Saturday, July 26, 2008

Crime and Punishment

"But here begins a new account, the account of a man's gradual renewal, the account of his gradual regeneration, his gradual transition from one world to another, his acquaintance with a new, hitherto completely unknown reality. It might make the subject of a new story - but our present story is ended."

With these lines, I closed the book that I have enjoyed most in all my readings until now. Yes. I can say, with assurance, that Crime and Punishment far surpassed all books I have read until now. It was a wonderful experience and I am proud of the fact that I did not gulp the story down but rather read it in intervals allowing the feelings wash over me before picking the book up again to read yet another equally entertaining and very well written segment.

If you have ever noticed my blog, you would not have missed my quote of Ernest Hemingway which more than adequately describes the foremost reason I love books. When I finished reading C&P I felt that I had just come back from Petersburg - the filth and the dinginess somehow still sticking to my clothes. I felt like I spent the past two weeks with Raskolnikov.. and listened to his rants about his life.. Never before has a book so strongly drawn me in. So before have i felt so transported.. Solely for this fact, i am adding this book to my list of books read in my orbis terrarum challenge as well..

There's nothing to say about the plot of C&P..the world knows it by now. A young college student murders a wicked old woman (who he thinks doesn't deserve to live) and the book describes the events leading to, during and following the Crime. A simple plot but only Dostoevsky can make it feel like your story rather than an article you read in the newspapers. The confusion that goes through Raskolnikov's head regarding the motive of the crime (once he's already done with it) is totally understandable.. does it do it for the money? does he do it just to test himself to see if he is capable of doing such a thing? does he do it because he thinks she is useless and doesn't deserve to live? does he do it so he could eventually put the money to better use to help the people who are in dire need of it? these questions haunt you and you can see throughout the book that they haunt him too!

And then, there is the question of the fever.. did he commit the crime in delirium because of his illness or does he get ill because he's so stressed because of the crime?

To add to that, there's porfiry Petrovich who sees right through raskolnikov and provides scene by scene account of it (as though he witnessed the whole event)..sometimes you wonder if he is so perspicacious or if the guilt and confusion is that apparent from raskolnikov's behaviour.

I could go on and on with this list but in short, there's just one point that i am trying to make here. the motives for the crime and the punishment are not straightforward and i don't think they can ever be.. doestoevsky has brought that point out beautifully. There is usually never just one reason that leads to the murder.. it is always an interplay of various factors and is usually prompted by the right circumstance.. and then, the punishment. i think raskolnikov was punished for his actions.. but i don't think the eight year jail sentence was the punishment.. i think the biggest punishment was the two weeks he spent after the crime wandering around the city, trying to get back to normalcy and realizing that he could never ever live in peace with this on his mind..

I did not start the book with any sort of expectations. I knew it was going to be a tough read. I had heard about C&P all my life and I expected it to be laborious but I was willing to take up the task.. If you have been following my blog, you would know who I am doing this for. But what I found was an unexpected surprise. The book was not complicated. It had an element of suspense throughout the book which made you want to keep going on and on and the introduction of so many characters and so many parallel stories that were somehow tied together kept you interested through the 500 odd pages.

As you can see, i am totally floored by the book! I would love for everyone to read this book.. i would love to be able to discuss this with others and see what they thought of it..
if you've read this book.. leave me a comment as to what you thought of it.. and if you havent already read it, try to pick it up sometime and see if you enjoy it as much as i did!!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

My Father's Paradise

My Father's Paradise - A Son's Search for His Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq.
By Ariel Sabar
Genre: NonFiction

This was the first advance reading copy I have ever received. My heart jumped the minute I saw the book. I have been totally into the Orbis Terrarum challenge and this would be yet another perfect book to read for the challenge! I would like to classify this book as both Iraq and Israel. When you read this book, you will totally understand my reasons for doing so..

The book was all that I had expected and even more. If i had to rate it on a scale from 1 to 10, i'd easily give it a 30! I guess that's enough to tell you that I totally enjoyed reading the book!

Ariel Sabar is an American Journalist and this is the story of his family. Ariel Sabar grew up in Los Angeles. His dad was an immigrant from Israel and a professor at UCLA. Though the literary community and everyone who had ever know Yona Sabar praised him, Ariel could never understand what it was they saw in his dad - he was just a man who refused to fit into the society he lived in. An awkward sense of dressing, bad self-given haircuts, accented english, etc were the only things he saw in place of the humility, warmth, patience, etc that everyone else seemed to see in Yona.

Who is this Yona Sabar, you might wonder. He is currently a very distinguished professor (of Hebrew) in the Near Eastern Languages and Cultures department of UCLA. His field of interest - Neo-Aramaic. Yes, the language that we think is nearly extinct.. He has been almost single handedly turning the filed of Neo-Aramaic from an exotic marginal curiosity to one commanding serious and growing attention at major academic conferences. He has the reputation of being the laguage's foremost expert and gives speeche about the language in many conferences around the world.

My Father's Paradise is Ariel Sabar's attempt to bridge the gap between his dad and himself. He figured that the way to make up would be to truly understand his dad and his origins. He digs deep to gather any bit of information he could gather about his dad, his grand parents, great grand parents, etc.. By discovering his past, he created a link that somehow never existed between father and son.

I totally enjoyed reading the book. There were parts in the beginning of the book that seemed to drag forever about historical facts and that kinda bored me a little. It seemed to be too much information. But as the book progressed, I totally fell in love with it. You cannot help but like Yona. Not just like..but totally admire. What he has achieved in his lifetime is something many can only dream about. But as Ariel points out, to gain anything in life, you need to make sacrifices. Yona had to make his share of sacrifices too. Leaving home to come to the US in pursuit of a dream is not easy.

I could go on and on about the book but that wouldn't do the book justice. But I would totally recommend this book to anyone who loves reading. A book that teaches us to be proud of our cultures and to respect and admire what we came from. A book that makes us want to search deep into our souls and find out who we actually are and where we came from..

A very powerful novel and I am sure everyone who likes to read will totally enjoy this..

Now all that you would have to do is wait for Sepember 16th 2008 and grab your own copy of My Father's Paradise!!