PRIMO LEVI: “I AM CONSTANTLY AMAZED BY MAN’S INHUMANITY TO MAN.”

BORN: JULY 31, 1919
DIED: APRIL 11, 1987

“I am constantly amazed by man’s inhumanity to man.”

PrimoLevi
(Image courtesy: Wikipedia)

Primo Levi was one of the foremost Holocaust voices who had lived the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps and had chosen to tell it to the world.

Yes, there have been a deep research and a wide range of the Holocaust literature and documentation available now – but the voices who saw it firsthand are leaving us.

Earlier this month, on July 2, the most profound voice of the Holocaust trauma, Elie Wiesel, left us.

But like all of them, their works will always remain there to tell us those stories, to remind us our basest instincts and that how low humanity can go.

“Auschwitz is outside of us, but it is all around us, in the air. The plague has died away, but the infection still lingers and it would be foolish to deny it. Rejection of human solidarity, obtuse and cynical indifference to the suffering of others, abdication of the intellect and of moral sense to the principle of authority, and above all, at the root of everything, a sweeping tide of cowardice, a colossal cowardice which masks itself as warring virtue, love of country and faith in an idea.”

PrimoLeviCollage2

©SantoshChaubey

GO SET A WATCHMAN: WHAT DOES IT SAY?

Atticus Finch, the greatest American hero as voted by the American Film Institute. And Atticus has been chosen so for his character traits – anti-racial, humanely and straight family man.

‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ gave us Atticus Finch in 1960. Since then, 55 years have passed. All these years have added to the aura of the character making him the cultural icon of generations – the aura that also added to the anticipation run towards ‘Go Set A Watchman’, Harper Lee’s second book after 55 years of publication of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’.

‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ is a timeless classic and its popularity was amplified globally by the movie of the same name based on it. The movie came within two years of the book – in 1962 – and the quick film adaptation took the appeal of the book even far and wide.

In fact the global appeal of Atticus Finch, outside America, owes largely to the film version of the movie and has become a cultural phenomenon with changing times – in times when racism in legally illegal.

So, it was natural that ‘Go Set A Watchman’ became the most awaited book in recent times when Harper Lee announced that she was breaking her vow – never to get a book published again. A pro-racism Atticus Finch, the 180 degree departure from the character that we inherited from ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, added intense rounds to everything that was being said and discussed about the book.

The book, when out on stands, met with mixed reactions.

‘Go Set A Watchman’ raises more questions as we move ahead with the plot leaving the reader grope in dark with many unanswered questions. The published book is essentially a sequel to ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’. There will be many who know about the work but haven’t read the book or seen the movie. They, too, will be tempted to have the book based on intense reviews and word of mouth publicity around it. And they will find such questions nagging them.

But let’s see the scoring points first:

The book is not sequel to ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’. In fact, as reported, it was written prior to the publication of Harper Lee’s classic. Coming after 55 years of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, it needed some rework, but as Harper Lee had said she would never publish a book again, the lapses are tangible. But the rework on Jean Louise Finch as making her narrator and main protagonist is logically done here. It was logical to read the next story after ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ from her POV.

‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ was idealistic. ‘Go Set A Watchman’ is realistic. ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ came at a time when legal racial segregation was fighting last phase of its battle in America. The book added to the sentiments in stirring a nation’s conscience and Atticus Finch became a cultural symbol of anti-racial struggle in the US society. ‘Go Set A Watchman’ has come at a time when the US is seen largely anti-racist. Now is the time when people can look back in the past, as done from time to time, in movies, in books, to see how the people of South saw racial discrimination then.

The silent answer by Calpurnia (page 160) – when Jean Louise Finch asks her – is pensively and profoundly expressed by ‘bearing the burden of her years’. More than anything else, this sentence captures the essence of the theme the book is based on.

Character development of Henry Clinton is realistic, is according to the times prevalent in ‘then south’. He may sound submissive at times, but this he does for his love – and that is understood. And so is understood his logic when he justifies his and Atticus Finch joining Citizens’ Council meeting and their views on racial segregation – and his views of staying back and conforming to social norms of ‘then Maycomb’.

Transition of Jean Louise Finch characters, though, deserves more words, her meeting with reality of the day (and of the society) is logically explained in the book – ‘prejudice, a dirty word, and faith, a clean one, have something in common: they both begin where reason ends – ‘uncle Jack Finch’ tells Jean Louise (page 270-271). Irrespective of the word flow between Jean Louise and her uncle in chapter 18, the sentence essentially corresponds to the realization Jean Louise has – from Scout/Jean Louise’s faith in Atticus Finch that prejudices her thoughts to the extent that she starts looking at everything from her POV and Atticus becomes a repulsive figure in her life – to a POV that retains her faith in Atticus Finch, his father and a social man of Maycomb.

