The Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibson is considered to be one of the top ten graphic novels (Time). The narrative has twelve chapters (in picture panels) interspersed with reports of different kinds. The non-comic narratives are: Holis Mason’s autobiography (Under the Hood), Professor Milton Glass’s report (Dr Manhattan: Super-Powers and the Superpowers), Ch 5 of the Treasure Island Treasury of Comics, prison and psychological reports of Rorschach, Drieberg’s “Blood from the Shoulder of Pallas (Journal of the American Ornithological society), excerpts from the newspaper (New Frontiersman), news articles, fan mail and interview about Sally (Silk Spectre), Viedt’s correspondence on figurines of Ozymandias, and interview with Veidt (“After the Maquerade”).
The Namesake (2004) by Jhumpa Lahiri is, again, a personal favorite. After reading it again, I relaized that it is an ordinary story of two generations of the Ganguli fmaily but this time, as an immigrant, I could connect more to the situations of Ashima Ganguli.
Themes: identity (Gogol and Gogol), home and the diaspora, immigrant, relationships (Gogol and his partners, Ashima and Ashoke, and the community of immigrants), and food.
The Shadow Lines by Amitav Ghosh is a personal favorite. I re-read this thinking that my love for it was misplaced but, surprise, it was not! One reason is Tridib, the central character, who functions as Ghosh’s mouthpiece.
Themes: home, memory, relationships (between generations), history, and borders (geography).
Place: “I could not persuade her that a place does not merely exist, that is has to be invented in one’s imagination… so that although she [Ila] had lived in many places, she had never traveled at all” (21).
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende is one of the few magic realism novels by a female author. It was Allende’s debut novel, published in 1982. It narrates the lives of four generations of the Trueba family. Clara is the most ‘magical’ character. There are also elements of Marxism both as a form of government as well as in the relations between Esteban Trueba and his tenants. There are also grand descriptions of the decorations in the “the big house on the corner;” the house reflects the relationships as well as upheavals in the family’s social and economic positions. This novel reminded me of Julia Alvarez‘s In the Time of the Butterflies in Alba’s imprisonments and Maryse Conde‘s Windward Heights (which itself is a retelling of Wuthering Heights) in term sof the descriptions and a multi-generational narrative.
Decolonising the Mind by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o is a collection of essays that discusses the influence of colonization on African (and applicable to other decolonized nations’) literature, theater, and fiction. It proposes various ways in which decolonized nations, especially Kenya (and Africa) can take their literary works and arts back from the influence of the colonizer. The text also proposes the importance of African languages and there is a constant reference to Chinua Achebe.
A “misleading stock interpretation of the African realities has been popularized by the western media which likes to deflect people from seeing that imperialism is still the root cause of many problems in Africa” (1).
Thiong’o looks at the African realities as “they are affected by the great struggle between two mutually opposed forces in Africa today: an imperialist tradition on one hand, and a resistance tradition on the other” (2).
This work traces different definitions of colonization and how historical accounts have affected colonialism. Europe is the villain and there are accounts of the brutality of colonialism. European civilization has given rise to to problems: “the problem of the proletariat and the colonial problem” (9).
“What is serious is that ‘Europe’ is morally, spiritually indefensible” (10).
What is colonization? “To agree on what it is not: neither evangelization, nor a philanthropic enterprise, nor a desire to push back the frontiers of ignorance, disease, and tyranny, nor a project undertaken for the greater glory of God, nor an attempt to extend the rule of law” (10). The decisive actors in colonization are: “the adventurer and the pirate, the wholesale grocer and the ship owner, the gold digger and the merchant, appetite and force, and behind them, the baleful projected shadow of a form of civilization which, at a certain point in its history, finds itself obliged, for internal reasons, to extend to a world scale the completion of its antagonistic economies” (10-11).
“Christianity=civilization, paganism=savagery” (11).
So Far From God by Ana Castillo is set in Tome, New Mexico and narrates the story of Sofi, her (on and off) husband, Domingo, and their three daughters, Esperanza, Fe, Caridad, and the youngest, La Loca (who is an epileptic).
Themes: Family, female solidarity, Catholicism, magic realism (visions of hell and character of La Loca), violence against women, business, technology, and identity. An interesting thing is how Castillo uses really long chapter titles; like for Chapter 1, she writes, “An Account of the First Astonishing Occurrence in the Lives of a Woman Named Sofia and Her Four Fated Daughters; and the Equally Astonishing Return of Her Wayward Husband” (19).