selfish, unchristian life; and probably hardly had a Bible in your hands during all that period. You must have forgotten the contents of the book, and you may not have space to search it now. Could it be hurtful to send for some one— some minister of any denomination, it does not matter which—to explain it, and show you how very far you have erred from its precepts; and how unfit you will be for its heaven, unless a change takes place before you die?’ 
‘I’m rather obliged than angry, Nelly,’ he said, ‘for you remind me of the manner in which I desire to be buried. It is to be carried to the churchyard in the evening. You and Hareton may, if you please, accompany me: and mind, particularly, to notice that the sexton obeys my directions concerning the two coffins! No minister need come; nor need anything be said over me.—I tell you I have nearly attained my heaven; and that of others is altogether unvalued and uncoveted by me.’ 
‘And supposing you persevered in your obstinate fast, and died by that means, and they refused to bury you in the precincts of the kirk?’ I said, shocked at his godless indifference. ‘How would you like it?’ 
‘They won’t do that,’ he replied: ‘if they did, you must have me removed secretly; and if you neglect it you shall prove, practically, that the dead are not annihilated!’ 
As soon as he heard the other members of the family stirring he retired to his den, and I breathed freer. But in the afternoon, while Joseph and Hareton were at their work, he came into the kitchen again, and, with a wild look, bid me come and sit in the house: he wanted somebody with him. I declined; telling him plainly that his strange talk and manner frightened me, and I had neither the nerve nor the will to be his companion alone. 
‘I believe you think me a fiend,’ he said, with his dismal laugh: ‘something too horrible to live under a decent roof.’ Then turning to Catherine, who was there, and who drew behind me at his approach, he added, half sneeringly,—‘Will you come, chuck? I’ll not hurt you. No! to you I’ve made myself worse than the devil. Well, there is one who won’t shrink from my company! By God! she’s relentless. Oh, damn it! It’s unutterably too much for flesh and blood to bear—even mine.’ 
He solicited the society of no one more. At dusk he went into his chamber. Through the whole night, and far into the morning, we heard him groaning and murmuring to himself. Hareton was anxious to enter; but I bid him fetch Mr. Kenneth, and he should go in and see him. When he came, and I requested admittance and tried to open the door, I found it locked; and Heathcliff bid us be damned. He was better, and would be left alone; so the doctor went away. 
The following evening was very wet: indeed, it poured down till day-dawn; and, as I took my morning walk round the house, I observed the master’s window swinging open, and the rain driving straight in. He cannot be in bed, I thought: those showers would drench him through. He must either be up or out. But I’ll make no more ado, I’ll go boldly and look.’ 
Having succeeded in obtaining entrance with another key, I ran to unclose the panels, for the chamber was vacant; quickly pushing them aside, I peeped in. Mr. Heathcliff was there—laid on his back. His eyes met mine so keen and fierce, I started; and then he seemed to smile. I could not think him dead: but his face and throat were washed with rain; the bed-clothes dripped, and he was perfectly still. The lattice, flapping to and fro, had grazed one hand that rested on the sill; no blood trickled from the broken skin, and when I put my fingers to it, I could doubt no more: he was dead and stark! 


To listen to a recording click here.
In this reading I will weave three scenes from the novel (The grave-digging scene, the final meeting between Heathcliff & Catherine, and the death of Heathcliff) into a narrative with commentary. 

The expectant reader of Wuthering Heights won't find romantic scenes to thrill the heart in this novel, which has made its reputation among women readers. The hero is a disagreeable rogue, whose actions are motivated by revenge for past slights, chief of which was not to have won the woman he loved. Notwithstanding his undoubted abilities of perseverance and courage, he gives in to fretful brooding on the past, and plans his revenge on the world by wresting the property of those he hated. But he derives little pleasure after compassing the end successfully. Instead he succumbs to a fatal fixation on the woman he lost long ago and desires to be united with in death, as he could not in life. In a ghoulish scene he goes mad and digs up the grave of Cathy to lie next to her in the sod. Here is Ch 29:
‘I’ll tell you what I did yesterday! I got the sexton, who was digging Linton’s grave, to remove the earth off her coffin lid, and I opened it. I thought, once, I would have stayed there: when I saw her face again—it is hers yet!—he had hard work to stir me; but he said it would change if the air blew on it, and so I struck one side of the coffin loose, and covered it up: not Linton’s side, damn him! I wish he’d been soldered in lead. And I bribed the sexton to pull it away when I’m laid there, and slide mine out too; I’ll have it made so: and then by the time Linton gets to us he’ll not know which is which!’
‘You were very wicked, Mr. Heathcliff!’ I exclaimed; ‘were you not ashamed to disturb the dead?’
‘I disturbed nobody, Nelly,’ he replied; ‘and I gave some ease to myself. I shall be a great deal more comfortable now; and you’ll have a better chance of keeping me underground, when I get there. Disturbed her? No! she has disturbed me, night and day, through eighteen years—incessantly—remorselessly—till yesternight; and yesternight I was tranquil. I dreamt I was sleeping the last sleep by that sleeper, with my heart stopped and my cheek frozen against hers.’

