Thursday, April 16, 2015

GÜNTER GRASS: John Irving’s Teacher, Mine Too.

New York Times bestselling author John Irving in his recent article, published in The Globe and Mail, writes a capturing eulogy for Günter Grass. In his article titled “An unanswered letter from Günter Grass,” John Irving underscores how Grass combined contemporary novel writing with 19th century storytelling.

“I learned from my favourite 19th-century writers that I wanted to be a certain kind of novelist – like Dickens and Hardy, like Hawthorne and Melville. I learned from Grass how to do it,” says John Irving. I would like to draw a particular conclusion with great eagerness from this statement by John Irving. I consider this a crucial sign of a relationship that seems to transcend time and cultures. In every culture, teacher-student relationships have always been given special positions, both personally and socially. The extent of this relationship makes me wonder if it’s actually person-bound at all. I consider this relation soul-bound. The student, fundamentally, gives identity to a teacher. John Irving is not alone in considering Günter Grass his teacher. I have had my experience too.    

R. I. P Günter Grass.

Günter Grass has been an inspiration to the writer in me during my early years of the calling, similar to what John Irving mentions in his piece. I wonder at the multifold possibilities a writer could achieve with the subtlety of a theme that Grass handled in his book The Box. All of a sudden, after reading this volume, a door to new possibilities flung open for me.  

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Here is a blog post I composed in the year 2011, shortly after finishing Günter Grass’ work, The Box. I was working at the University as an Assistant Professor on contract back then. When I go through this blog post, it fills me with memories both joyous and painful. Perhaps, it is true to assume that we all have a reason to be in certain places. Sometimes, we are required to be in some place for ourselves, and sometimes, for others. However, when we learn a great truth about life somewhere, remember, we have come across the juncture of greatness, because learning great truths about life may not just benefit our limited selves, but it may also provide many blessings to the whole of humanity. I believe that on that day in the library when I discovered Günter Grass and The Box, I was doing just the same, growing out of my seed form to benefit the whole of humanity in my own small way.  

Günter Grass, you will be missed. Your book was hard to read, but it had inspired me, nevertheless. You will certainly be remembered. May your soul rest in peace and journey into the deep depths of Cosmic Consciousness and meet with the Creative Source, from where it originated.   

Although this blog post lacks a deeper appreciation of Günter Grass’ works as an author, this piece of writing would surely give the reader ample evidence of a young writer’s excitement at the sight of a few significant books that he encounters on the way.

The following is the blog post I published in 2011. 
Thursday, December 15, 2011
There is always a new book awaiting. One I have just finished; The Box by Günter Grass. I stand up from my office chair. Like all office chairs it’s comfortable in a profane sense. It always seduces me to sleep; makes me work one minute less than the time to finish. It loves me lazy. I hate it. But it stood by me this time, partially oaring me to an unknown island of sleep; flashes of faces, words spoken in English, a fairy tale divulged each time; and partially fixing me where I am, with the hard cover volume in my hand. I love the later part.

When my feet feel swollen, I stand up and contort my body once or twice, and then sit down, pushing forth my eyes on the white paper, only to find how familiar words dance to some mysterious tune to concoct the most fascinating potion of literary alchemy.

This time I stand up again; take a stroll around my chair in a ritual to warm up my legs. I finished the book, which I have been reading from the previous week. A thread sized stream of contentment oozes down into my mind. A smile spreads on my lips that takes a rightward move and settles on the right side for some time.

Another irritable pleasure I seek is to return this book at the library. I imagine my walk to library; contented, poised, with the same right corner smile. I may meet my students there, too. One inexplicable advantage of teaching profession; you get a tremendous amount of spare time. It is two in the afternoon, and I still have two and half hours left, which I can spend in the library. Thursdays are usually off days for me, due to some technical requirements, in order to balance the total hours of lecturing among other teachers: a whole day between me and my muse.    

My colleagues raise their weary glances up at me, while I pass their cabins as a traveler just back from his inter-continental mission, content.

The library is not as crowded as I expected. I see the librarian lady passing a curious glace at the stack of papers in my hand: a short story I downloaded from the internet. She hands over my library ticket, which I have to exchange with each book I take. But today I have no intention to take another book. The Box was a hard read. Words dancing, changing into voices and creating a mysterious alchemy.

The short story with me serves for another plan. It forms part of my creative writing practices. The story is by a writer who is new to my reading universe, so I am keen in observing him in action.

I am standing among the bookshelves now. I feel my legs need a real nice stretch. A stroll is needed, at least. So I take a round among the shelves, just dab my fingers over the covers of books, leaf through some and just move from shelf to shelf. The reason why I don’t want to take a book today is that I already have one at home; the biography of C. G. Jung, which seems to be a good one, though I haven’t started reading it yet. Some books create an impression upon us even before a page is turned.

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Henry Miller: Plexus: the cover read. It was just a brown cover with the title in white with red bordering. I have been searching for any book by Henry Miller for a long time. Though, enough attempts were made I could not succeed. Somehow his books are not in many numbers in libraries; not even present in most of them, neither at book stores around in Kannur. May be the reason is their covers with pictures of naked women on most of them. That is why the cover of this edition catches my attention. It is a 1963 edition by Granada publishing company.

I take it in my hands, look at it and put it back from where it is taken. Promises have to be kept; I decided not to take a book today. I take it once again; turn the pages; they are yellow with time and the print is crammed. I put it back. Promises are promises, even if they are made to oneself. I am walking out of the library after 4.30, with a paper stack and a brown covered book. Plexus.

Sometimes it’s ok to take a chance if it’s worth it…I guess.

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