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A Twentieth Century Superman

George Bernard Shaw was a man who was both exuberantly twentieth century and remarkably ahead of his times. He combined idealism with a razor-sharp perception of the ridiculous, and depicted the people around him with honesty, sympathy and humour.

Shaw was not a modest person, nor was he unsure of himself. He was delightfully certain of his philosophical and political stance, and was not deterred by modesty or convention from saying so. He was quite unashamedly a hedgehog, not a fox. Many of his heroes – Henry Higgins, Jack Tanner, Bluntschli, and incidentally the Bard of Avon – exemplify Shaw’s irreverence, humour and disregard for convention, as well as his advanced philosophical and political views.

Shaw’s description of Shakespeare might have been a description of himself – he says that ‘the timid cough of a minor poet was never heard from him’,  and ‘he (possibly with a keen sense of the fun of scandalising the modest coughers) proclaimed his place in “the wide world dreaming of things to come”.’ (Shaw says himself that he imagines Shakespeare to have been rather like himself: if he had lived in Elizabethan times, he would have given Shakespeare a run for his money.)

While one frequently does not agree with the rather strong opinions Shaw expresses – his remarks about the personal hygiene (or lack thereof) of the people of Bulgaria, or his opinion of Rabindranath Tagore – to take a moral line, to berate Shaw for his lack of tolerance, is to be like one of the characters in his books whose stiff and inflexible moral sense he affectionately ridicules. Shaw is not intolerant in the sense in which CS Lewis or Enid Blyton is intolerant. He does not seriously believe in the superiority of the British – if anything, he delights in ridiculing his countrymen. He delights in his own directness. And he is, in fact, more amused by his extreme opinions than even we can be. An ambivalent Shaw would be like an ingenuous Richard of Gloucester – the charm of his work, its individuality, would be considerably diminished.

And he is, in fact, quite tolerant of opposing views. He gives them a voice in his books, and there is no aggression in his treatment of them. He is humorous, affectionate, and not at all shaken from his own stance. His Ramsden and his Octavius are depicted as very good people, if a little deluded. He means the audience to sympathise with them as much as with his revolutionaries, and we do.

This disregard for convention is, in fact, more than an instance of self-centred megalomania – it is really an expression of Shaw’s view of society. Shaw considered that people in his country, in his time, were myopic, deluded and prejudiced, and he had no problem telling them so. “The Englishman thinks he is moral when he is only uncomfortable,” says one of his characters. And he saw no reason why he should not tell them so. In a time of myopia, conformism and intellectual confusion, his works were ‘Shavian oxygen’. He did not believe in conformism and guilt, and the things that seemed to govern his society. He considered honesty more important than the appearance of humility.

m&s poster

Shaw wanted people to be rational, reasonable, sure of themselves yet capable of discussion. In his play Man and Superman, ‘members of the Idle Rich Class’, dead men (among them the legendary Don Juan), some engagingly idealistic brigands and Lucifer himself calmly debate the meaning of human existence and morality… or lack thereof. “Your mistake, my diabolical friend,” says Don Juan at one point, “is that you take man at his own valuation. Nothing would please him more than your opinion of him.” Part of the debate takes place in Hell, a dark and misty region where people live afterlives of illusion and aestheticism.

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The debate, interestingly, is not between good and evil, between humanitarianism and self-interest. Shaw did not belong to the ‘good and evil’ school of thought that has recently become so fashionable in Hollywood and popular literature. His view of the distinction between heaven and hell was much more subtle: the Devil believes that humans are incapable of making any genuine progress, and that his Hell – a region of aestheticism and illusion – offers a superior alternative to living in the real world. Don Juan believes that the Life Force aims to move upward, and only needs the assistance of philosophical thought, awareness, and a release from the delusions that govern modern human society. He chooses to move to Heaven because he believes in realism.

They explain to Ana, a newly dead woman, that the gulf between Heaven and Hell is no more than the gulf between a bull-fighting arena and a philosopher’s classroom. People from one aren’t prohibited from going to the other; it’s a matter of personal taste, but the patrons of one generally don’t choose to patronise the other.

Shaw was inspired by philosophers such as Nietzsche. It is Nietzsche’s ideas he explores in this play.

