30 books to read before age of thirty

By Professor J. Manrakhan 

 L’embarras des richesses

— Lénor d’Allainval (1700 – 53)

I was pleasantly surprised with the listing from ‘Marc and Angel Hack Life’, Mauritius Times (5 August 2011 p 8), where I found that I had read 27 out of the 30. I have deemed the three remaining as missed, even if they still resonate in my memory.  These are Nos. 12, 23 and 26.

May I be allowed my ‘subtitutions’ of 3 out of 7 ‘on the bench’, as it were (in alphabetical order):

As It Happened     — C. Atlee, British Labour PM, post WWII

Discovery of India — J. Nehru, prior to being Indian PM

Jungle Tales  — R. Kipling

Kon Tiki Expedition  — T. Heyerdahl

A Study of History — A. Toynbee

Virgin Soil Upturned — M.A Sholokhov

War of the Worlds — H.G. Wells

I am rather amazed, however, to find a relative lack of (once mandatory) adventure, detective and travel texts in the 30 chosen, thus: 

(i)     ‘Bulldog Drummond’ all the way to ‘James Bond’, and ‘Flashman’ of ‘Tom Brown schooldays’ having been metamorphosed into a Public Hero in the Army Service, although still a cowardly bully;

(ii)    ‘Sherlock Holmes’ of Conan Doyle to RF Keating’s ‘Inspector Ghote’ of Mumbai CID (via C. Dexter’s ‘Morse’, Thames Valley; and H. Mankell’s ‘Warrender’ of Sweden, now retired), and Ms Marples gracefully giving way to Ms Ramotse of Botswana. 

(iii)    Marco Polo and Magellan eventually to be replaced by Philip Toynbee and Vikram Seth.

Alas these days, family book collections have dramatically shrunk (‘Arabian Nights’ with a lock-and-key device, ‘Don, Camillo’ and ‘Jeeves’, anyone?), the British Council Library is closed, and we have yet to find the most practical way to ‘ring-fence’ the funding in real terms of our Public Libraries: massively detrimental for future generations, surely?

I am one of those whose everyday language is Kreol, (while my parents and family elders conversed in Hindi), and my schooling has been essentially French-based until 12 years old, when it changed almost overnight into English — compared with which French has had a huge initial advantage.

So can we have a repeat exercise please – but this time in French?  I am hoping there (against the odds, admittedly) to find in the ‘Top 30’, those stalwart cartoon characters: Asterix and Tintin.


* Published in print edition on 12 August 2011

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