Now, let’s see where the book leaves room for questions with unexplained developments and loose plot elements.

Well, for me, the book really begins with its 100th page when the element, being debated day in and day out, around the world, is introduced – that gives us first indication that Atticus Finch has ‘turned’ racial.

The book is basically about Scout’s struggle on this revelations – that her father, the man for all seasons in her life, and his best man whom she contemplates to get marry are ‘segregationists’ – with ‘segregation’ being an act on racial lines against the black people.

But the book, till its 100th page, doesn’t indicate that this one is going to be the central plot. In my opinion, the book fills first 100 pages in telling us the plot elements that are so routine – especially when you read ‘Go Set A Watchman’ after reading and watching ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’.

There are pages in the book that readers can scan and pass. Yes, a book requires pages to set its theme, to introduce the plot elements, but 100 pages for it are too long for a 278 page book the version that I have – or for any book. (William Heinemann: London)

Even for many fans of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, this is like ‘questionable’ jump, from one plot theme to the unexpected next. Because, till 100 pages, the author doesn’t give us even a hint about racial preferences and thoughts of a grown-up Jean Louise Finch. And then there she is – in words that begin to weave something from 100th page.

The book also doesn’t delves into characterizing and developing who Jean Louise Finch is. Her preferences about life, her views about social issues including racial discrimination (including segregation and segregation itself) desire words and pages that Harper Lee has not given her.

‘Go Set A Watchman’ doesn’t explain her internal struggle on racism before we are suddenly thrust into the sudden transition of character’s thought process on the issue. The book needed to create a background here with personal memoirs and experiences – especially in terms of Scout’s life in New York – but Harper Lee probably left that to the readers.

The book explains well about Scout’s coming of age about her father but leaves much to be done on developing a character that is sensitive and make opinions but doesn’t fight.

To continue..

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

ELEMENTAL ELEMENTS OF ‘GO SET A WATCHMAN’

MY FIRST THOUGHTS ON ‘GO SET A WATCHMAN’

‘GO SET A WATCHMAN’ – GO, PLACE YOUR ORDER!

The book is not sequel to ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’. In fact, as reported, it was written prior to the publication of Harper Lee’s classic. Coming after 55 years of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, it needed some rework, but as Harper Lee had said she would never publish a book again, the lapses are tangible. But the rework on Jean Louise Finch as making her narrator and main protagonist is logically done here. It was logical to read the next story after ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ from her POV.

‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ was idealistic. ‘Go Set A Watchman’ is realistic. ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ came at a time when legal racial segregation was fighting last phase of its battle in America. The book added to the sentiments in stirring a nation’s conscience and Atticus Finch became a cultural symbol of anti-racial struggle in the US society. ‘Go Set A Watchman’ has come at a time when the US is seen largely anti-racist. Now is the time when people can look back in the past, as done from time to time, in movies, in books, to see how the people of South saw racial discrimination then.

The silent answer by Calpurnia (page 160) – when Jean Louise Finch asks her – is pensively and profoundly expressed by ‘bearing the burden of her years’. More than anything else, this sentence captures the essence of the theme the book is based on.

Character development of Henry Clinton is realistic, is according to the times prevalent in ‘then south’. He may sound submissive at times, but this he does for his love – and that is understood. And so is understood his logic when he justifies his and Atticus Finch joining Citizens’ Council meeting and their views on racial segregation – and his views of staying back and conforming to social norms of ‘then Maycomb’.

Transition of Jean Louise Finch characters, though, deserves more words, her meeting with reality of the day (and of the society) is logically explained in the book – ‘prejudice, a dirty word, and faith, a clean one, have something in common: they both begin where reason ends – ‘uncle Jack Finch’ tells Jean Louise (page 270-271). Irrespective of the word flow between Jean Louise and her uncle in chapter 18, the sentence essentially corresponds to the realization Jean Louise has – from Scout/Jean Louise’s faith in Atticus Finch that prejudices her thoughts to the extent that she starts looking at everything from her POV and Atticus becomes a repulsive figure in her life – to a POV that retains her faith in Atticus Finch, his father and a social man of Maycomb.

3

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

MY FIRST THOUGHTS ON ‘GO SET A WATCHMAN’

Till first 142 pages of the book, that I have finished so far..part III..chapter 8..100th page..

Well, for me, the book really begins with its 100th page when the element, being debated day in and day out, around the world, is introduced – that gives us first indication that Atticus Finch has ‘turned’ racial.

The book’s central protagonist is Jean Louise Finch or Scout Finch, daughter of Atticus Finch – and the book is basically about her struggle on these revelations – that her father, the man for all seasons in her life, and his best man whom she contemplates to get marry are ‘segregationists’ – with ‘segregation’ being an act on racial lines against the black people. The first 142 pages tell us so.

