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R.Viswanathan

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Books

I like fiction, poems, biographies, politics, economics, history and technological developments. Since 2005, I have started writing in my blogs about the books I enjoyed reading.

My reading and review of Latin American books are in the blog:

Latin American Affairs

Non- Latin American book reviews in the blog: floatingweed

 

Latin American authors and books

These days most of the books I read are Latin American. My favourite authors are:

Jorge Amado of Brasil. His works bring out the Brasilian and Latin American character. I have read over a dozen of his novels. Teresa batista. Dona Flor and her two husbands, gabriela, clove and cinnamon Tieta, Tent of miracles, Home is the sailor, Pen, sword, camisole, Golden harvest, Sea of death, shepherds of the night, the violent land, Jubiaba, The two deaths of Quincas wateryell are some of the fascinating ones. His themes are about life in Bahia, the state in northeast of Brazil and is home to Afro Brazilians. His characters are seafaring adventurers, Colonial landlords, slum heroes and women of pleasure. His stories are mostly about the colonial period.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez of Colombia - i have read over a dozen of his novels of "magical realism"- "Love at the time of cholera" is my favourite. His latest book "Memory of my melancoly whores" is a shocker. His autobiography "Living to tell the tale" itself (blog review) is like magical realism.

Mario Vargas Llosa of Peru- I adore his writings and have become his fan. I have read almost all his books including his autobiography (like a fish in the water). Aunt Julia and the script writer, Don Rig oberto's diary, Feast of the goats, The war of the end of the world, in praise of stepmother, Conversation in a cathedral (blog review) and story teller, "The way to paradise " ( blog review) are some of the best ones. Vargas Llosa has his own unique style of story telling. Some of the themes are unconventional and provocative. He has written a book about how he wrote his novels, a kind of backend peek. In this he writes about what incidents and real life characters including himself motivated him to write. He has written a kind of guide book for aspiring writers, called as " letters to a young novelist". He stood for elections against Fujimori and lost. My blog on his latest book" The discreet Hero". my review of his latest novel " cinco esquinas"

Laura Restrepo of Colombia - I have fallen in love with the magical realism of Laura. Unfortunately she has not written many books. The ones I have read are: the dark bride (blog review), The angel of Galileo, Leopard in the sun (blog review)and the latest book Save the world. blog review of the book "La isla de la pasion". This is a historical novel about Mexico. No place for heroes.

Alvaro Mutis - His book The adventures and misadventures of Macquarol is one of the most delightful one about latino characters. The adventures take place in places like Panama as well as in the sea. my blog review

Carlos Fuentes of Mexico - He is my latest favourite, since 2006.I am deeply impressed by this powerful writer. I enjoyed his books, Eagle's throne The campaign The Good Conscience and The years with Laura Diaz. 'Diana, the goddess who hunts alone' and ' Adam in Eden'

Julia Alvarez of Dominican Republic - She was the reason for my falling in love with this exotic country. She is delightful, funny and perceptive. I enjoyed reading Butterflies,Aunt Julia came to stay, Yo, and A cafecito story. Her themes are mostly about the traditonal Dominican society and the cultural challenges faced by those who go to USA. She herself lives in Vermont and gone through such experience. The novel " Butteflies" is about the killing of the famous three sisters by the Trujillo dictatorship of Dominican Republic. Her latest book is "saving the World" which is a fascinating historical story starting from spain to the latin American colonies.

Isabel Allende of Chile - House of spirits is her best book. This gives an account of the evolution of the Chilean society from colonial to fuedal and democratic stages. The Infinity plan, Portrait in Sepia, Of love and shadows, city of the beasts are other interesting novels. "Ines of my soul" is the latest one I enjoyed. Blog story . Her latest novel"The Japanese lover" is about Japanese and American characters.

Luis sepulveda of Chile - "The old man who liked to read love stories". is the book which mesmerized me. It is a magical realism story in the amazon. He has not written many books.

Other Latam writers, I have read

Miguel Angel Asturias of Guatemala - I have read only one book of this nobel laureate. It is "The President" which depicts the typical latino dictatorship and its devastating impact on the society.

Paulo Coelho of Brasil - His books are not about Brazil or nor do they have Brasilian themes. His spiritual and mystical stories are based mostly in spain and outside Brasil. Alchemist, Veronica wants to die, the fifth mountain, Zahir (blog review) have themes and words which makes one reflect. The only book in which he touched a Brazilian theme is "Eleven minutes". This is about a Brazilian callgirl who goes to work in switzerland. His story telling in the book comes out at best awkward and tentative.

Mario Bencastro of El Salvador - A shot in the cathedral is a novel about the civil war which traumatised the society even in the eighties.

Roberto Bolano - I read the novel "A distant Star" by this Chilean author. My blog review

blog review of the book " Night in Chile"

Juan Gabriel Vasquez, from Colombia.. my blog on his book 'The sound of things falling'

Junot Diaz from Dominican Republic - ' The brief wondrous life of Oscar wao'.

Laura Esquivel -Mexico " Like water for chocolate".

Santiago Gamboa of Colombia - I enjoyed reading his novel " Night Prayers". My review.

