Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Back Reviews Reel: June 2016

With my first summer reads of three years ago, I travelled from India to three countries of South-East Asia. With my opening review I went a little astray because The Monkey Grammarian by Octavio Paz, the Mexican Nobel recipient of 1990, is contemporary poetry in prose with a notable philosophical dimension. My two classics of the month, Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon and Burmese Days by George Orwell, evoke life at the Royal Court of Siam, now Thailand, in the late nineteenth century and British Colonial history in Burma, now Myanmar, in the period between the World Wars respectively. The Rice Mother by Rani Manicka, on the other hand, is the story of a dutiful teenage girl from Ceylon who is married off in 1929 to a Tamil man presumed wealthy living in Malaya and becomes a clever matriarch guiding her descendants safely through difficult times.

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http://edith-lagraziana.blogspot.com/2016/06/monkey-grammarian-by-octavio-paz.html
At the same time travel memories, essay on language and philosophical discourse written in poetical prose in a study in Cambridge, England, The Monkey Grammarian by en-NOBEL-ed writer Octavio Paz evokes a past journey to the abandoned town of Galta in Indian Rajastan with its temple of ninth grammarian and Monkey God Hanumān from Hindu mythology. Memories of the impressive reliefs that tell on dilapidated walls scattered all over the place the legends from the Hindu Rāmayāṇa surrounding the God give rise to ruminations about the genesis of words and more generally of language putting in doubt that there may ever was something like a beginning and an end to it or to anything else. Along the way important opposite pairs inspire even more meditation...
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http://edith-lagraziana.blogspot.com/2016/06/anna-and-king-of-siam-by-margaret-landon.html
The story of Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon starts in spring 1862, when widowed Anna Harriette Leonowens arrives in Bangkok with her six-year-old son Louis, two servants and a dog to teach English to the children at the Royal Court of Siam. She finds that as a Westerner and moreover as a woman she isn’t really welcome, but she is determined to stand her ground and to introduce the blessings of European civilisation and of English culture in particular to people in the backward country. Over the years she wins the confidence of the children and the women in the harem as well as of the modernist King whom she all experiences as unusually intelligent and anxious to learn. Outside the classroom, however, society keeps observing ancient traditions…
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http://edith-lagraziana.blogspot.com/2016/06/burmese-days-by-george-orwell.html
The European community in British India of the 1920s as it is depicted in Burmese Days by George Orwell leads a monotonous life. Practically cut off from their countries of origin its members cling to the European way of life best they can, most of all the English among them who hold on stubbornly to mores and manners from home even when it’s unreasonable and results in incredible boredom and loneliness. John Flory is an outsider in their small circle gathering at the European Club because he doesn’t share the narrow-minded views and arrogant ways of the others towards the natives. Through the Indian doctor who is his friend he gets unwillingly entangled in political intrigue and then he falls in love head over heels with a new arrival hunting for a wealthy husband…
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http://edith-lagraziana.blogspot.com/2016/06/rice-mother-by-rani-manicka.html
In 1929, a Hindu girl from Ceylon is married off to a Tamil man more than twice her age living in Malaya and pretending to be wealthy which marks the beginning of her rise to the respected matriarch of the family portrayed in The Rice Mother by Rani Manicka. Seeing the bridegroom for the first time on their wedding day, she is horrified because unlike her he is dark-skinned and appears to be rather slow-witted. However, she trusts her mother to know best and dutifully resigns to her fate. In Malaya it turns out that he is just a poor office clerk, but she is his wife and determined to make the best of it. Soon they have twins who to her great relief don’t resemble their father at all. From then on she lives for her growing family. Then the Japanese occupy Malaya…
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