Thursday, November 19, 2015

Back to our regular scheduled programming

I mentioned a while ago that I had a plan to read through the core novels of Nabokov, Narayan and Mahfouz.  The last time I stuck to this plan was about 2 years ago while I was in Vancouver, but thinking ahead to life in Toronto.  I ended up first swerving over to mostly cover Barbara Comyns and Molly Keane instead, since these novels were easier to get out of the library out west for some reason.  I also attempted to go through more of my TBRD pile, so I wouldn't have to move quite so many books.  Then I had a 6 month digression through Russian novels.  Interestingly, Ondaatje's The Cat's Table reminds me more than a little of Narayan's Swami and Friends, though I won't get too deep into that here, since I still am behind on the review of The Cat's Table.  While I could say that this partially inspired me to get back to the 3 authors, that really isn't true.  I finally have come back around to them on my massive reading list.

While I suspect I will read just a few more of the Nabokov novels and then drop him (as he just doesn't appeal to me), I do expect to eventually finish with Narayan and Mahfouz.  Narayan seems to be growing on me as he builds up a picture of his fictional town, Malgudi.  I don't dislike Mahfouz, but I generally liked his longer, more realistic novels.  He more or less gave up that style after the Cairo Trilogy and moved into shorter novels that sometimes were almost fables or parables.  I think I only have one novel in his early style left to go (The Mirage, which fortunately is in the Toronto Public Library).

Whether it was necessary or not, I actually skimmed Mahfouz's Cairo Modern (which I like quite a bit as it is pretty cynical, though not as cynical as Albert Cossery gets!) and Khan Al-Khalili.  I may eventually reread Midaq Alley, but in this case I would read it properly.  While I enjoyed The Cairo Trilogy, it was pretty daunting to actually crack it open (1300 pages!).  I don't imagine I'll read that again, but never say never.  I don't plan on reading The Beginning and the End again, since I found it too upsetting, particularly the fate dealt out to some of the female characters. (This is somewhat kept in check in The Cairo Trilogy where the sheer scope of the narrative somewhat, but not entirely, makes up for the unhappy lot of most of the women.)

I am half-reading, half-skimming Narayan's early novels as well, and I am currently at The English Teacher, which recounts a personal tragedy that befell Narayan and his family.  After this I will finally be able to start reading Mr. Sampath.  I suspect I will be able to get through all of Narayan's novels by some point in 2016 or early 2017.  Mahfouz might take a bit longer, simply because he wrote so much more.  Still, I do find getting back to (and completing) old resolutions is rewarding, even if only at the personal level.

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