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Book Nook - 29-10-2018

Monday, October 29, 2018
By Deepa Gahlot

There are Lit Fests taking place all over the country, but the community of readers is dwindling. Still, passionate book lovers would like to know what others like themselves are reading. This Book Nook suggests some books, but would also like to connect with serious readers, or even casual airport book browsers. Do write in about books you have loved or hated and why. The best entries will be shared on this page. Please send your recommendations to

A Painter Of Hearts
The English translation of Haruki Murakami's book was eagerly awaited, even though reviews of the Japanese original were not exactly raving

Still, Murakami could never write a bad book; even if he did, it would be a great read. Murakami with his surreal style, may be an acquired taste but his books are addictive. About time he was awarded that elusive Nobel (and also the Bad Sex prize given out annually).

'Killing Commendatore,' translated by Phillip Gabriel and Ted Goossen, follows the strange adventures of the unnamed protagonist, a popular painter of portraits, whose life comes apart when Yuzu, his wife of six years announces that she wants to leave him for another man.

He leaves home, drives around aimlessly for a while till his friend Masahiko Amada offers him the use of a remote mountain cottage, where his father, the great artist Tomohiko Amada used to live and paint. He suffers from dementia and was moved to a care home.

The narrator wants to be a 'real' artist and no longer wishes to paint portraits but inspiration does not strike even amidst peaceful, picturesque surroundings. To pad his dwindling bank balance, he teaches at a nearby art school. He also starts casual affairs with two married women, one of whom stays around for a while, bringing him news from her "jungle grapevine."

Then, three things happen, he gets offered a huge amount of money to paint a portrait of the mysterious Menshiki, who lives on a hilltop mansion nearby. Menshiki has been inspired by F. Scott Fitzgerald's Gatsby, except for the lavish parties. He also lives in splendid isolation and has a peculiar obsession for a young woman. (Later, homage is  also paid to  Lewis Carroll's Alice In Wonderland.)

Menshiki claims to have retired rich, but there is no trace of him online. His most remarkable feature is his snow white hair. He drives expensive cars, wears stylish clothes and has a hidden agenda for seeking out the artist.

Then, the narrator discovers a painting titled Killing Commendatore by Amada hidden in the attic, which bewitches him. The genesis of the painting inspired by the opera Don Giovanni, lies in the time Amada spent studying art Vienna.

The third strange occurrence is a the sound of a bell that wakes up the narrator at night, till he and Menshiki trace it to a pit in the forest nearby. Disturbing the stones on the pit unleash a creature who plays a big part in what happens next.

It would be a spoiler to reveal any more, but the book has to be read at leisure, savouring Murakami's descriptions of food, clothes, music, books and art.

Very few writers can throw logic to the winds, forget about connecting dots and tantalise the reader regardless. The one annoying thing about this book, is the writer's breast fetish-- his conversations about breasts, particularly with a thirteen-year-old girl, are creepy. Ignore that and the novel will please a Murakami fan.

Killing Commendatore
By Haruki Murakami
Translated by Phillip Gabriel, Ted Goossen
Publisher: Knopf
Pages: 674


Excerpt of Killing Commendatore

Today when I awoke from a nap the faceless man was there before me. He was seated on the chair across from the sofa I’d been sleeping on, staring straight at me with a pair of imaginary eyes in a face that wasn’t.

The man was tall, and he was dressed the same as when I had seen him last. His face-that-wasn’t-a-face was half hidden by a wide-brimmed black hat, and he had on a long, equally dark coat.

“I came here so you could draw my portrait,” the faceless man said, after he’d made sure I was fully awake. His voice was low, toneless, flat. “You promised you would. You remember?”

“Yes, I remember. But I couldn’t draw it then because I didn’t have any paper,” I said. My voice, too, was toneless and flat. “So to make up for it I gave you a little penguin charm.”

“Yes, I brought it with me,” he said, and held out his right hand. In his hand—which was extremely long—he held a small plastic penguin, the kind you often see attached to a cell phone strap as a good-luck charm. He dropped it on top of the glass coffee table, where it landed with a small clunk.

“I’m returning this. You probably need it. This little penguin will be the charm that should protect those you love. In exchange, I want you to draw my portrait.”

I was perplexed. “I get it, but I’ve never drawn a portrait of a person without a face.”

