I met Benito through a mutual friend, and I was lucky enough that he accepted my invitation for dinner with him. He started Krousar Thmey, or New FamiI met Benito through a mutual friend, and I was lucky enough that he accepted my invitation for dinner with him. He started Krousar Thmey, or New Family Organization, after he left his job in Thailand. Benito is considered to be a veteran in the elites of French expats in Cambodia, himself being a Cambodian citizen after being granted the privilege by the prime minister. Next year he will be celebrating his 50th birthday, as well as the 25th anniversary of New Family, which follows that he started New Family when he was 25 years old, the same time I became a volunteer in PCDO and applied for a license with the Ministry of Interior.
I still remember the dinner I had with him and how much I learned just having that conversation. I learned a lot from the book and revising my vision from PCDO, I had a clearer direction of where PCDO was supposed to be: in the hands of the Cambodians, not only that, but also the minds of Cambodians. I learned that letting go is hard, as he told me that it was one of the most difficult things that he had to go through. He was an intense sort of man, but kind and principled. In other words, a rare sort of man.
I read many things that resonated with my time in Cambodia, especially in the early years of PCDO, when my personal finances were running out and I still have an organization to run. I remember the going back and forth with the officials, which was amplified for his case. There were the frustrations with his own local staff members, the inevitable difference of cultures and the disappointments.
But I cannot keep up with his stamina, shamefully. I don't think I can put in fifteen hours day seven days a week for six consecutive years. But I will do my best for as long as I can.
I have given the book to my executive director to read in Khmer and I bought another copy for my staff members to read among themselves. It is circulating between them in a steady pace. Benito continues to inspire, even for those outside of Khrousar Thmey. ...more
While the Flame Trees of Thika is set in the coffee plantations of Africa, it is fair to say that the Africans in the book are not the focus of HuxleyWhile the Flame Trees of Thika is set in the coffee plantations of Africa, it is fair to say that the Africans in the book are not the focus of Huxley's writing. It is after all, the memoirs of her childhood, however close to reality it may or may not be. Personally I found justice in the description of the white settlers and the natives. As I am not a Kenyan, I cannot say whether Huxley's depiction of African is accurate, but it is certainly beautifully crafted.
Some would say that the tone of the book is too mature to be written from a child's viewpoint, but I found this maturity endearing. There is plenty of innocence in the way the young Huxley observed the movements and sentiments of the adults, often in passing and sometimes with a poetic fixation. I loved the implicit innuendos between the adults and the inevitable violence of the environment which contrasts with the voice of the book.
**spoiler alert** I couldn't get interested enough in the characters and their intentions. I find them to be annoying, self-indulgent, but mostly bore**spoiler alert** I couldn't get interested enough in the characters and their intentions. I find them to be annoying, self-indulgent, but mostly bores. I love the use of language and satire that Beerbohm used, but I really couldn't get interested in the story. As the Duke contemplated his death, the whole time I was thinking just die already. I just couldn't appreciate the extremes of the characters, finding the events unfolding unbelievable and out of whack. ...more
I remembered picking up the Road to Wigan Pier and Down and Out in Paris and London a long time ago and affected by the matter-of-fact writing OrwellI remembered picking up the Road to Wigan Pier and Down and Out in Paris and London a long time ago and affected by the matter-of-fact writing Orwell applied in these two books. But I wish I had read this book before Orwell's account of English life, because I couldn't help feeling the similarities, almost as though London's writing was the carbon copy of Wigan Pier and Down and Out, just for the sheer fact that Abyss came before.
If I find any book by London, new or secondhand, I would straight away snatch it off the shelf and spend my hard earned money without batting an eyelid. I can remember all the Jack London books that I've ever bought, in which bookstores in which country. I remembered finding a copy of this book in a Berkeley library, dog eared and rare, but I didn't buy it as it was too expensive. I found this years later in a secondhand bookshop in Kampot, Cambodia.
I guess London visited London when he was in his mid-twenties, still fairly young and at times misconstrued. I didn't agree on some of the things he did, such as the time when he tried to convince other workhouse attendees to hooky back to the streets, at the cost of losing their bedding if they ever decide to come back. London had nothing to lose while his counterparts still had a lot. He felt somewhat superior when he revealed himself as someone with the possession of a sovereign to two old paupers, who then opened up their stories.
But with all the weaknesses of a London book, I have always loved the substance. He drew a comprehensive picture of life in the East End for a wide spectrum of its inhabitants. Some of the stories are scarring, even though logical.
