The Sardonic Plant


In  Nobel winner Grazia Deledda’s gem of a short story “The Sardinian Fox”, the reader is left entranced at the bewitching deception in a seemingly simple story- yeah, a sardonic grin on the face is more like it. Hemlock, after all is a sardonic plant which makes the person who consumes it laugh while dying. The sheer poetry of her prose, “..the  Spring sent its breath of wild voluptuousness up there,”  and the fascinating story telling style makes you yearn to read more of her works. Because, human nature remains the same everywhere.

It was indeed  about human nature  that I reflected, after reading Thomas Mann’s story, “Little Lizzie,” a story which amidst its author’s intentional and  grotesque drawing out of the innards of cruelty, hid sardonic laughter within. “..No human being could have been politer, more accommodating, more complaisant than he. But you unconsciously knew that this over- obligingness was somehow forced, that it’s true source was an inward insecurity and cowardice- the impression it gave was not very pleasant…his obsequiousness was almost crawling , it went beyond the bounds of personal decency..”

Of all perversities of human manipulation, the most penetrating observation I read as Amra – she of  the luxurious cunning glance-gets Jacoby to enact the degradation of his life- by power play : “I do not know, my dear friend, how to answer you. You behaved in a way I would not have expected from you…you disappointed everybody…it was your duty…”

One searing moment, I felt I was Jacoby! Ah, Thomas Mann, to read you in German!!! If this is the power of a translation, what would be the power of the original…

In the “Lift that went down into hell”, Par Lagerkvist weaves a stunning classic. Sardonic wit, it certainly  had aplenty- whether it was in the callousness of the adventuring couple, or the final wish of the devil himself. Masterpiece! (During certain scenes of La Dolce Vita, one had felt something similar too.) I also learnt that there existed a word called gracile.

I have Francois Mauriac to explore now..’A man of letters..’ I browse through the first part..

“Could she possibly be unaware of the fact that we authors never open a book that is one of our failures?”

Whoa! Hold on…what was this?

What was the context?Reflections  on a woman’s desperate attempts to get back her former lover, who  herself was, ‘his handiwork which he had tinkered at without respite and turned his back on..”

I grin to myself and switch the reading lamp on…this one needed a respectful reading indeed. Did it say that Mauriac was born in 1885? Damn me, I could have sworn…well, well..

The sardonic plant   blossoms in many a land across this beautiful earth ….whether the human race dies laughing after tasting it or dies fighting without realising it,  is the only question left.




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