Where do I begin with this book? It felt like it had quite a bit to say but it wasn't fully realized. Based on the premise, it is a lot to chew on. Th...moreWhere do I begin with this book? It felt like it had quite a bit to say but it wasn't fully realized. Based on the premise, it is a lot to chew on. The preface starts off with: "The Western world is increasingly witnessing threats from Islamic jihadists." Arguing that there are two phenomenas, one in Europe and one in America, both of which are distict from one another emerging from the 'social fabric' occuring in these two countries. From these troubling extremities, he goes on to say, "a minority of converted people have built up a lot of anger inside them towards society. It is then easy for extremist elements in Muslim society to convert such people from the moderate version of Islam to the radical version, leading to destruction of self and of society." At this point my interest was peaked. There are many stories out there of people being pushed to the edge, individuals being impoverished, and people who are limited in their ability to attain the bare necessities of life which drive them to extreme measures. It was at the end of the preface that I was looking forward to knowing about the story of such a peoples... to know the underlying nature of what drives people to their extremes, in particular the Islamic jihadists. Read More(less)
Humbert Humber is one twisted character. He is a master at teasing, manipulating, hiding and maneuvering to get his way. His obsession with young girl...moreHumbert Humber is one twisted character. He is a master at teasing, manipulating, hiding and maneuvering to get his way. His obsession with young girls is both erotically maniacal and perverse. Nymphets, he calls them.
Herein concludes my two Jules Verne novels for the Book that made me Love Reading Challenge: the first was last month's T...moreA Gone Bookserk Perspective
Herein concludes my two Jules Verne novels for the Book that made me Love Reading Challenge: the first was last month's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and this month's is Around the World in 80 Days.
Briefly, I want to say that I was slightly disappointed with re-reading Twenty Leagues Under the Sea. I felt as if the book was nothing like I had remembered it, whereas Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne is much more representative of my childhood memory. It's almost just like I remembered it, and more.
When I was younger I remember this book had an impact on me for the mere reason of its premise. Around the world in eighty days, I mean 'WOW!' I think I was a big dreamer when I was younger. I would have liked to travel everywhere. After all, my brother had traveled, my father had traveled, my sister had taken excursions with her classmates, so I figured I would some day travel, too. I do remember a vague memory of a ski-resort trip, but I think my dreams were more drawn out to be like the journey in Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days. London. Bombay. Hong Kong. Yokohama. San Francisco and New York.
I really believe there are no coincidences in life, just signs that you're on the right path. Although I didn't know it at the time, I think these two books (especially ARin80D's) by Jules Verne were a sign that I would end up doing one of my undergraduate degrees in Anthropology (the study of human culture). I believe, even further, it was a minutiae of my life that led me to where I am today. I am fascinated with learning about foreign places, cultures, and human relations in general. So it's no wonder I think that I was drawn towards this book from an early age.
At that age, though, how much did I really know of this book, and its impact on me? I have a very vivid recollection of the journey to different countries that Phileas Fogg embarks on. My father was the influential factor in me knowing this book and reading it. In fact, he read part of it to me at some point in time. He used to tell me that one day we would live in America, and I would go to school there. That's actually what happened, but I remember it so clearly because of the passion attached to this book, from both my father and I.
Now, that I have re-read this book again after more than a decade, I have to say it is just as I remember it. The tone, the setting, and the ambition of attaining something everyone else believes an impossibility (something my father said about how others thought it was impossible we would ever reach America) are the same elements I remember as a child. But to me now, this book is so much more, above and beyond what I remember as a child. I have a more depth-ful perspective of it. It is one of my favorite books of all time. I will be reading this again in my lifetime, definitely.
Some things I really want to mention about the book, that I feel need to be recorded. I want to say a few things about Philea Fogg's character. He is introduced in the following manner:
"exactitude personified... He was exact the he was never in hurry, was always ready, and was economical alike of his steps and his motions. He never took one step too many, and always went to his destination by the shortest cut; he made no superfluous gestures, and was never seen to be moved or agitated. He was the most deliberate person in the world, yet always reached his destination at the exact moment.
