Sunday, 17 May 2009

Greene and the Chennai Summer

I know it is not fashionable to talk about Graham Greene these days when bibliophiles wax eloquent about Stieg Larsson and Haruki Murakami, to name just two. But with Chennai wilting under the pitiless heat of a particularly malevolent summer, I am transported back to the hot, tropical climate of Sierra Leone that Greene so effortlessly invoked with his characteristic sense of place in The Heart of the Matter. Replace Sierra Leone with Tamil Nadu, replace Freetown with Chennai, and you will get a fair indication of what we are going through right now.

My blog posts have also slowed down to a trickle now and I conveniently blame it on the weather. In our house the dining table is used not only for the ostensible purpose for which it is intended, but also doubles up as a study table for my daughter, an activities and hobby centre for the wife, a makeshift bar when I invite friends over, a repository for odds and ends which we do not know what to do with, and as a browsing station for the whole family. This is where I normally plonk my laptop to compose my blog posts. But these days, it is too sticky and uncomfortable an area to inhabit—we even take our meals sometimes in front of the TV in the drawing room, which has better climate control.

To come back to Greene.

I had read The Power and the Glory while in college. The book was recommended to me by my father and probably he had his own reasons for suggesting the book, mired as I was at that time in considerable angst and confusion regarding my future. To my surprise, I liked the book immensely and followed up by reading the only other novel of Greene my father had in his collection, which was The Quiet American.

Then followed a long hiatus when I read no Greene whatsoever. More than a decade later, when my wife got a Junior Research Fellowship (JRF) for her PhD programme, I suggested she do something on Greene. By a strange coincidence, her guide liked the idea and finally she ended up doing a comparative study on Evelyn Waugh and Graham Greene. The icing on the cake was JRF allowed her a handsome annual grant to buy books and we ended up having almost the complete works of Greene (and Waugh, even though I have not read him) which I devoured, a book at a time, during the course of the next few months.

My apologies for this pointless ramble.

I think the weather has something to do with it.

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mohit said...

hmmm.. I haven't read the works actually.... so can't say..

but yea, I can totally relate to the multi-functional dining table.... mine's the same!, well apart from the fact that we rarely use it for actual dining :P

Maddy said...

Greene was a great guy - mainly for having promoted RKN...

Rada said...

@ Mohit: If you are a book lover, you should read Greene. Probably you should start with one of his lighter works first, like "Our Man in Havana".

@ Maddy: Absolutely right. Greene gave invaluable support to R.K. Narayan during RKN's formative years and was instrumental in getting him published in the west.

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Stepping Sideways... by K. Radhakrishnan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.