This is a magnificent work of enormous importance, laying bare the multitudes and layers of errors made by all involved in the last 9 years in Afghanistan in particular, and delivering prescriptions for positive change.
‘If we can better understand what has happened before, what has gone wrong, and what needs to go right, as this book attempts to do, then we can better face up to our collective future.’ p. 404 (final sentence).
Rashid does focus throughout on the ‘what went wrong,’ within each period, within each country, within each layer of strategy. This enormous data set should be extremely useful as we here in the US all hopefully move towards a more nuanced, principled, integrity-rich practice of foreign policy.
The more you already know about Afghanistan and Pakistan and the last decade, the more easily you’ll be able to layer in all of the wealth of information contained here. Myself, I was relatively ignorant, and so felt uncomfortably overwhelmed for some periods. But it eased, and I would strongly encourage everyone to read this book. The writing is lively, engaging, fascinating (even breath-taking in parts) and flows into every nook and cranny related to the subject. So the content is wide-ranging and always rewarding of attention.
Highly recommend to everyone but especially all US citizens as - actively or passively - we played a huge role in the birthing and nurturance of the global threat of terrorism facing us today. And simply detaching is - I don’t believe - a valid option, atleast not until the significant accumulation of damage done from our last several decades of involvement is healed. ...more
Initially: I liked the way the protaganist was with women for the most part, a lot.
The ideas discussed in this novel are fascinaWill mull my review..
Initially: I liked the way the protaganist was with women for the most part, a lot.
The ideas discussed in this novel are fascinating and extremely timely. The merging of that discussion into the format of a spy novel caused me a bit of a stumble. Parts of it felt forced to me, or formulaic, or almost tv-movie-ish. There was something tv-movie-ish in general, I think the simple characterizations mainly. It so happens that a lot of what I've read lately is written from multiple characters' point-of-view, and/or has rich characterization and a lot of the internal workings of them all during the story. Coming from those experiences, I missed that in this one.
There were discontinuities that I couldn't bridge. Like the initial relationship between Jack and Toby; vs. the relationship between them during the 1953 events; vs. the way it apparently went between them after that (the book ends with Toby suggesting to Jack that they put aside their differences and work together, and apparently that's what happened?).
Also info about what Jack had done prior to the book starting, vs. what he was doing when it opened (tending bar); I don't know what was served by having that be so secret. Given that he had this great record, why was he not still involved in some way? Him being in the bar gives the impression that he had a problem with his past military involvement to a degree, but then that doesn't seem to be true. etc..
When toward the end Yari says that he was the realist and Jack the idealist, that threw me for a loop.
But most important, it's hard to grasp what the conclusion was intended to be regarding the US and the CIA: it is presented that such coups prevent war and provide stability and therefore are good; if that's not the intended message, I'm not seeing where it was countered in the book. There's some content around the role of the Muslim leaders, but it's pretty vague. And given that it was written today, with all that's gone on, more content about that would have been of interest.
So, as I said, I'll mull on an actual review.....more
Great works resemble diamonds (one of the main characters is a jeweler) - when opened, they sparkle with intact brillianceWow, highly recommend this.
Great works resemble diamonds (one of the main characters is a jeweler) - when opened, they sparkle with intact brilliance multiplied.
This book is like that. As I progressed through it, I developed a perception of each character presented as a sympathetic, very human character. Not-so-great thinks and insecurities and inadequacies about each one were revealed, but my feelings for each of them were simply deepened. At the end, no character was on a pedestal, no character was a monster. All had done/were both good and bad. All had been accessible, opened through great writing for the reader's understanding.
The author, Dalia, had experienced much of what the girl in this story did (and, by the way, her character was probably the most shocking to me, with her internal goings-on - at her age - completely undoing me.) Her father has also been imprisoned, her family had also left Iran after. But it is also fiction, the best kind of fiction: fiction rooted in the writer's reality.
This book's effects on me include: a warm feeling for the country of Iran; interest in reading Iranian writers; somewhat of an (understanding) of those who gained power during that period, and others in similar positions; a need to process a bunch of new class-struggle ideas; a new resolve to always be gentle to those who are here from elsewhere, given what all they may have gone through; and an intense interest in everything this woman has written!
Now, in June 2009, extremely timely. And from this book and others, I imagine it will remain timely, one way or another....more
Excellent book. It has the layout of a children's book, but the content is too complete and interesting to validate that pigeonhole. The portraits areExcellent book. It has the layout of a children's book, but the content is too complete and interesting to validate that pigeonhole. The portraits are wonderful. The time spanned is from Mohammed (pbuh) to the present day. Excellent gift, and/or addition to one's own library.
