Hotel Savoy – Joseph Roth

This novella is packed with details and characters, mirroring the chaos of the post war Europe period of its setting. It covers a string of events in the life of his Gabriel Dan, A war veteran returns home after several years in a Siberian prison camp, to what seems like a Polish town to reside at the Savoy

The ‘hotel’ symbolic of the whole of European civilization at that point of time. It is a world of newly drawn boundaries and misplaced people. The hotel, containing a variety of people from all ethnic and social backgrounds, eagerly awaits the return of Bloomberg, a rich Jew, from America, to save the town with investment.

But he has come just to mourn his dead father, and when he leaves for the States a mob of solders turned revolutionaries burn down the hotel thereby destroying the old order.

Especially likable is the character of the lift operator who magically hides the guests luggage till they sort out their tabs (which never happens)

Considering this was written during Roth’s socialist period, it seems remarkably nostalgic and unsympathetic to the revolutionaries.

Disturbing as Roth’s vision is, this novella is ferociously funny, an orgy of despair, a cathartic bonfire of the vanities.

Hotel Savoy, Joseph Roth

Joseph Roth a novelist, best known for his family saga Radetzky March (1932), and for his novel of Jewish life, Job (1930).

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Dead End Gene Pool – Wendy Burden

The great-great-great granddaughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt gives readers a grand tour of the world of wealth inside the family that was her side of the Vanderbilt dynasty, bringing American class structure, sibling rivalry and the decline of the bluebloods vividly to life. It is a wonderful read. This is a dark and humorous memoir Wendy Burden.

For generations the Burdens were one of the wealthiest families in New York, thanks to the inherited fortune of Cornelius “The Commodore” Vanderbilt. By 1955, the year of Wendy’s birth, the Burden’s had become a clan of overfunded, quirky and brainy, steadfastly chauvinistic, and ultimately doomed bluebloods on the verge of financial and moral decline-and were rarely seen not holding a drink. In Dead End Gene Pool, Wendy invites readers to meet her tragically flawed family, including an uncle with a fondness for Hitler, a grandfather who believes you can never have enough household staff, and a remarkably flatulent grandmother.

At the heart of the story is Wendy’s glamorous and aloof mother who, after her husband’s suicide, travels the world in search of the perfect sea and ski tan, leaving her three children in the care of a chain- smoking Scottish nanny, Fifth Avenue grandparents, and an assorted cast of long-suffering household servants (who Wendy and her brothers love to terrorize). Rife with humor, heartbreak, family intrigue, and booze, Dead End Gene Pool offers a glimpse into the fascinating world of old money and gives truth to an old maxim: The rich are different…

Dead End Gene Pool - Wendy Burden

Kappa – Ryunosuke Akutagawa

Ryunosuke Akutagawa (1892-1927) is known primarily as the author whose books formed the basis of Kurosawa’s Rashomon. Originally published in 1927, Kappa was published just before he committed suicide, at the age of 35. Patient No. 23 tells his story to anyone in the asylum who will listen. On his way home through a valley, he falls into a deep abyss while chasing a nimble creature with a face like a tiger and a sharp beak. The creature was a Kappa, and when he awoke he was in Kappaland. One man’s initiation into the rites of this parallel world becomes the vehicle for a savage and funny critique of contemporary Japanese life and customs.

One of Akutagawa’s most famous novellas it springs out of necessity for a brilliant man to view its world through the prism of satire. Even though it’s basically a satire of Japanese society from the first half of 20th century, most of its themes, admonitions and ridicules are still quite valid today.

A brilliant development of characters (and in this case an entire imaginary culture) to such fullness, given the rather (spatially) limited medium of a novella.

Kappa - Ryunosuke Akutagawa

Anita Nair – Lessons in forgetting.

An protracted look at marriage, parenthood, serendipity and relationships, covering themes such as the cyclical nature of events in our lives and making good our mistakes —all this along with strong images
of finely etched & far-from-perfect but identifiable characters.

The setting for a large part of its events unfold in the gracious cantonment area in Bangalore in an old-world bungalow that features almost as a character in the book.

A stimulating read from another characteristic Bangalore Author.

Lessons in forgetting - Anita Nair