Shaw was a socialist, and believed in equality. However, he expressed this view in a very characteristic way… with humour and understanding. Indignation and aggression are conspicuously absent from his plays. In Pygmalion, he suggests that a flower girl can become a fine lady simply by learning to speak with a fine lady’s accent. But at the end, the flower girl says she was better off as a flower girl, since she was independent.

Shaw was a supporter of the feminist movement. Many of his heroines – among them Eliza, Candida, and Joan of Arc – are intelligent women who are both good and shrewd. They are honest and sincere, and at the same time extremely perceptive. They strive to retain their independence in the face of chauvinism and patriarchy, and at the same time understand the foibles and inconsistencies in the behaviour of those who claim to be in control. One of his most interesting female characters is Queen Elizabeth I.

Shaw was irreverent and in some ways appears to have been something of a rebel. He refused to conform to the accepted rules of spelling and grammar and instead evolved his own, omitting several apostrophes and spelling ‘Shakespeare’ as ‘Shakespear’. He was clearly a modern playwright, one whose plays (with their long prefaces and frequent narrative passages, that often take up more space than the dialogue) differed considerably from the dialogue-centric, almost narrative-free plays of, say, William Shakespeare. And yet he appears to have been rather fond of the Bard, if his play The Dark Lady of the Sonnets is anything to judge by.

In The Dark Lady, Shakespeare sets out to meet his lady love, the famous Dark Lady of the sonnets. He happens to come upon Queen Elizabeth, sleep-walking and consumed with guilt about the death of Mary, Queen of Scots. In the following scene, Shakespeare is humorous, lewd and engagingly irreverent. He informs her that his descent is superior to her own: his father had only one wife, while hers had six; and she has no real right to her power, since she derives it not from her birth or her descent, but from her being, by chance, ‘the most wondrous piece of beauty the age hath seen’. Elizabeth is half amused and half outraged.

They go on to discuss the matter of popular taste in theatre. Shakespeare begs Elizabeth to construct a theatre where he can stage plays that he believes in, without having to depend on the public’s taste. He points out that people are highly influenced by theatre, and it is therefore necessary to stage instructive plays. (He numbers As You Like It and Much Ado About Nothing among his worse plays written to please the public.) Elizabeth agrees with him, but says that she is powerless to do anything to help; there are many claims on the public treasury, and her cousellors and subjects will never allow her to finance theatre from the public purse. She predicts that it will be hundreds of years before England establishes her own playhouse at the public charge, and England will venture then only out of a desire ‘to be ever in the fashion’.

“It may be that by then your works will be dust also,” she tells Will Shakespeare. He replies, “They will stand, madam: fear not for that.”

It is possible that this play inspired the highly successful film Shakespeare in Love; many elements of the play – for instance, Shakespeare’s noting down phrases for later use, and Eizabeth’s mingled amusement and respect for him and his plays – appear similar.

To read Shaw’s plays for the first time is to enter a new world: they are like a breath of fresh air. ‘Shavian oxygen’ is no idle boast. It is a world of shrewd realism, honesty, reason and intellecual adventure. According to Nietzsche, one of Shaw’s favourite philosophers, man is a bridge between animal and Superman. Perhaps the perspective of a Bernard Shaw is the route to the Superman.

Shaw picture

This will probably be my last post on this blog… we’ll probably be handing it over to a new group of people soon. We’d like to thank our Principal and Vice Principal for allowing us to establish this society and putting up a notice-board for us. We’d like to thank Mrs Radha Venugopal for taking an interest in the society and allowing us to put up posters in the library, and all the teachers who took an interest in our activities. We’re grateful to all the people who contributed to this blog and to the Literary Society notice board, and who attended our Literary Quiz in the capacity of both participants and volunteers. And we’d like to thank you, our readers, for visiting the blog. We hope that you enjoyed reading our posts (and perhaps disagreeing with our somewhat unequivocally expressed interpretations) as much as we enjoyed writing them.

As Shakespeare says in Shaw’s The Dark Lady, ‘there is no word yet coined and no melody yet sung that is extravagant and majestical enough for the glory that lovely words can reveal. It is heresy to deny it: have you not been taught that in the beginning was the Word? that the Word was with God? nay, that the Word was God?’

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Niyati Venkatesan
XII B

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Posted by on January 29, 2013 in Literary Society

 

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The Bond of the Books

Fast-paced and elegant, absorbing and meticulously crafted, Ian Fleming’s works reflect an evolved, wry and faintly humorous perspective.