He lived alone, and so to speak, outside of every social relation; and as he knew that in this world account must be taken of friction, and that friction retards, he never rubbed against anybody."
To see his character unfold is one of the most wonderful experiences of this books, aside from his adventures and obstacles he is faced with as he travels. Much of his character stays true to these two statements, but there is one twist at the end that makes the ending all worth-while. Which brings me to my second point.
Another wonderful element to this book, is the splash of romance and love. Phileas Fogg "would not have attained as much from worldly accomplishments, as he does from finding lasting love with charming Aouda." It is through his relation with Aouda that we see the real Philea Fogg much more than words can say, and it makes you wonder as to the nature of the spirit and its tendency to reach out for love as much as it is unaccustomed to, even. When that occurs, if we allow ourselves to the experience, as foreign as it may be to us, and we find the will to embrace it and cherish it, chances are that it will reward us much more than any worldly treasures, adventures, or curiosities.
I'm so happy I decided to re-read this old childhood favorite. I want to say that you must read this. It is an easy, comfortable, pleasant, and entertaining read.
Just like with many other books I have now read, this was one book I have been wanting to pick up and read many times bef...moreA Gone Bookserk Perspective.
Just like with many other books I have now read, this was one book I have been wanting to pick up and read many times before. I remember having started it a few times before, but I never had enough dedication to it to finish it. I'm beginning to see that with every book there is a particular timing, and the time for me to read 'Siddhartha' was now, or I should say a few days ago.
I really believe 'Siddhartha' is one of those literary novels with which you have to feel a sense of personal relationship to it order to really understand and even feel what Hermann Hesse was trying to translate through the words. 'Siddhartha' appealed to me because of the theme of the individual to find his or her inner peace through the Zen tradition. This is what the introduction to the book says about Zen tradition:
'Zen tradition, depicts the stages of the path to enlightenment. The process begins with a man searching for an ox, symbolizing the practitioner trying to get a hand on his awareness. After a long time the man finds the ox's footprints, next he glimpses the animal, finally catches it, tames it, and is able to ride it home. Since the practitioner has now at last become one with his awareness, in the seventh picture the ox disappears; in the eighth the man disappears (ego is gone), and the picture is empty. In the ninth, emptiness disappears-again there are phenomena, appearing brilliant and clear without the projections of ego. In the tenth picture, the man reappears, a nondescript old fellow heading for the market place on foot; he drinks at the sake shop, he bargains, he gossips, and whomever encounters him experiences awakening.'
I think the concept of zen, spiritual enlightening and awakening, has begun to be the center of some people lives just as for me. This book offers an optimistic, yet scrutinized, feel for the hope of liberation. I feel a connection to this book because it is pure artistry with depthful honesty about the human spirit and the individual's search for inner peace and self-realization amongst stormy confusion and doubt.
Siddhartha undergoes a series of transformative experiences and it is this journey through life, in his own fashion, that brings him to know who he truly is and what he truly needs to know for himself. He begins his journey with the acknowledgment that against all the wisdom he has been offered from his father and his teachers, he still finds his 'vessel was not full, his mind was not satisfied, his soul was not at peace, his heart was not content.' And he asks the FIRST, and MOST important question of the journey. 'But what good did it do to know all these things if one did not know the one and only, the most important thing, the only important thing?' He's referring to the inner self, his own self, who is 'Siddhartha?' His first realization, the reason why the question is so important, becomes really explicit when he says the following. 'This is what had to be found-the primordial spring into one's self; one had to become master of that! Anything else was a vain quest, false direction, a misunderstanding.' I really felt the words echo through me when I read this.
