Greetings from my sickbed

It’s taking longer than I’d expected. After my recent operation, I thought I’d be more or less back to normal within a few weeks. Well, without going into tedious details, I am more or less back to normal – up to a point; but not up to the point where I can focus on serious reading, or engage my mind sufficiently to write blog posts. Random babblings such as this post I can just about manage, but anything more ambitious is currently beyond me.

But that itch for writing posts persists, despite my inability to put together anything too coherent. There is so much I’d like to read, and write about. Before my recent illness, I was reading the Penguin Classics version of the Mahabharata, which I was expecting to finish around this time: that’s currently on hold. Before that, I read a number of novellas by Turgenev, and was planning to write something on them here. Shortly after my operation, on the recommendation of Amateur Reader, I got myself Roy Campbell’s translations of four plays from the Spanish Golden Age: I thought I could focus on those during my recuperation, but that turned out to be over-optimistic. I guess they must all wait till later – after Christmas, perhaps.

I was also planning a post comparing the performances of King Lear by Michael Pennington, Anthony Sher, and Glenda Jackson. The first two I had seen earlier this year, and had tickets for the third. However, that Glenda Jackson performance for which I had tickets was just a few days after my triple bypass operation, and, though they were hot tickets that could easily have exchanged hands at far more than the price I had paid for them, this was hardly the foremost thing in our minds at the time, and I am afraid those tickets went to waste. Where the greater malady is fixed, the lesser is scarcely felt.

We did, however, get to see Don Giovanni about two weeks ago.  We had tickets for the Glyndebourne Touring Opera production, which was playing in nearby Woking. My fear was that I might fall asleep during the performance, but not only did I manage to stay awake, I loved every minute of it. (Although I do wish they performed the usual text that conflates the version originally performed in Prague, and the later version, with changes, that was performed subsequently in Vienna: here, they chose to perform the Vienna version, with the consequence that some of the most wonderful music – notably the gorgeous tenor aria Il mio tesoro – was missing.) It made me wonder again just what it is about this opera that makes it so great. Of course, the quality of the music is beyond compare, but this is not merely a great work of music, it is, self-evidently, a great opera – i.e. a great musical drama – and to this day, after some forty or so years of close acquaintance with it, I am not sure why. The last time I wrote about this work, I opined that the character of Don Giovanni is a complete blank: beyond a desire for constant sexual gratification, there is absolutely nothing to the character at all, and that any moral or philosophical depth that people see in him is but the projections of their own preoccupations on to what is essentially a blank screen. I hold by that still. But it leaves open the question of how it can be possible for a drama so dominated by so shallow a personage to achieve such profundity. I really do not know. That it is profound is beyond question,  but while I think I can explain, at least up to a point (since works of such stature can never be exhausted), what Le Nozze di Figaro and Cosi Fan Tutte are about, I find myself at a loss in trying to account for the greatness of Don Giovanni. It is little wonder that so many people across so many ages have projected on to the figure of Don Giovanni their own preoccupations: the idea that what exists at the centre of this immense work is but a vast vacuum is very difficult to take in.

Now, if I had been more my usual self, I could have made a decent post out of all that. But this will have to do for now I am afraid.

Whether my recent experience will change my blogging style I do not know. Maybe there will emerge from my chastening brush with mortality a less abrasive blogger, gentler and kinder, in keeping with the gentler and kinder politics we have recently been promised.  But then again, maybe not. We’ll have to wait and see. For the moment, I am trying my best to keep my blood pressure under control, and that means keeping away from political developments – both domestically and internationally; and keeping away also from blog posts and opinion pieces that I know will light my admittedly short fuse.

In the meantime, I would like to thank all of you who have sent me good wishes either in the comments section of this blog, or by e-mail. I know I have not responded to them individually, but they really are much appreciated. Sending good wishes may not seem like much, but it is: that there are people – many whom I have not even met – who are thinking about me when I’m going through a bad time really does count for a lot, and is very comforting. It is something I will remember, and hold dear. My sincere thanks to you all.

And have a very happy Christmas, and New Year. May you all enjoy to seasonal excess the food and drink that I, following medical advice, cannot!


