Friday, November 25, 2016

The Sunday Haul (on 20-11-2016)

The only way I learn about new authors and books is when someone mentions such writers and books in their own books, essays, or in reviews. Autobiographies by writers, and literary essays inevitably are gold mines for discovering new writers.

Sometime last week I began reading Alan Paton’s autobiography titled ‘Towards the Mountain.’ In it he mentions visiting Norway, the land of Knut Hamsun author of books like Pan, Victoria etc and who won the Nobel Prize. Paton wrote in a reverential tone about Knut Hamsun. I had read only once about Knut Hamsun somewhere else too but do not remember where. But I remember making a note of the name in one of my notebooks as a writer to watch out for.

Last Sunday at Abids I came across two titles by Knut Hamsun. But I picked up only one title and that was ‘Hunger’ that I got for fifty rupees. Later I felt I should have picked up the other title too. But I was glad I had picked up at least one Knut Hamsun title. I do not know when I will read it but when I do I hope I enjoy reading it.

The next book I found was a title by Alan Paton. Though I am yet to find his most famous title- Cry, Thy Beloved Country- that, curiously, I am unable to find at Abids. I found ‘Debbie Go Home’ that is a collection of ten short stories. In his autobiography- Towards the Mountain- he writes about some of the people he met while working in a reformatory, and how these characters became the basis for some of the short stories in ‘Debbie Go Home.’
It is quite rare to find a book on books, or on reading, or writing, at Abids. So when I find such a book it is an occasion to rejoice. My next find was a book that I almost missed spotting but somehow I saw it at the last moment. ‘The Wonderful World of Books’ edited by Alfred Stefferud contains seventy two articles under various headings such as Pleasures of Reading, Books are Friends, Reading More Effectively, Choosing and Using Books (which has an article called ‘Book Collecting’ by John T. Winterich) and also Writers and Publishers. Though it was published in 1953 it looks like an interesting read.

The other finds were another decent copy of Bruce Chatwin’s ‘Anatomy of Restlessness’ that I gave to a friend right after I found it. I found it in a heap of books and got it for only twenty rupees. The other find was a copy of ‘The Golden Guide to American Guns’ by Larry Koller. One reason I bought was the book appeared like an unusual book published in 1961. It had some good photographs of the classic guns of America. The other reason I bought it was different. I am working on a script that has something to do with a character knowing a lot about guns. I am unable to finish this script and I bought this book in the hope of kick-starting the script.

(Unable to upload photos of the book covers for some reason I am unable to comprehend)

The Sunday Haul (13-11-2016)

( once again I am unable to post the photos of the books)
Sometime ago, a couple of years back maybe, I had found J.M. Coetzee’s ‘Inner Workings’, a collection of 21 literary essays he wrote during 2000-2005. Not long after I bought it I read all the essays in it, one by one. They were lengthy essays on many big name writers analysing their writings with perception and insight. Much of what he wrote went above my head, I must confess. Of the twenty one writers I had no idea about several of them like Bruno Schulz, Hugo Claus, Robert Walser, and so on. However, Coetzee’s essays were so good that I wanted to read the books written by these writers. The only problem remained finding them since it is not usual to find books by writers like those I mentioned above anywhere in Hyderabad or even the country. Last Sunday at Abids I was in for another surprise.

I saw a book ‘Confessions of Zeno’ by Italo Svevo in a heap of books at Abids and when I picked up the book to take a closer look something clicked in my memory. I felt that I had read about this author somewhere but couldn’t remember where. I hesitated before buying it since it looked like a book I wouldn’t want to read whatever the blurbs on the back cover said. Ultimately I decided to buy it since it was coming cheap, at just thirty rupees. On come home I took out the copy of ‘Inner Workings’ and opened it only to find that the first essay in it was on Italo Svevo!

The copy I found was a translation of Beryl De Zoete. I read the essay in ‘Inner Workings’ once again and it seems there’s another translation done by someone called Beth Archer Brombert. I do not know if I will read ‘Confessions of Zeno’ but I have the satisfaction of finding a book by an author I had thought would be impossible to find in Hyderabad.

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Sunday Haul (on 06-11-2016)

This was one Sunday I had been waiting for since the long Dussehra-Diwali shopping season that began almost six weeks ago. Now that Diwali is over, at Abids all the regular stores were closed leaving the pavements and the shopfronts for the second hand booksellers. I was happy to see all the second hand booksellers at their usual places with all their books laid out on the pavements. With the booksellers present in full strength and with full stocks I expected to find some interesting titles and I wasn’t disappointed. I found four wonderful titles last Sunday at Abids.