There is a prominent article about it in the Variety section of my local newspaper, the illustrations were created by a Minneapolis woman - Heba Amin - who moved here from Egypt to attend Macalester, switched from Math to Art while there, and went on to do post-baccalaureate work and then get her MFA at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. It talks about the nine months she spent creating the portraits for each woman, involving lots of research (no pohotographs existed for most of the subjects). ...more
This book is three complete contents, perfectly interspersed. One: a loving immersion into Persian literature from ancient to modern days, as well asThis book is three complete contents, perfectly interspersed. One: a loving immersion into Persian literature from ancient to modern days, as well as many warm embraces to literatures of other peoples and places also. This immersion includes not simply sharing of various literature snippets, but a great deal about the effect of fiction on the human psyche: what effect it can and should have on a people. The very power it holds over the human species. Highly recommend to any who writes, or reads, or is human (ok, slightly exaggerating, but not much. Really). In fact, literature is so much a presence in this book, her first addendum after the acknowledgements (there are four unique ones) is a suggested reading list, giving details of the referred-to content: Forough Farrokhzad, Golshiri, Ferdowsi, Gorgani, so many more.. all translated. This list doesn't include all the non-Iranian fiction mentioned.. really, this book calls out for an index- between the political content and the literary content, the family content also of course.
The second content: Iran's history, 20th century. Fascinating look from the inside at the motifs and textures of the administration of Iran, from a person on the inside who herself - and/or her family - had contact with a wide range of people at the core of the country. This part was very illuminating for me. And not just about Iran, but also I imagine it can be extended to other Islam-based countries. For instance, this section, about life in Iran in the early Eighties: "Since almost all aspects of public life had been restricted or banned, out private domains took on the function of public forums. Our houses became our restaurants, bars, movie houses and theaters, concert halls, public forums on literature, the arts, and politics. True, these free zones were threatened constantly by a state that could at any time of day or night raid our houses and confiscate the alcohol, gambling cards, makeup forbidden books, and videos. They could arrest us on charges of immorality.And yet in those days there was a suppressed excitement that belied the anxiety and fear-- or, now that I think of it, perhaps the two fed off and strengthened each other. While the country was torn apart by war and besieged by repressive laws, daily arrests, and executions, beneath the surface, just underground, there were mutinous acts and shows of resistence that constantly frustrated and subverted teh powers of the state. An act as normal and mundane as having a party with men and women where drinks were serve, music was played, and perhpas a movie was watched.. had to be undertaken with caution, curtains drawn, so that it became something very special, like a stolen eclair." - I can't help but wonder if that captures a flavor that - atleast in part - is also tasted at various times in countries like Pakistan, perhaps Saudi Arabia, Iraq, etc.. Azar also made clear how various forces came together to result in the overthrow of the Shah, nearly 100% of which were disappointed by the outcomes. Almost had echoes of Hitler's rise - people not listening to the clearly-available actual plan of the Ayatollah, instead hearing only that part of his mesage that suited their needs. Very dangerous, again. The third content of this book is Azar's family: and it could be said to be the core of the book. Any female who thinks she has a difficult relationship with her mother could try this one on for size, I think she'll find trading doesn't appeal. All the members of her family and close friends are well-drawn and complex. The pacing didn't always suit me, but I believe it did serve the content well.
So, three distinct contents, knitted together into an intricate tapestry reminiscent of beloved Persian artwork. All three are present from page one to the end, all three support the other two alternating with taking their own spot in the limelight. Really a fascinating work. ...more
Blood - Urvashi Butalia (1997): India & Pak, a family torn by the Partition; very moving.
My Father's Raj - Mark Tully (1997); on the English psychBlood - Urvashi Butalia (1997): India & Pak, a family torn by the Partition; very moving.
My Father's Raj - Mark Tully (1997); on the English psyche w.r.t. India over the past century in the family of the writer, also interesting.
Erotic Politicians and Mullahs - Hanif Kureishi (1985): Very full of content, not simply-enough-for-me written, will need to re-read, possibly multiple times. All about Pak, and Pakistanis in England, and England, and England-Pakistan. Does help fill in a bit my huge question-vessel in regard to Pak. More of this writer may well be of interest.
