Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Hannah Kent – Burial Rites Jan 29, 2018

First edition of the novel

We know from the beginning of the novel that Agnes Magnúsdóttir, the heroine of the story is going to be executed. But since it is historical fiction we expect to be treated to interior feelings and scenes that go unrecorded in the annals of drab history. We aren't disappointed.

Shoba & Kavita

The novel is slow to get under way. The reader is presented with tiresome dialogue imagined by the author to be the speech characteristic of figures of authority in those times in that isolated region. It almost sounds like a remote dialect translated into stilted English. We wonder at the earnestness with which district officers sought to bring about a spiritual reformation to convicted murderers. Lutheran ministers seemed available in plenty and up for the challenge too.

Thommo reading

It is through the efforts of one such, Reverend Thorvardur Jónsson, called Tóti for short, we learn the woman’s side of the story. At first Tóti is focused on gospel lectures and one-way spiritual talk. But later in the face of defeat, the spirit leads him to stop sermonising and open up to let Agnes speak. Thus, we obtain the first-person narrative of the condemned woman; it is wide in scope and unsparing in detail about her poverty after abandonment by her mother. Then she finds a step-mother who realised Agnes was blessed with a wonderful mind and went on to make her fully literate, even well-read.


In the literature of independent women characters we often read their stories and regret they could not have been even more independent than they were — of the wayward affections of men. What was there in Natan Ketilsson to hold Agnes Magnúsdóttir in thrall? He never gave her very much at all apart from copulation, and even mistreated her. Did his money and his economic station hold out the hope she could forever escape poverty if only she could make him take her as his wife? But he never intended to. He was the randomly begetting kind, not the staidly marrying kind.


The readers were present in strength and their evident pleasure at the end of the reading is manifest in this photograph.

Thommo, Sunil, Saras, Priya, Zakia, Shoba, Pamela, Hemjit seated with Sugandhi to his right

Friday, January 5, 2018

Poetry Session — Dec 19, 2017

 Zakia, Shoba, Preeti, Priya by the CYC Christmas tree
The very last session of 2017 commanded a good attendance. Many of the poems recited were in the spirit of the Christmas festival. Though some of the poets selected were performed before in the years of poetry celebration by our group, the poems chosen were different.

Shoba, Thommo, Zakia, Pamela reading, Hemjit back to camera

Joe and KumKum were still abroad but keen to participate, and left voice files in the dropbox that were played at the session for the readers.


Priya who orchestrated the session brought in Christmas plum cake for the readers, and Santa Claus caps for them to wear while reading. A Christmassy spirit of peace and harmony descended over the assembled readers.


Preeti, coming late, made a surprise entry toward the end of the session, but contributed a humorous and expressive reading of a children’s poem called Chocolate Cake by Michael Rosen. You can hear a snippet of her delightful enactment of the poem in an embedded voice file further down.



Salutations and greetings to all our readers who have contributed this past year in making our sessions memorable and pleasurable! We look forward to 2018 with relish. Here are the readers at the end of the session.

Zakia, Preeti, Priya, Thommo, Shoba, Hemjit seated
(Pamela had to leave early)

Monday, November 13, 2017

Poetry Session — Oct 13, 2017

The poetry attendance was sparse, but what was remarkable was the 4 to 1 ratio of men to women in the attendance at CYC, which became 5 to 2 when Joe and KumKum from Arlington, MA, were added as virtual attendees with their recorded voice files sent via Dropbox.


The choice of poets was all modern. Therefore penetrating the meaning posed a challenge to the readers and listeners, but that is just as well. For it makes one ponder the words of the poet, recite it aloud to discover what may be hidden in the sonority, and examine the possibilities. As Ashbery explains, obscurity can convey more in the same number of words than crystal clarity can.

Priya and Ankush

As before Priya was responsible for gathering the readers and reporting on the session. The readers responded and pictures of the occasion testify to the draw of poetry.

Sunil, Thommo, Sugandhi, Priya, Ankush, Hemjit (seated)