My throat was parched.

“From what I hear, you’re an outstanding portrait artist. And there’s a first time for everything,” the faceless man said. And then he laughed. At least, I think he did. That laugh-like voice was like the empty sound of wind blowing up from deep inside a cavern.

He took off the hat that hid half of his face. Where the face should have been, there was nothing, just the slow whirl of a fog.

I stood up and retrieved a sketchbook and a soft pencil from my studio. I sat back down on the sofa, ready to draw a portrait of the man with no face. But I had no idea where to begin, or how to get started. There was only a void, and how are you supposed to give form to something that does not exist? And the milky fog that surrounded the void was continually changing shape.

“You’d better hurry,” the faceless man said. “I can’t stay here forlong.”

My heart was beating dully inside my chest. I didn’t have much time. I had to hurry. But my fingers holding the pencil just hung there in midair, immobilized. It was as though everything from my wrist down into my hand were numb. There were several people I had to protect, and all I was able to do was draw pictures. Even so, there was no way I could draw him. I stared at the whirling fog. “I’m sorry, but your time’s up,” the man without a face said a little while later. From his faceless mouth, he let out a deep breath, like pale fog hovering over a river.

“Please wait. If you give me just a little more time—”

The man put his black hat back on, once again hiding half of his face.“One day I’ll visit you again. Maybe by then you’ll be able to draw me. Until then, I’ll keep this penguin charm.”Then he vanished. Like a mist suddenly blown away by a freshening breeze, he vanished into thin air. All that remained was the unoccupied chair and the glass table. The penguin charm was gone from the tabletop.

It all seemed like a short dream. But I knew very well that it wasn’t. If this was a dream, then the world I’m living in itself must all be a dream.

Maybe someday I’ll be able to draw a portrait of nothingness. Just like another artist was able to complete a painting titled Killing Commendatore. But to do so I would need time to get to that point. I would have to have time on my side.

‘Bahir’ by Monisha Gomber is  "A tale of utter desperation, fierce hope and a fight for honor. Meet Sawera, a beautiful and sensual woman. Born in Pakistan, raised in the Middle East and abused wherever she goes. Struggling to find acceptance, which eludes her over and over again, she ends up being an outcast. Who belongs nowhere and to no-one. Used and manipulated by the men she loved, from the depths of her soul she claims her self-respect, along with the faith to overcome her pitiful circumstances. Where does she find her strength?  What is the breaking point?  How does she get over the demons of her past? Follow the story of Sawera, a child born of midnight into the dawn of hope. Uncover the secrets and conspiracies that make her the woman she is. Read her story, a story of survival."
By Monisha K. Gumber
Publisher: Wordit
Pages: 181

In Savita Singh's 'Of Love, Life & Laughter' "A very disturbed God confides in his friend and confidant Chitragupta that he is considering destroying the world as his best creation the humans are busy fighting, killing, raping, cheating and doing worse. He is in total despair. An agitated Chitragupta tells him to relax and says that things upon earth are not as bad as they seem. To convince God he brings an old Brahmin Devta who narrates various tales of Love, Life and Laughter and convinces God that humanity deserves a second chance. A very relieved God says thathastu and goes off to enjoy a Party in Heaven only to find that every thing is not as hunky dory in Heaven and is very much like what it is upon his beloved Earth.
Of Love, Life & Laughter
By: Savita Singh
Publisher: Kalamos
Pages : 210

Rajat Pillai'sYoddha: The Dynasty of Samudragupta is set in AD 379, when "The Gupta dynasty is stepping into its golden age. But the past holds many dark secrets...After long and bloody wars, Samrat Samudragupta sits on the pinnacle of an empire. yet, close to his throne are hearts filled with revenge, scheming to bring him down. Into this gathering storm arrives Chandragupta, the king’s long-lost son. As he settles into his new life devastating family secrets surface, old wounds are reopened and Chandra can no longer trust anyone – least of all those closest to him. Bizarre and sinister incidents abound as palace conspiracies unravel plunging Rajgriha into a pit of chaos.  Will the son pay for the sins of his father?"Yoddha: The Dynasty of Samudragupta unfolds the murky loves and lies of one of the most illustrious clans in history."
Yoddha: The Dynasty of Samudragupta
By Rajat Pillai
Publisher: Jaico
Pages: 242

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