Baroque

To spread or not to spread is the question
There is a certain delight
To disseminate the palpitation
The throbbing ache at the lump near the throat
Through nothing but words
Jotted hastily on the pulpit of my dream.

Perhaps I should remain silent,
Perhaps I should make an attempt
To bear all my agony and deprivation
With a little more grace and propriety.

I will stay here alone
In this gutter of endless reverie
Waiting to crawl beneath the earth
My solitary self,
I am so divested that all I can miss
Is the solitude of days bygone.

The absurdity and its victim: remembering Albert Camus

Whenever a sincere attempt to measure the depth of twentieth century will be made, there would be Camus and his thoughts. The greatness of Camus, the literary giant, may be inquired against the backdrop of Camus, the succinct philosopher, only to conclude the inescapable truth: they are inseparable. The world Camus builds in ‘The Plague‘, the world Camus hints in his short-stories such as “The renegade“, the world that shatters in his novels like “The Fall” or “The stranger” or in his play “The Just Assassins“: all of them are not dissociable from the hoarse outcry of “The rebel” or the morbid fatalism of “The myth of Sisyphus“. Why is it that Camus so close to our heart, my heart: I often ask myself. I wonder why, even after reading all the masters of Twentieth Century, in my mind Camus remain standing tall, hovering over everyone else. It is not simply because of his literary genius. His works were never amount to be as ambitious as Ulysses of Finnegan’s Wake. His oeuvre is not as magnanimous in its depth and premise as that of Sartre. Still Camus remains as the one and only: because, he holds in his head the duality of our generation, the dialectics that is tearing us apart: the dialectics between fatalistic ignominy and rebellious upsurge.

To write about someone like Camus, it is hard not to give away to the temptation of putting one quote after another, letting the words speak for themselves and keep observing the awe in the readers’ eyes. But I am not going to give in to that, because Camus for me is not one-liners; he is the totality. He is the Atlas holding the world of our thought upon his shoulder tirelessly. There is something within the premise of his novels and short-stories that advocates the in-depth analysis, a rereading of the text of apparent clarity. His characters are somewhat recurring, as if he is putting himself in the shoes of different persons in different circumstances. The perils of his characters are not varied since they are from a particular temporal space and afflicted by the same duality in between their dreams and actions. Sometimes he is dangerously close to solipsism, sometimes his absurdist point of view takes a deterministic aura, sometimes he destroys himself through a rebellious urge; yet for any Camus admirer he always presents the same genius: the indefatigable dichotomy.

To understand Camus one should read him in the context of his place and time, but still, like any great man of word, there’s a distinct flavour of universality in his writing. One may dip into a Camus novel without preparing himself to read him and still would emerge as someone else after going through the vicious world of the mastermind. And that is how Camus changed the world, not merely by describing its projections and attributes, but belonging and accommodating the change within himself and within the psyches of the readers. Camus has become an integral part of anyone who even dared to gloss over the pages of any of his books; never letting the reader rid himself off him, thus creating a world sombre, ineluctable and yet dulcetly fatalistic.

 

Film Review: Heartbeats (Les Amours Imaginaires)

Xavier_Dolan_HeartbeatsXavier Dolan is one of the most promising film-makers of recent time. With his first film I killed my mother he showed the prospect of turning out sincere dramatist on the silver screen. With his second outing as director, in Heartbeats or Les Amours Imaginaires, Dolan depicts another emotion laden drama of friendship and love and other tributaries of the quasi-amorous relations.

Francis and Marie, two friends, meets Nicolas in a party and both of them felt attracted to the charming young man whose sexuality is not evident. The film goes on telling us the story where both of them pursue Nicolas as his and her lover, trying to build an image of him within their own mind according to one’s own convenience. They find other partners for sexual gratification, thus baring the emotional bankruptcy in the age of easy promiscuity. The generation to which Dolan himself belongs, is a generation fatigued by making love without loving and thus it is portrayed not with indifference or with hostility, but with care, how this generation flails for love all the same. Perhaps this is the strongest trait of the film.

While making a film on a subject somewhat hackneyed by overuse by all the other directors over the years, Dolan remains true to his own strength of story-telling with tinge of experimental form. His use of humour is restrained and hence effective. The use of background music especially in a scene where Bach’s cello song was playing on the back, it truly elevated the film in totality. So Heartbeat should be watched not only to observe the signatures of a young promising film-maker on the silver-screen, but also to watch a very fresh take on a subject we all thought we have left behind.

Film Review: Jose and Pilar (A scetch on last years of Jose Saramago)

Jose e PilarWell-made documentaries can be broadly  categorized in two classes: the first genre comprises fact based hard-hitting stories on a controversial socio-political subject matter, the best example of which is the ones made by the world-renowned Michael Moore; while the second genre introduces the viewers to a dremscape like journey, putting the poetics in the camera work that ascends us to an out of the world experience. Searching for a Sugarman is the finest example of the second genre to which the documentary made on Nobel laureate Portuguese  novelist Jose Saramago belongs.

Now let me begin with a confession. I am not a huge fan of Jose Saramago’s work. I have read his very innovative novels like Blindness, Seeing and The double and appreciated the original style of story-telling. Yet I could not enjoy his style of grueling details, his obsessions with harrowing factoids and musings of the characters that sounded rather trite. The lack of use of punctuations and style of his stream of consciousness writing is somewhat lost in translation and all I could see was a writer whose craft seemed rather common-place; and I don’t know if I should blame the author or the translator for this.