That is the crux of all expert analyses and reviews on the most awaited book of this century. But the book, till its 100th page, doesn’t indicate that this one is going to be the central plot. In my opinion, the book fills first 100 pages in telling us the plot elements that are so routine – especially when you read ‘Go Set A Watchman’ after reading and watching ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’.

There are pages in the book that I have read so far, 142 pages of it, that readers can scan and pass. Yes, a book requires pages to set its theme, to introduce the plot elements, but 100 pages for it are too long for a 278 page book the version that I have – or for any book. (William Heinemann: London)

Even for many fans of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, this is like ‘questionable’ jump, from one plot theme to the unexpected next. Because, till 100 pages, the author doesn’t give us even a hint about racial preferences and thoughts of a grown-up Jean Louise Finch.

And then there she is – in words that begin to weave something from 100th page.

For me the book begins there – at 100 page.

Let’s see what is in store with next 136 pages.

I have read and watched ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ – certainly a work of its own kind – a book and a movie on it that have become timeless classics – a work that is a historical event in awareness against racial profiling.

There will be many who have just watched the movie. There will be many more who know about the work but haven’t read the book or seen the movie. They, too, will be tempted to have the book based on intense reviews and word of mouth publicity around it.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

‘GO SET A WATCHMAN’ – GO, PLACE YOUR ORDER!

‘Go Set A Watchman’ is to hit stores today and since it is coming from a celebrated author of a masterpiece that is appreciated and loved globally, stories on its content and its release are flooding the spaces – readers’ thoughts and media analyses.

And what is adding to the aura of anticipation (and the controversy) is the long gap – some 55 years.
Harper Lee’s ‘Go Set A Watchman’ is reaching to its readers today. It is her second novel in her whole career and it comes after 55 years when ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ was published in 1960 – on July 11.

Reviews say the book is based on Jean Louise Finch/ Scout Finch, daughter of Atticus Finch. Reviews say fans of ‘Atticus Finch’ will find hard to accept a ‘racial Atticus Finch’ here. Reviews say many readers who love ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ will ignore this book. Reviews say the book is from a draft written in 1950s but discovered recently. Some reviews says even the third book is going come out. Some reviews also write about the literary cohesiveness of the work.

So, there is an intensive debate all around. And maximum words go for the character of Atticus Finch, the greatest American hero as voted by the American Film Institute. And Atticus has been chosen so for his character traits – anti-racial, humanely and straight family man.

Let’s see what some of the headlines say:

‘More complex than Harper Lee’s original classic, but less compelling’ – is what Mark Lawson writes in The Guardian. Gaby Wood in The Telegraph finds in ‘an anxious work in progress’. The Wall Street Journal’s Jeffrey A Trachtenberg says after reading many reviews that ‘this Atticus in Go Set A Watchman is no saint’. ABC News analysis comes to the conclusion that the upcoming books shows dark side of Atticus Finch. According to a piece on BBC’s website, the book reveals ‘Finch as a bigot’. Jay Parini on CNN categorizes the book ‘as a bombshell’.

Daniel D’Addario in Time finds the book and Finch’s character in it a ‘growing up’ experience. The Washington Post’s Natasha Trethewey writes about a ‘less noble Atticus Finch’. Daniel Arkin, while writing for NBC News, sees a possibility that the book ‘could irk kids named after Atticus Finch’. Matilda Battersby in The Independent suggests the changes ‘can be explained with the nature of Harper Lee’s father on whom the character of Atticus Finch is based’. Alexandra Alter in The New York Times takes a booking approach when she writes – ‘while some are shocked by ‘Go Set a Watchman,’ others find nuance in a bigoted Atticus Finch’.

And there are many more.

‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ is a timeless classic and its popularity was amplified globally by the movie of the same name based on it. The movie came within two years of the book – in 1962 – and the quick film adaptation took the appeal of the book even far and wide.

A raging debate on ‘racial’ Atticus Finch tells why ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ is a masterpiece. In fact the global appeal of Atticus Finch, outside America, owes largely to the film version of the movie and has become a cultural phenomenon with changing times – in times when racism in legally illegal.

I would be looking at ‘Go Set A Watchman’ as yet another work and would like to know the author more with character treatments here. For me, Atticus Finch of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ is going to remain the same. And I believe it would be so for the majority. I didn’t read most of the reviews. Their headlines did the work for me – for what I was looking at.

‘Go Set A Watchman’ will be in stores today – and readers would like to have their own review.

After all – “best way to clear the air is to have it all out in the open”- as Atticus Finch says.

Reports say it could be the ‘fastest selling book on record’. A report in The Independent says pre-sale orders of the book have surpassed the final Harry Potter book.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/