Fleming’s charismatic hero, James Bond, has assumed the proportions of a legend in the world of cinema and popular culture. The admiration he has won as a character of films is fully deserved; yet while appreciating the films for their own merit, one must keep in mind that the complex and pragmatic humanism of Fleming’s books cannot easily be done justice to by a film interpretation. Nor are the films merely failed attempts to capture the magic of the books. They are works of art in their own right, that seek to entertain and succeed in doing so. One cannot judge the books by the films any more than one can judge the films by the books.

But Fleming’s books grip us because they are more than a string of action sequences. They reflect a view of life and humanity that is magnetic and exciting.

Bond is described as a man with warm, humorous eyes and a passionate, rather cruel mouth. At first glance, his perspective is a mixture of the deontological and the hedonistic. He seems to focus on the tangible and the immediate, to obey the promptings of his code as an agent as completely and unquestioningly as he follows his instincts. He seems to live life from one day to the next, focusing on his duty, his life, and his loves, with his duty forever the first: he is ready at any moment and unafraid to give up his life for his country, without demanding the sentiment and the reward that normally go with such a sacrifice. At no point do we see him pleading for sympathy or for a reward, in this life or the next.

And yet Bond seems to live life more completely and to feel its richness and complexity far more than most people. Many writers of film screenplays today tell us to live life to the fullest: to live each day as though it were our last, and leave nothing undone. But Bond’s way of fulfilling that doctrine goes far beyond the common conception: he does much more than fight his enemies and pursue the instincts of love. (Though those, certainly, are a large part of who he is and why he is so immortal and attractive a character to many.) Bond rushes through life like one of the powerful cars he is so fond of, and yet he misses nothing. He looks at every place he visits, every person he encounters, and every moment he lives, with the same keen, observant and perceptive eye. He absorbs all the depth and flavour of the moment, and then at once puts it aside and rushes on to the next without pause.

And once in a while, he sits alone with a drink and speculates about the meaning of life.

Bond is not conventionally ethical; and yet he is a humanist. He does not shrink from killing when he has to, but nor does he particularly enjoy it. He just sees it as something that needs to be done. He does what he needs to for his country and the Secret Service; he does not seem jaded, but nor is he exuberantly and ostentatiously chivalrous. And yet chivalry is a very important part of who he is. In many ways, he is more like the knights of old than the conventional modern hero.

Bond’s perception of life is keen and remorseless. He does not miss anything, nor is he biased in any way. He is not a forgiving person, but nor is he unnecessarily judgemental. His perception of life is faintly cynical at times, but for the most part the pages are alight with his enthusiasm for his work and his wry, humorous view of the people around him. From the hot-tempered but sincere Australian Richard Henderson, who drinks, swears, and expresses his less than politically correct views of the Japanese openly (though he occupies an important diplomatic post in Japan), to the many larger-than-life villains he encounters (who are sometimes as amusing as they are chilling, and seem meant to be), to a girl named ‘Artificial’ (her sisters were named after flowers, and her mother ran out of names), Bond sees them steadily, and sees them whole.

Ian Fleming paints with a remarkably fine brush; his touch is light, and his canvas is at once meticulously, minutely detailed, and wide and rich. From two insects killing each other in the middle of a desert to the spirit of a people in an epoch of history, Fleming captures them all. His books will always be delightful reads, absorbing, entertaining and thought-provoking. They heralded a new era in popular culture: their scale, depth, complexity of characterisation and perfection of ambience and detail have made them a benchmark for fiction of the past and present centuries. James Bond has earned his place as one of the most fascinating heroes of the modern era, and deserves to, and will, occupy it for some time.

 

Ian Fleming, the Author

 

by Niyati Venkatesan

XII B

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2012 in Author, Literary Society

 

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A blog by one of our members

Dear All, I now have a personal blog, which promotes monarchy as a system of government!

Please visit:http://royalistworld.blogspot.in/

-Nikhil Variyar, XII B

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2012 in Literary Society

 

Brekekekex Koax Koax

Aristophanes was a playwright who wrote in the fifth century BC, and yet his plays are as interesting and entertaining today as they must have been then.

He perfected the art of scatological humour as well as that of parody. His jokes are delightfully vulgar, and yet he made some very important social points. He often made fun of the famous tragedies, in a good-humoured, irreverent and kindly fashion.