So he embarks on this journey, on his own, to experience and discover for himself, his own true self apart from his father's and his teacher's wisdom and knowledge. He enters into the 'other' world with fresh eyes but with a natural presumption of the 'other' world even before experiencing it. 'He saw merchants bargaining, princes going off to the hunt, grief-stricken people mourning their dead, prostitutes offering their bodies, doctors working over the sick, priests determining the day of sowing, lovers making love, mothers nursing their babies - and none of it was worthy of his glance. It was all a lie, it all stank, it was all putrid with lies. Everything pretended to meaning and happiness and beauty, but it was all only putrescence and decay. The taste of the world was bitter. Life was pain. Siddhartha had one single goal before him - to become empty, empty of thirst, empty of desire, empty of dreams, empty of joy and sorrow. To die away from himself, to no longer be 'I,' to find the peace of an empty heart, to open to wonder within the egoless mind-that was his goal. When every bit of ego was overcome and dead, when in his heart all cravings and compulsions had been stilled, then the ultimate must awaken, that innermost essence in one's being that is no longer ego, the great mystery.'
Only to later immerse himself into the 'other' world and discover he has become one of them in turn. 'Everything was hard, and in the end, hopeless, when I was shramana. Now everything is easy, easy like the kissing lesson that Kamala gave me. I need clothes and money, and that is all. Those are trivial, easily fulfilled goals, nothing worth losing sleep over.'
As time passes, as he is one of the 'other' people he finds himself going through a transformation from envy to sickness of the 'other' world. 'He envied them for the one thing he still lacked and they possessed-the sense of importance they were able to attach to their lives, the ardor of their joys and fears, the timorous but sweet happiness of their eternal passion. These people were perpetually in love with themselves, with women, with their children, with honor or money, with their plans and hopes.' 'He began even more often, on mornings following an event with people, to stay in bed for a long time feeling stupid and spent. He began to be irritable and impatient when Kamaswami bored him with his troubles. He began to laugh overload when he lost at dice. His face was still more intelligent and more spiritual than others, but it seldom laughed and it took on one after another those qualities one finds so often in the faces of the rich-discontent, petulance, ill temper, lethargy, lovelessness. Gradually the soul sickness of the rich was taking him over.'
He has now traveled full circle from his own world to the world of 'others;' he now has a comparison of what he had, what he attained in opposition, and what he no longer has a result. It's like that saying goes, 'light does not exist without dark.' 'Fasting, waiting, and thinking. This had been his wealth, his power and strength, his trusty staff; in the diligent, hardworking years of his youth he had learned these three skills-nothing else. And now they had abandoned him, none of them belonged to him anymore-neither fasting, nor waiting, nor thinking. He had given them away in exchange for the most miserable pittance, the most impermanent of things: sensual pleasure, comfort, and wealth!.'.... 'he had become one of the child people.... I stand once again under the sun as I stood as a child-I have nothing, I know nothing, I have no abilities, I have learned nothing. How strange!.'
It is at this point that he starts to understand the power of 'experience' over words and wisdom, only through this step in life is he able to begin his journey. 'I had to pass through so much ignorance, so much vice, such great misunderstanding, so much revulsion and dissapointment and misery-just to become a child again and start over.'
All through this journey of his life to attain some sort of inner peace and wisdom about his own self, Siddhartha teaches us also about the concept of learning. What is learning? Does learning really exist? Siddhartha says there is not such thing as learning, but life is more about coming to know what is already there in all of us, and we disguise that in the ego form of learning.
Siddhartha also talks about escapism. While talking with his friend Govinda, they have this intricate conversation about how the art of zen is just as much escapism as someone drinking their hearts and minds out of their world. But is there really a difference? Siddhartha says that even if the drunkard has not gained anything after he awakes from his escape, he as well through his 'practice of austerirites and meditative absorptions I find only a transitory numbness and remain just as far from wisdom and liberation.'
And as for nirvana? Siddhartha says 'O Govinda, I think of all the shramanas who exist, there is perhaps not one who will attain nirvana. We find consolation, we find a deadening, we learn skills that we use to deceive ourselves. Be we are not finding the essential, the paths of paths.'
