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Thursday, January 14, 2016

For lovers of literature

Srianee (Bunter) Fernando Dias has sent in this.

Dear Lucky,

While reading an article by Jhumpa Lahiri (one of my favorite authors) in The New Yorker magazine,  I came across this passage.  She expresses skillfully what we have all experienced in our lives.  The twists and sharp turns are what become indelibly etched in our memory.  I would like to share this with my friends on the blog and get their comments.

As an aside, she has mastered Italian in her adult life over the years, and her latest book is written in Italian and translated back into English by someone else.

Srianee/Bunter

From Jhumpa Lahiri's article "Teaching Yourself Italian" in "The New Yorker," December 7, 2015.

 "One could say that the mechanism of metamorphosis is the only element of life that never changes.  The journey of every individual, every country, every historical epoch - of the entire universe and all it contains - is nothing but a series of changes, at times subtle, at times deep, without which we would stand still.  The moments of transition, in which something changes, constitute the backbone of all of us.  Whether they are a salvation or a loss, they are moments that we tend to remember.  They give a structure to our existence.  Almost all the rest is oblivion."

18 comments:

  1. Srianee, Thanks for that very profound thought from Jhumpa Lahiri. I shall comment again in more detail but when I read about 'change', I was reminded about what Lord Buddha said all those years ago about self, change and existence. He said that we are all, mind and body , made up of minute constituents which change continually and gives us a superficial sense of "self" and continuity whereas in reality, we could be likened to a movie made up of thousands of different frames moving at a pace so rapid that we cannot even conceive what each frame or life instant is like. Her contention of course is slightly different in that she deals with what I might call major changes, good or bad and which she contends gives a structure to our lives. Purpose? Morality? Why do we expect "fairness" in life as a given, are all questions that have been occupying my thoughts for some time.

    Shall end by quoting her again, similar to Bunter's chosen one. “They were things for which it was impossible to prepare but which one spent a lifetime looking back at, trying to accept, interpret, comprehend. Things that should never have happened, that seemed out of place and wrong, these were what prevailed, what endured, in the end.”

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  2. Thanks Mahen. Although it is not easy to shake off the past, and its influence over us, I am a firm believer in enjoying the present moment and moving forward.

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  3. Agree with you 100% Srianee. One can always learn from the past but dwelling on it (and feeling regret especially), is counter-productive. I too believe in enjoying the present moment but for myself, I also add that in order to do so, I must also handle thoughts of what may happen to you in the future (inescapable in my view), in a very positive way, unclouded by negative possibilities which are realistically rather unlikely to happen. The analogy is this. When you get into your car to start your long journey, don't think of the accident you had last year, don't think of the possibility that you may run out of gas, that a tree might fall on your roof, that you may run over a pedestrian but just enjoy the drive (accompanied by some soothing music ideally) and think of the nice things that await you when you reach your destination!

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    1. Don't worry Mahen, I don't think like that at all, but I do have a few friends who do! I do my best to influence them to think positively, and if I am unsuccessful, I find an excuse to hang up the phone (someone is at the door!) or find the nearest exit. Rather cowardly of me, I admit, but it is self preservation.

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  4. Srianee
    Many thanks for those profound thoughts. Philosophers over the ages have spoken about it but she brings a new modernity to those thoughts. As you know she is an American-Bengali. Bengal is famous for the arts, philosophers, writers and politicians. This is the region that gave us Tagore and Satyajit Ray. Through recommendation I have bought 2 of her ebooks, The Namesake and Interpreter of Maladies but haven't got round to reading them. Thank you for encouraging me to read them soon.
    I am grateful you could make some time for the Blog. Thank you

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    1. Nihal, I do encourage you to read both of those books. I loved them and I think she won a Pulitzer for Interpreter of Maladies. Most recently I downloaded Unaccustomed Earth which is collection of short stories about transplanted Bengalis in the US, hence the title. As I was reading the stories I began to recognize some transplanted Sri Lankans among her characters. Wasn't Prince Vijaya from Bengal? This may explain the connection. There is something I have observed about immigrant communities, that they tend to cling to old prejudices from the past, even though their friends and relatives in their home country have moved on. This is true of some of the Chinese, Indian and of course Sri Lankan people I know. It is a bit exasperating. I wonder if you guys have noticed that?

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    2. Srianee
      I do agree with you. Some SL expats hang on to their old beliefs and prejudices when they have disappeared from SLankan society back home. I look at myself in the mirror occasionally and see it lurking somewhere deep within. As my wife is Chinese and her beliefs and prejudices are different we have to compromise and water them down. So I like to think such things don't feature prominently in our lives. There are times I have to make a conscious effort to weed them out.
      Thank you for recommending the books.

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  5. I am not too enamoured with deep philosophy. Although I dont assume I know it all I have lived long enough in this world to have formulated my own ways to deal with issues and get on with my life. I think a bit of the past, a lot of the present and in a rational way something of the future. It works for me so I will continue with more of the same.
    I respect the views expressed by Jhumpa Lahiri, Mahen and Srianee

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  6. This is what it is all about ND, exchange of ideas. I personally like thinking about these deep issues although in the end, it may be a waste of time. As someone said, you can spend years learning about flotation and the physics and dynamics of swimming but it might be better to learn how to swim and get on with it!

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  9. Srianee,Thanks for the quote.
    Lahiri's statement as well as what you said in your introduction are absolutely true.
    Of her books,I have only read Unaccustomed Earth and Interpreter of Maladies- Her very straightforward style leaves
    nothing for one's imagination! Good to see you back.

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  10. Rohini, Nihal, and Mahen, thank you for getting into the discussion. I've never studied philosophy as such, but discussing ideas is like exercise for the brain, don't you think? Finally, as Nihal says one develops one's own philosophy. Rohini, you will like The Namesake as well.

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    1. Sriani,come to think of it I have in fact seen the film of Namesake in NewYork some years ago when my daughter treated us to it-probably why I didnt get round to reading the book ,though I have always preferred to read a book before I see it in a movie-I seem always to enjoy the book more than the film! I found this even with old classics like Gone with the wind,War and Peace,Les Miserable etc though there was a lot of French to hurdle over in the last, as in all of Victor Hugo's books!

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  11. Srianee, those are pearls of wisdom. Thanks a lot for sharing it with us on the Blog.
    I know many people who'll benefit from it, including me!
    Zita

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  12. Thanks Zita, It is fun to be sharing the "pearls" we find along the way. Stay well! Srianee

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  13. How many of you have read the book,Island of mirrors by Naomi Munaweera.It has a Sri Lankan background.
    Indra A

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  14. Srianee, that's such a thought provoking statement you have quoted from the writings of Jhumpa Lahiri, and already we have an equally interesting discussion above. From your quote this is what I take: 'Only change is certain, the rest is oblivion'. I look forward to more comments from our renowned batch mates. We all have to think about this deeply.
    Zita

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