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Old 08-20-2011, 10:56 AM   #16
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You make a good argument for the view that Forster really satirizes both the British and the Indian systems. I hadn't quite thought about it that way--primarily because of the racism shown by some of the British. Thus, early on, I quickly developed an empathy for Aziz because he was undervalued and dismissed as inferior by racist, stupid bureaucrats to whom he was clearly superior intellectually and professionally. I was moved by his love for his dead wife and the value he put on friendship. At the same time, the comments you make indicate that perhaps I need to look at his character {and it is a very complex one} more objectively.
The leaning of my sympathy toward Adela and Fielding, him more than her, might be induced by my being rather emotional and sentimental. At the point that often I have to make efforts and force my self not to be overwhelmed by the muddling waves. I am drawn toward characters, and real life individuals, that maintain their truthfulness, their capacity of relations, while keeping their mind clear. I have the impression that there might turn also Forster inclination, who I imagine emotionally inclined, himself.

Aziz is indeed the character on whom Forster invest more attention and details. Aziz, and his contradictions, might well be the mirror of Forster's India, or of a large element of it.
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Old 08-21-2011, 06:22 PM   #17
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What touches me more of the novel, over the humor, the prose and the themes that Forster addresses, is that it makes me think about myself, about where I stand, personally, on essential issues.

Two episodes, among many, touched me rather strongly. I quote them here.

A)... Because my job's Education. I believe in teaching people to be individuals, and to understand other individuals. It is the only thing I do believe. ... I mix it up with trigonometry ...

B) Nothing can be performed in isolation. All perform a good action, when one is performed, and when an evil action is performed, all perform it.
.....
... Good and evil are different... But they are both aspects of my Lord. He is present in the one, absent in the other, and difference between presence is great, ... Yet absence implies presence, absence is not non existence, and we are therefore entitled to repeat come, come, come, come.

A) I am an educator also, although it is quite irrelevant. Reading this I realized that it is exactly so that I have been trying to shape myself. When I read it, I felt a big wave of contentment. Because individuals connecting with individuals is Forster core, and I felt a great unity with him, as it is also my core.

B) Very neat. The mistic Oriental counterpart of Westerner Forster. The whole episodes is a gem of clarity and a meaningful symbol. The unity, invoked by mrs. Moore, by the professor that pins it down to the woman and the wasp. Beyond his understanding. The unity, that is the contact, the joining, that is impossible.
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Old 08-26-2011, 02:49 AM   #18
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beppe, thank you so much for selecting this book and volunteering to lead the discussion. I have wanted to read this book for awhile so it was good motivation. I agree with the previous comments that the prose was to be savored, and I had to force myself to slow down. Here are a few of my initial thoughts.

I would like to comment on the title since I don't think anyone has discussed that yet. Forster wrote that he was influenced by the writing of Walt Whitman. In fact, the title of the book was taken from Whitman's poem Passage to India which you can find here:
http://classiclit.about.com/library/...agetoindia.htm

Whitman's poem has similar themes of human and spiritual connectedness. It has a very optimistic celebration of globalization and is looking cheerfully towards the future of universal love (including interracial marriage). Forster's book contrasts with the poem to highlight what the challenges are of this globalization and that even interracial friendship is complicated and not really sustainable. I really liked how the book ended with "no, not yet" and "no, not there". Almost as if Forster were directly responding to Whitman's poem.

I like to visualize the places that I am reading about to try and immerse myself further in the novel. A quick google search revealed that the Marabar Caves were modeled after the Barabar Caves. I found this website which had many photos of that area and an interesting tourist story to go with it.
http://www.mapability.com/travel/p2i/barabar_1.php
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Old 08-26-2011, 04:02 AM   #19
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Precious post, if I am allowed to say so.
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Old 08-26-2011, 05:43 AM   #20
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Precious post, if I am allowed to say so.
Ditto!

I find the theme of "spiritual connectedness" and the deeply reflective approach to human nature--its complexities and difficulties--are aspects of the book that really move me.
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Old 08-26-2011, 03:45 PM   #21
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Does anyone know why A Passage to India was Forster's last novel? He was still young. He lived another 4 1/2 decades. I am just curious about why.
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Old 08-26-2011, 05:12 PM   #22
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Does anyone know why A Passage to India was Forster's last novel? He was still young. He lived another 4 1/2 decades. I am just curious about why.
There is debate about this specific question.
It might help this quote from The Cambridge Companion to E. M. Forster, Edited by David Bradshaw, University of Oxford.