It is only through his experiences that he truly finds some things to be sure of. Has he attained nirvana? Has he 'learned' anything? Does he know his true self? Has he reached a point of zen, a point of inner peace? I don't really know. He talks about three things he knows for sure, towards the end of the book. I felt his words resonate through me so maybe there is some universal truth to them.
'A truth can be expressed and cloaked in words only if it is one-sided. Everything that can thought in thoughts and expressed in words is one-sided, only a half. All such thoughts lack wholeness, fullness, unity. When the venerable Gotama taught and spoke of the world, he had to divide it into samsara and nirvana, deception and truth, suffering and liberation. There is no other possibility, no other way for those who would teach. But the world itself, existence around us and within us, is never one-sided. Never is a person or an act wholly samsara or wholly nirvana; never is a person entirely holy or sinful. That only appears to be the case because we are in the grips of the illusion that time is real. Time is not real, Govinda, I have experienced this many, many times. And if time is not real, the the gap that seems to exist between the world and eternity, between suffering and bliss, between good and evil, is also an illusion.'
'The sinner that I am and you are is indeed a sinner, but in time he will again be Brahma, in time he will attain nirvana, be a buddha. But see here, this 'in time' is an illusion, only a metaphor. The sinner is not on the path to buddha-hood, he is not caught up in a process, even though our intellect knows no other way of representing things. No, the future buddha is present here and now within the sinner, his future is entirely there already. You must venerate the developing, potential, hidden buddha in him, in yourself, in everyone. The world, my friend Govinda, is not imperfect or confined to a point somewhere along a gradual pathway towards perfection. No, it is perfect at every moment. Every sin already contains grace within it, all little children already have an old person in them, every infant has death within it, and all dying people have with them eternal life. It is not possible for any person to see in another how far along the way he is.'
'The only thing of importance to me is being able to love the world, without looking down on it, without hating it, and myself-being able to regard it and myself and all beings with love, admiration, and reverence.' 'but this is just what the Exalted One recognized as a deception. He advocated goodwill, consideration, compassion, and tolerance, but not love. He forbade us to bind our hearts to anything earthly through love.' This is where Siddhartha warns Govinda to beware of the territory where it begins to be a jungle of opinions rather than what our true self knows. Siddhartha implies, that one must know for themselves, for their own true self, where they stand.
I first read this book when I was a junior in high school, aka. years ago. I remember reading this book at a very distinc...moreA Gone Bookserk Perspective
I first read this book when I was a junior in high school, aka. years ago. I remember reading this book at a very distinct point in my life. I was trying to figure out the direction of my life and what I wanted to do for the years to come. From then on this book has resurfaced at distinct moments like that, when chances required me to have the right perspective and The Alchemist helped me do that. Here's why. Because "To realize one's destiny is a person's only obligation."
The Alchemist is a book about the Legend we all must follow in our lives. "Whenever we do something that fills us with enthusiasm, we are following our legend." Along this path, Paulo Coelho says in The Alchemist, we're faced with four major obstacles: the thought of the impossible; the fear of abandonment by those we love; the thought of defeat we will meet on the path; and the actual fear of realizing our dream. It's these obstacles we must overcome to truly realize our 'legend.'
The Alchemist is also a book of wisdom. I never really understood this until recently. It's because it is a book of wisdom that I think I tended to gravitate towards it. At the pivotal moments in my life when The Alchemist would resurface I would find immense strength and courage from the wisdom of this book. Here are just a few of those pieces of thoughts.
"It's the simple things in life that make things interesting." "Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own." "that a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what's happenning to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That's the world's greatest life." "In order to find the treasure, you will have to follow the omens. God has prepared a path for everyone to follow. You just have to read the omens that he left for you." "The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world, and never to forget the drops of oil in the spoon." "It's only those who are persistent, and willing to study things, who acheive the Master Work." "Courage is the quality most essential to understanding the Language of the World." "You must love the desert, but never trust it completely. Because the desert tests all men; it challenges every step, and kills those who become distracted." "Most people see the world as a threatening place, and, because they do, the world turns out, indeed, to be a threatening place."
