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DOWNLOAD õ Solo Ì With an imaginative audacity and lyrical brilliance that puts him in the company of David Mitchell and Alexander Hemon, Rana Dasgupta paints a portrait of a century through the story of a hundred year old blind Bulgarian man in a first novel that announces the arrival of an exhilarating new voice in fictionIn the first movement of Solo we meet Ulrich, the son of a railroad engineer, who has two great passions the violin and chemistry Denied the first by his father, he leaves for the Berlin of Einstein and Fritz Haber to study the latter His studies are cut short when his father s fortune evaporates, and he must return to Sofia to look after his parents He never leaves Bulgaria again Except in his daydreams and it is those dreams we enter in the volatile second half of the book In a radical leap from past to present, from life lived to life imagined, Dasgupta follows Ulrich s fantasy children, born of communism but making their way into a post communist world of celebrity and violenceIntertwining science and heartbreak, the old world and the new, the real and imagined, Solo is a virtuoso work I saw Rana Dasgupta speak at the launch of Solo in NYC at 192 Books his word choice is as impeccable in speech as it is in writing Solo is a mystifying book I ll need to revisit.I ll admit it when I arrived at the second half of the book, I didn t understand that I was reading Ulrich s daydreams I saw the scenes unfolding in a fantastic and far fetched alternate dimension As the story of Boris, Irakli, and Khatuna blooms and wilts, and increasingly apparent symbols from Ulrich s life bubble I saw Rana Dasgupta speak at the launch of Solo in NYC at 192 Books his word choice is as impeccable in speech as it is in writing Solo is a mystifying book I ll need to revisit.I ll admit it when I arrived at the second half of the book, I didn t understand that I was reading Ulrich s daydreams I saw the scenes unfolding in a fantastic and far fetched alternate dimension As the story of Boris, Irakli, and Khatuna blooms and wilts, and increasingly apparent symbols from Ulrich s life bubble to the surface, I grasped it better Still, the second half never transported me the way the first did I enjoyed, however, his daring treatment and transcendence of an abstract but simple concept that weaves its way through the lives of Ulrich, those who lived only in his imagination, and one who existed in the same world as the rest of us.The strangest of the passages gave me the sense I was reading ideas that came just as puzzling to Dasgupta when he wrote them as they did to me when I read them In fact, he may have said something to that effect at the reading D j vu blended with nonsensicality reminds me of when I wake up and write down the craziest of my nighttime dreams Rating 5 of fiveMy review has moved to my blog because of the data deletion problem here on Goodreads.This could very easily be one of the few novels I ll ever re read Ulrich stays with me, years later Rating 5 of fiveMy review has moved to my blog because of the data deletion problem here on Goodreads.This could very easily be one of the few novels I ll ever re read Ulrich stays with me, years later New ReviewBefore the man lost his sight, he read this story in a magazine a group of explorers came upon a community of parrots speaking the language of a society that had been wiped out in a recent catastrophe Astonished by their discovery, they put the parrots in cages and sent them home so that linguists could record what remained of the lost language But the parrots, already traumatized by the devastation they had recently witnessed, died on the way.The man feels a great fraternity with New ReviewBefore the man lost his sight, he read this story in a magazine a group of explorers came upon a community of parrots speaking the language of a society that had been wiped out in a recent catastrophe Astonished by their discovery, they put the parrots in cages and sent them home so that linguists could record what remained of the lost language But the parrots, already traumatized by the devastation they had recently witnessed, died on the way.The man feels a great fraternity with those birds He feels he carries, like them, a shredded inheritance, and he is too concussed to pass anything on.How does a broken man pass on his broken, fragile legacy What adverse times has he witnessed, that torment him so As he strives to unravel the century of life he has seen, how does he relate that massive history in tune with his own tale Or is the tale not solely his own Rana Dasgupta said in an interviewI have lived in the US and India for a long time and they are such big countries and so obsessed with themselves and think they are the whole world I found it interesting to write about a small country It s had fascism, it s had communism, it s had empire and I wanted to look at the effect it has on an individual s life when their country is ripped apart and they must to put themselves back together for a new regime Woven through the narrative is the turbulent history of Bulgaria and its imminent impact on its people the Crimean wars, the internal struggles between the Communist government and capitalist factions, the antagonism with Germany when the Fatherland started murdering the Jews at the height of the World Wars It is the story