touched a chord and I read on
Coffee Stains in a Camel's Tea
Cup - Collection of Short Stories by Deepak Unnikrishnan. Publisher:
Vijitha Yapa. Reviewed by Nilooka Dissanayake
There are books and books. And not being a professional literary
critic puts me at a disadvantage. This is a new feeling. I feel
rather intimidated to review this little collection. Yet I must.
writer has touched places in my subconscious mind that I'd rather
not have anyone touch. He has reminded me of things I wished to
forget and in fact succeeded, until I read his book. My initial
reaction after finishing the first story was to put the book down.
To try to forget. But that was impossible. Who knows what else he
had to say. So, I read on.
style makes it impossible to put it down anyway. Thoughts flow like
sharks in a feeding frenzy, thrashing this way and that, moving,
chasing, gnawing at scraps. Passivity and mindlessness abandon you
and run; to the other end of the universe, even. As far as they
can from you. You cannot read inactively. So you get involved. It
makes you think and wonder. Even simple things feel as if they have
a bigger meaning than you thought before.
style reminds you, surprisingly and uncomfortably, of great writers,
of Nobel Prize winners like Knut Hamson and Saul Bellow. Especially
Hamson in Hunger.
is a dangerous assertion, coming from one who claims to be no literary
critic and given to the first published work of a young writer.
But that is what he reminds me of. That is what made me write this
review in the first place. I wanted the writer to know how I felt
upon reading his book. I think a writer of any sort wishes to have
that. And of course, the reading public needs to know about this
little book. It is one of a kind.
I like the book? My liking or dislike is a non issue. I read it
through. And I do that only with writers I respect. From whom I
feel I can learn, either about the way they think or the way they
write. This book was too close to my subconscious for personal enjoyment.
Hence I reacted. Isn't that what a good book is all about?
of likes and dislikes, let me also say I absolutely positively hated
Hunger by Knut Hamson. So did I hate Mysteries by the same author.
Bellow is a bit more palatable. Well, as palatable as bitter medicine
may be. The frenzied pace at which thoughts move make you uncomfortable.
Still you read on because you cannot put the books down till you
know the worst.
you do not skip a single sentence because you do not want to lose
even a bit of what the writer has to say. I had this very same gut
reaction to Coffee Stains in a Camel’s Tea Cup, time and time
again. His style hooks you in multiple ways that prevent you from
giving up. As far as I am concerned, Unnikrishnan did that perhaps
even better than Hamson did. And Hamson had his Nobel prize to back
say the writer is observant is an understatement. And the choice
of situation is unusual, to say the least. This writer can spin
any common yarn into an uncommonly valuable piece of cloth. You
have to read and judge for yourself. A review can only do so much.
He touched a chord in me. Chords - many chords. What follows may
give you an idea.
"Travelogue" he describes the laments of writers all over
the world. There cannot be a single writer great or small, who will
not be moved. "Many times I have tried to capture a style,
if not steal it by churning a brew of bits and pieces I have admired
over the years - starting from Blyton, all the way to a stranger's
story I recently read in The New Yorker. I had never been published,
and every time I saw someone who had finally captured someone's
eye, I frowned, then smiled, before reading it."
characters live mostly in an inner world while they bodily move
through the physical reality. It is his ability to describe that
inner world, and his views and observations of what is happening
around that makes the reading interesting. I must frankly admit,
reading the book made me jealous of his powers of observation and
then, he describes a dilemma any writer knows only too well: "Was
I any good?" he asks. Isn't that what all writers ask, time
and time again? "No, I couldn't be" he concludes. "Reading
various manuscripts made me realize that I didn't have the gift
for stories. Neither could I invent characters. I had trouble writing
in anything other than the first person. Yes, I also described anything
and everything as they were, no conditions or imagination attached."
though the book is, with 40 pages containing seven short stories,
it made a great impression upon me. Great in terms of impact; in
how much it moved me. It is a must for writers of any sort. And
for those who observe life, as opposed to merely flitting through
communicates his message clearly and well. Isn't that what a good
writer should do? He does this with a remarkable style I can only
describe as unmatchable. Lastly, great talent stored in a little
book - the first two tender leaves of a large tree, peeping out
of the earth, probably. Coffee Stains in a Camel's Tea Cup surely
is a great beginning. And I am already looking forward to Deepak
Unnikrishnan’s next book.
epic in itself
A commentary on Sri Aurobindo’s
poem Ilion by V. Murugesu. Reviewed by Gertude de Livera
This book is a literary study of 344 pages of Sri Aurobindo’s
poem “Ilion”. Hard bound by Dipti Publications it is
printed at All India Press, Pondicherry, India. It is a valuable
work to be studied by those interested in literary pursuits.
