Saturday, September 24, 2016

Haunting and lyrical - beautiful short stories by Yuri Kazakov

I found the book 'Autumn in Oak Woods' by Yuri Kazakovpublished by Progress Publishers, at my in-law's home library, when I was in Madurai this summer. There are 12 stories in this collection. I don't think I have thought of any book as beautiful before. This book is beautiful. The writing is haunting and lyrical. I fell in love with the writing even though it is a translated work.

Some stories happen in fishing villages and in wilderness in Northern Russia. Some are set in Moscow and some around the country side of Moscow. There is a similar familiar voice throughout the book. There is pain, love, and melancholy in the stories. There are unsaid words, unfinished relationships. The stories have vivid descriptions of settings and emotions. Then there is alluring, romanticized description of nature, wilderness and music. Nature especially. You can perceive the love for it throughout the book. The North Sea, cabins, shacks, fishing villages, islands up north, rain, snow, river, Milky Way and northern lights all come alive and enchant.

My favorite stories were 'Nikishka's Secret', 'Adam and Eve', and 'Blue and Green'.

In Nikishka's Secret, Nikishka, an 8 year old boy goes to see his father, who is out fishing in the wilderness, on horseback. He goes along the sea, watching rivers flowing into them, along mountains and through the forest, taking in the view. The story ends with him, his father and their dog gazing at the Milky Way at night. The description of which is enticing.

Adam and Eve, is about a disgruntled painter from Moscow, who moves to an island up north, looking for some inspiration to paint. One night, he happens to watch the Northern Lights shimmering in the sky which enamors and moves him.

Blue and Green is a charming adolescent love story.

The thing I liked most about the stories is that they are not resolved in the usual pattern. There is no definitive ending. There is no happily ever after. The words start, flow, bewitch and then they stop.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Book: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The crux of the book is the love story of Ifemelu and Obinze who grow up in Nigeria. They fall in love, but their life splits path when Ifemelu gets her student visa and leaves for America. Obinze ends up going to UK and lives the life of an undocumented immigrant.

The powerful parts in the book are the experiences of Ifemelu as a Non-American Black immigrant in America and struggles of Obinze as an undocumented immigrant in London. Ifemelu struggles in finding her way, navigating through the culture in America, while trying not to lose her identity. She starts a blog, writing about her experiences as a non-american black, feeling the weight of her race for the first time, which she didn't have to care about back home in Nigeria. Obinze meanwhile goes through perilous life of an undocumented, in London. The book has many characters across US, UK and Nigeria, adding depth and dimension. 

Ifemelu and Obinze eventually meet back in Nigeria and contemplate a future together, each changed by their own experiences, but still in love with each other.

Adichie's insights and her immense command in putting them to words, unapologetically and genuinely was brilliant. This is probably the most imposing contemporary immigrant story I have read.