The Childhood of Jesus

JM Coetzee’s The Childhood of Jesus is a cryptic tale set in Novilla, a city populated by people who have accepted the chance to live. Upon arrival residents are given new names and washed of their memories. Life is sustained on an appetite of asceticism; and hunger, like desires and impulse, is regarded as “a dog in…

Heart of Darkness

The word epic seems inadequate to describe Joseph Conrad’s phenomenal novella Heart of Darkness. You don’t so much read it as absorb it in small doses like a drug. There are limits in one’s capacity to cope with the concentrated formula. The book opens one night on a boat by the Thames where Marlow, through his recollections,…

As I Lay Dying

It is July 1913 in the Mississippi countryside. Addie Bundren, a mother of five, is on her deathbed. The eldest child, Cash, is bevelling up planks for the coffin, while his two brothers are on an errand, hurrying to make some much-needed money, then to get the mules-driven wagon home. Anse, their father, has given…

Pedro Paramo

I read Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo at a time in my life when strange dreams were invading my sleep and, perhaps for want of rest, long days were spent wrestling with old ghosts. This second (and last) book by the Mexican author opens with the tale of Juan Preciado who, in fulfilling a promise…

Brighton Rock

The opening sentence of Graham Greene’s first masterpiece offers a masterclass on how to wrest a reader’s attention — swift and unrelenting. “Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to murder him.” Not only does that hook you like a bait, there is a lot of information packed into less…

Abrasive Tenderness

It has been a while since I had wept over a book. But I just did. Actually, it was over a short story by Hemingway: My Old Man. It’s hard to know whether this is because of the author’s august style after my recent dry spell in reading classics, or because of the obvious subject. Anyhow. The tale is narrated entirely from…

The Snows Of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway

I first read Ernest Hemingway’s The Snows of Kilimanjaro as part of the prescribed text for Literature when I was in Secondary Three (or Grade Nine). It did not leave much of an impression; after the exams, I only remembered it vaguely as being about death, and symbols of death that were apparently significant. Reading the short story again today,…