Wednesday, December 15, 2004

deja vu

A couple of years back, when I was ensconced in the Negev desert of Israel, I found that the lack of english books was as bad as the lack of trees. The Uni library was spectacularly outdated in terms of books of fiction: they had all the classics, but very few of the contemporary writers. My only options for books was either to buy them outright from the book-chains (at really fancy prices) or haunt the sole second hand bookshop that was hidden in BerSheva. I chose the latter option and made my visits to "minibook" as frequent as possible. I bought a lot of junk from here, but occasionally you did come across good stuff. One such book was the The Flanders Panel by Arturo Perez-Reverte. It was a detective/murder mystery type book set around a chess game in an old painting. Quite fascinating, but what was odd was that I had the distinct feeling that I'd read this or something like this before. I don't normally forget reading WHOLE books! Of course, if you ignore all the classics I read during my 'classics phase', I can't even remember whether I read a particular book or not. But Flander's Panel was a comparatively new book, and which means that I must have read it recently and therefore I should have atleast remembered reading it. Anyway, I was never able to resolve that particular mystery.

Yesterday I borrowed another of Perez-Reverte's books, The Dumas Club, from the library. I started reading it and -damn me if I didn't get the same feeling- of having read this book before. All the opening scenes were so familiar. But this time, I remembered that one of Reverte's books had been made into a movie called The Ninth Gate, starring Johnny Depp. I remembered watching this film in Israel when one of the TV stations broadcasted it. A movie about booksellers and a book detective was almost irresistible. As I read through this book, I kept coming across images from the movie, like still photos. However, as usual, the movie did an injustice to the book. In the book, there are two strands- one following the discovery of a Alexander Dumas manuscript, and the other following the issue of the veracity of a book on demonology. The book does a good job of somehow running them in parallel but with more emphasis on the Dumas manuscript whereas the movie went the demonology route (as could be expected, I suppose). Still you don't see that many movies about books these days. The book's a good read, especially for those who like their fiction mixed up with lots of history.