Aristophanes was clearly a feminist and a pacifist. In Lysistrata, he explores both these themes in a hilarious and original way, and paints a fascinating picture of the world we live in and of its people.

He was very interested in, and rather amused by, the famous tragic style of Greece.

In Frogs, he compares the styles of two famous tragedians, Aeschylus and Euripides, and examines the conflict of the traditional and the modern in a humorous way. The play is set in the underworld, and is a hilarious parody of those stories set in a dark and threatening underworld, such as the Labours of Heracles, and the story of Orpheus.

In Wasps, he ridicules the passionate laments, fear of prophecies and apprehension of disaster that many tragedies are famous for, while also making points about judicial power and its exercise and abuse. He compares judges to wasps. He often quotes lines from the tragedies in incongruous settings.

Aristophanes often openly lampooned the pretensions of prominent public figures and politicians, and said they were cowardly or corrupt.

Aristophanes’ political and religious stance was fairly conservative. In Clouds, he criticises the new and controversial views of thinkers such as Socrates, and in Frogs, the traditionalist Aeschylus emerges the winner. But in Frogs, he does not unequivocally support the Aeschylean perspective; he is not narrow-minded or intolerant.

Thus Aristophanes’ plays are worth reading, both for his humorous and down-to-earth perspective, and because he deals with issues that still concern us, such as the conflict between the traditional and the modern, women’s rights and corruption in the government.

Brekekekex koax koax is the Ancient Greek representation of frogs croaking, from Aristophanes’ famous play The Frogs. In the play, a group of frogs in the underworld infuriates Dionysus when he’s had enough of rowing on the Styx.

 

Niyati Venkatesan

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2012 in Author, Literary Society

 

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The Books, the Humour and Mr Chandrasekar

We are delighted to present an exclusive interview with the bestselling author Mr. R. Chandrasekar, who was kind enough to sit down with our Secretary, Niyati Venkatesan, and answer all our impertinent questions.

The Author

Mr. R. Chandrasekar was born in Madras and studied at Mayo College, Vivekananda College Madras, the Delhi School of Economics and the University of Chicago. He has researched and priced commodities and derivatives, traded bonds, managed portfolios, taught, and run a financial research centre.

Mr Chandrasekar lives with his family in Madras. ‘The Goat, the Sofa and Mr Swami’ is his first novel. His second novel, ‘The School of Core Incompetence,’ will be out soon.

Please click here to watch the interview.

 

Covers of the Books

 

Transcript of the interview:

NV

A few years back, it seemed like the Indian writers’ market was split into two factions – the faction considered intellectual and the faction that wrote what the public wanted. But these days, the gap seems less conspicuous. We do come across books that are both intellectual and readable. Many readers felt that ‘The Goat, the Sofa and Mr Swami’ was both a very relevant satire and great fun to read. Do you think the gulf is being bridged?

R Chandrasekar

Yes, I think what has happened now is – previously a lot of the writers whom we thought of as good writers – like Vikram Seth, Amitav Ghosh, Vikram Chandra and all those people – they were published abroad first and then the books came here. Even though they might have been writing about Indian subjects, the books were published there and then came here.

And then you had the mass market books – you know, people like Chetan Bhagat – their books were published here. These are very Indian books.

I think what we’re beginning to see now is books which are in between the two – not quite literary books, but definitely a cut above the mass market books – which are being published in India. So yes, that’s beginning to happen. Maybe not as quickly as we’d like, but we are seeing that happen.

NV

Could you tell us something about your next book?

R Chandrasekar

My next book is a satire on management education in India.

You see, there are more than two thousand schools offering the equivalent of an MBA degree, and probably about fifty or seventy five of them are good. In the sense that they have a decent faculty and a library and all of that. A lot of the rest are definitely not very good!

So I’ve set my second novel in one of those not very good places. It’s one of those places which are, say, ranked 800 or 900 in India. So you have people who don’t really know how to teach, and students who are not really there to learn, and the management of the school is basically there to make money. I’ve set the novel in that sort of setting, and had a bit of fun doing that!

NV

Your next book deals with the Indian education system…

R Chandrasekar

…well, one part of the Indian education system. It deals with management education.

NV

So in general, what do you think of the Indian education system?

