Briefly Noted: December 2020

New Alberta books

By albertaviews

The Virtues of Disillusionment (by Stephen Heighton, Athabasca University Press, 2020). “Let’s suppose,” writes Stephen Heighton early in this short book—his inaugural lecture as the 2019/2020 writer-in-residence at Athabasca University—“that ‘disillusionment’ is in fact a positive term defining something good and desirable.” A prize-winning author of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, Heighton launches from this paradoxical insight into a profound, erudite and sometimes funny meditation on the role that ego and ambition play in a writer’s work (his own and others), and, more broadly, in the formation of the illusions, the “life-lies” that all of us—individuals and nations—tell about ourselves in “the great Ponzi scheme of pursuable happiness.” The joy of disillusion, he alerts, “can take a lifetime to learn.”

 

Dakghar: The House that Calls (by Ashis Gupta, Bayeux Arts, 2019). In the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943, a Polish child psychologist and some 200 children in an orphanage staged a play, Dakghar (in English The Post Office), by Indian Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore. The next day they were taken to a concentration camp, where they all died. Calgary author Ashis Gupta loosely bases his globe-spanning novel around that tragic event. With multiple characters relating memories and interrelated stories from the war years to the late 1990s in Field, BC, Iraq and Warsaw, the line between what is real and what is imaginary can be confusing. And yet the novel—“dedicated to victims of tyranny, oppression and racism”—also offers a poignant web of “friendship, love, remorse and death.”

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