Category Archives: books

Book Review – Ghosts of Spain: Travels Through Spain and its Silent Past by Giles Tremlett

Fabulous book. If there is one book you want to read on modern Spain, this should be it. Covers a wide breadth of topics including nearly all provinces, El Caudillo and the horrors of the Civil War including how its left Spain divided and the guilty unpunished, Basque and Catalan nationalism and their uniqueness, Flamenco and gypsies, Costa del Sol and the invention of package tourism, Galician idiosyncrasies, the Spanish way of life (endless nights and mid day siestas) and much more. Written by a British journalist who’s been living in Spain since the mid 80’s, I found this book in most reading lists for potential tourists. Highly recommend getting the latest copy as the author has been adding on newer events with every edition.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

Toru Okada loses his job. Then his cat. Then his wife.

What follows is a most bizarre journey.

He meets two psychic sisters, who help him in his search. Inexplicably grows a blue patch on his face. Befriends a high school student who’s part time job is to observe men’s hair patterns. Decides to hangout in a well and gets trapped inside for days. Meets a WW2 veteran who recalls his tortuous and bizarre experiences as a young Japanese officer in Manchukuo who becomes a PoW in a Russian slave labour camp. Meets another WW2 survivor who ‘cures’ people and her son who stopped speaking at the age of 6, inspite of being capable of doing so.

Amazing, mind blowing book with such a wide scope that when you finish reading it you feel you’ve come a long way from where you began.

PS :
A friend borrowed my original copy for a trip abroad when I was midway through, never to return it. I ended up buying another copy after quite a bit of waiting. This was my third Murakami book, following ‘Kafka on the shore’ and ‘South of the border, west of the sun’ chronologically, and I recently finished my first collection of short stories by the same author – ‘Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman’, another great read. Bought ‘Norwegian Wood’ recently, should be starting it soon.

Book hunting and jazz

Yesterday was quite hectic. The day began quite early, as I had to meet Vijay at the Strand sale. Started a little late, so found the peak 9am traffic. Still somehow managed to reach on time.

The Strand sale was again organised at the Chinnaswami cricket stadium like last year, but in a different location. Last time they only had one large hall, with books piled up one on top of the other, so it was a tough job to search. This time though, it was held in 3 halls, so there was enough space to spread out all books. I remember last time I had bought some 4-5 books, all really good deals. But it was disappointing this time, found mostly bestsellers, that too at a very nominal discount. I told them about it, and they asked me to come again in a few days as they were going to get more stock.

Vijay came about 30 mins late, by which time I had more or less scanned the first hall. Then we went through the entire collection together, looking for good bargains. But didn’t really found much to our liking. Still, I ended up buying two. A collection of short stories by Tolstoy, which I bought because I wanted to read Kreutzer Sonata, a story I left unfinished when in school. The other one was Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell.

Then we went for more book shopping to Blossoms, our evergreen discount store, where one can always find good deals. We spent over an hour going through all the sections. I bought two books on Vijay’s recommendation. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky, a good book to start on this author. The other one was My Feudal Lord, an autobiography of Tehmina Durrani, wife of one of Pakistan’s highest ranked politicians, in which she writes about the kind of abuse she had to face from her husband.

Then got back to home, where a fabulous lunch was waiting for us. Rested for sometime, while Vijay spent some time online. Then we chatted up for sometime. He invited me to a jazz event at Alliance Francaise in the evening. I thought it would be interesting, so decided to go.

Alliance as usual was buzzing with activity. I was introduced to the director of the Bangalore School of Music (the event’s organiser), who wanted to meet me for some help. We decided to meet and talk at a later time. Then the show was about to begin, so we assembled inside the amphitheatre.

Finally the show started, and the performing duo was welcomed on the stage by the director.
On guitars was well known jazz guitarist Amit Heri, and on the piano was Sharik Hassan, who’s only 22 but already famous for his talent, with performances in India and abroad. They performed several classics, and the show went on for about an hour. Finally I bid adieu to my friend, and started on my way back home, quite tired after the hectic day.