Feb 9, 2005

University, and some books

AFTER a long time of hither and thither, I've finally bought the ticket. I am definitely going to Malaysia to study in Monash University. The student pass they have sent me will see me through Dhaka's airport and on to Kuala Lumpur, where I will be given a visa.

I've finished, within the last few days, Jean P. Sasson's Princess and Daughters of Arabia. The former was excellent. I found the book, of all places, in my grandfather's bookshelf. I've known of it for a long time, but for some reason or the other always passed over it, looking for interesting books. But....

I really like learning about things which have always been shrouded in mystery, and the book felt like a frank confession of Saudi royal life behind the veil. `Sultana' and Sasson's voices both felt sincere, and I identified with the princess. I have very strong and conflicting ideas about freedom and laissez-faire and non-violence and the fair treatment of minorities -- among other things. I love to see them echoed in other people.

Daughters was not as original -- and understandably so. Still highly readable, though. I'll never tire of Sultana's opinions and thoughts, partly because they're so much my own. I'm waiting for my brother to buy the next in the series, Desert Royal. (I'm currently broke -- in Bangladesh taka, anyway.) Then again, I'll probably be in Malaysia by the time he gets around to it.

I'm currently reading The Da Vinci Code. Another excellent book. Symbology; hidden meanings in famous artworks; secret societies; radical theories about Christianity -- it's all there and it's exactly my kind of brainy thriller. I can't wait to finish it, but am loath to at the same time -- because a book like this is hard to find.

Reading the book, I couldn't help comparing it to another radical book I've read recently -- Anne Rice's Memnoch the Devil. That book was about the vampire Lestat's quest for redemption, but also about the struggle between God and the Devil, apparently called Memnoch by himself and Satan (among other names) by everyone else. In it, Memnoch explained to Lestat an alternate, and shocking, view of creation and mankind and Christianity's history.The parts all fit cleverly, and the wheel turns. It left me genuinely frightened (not from the religious repercussions -- I'm secular -- but from the general atmosphere created in the book. Yes, it was that good).

Another thing which I've been exploring is a certain similarity of themes between the Princess books and The Da Vinci Code. In the former, Sultana has the feeling that many problems in the world are caused by male domination over women, which is unnatural. In the latter, much is made of the natural duality and equality of man and woman, and the subversion of that natural order in the modern world, and the resulting pain and misery. Almost uncanny.

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