My passage to India

Does India still offer any sort of real spiritual alternative to materialism, or is it now just another fast developing satrap of the wider capital world? (Dalrymple, 2009)

In the last twelve months I have read four books that are either about India or the stories take place in India. This is not something that has happened at random, but a clear decision and desire to get to know about that country, its people, and its culture.

The truth is that, no matter what kind of game you find yourself, no matter how good or bad the luck, you can change your life completely with a single thought or a single act of love. (Shantaram)

The saga started last summer when I read Shantaram. I got absolutely fascinated not only by the main character’s story, but also by India and its different layers. Shantaram was a great begining to deromanticize the “Mystic India” and get a more complex and diverse view of the subcontinent and its people.

After Shantaram,  I needed a break from India and read some latinamerican literature.The break didn’t last that long, since almost by accident a copy of The White Tiger got to my hands. Though I didn’t like much of the style and  the climax of the White Tiger, I enjoyed its main story that reveals a driver’s life in New Delhi.

“See, the poor dream all their lives of getting enough to eat and looking like the rich. And what do the rich dream of?Losing weight and looking like the poor.” (The White Tiger)

My interest in India grew bigger, and another book came to my hands. Autobiography of a  Blue Eyed yogui is a non fiction narration about the journey of an American man who transforms himself into a yogui. This book is, on one hand, a traveler’s diary in an exotic place, but on the other, it is a much more complex account of a man in search of the truth. I read this book while I was traveling in New Zealand, and somehow I related myself to this man. The book does not go deep enough to get a thorough understanding of the meaning of life and what truth is. However, it is a good account of an American man experiencing culture clash and the struggle in his search for enlightment.

“The real revolution is to transform yourself, not society. If you can succeed, then society will follow. The world is fucked up, corrupted by capitalist elites, but we cannot hope to win any war on the material plane. Finding the Truth is the only way.” Cartouche, in Baba: Autobiography of a Blue-Eyed Yogi

As I read more about India, more questions arise. Therefore, I have started the year reading Nine Lives by William Dalrymple. Nine lives is an amazing account of nine Indian people’s lives. Each chapter is devoted to a different story. Each non-fiction story is about one person who has followed a unique path to religion and spirituality. The stories show real people in modern India who have struggled into darkness to find spiritual devotion. Dalrymple gives a contextual framework and lets the people speak. Nine Lives sheds light on how modern India deals with spirituality and sacredness.

I have enjoyed Nine Lives so much that has definitely made my interest in India grew bigger and bigger. What can I read next?

“The water moves on, a little faster than before, yet still the great river flows. It is as fluid and unpredictable in its mooods as it has ever been, but it meanders within familiar banks ( Dalrymple, 2009, p. XV)

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The end of the affair

” A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from  which to look back or from which to look ahead”

The End of the affair is the first book I read by Graham Green  and I loved it. Paradoxically, this book came to my hands when I was also putting an end to a relationship, so I started reading it as a way to deal with the mourning and grief. Very soon I realised that The end of the affair was much more than a romantic novel, but it is a complex narration about love, pain, hate and faith.

“This is a record of hate far more than of love,”

The first part of the book narrates the passionate affair between Beaudrix, a writer, and Sarah, a married woman in the middle of the II world war . The narration is so vivid that you can actually see the lovers in the room while  London is being bombarded. I loved the way the narrator meticulosly describes the places, characters and the way Beaudrix,  loved and hated Sarah at the same time. Though, the book has a very distinct male voice, I felt somehow identified  with Maurice´s passionate love and feroucios resistance to the end of the relationship.

I became aware that our love was doomed; love had turned into a love affair with a beginning and an end. I could name the very moment when it had begun, and one day I knew I should be able to name the final hour. When she left the house I couldn’t settle to work. I would reconstruct what we had said to each other; I would fan myself into anger or remorse. And all the time I knew I was forcing the pace. I was pushing, pushing the only thing I loved out of my life. As long as I could make believe that love lasted I was happy; I think I was even good to live with, and so love did last. But if love had to die, I wanted it to die quickly. It was as though our love were a small creature caught in a trap and bleeding to death; I had to shut my eyes and wring its neck.”

