Monday, June 30, 2008

Tiare - Celestine Hitiura Vaite

Materena's professional life is at its best times. Her job at the local radio where she hosts a call-in show is a hit in the island and she enjoys a new found celebrity status. Pito, spends his time between his work and drinking with his friends. Pito, never manages to get the respect of his wifes family. Their family life is on wrecks and like many of the Tahitian households are on the verge of breakage, though he doesn't realise this.

Pito's, life has taken a complete change after the surprise arrival of his alleged grand daughter, dropped by the relatives of the mother, a girl who fled the house to live her life. The girl is supposed to be the daughter of their son, seeded by him in her girlfriend during a single day ( as he claim) of loving. Materena ( the grandmother) , did not know what to do when the girl was handed over and the lady left the house without giving Materena sufficient time to contemplate and decide. Their attempt to reach out the family of the girls mother, turned out to be futile, as the neighbourhood and the family were too difficult for Pito and Materena to handle.

The girl, Tiare ( named after the famous flower), helps Pito to re-live his neglected time of fatherhood, and changes the man in him, making him more responsible and 'friendly', to the surprise of his wife. During one of the new found vacation which Pito and Materena enjoys, she even tells him that she find a "friend" in him when she looks at his face. After 25 years of marriage and many times near collapse, they started finding out the better days of their married life. They even manages to bring in some responsibility and respect to their young estranged son. The author in one of her interview remarked "``Men become fathers early and they're hopeless, but they become fabulous grandfathers,''.

It was just three days before when Materena decided that enough is enough. Materena, like many other people in Tahiti, fills her fathers name in the register as "unknown". Born to a Tahitian women, fathered by one of the French Officer on Duty, Materena wants to find who her father is and wants to confront him. One of the reason to accept the girl as their own, is because of this, as Materena does not want another girl in Tahiti to fill her school register with fathers name as unknown.

This book is the 3rd in the series ( Breadfruit and Frangipani were released earlier) by this Tahitian writer. I haven't read the other two, but never felt they were the pre-requisite to read this. She has a very different style of writing, soft with lot of local expressions , french et al. Impressive work of fiction, recommended for serious readers , as it opens up the curtain ( to use the words of Kundera) to the Tahitian life.

The other major book I have read about the Tahiti is by Mario Vargas Llosa, "The way to Paradise" based on the life and times of Paul Gauguin in Tahiti. Now, that has got very little to do with Tahitian people, except his multiple girlfriends and wife, but more on the painter himself. It is also written by a Peruvian writer. This book on the other hand is written by a Tahitian author ( though she is living in Australia now) and is about the Tahitian way of life. The only tales you get to hear from these tourist destinations are those of the travellers, who understand things from their perspective.

Here is an informative page about the author and a brief interview. Interesting to know she writes her book on a kitchen table. ``The kitchen is vibrant and I usually have a stew cooking or I am baking muffins,'' she says.

Celestine Hitiura Vaite

Arrow Books
250 Pages
Rs 352

Friday, June 20, 2008

Brida - Paulo Coelho

The latest book released from the celebrated Brazilian writer, was a huge disappointment, to say the least. Not sure if it is a new book, or it was translated to English recently.

Paulo Coelho, thread the path of the witchcraft, magic, spiritualism once again. After reading his last novel 'the witch of portobello' , this seems to have set in similar environment. Searching for one's own soul mate, the teacher , elaborated and meaningless rituals, and the similar playground in Ireland. The last one was set in England.

The novel follows Brida, 21 yr old Irish girl, in her quest for knowledge and wisdom. She is interested in the magic and its various form and wanted to know about the truth of the world. She meets a man in the deep of forest, who teaches her about overcoming fears and taking risks in life to follow one's own path. There is another teacher, who is a witch, takes her through the tarrot reading and to dance to the tune of the world. As she seeks her destiny and wisdom through teachers, one a man, who finds his soul mate in her , who practices the 'tradition of Sun, which helps the followers to learn things on their own; and the other a women , a witch, who practices the 'tradition of moon'.

Brida, as she seeks her knowledge and wisdom, trying to balance between the different traditions, , and the desire to become a witch. Wicca, the lady who practices the 'tradition of the moon' takes her through the process and rituals preparing her to become a witch. Novel ends with an elaborated ritual sequence at the end of which, Brida is conferred to the tradition of witches.

This has all the ingredients of a typical Paulo Coelho novel. Witchcraft, rituals , forces of nature, finding your own destiny, love, spirituality, re-incarnation , unlocking your Gift and what not. Weak story line, no insight apart from few sentences to be used at the end of your mail closing like , "if you want to learn about some thing, plunge in to it" or " life is about making mistake, the world move only on mistakes" etc..

Even for a hard fan of Paulo Coelho, this novel will be a let down. What was his last book which worth a mention ? " Devil and Miss Prym "?


Paulo Coelho

Harper Collins

266 Pages

Rs 295/-

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Rebels - Sandor Marai

This is the 3rd novel for me of this famous Hungarian writer, of the three that had been translated to English. Sandor Marai is a prolific writer, who got the due recognition posthumously, surprised the world with the translation of Embers, considered to be one of the best novelist of 20th century. Rebels, written in 1930, is about four high school boys few days/weeks prior to their graduation, during the period of World War I. Graduation not only means the end of their school days, but a definite entry into the military service as like other men of their country. The town, already without grown up men, who are fighting the battle at the frontiers; Fathers, elder brothers, uncles all have been in at the battle field. Women folks, young kids yet to qualify for military service , old people and other invalids ( injured in action and people with lost limbs) fills the inhabitants of the town. The four boys are drawn together, not by the common interest they carry, but more as the common rebellious nature of their life. The alienation from the family, from the friends and the rest of the society is what binds them together. War wounded elder brother of one of them and a mysterious actor of the local theatre form the part of their extended circle. They indulge in activities of rebellious nature and of frustration and anger. The game soon become serious as it gets into small time thefts from their home. This events soon gets out of control and this has become a point of n return. The distrust and frustration grows among the members before a disastrous end.

A novel about adolescent life and coming of age. Though there is no direct impact of the on going war in their life, the effect of this is visible in the behaviour of people.

Its about the despair and fear of imminent call of duty and the loss of hope. Very negative emotion through out the book with no hopes of recovery. Not a single character shows signs of optimism and happiness. There is an urge to continue playing the childhood pranks, against the certain demand to grow up as men and join the forces. With subtle under currents of love and homosexuality, comradeship , this is more about distrust and treachery.

Though an interesting book of a great writer, it does not live up to the expectations what 'Embers' and 'Casanova ..' raised.
Here is a blog site dedicated to this writer , have a look.
Here is what David Leavitt ( author of "Indian Cleark") has to say about this book and Sandor Marai..
278 Pages
PS : some interesting thoughts from the book:
"What he wanted to know was why the books existed. Do they bring joy to those who write them ? He felt they must cause more pain than pleasure. And if you write something down, is it then lost, does it have nothing to do with you anymore, is there a only a memory , an ache left behind, as if you had been found guilty of something, something for which sooner or later, you would have to answer."