The author is an eminent lawyer, who celebrated 50 years at the
was really Troy and the Trojans considered it to be inviolable because
of the presence of the Palladium—the shrine of the Goddess
Athene, the Goddess of reason and skill. According to Murugesu,
the poem has an allegorical significance—the fall of Troy
due to pride and arrogance.It is also Sri Aurobindo’s experiment
in the English language of the Greek hexameter.
says “Ilion” is a magnificent work of nearly 5000 lines.
It is a narration of events and a depiction of Troy – the
whole drama of a nation before its destruction – the events
of the last day of the fall of Troy.
The “Ilion” deals with many themes – Nature, Beauty,
Ambition, the Gods, Love, Death and Destruction etc. The Trojan
War lasted over ten years and the “Ilion” narrates what
occurred “just before the culmination of the final battle”.
The events and episodes narrated in “Ilion” all took
place in one day.
According to Murugesu, the “Ilion” is also a poem depicting
the play of the Gods in human affairs, of nature, and the life of
man in interplay of forces.”
In the poem Aurobindo shows how the Gods aided both sides in the
brings out the view that “Men are the tools of the Gods, who
can veil themselves behind the movement of impersonal forces.”
To illustrate this I quote from the poem –
“The gods are at work ----
We are their puppets
Always our voices are prompted to speech for an end we know not
Always we think that we drive, but are driven.”
explains the references to the Gods in the poem. He also details
interesting legends. – How Troy was built and then later Rome.
He states that when Troy was built Zeus, the King of the Gods threw
down from Heaven the mystic palladium, as a pledge for the safety
of the city. It is said that this pledge had been carried off to
Rome by Greek warriors thus making the capture of Troy possible.
Penthesilea is one of the female characters “beautifully portrayed
in “Ilion” as the ideal woman “Noble tall and
erect in a nimbus of youth and glory”.
was finally killed by Achilles and Murugesu says , “When her
helmet was removed, Achilles beheld her face, fell violently in
love with her and was filled with remorse”. In Aurobindo’s
poem Troy is depicted as a beautiful woman who wakes now, but is
Doomed to wake no more.
her marble beauty and pomp were laid bare to the heavens
Kissed her leaves into brightness of green. As a lover the last
Yearns to the beauty desired that again shall not wake to his kisses.”
Murugesu remarks that “Everybody has been intoxicated with
military strength, resulting in death and destruction, moral blindness,
infatuation and ultimate destruction.”
Aurobindo’s poem several orators speak for peace but there
are others for war, including Paris whose action in abducting Helen
was the initial cause of the war. Murugesu’s commentary on
the poem is indeed very helpful as it relates the legends about
each character and also points out many poignant scenes which are
Aurobindo’s poem from which Murugesu quotes, we get the parting
of Helen from Paris before he goes to the war. “Calmly he
looked on the face of which Greece was enamored, the body
For whose desire great Troy was a sacrifice.”
is perturbed that Paris might be killed in the war, so Paris says
–“Then in whatever beyond I shall know how to take thee
O Helen Even as here upon Earth –“
Love is one of the themes in Aurobindo’s poem. This theme
is again brought out in the dialogue between Achilles and Brisis.
Murugesu also explains in lucid language the powers of the Gods
and their actions.
mountains are regarded as the abode of the Gods and hence the reference
to Olympus and Ida. “From his luminous deep domain, from his
kingdom in the blue sky,
Zeus cast his gaze and saw the Earth and its play.”
He further pinpoints a philosophic theme expressed by Aurobindo.-
“Blinded are men’s hearts by desire and fear and possession.”
Murugesu also analyses the poetic features of the poem.
He points out instances of personification, alliteration, onamatapoeia,
synecdoche, metonomy, paradoxes and other figures of speech. Therefore
his is a very useful book for students of both literature and language.
ain’t her cuppa
explosive new book, Tony & Cherie: A Special Relationship, reveals
in embarrassing detail Cherie Blair’s rift with the Royal
familyCherie Blair denounced Princess Anne as a 'bitch' in an extraordinary
feud with the Royal Family, an explosive book claims.
