Saturday, 22 October 2011


This 2006 novel, THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PYJAMAS, was made into an award-winning Miramax film. The novel itself won 2 Irish Book Awards,the Bisto Book of the Yea. It spent more than 80 weeks at no.1 in Ireland, topped the New York Times Bestseller List,and was the bestselling book in Spain in both 2007 and 2008.Worldwide, it has sold more than 5 million copies.(From John Boyne's official biography).
It is a short book of 216 pages , in bold print .I read it in about five hours in three sittings .It is an outstanding novel  not only on  the Holocaust but also on childhood , innocence , ignorance,friendship and loneliness.It is unforgettable .Its impact remains on you long after you have finished reading it .
Bruno is the nine year old hero of this novel.His father works for the Fury(Hitler), and gets transferred from Berlin to Out-With(Auschwitz).Bruno , his 12 years old sister Gretel  and his parents move over to the new place .Bruno feels lonely , in the absence of friends , and the strange sight of  people wearing striped pyjamas  on the other side of fence.(On the other side is a concentration camp).
Then one day , on his long solitary walks , he meets Shmuel , a boy from the other side of  the  fence (He is a Jew).Without knowing each others' background , they become friends .They meet and play regularly , but without crossing the fence often .They do little things , talk about each other 's place of living  and other child like things.Bruno keeps this friendship a secret , and tells a lie when others ask him about it .
 After about a year , Bruno's mother gets her way and persuades his father to send the family back to Berlin , while his father continues at Out-With.A day before leaving , Bruno crosses the fence to explore the other side, and never returns . . . . The end is so sudden an tragic that it haunts the reader for ever .
The book ends with these lines:"And that's the end of the story about Bruno and his family.Of course, all this happened a long time ago and nothing like that could ever happen again . . . . . .Not in this day and age."
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The book brings out the horrors of atrocities in concentration camps , without being explicit .Its abrupt and impactful end makes you think and ask questions about the genocide that Hitler and his associates committed in the name of race.They did not spare innocent children .On the other hand , when , like children , you do not discriminate human beings on the grounds of race , caste , religion , gender , language or place of birth , you create , develop and maintain friendships for a long time .As Bruno says just before his death,"You are my best friend , Shmuel, my best friend for life."
It is a very powerful book , and I recommend you to invest your five hours into it and read it .

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

I read this short novel of 167 pages for the second time, after a gap of about 17 years.I did not really remember much about it , except that it is a spiritual book and is related to Gotama , the Buddha.
Herman Hesse  had written this book in 1922 in German , and only in 1951, it was translated by Hilda Rosner , and was published in the USA then.It became very popular in the USA in the  sixties and still continues to be in circulation .
 Hesse divided the book in two parts.The first part with four chapters was dedicated to Romain Rolland.The second part , with eight chapters was dedicated to Wilhelm Gundert.Hesse took a long time to write the second part.
The hero of the book is Siddhartha, the son of a Brahmin ,and lives in India during the time of Gotama , the Buddha.He is restless since his youth to find the meaning of existence .He also wants to find out how to reach the state of true joy , or Nirvana. He practises meditation , fasting an self-denial by becoming a Samana(ascetic).But he is  not satisfied .He wants to take a new path and decides to go to Gotama.Here too , the life of a monk does not satisfy him .But he believes that salvation does not come through the teachings of another , even if these are by Gotama.It comes through your own search of innermost part of self, your own experience.
Siddhartha gets a variety of experiences ,of lust , greed and riches .He goes through life in a child like manner , at times even animal -like .The name of the game was Sansara,,involving love , women , children, honors , money , plans , hopes and pleasures.But after a time , Siddhartha realises that he could not play this repetitive game called Sansara , over and over again .He decides to go to the forest and stays in a hut , with a ferry man .He tries to mould his son in his own way but realizes that his son needs freedom , like he needed when he wanted to become a Samana in his youth .
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After reading the book this time , I asked myself this question."Did Siddhartha realize the meaning of existence.?If so , what was it?Did he find inner peace, or Nirvana?" I have several doubts .May be , Siddhartha made a compromise with his soul and decided  not to explore or  gain experience any further.Was it possible to find this meaning and peace , as an individual , without participation in the affairs, challenges  and activities of  family and  community?Is diverse and wide ranging experience essential to reach the truth of existence?Should there be not a limit  to the freedom of gaining experiences of diverse kinds?I did not find answers to these in the book .
But still ,the  book is thought provoking , though does not really provide answers to many questions . I recommend you to read this book at least once.