Tuesday, March 17, 2009

OTC 1.5: Two Mini-Reviews of Novels from Hungary and Pakistan

This is actually an unscheduled extra contribution to the Orbis Terrarum Challenge.

(1)  The Rebels by Sandor Marai, originally published in 1930, translated from the Hungarian by  George Szirtes, 2007.
The novel, set in Hungary in the spring of 1918, deals with a group of young boys who are graduating from school and facing the inevitable draft which will sent them into the front lines of World War I.  Confronted with this inescapable situation, the boys rebel against adults, adulthood, and the whole adult world, attempting to hold on to the innocence -- and ultimately safety -- of childhood; they begin to steal various valuable objects and money from their own families and secretly reveling in their thefts and defiance of the adult world.  They are joined by a mysterious actor who intrigues them and who ultimately leads them into a bizarre "performance" with unexpected and devastating consequences that shatter any illusions they have about remaining in a safe childhood world.  Although the novel is a dark one, it is also fascinating with some individually powerful scenes; it is definitely worth reading.

(2)  Cracking India by Bapsi Sidhwa, 1991 (originally published in 1988 in Britain as The Ice Candy Man).
This novel, narrated by a young girl whose family belongs to a very small religious group, the Parsees, deals with the extreme religious, racial, and ethnic violence that accompanied the Partition of India into India and Pakistan in 1947.  We watch through her eyes as a peaceful multiethnic community of Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs  disintegrates into distrust, growing hostility, and finally horrendous and unrestrained brutality, and the effects on Lenny, her family, servants, and friends, and their attempts to salvage something of value out of the maelstrom of violence that engulfs the city of Lahore as it does much of  India and Pakistan during this time.  Another novel I recommend.


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