Returning to the documentary made on the final days of Jose Saramago and his wife Pilar del rio I should say that I found a different Jose Saramago whom I could not find in the pages of his novels (translated in English). This Saramago, with his in depth insights on life and its tributaries, on his pondering over his impending death, his race against borrowed time to finish his novel, and his conclusion (and the conclusion of the film) not with his usual optimism but rather a devastating fatalism reminded me of another Portuguese master writer senior to Saramago: Fernando Pessoa.

Apart from the points I mentioned just now, Jose and Pilar touches the love between Sarmago and his wife, their mutual achievements, their struggle to change the world and keep pace with it. The fiery Pilar exhorting against war efforts in middle-east comes in sharp contrast with the brooding Saramago who, almost languidly, goes on with his life accepting that “a man’s writing cannot change the world”. In fact the political commitment of Saramago that I never found in his novels (which perhaps is a good thing) is present in the documentary without any nuances  and as searing truth.

In conclusion Jose and Pilar truly changed my outlook towards the writer and I believe it will do that to everyone who endeavoured to read him in English. In that sense it is highly recommended for the English speaking audience.

Lyrical ballad in the face of decimation; Film Review: Perfect Sense

Perfect_Sense Sometimes a film struck us as a bolt of lightning. It is hard to discern what makes these films special: perhaps a few strong performances, perhaps the eloquent script, perhaps a director who almost inadvertently produced a magnum opus. The film Perfect Sense is the summation of all of them and perhaps even more.

The story is set in the present or near future when an epidemic of an unnamed disease starts to spread rapidly yet silently through the entire populace of the world: thus turning into pandemic. Eva Green, playing one of the protagonists, an epidemiologist, can do nothing but watch silently that the world immersing into senselessness. An emotional catharsis of any kind followed by loss of a particular sensory perception is the form of the disease: the smell is the first sense to go followed by an abrupt feat of grief. The disease seemed innocuous enough not be taken seriously: but the other senses soon follow. Next to go is taste followed by an attack of manic guilt and gluttony; then hearing followed by an impulse of hate speech and violent behaviour. And at the finality of the film the vision is to depart, leaving the screen dark, with the two protagonists seeking each other, finding each other, ending up in each others arms. The portrayal of human struggle to continuously cope up with the gradually befalling annihilation is so magnificent that it leaves one breathless. Ewan McGregor, cast in the part of a cook, trying to find the way to come in terms with his personal demons as well as the new professional crisis performed superbly. Eva Green, in her usual withdrawn way, sets another strong performance of the likes of the films such as ‘Crack’ or ‘Womb’. Her husky voice, taking the viewers through the events on voice-over, mingled with a great back-ground score brings the mood the director wanted to depict: the sense of fatalism.

In fact the entire film, with the unlikelihood of a sci-fi movie, is actually dipped into the Christian myth of sin and sense of guilt, trying to evade the demons, personal, multitudinous and otherwise and failing, and accepting finally, succumbing in a fatalistic way, finding love and self and an immense joy of being alive. The film, even under the hood of its fatalistic overture, celebrates life and that will keep it memorable for a long time.

After four decades, Life is still elsewhere

Is Jaromil still alive among us? Is the quintessential introspective shy prototype of a poet is still well and kicking? Or has the glitz and glamour of globalized uniform culture of loud vulgarity left no space what-so-everLiffe is elsewhere for the Jaromils?

This is what I asked myself for innumerable times while reading “Life is elsewhere” by Milan Kundera that I perceive as the best work by the author (and I am saying this keeping the other works as eminent as The Unbearable lightness of being or The Immortality in mind). Life is elsewhere is neither a period drama woven around some representative characters intending to invoke longing for the days by gone in the hearts of the readers, nor is it a staunch political work in the strictest sense of that term. In fact Kundera never intended to be a political voice vociferating against the political regime only. His writing was very political but not on the verge of being propaganda. In this regard he very much reminds us of his contemporary Ivan Klima.

Particularly for this reason of being deprived of any such generic quality, Life is elsewhere has a charm of its own. The novel is woven around the protagonist Jaromil, going back to his birth and events prior to that leading to his arrival, his agonizing boyhood and adolescence, his coming of age in a place and time where the revolt has become the institution and hence leaving no space for the youth to express itself. At times it seems that being a poet was more of a fate for Jaromil than a choice, like for the most of the bards whom poetics follow as a silent docile muse; another moment it would seem that Jaromil is, in fact struggling to unbuilt himself and his surrounding and poems are but the by-product of his untimely ungainly struggle. Kundera, with his usual effortlessness, depicts, scrutinizes over and analyzed the relation Jaromil has with his mother, other members of his small family, his only amorous companion who is clearly not his equal in any sense and yet becomes another means of his effort to undo himself and come to terms with the mundane reality presented to him by a society and a state that is hell-bent to remain arid and make the likes of Jaromil sterile.

In the first reading Life is elsewhere remains the story of the existential crisis of a struggling writer against a political back drop that is somewhat unfamiliar for those who never lived under the iron rule of communism. But then its attempt to be transpired into the story of everyman comes in light. The tyranny that communist regime and the arid society bestows upon Jaromil becomes the story of every society of every age and Jaromil, like a hero of Greek tragedy, becomes something more than a poet who meets his end prematurely in an abrupt turn of event. Without any swagger or bravado, Jaromil is elated by the author to the stature of a hero to whom only a few can relate (in spite of Kundera’s best effort Jaromil does not represent everyman, at least not to every man).

So Life is elsewhere is a novel for a few, like most of Kundera’s works are. A very few would read this great piece of literature, even fewer would like it, and perhaps a very few like me would adore it and continue to adore it years after reading the novel, for in some obscure way, Jaromil would have become a part of our conscience.