Tag Archives: books

‘A Pale View of Hills’, by Kazuo Ishiguro – review

A Pale View of HillsA Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Being biliterate and bicultural gives a writer a magical third eye to look into the universality of truth of humanity, the commonality of the standard of sentiments and judgment, under a veneer of anthropological ramifications of tribalism. It’s something of a textual witchcraft of the writer to see through the minds of one culture and the other and to conjure up One Whole Mind in the peculiar alchemy of literature. However, it’s a tricky craft that requires consummate narrative skills without infelicity of awkward expressions. That is why A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro, an English writer born in and moved from Nagasaki, Japan at the age of five, reigns supreme as a master storyteller in a class of his own writing that holds the curiosity of the reader throughout this mysteriously haunting and enduring story of a woman living in the blurry boundary of the past and the present.

Told by a first protagonist narrator named Etsuko, a Japanese woman living in an English countryside alone, it is a continual fugue of recollections, ironies, visions, and imaginations translated into an elliptical and atmospheric elegy of a woman with the feeling of being adrift on a life sea, trying to come to terms with a surrendering of the past that binds her to the memories of the calamities and absurdities all by herself in a land that shares no common history of her own. In fact, Etsuko’s narrative becomes her own story house, her own Mathom House, a museum of mental paraphernalia filled with the flotsam washed up by the past. All the apparatus therein is the detritus of her convoluted residues of all the memories of Japan, devastated by the calamities of World War II that has become part of her. The result of her story is a spiritual effect of exorcising a knocking spirit in the house that wanted to possess her body and mind altogether locked up in the feelings of guilt, regret, disappointment, and frustration.

Drawing on a wealth of imaginations based upon his own cultural backgrounds, Ishiguro creates a polyphonic work that elegantly interweaves multiple strands of historical, spiritual, and cultural contexts into a wholly solipsistic experience with his cracking narrative skills worth the reading. The best of all, Ishiguro writes with an intention to tell a story of an individual with whom the reader can associate or is familiar in daily life. His characters are felt real, and the words he employs are fluid and elliptical. Which is to say that his world of literature is quite existential but also imaginative. Just as Charlotte Bronte pronounced her identity as a”writer” not as a “woman writer” on her authorship of Jane Eyre, Ishiguro is an English writer whose subjects are universal and common to all as regards the principle of sentiments and reason. Nothing is alienating but everything is encompassing, which is why this book is appealing to the reader.

sweets to the sweet

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A day’s tasks are fulfilled.
The Evening Star is out.
Kiss the night, fancy the sweet.
Golden sleep comes at last.

Author’s Note: Shakespeare called sleep “a nature’s soft nurse”. Ditto. Sleep is a natural anesthetics to numb constraints of contemporary life and a medicine to invigorate our spent body and mind. And that is what I need now…

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‘The Secret Language of Flowers’, by Samantha Gray – review

The Secret Language of FlowersThe Secret Language of Flowers by Samantha Gray

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lily says “You’re a good friend,” and Camellia wishes “Good Luck.” Daisy promises, “I will never tell.” They talk in silence, and their beautiful reserve is all the more appreciated by the sophisticated secret messages they carry. It’s the elaborate world of Floriography, language of flowers, based upon the legends and folklore ascribed to flowers exquisitely developed in the Victorian period, when an expression of feelings and emotions was constrained as an indication of propriety and ethical virtue. For years, Floriography has been something of flower-version of Morse Codes through the use or arrangement of flowers to deliver particular sentiments in the most subtly compelling way among those who find a niche in a quiet revelation of emotions and yearnings safely guarded in the secret garden of heart. In this regard, The Secret Language of Flowers by Samantha Gray is a treasure garden of 50 flowers speaking in their own words with beautiful illustrations that promises a dazzling treat to the eye as well as the mind of the reader.

