For me books are sacred. I barely ever venture to give a person a review of the book if i have enjoyed it. Mainly because i don’t think i will do the book justice. I don’t think telling a person the story or words can capture the essence, spirit or romance of the book.
But i have ventured on a review – mainly because i think it is *ahem* my duty to let people know of these two books. I think that they are not as well-known as they deserve to be.
Both Books – Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk and Chowringee By Shankar – capture the essence of society at a point of time.Coincidentally both are translated into English. The translation is smooth and at no point do you feel that the language is not doing justice to the book which is often the case with a lot of translations.
Chowringee takes u to Calcutta probably sometime after independence…where u can explore Calcutta at a time where foreign liquor was not so easily available, where even “modern” indian still women wore sarees even though they have moved to chiffon, where foreign dancers were a rarity.
A young not so affluent boy takes up a job in one of the best hotels in Calcutta where he observes society – the rich who come to stay or dine at the hotel, the people who work in the hotel – their lives and relationships are depicted. The characters in the movie- Sata Bose, Marco polo, and Karabi Guha remain with u much after you put down the book. I read somewhere that the book mirrors to some extent the life of some of the socialites of that time.
While the book may not have an obvious story line, it very beautifully weaves the thought process of this young boy, his sensitivities towards people and relationships against the backdrop of a newly independent india.
Museum of Innocence is set in Turkey in the 70’s and 80’s and tells the story about a young man from a rich family in Turkey, who falls in love with a distant relative from the impoverished part of society. While the story is about how he pines for this girls – i love the tit bits on the turkish society which is the background of this story. Like the bits on the civil wars in Turkey, the curfew, the affluent turkish woman’s thought process on losing their virginity. It beautifully weaves in Turkey’s passage into modernity and the thought process of youth battling between modern thoughts from the west and their traditional learnings.
In MOI, the narrator and hence the *hero* of the story who is engaged to a suitable girl from the society falls in love with a not so suitable shop girl. He continues to remain engaged while he collects mementoes of his love with the shop girl. He loses both of them and continues to work at getting back the shop girl for eight years – visiting her family, attempting to fulfill her dreams hoping she relents while continuing to pick up little mementoes of their love.
What happens next would give away the whole story…but to all around, his life would seem that of a loser, a person who pines and lost both the suitable girl and the other one – an unfulfilled love and life…but on his death-bed, he says – Tell all that i lived a happy life.
The book is beautiful – the language depicts thoughts which u might have had, it simply portrays the turkish society and you can see it all in your mind’s eye. Like Chowringee, the characters remain with u for a long time after u put it down.
Disclaimer – these are my interpretations of the books and i might not be accurate…but accurate or not these are fantastic books…to own and re-read.
p.s. please clap for me i have learnt to upload images into a post