Very short one sentence to one-page stories that sometimes obliquely refer to God. Mostly mocking and in an incomplete way, the passages often fall flVery short one sentence to one-page stories that sometimes obliquely refer to God. Mostly mocking and in an incomplete way, the passages often fall flat. One could make a comparison to On a Winter's Night a Traveler, but not as clever nor as long. It also reminds me of the book 420 which was a series of stories set to the character limit of a Facebook post. The stories are very flat and obtuse. There are some stories that shine, but not to make up for the ones that do not....more
We often turn to fiction in order to process our present. Writers sometimes provide a slightly fictional account of their lives to process their thougWe often turn to fiction in order to process our present. Writers sometimes provide a slightly fictional account of their lives to process their thoughts which later become best-selling memoirs in their own stead. Winterson's Orange is not the Only Fruit became Why Be Happy When you Can be Normal. For Hisham Matar, his Anatomy of a Disappearance becomes The Return. Hisham Matar has been dealing with the ghost of his father. A dissident of Libya residing in Cairo he was kidnapped by the Libyan government. Matar would spend most of his adult life attempting to find his fate while fighting the Libyan government. One would think that this book details the father's return, instead, it deals with Matar's return from his search. The mental and physical energy it takes to search for someone who has been "disappeared" in a dictatorship takes a heavy toll. Matar's return is his acceptance.
A Libyan dissident, Jaballa Matar was arrested by the Egyptian government and turned over to Qaddafi. His whereabouts were unknown. Matar knew he was in prison and would only get a desperate message and at high risk. When he loses contact the situation turns into an obsession. What happened to his father? Matar would spend over twenty years trying to find him. With the fall of the Qaddafi regime, he gets no resolution. In the end, he must accept the inevitable without any proof of what happened.
While there are many specific examples of the horrors of the Qaddafi machine and those countries that aided him in return for oil, it is Matar's obsession that drives the book. His persistence over the years becomes an obsession leading to two bestselling novels. His constant vigil becomes a thorn in the side of the regime and those who would aid them. However, the most moving part of the entire work is on the contemplation on fathers. His fiction is filled with these ideas and concepts as well. "...no matter how hard we try we can never entirely know our fathers."
With every passing day the father journeys further into his night, deeper into the fog, leaving behind remnants of himself and the monumental yet obvious fact, at once frustrating and mercifully--for how else is the son to continue living if he must not also forget--that no matter how hard we try we can never entirely know our fathers. p. 88
The dead live with us. Grief is not a whodunit story, or a puzzle to solve, but an active and vibrant enterprise. It is hard, honest work. It can break your back. It is part of one's initiation into death and--I don't know why, I have no way of justifying that--it is a hopeful part of that. What is extraordinary is that, give everything that has happened, that natural alignment of the heart remains towards the light. p. 120...more
The fall of the Soviet Union was one of the biggest events in the 20th century. Without a nuclear war and without even a shot fired the world faced thThe fall of the Soviet Union was one of the biggest events in the 20th century. Without a nuclear war and without even a shot fired the world faced the end of the Cold War. It was the end of the "Evil Empire".
Russians saw this even differently. It was both freedom to break away from communism and oppression. Yet. at the same time, it was a loss of power. Not only would the Soviet Union no longer be a force to fear, individuals who so longed for their freedom saw immediate negative repercussions. Capitalism was an unwelcome bewilderment. The people went from a broken state controlled predictably to the glitz and glam of capitalism. If one didn't keep up, one was taken advantage of by any number of people. It led to most of the country being unhappy. They gave up what they had to something they perceived as worse.
Many would want to go back to the previous times. For every person who had a gulag story, there were those who want to go back to the power and the predictable. As the author states in the forward, many young men and women walked around with Lenin and Communism t-shirts. Do they even know what that means?
Second-Hand time is Svetlana Alexievich's oral history of the Fall of the Soviet Union. It is perfectly timed as rumblings from Russia would indicate a second Cold(ish) War. While most celebrated the end of the totalitarianism, they immediate suffered in the collapse. Putin is someone too many have idolized to bring them back to their former glory. However, in that glory is rattling sabers. This is an excellent examination of what happened and how we got to the present state of things. A required read to connect current events.
"I recently saw some young men in T-shirts with hammers and sickles and portraits of Lenin on them. Do they know what communism is?" p.11
Brother informed on brother, neighbor on neighbor...because they'd gotten into an argument about their vegetable patch, or over a room in the communal apartment...That was enough. On one hand, the system was butchering people, but on the other hand, the people didn't show one another much mercy, either. p. 256...more
The story of Patty Hearst has been told many times over. Her story became both parts fear and obsession by a society undergoing change. How could a yoThe story of Patty Hearst has been told many times over. Her story became both parts fear and obsession by a society undergoing change. How could a young woman born from one of the wealthiest and most prominent families in the United States be kidnapped and brainwashed into the SLA?
Jeffrey Toobin attempts a retelling of the story. It is a daunting task as much of this information is readily available. He even competes with a feature film from Hearst's autobiography. However, it isn't the retelling of the Patty Hearst story that makes the work compelling, it is the societal context that moves the narrative. His two angles are the works of one of the surviving SLA members which were never published. His other angle is the juxtaposition of the violence of the 1970s crushing the hopes of the 1960s. The extra material doesn't create any more in-depth of a story, but the second angle provides a great context in the upheaval of today.
There is also a good deal of subtext in the work in regard to Patty Hearst. She didn't cooperate for this book and it would seem that Toobin took issue with this. Her jail letters to her lover at the time (which is new information) are not any more revealing than other material. Some of the supposition into her life before the kidnapping seem a little mean. He infers that she didn't want to be a housewife and in spite of the kidnapping and her involvement with the SLA, that's exactly what she became. That seemed unnecessary.
What can we learn from this other era? Toobin gives a great backdrop of society leading into this moment. He pinpoints the change from a changing society to a closed society. One can see things change from Johnson's Great Society to Reagan's War on Drugs in this book. The kidnapping of Patty Hearst put an end to public sympathy to far left-wing paramilitary causes....more
This will go down as one of my favorites on language, translation, and writing. Using an unorthodox style, Zambra has recreated his book as an exam. HThis will go down as one of my favorites on language, translation, and writing. Using an unorthodox style, Zambra has recreated his book as an exam. He demonstrates the fluidity of language. Through repetition, we see words in a different way as they take on new meanings. It is a combination of poetry and creative writing. The secret is in the reading. It makes sense the slower you read and let it wash over you. However, it certainly is not a book for those who have test anxiety.
Zambra's work starts off innocent enough. Multiple choice answers to questions with the true poetry in word association. Next, there are short stories that focus on familiar Zambra themes. Themes of fathers, being a family man, and the Pinochet dictatorship becomes the focus. It becomes an examination of what you can add and take away as a writer. Does it mean the same thing or does that slight pivot alter it significantly?
This work reminds me a great deal of Javier Marias' A Heart So White, in that it examines the nature of language and meaning. How a translator can struggle with just the right word is the same as the writer attempting to express a feeling. A wonderfully disjointed book that focuses on the power of the writer.
You wonder if you deserve to be hated. You wonder if anyone really hates you. You wonder if you hate anyone. You wonder if you hate the people who hate you. Insomnia wounds and accompanies you. P 20
When you were a kid, you were in love with silence. Later, you wanted words to flood you, sink you. P23