R Chandrasekar

I think there are huge contrasts.

There are certain bits and pieces which are very good, and huge bits which are not very good – where you’ve got numbers, very large numbers, but the teaching is not very inspiring – the students are not really inspired to learn.

So in a sense it’s a waste of everybody’s time. People are going through the motions, but there is no joy of learning, so to speak.

NV

One of the things I enjoyed most about ‘The Goat, the Sofa and Mr Swami’ was the dialogue, because it so closely resembled the way we all speak! We often do say things like ‘Shimla is a rubbish place’ and ‘too many twos you are doing’. We’ve also enjoyed the colloquialisms in Salman Rushdie’s books, and Amitav Ghosh’s books. But many readers found it interesting that you, Salman Rushdie and Amitav Ghosh don’t actually speak that way! How hard is it to write realistic colloquial dialogue if you actually speak perfect English?

R Chandrasekar

The thing is that when you write a book, you’re writing about a different character. Most of the time, you’re not writing about yourself. So if you take ‘The Goat, the Sofa and Mr Swami,’ the book is told in the voice of Mr Swami.

So I have to think to myself, ‘who is Swami?’

Swami is several things – he’s an IAS officer, he’s probably forty something years old, he’s probably quite bright because he got into the IAS, but he’s also rather full of himself. So I have to think how somebody with all those characteristics would talk. And that language – his language – you have to reflect that.

And you have the other characters, you have the Indian Prime Minister who’s from the heartland of U.P., an elderly politician. Now he’s not going to speak English the way Swami speaks. In all likelihood, he would speak Hindi. But I can’t have all the dialogue in Hindi. So I have to somehow create a language where you understand that this man is not a native English speaker, and throw in some of the colloquialisms which you might expect somebody like him to use. So when you’re writing dialogues, you have to put yourself in the mind of the person who is speaking.

You know, we talk to a lot of people in our day to day lives. You’ve travelled through India – I’ve also travelled through India – I’ve lived in Delhi, I’ve lived here and in Bombay. You hear a lot of people speak, and then you try to remember some of that and put it in the dialogue. So when a book is written in the first person, it’s not me talking. Ideally, it’s somebody else, the character, who’s doing the talking. And when we have conversation between people, we’re trying to use the conversation to heighten who the characters are, the way they think, their personality and so on.

NV

Your books are very humorous. What do you think of the level of humour of other Indian writers in English?

R Chandrasekar

I have to say that I haven’t read too many Indian English books [of this type]. I’ve read a few, of course – there are some which are very, very funny.

There’s this book called ‘Raag Darbari’ by a gentleman called Shrilal Shukla, which came out, I think, in 1968. He wrote it in Hindi. I don’t know Hindi, so I read it in the English translation. It’s set in a village in U.P., and it’s all about village life, the government officials in village life, and it’s very, very funny. The book has become a cult classic.

Then you have Upamanyu Chatterji’s ‘English August,’ which also, I thought, was a nice, funny book. Again, the subject matter being government.

But apart from these two, I’m not too familiar with Indian English humorous books. There might be a bunch of humorous books written in Indian languages, but I’m not aware of them.

But I think most books written in English in India are self consciously serious.

NV

What do you think of the approach of Indian publishers these days? What are their main objectives? Do you think they’re getting the best out of our writers?

R Chandrasekar

That’s a loaded question!  The thing is – ultimately a publisher is there to make money. A publisher is trying to figure out which books will sell.

Now when you look around, and see which books have sold well, and which books haven’t sold well, it’s really difficult to see a pattern. If you have a Chetan Bhagat who comes up and is a phenomenon – all of a sudden, there’s a whole bunch of imitators coming in and trying to do what he did. There’s an Amish Tripati who wrote a book which has also become a bestseller – nobody expected it to be a bestseller – but now you suddenly find a lot of people following in his footsteps.

As a publisher, you’re trying to balance a whole bunch of things – on the one hand, you want to say that ‘the stuff I’m publishing is fairly good,’ but on the other hand you want to make money. Actually, it’s a tough situation for them.

There are some publishers who have very consciously decided to go downmarket.

For example, Penguin has got something called ‘Metro Reads.’ These are fairly low priced books – these are meant to be quick reads – you buy them in the station or the airport, you don’t pay very much. There’s not much depth to the story; you know what you’re getting – there’s a certain market for that. And they’ve kept that separate from their main line, so you’ve got two different things there.

