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Sunday, January 30, 2005


I take this opportunity to launch a neologism.

Crossword--(noun) "They also sell books"- laa dee dah.

Crossword (verb)--completing a book in one sitting in a public place without borrowing it, or paying for it in any way. Can be done in parts too. May entail backache, headache.

The Brirish Council in most cities ( depending on the affluence levels attempted and scaled)has atleast spotless table festooned with some exotic stuff which speak volubly of the 18th century Chair designs, advances in tropical gardening and the nuances of baroque among others. Needless to say, I tilt the other way.

On the odd occasion, I have even been importuned by an old fossil on whether I need any such book. Horrified, I pretend that I have not heard and furtively peek if anyone else has caught this exchange.

Spotted a hitherto unchallenged copy of The Return--a tastefully done up cover with Conrad as the author. Weasled my way carefully into a decent attacking position--after all think of the public outcry if I am caught persuing through one of the above tomes !

An interesting if unspectacular foreword which bespoke an entire cast of two characters-an added attraction was the demure innunendo thrown in that the lady did not think or speak much.(Ed--Like most ladies should, I imagine !) A read was warranted and I chugged on.

The introduction by Colm Toibin mentions that Conrad was fascinated by the literary style( before he went into oblivion) of Henry James and this be the closest resemblance that JC could have to HJ.. ( Ed--That reminds me--you were to read The Master by Colm Toibin, but in your brazen way, finished off The Line of Beauty and Cloud Atlas ahead !)

The story is of a successful businessman , endowed with looks, brains and a socially attractive wife who comes in home on evening to find that his absent spousewife has left him an epistle , begging for forgiveness as she says she's leaving for another man. This causes Alvan Hervey to go into paroxysms of shock and awe, anguish and turmoil, bewilderment and disillusionment in that order..

Very descriptive writing as his emotional gears are set against his looking out into the evening streets below his home through his metaphoric window.

He is more upset by the fact that his wife has shown her wont in a bout of unseemly demonstration even as he has gone through his five year marriage with her thinking that he has been a caring and affectionate husband who has traded his love and status for his wife's quest for stability and acceptability. That she has walked out on him is itself not distasteful to him , but her obeying what best is a raw emotional chord unsettles him terribly.

Of course, he is consumed with thoughts of her undisclosed lover and her antics behind his back etc.

Into this labyrinth of incomplete thought walks back the wife, and archly announces that she has changed her mind. This happens after both seethe silently with their respective furies--he with his feeling of being let down by her display of lack of reserve and restraint, she with his inability to understand her action in that light.

She glibly speaks of her intent and speaks of returning to him and forgetting the act in entirety.He clings by his articlukation of his beliefs that Self Restraint is everything in Life, the Noblest beliefs demand adherence, rectitude, morality and duty.

He is still flabbergasted that she has not risen above what he sees as preternatural sentiments. He stalls her idea of continuing with their lives and a short while later, walks out his house himself, never to return.

The passages brim with colour and vibrancy. The sounds on the streets below capture and match his thoughts throughout the tale. In that sense, it could lend itself for a theatre adaptation with felicity.

I have an axe to grind with the language. Can say with certitude that English was not his linguistic choice. Conrad uses some words ad nauseam and in a short novel, hardly a hundred pages, that may seem culpable. I can remember decorous, annihilation offhand and they detract markedly from the wan plot.

Not a smooth read, can hardly say that words segued into each other and all that quasi-poetical embellishments.

A 6.5 on 10 !


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