Saturday, October 08, 2005

Three Books

I'm about two-thirds of the way through Vikram Seth's new book 'Two Lives', about his London-dwelling aunt and uncle: the German Jewish Henny and the Londonised Indian Shanti, who married in 1951. They had been close friends before, during and after World War 2, in the course of which Shanti had his right forearm blown off; he didn't let this stop him going back, after the war was over, to the profession of dentistry for which he had been trained.

What emerges from nearly every sentence is the often-violent force of history, and the way it collaborates with geography to produce the trajectories of people's lives. Henny's sister Lola died in Auschwitz and Seth gives a clinical, detailed, almost unreadably distressing account of what her death would have been like.

Then there's Robyn Williams's novel (yes, the ABC Robyn Williams) '2007', in which all the animals of the world get together and decide to stage a revolution to save the planet; he was telling Philip Adams all about it on Late Night Live last night. Whales sink the boats, pelicans clog the airports, cows stop traffic by producing unpassable piles of poop, domestic pets turn on their owners, and the British Prime Minister finds himself negotiating with the animals' emissaries: two Border Collies.

And finally there's this brilliant review in the current TLS of Iain Sinclair's 'Edge of the Orison', a wonderful-sounding book about psychogeography, post-industrial Britain, walking, psychosis, and the fragile 19th century English poet John Clare.

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