Rupa, once again, seems to have two different things. So I guess every publisher is trying to hedge his bets by doing both types of books – books which have literary qualities, and books which are distinctly downmarket.

And it’s not just India – if you look at the US and the UK markets, you have Mills & Boon, and the Harlequin Romances, and you have chick lit – it’s become a big thing!

Once again, I don’t think these things are meant to be fancy literature, or anything like that – it’s just a publisher trying to figure out what might sell, and come out with something to meet the need.

NV

Who are your favourite writers? Did any of them influence your writing style?

R Chandrasekar

Yes, I can tell you who some of my favourite writers are – I’m a big fan of P G Wodehouse, and a big fan of Graham Greene. There’s a Canadian writer called Mordecai Richler, whose books I like very much.

I like reading, and there are a number of authors I’ve read and liked.

As to whether they’ve influenced me – I think, if you read ‘Goat,’ there is a teeny bit of Wodehouse that has come in there. It wasn’t intentional, but now that I read it after the fact, it seems to be there, so obviously he’s influenced me to some extent.

Other than that, Graham Greene is a serious writer and I haven’t written anything that serious so I cannot say that he’s directly influenced me.

And the other people – Richler, for instance, writes Jewish humour, and there’s no way I can write like that. His humour and his writing are specific to a particular people and a particular region. But yes, I like his stuff, and if I’ve learned something from people like that, it’s good!

NV

Thank you for giving us this interview.

R Chandrasekar

Thank you for coming here to talk to me.

 

 
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Posted by on July 23, 2012 in Author, Literary Society

 

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Winter Is Coming

Set in a land quite different from ours, George RR Martin’s works are quite a work of art indeed. While our Earth is facing onslaught from global warming, Martin’s world braces itself for the coming of a great winter, with beastly creatures or Others, as they are called in the series, come south in great numbers after the long summer, said to have lasted almost a decade. The Others are introduced in the very prologue of the first book, with three characters unimportant to the main storyline being killed ambushed by Others and one escaping, only to be sentenced to death by the Warden of the North, Lord Eddard Stark of Winterfell.

Ahh…yes, Warden of the North. One of many posts with or without power mentioned during the series Martin has written. George RR Martin has been inspired by the famous War of the Roses, a civil war which ravaged England during the middle ages. In A Song of Ice and Fire, too, an entire continent Westeros, forged into a single nation(The Seven Kingdoms) by King Aegon Targaryen, the Conqueror, is plunged into civil war when an illegitimate child born of incest succeeds the throne and sentences Eddard Stark to death at the centre of sanctity of Westeros, the Holy Sept of Baelor.

Martin has done something majorly different from those of his contemporaries- he has given an important role to religion elaborating on four of many religions across the series of books.

Map of the World of GRRM

(click on the map to enlarge)

Martin’s world is split across two continents: Westeros and Essos. While most of the first book, A Game of Thrones (now a world-famous television series) takes place in particular areas of Westeros, the later books explore the rest of the culturally and geographically diverse lands Martin created to stage his books in.

Accompanied by a complex web of politics and intrigue, the hierarchical nature of the governmental system comes into picture. The entire story is based on a system of Houses-Dynasties, if you will. Each owes allegiance to a superior house and, in turn to House Baratheon, from the Stormlands(refer map), which usurped the throne of the Seven Kingdoms from House Targaryen.

With women taking lead roles as well, the story offers gender equality as one of its major attributes. The Queen of the king who dies, Cersei Lannister, places her son, Joffrey, born out of incest with her twin brother, Jaime (all of house Lannister). Danaerys Targaryen is also another major female character, leading her people around in Essos, exiled from Westeros as she was. Born on the day King’s Landing (Capital of the Seven Kingdoms) was captured by Robert Baratheon the Usurper(officially father of Joffrey and husband to Cersei), she was forced into a self exile for fear of her life. She comes to the forefront as a very strong-minded female character, capturing city after city in a region called Slaver’s Bay in Essos, while relieving slaves from their servitude to the locals, the Ghiscari. She forsakes her brain-dead husband to hatch three dragons from their eggs.

