Look at that! Only four new books! Maybe all my effort to cut back is bearing fruit. Or, more likely, the fact I had a 3.5 hour exam to cram for meant there were no weekend excursions, no local markets, for me to browse and inevitably add more than I intended.
First up is The Forsyte Saga; a trilogy by John Galsworthy (though there were further sequels) that became bound together as one epic almost as soon as the third novel was published. I sought this out as part of my effort to place greater emphasis on reading classic literature and Nobel Prize winners. I think I may have to try and find a DVD of the 2002 miniseries as well.
We often praise those who were ‘ahead of their time’, although you wonder, since it is only apparent in hindsight, how many of them had genuine foresight and how many had no such gift but were only proved right by greater forces of history for which they can claim no credit. If it is the latter, then there must be those who have been bypassed by history. Browsing the introduction to this edition of The Forsyte Saga, it seems that Galsworthy was at risk of being one of those. His masterpiece seems to have arrived after the modernists had established themselves and DH Lawrence and Virginia Woolf seem particularly scathing of this much-loved epic. It’s popularity and more positive criticism seem to have overridden this factor.
I also bought India’s War by Srinath Raghavan. Raghavan believes that India’s role in the Second World War has been largely overlooked by the West and it is difficult to disagree. 2.5 million soldiers made it the largest volunteer army in history, that fought in Persia, Mesopotamia, North Africa, Italy, Burma and elsewhere. Large sectors of India’s manufacturing and agriculture were turned to supporting the war effort as well, often with severe detrimental impact on Indians.
The complexity of the time cannot be underestimated either. India’s independence movement was halted as most leaders, such as Gandhi and Nehru, were imprisoned for the duration of the war as they did not support India’s war effort. While, Jinnah, who did support assisting the British, was given the freedom to build support for the cause for Pakistan. There is also the issue of Bose’s support of Imperial Japan and the Indian National Army that fought alongside Japan.
I came across Raghavan’s book in a review in The Economist that also looked at another new book on India’s role in the Second World War. I went with Raghavan’s book because his earlier book, on the war of Bangladesh’s independence, also looks good and I may want to get it too if I like India’s War.
Next, I got The Evenings by Gerard Reve. I first heard of it thanks to Karen’s review at Booker Talk. That review, and the fact that it was named the best Dutch novel of all time by the Society of Dutch Literature, was enough to convince me that I wanted a copy myself.
That is all I was going to get in April, but at the end of the month, while browsing a local store, I came across Fallada’s Alone in Berlin (aka Every Man Dies Alone).
This is what is great about browsing in a physical store. I had never heard of this novel, despite it becoming a bestseller when the first English translation became available in 2009, the subsequent acclaim it received and the recent film. But immediately on reading the blurb, I felt pretty certain I did not want to let the chance encounter slip by.
Does it make a difference when an established writer leaps at the chance to write about the extraordinary events occurring around them as opposed to one writing years later about things they themselves never lived through? Does it ring with vividness and immediacy? I hope so. Alone in Berlin is said to show us a peek of the Anti-Nazi resistance in Germany during the war. One of Fallada’s biggest fans was Goebbels who pressured him to write an anti-Semitic novel, which he had no intention of doing. Instead he spent much of the war incarcerated in an asylum, composing work critical of the Nazis at great risk to his life.
My exam is also the reason why I have not posted any new reviews for a while now. I am hoping to make a sharp turnaround in that regard and get to work on getting a few ready to post in the coming weeks. Will May also be a subdued month as far as book buying goes? Well, it is still early, but I can already tell you it will not!