Book description

Book info

eBook formatUnknown Binding, (torrent)En
PublisherPenguin Books
File size2.1 Mb
GanreNon Fiction
Release date 08.03.2010
Pages count178
Book rating4.41 (105 votes)
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VS Naipaul on this book:

"I have read nothing like that from India or anywhere else. It's very simple. Everything is underplayed, and the truths of the book come rather slowly at you. He is writing about solitude, tremendous solitude. He himself doesn't say it. He leaves it all to you to pick up. I haven't read another book about solitude from India. In a way, from this great subcontinent full of people, to write a book about solitude is quite an achievement. I was very moved by his book. He comes from a kind of darkness. There is a darkness all around him: a broken family in the background. There's a love for the father. He stays with the father after the family breaks down. He is quite a little boy. His father has a stamp collection. It's a serious stamp collection, a great family possession. Typical of Bond that he should put in a letter from his father, just saying 'the last letter from my father' - just prints it. Very affecting, very educated and sensitive, the letter. And then he just says: 'Two weeks later my father died.' That's the way he does it. After his father's death he looks for the stamp collection and he never finds it. It pains one to read about it. He does it in the Bond way, in a sentence or two. His father was in the RAF - fell ill somewhere near Calcutta, and probably died in the hospital. And the stamp collection was never found. Dead men's effects, you can do what you want with them because there's no family coming to look at them either.

[Interviewer: Tragic?]

Yes, but the writer doesn't make much of it. There's a sentence in the book which tells you what the book's about: 'I was alone, I was lonely, but I was not afraid.' Whereas other Indian writers have their elaborate family structure to write about, Bond has nothing, just a few individuals here and there. Very few. So he's an orphan actually.

[Interviewer: Does that give him a unique standpoint in India?]

I think so. But there's some personal quality there. His father called him Ruskin after the English social commentator and critic. He prints some letters at the back of the book from Diana Athill, that very gifted woman who was at Andre Deutsch and made Deutsch an important publisher. Her point is that he can take this paring-away of inessentials too far. He must understand that you've got to give the reader time to sink into a new mood or a new setting. This is his way of writing, though. He doesn't, as it were, make a meal of events like the death of his father. The book ends with a little letter to his dead father. He tells his father about the ride to the old school and how it's changed. He says he had a dream about a friend of his. I think he appears as a big man and the friend was still small, and he asks: 'I wonder when I dream of you I will be a big man or a child?' Very moving."

I fully agree with VS Naipaul here. He is bang on point. But I do not share as much enthusiasm for this book. I love the book, don't get me wrong, but it does not affect me as much as it affects Naipaul. The reasons I suspect are other than literary.

Bond, like Naipaul, shared a very intimate and loving bond with his father. In fact, the father was his only close friend till he was seventeen years old - and the father died when Bond was only ten. Bond, like Naipaul, was raised in a dysfunctional family, did not have a sense of permanent, owned home (they kept moving from place to place throughout his childhood) and suffered from loneliness, partly because he grew up as an orphan and partly because he was Anglo-Indian. Naipaul has always emphasized that he has no home, that his writing comes from this sense of no belongingness. These similarities and others (Naipaul's father too was a collector, a stamp collector if I am not wrong, and they too exchanged letters which Naipaul credits to be an impetus for his early writings...) I am sure makes it a special book for VS.

And the book IS special. Do read it, if you have ever read anything by Bond. Read it otherwise too. Penguin has produced a really nice paperback (love the cover design and the pages... so good to hold!) - totally worth the money.

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