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Old 11-17-2008, 11:14 AM   #1
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November's book Discussion Thread: A Passage To India

Hi fellow MobileReaders!

My apologies for my absence from the board lately...I've had a lot going on, but most of it (hopefully!) seems to be under control now, so I hope to be back on the board with more regularity.

This thread is for the discussion of November's book, A Passage to India. I hope everyone has had a great time reading the book and that you are all ready for some good discussion!!

I myself should be finishing up the book tonight, so I will be ignoring this thread until then, but for those of you who have finished, please feel free to get the discussion started!

Joanne

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Old 11-17-2008, 11:31 AM   #2
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Hey... you're early. I thought this would start on the 23rd? Oh well... no matter. I am on the third section and hope to finish it soon.

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Old 11-17-2008, 12:07 PM   #3
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*sigh*

Bob, you're exactly right. And here I've been desperately trying to finish up because I was sure the discussion thread should have started today

Well, I guess we'll leave this thread primed and ready for the 23rd....at least I'll definitely be finished by then!!
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Old 11-19-2008, 11:43 AM   #4
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My first post about this book will be, I have finished it.

But, I just wanted to make an observation out the stupidity of the US copyright system. Had this book been published 2 years earlier it would be in the public domain and would have been for quite a while (since 72 I think). But, because it was published in 1924, and I assume the copyright was renewed it will be under copyright until 2019.

Write to your congress critters.

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Old 11-20-2008, 09:01 AM   #5
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But could it have been written 2 years earlier and still been the same book?
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Old 11-20-2008, 01:43 PM   #6
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But could it have been written 2 years earlier and still been the same book?
Probably not. But due to the copyright laws this book is in copyright 49 years longer than "The Story of the Siren" by E M Forster that was published in 1920. Then again "Arctic Summer" which was published 10 years after his death will only be in copyright for 60 years compared to the 95 years that "A Passage to India" will be under copyright protection.

Just weird, stupid, and confusing. How are we supposed to avoid violating copyright if it is so damned hard to determine when something becomes public domain.

BUt, I digress. Apologies to the MRBC.

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Old 11-24-2008, 05:35 AM   #7
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I've seen some comments about the book in other threads, but nothing here so far. Well - I guess I could start the actual book-commenting...

First of all I wish I'd had the opportunity to go through this book in a few longer reading periods rather then many short ones. As somebody else mentioned, the fascination of this story is about getting into the "frame of mind" of people living in a radically different place and time period than me. As it was - I got a little restless in my reading, generating an urge for something to actually happen during the first few hundred pages... First impressions was heavily influenced by this, and I found the authors strange way of describing people interacting with each other a bit tedious.

After a while, though, there was a "change of pace". I'm not sure whether it was due to changes in my mental state or the content shifting (this is a question I frequently ask myself when either entertained or bored by something). Anyhow, I "got into it" in a hole different way, and suddenly found it amusing at times. I found it timely that the author introduced some "action" when he did - the incident in the caves. A much needed boost in my opinion, but not really enough to last to end of the story. And after things had settled, the main point was yet again the difficulties regarding Anglo-Indian relations...

All in all, I found "A passage to India" to be not very entertaining, but quite educational. Obviously, the things that actually happens is not important, but rather the strange atmosphere that is created throughout the story. Strange gallery of persons - everybody comes off as rather stupid, either directly or through their actions. For several of the characters, though, this is mixed with sympathetic features and good intentions. This is sometimes amusing, and sometimes just plain annoying...
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Old 11-24-2008, 10:07 AM   #8
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Toro... good comments.

Here are mine... First of all the abstract to this book talks about Adela being "raped" or was she? Please... some one followed her into a cave and grabbed her glasses lanyard. She ran away.

But, more surprising the book made people out to be so delicate. After the above "incident" the girl was out of her mind and catatonic for days. Have we just become stronger mentally in the past 70 years?

Going along with the same theme as above people seemed to take such great offense at the stupidest things. I am talking about the English characters not the Indian. I know that some of the slights were religious and I can understand those. But, not some of the others.

Also, that "gossip" was so easily believed and it was such a simple way to "ruin" someone... like Anthony not getting a good tip so he makes up an affair between Felding and Adela.

Finally, I hope that we have moved beyond thinking once "race" to be inferior. I have great pride that the US was able to select an African American to be our President and that I heard very few arguments based on that. Although the cooks are coming out of the woodwork. The bottom line is that we are all the same race, "human". We should embrace the differences a live by the concept of IDIC (Trek fans know what that is).

This was not the best book I have read nor was it an exciting page turner. But, I am glad that I read it through and finished it.

BOb
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Old 11-24-2008, 10:47 AM   #9
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I did not like the local people trying to be what they were not just to make a good impression on the English people. The English people were boorish snobs who didn't really care about the locals all that much. Not all the English were "bad" people. But most were treating the locals like they were a lower class of people.
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Old 11-24-2008, 11:08 AM   #10
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I haven't yet finished (I probably will in a day or two) which likely says something about the book, at least as far as I'm concerned.

