The Book Of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa
In this time of coronavirus that exposes our vulnerability, I am constantly reminded of anonymity best practised by someone we know in literature as Fernando Pessoa. Pessoa created around 75 heteronyms or figures from his own self. These heteronyms often talked to each other through his writings. Published four decades after Pessoa’s death, the book is an interesting series of fragmented notes and ruminations from a faceless autobiographer.
Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl
Recently, to write a long form piece on how the lockdown affected the nation's mental illness, I re-read this book. It is an account by a trained psychiatrist of Frankl’s calibre and experience as an inmate in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. The power of the book is not the description of horrors but how it asserts that the meaning of life is found in every moment of living and how life never ceases to have meaning, even in suffering or in death.
In Search Of Heer by Manjul Bajaj
I love this re-telling of the famous love ballad from Punjab - Heer Ranjha, first attributed to Damodhar Gulati in the 17th century and later to other poets including the famous Waris Shah version in 1766. Manjul Bajaj's version is a riveting modern and lyrical take which makes for very good reading. Bajaj not only brings alive the story of love, betrayal and loss framed by patriarchy and feudalism, she infuses new life into it by experimenting with points of views, gender norms, and even the ending.
Secret Writings of Hoshang Merchant
A recent biography I enjoyed - not only because the writer is my teacher but also because he gave me courage to open myself to the world and that the personal is political - is Secret Writings of Hoshang Merchant . While Merchant is prolific and well-known poet, I loved his prose for it reminded me of his classes. He speaks in his book as he did during his lovely lectures and invariably repeating the points : to be truthful, be yourself, and confront the world. I am glad now a much wider audience can access the poet's mind and heart.
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