Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

I love how Rowling creates a complex world and thus avoids black and white painting of things and people. Although the Harry Potter books are a fantasy series, they’re far closer to real life than many contemporary YA novels. An example would be the dementors who are essential for keeping the wizarding world safe as the jailers in Azkaban but on the other hand  they are deeply foul creatures.

The same is true of the ending of this third book in the series. While Harry, Hermione and Ron managed to discover the truth, no one, except Dumbledore, believes them. So things aren’t as clear cut as in the first two books anymore. The ending here is not as happy and hopeful anymore. Yes, Sirius’s letter cheers Harry up but the bitter aftertaste lingers and the future seems far less bright than in the previous books. There’s no lightheartedness at the end of Prisoner of Azkaban. Harry and his friends have realized things in the grown-up world aren’t simple and that sometimes you may know you are right but are helpless to prove it. This frustrating helplessness adds to the overall conflict of the series, pointing out how pigheaded and blind even educated grown-ups can be when they’re either scared or have personal interests at stake. Harry, Hermione and Ron don’t just grow in terms of how good wizards they are but also in how well they cope with this unjust world. A good lesson for everyone living in our Muggle world too.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and the chamber of secrets

The second book in the series relies more on fantasy than mystery, especially compared to the first one.  The main characters are already established and so Rowling had the chance to focus on their development and growth which makes the book even more interesting. There are also some new characters added, for example the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, Lockhart, who is more of a comic relief rather than a character essential for the story compared to Quirrell in the previous book. 

There is also Ginny Weasley whose role turns out to be far more important in the end than it seemed to be throughout the story. Perhaps  Rowling could have included her more into the storylines at the beginning and middle of the book so as to give us a hint as to her importance.

The story, although firm and full-bodied enough to work perfectly on its own, also adds new information and more backstory as far as Harry’s fate and Lord Voldemort’s story goes. Rowling does this exceptionally well, she’s not too overt when she mentions things that will become important in the next books, instead she weaves them subtly into the story in a way that manages to surprise us later on when we realize in hindsight that the basis for the final countdown has been already set in book one or two or three etc.

Memorable quotes:
Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain. (Mr. Weasley, p. 242)
It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities. (Dumbledore, p. 245)

Thursday, February 9, 2012


This post is part of the Language > Place blog carnival

I’ve been writing and publishing in English for half a decade now. It’s been an exciting and enlightening journey of self-discovery and a study of what it means to willingly change such an integral part of self as language.  I recently wrote an essay (on page 20) discussing how this swapping of languages has affected me, how it has shifted the building blocks of my (writerly) identity. 

The years of studying the English language at university level and then two more years of studying writing in English have given me a solid base when it comes to the technical aspects of the language – I’ve learned to think in English. But on occasion I’m still slightly doubtful whether I’ve learned to feel in English. To some extent I imagine I must have, as I would be otherwise hard pressed to express any kind of emotion in my work.

What about the senses? Are they conditioned by the place and culture I live in? I don’t know. Do they remind me of places I’ve been to, people I’ve met, angry words I’ve spoken, and dinners I’ve shared? Certainly. Senses are the inciting sparks of stories and poems and the places and times at which I became aware of them shape how I use them, maybe even how I interpret them. The prickly memory of stepping on a sea urchin has me smiling with nostalgia for long gone childhood summers. At the sight of a little girls’ yellow dress I remember the mix of spicy cologne and motorcycle exhausts that I smelled on Grandpa the day he gifted me a yellow dress with white appliqué in front. Hearing the music of AC/DC will forever remind me of the limo driver at my wedding. Grilled stakes on a bit of olive oil and trickled with lemon juice taste of Sicily and the long, hot days of the summer of 2006.

Senses are like a language of their own, one that weaves in and out of words being put on paper or spoken to another, a language so universal that we all understand yet so personal that it is coloured with different hues for every individual – but it always paints breath-taking pictures that are sometimes difficult to put into mere words.