Friday, August 22, 2008

Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer - Life & Music by V.Sriram & V.Subramanian

Carnatic Classical Music World, remembered on of the titans of modern era musian on the occasion of his birth centenary. July 25 was the birth Centenary of Semmangudi Srinvasa Iyer and there were remembrance functions across country , followed with concerts, presentations and lectures.

One of the prime disciple of Semmangudi, V .Subramaniam along with V Sriram ( who has already written two books related to carnatic music to his credit) have come out with a coffee table book on Semmangudi which was released on occasion of his centenary. There are many books already in circulation on Semmangudi, either focussing on him entirely or dedicating ample pages to his life and music. Voices Within ( by T M Krishna and Bombay Jayshri) and a book by Pala C K Ramachandran ( another disciple of Semmangudi) are few recent books that have come out.

This book , as the name suggests , has written as two parts. LIFE, on his childhood, his growth as a musician and his life in Travancore written by V.Sriram and MUSIC, about the musical journey of Semmangudi with insight to his preparation, delivery and the constant yearn to improve his music , written by V.Subramaniam. I found the biographical part of the book, like reading my school history book. It is something like a data collection in a chronological manner and presented to the reader. There was hardly anything new about the man. I am not sure if this was the intention. But going by the true sense of BIOGRAPHY writing, this part does not impress very much. However, the second part of the book, which focusses on his music and his style was different. Being a follower of Semmangudi for a long period of time, accompanying him on concerts , singing along with him as vocal support, Subramanian is able to tell us the many aspects of the musician.

The book also contains abundant quantities of photographs, many of which are new to me. I dont understand the concept of 'Coffee Table book' very well. May be this was written with an intention of light reading, instead of a serious in depth study or biographical details. In that way, they have done a good job.

There is a complimentary CD with some of the gems of Semmangudi, along with the book.

Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer - Life & Music
V.Sriram & V.Subramanian
148 Pages
Rs 790/ ( there was a discount during the centenary celebrations.. Not sure if it is continued.!! )

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Laughing Policeman - Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo

Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo are renowned detective / crime fiction writers from Sweden. As a team, they had written a series of 10 novels about the detectives of Swedish Police Force with a character Martin Beck in the lead. This is the 4th novel in the Martin Beck series by this Swedish crime writers, The Laughing Policeman was derived from the song with the same name by Charles Jolly. This novel was later made into a Hollywood movie ( the only one to be made a movie in Hollywood) re-planting the plot into San Francisco from Stockholm.

While the police force in Stockholm was trying to manage the agitation by anti-war demonstrators in front of the US Embassy, on a rainy evening ; when Martin Beck with his colleague Kollberg where tussling away on a game of chess, there was a brutal murder taking place in another part of Stockholm, where a gunman has killed 8 people of a bus ( including the driver) and seriously wounded another.

One of the passenger in the bus, was a fellow detective Stenstrom, who works under Martin Beck , who was sitting along side a nurse who was returning home presumably after work. All passengers were identified except one. The hope of getting some input from the injured person was also unsuccessful , as he did not survive the operation. But before that he managed to answer 'drnk' and 'koleson'. The question remained as what was Stenstrom doing in that bus and while Off-Duty, why was he carrying the gun with him ? Who was the lady seated next to him and what was their relation ? Who is the unidentified person ?

The story develops as we read typical to any crime novel and more and more information are revealed, without any real break through in the investigation. And as it happens in every detective fiction, there are enough twist and the clue of this murder is linked a previous unresolved murder mystery which happened 16 years back of one Portuguese nymphomaniac.
I haven't read many crime fictions to comment, but haven't seen many with a double murder investigation. That must be the reason for its popularity in Sweden as well as the other part of the world.

Critics says, Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo are confirmed communists and all their writings have something to indicate this fact. The demonstration in front of the US Embassy was discussed as one of such example. I am not too sure. However, after many 'heavy readings' I find it immensely enjoyable and relaxing.