Books published in the 1950-70’s hold a special fascination for me. I do not know if it is the quaint font they have or the simple covers I buy such titles even if I have never heard of the author. My first find last Sunday at Abids was one such book. I found a copy of ‘The Judge’ by Tarasankar Banerjee with an attractive cover that had a young woman with intense eyes on the cover. ‘The Judge’ is an English translation of the original in Bengali ( titled ‘Vicharak’) by Sudhansu Mohan Banerjee. It is a small book, smaller than a postcard in size with just a little over 100 pages that can be read in less than a couple of hours. Incidentally, I saw another copy of the same book with another seller who thought the book in my hand was from his stock.

Sometime back I bought Series I, II and III of ‘Contemporary Indian Short Stories’ of the Sahitya Akademi at Abids because one of them had a story by the Tamil writer Pudumai Pithan. I had read somewhere that he was a great short story writer. In Series II I read his story- Redemption- that was so simple and wonderfully written that I became an instant fan of Pudumai Pithan. I then resolved to read more Tamil writers if I found their translated works. The second find at Abids last Sunday turned out to be another wonderful find. I regret that I hadn’t been aware of many writers of Indian languages and hence missed a lot of wonderful fiction. But through luck and some sharp observation I am able to find wonderful translations of the works of some really great writers. My next find was one such book and it was ‘Waves’ by Sundara Ramaswamy. I faintly remember coming across this name somewhere. Anyway, ‘Waves’ is an anthology of fiction and poetry of Sundara Ramaswamy translated from Tamil by A.R. Venkatachalapathy, Gomathi Narayanan, and Lakshmi Holstrom who also edited the anthology. After I went home I read a story in it titled ‘A Day with My Father’ and I was struck by the beautiful manner in which the innocence of childhood is brought out.

One can find several copies of ‘Peyton Place’ by Grace Metalious at Abids but so far I haven’t come across a good copy. Either the cover was missing or the pages were loose in all the copies I saw but on Sunday I found a decent copy. I hadn’t read this supposedly controversial book and was looking for a good copy and so picked it up for thirty rupees. There were other titles, mostly Pans, which I should have sifted through thoroughly but somehow I did not. Next Sunday I will go through these copies carefully.

The last find was at Chikkadpally. Sometime recently I read an article in which authors listed out little known authors who did not receive the attention they deserved and I actually wrote down their names. Suguna Ramanathan, Reshma Aquil, Naiyer Masud were some of the names. In the beautiful copy of ‘Indian Literature’ Issue No. 248 of Nov-Dec 2008 I saw at Chikkadpally I found a story by one of the writers in this list-Naiyer Masud. The story was titled ‘Ganjefa: The Game of Cards’ and I picked up this issue that was a treasure of poems, stories, literary criticism, reviews and much more in its 250 pages. I got this wonderful issue of ‘Indian Literature for just thirty rupees.
(Due to some technical problem I could not upload the pictures of the books)

Friday, November 04, 2016

A Mid-week Haul

Last Sunday it was Diwali yet I went to Abids. There were very few sellers and I did not find anything worth picking up from the thousands of books laid out on the pavements. But last Tuesday I was on a day’s leave from work. While running some errands I found myself at Abids. The Best Book Centre has a branch in Abids and I decided to take a quick look at the shelves. Since I had not found anything at Abids I hoped to find something interesting in the store.

I find it difficult to return from a bookstore without buying at least one book. On Tuesday though I saw interesting titles they were not so interesting to make me buy them. Another reason why I desisted buying any title was the high prices. But then just as I was sweeping my glance over the titles in the last shelves near the exit my eyes fell on a Penguin title. Instantly I knew I had found something very interesting.

I’ve come across at least one copy of ‘Cry, the Beloved Country’ by Alan Paton at Abids every week and also see it in second hand bookstores. However, for some strange reason I haven’t felt like buying it though I was aware that it was a good title. Maybe I felt that it would be a depressing book and hence did not buy it all these days. It wasn’t ‘Cry, the Beloved Country’ that I saw at the bookstore buy ‘Towards the Mountain’, the autobiography of Alan Paton.
Since I am a sucker for autobiographies and memoirs by writers, editors, publishers, movie directors and actors etc I did not want to be prevented from buying ‘Towards the Mountain’ by Alan Paton by the price written in pencil on the flyleaf. Though the price was 200 rupees I bought it since the book appeared much, much more worth than that just looking at the picture of Alan Paton on the cover.