February 29, 2020
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My Book of the Century

My Book of the Century
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Among my "significant reading experiences" are two books that have shown me views I had not seen before, views in all their beauty and sadness. The first book is Palm of the Hand Stories, a collection of 70 short stories by the Japanese writer Yasunari Kawabata. Though Kawa-bata is justly celebrated for his novels such as Snow Country and Thousand Cranes, he honed his skills as a miniaturist all his life. The results are in these stories reminiscent of haiku—fleeting but profound glimpses of Kawabata's preoccupation as a writer: love, death, loneliness and the passing of time. The second book is a brilliant reconstruction of the life of Dostoevsky by the South African writer J.M. Coetzee. The Master of Petersburg is a mystery set in pre-revolutionary Russia, when Dostoevsky is summoned from Germany to St Petersburg on the sudden death of his stepson. As Dostoevsky becomes entangled in the dreams of the same political activists his son was involved with, we go right to the heart of the dark and mysterious relationship between authority and rebellion.

(Githa Hariharan is a writer)

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