This week has been slow – there are deadlines creeping up on a couple of academic assignments. So much of my time has been spent on reading of a different kind…..and I am traveling over the weekend. So I am posting this on a Friday.
The only general reading I could get in was to finish Anita Desai’s book. While it did garner some interest along the way, it was still a disappointment. Some books are timeless while others get dated and hence outdated too! Many books that are appropriate for the time when published, go on to define that time and then become timeless. In this category, from my personal reading experience I could name F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (America, the 20s) or Hemingway’s “For whom the bell tolls’ (Spanish civil war). But I am not sure if Desai’s book, which captures the lure of India and its promise of mysticism and spiritualism to the restless European youth of the late 60s and 70s (the hippy generation), will define this period for me?
The legendary voyage to Ithaca was undertaken by Ulysses and in this book Desai refers to similar journeys that seek as elaborated in the poem ‘Ithaca’ (do listen to it recited by Sean Connery)by K P Kavafis. The central character is Matteo, who is a pure seeker, though he is not clear as to what he is seeking or why. Sophie is torn between her love for her husband Matteo and her pragmatic nature which sees through much which he starts to internalize!! Her journeys to discover the true antecedents of the Mother, who Matteo accepts as his spiritual Guru form a parallel story. Desai sketches these characters sharply and generates sympathy for Matteo – after all, who is not a seeker and how many of us know what we seek? But the whole tale was not that engrossing and once again this may be my personal bias, creeping in on India based tales in which so much is so familiar!
I am making my way through ‘Walden’ and have started a Pico Iyer book which I plan to read on my travels.