Sunday, March 29, 2009

Trying to review "Die Vermessung der Welt" by Daniel Kehlmann

Die Vermessung der Welt - Daniel Kehlmann

Am going to write a thesis on this book ! LOL ...Going by how thought provoking (provoking being the keyword! ) it is...Hope it's also available in English...
The biggest provocation for me was the premise of the book: It uses the names of real people and real events and weaves a story around these characters... I was wondering how I would feel if someone were to use my name and my data to write a fictitious story... even if I was long dead and gone! well... Humboldt and Gauß must be turning in their graves, I'm sure! I think, I'd turn around in the atmosphere... and water... and earth! lol
Well... I have to admit here that the book is verrrrry interesting, humorous, entertaining and informative, but even if the word "Novel" is mentioned on the cover page, one can't deny that it is TOTALLY based on the lives of these two great people. How can someone, in the name of "Literary Freedom", use famous names to sell his book? This is why I found the premise verrrrrry disturbing, to say the least! Imagine someone using Tagore and Subhash Chandra Bose for example, to write a work of fiction! There would be an uproar in India!!!
This, of course, led to a discussion with my other colleagues and one of them said:-why not?
me: "What if someone uses YOUR name, YOUR achievements, YOUR LIFE and writes a work of fiction... assigning YOU a personality that HE think YOU have / had... and doesn't even stop before describing YOUR supposed intimate moments? What would YOU think of it?"
...Well, I got an unexpected answer: Why not?! It is again his freedom of expression!
I was now quite upset on being so abnormal and asked: Why does it disturb me so much then?
- Coz you take yourself too seriously!!! (We're here on this earth for a short while and how would it matter to anyone, if someone used someone's name... everything is so fleeting as it is...)
Hmmm, that led me to think even more!!! LOL So, now am learning NOT to take myself too seriously, but have to say again: It does disturb me even now... am still taking myself too seriously! LOL Okay, am yet to evolve and have another goal set for me now! Okays, this is for today, but am not done as yet!
Okay, have finally finished the book! And I must say that it is a verrrrrrry interesting one... it completely holds one's interest till the end... making one oblivious to one's surroundings - completely lost in the book! :) Well, I like the subtle humour that steals up on you and ends up in a lasting smile on your face! :) The narrative also paints vivid images on one's mind... as if a picture is unravelling in front of you!

It also made me think whether recognition within one's lifetime is really good for one! Take Humboldt (in this book) for example... After he became VERY well known and went for this so called expedition to Russia, he could not do any research worth its name coz he had to attend numerous parties held in his honour, meet the czar, the noblemen etc... And he was accompanied by a little army of soldiers, who did not let him move at his own free will! What a fate for a renowned explorer!

Anyway, I still maintain that I find the premise of this book disturbing. Though it's good that it leaves many questions unanswered and that makes one look up the real characters and get to know them. But it also does cloud one's perception of these characters (Alexander von Humbolt and Carl Friedrich Gauß) as it is TOTALLY based on their life histories... there is not even a slight attempt to present it as anything else but their stories! And just putting the word "Novel" will not make one not confuse it with the real people!!!

... Hmmm, come to think of it, just how many biographies, or for that matter, autobiographhies contain truth and nothing but the truth? They are highly subjective and might present the events as the author sees them or would LIKE to see them! So, why should I criticize only this attempt? Well...ok, literary freedom or whatever... I think I'm at peace with this book now... if only for a short while till my mind brings up another counter-argument! ;)

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