I am curious to know what the city of London is like now, especially in the East End. But I make the comparison to the village that PCDO is built, with its families and individuals. Although the salary may be comparable to the period of the book, I cannot say I feel the desperation that London depicted in Abyss. I guess over here, the conditions are improving and correspondingly, the standard of living. There is a common picture though: the children dancing. ...more
Being a leisurely reader, to the point that I am borderline lazy, I was drawn in to the world's greatest novel by what I thought to be the best blurbBeing a leisurely reader, to the point that I am borderline lazy, I was drawn in to the world's greatest novel by what I thought to be the best blurb that I've read. "Tolstoy invites us not to judge, but to observe", Rosemary Edwards advised us, though in retrospect, it does invite the prospect reader to exert our pre-existing right, which is to make our own observations. However, it reminds to take a step back before we decide on our own conclusions. Human relationships are after all, complex and a phenomenon beyond reason.
What was more, the blurb observed Levin's position as Tolstoy's mouthpiece, as the character reflects his life and thoughts. Anna Karenin is my first introduction to Tolstoy, but being able to observe the author through one of his characters gives more fuel for the sincerity and honesty of the book. I sympathised with Levin even before (view spoiler)[ his failed marriage proposal to Kitty Shcherbatsky. When the moment came early in the novel, it was more brutal and heartfelt than Florentino Ariza's failed proposal to Fermina Daza in "Love in the Time of Cholera" (hide spoiler)].
I cared for Levin more than any character in Russian literature. He goes through the events in the book in a constant atmosphere of awkwardness, with a feeling that his life could entangle at any moment. You'd fear that such a thing might happen, even more so than the title character.
I haven't finished my post-reading reading of the book, so I found putting Anna Karenin's name as the title a little of off-putting. Anna's presence is central to the fibre of the novel and the theme of relationships in the story. Her position in a society which places conformity and appearances as paramount renders empathy from the reader. Still, I found her to be a difficult character to relate to. (view spoiler)[When she gradually descends into insanity, it was a little too late for myself, as a reader to worry about her inevitable death. (hide spoiler)]
I've never read anything quite like it though. I've never read a book where relationships and the dynamics of family life is surgically dissected so beautifully. The way which Tolstoy structured his narrative brings additional layers to the already complex and colourful plot points, as in the case of example, the way Tolstoy added extra layers to Vronsky's horse race and the reactions of the characters built around this single plot point. There are plenty more examples.
I did not come to conclusions at the end of the novel. I did not condemn or condone the decisions of Anna Karenin, her husband, Levin or Oblonsky, though I am able to respect them despite the dire consequences of some. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I thought about writing to Paul Rusesabagina after I read his book, not exactly sure what to say or what to tell him. I've found out later that he recI thought about writing to Paul Rusesabagina after I read his book, not exactly sure what to say or what to tell him. I've found out later that he receives thousands of email per day. Whether this is his version of a "Rwandan no" to block off potential suitors via his emails, or whether the four digits implied in this comment is a matter of fact, I can't be sure. But I will send him an email anyway.
I remember a saying from a movie, in an attempt to differentiate between fact and fiction. Well, it says, "Fiction is to make sense". Fact, well fact, just sometimes doesn't. It is naive to think that you'd read a book, curious about the context, but ultimately seeking answers, especially when the questions are why. The author himself struggles to find the reasons, despite being in the epicenter of the genocide, to explain why the genocide happened. But I did pick up the book partly for that reason. In hindsight, it is like trying to be a jury for a cold case, absurd and futile in itself.
I haven't really had the flavor for genocides, on the contrary. But I was born in a country where mass murders were covered up; and I live in Cambodia, where in just over three years, the Khmer Rouge brought fourteen centuries of development to a halt and back to null. I came to Cambodia in the first place to see how people live after something like that, trying to play my role as a defunct jury, and obviously came up inconclusive. Those I talked to who lived through the genocide talk about the events somberly, but they have other things to concern themselves with, such as family and food.
No, none of it really makes sense. And if you're looking for answers you will come out disappointed. It really is about the things in between that counted during the times of genocide: the attitude of common people, the temperance of murderers and ultimately, the actions of survivors.
I admire Paul because of his intentions of saving lives, but I admire him most for the grit he applies towards his principles, especially in relation to his work: In the end of the day, he was a man doing his job -"That was (his) greatest and only pride in the matter". Paul sits on the opposite side of the morality spectrum from Hannah Arendt's Adolf Eichmann, who justified that he was just doing his job in planning the logistics for the murders of millions of Jews.
It was years of driving a taxi in Belgium before his story spread to the appropriate audience, ten years too late. But in those years spent in humility, he rose above the level of the typical hero, quietly celebrated and mute. It is better to be a good man than a great man, as great men come a dime a dozen, but good men, if you're lucky, you'd only meet a handful in your life. The title is appropriate, regardless of irony or false humility it may carry with it....more