Do you know the feeling when you’re stuck in a rut? That’s how I have been feeling like for the past one week. It’s terrible. I have no motivation do anything – at all. Its mid term break at school only that it’s not a break of any sort because I have tons of work to do. And I have just no, no, no, none, zilch, nada motivation do any of it. I finally finished rewriting my essay on Wednesday. And I should have started working on the other 4,000 word essay I have due sometime soon. And studying for my philosophy mid term which is next week. But just the thought of them is enough to make me nauseous and I have been reading instead.
I have had a pile of books on my table that I have been meaning to finish. I hate school sometimes (most of the time?) because most of my reading gets limited to coursework. There’s always something due, some meeting and my mind is always occupied with stupid banalities. And sometimes I just want to watch movies. Or television series’. I finished watching Brideshead Revisited – that took close to 14 hours. (It was excellent, by the way). And then of course, it doesn’t help that I am absolutely inept at any form of time management.
Anyway. To come back to the point - books.
I still have about sixty pages of Edward St. Aubyn’s Booker nominated Mother’s Milk to finish. (It was considered something of an upset when Aubyn didn’t win. One of the judges Anthony Quinn wrote afterwards, when the book didn’t win, that he "felt quite devastated and wondered if I should go off and sulk"). The book so far has been a wonderful read. It’s a simple story, but it’s written with such lightness, wit and insight that reading it is very pleasurable indeed. And even though it’s melancholic, it has wonderful moments of humour.
One of the reasons I picked up Robert Musil’s The Confusions of Young Törless was Alok’s posts on him over at his blog. The Man Without Qualities seemed too daunting a book to pick up, especially mid term, so I went with Törless.
The theme of the book is similar to Lord of the Flies, but Törless is, I felt, a more contemplative book. The brutality and sadism of the boys at their elite boarding school coupled with their philosophical awakening, makes for disturbing reading. Musil incorporates a host of ideas - the confusions of adolescence, the intellectual rationalisation of sexual relations, sadism, psychology, religion, spirituality, even the mathematical concept of infinity. A much longer post would be needed to even begin to analyse the story. Suffice to say that it is a brilliant, thought provoking work.
The author Aleksander Hemon mentioned Miljenko Jergović’s Sarajevo Marlboro a couple of times in his BBC interview as part of their series ‘Sense of the City’. (Where authors talk about how their cities have inspired them and reflect in their works. Pamuk talks about Istanbul, Zadie Smith about London and Bapsi Sidhwa, Lahore.) Jergović’s wonderful, wonderful collection of twenty nine short stories paint an amazingly human, insightful, humorous and poignant portrait of Sarajevo and its citizens during the Serbian siege. Sarjevo Marlboro is one of the most beautiful collection of short stories I have read in a while – I really can’t recommend it highly enough.
[I am putting up one of the stories from the book below (does this count as copyright infringement?) and another two are linked to. Please go read them.]
I am still predominantly reading fiction from areas that made up the ex-Ottoman empire (or to put it less succinctly the Balkans, Turkey, Middle East, Caucuses and North Africa). Including Kadare’s Three Elegies for Kosovo and a short story (available online) The Abolition of the Profession of the Curser. (Speaking of Kadare, the second Man Booker International will be awarded this year and I wonder whom it will go to.) Other than that I think I have to push back my plan to finally seriously sit down with Naguib Mahfouz’s Cairo Trilogy to once school is over. Having read some of Mahfouz’s other works and some fifty pages of Palace Walk I think I’d rather read the book with full attention at a time more conducive for reading.
Right now I need to get back to school work. Sigh.