A Passage to India

I joined a new site for recommending great reads, but they kind of discombobulated my thinking by asking me what is my favorite book.

Is that the book that you most enjoy? Is it the one that changes your way of thinking and makes you a better person?

Depends on your state of mind, I guess. For the last two weeks I’ve been reading Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe mysteries for the third or forth time. Certain times you’re just not open to new ideas and you need some R&R.

But all-time favorite, well The Brothers Karamzov would have to be included, and Gogol’s overcoat, and, without question, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.

Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz clearly qualifies.

Fup Duck by Jim Dodge is up there, too. Snatch that up if you ever see it.

If you ask me instead for the best book ever written, leaving aside the works mentioned above, which are part of who I am, and leaving aside Homer, who didn’t write books, I have to nominate A Pasage to India by E.M. Forster.

The characters are so well drawn that they take on a life of their own. Moslem, Christian and Hindu sensibilities are all portrayed with acuity and understanding. Then the interaction of these characters becomes high drama after the disastrous picnic in the Malabar Caves…

Doctor Aziz, who hosted the party, is accused of rape through the willful ignorance of the authorities, etc. etc. The mother-in-law, Mrs. Moore, Dr. Aziz’s friend, who could have vindicated him, is shipped off to parts unknown and crowds gather around the courthouse chanting “Esmiss Esmoore, Esmiss Esmoore!”

In the last climactic scenes, Dr, Aziz is at last exonerated, but not in a way that does any credit to the criminal justice system that had already broken and humiliated him beyond measure. And all because he wished to prove to his friends that it was possible to make friends with the English…

I’m very curious to learn how Indian writers feel about this book. I recommend it as one of the best books ever written, but I am always ready to be taken down a peg or two.