A Critic's Meta Review: 4/5
Hungry Stones by Rabindranath Tagore (REVIEW)
And so with a new day comes a new tradition, and there it is - right above this sentence. Longtime readers will note that these mysterious wheels have not been present in previous reviews; these same readers may also note that absent from previous reviews was a sense that one was actually reading a “review” of something. Indeed, perhaps my gonzo approach to discussing the great works of literature has prevented me from accomplishing the very thing I set out to do in the first place by taking such an approach - to offer my unique perspective on these pieces of timeless art, and place them within the context of our time and, more specifically, my time (which, according to the logic of Jeffrey Spicoli, would make it our time as well, then).
And yet here I am again, slipping into this tendency to evade the topic at hand.
Rabindranath Tagore is one of the most highly revered figures in the history of South Asia. As someone of Indian descent, it fills me with great joy every time I read one of his works - which include the national anthems of both India and our beloved neighbor, Bangladesh. The reason he is held in such high regard transcends the bounds of mere national or cultural pride, however, as his work has gone on to touch the hearts of people from all over the world.
Take this story, for instance: “The Hungry Stones”. An absolute masterpiece, it is also one of the earliest examples of magical realism - a genre typically associated with Latin American writers of the twentieth century, such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Isabel Allende - that I have ever encountered (although, to be fair, my exposure to this genre is fairly limited). It tells the tale of a new tenant of an ancient building that, as time passes, begins to encounter the spirits of the building’s former Mughal era residents, whose memories fill his dreams. Their souls are forever embedded in the very stones that make up the building, and they are hungry for a taste of the life that they once lived during their time in the sun - hence the title of the story.
The evocative language used in describing the surreal experiences of this new tenant, as well as the recurring motif of the “crazy” old man who runs around outside screaming of the illegitimacy of this so-called “real” world, serve to illustrate Tagore’s on views on the nature of reality: that it is a delicately woven quilt, the fabric of which can be stretched quite far - but not without fundamentally altering one’s conception of the quilt.