book club

A fine balance (book 3 of 12)

A fine balance (book 3 of 12)

March 24, 2019
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A fine balance, written by Rohinton Mistry. This book, that I read the first time in 1997, while doing my degree project in Thailand to get my Masters in Biology. My brother put the book in my hand, and then did not see me for the next twenty-two hours, as I simply could not put the book down. Ever since I’ve stated A fine balance as the best book I’ve ever read, recommending it high and low.

“Flirting with madness was one thing; when madness started flirting back, it was time to call the whole thing off.”

So when I stumbled upon a copy at a flea market a while ago, I bought it, with the intention of rereading it. To ensure I would read it and really reflect upon it, given the importance I’ve put upon this book ever since that first read, I picked it as my book choice in the Gifted book club.

Still the best book I’ve ever read?
Now I’ve re-read it. And discussed it in Gifted.
So… is it still the best book I’ve ever read?
Do I still peg it at the number one position of all the books (3000 or so) that I’ve read?

And what about the fact that not just me, but my brother, my mother, my father as well as my two nieces all rank it as the best book they have ever read as well? We are a family of bookworms, yet we read quite different genres, generally speaking, so to have us all say this about A fine balance seems quite significant.

“Time had turned the magical to mundane.”

It did not grip me the way it did the first time around. I read it “like a normal book”, without any major problems to put it down after having read 10-15 pages or so. So I did not have that all-nighter-reading-experience again.

An intricate weave
It is a good book though. It is gripping. The intricate weave of the lives and destinies of the four major characters is like a tapestry of the middle ages, one of those many meters long tapestries depicting all sorts of stories at the same time. The Bayeux Tapestry comes to mind. A fine balance is that rich – containing enough sub-stories and interesting side characters to make it into ten different novels if Mistry had wanted to. Instead, he condensed it all down into one thick book.

Me, an ignorant Swede
When I read it the first time, I was astonished to understand that Indira Gandhi was not “just good”. As an ignorant young Swede, I had only picked up on the fact that here was a female Prime Minister of a huge country, something that still has yet to happen in Sweden (having a female head of state, that is). So the book opened me up to understand that there was more to it than that, much more.

“You see, you cannot draw lines and compartments, and refuse to budge beyond them. Sometimes you have to use your failures as stepping-stones to success. You have to maintain a fine balance between hope and despair.”

And I think those aspects, the much more than I had understood before-aspects of A fine balance, are actually the ones that still, my second read, tugged at me the most. I just do not want to accept the atrocities we humans can inflict on other humans. I. Do. Not. Be it demolishing the hovels of the destitute congregating in slum areas, the way Beggarmaster ensures his beggars have the appropriate combination of heart-tugging handicaps, be it blindness or the loss of limbs, or how Indian state and local officials performed the most horrendous acts of violence upon their citizens during the Emergency. I just do not want to accept that things like this happen. But it does.

Best book ever, still?
The language of the book is beautiful, Mistry paints his story using rich and colorful language like many Indian authors seem to. Resembling the rich and colorful country that is India? But is it still the best book I’ve ever read?

Well. Yes – because that’s how it affected me the first time I read it. And, well, no, because this time around it did not grip me as thoroughly as it did then, and I have other books more recent in mind that have. It is definitely worth reading though, don’t get me wrong! All of us in the Gifted book club agreed on that, even though it – once more – became so apparent that there are many different ways to read a book. Makes for interesting book club conversations, and thank god for that, otherwise, what would be the point right?


The book I am blogging about is part of the book-reading challenge I’ve set for myself during 2019, to read and blog about 12 Swedish and 12 English books, one every other week, books that I already own.

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Meditations (book 13 of 26)

July 1, 2018
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in Tip
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MeditationsMeditations. Written by Marcus Aurelius. Not intended to be published as a book (containing a total of 12 books or sections, presumably written at different times in his latter life.), at all. Rather this is something he wrote to himself, of for himself, seemingly daily musings.

Treat with respect the power you have to form an opinion. By it alone can the helmsman within you avoid forming opinions that are at variance with nature and with the constitution of a reasonable being. From it you may look to attain circumspection, good relations with your fellow-men, and conformity with the will of heaven. Book 3, #9

Put from you the belief that “I have been wronged”, and with it will go the feeling. Reject your sense of injury, and the injury itself disappears. Book 4, #7

Once dismiss the view you take, and you are out of danger. Who, then, is hindering such dismissal? Book 12, #25

Several things strike me as I read it, the first is how non-foreign it seems. I mean, this is a book of daily musings written about two thousand years ago, and yet, it doesn’t feel that foreign to me, even though on the surface me and Marcus certainly doesn’t have a lot in common. And yet, many of these musings are ones I’ve entertained myself.

Think it no shame to be helped. Your business is to do your appointed duty, like a soldier in the breach. How, then, if you are lame, and unable to scale the battlements yourself, but could do it if you had the aid of a comrade? Book 7, #7

The second thing is the emphasis on self – not in a self-centered and egotistical manner, but rather: don’t point a finger at anyone else, whatever they might have done or not done, is really not for you to judge. At least, that’s how I interpret it.

When men are inhuman, take care not to feel towards them as they do towards other humans. Book 7, #65

Thirdly, the focus on love and unity, how we are all one, part of a greater whole (even though, looking at when he wrote this, and what he was doing at the time, being emperor of the Roman Empire, this certainly must have been fairly “filtered” in his understanding, to those of similar standing and heritage/nationality).

Would you wish for the praise of one who thrice and hour calls down curses on his own head? Would you please one who cannot even please himself? And how can a man be pleased with himself, when he repents of well-nigh everything he does? Book 8, #54

I like it though, this book. And in my view, it proved one of the most interesting GIFTED book club conversations we’ve had, at that. The book was my choice, and I wisely chose it for this specific week, knowing I could blog about it with the book fresh in my mind.

Today I have gotten myself out of all my perplexities; or rather, I have got the perplexities out of myself – for they were not without, but within; they lay in my own outlook. Book 9, #13

The quotes I’ve chosen here ring true for me. There are a lot of them that I have a hard time understanding though, or downright disagree with. I might blog about them as well, but for now, you’ve have to suffice with these few that I found great pleasure in.

Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one. Book 10, #16


The book I am blogging about is part of the book-reading challenge I’ve set for myself during 2018, to read and blog about 26 Swedish and 26 English books, one book every week, books that I already own.

 

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The GIFTED book club

August 23, 2017
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On my birthday me and a friend gifted one another a book club, and when we sat down to think it through a week later, that’s the name we gave it. Tonight we had a first get-to-know-one-another-so let’s-wait-to-read-the-first-book-after-all-meeting, expanding upon the basic structure we had previously outlined, so we are set for the upcoming two meetings, and then we’ll see what works and what needs to be tweaked.

GIFTED book club

Now I have six weeks until our next meeting to read On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder, a book I wanted to read since listening to him in conversation with Sam Harris. We decided upon our next book as well, so I will immediately request it from the library.

I’ve never been a part of a book club before, let alone initiated one – so I am really looking forward to this experience. Feel like a rookie, learning as I go along, which is a state I am truly starting to enjoy more and more. It means there’s a potential for expansion, for growing, for gaining new perspectives upon life. And that it something I love!

If you’ve ever been a part of a book club, and have good ideas or tips to share, please do so in the comments. I’d love to get some input!

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