Monday, April 11, 2011

Books on Holocausts - Two Lives and Sammler's Planet

I have a great fascination for books dealing with the holocaust. Vikram Seth's Two Lives was about his uncle Shanti and German aunt Henny (a Jewish holocaust survivor). Sammler's Planet, a novel I am reading now, written by the redoubtable Nobel-prize winner Saul Bellow, is also about a holocaust survivor. The latter book is fairly detailed account of how Sammler, who hid from his antagonists in a cemetery, leads a life as an immigrant in New York.

Seeing as I like holocaust novels I like Sammler's Planet more. Sammler commutes by bus every day in New York and I can relate to his feelings, his reaction to the press of flesh, the frustrations of the daily mass transfer of people, the excitement of the crowds. One day he sees a coloured man robbing an aged lady in the bus and he thinks, "How can anybody be so careless" or something such. I immediately related to that. I have seen similar instances of theft in Bombay trains. But, sometimes during commute we are lost in thought and we aren't aware of what is happening to us. The gentle swaying the train has a tendency to lull us into a somnolent state, weaving as we go, nodding our heads and inducting us into a state of solipsism. It seems that the above well-dressed coloured man is a regular thief. The book is suffused with Bellow's fine prose, short, stentorian, pithy and engaging in parts and as a whole. The total effect is quite devastating to say the least.

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