“The Census at Bethlehem” by Peter Bruegel the Elder, courtesy of Musée des Beaux Arts, Brussels

30 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Jonathan on December 10, 2016 at 4:51 pm

    Well, it’s good to hear that you’re on the mend, albeit slower than hoped and expected. My dad had a quadruple heart bypass twenty or more years ago and I remember it as quite a slow recovery. All the best for Christmas & New Year.


  2. Posted by A Slac on December 10, 2016 at 5:00 pm

    Glad you are heading in the right direction Himadri. Little by little you will be fully restored x


  3. Be patient with your slow recovery. I find physician’s estimates are optimistic — perhaps because, while you may look quite ok to them, you know you do not have your previous energy yet. It will come.

    My own close brush with death made life more precious, more appreciated — and, furthermore, I wanted to say so. Your revised blogging may reflect that.


  4. The quality of your writing under handicaps outshines other writers even when they’re at their best. I’m sure your readers all agree, and will be here whenever you feel up to regular posting. Take your time and let yourself rest. Have a peaceful holiday.


  5. Wish you a speedy recovery


  6. Posted by mudpuddle on December 11, 2016 at 12:51 am

    recuperation is a study in itself, i think; one that has never been to my knowledge, formally examined; each does it in their own way and every way is best…


  7. I am sorry to hear that you are taking longer to recover Himadri. I am glad to hair that you are recovering.

    i am looking forward to reading your future blogs. Though I think that you have always been gentle and kind, I hope that you retain your tendency to vigorously express your opinions 🙂


  8. Posted by Kalman Reti on December 11, 2016 at 11:49 am

    Best wishes for a full recovery.


  9. Posted by Charley Brady on December 11, 2016 at 11:51 am

    chuckredman says pretty much what I came on here to do. I can only wish you the very best for Christmas and into the year beyond. As to ‘abrasive’: one of the reasons that I love to visit the site is that compared to so many others you and the readers make it a masterclass in good manners.


  10. Great news that you’re getting better, albeit slowly. Best wishes.


  11. Posted by Janet on December 11, 2016 at 5:11 pm

    Deepest condolences on those Glenda Jackson tickets, but c’est la vie. As for this nonsense: “Random babblings such as this post I can just about manage, …despite my inability to put together anything too coherent”, I can only say my brain got a pretty good workout running alongside your incoherent ramblings, which are more rigorous and illuminating in low gear than most (even reputable) posts by writers on their best days. Take it easy. Take it slow. Have a loverly bunch of holidays!


  12. So glad that you are on the mend, even if it’s a slow process. Here’s hoping for a relaxing and healing Christmas and a nice new year for you!


  13. Merry Christmas! And please remember to put yourself first in (almost) everything – especially your health. (It’s taken me twenty years to work that one out, for me: but I do have other sage advice available re brushes with death, and life-changing operations. Sadly, I feel it’s all immensely subjective.) Certainly don’t worry about your many fans! Although, of course, I hope you’re back to full health as speedily as is possible. (By the way, panic ye not also about Glenda’s Lear – I missed both her *and* Sher’s – but I console myself that the Pennington one was, for me, unbeatable.)

    Finally, I pray above all, that at least one single malt is allowed now and again; and look forward to your return to previous form (changed man or no). “Goodnight, thank you, and may your God go with you.”


  14. Dear Himadri, my old friend…

    I just realized today that I had not been receiving notifications from WordPress for many months because my email provider when dark back then and I forgot (until this past Friday) to change my email preferences at WordPress.

    So, all excuses aside, I’m very sorry to hear of your recent health issues. I am glad to see that you survived and are in the process of mending. Be patient. It takes a while to recover from that type of surgery.

    My brother had a quad bypass on Feb 1 of this year. He was 65 at the time. He’s at about 95% now. My brother was an athlete all his life and was in excellent physical condition (daily gym visits, bike rides, etc.). It’s still taken him 10 months to get to 95%.

    You’ll get there. Just listen to your doctor, take your meds, eat right, etc. It just takes time.

    All the best wishes for a super-easy and happy recovery. I’ve missed reading your stimulating and educational postings. Now that my notifications doo-hicky here at WordPress is sending to a working email address, I will be getting reminders each time your fingers start tapping that keyboard.

    Merry! Merry! And all that…

    (I can still be found @ The Cabin, by the way.)


  15. I don’t often comment, but I enjoy your thoughtful and erudite posts. I wish you a continuing recovery and the very best of future health.