The Alchemist is one of those book that will guide you, be with you, and inspire you. One of my favorite books of all time!
One of the most striking features of this book is that you cannot put it down once you start it. It takes you in immediate...moreA Gone Bookserk Perspective
One of the most striking features of this book is that you cannot put it down once you start it. It takes you in immediately. As I was reading this book, I felt a profound bond to the underlying text of the story. The story itself is about post-WWII after-effects of the Nazi concentration camps intertwined with love and loss. The underlying text of the story, on the other hand, has much to do with every possible human element all of us encounter at one point or another in our lives. I cannot relate to the actual story in any way. I can, however, relate to almost all underlying elements that makes our human existence unravel.
This book is a journey of childhood, sickness, love, loss, mortal confusion, a sense of belonging, literacy, imprisonment and prosecution, family bonds, dignity and freedom, guilt and pride.... It is everything and anything you can possibly think of. It is one of the richest novels I have come across. It is not only the richest novels but also the most gray of novels. The author very often poses questions with no immediate answers. Questions arise because of so many gray areas. It is quite rare to read a page without at least one question on it. So not only do you find yourself in the richness of topics, but you also find yourself pondering about everything and anything. It is an active journey in every aspect of reading. It provokes you to be involved in the story while you are reading it as well as after you have finished reading, thinking of all the unanswered questions.
I was touched by this story. The character's lives intersect at a moment of vulnerability and compassion and it presents them with a lifelong setting for love, loss, and confusion. He finds himself transformed by a woman he barely knows. Their unexpected and inevitable departure from each other seems all the more a yearning to reach for each other. I found it so powerful that the two times their lives intersect happen merely by chance: the first because he gets sick in the alley, and the second time in the courtroom that he happens to in for his law school involvement. The Universe seems to bring them together and yet they could never work out. All of the dynamic interactions, together and apart, touch the very soul of the reader in really ambiguous ways. Their intersections were short-lived, but the impact they had on each other's hearts and souls lasted their whole entire lifetimes. Very powerful!. I was truly touched.
This is a book with so much wisdom, yet filled with so many unanswered questions. I recommend this book to anyone who's looking for more in life, who's reaching out to find more meaning to life, who's wondering whether they are alone in who they are and what they feel from their relationships with other people. It is truly a book that will enlighten you, a book that you'll forever cherish and will look back on for meaning and wisdom.
This friend of mine stood by me in a time of need when I reached out to her. She saw me go through a really vulnerable st...moreA Gone Bookserk Perspective
This friend of mine stood by me in a time of need when I reached out to her. She saw me go through a really vulnerable struggle. She recommended that I read "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini. I had seen this book around Starbucks when I would go get coffee from there. I always had the impression that it would be such a tragic story that I would probably not be able to stomach it. Nevertheless, I read this book because she suggested it to me. Since I know she's such a thoughtful and compassionate person, I thought the book would be a great read, she's recommending it, afterall! It turned out to be one of the best recommendations in my entire life.
This book has everything. A father-son relationship. A father-illegitimate son relationship. Rich-servant relationship. Good kids-bad kids relationship. It takes into account infidelity, death, loss, religion, lies, compassion, rape, redemption, childhood, marriage, war, poverty, prejudice, suicide, tragedy, humanity and even travel. I was so impressed about how well-rounded this book was and yet it was very specific in its context, about Afghanistan. I want to mention three things that touched me the most in this book: the triangle relationship between Hassan, Baba, and Amir, the portrayal of women, and redemption.
