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The Hiatus and the Inspiration


I am back from a most refreshing trip (Italy and Switzerland!!!). Actually, I've been back some time now and it took me this long to find my feet back into the mundane (ugh) life that I lead. If that sounds grumpy, its at least better than how I feel. No wonder travelling is touted as one of the best ways to gain perspective and general well-being. 

I daresay, my reading has aligned itself with my travels. I've always had a weakness for European literature (by which I mean predominantly British, though). And Italy - being the living, breathing image of all things romantic and chivalrous I had imagined, has turned my attention towards works that have so far been in the realm of reverence and oh-I-am-too-stupid-to grasp-all-that category. 

The one thing  have never really got a hang of, is poetry. At school, it used to be difficult for me; prose I found easier to read between the lines, but not poetry. I have in fact, always, attacked poetry with the intention of digging out deep undercurrents that would undoubtedly be beyond my grasp. Rome brought me to the Spanish Steps at the Piazza di Spagna, and at its corner, a discrete, unobtrusive building, with a very humble banner proclaiming it to be the 'Keats-Shelly House'. We stepped in from the bustling humdrum of the Piazza into the white building, climbing up stairs (Italy is full of stairs, to my utmost horror) into the dwelling where Keats had breathed his last. There were massive bookshelves with book-spines neatly arranged, and other memorabilia associated with the great English Romantic poets - Lord Byron, Percy Shelley and John Keats. I am ashamed to admit that I have read none. What grasped my interest, were the stray letters these young geniuses had written to their friends and family. John Keats' meagre bedroom, overlooking the centre of the Piazza moved me deeply. It wasn't a stretch to imagine the young English poet, sitting at his desk, mulling over lines as the dying rays of the sun illuminated the little fountain in the square, as people milled around, oblivious of the masterpiece being unfolded a few storeys above them. 

The second stab of inspiration came from our visit to the Chillon Castle in Montreaux. Lord Byron, as it turns out, was pretty much obsessed by Bonivard, who was imprisoned in the castle for years. He wrote imaginatively of the prisoner and the circumstances (the fellow himself doesn't sound like much, but I could be just ignorant). Given the popularity of his works in this part of Switzerland, Castle Chillon had massive rooms dedicated to Lord Byron's life and his works. Not only was that fascinating enough to read, there were some magnificent paintings of both Byron and illustrations of his work. I picked a special interest in Manfred after marvelling at the dramatic impact of a painting by Madox Brown.

The last instance came at the sleepy town of Fiesch - sleepy as it wasn't the tourist season then, to the extent that there were just two rooms (including ours) occupied in the hotel we stayed at. We had had nothing to do the whole day, which was actually a relief, given that we had expended considerable energy going up Gornegrat to see the Matterhorn in the morning. So we just curled up under the sheets, listening to the cow bells tinkling and eyeing the snow-dusted peaks - one of the loveliest sights to look at for plains-folk through the curtains of the windows. Nightfall came not before 9:30 p.m. (by which time everything is pretty pitch-black back at my place) and the sleepiness of the town intensified. There were bright streetlights, illuminating empty stretches of roads. A car passed once in half an hour. The cows still grazed - they must have, because we could still here their bells. And over the dark, pine-forested mountains, rose the whitish-silver disc of the full moon, faintly lighting up the top of the nearby mountains. The snow-capped peaks glistened with the dullness of unpolished silver. All I could think of was Winds of War by Herman Wouk. The setting was so very European, so very alien, I couldn't help myself but start reading on my Kindle. 

So yes, my reading is all over the place now, and is being dominated by Winds of War and Manfred (the latter is turning out to be spectacular, and the first time I am actually enjoying reading poetry). And yes, I shall be putting up all my findings and feelings on my reading materials in abstract posts. Be prepared. I believe, my blog is soon going to turn into a personal listening board. Oh what the hell, how often does one get inspired like this ?!

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