The second half of the book is taken by Sarah´s voice as we can read through her diary why she ended the affair. This is a big twist of the book and from then onwards we get into Maurice´s quest to understand Sarah´s path into  her conversion to religion. This is a very interesting part of the book as it reveals the internal dialogues of Sarah with God and her suffering and pain.  Maurice resists to believe that she has converted to catholicism, and that that was the main reason of their separation.  God actually took her away from him.

“I wrote at the start that this was a record of hate, and walking there beside Henry towards the evening glass of beer, I found the one prayer that seemed to serve the winter mood: O God, You’ve done enough, You’ve robbed me of enough, I’m too tired and old to learn to love, leave me alone forever.” 

I really liked The end of the affair. The narration, the story and the characters make it a compelling read. It is a devastating story and I felt very close to this  doomed love. That love was never meant to be, and no matter what Sarah and Bendrix did, their destiny was already written. What can we do to challenge fate?

I finished reading The End of the affair a couple of weeks ago, but the story still lingers on my mind and probably will for long.

“I’m not at peace anymore. I just want him like I used to in the old days. I want to be eating sandwiches with him. I want to be drinking with him in a bar. I’m tired and I don’t want anymore pain. I want Maurice. I want ordinary corrupt human love. Dear God, you know I want to want Your pain, but I don’t want it now. Take it away for a while and give it me another time. ‘ 

– Sarah {The End of the Affair}”
― Graham GreeneThe End of the Affair


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Missing …in action!

En un país de desaparecidos, desaparecer es fácil. El esfuerzo se concentra en los muertos. Los vivos, entonces, podemos esfumarnos rápido. Es como ese álbum de The Godfathers : Birth ,School, Work and Death . Nací, cierto, terminé, apenas, el colegio. Me quedaba trabajar y morir. Una vez una profe me dijo que estaba perdido.

Le dije: para perderse primero te tienes que encontrar. Luego pensé: ¿Y si es al revés?

Ya han pasado tres meses desde mi último post, más de tres novelas sin revisar. y muchos cuentos sin contar. Missing;the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time; The White tiger y muchos cuentos latinoamericanos.

Hoy revisaré Missing de Alberto Fuguet.  Rápidamente la narración me cautivó y Fuguet me hizo su acompañante en la búsqueda del pariente perdido en Estados Unidos. El comienzo de Missing  es como una novela detectivesca en que tienes un misterio que resolver, en este caso, encontrar al tío buena onda.    Al poco andar me dí cuenta que el tío no se había perdido, sino más bien qué él voluntariamente había desaparecido del terreno familiar. ¿Por qué?

“Deja de molestarnos, deja de existir. No existes para mí. Sólo me has traído problemas. No queremos verte nunca más. No me interesa que seas hijo mío”. 

Fuguet nos arrastra en  su obsesión por saber las razones de la huída hurgando en la vida familiar y vamos de pueblo en pueblo con esta misión.

Lo más interesante del libro en realidad no es la búsqueda del pariente perdido en sí, sino  el viaje interno del narrador. Fuguet toma riesgos al adentrarse en la familia y mostrarnos que ésta es una institución bastante defectuosa y que en este contexto no sólo es válido no querer pertenecer a la familia que te tocó sino que simplemente desaparecer es la mejor opción.

Además de los temas de la familia y la desaparición,  disfruté mucho  el tipo de narración que nos ofrece el autor. Es una narración vívida, clara y que presenta a losPara empezar, Fuguet entremezcla narradores, primero tenemos al narrador escritor quien  nos presenta su búsqueda personal y luego aparece el tío quien  toma el control y cuenta su historia. Esta narración le entrega mucho realismo , vivacidad y cercanía a la lectura. Aquí les dejo un extracto, qué lo disfruten!

Llevo seis años borrado. He estado en muchas partes, he hecho cosas que no hubiera querido hacer. Abandoné todo y me abandoné. Nunca más se supo, nunca mas supieron de mí.

¿Han estado alguna vez en Kentucky?

Seguí, como un cachorro, a una cajera de K-Mart. Terminé, sin querer, enseñándole inglés a niños refugiados. Los ayudaba a resucitar. Era bueno. Uno de ellos murió en mis brazos. Se cayó del columpio. Lo empujé demasiado alto y voló. Detectaron alcohol en mi sangre. Bourbon al medio día. Inmigración golpeó mi celda.
El tipo de mi lado, duerme. Le robo el diario.

