When a Salman Rushdie says that a certain book is ‘the greatest novel in any language…’ my eyes not only stop to consider reading the book but the mind wanders to what must be the book about. To say that Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude is considered a master piece transcending time would be an understatement.
It sometimes becomes difficult to read without being affected by the reverence this book receives worldwide. But chapter after chapter, page after another I got to know the reasons for this admiration. For instance after I began reading, the first chapter wasn’t a beginning of the sorts but a scene in the middle of a story. But by the end of the chapter I was held captivated by the description of the scene. Only after reading a couple of hundred pages I realised the importance of the fragment I read in the beginning.
The book deals with reality and illusion, war and tradition, values and corruption, human logic and destiny and finally time and magic. Yes magic, in its most real form which creates a sense of mysticism in the story. The story revolves around the Buendìa family of a village called Macondo. There is no real lead or hero of the book except the Buendìa family itself but has some very interesting acquaintances of the family including the gypsies. What makes it interesting to read is that you become a part of the tradition of the family, when you know about the family history better than the later generations of the family; it is easier to comprehend the larger picture.
From the very title of the book to its last word, it seems we’ve travelled a full circle of life, that meaning quiet literally. The book leads us to different places with the characters; we drift with them without actually realising that we’ve travelled so far. And with the same subtlety in writing we reach back to Macondo. The book narrates the reality, paints the past to understand the present in totality and surprises us with the future of each character.
The author has such patience to describe each and every thing with admirable precision that sometimes it’s hard to blink while reading. After reading the book I exhaled in disbelief about the knowledge the author has of not only human feelings, emotions, psychology but about the very art of writing as well. The capability of the author to honestly describe human psyche and behaviour is one to be applauded. Once I finished the book, one of the few things I managed to think was that ’Is it even possible to write something like this, think it all up?’ The story is complicated, the characters unpredictable, people so many in number, political issues which the world faces even today and to top it all up it is the people who make things complicated and bring about reform afterwards. The story spans from the very foundation of a village to its end and tells of the happiness and sorrow both destiny and nature bring about on this village. The book gives such grave insight on rebel movements as it does on the very nature of human beings. This book is far too diverse to be categorised into a type of writing.
The book depicts the nature of humans in a way that is real and genuine yet manages to surprise us with unpredictability of words and events. The book has its own history of the village, an uncertain present and a future held in a manuscript.
Combining so many themes in a single book artistically and yet managing to weave it all together in a fabric of magic and tradition is what keeps the plot interesting. The story of the book, it seems is the story of humanity compressed in time and space told through the tale of the Buendìa family. It tells of almost everything the world is made of love, family, nature, conflict, war, destiny, illusion and traditions. It really is something to be read.
A late night discussion with my brother gave me some food for thought about the differences between Fiction and Non-Fiction books. Well it is just polite to cite them just as ‘differences’ because what they are are South Pole and North Pole where the distance between them is almost unnavigable, as believed by many.
I began as a hard-core Fiction reader (which I still am) but am slowly beginning to realise that non-fiction is not ‘uninteresting’, ‘boring’ or ‘unreadable’ – as is the myth. But what the avid fiction readers say about non-fiction is that it is ‘heavy’ on them but what they really mean is that is easier read when you know it’s not for real in contrast to when you know that some thing this bad can happen for real.
A non-fiction book I plan to read this summer is ‘The Discovery of India’. But I fail to overlook the irony in the title. What non-fiction readers many times boast is the fact that what they read is factual and entirely based on truth ‘as it is’ and not ‘tampered’ by the writing or perception of the writer. But books like ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ (fiction) have a deep relation with reality but are wrapped in a heartwarming story sadly true for most. Now, coming back to the title of ‘The Discovery of India’, Jawaharlal Nehru could have used any other title for this master piece that is woven in reality and hard-hitting facts but what he chose is a reflection to what he wants to convey to the readers. The book tells about a land and how it became India. Both these books, both an epitome of fiction and non-fiction invariably point out the issues (about women in Afghanistan) and reality (and history of India).
The fact of the matter is the destination of both fiction and non-fiction is an idea which is conveyed through two paths so different that they almost seem unrelated.
