Sojourn is a sketchy type of travelogue — not simply of a spot however the thoughts. The narrator, a visiting professor at a college in Berlin, contemplates Berlin’s divided previous as he traverses the unified current in his free time. It’s about the individuals he meets, the locations he visits, the meals he eats, glimpses of historical past, and even deep reflections on the unusual form of his bathroom base — as banal as that.

The first acquaintance he makes is a Bangladeshi poet on exile for insulting the prophet. Faqrul takes the narrator underneath his wing, invitations him to Bangladeshi eating places, accompanies him to malls, and so forth. — he pops out and in of his life, and is his unofficial information. There’s a chilling passage the place Faqrul takes him to a spot that’s full of flat stones: “Everywhere have been flat stones, like rockery on an deserted shore. ‘These,’ mentioned Faqrul, ‘are to recollect the Jews.’ He spoke in an offhand approach… In and out we went by way of the shadows of what was half graveyard, half playground. ‘I used to be crushed up right here,’ he mentioned — once more exuding satisfaction. ‘What? When?’ We paused at a stone. ‘1992. I used to be wandering round when a bunch of thugs got here by. Oi — neo-Nazi…’” And then Faqrul reveals that East Berlin was full of neo-Nazis, and because of them his pure enamel have been changed by dentures.

A Bengali-German fellow professor turns into one other acquaintance the narrator spends time with sometimes. He is secretly delighted when she praises his new ebook: “My coronary heart beat sooner, because it does once I hear such phrases. It’s like being caught out. You write for others in concept; affirmation of the truth is disconcerting.”

One of his most important acquaintances is Birgit, a researcher on labour actions in South India. She will get in contact with him and tells him she loves India.  This places him off a bit (“I’m cautious of Europeans who ‘love’ India — an previous neurosis”) but he meets her and the relationship they type is a bit, effectively, pretentious.

There’s no plot as such — it’s only a pretty simple and mundane journal of the few months he spent in in Berlin. Nor is it a helpful travelogue, as a result of you may’t dip into it for recommendations on the place to eat, what to go to, and so forth. Minute scraps of meat are thrown your approach every so often, not sufficient to fulfill.

The fulfilling bits are little nuggets of info or observations on topics like the Jewish Museum, the reputation of Bollywood actor Shahrukh Khan, the mindset of German college students (“German college students favored to defer to authority”), and so forth.

There’s no storyline to seize you, so the pages don’t fly. Consider it extra like a dialog with a buddy who has returned from overseas and recounts his experiences (slightly than vacation footage) over drinks. It’s no extra, a minimum of that.


By Amit Chaudhuri

Penguin Hamish Hamilton

pp. 136, Rs 499

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