White Lies - Amit Chaudhari (2001); Very distinctly honest about the gently brutal interactions of people with different levels of power, the texture of such a relationship. In the same vein (at my level of familiarity anyway) as Thrity Umrigar's 'Space Between Us' and Rohan Mistry's 'Fine Balance.'
Mumbai - Suketa Mehta (1997): Some of the same content as 'Maximum Ciy', but thought would be petty to skip it since I have it in my hands etc.. Felt more afterward like maybe I'd read more..
6 March, 1989 - Salman Rushdie (1989) - poem about that period. Wow, like it! Maybe his books won't be so impossible for me to go in with.
Kabir Street - R. K. Narayan (1997): Excellent.. the sort of writing I love, a slice of life. I'd known I'd like him already, and have some whole books of his. Can't wait!
Unsteady People - Ian Jack (1989) : Fascinating sociological essay basically, about attitudes of the powerful toward the powerless in India, in brutal honesty. Then a comparison to the same in England - with the conclusion that is the same in England, only there they cover it over with make believe hoo-ha to make themselves feel better. And that in India it's all in the open atleast.
What Bengali Widows Cannot Eat - Chitrita Banerji (1995) - interesting about the writer's mother, and how fervently she wanted to keep to all the ritual laws regarding widows in that region, and her (the writer's) reaction to her mother's response. Need to read more of this writer!
Jihadis - Pankaj Mishra, 2002 - fascinating all about the rise of the Taliban and the situation in Pakistan and all sorts of related aspects.. Is the clearest account I've read from someone who actually sought to understand the Taliban and their rise. Not quite 'sympathetic' maybe, but very close - very useful to read to get a fuller-than-trivial glimpse. Also usefully clear about anti-US anger and its causes.
And actually I did already read the next one: Two Indians on America - Amit Chaudhuri & Ramachandra Guha (2002).
Pariah, narrated by Viramma over ten years to Josiane and Jean-Luc Racine. This is non-fiction, an account of her life as midwife and agricultural worker in Karani, a village near Pondicherry. In this account Viramma the obstacles faced by political organizers who visit; some of the details about her activities as midwife, some information about her children (many of whom have died, who she grieves deeply), and a lot about evil spirits and other entities that her belief system includes. The presence of this piece makes me reconsider the whole book to an extent.. wait - who pulled this together? What might the overall message be? Hmm...
Serendip, by Ian Jack, short and ok.. Still was wary.
The Tutor, Nell Freudenberger - quite long, extensive info about the main character; probably more than the writer actually knew. Liked some things about it, not all of it.
Dervishes, Rory Stewart - excerpt from 'The Places Inbetween' - fascinating about the struggles within Pakistan for what -kind- of Islam is approved and acceptable; vs. what -kind- has been in place since the beginning. Totally changed my attitude about his book, will look forward to reading it now.
Little Durga, Shampa Banerjee - all about the filming of Satyajit Ray's filming of Pather Panchali! She was in it, as a child! Fascinating and awesome.
My Hundredth Year, Nirad C. Chaudhuri - wonderful, all about aspects of his writing, how it was received, written as of his 100th birthday. 'The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian,' 19051 was his first published book.
So, as is clear at this point, this book has a really wide scope of work and subject and format and writing style etc.. I was never one much for compilations, but working my way through this I've become aware that they can serve a huge purpose.
Seems like potentially the perfect antidote to my current conundrum of hard-to-read Great Literature ala my daughter's class, and tedious Mom-sourcedSeems like potentially the perfect antidote to my current conundrum of hard-to-read Great Literature ala my daughter's class, and tedious Mom-sourced current novels..
And starts out engagingly interestingly!
I've wanted to get around to this for so long, am very excited! ---- Finished 2/26/10: This book deserves a really excellent review. Unfortunately, my time is overcommitted right now especially, and am going through a transition as well. Plus, I just want to re-read it instead of writing anything about it right now!
So, rather than doing any misc paragraphs right now, I think I'll start something in Word and see if it becomes anything good enough to include.
