Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Rabindranath Tagore's 150th Birth Anniversary - 11: Short Stories, Second Selection

KumKum, Soma, and  Padmanabha continue their reading of Tagore's short stories with a second tranche consisting of the following selection by KumKum: Taraprasannar Kirti, Denapawna, The Postmaster, Ginni and Muktir Upaye. In what follows you can read their reflections upon a fresh reading of the stories by clicking below.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Amitav Ghosh reading from “River of Smoke”– June 23, 2011

Amitav Ghosh was at his eloquent best reading from River of Smoke, his latest novel. The six pages he read are a gripping account of a storm that almost upset a ship carrying the largest consignment of opium ever from India to China, for Seth Bahramji, a Parsi trader.

 Diya Kar and Amitav Ghosh launching 'River of Smoke' in Kochi

Taj Vivanta Malabar and Penguin Books hosted the packed event. The author expressed his delight at being in Kerala again, the place where he took his first writerly steps in 1983 with the book The Circle of Reason.

Amitav Ghosh reads from 'River of Smoke'

After the reading there were many questions from the audience, to which Amitav Ghosh responded with expansive details on the history of opium trading. He said the wealth accumulated in the 19th century in Europe and USA could be traced largely to the opium trade. It was carried on by the British Crown as the main purveyor of opium to the world. China was victimised by opium addiction, bitterly against the will of Chinese authorities, by gunboat diplomacy – which led to the Opium Wars.

Priya, Kamli and KumKum

A major character in the book is the city of Canton itself, now called Guangzhou. It was a most fascinating city and Amitav Ghosh has elaborated its exciting cosmopolitan life with meticulous care for its history.

Thommo, Geetha and Minu

Readers have some wonderful writing in store, and a yarn told with great verve and engrossing detail. The signing of books went on for a good hour after the reading – a testament to the avidity of Kochi readers and the natural courtesy of Amitav Ghosh who chatted on as though time could stretch forever into the future. But alas, the evening came to an end. Wonderful snacks too and a great revelation of pastries by the chef, Sudipto Chaudhuri.

KumKum tries to appropriate Amitav Ghosh, based on their shared Rangoon background

For a full account, click below.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy – June 17, 2011

 Thomas Hardy - Maggie Richardson's Bronze Bust
Tess was long awaited by KRG readers since it promised the same fervent reading pleasure and exciting debate as Madame Bovary. We follow the adventures of a lovely heroine, endowed with spunk and intelligence, asking Hardy to be our guide and plot the way.

Priya, Zakia, Amita, and Bobby listening to Talitha
With murder at the beginning and the end, and sensuous descriptions of his beloved landscape in 'Wessex', Hardy mesmerises the patient reader. His delight in words and the overpowering scenes in the book beguile and charm us.

Thommo reads about the first penetration

There's a reckoning at the end, but how sad we feel for Tess — "the most bewitching milkmaid ever seen."  Whom should we rail against? Angel Clare for the “hard deposit” in his unforgiving soul; Alec whose rape elides the tender romance; or Hardy who knew beforehand and deliberately plotted Tess's end? One of the readers was so exercised that she wrote a verse to assign the blame.
Zakia, Talitha, Soma, Rini, Amita, KumKum, Priya, Thommo, Joe

For a full account click below.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Rabindranath Tagore's 150th Birth Anniversary - 10: Short Stories

Buddhadev Bose in an essay on Tagore's stories wrote:
All of Bengal can be found here. Not only facts, but her living soul: we feel her pulse as we turn the pages of galpaguccha.

Others have pointed out the accuracy of the stories as social documents. William Radice, a modern translator (Rabindranath Tagore – Selected Short Stories, Penguin Books) says:
Tagore's capacity for scepticism, mockery, and hard-headed rationality contributes just as much to his realism as does his awareness of grief and suffering.

Three enthusiasts (Soma and KumKum of the KRG, and Padmanabha Dasgupta) have devoted themselves in this 150th anniversary of Rabindranath's birth to reading and examining fifteen of his stories. Their commentary on the first five selected (Nashta Neer, Streer Patra, Monihara, Konkal and Kshudito Pashan) follows below.