British Prime Minister's wife, an ardent anti-monarchist, is said
to have upset the Royal family with her 'prickly and aloof' manner
during stays at Balmoral and a staunch refusal to curtsey to the
Queen when they meet privately.
is said to despise the royal corgis, which bring her out in a rash,
and finds it 'disgusting' that the dogs are allowed to sit at the
Queen's feet being fed titbits at mealtimes.
also allegedly loathes her annual stay at Balmoral with the Prime
Minister, describing one of their visits as guests of the Queen
as 'too unbelievably horrible for words'.
Paul Scott makes the claims in his book Tony & Cherie: A Special
Relationship. Downing Street has pointedly refused to deny any of
the allegations made in the book. Among Scott's claims are: Mrs
Blair regarded Princess Diana as 'an airhead'; Her unexpected fourth
pregnancy at 45 came after she submitted to New Age sexual techniques;
told her lifestyle guru Carole Caplin intimate details of her sexual
relationship with the Prime Minister in preparation for 'sexual
exercises'; Before important meetings she uses a practice from white
witchcraft known as 'casting a circle'; Tony Blair keeps a velvet
pouch in his breast pocket containing a red ribbon and a piece of
rolled-up paper, the significance of which is a mystery even to
his closest aides; Alternative healer Jack Temple kept Mr Blair's
toenail clippings in a jar, claiming he could detect the Premier's
health problems by swinging a crystal pendulum over them; Downing
Street staff have monitored Mrs Blair's personal emails ever since
the disastrous Cheriegate affair involving two flats she bought
with the help of a conman; She stunned Labour Party staff by presenting
them with a bill for £8,000 from her hairdresser who attended
to her on a daily basis during this year's election campaign.
is the details of the Blairs' strained relationship with the Royal
Family which will cause the most embarrassment at Number 10. Mrs
Blair's rift with Princess Anne is said to date back to 1997, when
they met for the first time at Balmoral.
Princess Royal appeared to take an instant dislike to Mrs Blair
after the Prime Minister's wife suggested she call her 'Cherie',
the book claims. Princess Anne allegedly replied: "Actually,
let's not go that way. Let's stick to Mrs Blair, shall we?"
At the Queen's Golden Jubilee celebrations in 2002, the Blairs are
said to have irritated the Royal Family by muscling in with an unscheduled
walkabout. Mrs Blair saw the Princess Royal and said Hello, but
Anne turned her back without saying a word. A furious Mrs Blair
is said to have responded by saying: "That bitch completely
to Scott, neither of the Blairs looks forward to their annual visit
to the notoriously cold and draughty Balmoral. But while Mr Blair
maintains a diplomatic show of 'bonhomie', his wife struggles to
disguise her displeasure. She is said to despise the Balmoral rituals
of a 6 a.m. reveille by a bagpiper, a strict dress code which effectively
outlaws trousers for women (the late Queen Mother was said to be
' mortified' when Mrs Blair wore trousers to lunch on her first
visit) and the requirement of all visitors to curtsey to the Queen.
Although Mrs Blair, who turns 51 this week, has reluctantly agreed
to curtsey in public, she refuses in private.
to the book, Prince Philip, in particular, is 'hopping mad' about
this. She also suffers an allergic reaction to the fur and feathers
of the stuffed animals and hunting trophies which adorn Balmoral's
castle walls.The Queen's corgis also set off her allergy.
Blair, says Scott, developed an almost equal loathing of visits
to President Bush's ranch in Texas after a trip there in 2001. She
was said to be infuriated by the President's 'appalling manners'.
More recently, Labour Party staff were said to have been 'amazed'
when Mrs Blair passed them an £8,000 hairdressing bill after
her Mayfair stylist, Andre Suard, took a month off from his salon
to follow her on the campaign trail.
also suggests the Royal Family believed Mrs Blair had been close
to the Princess of Wales. In fact, he writes, Mrs Blair found she
had little in common with Diana, who called at Chequers with her
sons soon after Labour came to power. She is said to have told friends
she found the Princess to be 'an airhead'. -Daily Mail