of Bulgaria as it is forced to suddenly discard the old and come to terms with a new world order a world where overnight loyalties changed, and with it did the fortunes of many A world where now even language become paralyzed, unable to keep its meanings stable in that implosion of culture where the patriot suddenly became a traitor, and a musician a vagrant The country and the people become entwined with each other s fates, and thus begins the journey of Ulrich in a turbulent period of Bulgarian history.A history that not only brought economic ruin for Ulrich, but also drew a chasm between the older and the newer generation, exemplified by Ulrich and his father, the former wishing to usher in a new time, untouched by brutality, giving his life to old world music, the latter clutching at the old world to hold it together by discarding the old and embracing the new world order It is a story of idealism and disillusionment, of a solo movement in music and in life, of an existence far removed from the rest of humanity by its willing and unwilling breaks with Time and Circumstances of the unseen disturbances that goes on beneath the soothing, calm surfaces.We follow Ulrich as he discards his first love, Music at his father s disapproval, replacing it with a love for Chemistry, thatstruck him that the two have this thing in common that an infinite range of expressions can be generated from a finite number of elements , his return to a civil war torn Sofia when his family is too broke to fund his studies in Berlin, the execution of his closest revolutionary friend Boris and his wife s desertion of him.We witness the disintegration of a whole civilization, a whole nation, an entire city known for its cultural fecundity, a whole family, an entire life their destinies interwoven with the threads of music, chemistry and bloodshed A hundred years history But then, Ulrich begins day dreaming in the second movement of the novel, whose first movement was yet only Chemistry, the external world of Ulrich, and of Bulgaria But Ulrich is no longer bound by the past He is free to imagine the world that might have been, if he had a new century to live in A life that might have been, but which never happened Reality and day dreams, one merging into the other, so you cannot know the difference In a sense, it is as much an anti Communist novel as Animal Farm the pictures of the physical and moral destruction of everything Sofia represented is still vivid, as the novel overflows with corruption, violence and persecution for as little as a lone voice of dissent or possessing a piece of non Bulgarian, and therefore, bourgeoisie music But then, it is subtly critical of Capitalism as well.Music and Science, considered some of the hallmarks of human advancement, are viewed through this spectacle of socio political chaos or rather, the disintegration of civilization is silently observed by what it does to music and science.Dasgupta saidI was very attracted to Bulgaria through its music The country has an amazing musical tradition There is a vibrant folk music, but, having been part of the Ottoman Empire, there has also been Turkish, Arabic and Gypsy music And the story of how the Communist state banned all this other music, banned jazz, and created an enormous silence around music all this is a very Bulgarian story, and it s a big part of the story I wanted to tell Similarly, for science as a creative field pursued for the betterment of life, Dasgupta said,People followed Einstein s theories and the newspapers explained those theories, and there was this connection between public culture and science Then when the Nazis began to persecute Jewish scientists , this scene was completely destroyed I mean it was an amazing handover of Europe to America The disillusionment with science is complete, for Ulrich in the wake of Hiroshima after the burning light of progress has shown its dangerous side What happened to those beautiful scientists when they got to America , he wonders.The second movement captures life in the 21st century Georgia what would it be like for Boris the musician, and Ulrich to have had their youth in a world so different from the one they had lived Ulrich s daydreams takes us to the post Twin Towers collapse Georgia where Khatuna rises abruptly in her career as a business woman when she catches the attention of Kakha, a millionaire, while her brother Irakli writes poetry and fiercely abhors the gangster s company his sister enjoys Where Boris signs contracts with Universal Studios and gives concerts in New York Where Ulrich no longer falls from aristocracy to poverty Is life any better Have we really made our lives better, with all the money and smart businesses With illegal crime replacing the atrocities of an approved monarchy, has the world moved on to become a better place It is a dreamy, tragic, melancholic and strange story wound around music and chemistry, spanning the whole twentieth century and a little of twenty first century A tragedy so subtle, it leaves no traces of its wounds There are no scars to show the wounds are concealed beneath And there s nothing so overwhelming as an underscored tragedy.Where has humanity failed itself From evolving into a harmonic orchestra, has it been reduced to every artist playing a solo, lonely and consumed by the self Told from the sightless eyes of the hundred year old Ulrich, it