I think the most shocking of all moments in the book is when we find out that Baba has an illigitimate child, which we come to know as Hassan - the servants son supposedly. Hassan is best friends with Amir, Baba's real son, until a horrible event happens that tests their friendship and forever changes the course of their lives. I won't spoil the story. In the beginning of the book, though, Baba enlightens Amir about sins. He says: "Now, no matter what the mullah teaches, there is only one sin, only one. And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft." "When you kill a man, you steal a life," Baba said. "You steal his wife's right to a husband, robs his children of a father. When you tell a lie you steal someone's right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness. Do you see?" This part of the story here echoes through the book. A wise person always speaks from experience, never mistake it. I was wondering when I was reading this where it was all coming from, and then throughout the book you realize it's from personal experience. "A man who takes what's not his to take, be it a life or a loaf... God help him."
I find Baba to be a man of great character, who has his flaws but keeps it straight in his head. He's a man of honor, of truth. THEN, it turns out later in the book that he's had an affair with the servant's wife and had an illegitimate child, Hassan. He hides his truth from everyone and in the end commits what he believes to be the greatest of all sins. I was in disbelief. A man teaching his son about sins, but in the end he's committed the biggest of sins. I think that's what you call a hypocrite. Neither Amir, nor Hassan ever know this truth. Amir later finds out from a friend of the family, but Hassan dies before he has a chance to know. Despite this lie, Baba, is one of the best men I could know. He became someone respected by the community and kept his family together. He cherished his real son, and always kept his illegitimate son also very close, treating him as if he was his real son. One of the most profound moments is when he breaks down because Hassan is leaving the home. Having one son left, he does everything in his power to do right by him, even if the last thing he does is to make sure he marries appropriately. To say a little about Hassan and Amir. Hassan is one of the touching characters in the book. His humanity creeps up on you when you least expect it.
This child had so many adversities against him racially and otherwise that sometimes I was wondering how he ever went on. And then he dies in the most unjust and cruel of ways. I was really touched by his story. Amir on the other hand, led such a comfortable and protected life; I was even disgusted a little by his jealousy and betrayal on Hassan. But I understood him a little. I saw that he wanted to be the bright light in his father's eyes. I saw that all he wanted was to do what he loved, write. I saw that he just wanted to be at peace because he knew he wasn't strong enough to deal with the adversities. He's actions could have been better, but I understand how he did the best he could.
Now, to discuss a little bit about the women. You have Amir's mother who died giving birth to him. You have the servant's wife who has the child (Hassan) and then abandons the family without even holding her own child before leaving. Then you have Amir's wife who is one of the sweetest women in the book but has a dark secrete about her past, sexual relations with a boy out of marriage. When I was reading about these women, I realized more and more about how it is a man's world out there. It is a man's world! As women, we can do very little right. I had to admire Amir though, when he still decided to marry his wife even after he heard about the secret. It didn't sit well with him, but since he could relate, since he had a secret of his own, he could understand her and her wish to move beyond it. That's all I'll really say. That's all I can really say without judging since I am neither Muslim nor Afghanistani.
Redemption was one of the strongest themes of the book. The biggest story of redemption was that of Amir's. His family friend tells him he wants him to do one more favor for him. He asks him to go get his nephew from an orphanage, Hassan's son. Amir hesitates and declines. His family friend reminds him of what his father used to say about him. "A boy who won't stand up for himself becomes a man who can't stand up to anything." This fuels Amir to redeem himself for his father, but also for Hassan. He feels guilty for what has happened to Hassan, and he thinks that all of it wouldn't have happened if he would have just helped Hassan that night in the alley. I felt really touched by this redemption. It not only affected Amir, Hassan's son, and the people who had passed away, but it brought Amir's wife a son, a son they couldn't have and probably would have adopted anyway. So this redemption turned out bittersweet. Baba's redemption had a lot of character. I found it beautiful to see him do one great thing before he died, see his son get married appropriately and surely into a good family. Sasa's redemption (Hassan's mother) was also really profound. She had come back to them, and she looked immensely beaten down by life. But when Hassan accepted her into the household, she gave it her all for her nephew and for the family. It was beautiful.
This is really, one of my favorite books. Great novel!