Friday, January 22, 2010


I've been wondering what to write on my blog. Haven’t written anything in last three months. That perhaps explains that I am not as bored as I was when I writing lots of them. Didn’t even have an interesting encounter with a rickshaw wallah. Didn’t read a really interesting book. O yeah, read 'V' by Thomas Pynchon. I think the last time I had to apply so much head was when Raja took financial market classes at Tapmi, a full five years ago. Never before, I understood so little, but just had a faint idea that the guy is too profound for my taste. So thought lets dedicate this blog to Thomas Pynchon. There is no build up in this blog. I don’t want to tell the story. So fuck the logic. I will pass the judgment straightaway. I think nothing sums up the brilliance of this writer more than this statement (which of course is not mine) - If the first half of 20th century can be described as Kafkaesque, the second half can easily be called Pynchonsque. Oh yeah yeah, all those lovers of European, primarily non-American literature, will take it with a pinch of salt. Kafka presented his protagonists as victims, who were doomed at the hands of system. In his most famous work, The Trial, Joseph K knows that he hasn’t committed any crime. Perhaps, the police know it too. But, he cant prove it in court and he knows from the day he was arrested that he will be hanged. And for those, who know it all, who know the inefficiencies of the system and who think that such books are nothing but a rehash of fundas well known, please read it. A book is not good for what it says; it is good for how it says. Joseph K's mind is obviously frustrated, but he doesn’t die a loser's death. He dies fully aware that he was helpless. I think a mere acknowledgment at his part that he is nothing more than a pawn relieves him of the concerns people have about after life. If the life itself was fuckall, who gives a fuck about after life. So when Joseph is stabbed, he merely suffers from physical pain, no mental pain. Kafka died young. Most of the stuff was written, when he must have been pre-occupied by after-life thoughts. For anyone who is really worried of dying a loser's death, please read 'The Trial, I bet you will have this feeling - If I couldn’t do it, so what? And even if I indeed did it, so what? The novel was written in 1920s when Europe was undergoing a political change. Leaders - military and political were wrestling with a power-obsessed clergy often screwing the common man.

A full forty years later, a 26-year-old American called Thomas Pynchon wrote V. It was a time of social awakening in US. Blacks got their rights. Rock and roll was far more than music, as it empowered the youth. USA had plunged into Vietnam War. A huge section of society was disillusioned. Drug addiction soared. I came across a line on Pynchon - "His character bounce from farce to paranoia". It’s my favorite line for the last three months. Americans knew that the theory that communism is a threat to US was nothing but farce much like Iraq having weapons of mass destruction (history does repeat itself). Still, they were scared of communism, or perhaps something that they didn’t even know. May be, when you are rich, you have a lot to lose, so you are prone to get scared. Politicians grabbed this chance and created a villain out of Korea, Soviet Union, Iraq. So the central theme of V is farce and paranoia. More important is, at least what I think, events in history are so damn intervened that no matter how hard one tries, he/she wouldn’t be able to spot who was responsible for what. To put it simply, people of my generation, born in 80s, think that it was US, which protected Kuwait from Iraq for its gains. Actually, the precedent was set by UK, which was funding its deficit from oil money made in Kuwait much earlier than US. So US is not only to blame. And who knows, it can be some other country before UK. So entire human race is very much like a native lost in a city. The more you try to understand history, the more you are at loss. Better read it like a fiction. Pynchon brings this out through a messed up character called - Herbert Stencil whose father was in British Army. So he had been to different parts of the world where some conflict was boiling. He would tell his son stories. It doesn’t stop there. Stencil connected the dots from whatever he heard from his father and filled the holes with his imagination to such an extent that he almost lost the grip of reality and the reader is left wondering "is this something which his father told him or just a figment of his imagination?” Its so true of all of us, what we call knowledge is just a sum of facts and imaginations. In all his father's stories, there was a woman. Invariably, her name started from the letter 'V'. The quest started when Stencil thought it’s the same woman who chases his father and somewhere she knows the link to all international conflicts. How much of this is a fact and how much a fiction, I couldn’t know. May be the larger purpose was not to know who was responsible, but to realize if not fully comprehend the real complexity of the events.