A Decade in Blogging: A Journey through 20th century Russia

Sometimes time flies, and sometimes it stands still. Before I knew it, 10 years of writing the book annual digest on this blog had passed. Reading them makes me nostalgic and occasionally rekindles my interest. At times, my own words sound surprisingly unfamiliar. Taking a view of a decade gives me a perspective that is not discernible when I look back at the end of each year.

Quite a lot of my reading has been at the blurry edges of literature and politics, between paradise and labyrinths. These labyrinths traverse across many lands and times. They have taken me to to places made familiar by past reading- Russia, Hungary, various countries in South America — all places I have visited only via books. In the last decade, a few new countries surfaced on my literary map — Guatemala, Nicaragua, Bulgaria, Norway and Bolivia.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

But nowhere feels as familiar a home as Russia does when it comes to literature. The universal themes of Russian literature make us feel Russian at heart. For me, this started during adolescence and continues to be of interest, though less intensely, in the decades since.

The reason isn’t too far to seek; the classical Russian novel was more than a work of literature. More often than not, it was a means for communicating ideas and philosophical reflections. There is also a remarkable continuity of themes, what with Russian writers taking up, as it were, themes from a previous novel by a different writer and forging ahead on the trail. .

If Latin American literature is an Amazonian river, Russian literature is like a constellation providing direction to lost voyagers– as we all are at some point or the other.

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During the last decade, I have journeyed through 20th-century Russia through some of its novelists of this period. Some of the more significant writers that I read in the last decade are Andrey Platonov, Vasili Grossman, Evgeny Zamyatin, Mikhail Bulgakov, Alexander Solzhenitsyn and, more recently, Boris Akunin. What follows is a digest (once again) of this journey through my reading lens, however limited in scope. Continue reading

Brilliante and Premier Dardos Awards

One of the two joys of blogging has been to meet people that one would not have met in real life, or at least the probability of meeting would have been very low. The other is that one sometimes gets pleasantly surprised.

Two long time readers of this blog have been very nice to award it with two blog awards recently- Jack Stephens awarded the Brilliante Weblog Award and Renegade Eye, the Premier Dardos Award. As per the rules, I am  listing some of the blogs that I find very invigorating and are fellow travelers in the sense of their intellectual and humanistic concerns. Also, all of the them, with the exception of one, are India/ Pakistan centric blogs.

Brilliante Award:

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3 Years

After a false start in 2003, this blog made its appearance three years ago on May 30, 2005. Initially intended as a collection of my already published book reviews, it has taken on a life on its own and now contains, in addition to book reviews, social and political commentary and of late, just links to stuff I read on the internet. Since last week, Bhashwati Ghosh, who has guest blogged here earlier, joins me in contributing to the blog.

The biggest satisfaction in having this blog has been getting to know so many wonderful people that otherwise I might have never met- particularly Abi, Madhukar, Rahul Banerjee, Krish, Raza, Jack, Adnan, Arvind Gupta, Mohib, Rama, Alok, Prof. Swarup and so many others listed in the blogroll. It has also helped to keep a conversation going with friends and comrades from the pre- internet age. Blog aggregators and collective endeavors- especially desicritics, desipundit, blogbharti (where I was a contributor till recently) and indianmuslims – have inspired both confidence as well as opened up new windows, and show cased this blog to new readers, who have not exactly rushed in millions but have slowly joined by subscribing to the blog feed or by email or just adding the blog url to the bookmarks in their browsers.

It may sound like a cliche, but the fact remains that one ultimately writes for readers, and it is they that keeps one going. The first, and for a long time, the only reader of this blog was myself! I cannot but help noticing how this blog has evolved and what it indicates about how ‘virtual communities’ evolve and operate. My initial blog posts carried a lot of ‘I’ so that it was more like a personal diary, this slowly gave way to writing in the third person as if one was writing for a newspaper or a magazine. Indeed, even as I was discovering other blogs with common interests, they too were discovering me- via comments, search engines and links at other blogs.

In other words, what was initially very personal realized itself only by becoming socialized, by joining and coalescing with others.

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