  16. Posted by Maggie on December 11, 2016 at 10:09 pm

    So pleased you are on the mend. Take it easy and what better time to maybe reread old favourites or develop a taste for crime fiction. This time last year I also had major surgery and then moved house. It takes time to recover but I’m 99% there and this time next year you will be too.


  17. I’m glad you’re on the mend, albeit slowly, and I agree with what others have said – a “random babbling” from you is still more eloquent than plenty of blog posts penned by writers under normal circumstances! I hope you have an enjoyable Christmas even if you can’t enjoy the usual festive overindulgence.


  18. Your thoughts about Don Giovanni are fascinating. I hope you feel better soon!


  19. I’m sorry you’ve been so unwell and I’m glad to hear you’re recovering. It may be terribly slow, but at least you’re moving in the right direction.

    Anyway, best of wishes and good to know you’re still with us all. I look forward in due course to the gentler and kinder you…

    Lovely choice of painting by the way.


  20. Can I just say that I really wasn’t fishing for compliments – but thanks anyway for all your kind words. It’s now nearly 10pm, and I am o to bed with a book o ghost stories – which is as demanding as my reading gets nowadays. (Also, it takes me back to my childhood!) Blogging will, I trust, resume as normal in the New Year.

    Al the best for now!


  21. Very glad to learn that you’re on the mend. I hope you have an enjoyable Christmas and that 2017 is a year of much better health for you.



  22. Posted by alan on December 21, 2016 at 9:04 pm

    I just reread one of your posts on a BBC literary adaption ‘Blandings’.I hope you don’t go all soft on them.
    By all means admire your physicians, be grateful to your family and offer respect to strangers, but please give no quarter in matters of dramatic judgement. A lack of criticism is the death of art.


    • That made me laugh!

      I think most of my invectives are aimed at proponents of fashionable identity politics, and who see the arts as primarily or even solely a means of asserting a communal identity. I’ve had a few harsh things to say also about those who trivialise certain things that, in my opinion, shouldn’t be trivialised. But there certainly have been a few posts where I have been more abrasive than, perhaps, I should have been – where my points could have been made in a more emollient manner.

      But however I feel right now, I have no doubt that, for better or worse, I’ll be returning to my old self. the leopard doesn’t change its spots, after all!


  23. Posted by Chris Jennings on December 21, 2016 at 10:06 pm

    Glad to hear you are improving, Himadri, however slowly. I hope, by the way, you have tried even a little bit of op.132 along the way…

    Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year,


    • Haha! I think we’ve been thinking along similar lines!

      A few days after the operation, when I was still in hospital, I put on my headphones, and – the late Beethoven quartets being on my iPad – I listened to the Heiliger Dankesgesang movement of the Op 132 quartet. I don’t think I had the energy to hear the whole piece, but that movement did seem particularly apposite!


  24. Hope you recover! Spanish Golden Age drama- yes, I’d like to read what you make of it.


    • Thank you – it’s taking a long time, but given the state I was in when I came home from the hospital, I am certainly recovering. And this afternoon, I shall take a deep breath, and make a start on a post on Calderon’s Life is a Dream.


  25. Hi there Himandri,
    Good news that things are progressing, and patience is a prerequisite in this situation, so frustrating as it may be, hang in there. Enjoying your blog posts, and maybe you’ll get another chance to see Glenda on stage at another time. Good that you’re already able to get out to some events again. I’m reading “His Bloody Project” for diversion at the moment, and enjoying the Scottish setting,and macabre and unusual, but very effective prose style. Will get back to music bios soon, but it’s sunny and warm, so will go with the flow for now.
    Cheers, Doug


    • Hello Doug, and thank you for that. I am not the most patient person by nature, but I have to be on his occasion, simply because I have no other option! I do find myself seized by a sense of lassitude – of my mind and body refusing to do anything. I know I need to force myself out of this.

      Beyond the fact that it had been nominated for the Booker prize, I know nothing of His Bloody Project. I just looked it up, and it certainly looks interesting. I’ll have a browse through it the next time I’m in a bookshop: I do like a good thriller.

      I look forward to your music bios,
      cheers, Himadri

      I found myself unable to tackle anything very heavy immediately after coming out of hospital, and found myself reading the supernatural novel Dark Matter by Michelle Paver – and it was as eerie as I hoped it would be.


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