Perhaps (probably), I'm to blame for not rating this higher. There's little plot and I wasn't in the mood this time. There were definitely some beautiPerhaps (probably), I'm to blame for not rating this higher. There's little plot and I wasn't in the mood this time. There were definitely some beautiful passages and sentences, and the quarrel with his niece was wonderfully shocking. It sort of reminded me of the psychological and philosophical musings of the great 19th century Russian writers. But, like Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, this just seems to be more of a political manifesto or a budding worldview. I think there should be a new category for these type of novels. That way I won't be forced to compare this with the type of literature I typically enjoy reading - plot or character driven. I read somewhere that Philip Roth loved this book because it seemed so "free" in style. In light of when it was published and the times, I get that and understand why he liked it. I'm trying to read Bellow's work in succession, so I won't let this scare me off. The sentences in this book are astounding, and I'm definitely interested to see what he does with a story or plot....more
It's mind boggling that this almost perfect novel was written by a 21 year-old Zadie Smith. This has to be the best thing ever written by someone undeIt's mind boggling that this almost perfect novel was written by a 21 year-old Zadie Smith. This has to be the best thing ever written by someone under 25. The only thing keeping it from being one of my favorites of all time is the lack of emotional depth and character development. I've read other reviewers make similar observations. I didn't really attach to the characters on an emotional level. The plot alludes to a climactic death in the end (which may or may not happen), but I found at the end it really didn't matter to me who may or may not die. I didn't necessarily root for the salvation of a single character. That said, I have to give this five stars based on the sheer accomplishment as a piece of art, a novel that brilliantly weaves history, culture, race, and gracefully reveals a neglected glimpse of everyday London and Londoners. The plot is exceptional and throughout the book I had to pause at the sheer genius of Smith. I can't wait to read her other works. ...more
“The causes of a revolution are usually sought in objective conditions - general poverty, oppression, scandalous abuses. But this view, while correct,“The causes of a revolution are usually sought in objective conditions - general poverty, oppression, scandalous abuses. But this view, while correct, is one-sided. After all, such conditions exist in a hundred countries, but revolutions erupt rarely. What is needed is the consciousness of poverty and the consciousness of oppression, and the conviction that poverty and oppression are not the natural order of this world.”
This is the story of the rise and fall of the last Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. But even more importantly, it’s the story of the people he subjugated and their eventual uprising.
Kapuściński, a Polish journalist, published much of this account in The New Yorker in 1985. His writing is comparable to Dostoyevsky or Kafka. His reportage isn’t linear. He goes beyond the simple observations and asks questions best answered by the human psyche. Here’s what we see, but what does it mean?
There’s bloodshed in the streets. There’s a throng of people willingly marching toward their destruction, but why? What lead them to this point? It can’t be oppression. They’ve been oppressed for years, so why now? Why today? Why not yesterday?
Kapuściński is a master at dissecting the psychological minutiae of the individual and collective. He shows how each person felt as a result of the great oppression by the Shah and how they began to gain confidence in groups and crowds, gathering steam in the safety and security of the mosques. He suggests that revolution never happens overnight, but that it’s the result of a leader’s final assault on the patience of his people.
I learned two major things from this book:
1. I had no idea the United States was so heavily involved and supportive of the last Shah and its military and infrastructure. The Shah’s military and secret henchman (Savak) terrorized the people to such a degree that no one could trust anyone and fear gripped the country. The people were not idiots. They knew who was supplying the Shah with weapons and power, and as a result, those that were oppressed naturally resented the U.S. and its involvement in their suffering. No wonder we were called the great satan. What a terrible diplomatic blunder.
2. Revolution Prevention 101. The Shah tried to use the country’s nationalization of oil (and exploited the global demand) to turn Iran into “The Great Civilization”, which he hoped would rival France and Great Britain and be the foremost power in the Middle East. The only problem was that he piped in all these plans with supplies and equipment, but didn’t know how to build it. Also, there was no infrastructure for learning, so the Shah had to import labor from all over the world to get things moving. Can you imagine? You’re already poor and oppressed, then your leader says he’s going to make everything better by turning the country into the greatest civilization and create jobs, but instead he just gets foreigners to come in and do it because it will take too much time to teach everyone else. This did not go over well.
My only problem with this book is that Kapuściński often uses depictions of daguerreotypes and stills to advance the narrative. You know how they say “a picture’s worth a thousand words”? Well, Kapuściński literally uses them. A part of me wishes I could’ve actually seen the photos he describes in so many words.
Kapuściński’s writing is also frequently overly flowery. This was translated from the Polish, so like poetry, this could’ve been a problem with the translation. Exact renderings sometimes don’t translate well.
Overall, I enjoyed his style and readiness to go against the journalistic grain. It peaked my interest enough to want to explore this topic and history further. ...more