Stephanie's Reviews > My Revolutions

My Revolutions by Hari Kunzru
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's review
Mar 05, 2008

really liked it
Read in March, 2008

** spoiler alert ** An apparently well-researched novel about an activist/ "terrorist" from the late 60s/early 70s who disappears right before the implosion/decimation of his group, assumes a new identity, and tries to live a "normal" life -- until his past catches up with him in the form of a filmmaker-turned-informant/behind-the-scenes fixer.

While Hari Kunzru's portrait of Chris Carver/Michael Frame is not entirely sympathetic, it engages the reader to understand how one becomes moved to commit terrorist acts in the service of greater ideals. Although it helps to have some understanding of the underlying political rhetoric and of how revolutionary and activist groups of the time functioned, it's not necessary to the understanding of the novel. While it is sited in a particular history moment, its relevance is all-too-current -- global terrorism in the service of political or ideological or religious motives (the book actually connects a group that had started as an anti-war, anti-establishment cell with a Palestinian liberation organization, who trains, funds, and starts to direct the activities of the remaining group members). Domestically, there are still acts like this -- I'm thinking most specifically of environmental or animal-rights "terrorists". The major difference is that it is no longer part of a larger movement - and the overall zeitgeist & political spirit is no longer in the place to foster this wide-spread movement.

The book addresses this as well -- what happens "after" the revolution? The main character basically gets out before he can be killed - and then struggles for years to reintegrate into society (via a long detour through Asia and a number of years in Thailand). Michael Frame rather limps along, seemingly sapped of ambition and a meaningful way to connect to the world. I found myself feeling rather sad for him at the end, even with a viewpoint of someone who wasn't born until the height of this kind of political activity - thus, seeing that, in some ways, it definitely didn't pan out as intended (certainly not in the revolutionary aspect). I think that the distinction is made between the really radical /terrorist groups and the on-the-ground activists -- the latter who were the ones to effect social and political change (but these aren't really the people or the kind of change that is portrayed in the book, except in brief comparison).

Overall, an engaging and thought-provoking read.
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