Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Herzog by Saul Bellow — Nov 14, 2014

Herzog Viking, NY, 1964. First Edition

Heroes in the ancient mould do not figure in modern novels. In this famous novel, Herzog, by one of America’s best-known modern authors, Saul Bellow, the protagonist struggles from the early pages after being thrown out of his own house by a scheming wife of great allure, who declares she never loved him and then makes off with her husband’s house and friend.


We see Herzog picking up the pieces and going on with a life given to much philosophical rambling thought on everything under the sun; most important of all – how to live the good life using every wise guide from Spinoza to Nietzsche. His students in class find his lectures growing more strange and his looks more distant and self-absorbed. Is he going crazy? Is he the paranoid, depressive victim, or are his enemies doing him in?

KumKum and son, Reuben (visiting)

Fortunately for him, two endearing women take turns to bless him with their solicitous affection, and as the novel ends he is considering whether he will be third-time lucky if he marries.

Thommo, Gopa, Talitha, & Pamela

Here are the readers at the end of the session:

Zakia, Talitha, Priya, Thommo, KumKum, Shahnaz, Gopa, Joe, Pamela, Ankush, Vijay

Monday, October 13, 2014

Poetry Reading – Oct 10, 2014

Ten of us met in the verandah outside the dining hall of the CYC, for the Library was still stowed with furniture. The variety of poems was amazing.

Pablo Neruda  was the pen name, later assumed name, of the Chilean poet-diplomat

Six readers chose British poets, two American, one Finnish, and one Chilean. Since Oct 2014 was the month of Dylan Thomas’s centenary, three readers decided in his favour.

Dylan Thomas portrait 1934 by Alfred Janes

One of the happy outcomes of our poetry sessions is to make the readers aware of the great wealth of poetry and the unusual people who follow the generally unremunerative profession of poetry. Particularly, when that profession is pursued to the exclusion of sidelines, as happened in the case of Dylan Thomas.

Sunil, Joe, Pamela, Thommo, Talitha, KumKum, Sreelatha, Preeti, Sujatha
(Mathew unseen behind the lens)

We had the experience for the first time of encountering poets who wrote poems primarily for children. For a full account of what we read and the discussions, click below.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham – Sep 29, 2014

Of Human Bondage, by W. Somerset Maugham first edition,

Regarding Somerset Maugham, the critic, Cyril Connolly, wrote: "If all else perish, there will remain a story-teller's world from Singapore to the Marquesas that is exclusively and for ever Maugham, a world of verandah and prahu which we enter, as we do that of Conan Doyle's Baker Street, with a sense of happy and eternal homecoming." (Sunday Times, 19 December 1965).

Ten readers gathered in the Lounge of the Yacht Club to read passages from Of Human Bondage that gave them insights into the wounded psychology of the hero, Philip Carey, and at the same time, provided searing picture portraits of life in all the places he lived.

Sujatha, Pamela, & KumKum

The hero ceaselessly adventures in quest of meaning in life and pursues his early passion to draw and paint in Paris. En route he encounters numerous women, all different, all capable of attracting (and repelling) Philip. His education in life continues, and he fails at almost everything he tries. His torment at the hands of women, are as torturous as the buffets of fortune he suffers.

Sunil, Thommo, Govind, Mathew, & Gopa

Readers discussed Maugham’s other novels and short stories. Nearly everyone had read some Maugham story or novel in the time of youth, but returning to it in maturity gave completely new insights. What was only a story became a saga of self-discovery.

Here we are at the end of the session.

 Pamela, Sunil, Govind, Thommo, Mathew, Priya, Gopa, Joe, KumKum, Sujatha

 To read the full account, click here.