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Tag Archives: human-rights

Chernobyl Prayer – Svetlana Alexievich

chernobylprayerThere is no blurb for this one, partly because this copy didn’t come with one – just excerpts from newspaper reviews – and partly because it needs no blurb.  The book speaks for itself and with Alexievich’s Nobel Prize in Literature award, it means it will thankfully never be forgotten.

After a short historical background on the explosion of reactor no. 4 (whose radioactive particles reached as far as China and Africa), the reader is introduced to A lone human voice. This  truly shocking and saddening account sets the scene for this outstanding and powerful chronicle of eyewitness recollections  from those that were involved with the Chernobyl catastrophe.

Often forgotten in the face of overwhelming statistics are the real human lives who have suffered, those forgotten get a voice here.  The cost is not just in lives lost but dreams and hopes shattered, health ruined and families torn apart.  This book focuses on the Belarusians who bore the brunt of the disaster and of those who helped try to contain it and the risks they took.

The beauty of this series of monologues is that Alexievich didn’t ask questions, instead she did the one thing that the people had been wanting for years, she listened. Apart from an essay of her own the author merely adds only the briefest additions to the text such as ‘he looks pensive’, ‘she cries’ and so on.

This allows the people to talk about whatever they need to and follow the direction of their thoughts and there is a surprising amount of philosophical views that come out.  Especially as many still don’t accept the subtle devastation that hit their lands and destroyed them,  who were then shunned by an uneducated public.  What shines through is that they loved their land and animals, most of those living there knew little else and the passion for their lost place is ever present.
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Posted by on 13/02/2017 in History, Modern Classics, Politics

 

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Fine Night In

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…because if one doesn’t make you philosophise, the other will.

 
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Posted by on 14/12/2016 in Philosophy

 

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Game, Sets and Match

In a week or two I will be moving house and this has led to the ordering and  packing up of my many books, which is strange due to my penchant for appreciating the quirky and often fascinating juxtaposition of books when randomly placed, like the Bible tightly packed next to Christopher Hitchens or Alice in Wonderland next to de Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium Eater.

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I have been busy putting my series of books together to be boxed up and it made me think about the times when I used to travel to Nottingham once a fortnight to collect all 21 Famous Five books.  Even years ago I was paranoid that the publishers would change the covers so they wouldn’t look as sexy on my shelves.

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It all started with Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time Series which was actually a bit of a blessing, the black covers look a lot better than the less than impressive (to my eye, at least) illustrations of character set pieces.  Since then I have always strived to collect the full series in the same cover. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 20/11/2016 in Book Memories, Lists/Ephemera

 

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Facts of Life: Reflections on Ignorance and Intelligence – Rehana Shamsi

lifefactsDay six and post six of poetry week, thanks for all the likes and comments so far and please bear with me as I will be around to view your blogs just as soon as I complete my seventh and final post.

Facts of Life: Reflections on Ignorance and Intelligence is the result of Rehana Shamsi’s observations, experiences, and relationship to her former society. Many of the poems bring to the forefront the emotional and psychological trauma caused by men’s traditional dominance over women in majority of South Asian households. Women’s constant struggle to overcome suppression is a major theme covered in this collection of poetry. In addition, Shamsi showcases her perspective on life in general.

Through her captivating and incisive style, she explores joys and sorrows, challenges and choices, and ignorance and intelligence.

After reading Nadeem Alsam’s excellent novel, Maps for Lost Lovers, I didn’t expect to come across something as moving, which confronted the same issues so soon.  Right from the first poem, the reader will find a strong voice that tackles one of the most important issues facing society today, the repression of women and their lack of education.

Shamsi’s experiences are a strong indictment of these failures in society and her remembrances are as difficult to read as it is, not to be angry at the number of girls still subjected to arranged marriages and the horrors that can stem from such ‘deals’.  These social issues seem to almost taken for the norm these days or at least less mentioned by the media for fear of upsetting the hegemony of men that still think this is still acceptable.

The book then takes a turn towards the positive.  After emigrating from the suppressive Pakistan to America, thoughts of a freer life are expressed, one where Shamsi can bring forth her unrestrained reflections on her journey through life.  Structured into parts titled: Awareness after Repression, Gender Disparity, Resurrection, Health, Migration, Family, Facts of Life, Old Age, Bereavement, Nine – Eleven, and Curiosity and Others, each of which will hold a strong resonance for her readers. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 13/11/2016 in Poetry

 

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Return to the Sea – Etnairis Rivera

seasideDay and post three of poetry week takes us all the way across the waters to Puerto Rico, unless you happen to be reading this from there, that is.

There’s no blurb for this one but whilst attempting to hunt one out on Amazon.com, I noticed that the one used paperback copy was going for $35 dollars.  Not bad considering I got mine for $4 whilst using Letizia’s fun method of poetry buying – which can be found here  – and seeing where the journey takes you.

