Books, Thoughts

A combo

Reading takes you places, but sometimes just to break away, you need another story before reality hits. I was reading Gao Xingjian’s extremely unputdownable One Man’s Bible and had to intersperse it with another wonderful book Penelope Lively’s Making it Up. The first is powerful but it needed a dose of well-written make belive or I would have been besieged by harrowing dreams:(

One Man’s Bible moves between the past and the present and recounts a life lived under suppression. It’s powerful and at times disturbing plot takes the form of memories that relive a harrowing Communist past. The book describes how freedom got lost during the Cultural revolution in China. The horrifying incidents of how carelessly spoken words , long-forgotten actions by family members earned one the malodorous title of “having capitalistic tendencies;” punishments ranged from public humiliation, flogging and transported “reform-through-labor” camps. Thus, the search for freedom and the joy in the ordinary is the primary theme of the novel. A heavy read but something you will not wish to miss.
During the Cultural Revolution, people were “rebelling” whereas before that people were “making revolution.” However, after the end of the Cultural Revolution, people avoided talking about rebelling, or simply forgot that part of history. Everyone has become a victim of that great catastrophe known as the Cultural Revolution and has forgotten that before disaster fell upon their own heads, they, too, were to some extent asssailants. The history of the Cultural Revolution is thus being continually revised…..

So you can understand why I needed a breather, and Making It Up provided just that. The book is based on an excellent premise- in the author’s own words it is an ‘anti-memoir’; it goes one step further in unravelling what-if. Penelope Lively has homed in upon the rocks, the rapids, the whirlpools (of her life) and has wriiten the alternative stories. It makes interesting reading, especially as the stories do not rely on her as the main voice. In the first story ‘The Mozambique channel’, the protagonist is a half-remembered nanny, Shirley and in another, she presents herself with a half-sister(Penelope was an only child). The writing is beautiful and soothing. The stories are delightful in themselves and get you thinking what-if? Plus, I found a beautiful one-liner that I would like to appropriate for myself:

I read myself into one preoccupation to another:)

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