Me entero que mi padre se mató en un accidente carretero, en algún puto lugar de la noche. Es una noticia pequeña, de dos líneas. No me sorprende. Aterrizamos. Alguien, atrás , aplaude. La cordillera está nevada. Salgo de la terminal, respiro. Reviso mis dólares. Me doy media vuelta. Miro la pantalla.
¿Han estado alguna vez en Madagascar?

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The Unberarable lightness of being

Another book that made me think and reflect on fate, destiny, love and happiness has been The Unberarable lightness of being by Milan Kundera.  It seems that these topics are quite recursive in the books I pick, but this time, I didn´t choose it. It was the assigned book for June of the Literati Book Club.

The Unberarable lightness of being is not a light read, but quite a heavy and philosophical one. I read it for the first time when I was a teenager, and that was the only thing that I remembered , that it was a hard read. Now I see that I didn´t understand much at that time, and today the reading has left me lots of questions and reflections.

The Unberable  lightness of being tells the story  of  Tomas, his wife, Tereza, Sabina, Tomas´lover and Franz, Sabina´s lover. The story starts when Teresa arrives in Prague, visits Tomas and stays with him for good. Tomas´ personal story is intertwined with historical events occurring in Checkoeslovaquia from 1968 till 1980s.

“Making love with a woman and sleeping with a woman are two separate passions, not merely different but opposite. Love does not make itself felt in the desire for copulation (a desire that extends to an infinite number of women) but in the desire for shared sleep (a desire limited to one woman).” 

One of the topics depicted in this book is romantic love. Tomas is a womanizer and for him, sex and love are two absolutely different things. Kundera shows us love as ephemeral, risky and as a result of endless strings of coincidences. This concept of love somewhat shocked me, and challenged my own view. I agree with Kundera in the sense that love goes beyond the desire of copulation and has more to do with the desire of sharing and undertsanding with each other.

Though love, sex, freedom, and a criticism of communism are prominent themes  in the book. The most important theme is  “lightness” . Kundera states “what happens but once, might as well not have happened at all. If we have only one life to live, we might as well not have lived at all.” According to Kundera, life is insignificant, and decisions are not important. The problem with this is that this lightness gets unbearable and makes us suffer because we want our lives to trascend. We want to relive our past lives and make things better, but this is not possible and things get heavier and the awareness of our imperfect beings makes it unbearable.

“People are always shouting they want to create a better future. It’s not true. The future is an apathetic void of no interest to anyone. The past is full of life, eager to irritate us, provoke and insult us, tempt us to destroy or repaint it. The only reason people want to be masters of the future is to change the past.”  

Kundera´s lightness is unbearable for me. Being light relieves us from guilt and consequences; however, that lightness makes me feel so useless and insignificant that I cannot accept that our decisions don´t matter. Life  cannot just be a string of coincidences, but the recurrent outcome of our own doing intertwined by our surrounding others.

I really enjoyed reading The Unbearable lightness of being and all the philosophical discussions presented here. The characters are complex  human beings who live, question their lives, and search for meaning and companionship. This novel talked to me about how vulnerable and contradictory we are, how light our beings are, and how unbearable this is.

“We can never know what to want, because, living only one life, we can neither compare it with our previous lives nor perfect it in our lives to come.” 

“Happiness is the longing for repetition”

“Kitsch is the stopover between being and oblivion”

“Love is the longing for the half of ourselves we have lost”

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Goodbye my dearest Shantaram

The truth is that, no matter what kind of game you find yourself, no matter how good or bad the luck, you can change your life completely with a single thought or a single act of love.

I have just finished reading one amazing book: Shantaram. It took me around three months to read its 933 pages and I guess it will take me much more than that to fully appreciate it and digest all its philosophy and teachings.  This is the third post I have written about the book and anyway I know that this will be not enough.

In my previous posts I wrote about the first parts of the book and how I got infatuated by India, its different layers and complexity. I have to admit that I couldn´t put it down, I just wanted to keep on reading not only about this exuberant country, but about how Lin, the main character, interacted and coped with a shocking reality. I loved the way it is written. A narration which goes from a vivid  and detailed description to philosophical questions and reflection. Now I want to devote this post to the most salient themes developed in the book.