Return to the Sea sets both Spanish and its English translation side by side on the page, which I find fascinating and although this is nothing unique in the world of poetry books my eyes were drawn over to the Spanish side frequently through curiosity many more time than my Rilke books ever have, perhaps because the language is easier on the eye and more familiar.

It is clear from the start that Rivera is fiercely strong in her patriotism and her writings are shot through with calls for independence and self determinism of the country she so clearly evokes with passion through the text.  The love shines through in many way from reminiscences to the impassioned defence of her people.

There is fury at the legacy left by the US military, after testing chemical and nuclear weapons on the island of Vieques (nicknamed La Isla Nena, usually translated as Little Girl Island, which somehow makes it worse) left thousands with serious health issues including Cancer.  Not only does Rivera demand justice but also exhibits a diligent need to cleanse the people and their land. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 10/11/2016 in Poetry, Politics

 

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Maps for Lost Lovers – Nadeem Aslam

ordinancesurveyIn an unnamed English town, Jugnu and his lover Chanda have disappeared. Rumours abound in the close-knit Pakistani community and then, on a snow-covered January morning, Chanda’s brothers are arrested for murder. Telling the story of the next twelve months, Maps for Lost Lovers opens the heart of a family at the crossroads of culture, community, nationality and religion.

Wrapped in some gorgeous prose, Maps for Lost lovers demands discussion.  It’s a daring book, one that attempts to make Muslims as well as migrants in general more human than they are often portrayed by the media.  Not only does Aslam tackle the unpalatable parts of Islam but also shows a community’s response to an all too real tragedy.

The central theme of the book is the disgusting practise of so-called ‘honour killings’ and how they impact on a close knit group, yet there is so much more to this melancholy story, exploring love, desperation, loneliness, seclusion and loss in everyday life, far from their homeland and extended family.

The meeting of modern thinking against the traditional, all to the backdrop of an alien cultural experience is; for both the characters and for readers thought-provoking.  Such ideas in close proximity should be brought to the fore and as the world is getting smaller and the time for debate and understanding of each other is immediate.

The chosen isolation of some Muslim groups is troubling, insularity leads to misunderstanding, fear and control over the uneducated.  The characters motivations for coming to England are explored and with well-rounded personalities with plenty of depth, even the least likeable of the main players have their moments.  Each is seen showing doubt over aspects of their beliefs (be they religious or ethical), especially those which are blatantly biased in favour of men and relegate women to being merely property.

The unease felt by the immigrants and their defensiveness and willingness to see the bad in their neighbouring cultures is a neat mirror imaging of the local inhabitants of the northern town they reside in. The closely isolated society is as racist as the local whites people can be, in a neat balancing act this is shown by the woman whose son feels he can walk to the mosque alone so she phones up all the people she knows on the way to keep an eye on him because ‘every day you hear about depraved white men doing unspeakable things to little children’.  Yet a similar fate awaits many young girls as an accepted part of their own belief system. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 21/09/2016 in Fiction, Philosophy, Politics

 

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Arguably – Christopher Hitchens

AnotherHitchSlapChristopher Hitchens (1949-2011) was a matchless writer, debater and humanist. Throughout his life he shone the light of reason and truth into the eyes of charlatans and hucksters, exposing falsehood and decrying hypocrisy wherever he found it. With his passing, the world has lost a great soul, the written word one of its finest advocates and those who stand for freedom everywhere have lost one of their clearest voices.

Arguably collects Hitchens’ writing on politics, literature and religion when he was at the zenith of his career; it is the indispensable companion to the finest English essayist since Orwell.

The joys of learning about scintillating new books, of stories both fact and fiction is tempered by the sheer amount and scope of the eclectic selection already on offer.  The never-ending list of books I need to read has grown by around fifty books since reading this tome but on the other hand I will never be short of a quality read..

It turns out, if this book is anything to go by, that I am distinctly under read, despite my best efforts to the contrary.  I shall not let that soul-destroying revelation ruin my enjoyment of what is a magnificent set of essays, that should be required reading for all those who love to learn and think for themselves.

The finite amount of time that the reader has to tackle such a broad base of literature is at best daunting and at worst obscenely short.  As one who rushes from one to the other in a futile battle to read and process them all; whilst simultaneously collecting even more avenues of enquiry, it occurs that all I can do is horde these treasures (read and unread) to one day pass on to another enquiring mind who will appreciate them.

In these days of ignorant and woefully ill-informed internet commentors and the prevalence of lazy journalism, it is refreshing to not only be able to read a literate and educated voice but also one that knows no fear in not only arguing but backing up said points with actual facts and a clarity that is most welcome.  Being critical is a right afforded to citizens in  many (not enough) countries and it should be used in debate to better ourselves, Hitchens was one man who never shied from giving his opinion and we should be thankful for his body of work. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 14/08/2016 in Essays, History, Journalism, Philosophy, Politics

 

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