Tag-Archive for ◊ nirvana ◊

Author:
• Saturday, April 27th, 2013

Eva Hoffman (née Ewa Wydra) was born of Jewish parents in Cracow, Poland in 1945. Despite being musically gifted she had to abandon her piano classes at the age of thirteen, to emigrate to Vancouver, Canada with her parents and younger sister.

After graduating from high school, she travelled to the USA upon receiving a scholarship for studying English literature at Rice University, Texas where she obtained her M.A., followed by Yale School of Music from 1967 to 1968. In 1974 she received a Ph.D. in English and American literature from Harvard University.

She studied psychoanalysis and commenced a training analysis course in London, England but had to give it up as it was too ambitious for her.

Eva Hoffman has been a professor of literature and creative writing at various universities and colleges. She worked from 1979 to 1990 as an editor and writer for The New York Times and has received several awards and prizes for her work.

She married Barry Hoffman in 1971, divorced in 1976 and moved to England in 1993 where she now lives in Hampstead in north London.

Eva Hoffman is the writer of Lost in Translation published in 1989, Exit into History in 1993, Shtetl in 1997, The Secret in 2001, After Such Knowledge in 2004, Illuminations in 2008 and Time in 2009.

Isabel Merton, the novel’s protagonist is a New Yorker. She is a famous, gifted pianist who often goes on concert tours all over Europe. She is overpowered by her passion for classical music to the extent of separating from her loving husband, Peter, in order to dedicate her life to this fine art. She is hoping to reach the nirvana through this highly pure form of pianistic sounds.

While travelling across Europe for her concerts, Isabel’s path crosses in several cities with the charismatically handsome, Anzor Islikhanov, a cultured Chechen activist, an itinerant like her. They both have a passionate character in common but different commitment targets. The inevitable happens – they fall in love.

The passing passion between Isabel and Anzor is doomed to fail despite the love and attention they need due to the lack of parental affection and care from which they both suffered. Anzor’s dog is killed by his cruel, apathetic father, for a futile reason and Isabel’s divorced mother abandons her and her younger brother, Kolya. Kolya ends-up dying of a drug overdose, even though Isabel was always trying to comfort him and substitute the uncaring, absent mother.

Isabel’s entire life is driven by her devotion to her art, it’s her “raison d’être”.“She summons the poetry of Chopin’s last Ballade, so shot through with anger and anguish, as if it could heal death and all sorrow… As if, after they’ve been broken and injured, things could be made whole”. We learn from her former German teacher’s diary, Ernst Wolfe, that she had a promising future as a pianist. This diary she carries with her and reads during her travels.

As for Anzor, his life is dedicated to his homeland. His patriotism has turned into rage, hatred and revenge against the Russians. For him fighting is the only solution to gaining back the country’s sovereignty, his honour and self-respect. He says to Isabel: “We’re fighting for our survival. Our freedom… Freedom as that artist would never understand it… I cannot breathe free when my country does not breathe free”. After listening to Anzor, Isabel “wants to flee to her practice room; to her music, in which violence and rage are already transmuted into beauty…As if violence held no dominion over beauty”. Because she has no other means “with which to answer the guerilla, or the terrorist. Or herself”.

Illuminations is well written and has interesting themes, like the beauty of classical music in contrast with the ugly violence, in addition to romanticism and psychoanalysis. The musical metaphors involving Chopin, Schumann or Schubert are very well described showing the author’s knowledge and natural affinity for music. As Isabel says to her interviewer, Mariella, about classical music: “This beautiful vocabulary of the soul… where else do we find it? …music doesn’t refer to anything. Except itself. So it doesn’t tell you anything. It doesn’t explain anything and it is…Illuminations”.

The drawback of this novel is its repetitiveness which induces monotony, maybe intended by the author? Because, whether it’s London, Paris, Prague, Sofia or Vienna, it’s always the same airports, the same hotels, the same concert halls, the same apprehensive feeling before every concert and the aftermath, emptiness and forlornness. Also the recurrent conversations between the two protagonists are always the persistently bitter Anzor talking about the injustice his people are enduring while the world is turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to their problem. As for Isabel, she always listens to his conversation with complete bewilderment as she is trying to comprehend his logic.

A novel for classical music lovers about the role and power of music in a world driven by materialism and violence and the contrast between the two values and their relevance in today’s life. It’s written by a musically trained author who preferred to pursue a career in writing rather than follow her pianistic talent.

If you enjoyed reading this article or found it useful, please consider donating the cost of a cup of coffee to help maintain the site...
Author:
• Sunday, February 01st, 2009

Kunal Basu was born in Calcutta, India in 1956 to middle class communist parents, a publisher father, Sunil Kumar, and an author and actress mother, Chabi Basu. He studied in South Point High School in Calcutta and graduated in 1978 in Mechanical Engineering from Jadavpur University in India.

With his doctorate in hand, he taught at McGill University in Montreal in Canada from 1986 to 1999 and since 1999 he has been a professor of marketing and management studies at Oxford University in England. He was married in 1982 , has a daughter, and still lives in England.

Kunal Basu’s three acclaimed novels are: The Opium Clerk published in 2001, The Miniaturist published in 2003, and Racist published in 2006.

His most recent book, The Japanese Wife published in 2008, is a collection of short stories.

Kunal Basu, through his historical, enthralling fiction and minutely described tale, The Miniaturist, carries his readers into the exotic world of 16th century India at the time of the Mughal emperor Akbar the Great, who reigned from 1460 to 1535, and the prodigy painter Bihzad.

It’s a sumptuous tale, similar to the One Thousand and One Nights, full of harems, eunuchs, slaves, servants, luxurious palaces, kings, courtiers, love, jealousies and intrigues.

In The Miniaturist, like My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk, the reader is transported to the same era, its artistic ground and its culture, which was no doubt one of the most advanced world wide for centuries, since it yielded the most sumptuous miniature paintings in the history of art.

The main figure in this vividly portrayed tale is Bihzad the Persian, the most gifted and talented artist of his time. The story follows Bihzad from his childhood to an advanced age. The Khwaja, Bihzad’s father, brought him up as a recluse. Deprived from any education or social life which could have a corrupting influence on his art, he had to remain pure. Unfortunately, Bihzad like all geniuses is tormented; he questions himself about the true value of art and of artists. He rebels by refusing to follow in his father’s footsteps and becomes a courtier and to be like other artists a copier, his renunciation of life is most moving. Bihzad believed that a true artist must set his creative spirit free.

He wanders aimlessly on a journey of self repudiation and in the midst of his suffering the voice of his wife Zohra, the daughter of the Hazari ruler, resonates in his ears: “Your gift is your curse. Your defect. It’ll make you suffer. Even if you wanted to escape, it wouldn’t spare you. It’ll cripple you, even if you flee, it will seek its revenge”.

He inflicts on himself blindness by tying his eyes firmly in order not to relapse and paint again before he could achieve the fundamental vision that he seeks. He leads a life of a beggar, suffering and enduring in order to purge himself in the hope of reaching the Nirvana and to be at peace with the world and within himself.

The liberation comes at the end when he meets the emperor Akbar on his deathbed. Now the penniless beggar, Bihzad the wanderer, seems to have reached his destination, at last. Akbar has forgiven him and called him not an artist but a saint, because “only a saint is truly blind, seeing none but the God inside him”. Now he can unfold his eyes and draw again for posterity his beloved Akbar dying, to fulfil his emperor’s request and “turn into an artist for the last time.”