Any human heart beat is a world of possibilities. 

Shantaram  is about fate. It depicts how Lin’s fate can change, not once but many times. I guess that that is one of the main reasons why the book is long. It needs to prove that life is complex, and that ” Every life, every love, every action and feeling and thought has its cause and its reason and significance: it’s beginning, and the part it plays in the end. Nothing in any life, no matter how well or poorly lived, is wiser than failure and or clearer than sorrow. And in the tiny, precious wisdom that they give us, even those dread and hated enemies, suffering and failure, have their reason and right to be.” Shantaram is about fate as an evolution of oneself, thus one own’s responsibility. Accidents do happen, but it is up to us how we take them, as pearls or as stones.

It’s a fact of life on the run that you often love more people than you trust. For people in the safe world, of course, exactly the opposite is true. Shantaram is about love. Love is always present in the narration and it is intertwined with the concept of fate. Lin´s destiny is shaped by his feelings and the decisions he makes for love. Shantaram shows us romantic love, filial love, love to friends, to India, to the inner self. Lin is a romantic born man  who surrenders himself to this force that cannot be explained or resisted.

Shantaram is about freedom. Lin arrived in Bombay as a fugitive in search of freedom. Very soon he realised that freedom is not just doing what you want but more related to a spiritual state. It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured. I realised, somehow, through the screaming in my mind, that even in that shackled, bloody helplessness, I was still free: free to hate the men who were torturing me, or to forgive them.

Lin is an amazing complex character. A man who challenged life and death many times. A romantic,compassionate, loving, caring man but also a heroin addict,tough, violent,and revengeful fugitive. I felt related to Lin in the way he took his life in Bombay as a new opportunity and a rebirth. I also share his view of human beings and our choice to be good and to forgive. That makes us unique!

What characterises the human race more, Karla once asked me, cruelty, or the capacity to feel shame for it? I thought the question acutely clever then, when I first heard it, but I’m lonelier and wiser now, and I know it isn’t cruelty or shame that characterises the human race. It’s forgiveness that makes us what we are. Without forgiveness, our species would’ve annihilated itself in endless retributions.

I was given Shantaram by a friend as part of my education. He was right, Shantaram has opened my eyes and inspired me to keep on going. I have read it in a very special moment of my life as well, in the process of change, in transit.It was definitely a good read! Thanks!

Goodbye my dearest Shantaram!

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Satanás en Locombia

Estoy harto de todo. Mi vida no tiene ninguna esperanza. Ya es tarde para hacerme ilusiones. Detesto la existencia que llevo, no hay nada alrededor mío que me
entusiasme, que me dé confianza en el futuro, que me obligue a luchar para salir de los infiernos. Estoy sufriendo de depresiones agudas que me obligan a encerrarme en mi habitación durante horas. Cuando estoy frente al espejo solo veo un pedazo de mierda.

En búsqueda de la identidad latinoaméricana , continué con mi introducción en Locombia de la mano de Mario Mendoza y su novela Satanás.

Mis viajes en el atestado metro de Santiago se pasaron muy rápido decifrando las vidas cruzadas de María, la huérfana;Campo Elías , el ex-soldado;Andrés, el artista vidente, y Ernesto, el curita. La lectura es muy rápida y vívida, a veces descarnada y cruda.Así es que entre estación y estación rápidamente fui testigo de la gestación del Mal y cómo Satanás felizcote mostraba su cola en la ciudad. Una Bogotá violenta y decadente que seduce a  los personajes a las fauces de  Lucifer y los arrastra a Locombia y sus crímenes y pobreza. Es un retrato de la violenta Bogotá? un tipo de realismo mágico urbano?

Satanás es un texto corto y más que una novela me pareció como el texto base de una teleserie o película. Me llamó la atención los personajes de Satanás, bastante estereotipados:huérfanos, locos, curas, videntes, pobres, exorcismos. Y aquí me pregunto si   María, Andrés, Ernesto y Campo Elías no son parte de nuestra identidad, la identidad latinoamericana? Pobres que cansados del abuso y el hambre se convierten en delicuentes; curas tentados por la carne; Videntes que pronostican que todo será peor; angeles exterminadores. es latinoamérica sólo eso?

