Arthur Koestler's essays in this collection were published in 1945, most of them having been written during World War II. A quick glance reveals thatArthur Koestler's essays in this collection were published in 1945, most of them having been written during World War II. A quick glance reveals that though the context has drastically changed since then, the book still has a large number of insights to offer. As someone who has worn his heart on the left for most of his life, this turned out to be doubly rewarding.
Koestler believes that human history has produced two kinds of responses to its condition. The Yogi believes that change can be brought about only by changing man from within, the revolutionary (or the "Commissar") believes that it can only be brought about from without. The French Revolution established the Commissar Age which culminated in the Russian Revolution. It's failure in the rest of Europe leads Koestler to believe that the pendulum had begun to the swerve towards the Yogic end since the 1930s.
He co-relates the perceived change with the new developments in physics that is prescient of New Age writers like Frijtof Capra and who became popular during the 1990s, the decade when the original Commissar State- the Soviet Union fell under its own weight.
Some of the essays in the collection are clearly dated. The ones that I found most engaging were in the first section of the book called "Meanderings", particularly the title essay "Yogi and the Commissar", "The Reader's Dilemma" and "The Intelligentsia." The others are more contextual and I skipped that held no interest for me. I would suggest any potential reader to do so, as reading it end to end might not be always easy or fruitful reading....more
The book is page turner. Consisting of two very different "movements" or novellas, it centers around a 100 year old Bulgarian man, whose life and imagThe book is page turner. Consisting of two very different "movements" or novellas, it centers around a 100 year old Bulgarian man, whose life and imaginations are also a peek into the former communist country's history.
The first "movement" is very much in the realist style which rich journey into the history of chemistry and music in Bulgaria in the 20th century, as seen through the eyes of its main protagonist Ulrich. The second "movement" is in a more contemporary, even post- modernist style and is based on the imaginary events in the mind of the now 100 year old man.
The book had me riveted throughout and one cannot complain about the quality of the writing. What I did find interesting is that the writer's skill is not only evident but also overpowers the story. The end result is that I could not feel anything for the characters while being in admiration of the Rana Dasgupta's command over the writing.
His effort in traversing a large chunk of history and a broad range of issues, comes at the expense of lack of insight into why things turned out the way they did. Ulrich, as well as his imaginary children are almost always at the mercy of forces that lie outside their control. Worse, none of them seem to be able to come out of it or make much of an attempt (and even when the attempt is made like in the case of Khatuna, it ends up going the wrong way).
Despite its post modernist ouvere, there is a sense of historical determinism in the novel.
Having said this, I look forward to reading the Rana Dasgupta's non- ficion work "Capital". ...more
Under a False Flag is an amazing first novel by Tom Gething, whose wonderful blog posts (at http://tomgething.wordpress.com) led me to this novel. ItUnder a False Flag is an amazing first novel by Tom Gething, whose wonderful blog posts (at http://tomgething.wordpress.com) led me to this novel. It brilliantly delves into the character of a young CIA operative who is posted in Chile and participates in his own small way to engineer the overthrow of the Allende regime. Tom Gething's writing is as easy to read as it is nuanced.
Highly recommended for for anyone seeking to read historical fiction, or understand the US foreign policy and the workings of the CIA. I just finished reading it, and easily rate it as one of the better novels I have come across recently....more
A quote from the book: "In 1962–63, when I (Kanshiram) got the opportunity to read Ambedkar’s book Annihilation of Caste I also felt that it was perhapA quote from the book: "In 1962–63, when I (Kanshiram) got the opportunity to read Ambedkar’s book Annihilation of Caste I also felt that it was perhaps possible to eradicate casteism from society. But later, when I studied the caste system and its behaviour in depth, there was a gradual modification in my thoughts. I have not only gained knowledge about caste from the books but from my personal life as well. Those people who migrate in large numbers from their villages to big cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata take no possessions with them but their caste. They leave behind their small huts, land and cattle, etc. in the village and settle in slums, near sewers and railway tracks, with nothing else but their one and only possession—their caste. If people have so much affection for their caste then how can we think of annihilating it? That is why I have stopped thinking about the annihilation of caste."