Therefore, from last night the line between ‘Reading fiction and non-fiction’ is getting blurred for me because I had a realisation that whether a book is a work of fiction or non-fiction, it should not keep me from reading it unless and until it conveys the idea and knowledge about things. The most Fictitious work like the Harry Potter series can sometimes teach a child better about friendship and virtues like courage than any real story ever. On similar lines, you might not feel motivational or positive as promised at the beginning of that self-help book.
Both fiction and non-fiction are part of a reality. I say so because they both are meant to convey a message or describe a phenomenon. Message about love, peace, discovery, science, history, politics, commerce, etc and description about a wizarding world, life in another planet, etc. Of all the things I mentioned I can think of at least one work of fiction and non-fiction on each one of them. Everybody wants a bit of luck in their life, a bit of magic;luck for their favourite sports teams and players and magic to find love for themselves. If their team wins it becomes a fact. But when a person’s dream of becoming a writer is shattered long before it is realised and written about in a novel, it might be fiction to the rest of the world but very much a reality for that person.
So not all is fiction to everyone, but some things are fantasy to all. What is important is not whether one reads fiction or not but does it affect you at all? What is supreme is an idea gained and how we chose to develop it, nurture it for the better, for the best.
Few months back, my father told me about a bookstore in a surprising place for a books store such as that one. As I found my way in a dimly lit alley where I could only see shops of bulky law books I found the bookstore. It was already closed for the day. But as my brother and I were expressing our disappointment of having found the bookstore and not been able to explore it, just when we were making our way back, the sales person who too was ready to hop on his bicycle to call it a day inquired if we were interested to go inside the bookstore, we said yes and with unexpected excitement that he showed, he unlocked the doors of a bookstore that I am certain will be edged in my memory for a long, long time. The things I was absolutely oblivious to were what I think about at several times now.
It is an independent bookstore and goes by the name Rupayana. Not only is it a place where books are treated with the kind of respect they deserve but also a place immensely satisfying for a reader and a book-lover. I say satisfying because they are well-kept and maintained in a way that it is hard to keep one from appreciating it.After couple of visits to that bookstore I started to browse similar independent bookstores around the world that are still operating or once did on the internet. And to my delight I found several of the kind.
The independent bookstores offer writers and readers place, atmosphere and almost always the companionship and help of the bookstore staff. These bookstores have an air which is unique to them which has a sense of history to it and a story to tell. Because such bookstores are not there just to sell books, they are there to offer you a place where you can read and celebrate books. That’s where the integral difference between Commercial and Independent-bookstores-with-a-heart lies, Independent bookstores celebrate books and do not compromise respect for books at any cost.
Like all good things, these Independent bookstores too have to face hurdles and obstacles due to which several have been forced to close down. But nevertheless they exist and I believe almost everywhere, we just need to search and explore because there are always enough people to admire things like these and have the courage and strength to see that they exist. While I was reading about Independent bookstores around the world a lot of them have been forced to close down because of financial reasons but as evidence that people care about such things I scrolled through hundreds of articles in the protest of such closures.
Whilst these bookstores manage survival, I never fail to recognise the efforts that are put in to make and keep up such a haven for book lovers. I will find it hard to find even more to believe that a person with utter disregard for books can create such a place. Only when a person is truly in love with books and knows the value attached to reading can she or he create it in the first place. Like many people who crave for a books stacked together to be read and a collection of books that is discussed and highly thought of, some of them have the resources and courage to open a bookstore, one with a soul.
Opening and maintaining a bookstore, any bookstore for that matter requires funds and lots of them. Therefore not many Independent bookstores have risen to worldwide fame. But who needs fame and money when you have satisfaction of preserving books in the best of their spirits and encouraging reading as a blissful habit? But there are inevitable situations which arise without worldwide fame and funds which certainly are hard hitting and real and uproot the very existence of Independent bookstores causing them to close down. One such bookstore among the hundreds that have had similar fate I read about was based in San Francisco called ‘Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books’. The name forced a smile on my face followed by sadness that a bookstore with such a name had to be closed down.
Such harsh fate that these Independent bookstores have met and the realisation of their importance forced me to ponder on them. Even though we have found replacements and substitutes for almost everything, we must not fail to realise the importance that such Independent bookstores have on us and the impact they have on our personalities. After all we are human beings not robots, we do not need books alone to extract knowledge, we need the inspiration to read them and be in an environment where we can create a haven in our minds to respect and acknowledge them. And that is what these Independent bookstores around the world offer, they inspire us to read for pleasure and work and while we do that, they silently keep the spirit of books alive.