Until then, I'll just list some of my favorite aspects of this: Multiple points of view Day-to-day life details Intimacy details Self-identity construction insets in which a character's life is explored fully, fascinating lots of political content feels true India
If anyone (in the US) is thinking about 'living simply', this book is a great starting point. Middle-class in India can entail a very, very modest lifestyle by US standards. And a couple times in the book, a character feels bad about the luxury around them. Only, they're talking about a towel, or a mattress. This book is great for really getting a serious glimpse at how others - others who are just as real, just as whole, just as smart, just as good, etc.. etc.. - live with much, much less. My extensive clutter looks very different to me now....more
From Wikipedia: Dr. Rahi Masoom Reza, born in Ghazipur in eastern Uttar Pradesh (India) in a Muslim family, was a famous Urdu shayar. He also won the F From Wikipedia: Dr. Rahi Masoom Reza, born in Ghazipur in eastern Uttar Pradesh (India) in a Muslim family, was a famous Urdu shayar. He also won the Filmfare Best Dialogue Award for the hit film Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki in 1979. He also wrote in Hindustani and Hindi language. He was also an eminent lyricist of Bollywood.
He wrote the script for a popular TV serial, Mahabharat. The TV serial was based on the epic, the Mahabharata. The serial became one of the most popular TV serial of north India, and its peak Television Rating was around 86%.
... Another novel, named Topi Shukla also revolves around the similar sad theme of social tension between the two largest social groups of India, the Hindus and the Muslims....more
Arthur Llewellyn Basham was born on May 24, 1914, in Loughton, Essex, the son of Abraham Arthur Edward Basham and Maria Jane Basham née from wikipedia:
Arthur Llewellyn Basham was born on May 24, 1914, in Loughton, Essex, the son of Abraham Arthur Edward Basham and Maria Jane Basham née Thompson. Although an only child, he grew up in Essex with his adopted sister, who was in fact his cousin on his father's side. His father had been a journalist who served in the Indian Army at Kasauli, near Simla during World War I, and it was the stories that his father told him about India that first introduced him to the culture of the country he would devote his professional career to.[1:] His mother was also a journalist and short story writer further instilling a love of language and literature. As a child, he was also introduced to music and learnt to play the piano to a high standard, writing a number of his own compositions by the age of sixteen....more
His masterpiece, The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian (ISBN 0-201-15576-1), published in 1951, put him on the short list of great Indian English wriHis masterpiece, The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian (ISBN 0-201-15576-1), published in 1951, put him on the short list of great Indian English writers. He courted controversy in the newly independent India in the dedication of the book itself which ran thus:
“ To the memory of the British Empire in India,
Which conferred subjecthood upon us, But withheld citizenship. To which yet every one of us threw out the challenge: "Civis Britannicus sum" Because all that was good and living within us Was made, shaped and quickened By the same British rule.”
The dedication, which was actually a mock-imperial rhetoric, infuriated many Indians, particularly the political and bureaucratic establishment. "The wogs took the bait and having read only dedication sent up howls of protest", commented Chaudhuri's friend, the editor, historian and novelist Khushwant Singh. Chaudhuri was hounded out of government service, deprived of his pension, blacklisted as a writer in India and forced to live a life of penury.
Chaudhuri comented later that he had been misunderstood. "The dedication was really a condemnation of the British rulers for not treating us as equals", he wrote in the Granta article. Typically, to demonstrate what exactly he had been trying to say, he drew on a parallel with ancient Rome. The book's dedication, he said "was an imitation of what Cicero said about the conduct of Verres, a Roman proconsul of Sicily who oppressed Sicilian Roman citizens, although in their desperation they cried out: "Civis Romanus Sum".
# Although he was highly critical of the post-independence Congress party establishment, he was more sympathetic to the right-wing Hindu nationalist movement in India. He refused to criticise the destruction of Babri structure: "I say the Muslims do not have the slightest right to complain the desecration of one mosque. From 1000 AD every Hindu temple from Kathiawar to Bihar, from the Himalayas to Vindhyas had been sacked and defiled." # His views on Hindutva, like those of other scholars like V. S. Naipaul and Koenraad Elst although widely disseminated in the Indian media were not widely appreciated. To this day he remains a controversial figure. # He was also deeply distressed by what he saw as the deep hypocrisy in Bengali social life and in particular those that resulted from class and caste distinctions. His historical research revealed to him that rigid Victorian style morality of middle class Bengali women was a socially enforced construct, that had less to do with religion, choice and judgment, but more to do with upbringing, social acceptance and intergenerational transference of values. Being a scholar in the comparative-historical mode, he could see very clearly that the excessive suppression of sexuality in modern India was actually counterproductive and counterintuitive. In this, it could be argued that he was a student of sociology and was following the footsteps of Max Weber, and to a certain extent, the psychology of Sigmund Freud. Yet in another way, he was also a feminist although he rejected dogmatic feminism quite early in his scholarly career....more