is a haunting story of the ultimate failure of humanity in saving itself Not from an alien attack, but from its own implosion For every genius it brings forth, it thwarts back a fewFor every melody it sings, it deafens a life with its cries For every new invention it prides itself on, it marks its own body with destruction For every publicized glittering success, it withholds a million failures that paid the price.It is not Ulrich we see in the two movements, but the possibilities that could have been And the impossibility of true peace Wherever Ulrich might have been, he would be denied harmony He is destined to play solo And so are weThat was when the ones who smiled,Were the dead, glad to be at rest. Solo is a novel by Rana Dasgupta that is actually two novels movement one and movement two, the life and the daydreams, the reality and the illusion, or maybe the illusion and the reality Somewhere for me, Solo combined the lyrical existentialism from the cobbled streets of Kafka s Prague with the detached, disjointed sweep of Tulse Luper s suitcases There are three things that, I think, are striking about it 1 THE CONCEPTThe first thing has to do with the conception of the novel, its in Solo is a novel by Rana Dasgupta that is actually two novels movement one and movement two, the life and the daydreams, the reality and the illusion, or maybe the illusion and the reality Somewhere for me, Solo combined the lyrical existentialism from the cobbled streets of Kafka s Prague with the detached, disjointed sweep of Tulse Luper s suitcases There are three things that, I think, are striking about it 1 THE CONCEPTThe first thing has to do with the conception of the novel, its intent, not because it should decide why the book is necessarily better or worse because of it, but because it is one of the reasons why I had recommended it for discussion.I think, it was in the South Asian literature festival, where one remembers Rana saying that he did not believe in the old adage Write what you know He said that he considered that baggage limiting to his imagination And thus he took on the novel, almost as a personal challenge He chose Bulgaria simply because it is considered banal and probably one of the least attractive European countries and a place that no body would want to write about He also chose Bulgaria, because he was drawn to its ravaged history and music That he manages to create an evocative world fraught with characters that resonate and live, simply out of this self imposed challenged, is a fascinating tale in theory And while I vehemently disagree with his point of view I still think the greatest writing comes from inside out , I have to respect it and also respect that he backed his theory with not arguments, but work.2 THE NARRATIVEThe second and least important is that it is a monument to ordinariness Nothing much is ever accomplished by Ulrich, in Bulgaria or anywhere Often many lives pass his, tangentially touching him but not quite dwelling with him As a result, the novel s form rudderless in essence but labored and structured in execution, wherein it is basically housing two novels becomes relevant as it allows for thefanciful reveries of Ulrich to contrast with the humdrum vestiges of his hundred year old life The novel exemplifies how each life, important or unimportant, is worth telling and chronicling.3 THE FORM AND THE ESSENCEAnd yet, it is not just a novel about celebrating the form because all along the cerebral odyssey, there is a residual, yet paradoxically overarching core that retains its ability to disarm the reader, with snippets of unexpected melancholy Take for example, Ulrich s memories of his mother s smile turning orange in the dawn, a contrast to her philharmonic sadness described earlier on Suddenly, that smile, in that sentence, that dawn, that one, isolated moment of his mother s happiness, becomesaffecting and soulful than any sadness that could ve been depicted, as is.Throughout the novel, the author s use of the language is unconventional He eschews the maudlin in favour of a science journal like approach to pain, as though the narrative itself is one of Ulrich s chemistry experiments or lab rats, bottled in slipstream vignettes and what not Often, when confronted by a plot point where normally one would expect to ecnounter an emotional response, Rana primarily works around it, not because his voice is disdainful of showing emotion but it is as though his characters are too affected by it, too emotionally full to even talk about it viscerally, honestly And so when Ulrich s father throws his violin into the fire, Ulrich immediately starts talking about the different colours of the sparks, the copper of the G string, the varnish and the wood, as the violin burns The fact that he would never play the violin again, after this incident, is mentioned only hurriedly in other places in the book This tone of the novel is one of its biggest strengths, as though Ulrich is an outsider looking in on his own life, not heuristically, but voyeuristically, from a peephole As to reservations and minor irks, one could say that the novel, in part, seems to sound unmistakably like a bunch of loosely connected vignettes it does even become an itemised list at times than a novel but then again, in an exercise of memory and existence, that is probably as good a writing technique as any other My rating 5 5