I thought the first chapter with the vivid descriptions of India would lead to a highly satisfying read. But for reasons that I really can't pin down, the rest of the book hasn't been as appealing. I'm past the section in the caves, and agree that there is a shift in tenor of the book around that period but...

Further thoughts to follow on completion. So far at least just an average read.
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Old 11-24-2008, 11:16 AM   #11
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I finished reading this on 24 October, so I have had time to reflect.

I found the plot insipid until the "outrage" at the Marabar Caves. It then became much more involving. For all his expertise and indeed his theoretical works about the craft of novel-writing, Forster plainly did not understand how to grab the reader with the opening line of the first paragraph and let go only with the closing line of the last.

Nor could I readily identify with any of the characters except, from time to time, Fielding. From this you will gather that my emotions were barely engaged. As a story, I found it a bit of a flop.

Forster started to write this book in 1912, but got no further than the lead-in to the incident at the Marabar Caves. Writer's block set in. He did not know what was going to happen in the caves; had not thought the plot through. When a writer gets blocked on a particular story, it usually means he has gone up a blind alley and doesn't yet know it.

In 1922, after a second and more prolonged visit to India and notable civil unrest there (Forster being critical of both sides, which made him unpopular at home), he resumed work on Passage. By May 1923 he had finished two-thirds of it, and publication followed in 1924.

Thus the book was composed in two sections, ten years apart. Though the first section was obviously fully revised, this disjunction shows. The novelist who wrote the second part is vastly superior to and more experienced than the one who wrote the first.

You might be surprised to learn that the exact brand of snobbery and racism depicted among the Anglo-Indians is still alive and kicking in England today, hidden though it may be behind layers of hypocrisy. Though becoming rare, it persists among a few remnants of the old ruling class, especially those who have been in government and particularly military service. Exemplars of it exist in the village where I live. I cannot think of one who is under the age of 60.

These attitudes are necessary equipment for the servants of an imperial power. How else can one justify to oneself what amounts to little more than the exploitation of a foreign country? Such justification is often verbalized as follows. "We are doing them a favour, bringing civil order, railways, education, and all the rest of it. My word, look no further than Zimbabwe if you want an example of what happens when you leave them to it!"

Forster had been made a snob by his upbringing, but his instinct was to deplore snobbery and to accord each human being an equal worth (this is most evident in A Room with a View). His sympathy with Aziz comes through in the description of the changes wrought by his exposure to the whites. I thought this was extremely well handled, as was his friendship with Fielding and the realistic but rather depressing conclusion that, while India remained British, the two could never really be close.

His descriptions of Anglo-Indian and Muslim society are very vivid, but the poorer inhabitants remain a mystery -- exemplified by the punkah-wallah at the trial.

What I found really interesting were Forster's excursions into mystical and semi-mystical writing to try and convey a sense of his personal India. Such text is always composed at a subconscious level. Even if the writer does not consciously know what he is saying, if he is any good he will trust his instinct and let it go: and Forster at his peak is very good indeed. The episodes dealing with Mrs Moore, all of them, are utterly superb, as are the scenes in Part III, especially when the westerners venture onto the lake at night. These told me more about India and Forster's feelings than any other part of the book, and fully explained why Aziz and Fielding would never find an equality of friendship.

So even though A Passage to India didn't grip me, I am glad I read it. My appreciation of Forster's talent has grown, I know a bit more about my country's history, and I have a better understanding of some of the fossils in my village. Thanks to Joanne and BOb for suggesting this book: I might never have read it otherwise.
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Old 11-24-2008, 11:30 AM   #12
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...Anyhow, I "got into it" in a hole different way, and suddenly found it amusing at times. I found it timely that the author introduced some "action" when he did - the incident in the caves. A much needed boost in my opinion, but not really enough to last to end of the story. And after things had settled, the main point was yet again the difficulties regarding Anglo-Indian relations...
I think the book dealt with all sorts of divisions, and attempts at overcoming them - Indians/English, Men/Women, Orient/Occident, earth/sky, divisions between religions and cultures, young/old, etc. etc.
One intriguing division in the novel is that between the living and the dead. Mrs. Moore believes in ghosts, she prompts thoughts of ghosts in Dr Aziz when she appears in the mosque, Godbole says she is an old soul, she suggests it was a ghost that collided with the car, and she is a ghostly presence through the last section of the novel.

