Posts Tagged ‘Book-review’
I claimed my writer. Then dropped him.
It is heartening that this book is available in English. The author has already been rewarded with a nobel prize and lives a secluded life apparently, only giving an occasional interview in English to BBC- beyond the German. The writer also attracted a lot of controversy when he admitted a few years back of his Nazi connection. So, like all great writers he remains an enigma to all.
The book is phenomenal and brilliant, for it tries to capture through fiction the life in Germany just before and after the war broke out. This Gunter does through a character Oskar who is about to reach his teens but has decided not to grow beyond three years. He is dwarfish or gmomish and shatters his drums when he is angry by beating; or glasses around him through his screams: sometimes to steal from a shop, with the help of an accomplice, at others to just express his anguish. He, apparently grown up, narrates the story of his younger age, from a mental asylum where he has found the refuge. So it is mostly through symbols, that the author builds a powerful character.
Oskar is a product of a bad mothering by a promiscuous and glutonous woman, who indulges him by never stopping his destructive drum-shattering or glass-breaking. Oskar often leaves her behind to her lover, whom he suspects of being his father, to go out beating his drum in anguish, at their secret hide in a hotel. She pays for the glasses or the drums Oskar destroys. She kills herself by over eating when she is pregnant for the second time, leaving the Oskar, the drummer boy, almost orphaned. A spoilt child he is, he is anguished more at the loss of his mother. There is no one to indulge him anymore, while he apparently resents the mere sympathy he receives from some of the people for becoming a motherless young boy. Both: his suspected and presumptuous fathers, a Polish and a German, offer him almost no help. His legal or presumptive father though, mostly tried earlier to entertain his mother by cooking food for her and tolerating the presence of her Polish lover, when she was alive. His suspected father, Jan Bronski, later got excecuted while he was out only to help Oskar repair his drum, as he and thirty other people were founnd defending the Polish post office from a Nazi attack, where he worked, and France did not come to defend the Poland, author notes, in spite of the treaty. Oskar keeps the guilt secret while he recoves from a sickness in the aftermath of this incident.
A few friends Oskar made become victims of different tragidies. One of them, Herbert, dies while trying to make love to a statue in a museum, while another, a jewish Toy-shop owner, who supplies him drums, disappears in the hands of Nazis. A mutual friend of Oskar and Herbert, ..’Meyn, who is an SA man, who drank gin all day and played trumpet too beautifully for words’, before he joined the SA and was seen burning a synagogue of the town, comes to mourn the death of Herbert and reaches for the gin bottle after a long time and played the trumpet too beautifully for words. But being a Nazi he was denied sympathies at the funnerel and he returns to his apartment to kill his four pet cats. He was expelled for this cruelty against animals by the Nazi party. Oskar is truly alarmed at the loss of his toy-seller friend and worries if the world is going to remain toyless in future. These poignant discription crisply sum up the situation the writer tries to depict. There is very little of the literature available in English, by a German author, which tried to deal with the genesis of the rise of Nazism and the consequent world war. This book is a very brave attempt by Gunter Grass, to deal with this subject, which still creates strong reactions within Germany and beyond. He has done it with remarkable style which does not get lost even in the translation. Though the details in the books are at times tiresome and alien, particularly when a reader is not aware that the author is talking about a town that German occupied during the war and currently is in Poland; but they are authentic and deserve the attention of the people who are interested in the authors like Gunter Grass. He is a very celebrted author but less read than he merits, perhaps.
A mental asylum is the safest place to be, when the society is collapsing around you and a war is going on. Seeing the world theough an eye of a three year old is another security. Growing up is precarious. More so, with the sexual awakening of Oskar through a slightly older girl Maria, a sister of his late friend Herbert, who assists his presumptive father Matzerath at his shop; which the author has described using symbols like respberries, fizz powder, mashrooms and growing up an eleventh finger. The eleventh finger that could not read or write but signs for him. This pleasure does not last long, as Oskar discovers Maria actively copulating with Matzerath, unlike as with him, as she prtended to be asleep when Oskar sleeps with her. But there is a consolation for him, that he has beaten Matzerath once again, in impregnating Maria just by more than a week. Oskar takes satisfaction in the fact that Matzerath could not impregnate his mother either, and he is a son of Jan Bronski, the charming Polish man executed by the firing squad. The pregnancy of Maria made Matzerath marry him and she becomes his step mother. This comes as a shock to the reader lulled by symbolic erotic details, that flow in a poetic language, of the Oskar’s sexual awakening. Once again Oskar has been wronged totally.