The intricacies of the entire series are extremely enjoyable and intoxicating. Almost like a trap, the books get you hooked on from the moment you start reading them. With numerous point-of-view characters, centred in the first book around the Stark family, which rules supreme in North Westeros, the books are worth the few hundred hours you will spend researching the backgrounds and histories of various houses. The major houses, along with the region in Westeros they rule, for your reference, are:

Stark (The North)

Tully (The Riverlands)

Lannister (The Westerlands)

Greyjoy (The Iron Islands)

Arryn (The Vale)

Tyrell (The Reach)

Martell (Dorne)

Baratheon (The Stormlands)

Baratheon of King’s Landing (The Crownlands, supreme over all other houses)

The following are the five books released: (we are still awaiting the last two)

-Nikhil Variyar, XII B

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2012 in Literary Society

 

ARTEMIS FOWL: Aurum Potestas Est

Aurum Potestas Est. Gold Is Power. Why not? With gold you can do anything. Or can you?

Artemis Fowl is a series of books written by Eoin (pronounced Owen) Colfer and it is probably one of the best series of books ever written. The protagonists are of course Artemis Fowl and Butler, his … butler. However, he is Artemis Fowl II son of Artemis Fowl Senior and heir to the Fowl empire. A bigger criminal empire never has and probably never will ever again exist. The family motto: Aurum potestas est, obviously.

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Now, back to our protagonist. Artemis fowl. At the age of 12(in the first book) to call him a criminal mastermind would be an understatement. In book 1 his main goal: Gold (duh). His father, after marrying his mom decided to legitimize the entire Fowl empire. However, in the process, he happened to disappear, somewhere near Russia, while at the same time reducing the Fowl family’s wealth considerably. Not that he impoverished them, just reduced them from multi-billionaires to multi-milionaires. Well, Fowl Jr decided that billionaire was better than millionaire. And if that required you to choose the shadier side of law, well illegal is always quicker.

Fowl discovers that there is a whole race of beings (elves, dwarves, centaur, pixies etc) who lived under the earth’s surface hiding from humans. He also discovers that they are technologically way more advanced than humans and have a strong affinity to gold. So whats a little technological disadvantage for a criminal mastermind? He decides that the quickest way to get his gold would be to exploit these fairy creatures.

The story goes on but I am not telling it all here. The books that follow are all related to Artemis Fowl and his dealings with fairies. Although he starts off exploiting them, he comes to realize that they are quite good and both Fowl and the fairies start helping each other to save the earth from the really bad guys (both human and fairy).

Find the background interesting? Want to know what else happens? Well you can always read the books.

The following excerpt is from the first book and is my favouite part among all the books.

A waiter scurried to their table.

‘More tea, sirs?’ he asked, head bobbing furiously.

Artemis sighed. ‘Spare me the theatrics and sit down.’

The waiter turned instinctively to Butler, who was, after all, the adult.

‘But, sir, I am the waiter.’

Artemis tapped the table for attention.

‘You are wearing handmade loafers, a silk shirt and three gold signet rings. Your English has

a tinge of Oxford about it and your nails have the soft sheen of the recently manicured. You

are not a waiter. You are our contact, Nguyen Xuan, and you have adopted this pathetic

disguise to discreetly check for weaponry.’

Nguyen’s shoulders sagged. ‘It is true. Amazing.’

‘Hardly. A ragged apron does not a waiter make.’

Nguyen sat, pouring some mint tea into a tiny china cup.

‘Let me fill you in on the weapons status,’ continued Artemis. ‘I am unarmed. But Butler here,

my … ah … butler, has a Sig Sauer in his shoulder holster, two shrike throwing knives in his

boots, a derringer two-shot up his sleeve, garrotte wire in his watch and three stun grenades

concealed in various pockets. Anything else, Butler?’

‘The cosh, sir.’

‘Oh yes. A good old ball-bearing cosh stuffed down his shirt.’

Nguyen brought the cup trembling to his lips.

‘Don’t be alarmed, Mister Xuan,’ smiled Artemis. ‘The weapons will not be used on you.’

Nguyen didn’t seem reassured.

‘No,’ continued Artemis. ‘Butler could kill you a hundred different ways without the use of his

armoury. Though I’m sure one would be quite sufficient.’

Hope you enjoyed the excerpt and will decide to read all the books. I guarantee that you will enjoy every minute of it.

– S. Akash

XII C

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Posted by on June 8, 2012 in Literary Society

 

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