Then, in the mid-1920s, with the plaudits of both reviewers and the wider reading public ringing in his ears, buoyant sales in both the United Kingdom and the United States, and two prestigious prizes for Passage on his mantelshelf, Forster the novelist shut up shop. His last is the only one of his six novels to be entirely set abroad and at the time it seemed to signal Forster’s departure for new fictional horizons, yet in reality it marked his journey’s end. He was only halfway through his life (he died in 1970) but he would never again be tempted to repeat Passage’s extravagant success. ‘I cant [sic] believe there will be anoth[er] novel’, he told a correspondent around this time. ‘The legs of my camera could not stand the strain.’1
...

The reasons why Forster dried up as a novelist are touched on by a number of contributors to this book ...
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Old 08-26-2011, 06:07 PM   #23
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Does anyone know why A Passage to India was Forster's last novel? He was still young. He lived another 4 1/2 decades. I am just curious about why.

I always believed that he stopped writing because he could not publish books that reflected his life as a gay man and was tired of writing exclusively about heterosexual relationships.
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Old 08-27-2011, 04:20 AM   #24
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I always believed that he stopped writing because he could not publish books that reflected his life as a gay man and was tired of writing exclusively about heterosexual relationships.
I like to add this to the discussion.

(ibidem)
...
Once Forster’s life-long need to veil his sexuality had become a matter of public record, it was too tempting for some commentators to resist locating the source of his alleged narrowness and tepidity as a novelist, and his running out of steam in that role, in his matriarchal upbringing. Many other critics, however, have set out to scotch the kind of simplistic reading of Forster’s work that posits a straightforward and inevitable link between his aborted career as a novelist and his covert inner being.
...
Forster’s sexuality plainly helped determine the shape of his career, and perhaps another reason he gave up writing novels is that he felt not just that his realist ‘camera’ had already taken more than enough images of a (heterosexual) world from which he felt excluded, but also that it had tended to take the same or a similar photograph time and again. It is noticeable, for instance, that his novels tend not only to recycle characters – Harriet Herriton and Charlotte Bartlett, for example, or Cecil Vyse and Tibby Schlegel, or the first Mrs Wilcox and Mrs Moore – but that characters from one novel have a knack of popping up in another, reinforcing the criticism that is sometimes levelled at Forster that his fictional world is overly restricted. Is the ‘Miss Herriton’ mentioned in the ‘Sawston’ section of The Longest Journey (Chapter 16), for example, none other than Miss Harriet Herriton of Sawston (Where Angels Fear to Tread)? Is the ‘Miss Quested’ who plays the piano at the Schlegels’ lunch party in Chapter 9 of Howards End the same person as A Passage to India’s Hampstead-based Adela Quested? And is the ‘wretched, weedy’ Mr Vyse, whom Tibby and Margaret Schlegel discuss in Chapter 13 of Howards End, the non-tennis playing and fervently aesthetic Cecil Vyse of A Room with a View?
...
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Old 08-27-2011, 02:48 PM   #25
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Forster often uses the expression "muddle".

It explains it in detail in chapter 23, where Fielding returns to the western world of Egypt, Crete and Venice. Everything is in the right place, whereas in poor India ...

Later, in chapter 33, he defines muddle as a frustration of reason and form.

I intend this as a thought provoking comment.
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Old 08-27-2011, 03:58 PM   #26
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Forster often uses the expression "muddle".

It explains it in detail in chapter 23, where Fielding returns to the western world of Egypt, Crete and Venice. Everything is in the right place, whereas in poor India ...

Later, in chapter 33, he defines muddle as a frustration of reason and form.

I intend this as a thought provoking comment.
I think the British try very hard to create a microcosm of their world in India. This is a world filled with narrow prejudices. Further, they try to impose this world on India. The trial is the great dramatization of this attempt. The failure to convict Aziz {even though Ronnie thinks the guilty verdict is certain} show the impossibility of this attempt to impose the values of one civilisation on another. No wonder such a goal is unreasonable and bound to be frustrated--in short the British are in a "Muddle".

The irrational attitude of the British overlords is seen, too, in their treatment of those whom they feel don't "toe the line". Mrs Moore is conveniently sent away. Fielding takes the side of Aziz and when he first appeals to Adela, she ignores him. In the end, Fielding is presented as an outcast. He's the only Englishman who supports Aziz and sits with the Indians at the trial. It is only because somehow Adela finds an inner resource of truth that she manages to prevent a miscarriage of justice.

And consider India itself. It is huge, teeming with millions of diverse people, there are exotic colours, sounds, creatures, belief systems There is the gentle beauty of the mosque, the strange mysticism of the caves, and the chaotic excursion to them, No wonder such a place will seem to be a "muddle" to the straight-laced English.

But perhaps the "muddle" is only a richness not understood.
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Old 08-27-2011, 05:42 PM   #27
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Very interesting conclusion of your post, fantasyfan. Actually, it seems to me that Forster is equidistant from the British and from the Indians (Muslims and Indu). I mean in terms of affection/sympathy/identification for the individual characters. The elements of contrast, typical of his themes, not only make them clash together, but also within themselves. in a diffuse muddle.