The Laughing Policeman
Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo - Translated by Alan Blair
Harper Perennial
248 Pages

Other reads : Eurocrime

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Night Train to Lisbon - Pascal Mercier

Many a times, our life takes a turn triggered by some incident of no significance. Raimund Gregorius , a 57 year old High school teacher of classical languages, encounters a mysterious portuguese woman in the street who writes a phone number on his forehead, on a rainy day. Something has changed in him for ever. He leaves the class room mid-way through the lecture leaving the books on the table. He goes to the known Spanish bookstore, which he used to visit with his , now separated wife, and was drawn to a book written by Portuguese philosopher, doctor and writer Amadeu de Prado. The book keeper reads the initial paragraphs of the text to him and he is so moved by these words, takes the book home and starts reading the pages with the help of dictionary.

Mundus, as he is known, leads drab solitary life after his marriage ended years ago. The only person he talks to is his friend and eye-doctor Constantie Doxiades, a fellow insomniac, with whom he also engage in the game of chess.

Fascinated by the book of Prado, and driven by the words of Aurelis (Do wrong to thyself, do wrong to thyself, my soul; but later thou wilt no longer have the opportunity of respecting and honouring thyself. For every man has but one life. But yours is nearly finished, though in it you had no regard for yourself but placed thy felicity in the souls of others. . . . But those who do not observe the impulses of their own minds must of necessity be unhappy) Gregorius takes a train to Lisbon, in order to discover the man whose writing has made such an impact on him. He visits the places and sites of the writers life, meets and interview his sisters, friends, lovers and others in the resistive movement. Prado, a praciticing doctor, was active in the movement against the oppressive regime of Salazar, before coming to a sudden death caused by aneurysm. From his diaries and other unpublished writing , which he obtains from the people he meet, the life of Prado is revealed to Gregorius as well as to the reader. To me every one of the character is trying to re-discover themselves in the process, including Gregorius.

A very appealing book and well structured, the writer ( who is a professor of philosophy), explores the life of another intellectual through Gregorius. For me, every individual is trying to escape from something that is locked within themselves. Gregorius trying to escape his monotonous life and the walls of his school where he has spent his entire life , first as a student and later as a teacher. The others associated with Prado is still trying to get out the haunting memories and the effect of Prado from their life. His sister Adriana, gets the clock stopped to the time of his death, for 31 yrs, until Gregorius set it to motion again, along with her life. Many of them hand over unread, unopen envelops of Prado's writing not wanting read them. Everyone associated with him as a distinct image of him, guided by admiration and awe for his prowess.

Pascal Mercier, is able to develop the portrait of a man, as a doctor, an intellectual , a member of resistance movement, a son who is in awe of his powerful father, a husband and brother. More so, an individual who in his time influenced a large number of people through his profession and words.

Swiss author Pascal Mercier (actually: Peter Bieri) was born in 1944 and also teaches philosophy. It is not surprising that the book has a lot of philosophical and intellectual side of writing. It is already a huge success in Europe, and has been translated to English in the beginning of the year. Initial pages are a bit laborious and not very convincing ( his sudden change of thoughts and leaving the teaching job and taking a train to Lisbon on an impulse etc), as I think it was rather forced on the reader, but once the writing gets into the real mission of exploring the character of Amadue Prado, it gets interesting and falls in line with the quite a simple story.
Night Train to Lisbon
Pascal Mercier ( Real Name : Peter Bieri) translated by Barbara Harshav
Grove Atlantic
Rs 323/-
436 Pages

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Homecoming - Harold Pinter

I'm not a great reader of play and drama styled literature. I prefer to see them perform as they are meant to be written for performance. I haven't had any great read of screenplay or literature written for theatre performance.

I haven't had much of read of Harold Pinter either. Having got a chance to come across few of his works, I have decided to make a go at it. The homecoming, supposed to be one of his strong works and the most popular.
Ted, a University Professor in the US and Ruth, his wife for 6 years are coming to his ancestral home in UK. His father , uncle and brothers are still staying at this place ( a rather all-male household). A traditional working class family ( butchers and taxi drivers ) life , where the over educated academic brings his wife for the first time and the reactions from the family members are the theme of the play. Very surrealistic or satirist way of looking at the middle class family values. Every characters behaves as if unguided by the writer, given freedom to be on their own self. The deep down real personalities are out in the open causing disturbance to the very existence of family values.

I understand that this is an extremely popular stage play and a performance view can help me to understand this work better. I am determined to read more books of this writer.

The Home Coming
Harold Pinter
Eyre Methien
82 Pages