Non- fiction

Octavio Paz of Mexico - His book The labyrinth of solitude, analyses mexican character and identity..It is like Bhagwat gita..have not completed this yet. His collection of poems" A tale of two gardens" compares India and mexico. He was Ambassador in India and wrote a book " In the light of India" which gives an introduction to India as he perceived it.

Pablo Neruda of Chile - This Nobel prize winner is the most famous poet of Latin America. Cantos general and Alturas de machupichu are about the quest for Latin American identity. liked his autobiography. He had visited India during his assignment as Consul in Rangoon and later to meet Nehru. He did not find India particularly appealing or inspiring. His house in isla de negra on the sea side is a dream house for poets and artists and worth a visit. His other houses in Santiago and Valparaiso have fantastic collections.

'Panama fever' by Mathew Parker - a history of the trials and tribulations involved in the construction of the Panama Canal

 

Biographies and autobiographies

I found the biographies of the following personalities fascinating:

Simon Bolivar - I admire this Liberator of venezuela and part of south america. he is a fascinating , multifaceted and colourful personality. I liked his courage, craziness, daring and political ideas. He is a great Mujeriego !!!

Che Guevara (blog review) - "Companion" by Jorge castanada. He is the ultimate revolutionary.

Eva Peron - " Evita- the real life of Eva Peron" written by Nicholas Fraser and Marysa Navarro- Evita is a fascinating personality. This book gives some clues about the great Argentinian puzzle. - blog review

I have been inspired by the autobiographies of Mario Vargas Llosa, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Pablo Neruda.

autobiography of Cheddy Jagan ex-president of Guyana . This is about the freedom struggle and the struggle for power after independence.

"I Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian woman in Guatemala" - This book is a kind of autobiography of Rigoberta Menchu in which she gives vivid details of the life and struggle of herself and other Indians in Guatemala.

Ingrid Betancourt ( colombia)'s autobiographical account of her captivity as a FARC prisoner in her book " Even silence has an end: my six years of captivityin the Colombian jungle" is a heart-breaker. My blog on this book

Books on history, politics and economy

Forgotten continent: the battle for Latin America's soul - by Michael Reid. This is a fairly comprehensive book covering political, economic and cultural perspectives of the region.

Brazil- The troubled rise of a global power - Michael Reid - informative and analytical book

Latin American political economy - by Javier Santiso. The author gives a balanced perspective of the new trend of the rulers who are pragmatic in their approach, shedding dogmatism. my blog review

Authoritanism in Latin America - by Paul H Lewis. This gives some clues and traces the origin of dictatorship tendencies in the region. my blog review

Brazil on the rise - by Larry Rohter - somewhat objective and balanced although the author is from US

 

Indian authors

Salman Rushdie He is my favourite Indian writer. I have become his fan -Shalimar, the Clown- the latest novel brings out the political and human part of the kashmir issue (blog review) - Fury, Midnight's children and " the ground beneath her feet "- i liked these.

Vikram Seth I started his epic book " A suitable boy" with some hesitation but i did not want the book to end. The other book " Equal music" - delightful

Geeta Mehta River Sutra -i was fascinated by this one

Pawan Varma His book " Being Indian " brings out the complexities of the Indian society. I finished the second half of the book at Barista Cafe, since light went off at home when I was in the middle of reading.

Kandhekar (marathi) His book "Krouncha vadam", in Tamil translation set me on fire... in the college days

Jhumpa Lahiri "Namesake" illustrates the emotional transition and challenges of the first and second generation Indians in USA.

Kiran Desai - I liked her book " The Inheritance of Loss". Blog Review

Autobiographies of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru have inspired me.

 

International authors and books

I found the biographies/autobigraphies of

Bill Gates - I read his autobiography The Road Ahead. I admire him.

Steve Jobs - He is not admirable like Bill Gates. But his achivements are impressive. (blog Review of iCon),

Google Guys - I adore the audacity and out of the box appraoch of the Google guys (blog Review)

Napoleon - remarkable and colourful personality. I admire his audaciousness.

Thomas Friedman - I liked his book " The world is flat". It brings out the new paradigm of Indian mindset and the opportunities arising from globalisation for india. Blog Review . In general I find his columns interesting.

Tolstoy "War and Peace" and "Anna Karenina" - i read these on the recommendation of a dear soulmate. I liked the long emotional journey through the long novels.

Trevanian "Shibumi"- this opened me up to a new world. "Summer of Katya" was simply delicious (blog review)... i love his puns and plays on emotions. His Basque characters are memorable.

Wordsworth His poems elevated me to fly with the clouds in the romantic youthful years

Keats Some of his poems added to my craziness during college days

PG Wodehouse I remember Jeeves and Lord Emsworth every time i eat fish. laughed and laughed...

 

Tamil Authors

Jayakanthan My favourite Tamil writer. I have been inspired by his essays and books. I like his originality of thought and the way he has dealt with Tamil social issues

Lakshmi her book "Malarhalile aval mallikai" set me on the romantic course during college days

Kalki his works helped me to survive the challenges of adolescent growth in the village.

Chandilyan His books made me a dreamer

Laa Sa Ramamirtham His lyrical prose had evoked powerful sentiments.

Bharathiyar His " Kannan Paatu" and "kuil pattu " besides other poems were early sources of inspiration

Bharathidasan He made me want to become a poet....still waiting to become...

Kannadasan His songs inflamed romantic passions