The love scenes are not free of pain and sadness, characteristic of this book, and it is perhaps that which gives the tale a piquancy appealing to young women. Take the scene of their final meeting in Chapter 15:
Heathcliff, dear! you should not be sullen now. Do come to me, Heathcliff.’
In her eagerness she rose and supported herself on the arm of the chair. At that earnest appeal he turned to her, looking absolutely desperate. His eyes, wide and wet, at last flashed fiercely on her; his breast heaved convulsively. An instant they held asunder, and then how they met I hardly saw, but Catherine made a spring, and he caught her, and they were locked in an embrace from which I thought my mistress would never be released alive: in fact, to my eyes, she seemed directly insensible. He flung himself into the nearest seat, and on my approaching hurriedly to ascertain if she had fainted, he gnashed at me, and foamed like a mad dog, and gathered her to him with greedy jealousy. I did not feel as if I were in the company of a creature of my own species: it appeared that he would not understand, though I spoke to him; so I stood off, and held my tongue, in great perplexity.
A movement of Catherine’s relieved me a little presently: she put up her hand to clasp his neck, and bring her cheek to his as he held her; while he, in return, covering her with frantic caresses, said wildly—
‘You teach me now how cruel you’ve been—cruel and false. Why did you despise me? Why did you betray your own heart, Cathy? I have not one word of comfort. You deserve this. You have killed yourself. Yes, you may kiss me, and cry; and wring out my kisses and tears: they’ll blight you—they’ll damn you. You loved me—then what right had you to leave me? What right—answer me—for the poor fancy you felt for Linton? Because misery and degradation, and death, and nothing that God or Satan could inflict would have parted us, you, of your own will, did it. I have not broken your heart—you have broken it; and in breaking it, you have broken mine. So much the worse for me that I am strong. Do I want to live? What kind of living will it be when you—oh, God! would you like to live with your soul in the grave?’
‘Let me alone. Let me alone,’ sobbed Catherine. ‘If I’ve done wrong, I’m dying for it. It is enough! You left me too: but I won’t upbraid you! I forgive you. Forgive me!’
‘It is hard to forgive, and to look at those eyes, and feel those wasted hands,’ he answered. ‘Kiss me again; and don’t let me see your eyes! I forgive what you have done to me. I love my murderer—but yours! How can I?’
They were silent-their faces hid against each other, and washed by each other’s tears. At least, I suppose the weeping was on both sides; as it seemed Heathcliff could weep on a great occasion like this.

The end comes to Heathcliff after a long-drawn out period of obsessive absorption with visions of Catherine, a period during which he passes on food and waves off the doctor in Ch 34:
’He solicited the society of no one more. At dusk he went into his chamber. Through the whole night, and far into the morning, we heard him groaning and murmuring to himself. Hareton was anxious to enter; but I bid him fetch Mr. Kenneth, and he should go in and see him. When he came, and I requested admittance and tried to open the door, I found it locked; and Heathcliff bid us be damned. He was better, and would be left alone; so the doctor went away.

Next day the householders led by Nelly force their way into his chamber
I peeped in. Mr. Heathcliff was there—laid on his back. His eyes met mine so keen and fierce, I started; and then he seemed to smile. I could not think him dead: but his face and throat were washed with rain; the bed-clothes dripped, and he was perfectly still. The lattice, flapping to and fro, had grazed one hand that rested on the sill; no blood trickled from the broken skin, and when I put my fingers to it, I could doubt no more: he was dead and stark!


Ch1 Description of Wuthering Heights

“Before passing the threshold, I paused to admire a quantity of grotesque carving lavished over the front, and especially about the principal door; above which, among a wilderness of crumbling griffins and shameless little boys, I detected the date ‘1500,’ and the name ‘Hareton Earnshaw.’  I would have made a few comments, and requested a short history of the place from the surly owner; but his attitude at the door appeared to demand my speedy entrance, or complete departure, and I had no desire to aggravate his impatience previous to inspecting the penetralium.”

“One stop brought us into the family sitting-room, without any introductory lobby or passage: they call it here ‘the house’ pre-eminently.  It includes kitchen and parlour, generally; but I believe at Wuthering Heights the kitchen is forced to retreat altogether into another quarter: at least I distinguished a chatter of tongues, and a clatter of culinary utensils, deep within; and I observed no signs of roasting, boiling, or baking, about the huge fireplace; nor any glitter of copper saucepans and tin cullenders on the walls.  One end, indeed, reflected splendidly both light and heat from ranks of immense pewter dishes, interspersed with silver jugs and tankards, towering row after row, on a vast oak dresser, to the very roof.  The latter had never been under-drawn: its entire anatomy lay bare to an inquiring eye, except where a frame of wood laden with oatcakes and clusters of legs of beef, mutton, and ham, concealed it.  Above the chimney were sundry villainous old guns, and a couple of horse-pistols: and, by way of ornament, three gaudily-painted canisters disposed along its ledge.  “The floor was of smooth, white stone; the chairs, high-backed, primitive structures, painted green: one or two heavy black ones lurking in the shade.  In an arch under the dresser reposed a huge, liver-coloured bitch pointer, surrounded by a swarm of squealing puppies; and other dogs haunted other recesses.

The apartment and furniture would have been nothing extraordinary as belonging to a homely, northern farmer, with a stubborn countenance, and stalwart limbs set out to advantage in knee-breeches and gaiters.  Such an individual seated in his arm-chair, his mug of ale frothing on the round table before him, is to be seen in any circuit of five or six miles among these hills, if you go at the right time after dinner.  But Mr. Heathcliff forms a singular contrast to his abode and style of living.  He is a dark-skinned gipsy in aspect, in dress and manners a gentleman: that is, as much a gentleman as many a country squire: rather slovenly, perhaps, yet not looking amiss with his negligence, because he has an erect and handsome figure; and rather morose.