When Broken Glass floats and The man who knew Infinity

16 Apr

Finished reading two books last week,both life stories, one heart wrenching and the other heart warming and exciting.

The first one, “When Broken Glass floats” by “Chanrithy Him” takes us through the Khmer Rouge rule in Cambodia and how her family suffers. There are lot of books about various horrors during different wars, but what makes this one different is the matter-of-fact way of narration by an adolescent child. Fascinating, well written in simple english. Tugs at your heart.

My heart broke and couldn’t comprehend their sufferings, where starvation becomes the norm, where one is forced to catch rodents and eat,where sick people are a burden and left to die,where kids are forced to work day and night, where hunger rules. Brought tears to my eyes.

Puts life in a totally new perspective. When the author’s family, rather the surviving members, enter the refuge camp, she says “It has been a long time since I felt a sense of inner peace. Being in this camp has made that possible, for we’ve been given enough food to eat. We have running water. Electricity. School. We have clean, pretty apartments to live in.” All this in late 20th century.

The second one, “The Man who knew infinity” by Robert Kanigel ,is a biography. I am not that much into biographies , but started reading this book just because Suresh had bought it and also because it is about Srinivasa Ramanujan Iyengar, a self-taught mathematical prodigy.

For someone who lived in Kumbakonam, a small city in South India, and one who was a victim of Indian education system which doesn’t let real intellectuals shine, I think Ramanujan was incredibly lucky to have been found by Hardy of Trinity college and other mathematicians of India. The book covers all aspects of his life, a controlling mom, an early marriage,failure in school life which was his curse and boon. Curse because it didn’t let him grow, but boon as it helped him to immerse himself in Mathematics.

Robert Kanigel talks about Hardy in detail as well. Hardy, who claims to have discovered Ramanujan , when asked about the intuitive skills of mathematicians, says that in his life, he would give 100% only to Ramanujan, whose answer was “I just knew it” when asked how he solved any problem. A very rare, self-taught, highly intuitive mathematician, who also lost his life early because of his eating habits and limited by the medical care in the 19th century.
A very well written, well researched, analyzed, biography with tid bits about basic Maths here and there. A good read any day.


Posted by on April 16, 2011 in Books



4 responses to “When Broken Glass floats and The man who knew Infinity

  1. Sri

    April 17, 2011 at 12:33 am

    Good and crisp review. I don’t read sad/horror biographies, it just takes me out of the bubble I live in and it opens up not just to that individual’s sad state but also makes me wonder about all the bad things that is happening in the world and how I am not doing anything about it. Some kind of closing my eyes and hoping everyone will be nice 😦

    Ramanujam.. what can I say… we just wish he lived 5-10 more years.

    • shoba

      April 24, 2011 at 6:15 pm

      Well, Sri, at least you are honest!

  2. Saumya

    April 27, 2011 at 10:21 pm

    How come I missed this post all this while? hmm–I have read a biography of Ramanujam and felt that the best thing to have happened to him was his friendship with Hardy.

    As for the Khmer Rouge story, human beings equals none in savagery towards their own kind. Of late, reading these stories affects me more than I like to admit and have kept away from them.

  3. shoba

    May 10, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    Broken glass floats was my book club read, last month. I doubt if I would have picked it up. But, it did open my eyes.


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