When Maria comes to visit him at the mental asylum, Oskar puts the fizz powder in her left hand and puts his saliva on it and urges her to lick it, like she used to do earlier. Maria looks genuinely shocked and hastily leaves in tears. The death of Stalin is hinted at, in the meanwhile, in their conversation.
Before Oskar had unsuccessfully tried to abort the child of him Maria was bearing by once causing her fall and then by trying to stab her protruding belly. Oskar has an affair with a woman in his neighborhood, in order to forget the venella smell of Maria, whose husband was a gay as per Oskar, who later commits suicide. He describes the faminine smells of different women with symbols and passion. Without any remorse, Oskar goes on living a life that is as blighted emotionally as it was physically; giving the world what it has given him. In a way his life is a story of survival and continuation of his beliefs in spite of others. He does not end up looking a considerate and kindly person. But there is not enough reasons to blame him for what he made of himself, if one thinks that Oskar was not particularly a decent man.
As a literature this book may remain a masterpiece for a long time to come, and an inspiration for the people who think a good work of art is the medicine of the troubled souls.
Money Meltdowm, A book by Judy Shelton; A review of a book that falls short of being golden than the goldApril 4, 2010
I laboured over past several months to read this book, which is more like a reaserch paper. But it ends up, almost after every few pages, emphasising the perils of the world economy due to the fluctuating value of the US dollar, often those that are artificially orchestrated by the political compulsions of the USA, as per the author. And, as a recourse, Judy insistently recommends that each dollar printed in paper should be backed by gold, as was the prectice before, when the paper currency was brought into practice.
I have yet to finish the last quarter of the book, as the author seems to be repeating her recommendations in it as well. The basic flaw of the book or of the author, is her ability to exclude the potential of human ingenuity and enterprise. Today, or at anytime, the worth of the US dollar is nothing else but the credibility of the US as an economy, which is continuously renewed by its technology and industry. A bad politics has less chance of prevailing in the USA, as it is the domain of some tyrannical systems still ruling people promising falsely a security and prosperity, in some parts of the world. These nations are often in league with each other to limit the influence of the USA. But the only way it could be possibly done is playing the way the USA does.
Imagine a scenerio when, anxious about the plummeting value of dollar of late, Bill Gates sells all his stocks in the market and starts buying gold. Which China has done lately. Being a communist nation Chinese seem to have excellant instincts of a capitalist one-however, to have invested so heavily in the US economy, expecting security. Once it is threatened, they go the reliable way of keeping gold as reserve. Though they still have one of the highest reserves of US dollars in cash. Had that cash backflowed into the US economy, which so liberally buys the Chinese manufactures, the stability of Dollar might not have been questioned. Though there have been discovered some inconsistencies in the domestic economical and financial institurions of the the USA, the current crisis there has a foreign dimension that could not be ignored. That is why it is the USA, which will continue to show the way one has to follow, notwithstanding the economical mess into which it is presently: That the trade has to be a two way process, and mutual confidence between the trading partners is the only security, which gold can not sustitute. The USA has a system that will correct its flaws without needing a cover up hopefully, but the same can not be said about its trading paretners, who sit on the largest reserves of its money-which speculatively is spread more outside of the USA. And When it has no choice but to print more of the dollars, it is not only the USA that will suffer.
So, the book of Judy is a limited perspective for someone looking for security of the capital one has acquired. If one goes by its logic, after the earth’s reserve is exhausted, the mankind will explore the other planets only to harvest gold. Which is only valuable for its scarcity and does not compensate for technological development and enterprise of its product. Imagine what happens if we find a planet where gold is available as we have iron or aluminium here. But the book is informative, for someone looking for how the existing monetary system of the world came into being. It is more about history than about insight into the future, in a very crafty prose. This I said almost fiftten years of the said book published. May be when it was published it was a remarkable book.
I will try to read the remainder of it. Though the book falls short of being golden than the gold.