This is a five-part essay

a. This is an essay in five parts.

b. The first part, the one you are reading right now, is an introduction.

c. The other four contain a review of Orhan Pamuk’s My Name Is Red, an extract from an essay on why criticism matters, a quote from an essay by Pamuk, and a journal entry.

d. These parts can be read in any order.

Alone in Berlin

Hans Fallada – have you heard that name before?

* * *

Tucked in a corner of a mall near Heidelberg is a small shop that offers, among other things, a shoe repair service. The man behind the counter is in his work outfit, a red jumper over a blue shirt, and his coarse hands are dirty.  Wife gives him her shoe with a broken heel; come back in two hours, he says. Two hours later, our shopping completed, when we return he is talking to another customer, taking another order – he needs another fifteen minutes.

Fifteen minutes. What do we do? Walk into Media-Markt and browse the DVD collection? Or visit the German bookstore nearby?
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Utsav, and lists in The Kama Sutra

Yesterday, while scanning a set of disks for a movie to watch, I stumbled upon Utsav.  I had bought the movie a couple of years previously on a trip to India but had never got around to watching it. The choice for this Saturday evening seemed to agree with Wife also, so we settled down under a quilt on the sofa, in a dark room suffused with the dim glow of city lights filtering in through the windows. Continue reading “Utsav, and lists in The Kama Sutra”

The Economist Book of Obituaries

Every week I eagerly await the magazines that are dropped into my postbox, and once they arrive each is subjected a particular routine. The New Yorker I start with the cover illustration; after staring at it for a minute or two I switch to the cartoon contest on the last page; after that comes the contents page, the short contributor bios and the rest of the magazine. With Time it is rather straight-forward: a linear path from front cover to the back page, read with the same breeziness it is written with. The Economist is a bit tricky: unless distracted by a cover story or the special report, I start with the editorials and then, based on my inclination, either move to the books-and-arts pages or plough through the individual sections, page by page. All the while, though, there is one part of this ‘paper’ – as it prefers to call itself – that remains at the back of my mind, waiting for the right moment: the obituary column towards the end. I discovered it a few years ago, and ever since it has provided a window into interesting lives of (mostly) not-so-well known people.

Continue reading “The Economist Book of Obituaries”