So there are all these divisions everywhere you look - but the heart of the novel centres on whether they can be transcended; or even if it desirable to do so. There are obvious attempts at this throughout - but subtle ones too. In the first section, Mrs Moore 'connects' with a wasp that has perched on a coat peg; Godbole also 'connects' with a wasp in the last section. They have achieved a momentary transcendence that reveals that everything is connected - Godbole's point that whatever happened in the cave was committed by everybody (the whole universe in fact). The Christian missionaries, however, think admitting wasps to the circle of the blessed is going a step too far - they can't transcend this difference.

I'm sure there are many aspects of the novel I've missed; and to reread it would be an entirely fresh experience - this is what makes it a great work of literature imho (although also a flawed one - Forster tends to explain and justify the characters behaviour in a sometimes clunky manner).

All in all - a truly great read!
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Old 11-24-2008, 01:42 PM   #13
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But, more surprising the book made people out to be so delicate. After the above "incident" the girl was out of her mind and catatonic for days. Have we just become stronger mentally in the past 70 years?
I thought that she was affected as much (if not more) by the echo in the caves as the actual incident, as was Mrs Moore also, but the other characters didn't seem to notice (or show any interest in) how much she had been affected also on the day, only that she had become more irascible. Adela did also suffer physical damage on her journey down from the caves - sunstroke and colliding with cacti.

Overall I enjoyed the book, and found some of the descriptions of places very evocative. My favourite of these was Mrs Moore's train journey to Bombay. It was a little disjointed in places though.
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Old 11-24-2008, 02:50 PM   #14
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I did wonder if Adela wasn't as badly ill as all the Turtons and Burtons made out she was, or if she was also living up to the role given to her by them.

I'll do a proper commentary later - I tried to get it done at work, but people kept wanting me to do what I'm paid for doing...
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Old 11-24-2008, 04:03 PM   #15
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I finished reading this on 24 October, so I have had time to reflect.

I found the plot insipid until the "outrage" at the Marabar Caves. It then became much more involving. For all his expertise and indeed his theoretical works about the craft of novel-writing, Forster plainly did not understand how to grab the reader with the opening line of the first paragraph and let go only with the closing line of the last.

Nor could I readily identify with any of the characters except, from time to time, Fielding. From this you will gather that my emotions were barely engaged. As a story, I found it a bit of a flop.

Forster started to write this book in 1912, but got no further than the lead-in to the incident at the Marabar Caves. Writer's block set in. He did not know what was going to happen in the caves; had not thought the plot through. When a writer gets blocked on a particular story, it usually means he has gone up a blind alley and doesn't yet know it.

In 1922, after a second and more prolonged visit to India and notable civil unrest there (Forster being critical of both sides, which made him unpopular at home), he resumed work on Passage. By May 1923 he had finished two-thirds of it, and publication followed in 1924.

Thus the book was composed in two sections, ten years apart. Though the first section was obviously fully revised, this disjunction shows. The novelist who wrote the second part is vastly superior to and more experienced than the one who wrote the first.

You might be surprised to learn that the exact brand of snobbery and racism depicted among the Anglo-Indians is still alive and kicking in England today, hidden though it may be behind layers of hypocrisy. Though becoming rare, it persists among a few remnants of the old ruling class, especially those who have been in government and particularly military service. Exemplars of it exist in the village where I live. I cannot think of one who is under the age of 60.

These attitudes are necessary equipment for the servants of an imperial power. How else can one justify to oneself what amounts to little more than the exploitation of a foreign country? Such justification is often verbalized as follows. "We are doing them a favour, bringing civil order, railways, education, and all the rest of it. My word, look no further than Zimbabwe if you want an example of what happens when you leave them to it!"

Forster had been made a snob by his upbringing, but his instinct was to deplore snobbery and to accord each human being an equal worth (this is most evident in A Room with a View). His sympathy with Aziz comes through in the description of the changes wrought by his exposure to the whites. I thought this was extremely well handled, as was his friendship with Fielding and the realistic but rather depressing conclusion that, while India remained British, the two could never really be close.

His descriptions of Anglo-Indian and Muslim society are very vivid, but the poorer inhabitants remain a mystery -- exemplified by the punkah-wallah at the trial.

What I found really interesting were Forster's excursions into mystical and semi-mystical writing to try and convey a sense of his personal India. Such text is always composed at a subconscious level. Even if the writer does not consciously know what he is saying, if he is any good he will trust his instinct and let it go: and Forster at his peak is very good indeed. The episodes dealing with Mrs Moore, all of them, are utterly superb, as are the scenes in Part III, especially when the westerners venture onto the lake at night. These told me more about India and Forster's feelings than any other part of the book, and fully explained why Aziz and Fielding would never find an equality of friendship.

So even though A Passage to India didn't grip me, I am glad I read it. My appreciation of Forster's talent has grown, I know a bit more about my country's history, and I have a better understanding of some of the fossils in my village. Thanks to Joanne and BOb for suggesting this book: I might never have read it otherwise.
Thank you for your observations and knowledge. Now, I understand my preference for the last half of the book versis the first.
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