Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Berlin Wall by Frederick Taylor


There was a book fair in the city recently. There were plenty of books at reduced prices. I was looking to add to my collection on world history, and managed to pick up The Berlin Wall. This book [486pages] is an account of the wall from its inception to its destruction. It analyses the politics behind its construction, and during the time it existed, and the numerous people involved. There is a chapter on the heroic escapes from East to West. The book is interesting, the wall being just one aspect of the Cold War.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Who is a Socialist? Mahatma Gandhi's concept of Socialism [1947]

In an editorial entitled, "Who Is a Socialist?" Mahatma Gandhi wrote:
"Socialism is a beautiful word and, so far as I am aware, in socialism, all the members of society are equal—none low, none high. In the individual body, the head is not high because it is the top of the body, nor are the soles of the feet low because they touch the earth. Even as members of the individual body are equal, so are the members of society. This is socialism.
"In it, the prince and the peasant, the wealthy and the poor, the employer and the employee are all on the same level. In terms of religion, there is no duality in socialism. It is all unity. Looking at society, all the world over, there is nothing but duality or plurality. Unity is conspicuous by its absence. This man is high, and that one is low, that is a Hindu, that a Muslim, third a Christian, fourth a Parsi, fifth a Sikh, sixth a Jew. Even among these there are subdivisions. In the unity of my conception, there is perfect unity in the plurality of designs.
"But, in order to reach this state, we may not look on the things philosophically and say that we need not make a move until all are converted to socialism. Without changing our life, we may go on giving addresses and forming parties and, hawk-like, seize the game when it comes our way. This is no socialism.'

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Hero by W. H. Auden



He parried every question that they hurled:
"What did the Emperor tell you?" "Not to push."
"What is the greatest wonder of the world?"
"The bare man Nothing in the Beggar's Bush."

Some muttered: "He is cagey for effect.
A hero owes a duty to his fame.
He looks too like a grocer for respect."
Soon they slipped back into his Christian name.

The only difference that could be seen
From those who'd never risked their lives at all
Was his delight in details and routine:

For he was always glad to mow the grass,
Pour liquids from large bottles into small,
Or look at clouds through bits of coloured glass.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Autumnal Day by Rainer Maria Rilke

AUTUMNAL DAY


Lord! It is time. So great was Summer's glow:
Thy shadows lay upon the dials' faces
And o'er wide spaces let thy tempests blow.

Command to ripen the last fruits of thine,
Give to them two more burning days and press
The last sweetness into the heavy wine.

He who has now no house will ne'er build one,
Who is alone will now remain alone;
He will awake, will read, will letters write
Through the long day and in the lonely night;
And restless, solitary, he will rove
Where the leaves rustle, wind-blown, in the grove.

[I am looking for another translation I once read--the third para in this begins 'The homeless man finds it too late to build/ The lonely man will keep his loneliness' would appreciate it if anyone has this version and can send it to me]

Friday, September 5, 2014

Ten more books--The Second List.

In the first list of ten best books, I missed out some really important ones. Here are ten more favourites, some of which should be in List 1.
1. Cancer Ward by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn; also The First Circle, and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by the same author.
2. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M Pirsig.
3. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.
4. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.
5. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo.
6. All the plays of Henrik Ibsen.
7. The Mahabharata.
8. The Ramayana of Tulasidasa.
9. Manimekhalai
1o. The Golden Treasury [F.T. Palgrave]
[I'll add another ten soon]

Friday, August 29, 2014

The ten books I like best...

It is really not possible to reduce the books one likes to ten. But because of a request on facebook, I gave it some thought and came up with this list. The first two on the list, I can certainly reread a hundred times.
My best books
1.The Glass Bead Game by Herman Hesse.
2. The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann.
3. Most other books by Hesse and Mann [but not Siddhartha].
4. The Morning and the Evening by Joan Williams.
5. A Multitude of Sins by J A Cuddon.
6. Dibs—in Search of Self by Virginia Axline.
7. Place Mill by Barbara Softly [a children’s book]
8. The Synthesis of Yoga by Sri Aurobindo.
9. Walden by Henry David Thoreau.
10. Europe: A History, by Norman Davies.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Sixty-seven years ago

Partition
by
W.H. Auden

Unbiased at least he was when he arrived on his mission,
Having never set eyes on the land he was called to partition
Between two peoples fanatically at odds,
With their different diets and incompatible gods.
"Time," they had briefed him in London, "is short. It's too late
For mutual reconciliation or rational debate:
The only solution now lies in separation.
The Viceroy thinks, as you will see from his letter,
That the less you are seen in his company the better,
So we've arranged to provide you with other accommodation.
We can give you four judges, two Moslem and two Hindu,
To consult with, but the final decision must rest with you."

Shut up in a lonely mansion, with police night and day
Patrolling the gardens to keep the assassins away,
He got down to work, to the task of settling the fate
Of millions. The maps at his disposal were out of date
And the Census Returns almost certainly incorrect,
But there was no time to check them, no time to inspect
Contested areas. The weather was frightfully hot,
And a bout of dysentery kept him constantly on the trot,
But in seven weeks it was done, the frontiers decided,
A continent for better or worse divided.

The next day he sailed for England, where he could quickly forget
The case, as a good lawyer must. Return he would not,
Afraid, as he told his Club, that he might get shot.