Nature also, is ambiguously and generally hostile, the weather, the sun, the river, the landscape, the excessive climate. A never ending torment. Like the woman and the wasp, beyond the possibility of resolution and understanding. Something to be endured because that's the way it is, without a purpose or a reason. A core of undefined nothingness. The worm of the cave. Existentialism ante litteram? Mmmm... I never thought of it like that. But it fits somehow. I like it. Thank you.
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Old 08-27-2011, 08:20 PM   #28
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The word muddle to me means jumbled, mixed up, disorderly. Forster uses this word 13 times at different points in the story (how I love the search capability of ereaders!). I liked fantasyfan's conclusion that perhaps muddle is richness not understood. I think that the British create their microcosm with their club, sport, government system, etc in attempt to create order in what they see as muddled India. It creates a comfort zone for them to replicate their superior English life rather than embrace and understand the Indian culture and so it remains a muddle and a mystery to them. The bridge party is rather a joke at trying to achieve real connectedness.

Great selection of the Chapters 22 and 33, beppe. I believe that these sections are very insightful to the message that Forster was intending to convey. In Chapter 22, Fielding enthuses about the Mediterranean "harmony between the works of man and the earth that upholds them, the civilization that escapes muddle, the spirit in a reasonable form". Whenever Forster writes of the Indian architecture and landscape, he highlights that it is formless, shapeless. When Fielding is in Venice, he thinks "he had forgotten the beauty of form among idol temples and lumpy hills; indeed, without form, how can there be beauty?". Forster doesn't write of the exotic and rich qualities of India in order to emphasize the muddle. He experienced India in real life. He very easily could have written of noise and energy in the bazaar, of the smell and taste of spices in the Indian food, of a blazing sunset of colors against the hills, etc.

When the word muddle is first introduced, Aziz says that when they all come to tea at his place it will not be a muddle. Later Ronnie forewarns Adela that he doesn't want her to go to the caves and the invitation probably wasn't real anyway because Aziz will make a muddle of it. Of course, we know now that tea at Aziz's place becomes the trip to the caves which culminates in muddle!
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Old 08-30-2011, 03:16 AM   #29
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Forster doesn't write of the exotic and rich qualities of India in order to emphasize the muddle. He experienced India in real life. He very easily could have written of noise and energy in the bazaar, of the smell and taste of spices in the Indian food, of a blazing sunset of colors against the hills, etc.
A very interesting point. Let me see if I can provoke more discussion with it.

I think that descriptions like the one that you suggest, do not belong to the strings of Forster.

We could compare the description of sunrise by modest but sensual writer Gerald Durrell (that I am reading on the beach)

"In the morning, when I woke, the bedroom shutters were luminous and barred with gold from the rising sun. The morning air was was full of the scent of charcoal from the kitchen fire, full of eager cock-crows, the distant yap of dogs, and the unsteady, melancholy tune of the goat bells as the flocks were driven out to pasture. ... The sky was fresh and shining, not yet the fierce blue of noon, but a clear milky opal. The flowers were half asleep, roses dew-cramped, marigold still tightly shut."

with this by mental(?) Forster

"As the elephant moved toward the hills (the pale sun had by this time saluted them to the base, and pencilled shaVdows down their creases) a new quality occurred, a spiritual silence which invaded more senses than the ear."

While Durrell touches the reader senses and imagination, Forster ...

Forster leaves sensuality alone. To each his own. Love for him is voluptuous, and that's it. Just one word and it is up to the reader to fill that single word with meanings and images.
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Old 09-02-2011, 06:28 AM   #30
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My holidays are over. I add the last thought that I elocubrated under the parasol. I will keep an eye on the thread to see if something comes up.

A recurring element in the India of Forster, a very minor one, is the curious behavior of the servants. They act and move on courses that are quite off axis with what their masters command, wish, desire and need. They even spy on their masters. For money or favors, or for basic hostility, they spread gossips. The poor cousin with the affair between Fielding and Adela insinuates gratituous poison in Aziz heart and friendship sinks.

I think of Beaumarchais, of the Marriage of Figaro and of Mozart that so naively lost the favor of his patron. We, Westerners, we are harsh and vindictive. While our Indians, Forster's Indians actually, just take it as part of everyday life. What a social environment! Everybody knows everything of everybody else, distorted. The muddle again.

Is it just Forster view? Does it correspond to real reality?

Recently, I read The White Tiger, by Aravind Ardiga: the contemporary and picaresque tale of the rising of a young Indian. There, one can appreciate the servants' underworld: the drivers of the powerful Indians, cheating on their masters.

Maybe it is the obvious consequence of a strong social gradient, in which different classes navigate on independent planes and tracks. Where envy and despise reign.
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