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‎”Todas las mujeres somos Juana la Loca” Gioconda Belli

Así nos dice la escritora nicaraguense Gioconda Belli a propósito de su novela El pergamino de la seducción. ¿somos todas como Juana la loca? ¿quién fue Juana la loca?

Yo te propongo un viaje sin más artilugios que la seda y el terciopelo. ..

Leí El pergamino de la seducción como sugerencia del club de lectura de la biblioteca de Santiago al que pertenezco.  En realidad, me interesaba mucho leer a esta escritora como parte de mi búsqueda de identidad latinoamericana, así es que feliz comencé con esta novela. Ya en las primeras hojas, me dí cuenta que este texto narraba la vida de una adolescente latinoamericana huérfana en España entremezclada con la historia de la reina Juana de Castilla, hija de los reyes católicos. De latinoaméricano parecía tener poco.

Si bien al principio me sentí un poco defraudada porque esta novela no me mostraría ni la vida ni el entorno nicaraguense, me entretuvo bastante y me dejó varios aprendizajes acerca de la herencia española que tenemos y la relación con el poder, la familia, el amor, la pasión y la locura.

El comienzo de la novela nos introduce a la vida de una huérfana adolescente en un internado de monjas, Lucía, y su encuentro con un historiador cuarentón que hace de guía turístico, Manuel. Desde ese momento, me ví atrapada en estas páginas y viajé a la España de fines de los sesenta y me sometí a la narración de Gioconda Belli quien utiliza a Lucía y Manuel para ahondarse en la vida y pasión de  Juana, la hija de la reina Isabel, la católica.

Gioconda Belli entremezcla el presente de Lucía con la historia de Juana, la cual se revela a través de Manuel,  quien está obsesionado por este personaje histórico. De hecho, es él quien seduce a Lucía para que ella lo acompañe en un viaje histórico y lo ayude a descifrar la supuesta locura de Juana. Lucía se fascina con la historia y gustosa acepta el desafío, en realidad, a mí me queda la duda si esta adolescente realmente se fascina por Juana y su locura, o acepta esta aventura más bien para escapar de la monotonía y encierro del internado.

La lectura es rápida y la estructura narrativa se repite; Lucía se viste con un vestido de la época de Juana y nos trasladamos al siglo XV. Así es cómo voy aprendiendo de cómo una adolescente princesa, hermosa, inteligente, segura y poderosa,se casa con un desconocido para hacer más grande y poderoso el imperio español. Felipe, el hermoso, un joven impetuoso y bello, conoce  a Juana y la desposa casi de inmediato.  Juana se enamora perdidamente de él y se abandona en los placeres de la carne y la lujuria.  Al mismo tiempo, Belli nos delata las transformaciones que poco a poco va teniendo Lucía y como la historia de Juana va apoderando la identidad de esta adolescente.Así es cómo esta adolescente de las monjas es seducida por Manuel y comienza su propia historia de amor.

Los capítulos continúan  y la narración toma un tono de suspenso y misterio. Vamos enterándonos de no sólo la pasión de Juana y Felipe, sino que de sus desencuentros. Asimismo, poco a poco se nos va develando el rol que los reyes católicos tuvieron en la separación de esta pareja y los muchos contubernios para contener la pasión y voluntad de Juana y así finalmente quitarle todo el poder.  ¿Es locura querer estar con tu esposo y tus hijos? ¿es loca quien se rebela contra la represión y los abusos? Estas y otras interrogantes nos hace  Belli  a través de la narración de los hechos vividos por Juana. La narración en primera persona que se confunde entre Lucía y Juana reivindican el personaje histórico de la reina de Castilla y busca explicaciones del comportamiento inusual de una reina del siglo XV.

En los últimos capítulos, Lucía y Manuel, casi desaparecen y sólo vuelven a escena para que la novela tenga un buen remate. Creo que la historia de Lucía y Manuel podría haber sido explotada de mejor manera y haber indagado en las razones de esa unión y sus existencias. El final más bien me deja un gusto más amargo que dulce. El desenlace corresponde a una novela de misterios y detectives y yo creí haber leído otro tipo de novela. ¿estaré un poco loca? ¿cuánto de Juana hay en mí?

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