Of the 50 flowers of Gray’s own choice, my selection of flowers is threefold: Crocuses and Lilies for their meanings that chime the bells of my heart resonate with their stories and meanings. A crocus, dedicated to St. Valentine, a Roman physician and a Christian priest during the reign of Claudius II, was sentenced to death for his faith and just before his execution, Valentine gave a jailer whose blind daughter he had treated a note for her in which he had wrapped a saffron crocus, the source of healing herb, saffron. As the girl opened the note, her sight was restored, and it was the yellow crocus she first saw that was shining like the golden sun. The message the condemned physician wrote was: “From Your Valentine”. It is said that if anyone who likes crocuses has a deeply spiritual aspect to his/her nature expressed in writing, painting, dancing, and music with a caring heart.

Lilies symbolize female beauty, purity, majesty, and charm against evil. Legend has it that a lily sprang from Eve’s tears as she was expelled from the Garden of Eden. It also has a different name of “Our Lady’s tears” as it came to being due to the tears by Virgin Mary – also revered as the Second Eve – at the Crucifixion. Furthermore, it is said that when Mary’s tomb was opened, Thomas, one of the Twelve Disciples, saw that her body had been assumed into heaven, and the place was filled with fragrant lilies. However, a sacredness of lilies do not confine in Christianity in the history of civilization. A lily was first discovered in the garden of an ancient villa in Crete about 1500 BC; it was dedicated to the Greek goddess Hera. According to legend, Zeus intoxicated Hera to nurse his son Hercules whose mother was a beautiful mortal woman named Alceme. When Hera awoke, she chucked the baby out of her breasts in horrified surprise, during which some of her milk gushed through the skies, creating a cluster of stars – the Milky Way- and some of it fell to the Earth, from which grew the first lilies.

Further to the divine touch of this modest pure beauty, lilies are known to ward off evil power associated with curses, omens, and possessions. Planting lilies in a garden protected it from ghosts and evil spirits, and monks accordingly grew them for decorating altars like stairways to heaven. But the most interesting fact about lilies that piqued my special attention is that it has been used as a tonic for strengthening a weak memory by applying it on the forehead and on the back of the head. Besides, it is known to boost common sense and impediment of speech. So maybe it’s high time that the reader in search of a magic portion to improve academic performance or develop the faculty of the mind wanted to check local herbalists to procure a tonic made from lilies.

Reading this book is like walking through the author’s private garden full of enchanted flowers that are in full bloom lovingly cared for by the gardener who understands the language they speak in silence. At the heart of this book lies the author’s love of Nature and Humanity that is fancifully nuanced in her story-telling like narrative with a collection of her own paintings that I find soothing and loving. Each of the 50 flowers speaks to the heart of the reader in its own language that is magical and fascinating in this world of grand collapsed grand hokum, fake news, and many a competing vehement opinions out of unbridled angst and anxiousness in a paroxysm of existential vertigo. Both a painter and a writer, Gray draws the reader to the world of Nature where the earth laughs in flowers. Upon reading this book, the reader cannot help but agree with Hans Christian Anderson: “Just living is not enough… One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.” This is a beautiful read that tallies with its beautiful subject.

weekend sojourners

Author’s Note: Time is like a fashionable host that flies with his arms outstretched and welcomes a new guest. Pleasure and activities make the hours seem short. Forget the finiteness of time and live for today. Carpe Diem. Enjoy the moment, for your thought about unknown tomorrow will build your own prison.

 

Happy Friday Medley

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Out of labor comes sweet lull,
From this in turn sounds a fanfare
that chimes the golden merry bell
of heart with mirth and laughter.

Author’s Note: I was on the Metro this morning, and a lady sitting next to me who was a total stranger told me with a wink, “Thank God, it’s Friday. Aren’t we just glad?” Ditto. It’s the Friday Euphoria that assuaged the constraints of our weekday malady and neutralized our fear of strangers. We all deserve a pat on the back for having made it through this week, as Snoopy cheers us up jubilantly.

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