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Things That Can and Cannot Be Said

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  1,009 ratings  ·  157 reviews
An account of the extraordinary meeting between four brilliant political activists: Booker Prize winner Arundhati Roy, NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden, Pentagon Papers insider Daniel Ellsberg and acclaimed actor John Cusack

'What sort of love is this love that we have for countries? What sort of country is it that will ever live up to our dreams? What sort of dreams were
Paperback, 128 pages
Published October 6th 2016 by Penguin (first published August 5th 2016)
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3.70  · 
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 ·  1,009 ratings  ·  157 reviews

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May 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
Compelling and urgent, Things That Can and Cannot Be Said critiques the surveillance state and considers the dangers of perpetual imperialist war. The work gathers together a series of sharp conversations between actor John Cusack, intellectual Arundhati Roy, activist Edward Snowden, and Daniel Ellsberg, leaker of the Pentagon Papers. The four met in Russia in the aftermath of Snowden’s whistleblowing, and discussed everything from the atrocities committed in Vietnam to the insidious threat NGOs ...more
Dec 25, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Let me stipulate from the beginning of this review that my objection to it is not because I disagree with the politics of the authors or the two other participants in their discussions: Daniel Ellsberg and Edward Snowden. Debates about the advisability or legality of Snowden's actions, in particular, are grist for a different mill.

No, what annoys me about this slender volume is the smug, self-congratulatory voice in which it is written, as if these precious intellectuals have a corner on the mar
Sep 16, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
courtesy: Outlook
4 renegades (3.5, if you please) assemble in a hotel room to talk about war, greed, terrorism, basically all those things that make you anti-national.
The build-up to the conversation was brilliant. But, the conversation itself, well….. how should I put it…..leaves you keep wanting.
As Ms. Roy put it, "what mattered, perhaps even more than what was said, was the spirit in the room."
courtesy: Guardian
How I wish I were there in that room. As a lamp post, perhaps. Darn! Doesn't he stand against the idea of surveillan
Jan 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book just blew my mind. Never thought of the government in this way.
Jun 24, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Want to read more by Arundhati Roy, but maybe next time she could talk to Noam Chomsky (for example) instead of John Cusack? I mean, I was slightly obsessed with John Cusack for a significant subset of the years between 1989 and 2005, and he's not a dummy. But he doesn't quite have the chops for this conversation.
Jen from Quebec :0)
This book was great and I wanted it to be longer! John Cusack and journalist/author Arundhati Roy travel to Moscow and meet with Edward Snowden and also to London to meet with Julian Assange. The book is just composites of their conversations as they discuss things like refugee crises, patriotism, nuclear war, the surveillance state, etc. It is just TOO SHORT though and I felt like there could have been more meat on these bones, if you know what I mean. They were unable to record the conversatio ...more
Cristina Ana
Sep 29, 2017 rated it liked it
Ahem, I have mixed feelings about this book. I absolutely love Roy, have a lot of respect for Ellsberg, mixed feelings for Snowden (and this book doesn't change them to the better or worse as his input is modest, although he serves as the pretext for the book), and nothing at all (perhaps just some curiosity) for John Cusack, I do think his sister is brilliant, though.

There are limits to such transcript-books, of course, and I guess some of the eyebrow raising paragraphs the book generously pr
Nikhil Kumar
Aug 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In a world of capitalism, mass surveillance and perpetual warfare, we often give into the common narratives perpetuated by the state and its puppets. ‘The Things That Can And Cannot Be Said’ challenges every aspect of the normal public discourse.

Who defines what can be said? Who defines normal? The most powerful, the most dominant people in society, the powers that be – most importantly, the state. ‘Many acts that are termed extreme go beyond what we currently define as normal, the status quo an
Oct 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Required reading; for someone not versed much in international politics or history, it lays bare some of the tidy assumptions I had about nation states and how they inevitably wield power. Short version: It's not pretty.

One of those books that opens up a whole new way of thinking...exhilarating to feel that much closer to the truth, humbled by being able to see what you did not know before.

This book's closing sections on nuclear weapons were particularly hard-hitting for me - as an Air Force off
Nov 23, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
“Things that Can and Cannot Be Said” by John Cusack and Arundhati Roy is one of the most disappointing things I have ever read. I think many of the ideas brought up in the text are worth discussing. But it a paranoid, self-congratulatory, shallow, and ultimately futile work that promises much but is at heart “all sound and fury, signifying nothing”

The book is essentially a series of essays built around an “extraordinary” meeting between Cusack (an American actor), Arundhati Roy (an Indian autho
Ryan Mishap
Oct 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Did you know John Cusack was an ardent activist from a long line of lefty agitators? Well, you certainly know that Arundhati Roy is one of the most fierce, intelligent, and compassionate people on the planet, right? Oh, and they went to hang out with Daniel Ellsberg and Edward Snowden in Russia.

If that ain't enough to intrigue, I must therefore harangue you into reading this accessible, deadly collection of conversations and thoughts.

Consider yourself harangued. Go read now.

It's short--I read it
Chavelli Sulikowska
Thought provoking and entirely relevant little read. An eclectic but brilliant collection of bright minds talking honestly on the most critical social, political and moral topics of our time. Thanks Arundhati and John for talking about all the things that cannot be said that should be said.
Mrinalini Dayal
Oct 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I forgot how much I enjoy Roy's writing.
Aug 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Who comes out smelling sweet in the atrocity analysis? States have invested themselves with the right to legitimize violence—so who gets criminalized and delegitimized? Only—or well that’s excessive—usually, the resistance.
JC: So the term human rights can take the oxygen out of justice?
AR: Human rights takes history out of justice.
JC: Justice always has context . . .
AR: I sound as though I’m trashing human rights . . . I’m not. All I’m saying is that the idea of justice—even just dreaming of jus
Chittajit Mitra
Jun 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book starts with a chapter where John Cusack is the narrator & he imagines a conversation between Daniel Ellsberg, Edward Snowden & Arundhati Roy whom he had met several times in the past. John Cusack recorded several discussions of theirs which helps him to pen down some of the talks. They discussed about patriotism, flags, capitalism, surveillance & the brave acts of Mr. Snowden & Mr. Ellsberg to stand up for the right thing. One fine day John Cusack planned to meet Snowden ...more
Mar 11, 2017 rated it did not like it
Arundhati Roy's powerful critique of the world order is often engaging and challenging. I don't always (or often) agree but it's important to read things by authors that challenge your perspective. But this book... Ugh, the presentation of this book - and Cusack's sycophantic responses to what she's saying, even when it's absurd, just made my skin crawl. It made me long for president Trump to start on the book-burnings as soon as possible, and that's not a feeling I want to have, so I stopped re ...more
Interesting, observant, evidently good for culling quotes and slapping sticky notes onto poignant passages. Not incredibly expansive, though I certainly learned new things. In short, an unexpected motley of intellectuals hammering out thoughtful examinations on nationalism, surveillance, whistle-blowing, capitalist rebranding, NGO-ization, etc.; though John Cusack's presence seemed mostly like a perfect avenue for him to drop punctual, screenplay-worthy quips on stately affairs rather than to fo ...more
Camille McCarthy
The by-line on Goodreads is very misleading - it's actually by Arundhati Roy AND John Cusack, and it's about a trip they took with Daniel Ellsburg (who leaked the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War) to visit Edward Snowden in Russia. It is a very short but very personal book, mostly containing transcriptions of conversations between Roy and Cusack. It is very deep and the information is conveyed in conversations, so it is very accessible. I really liked intimacy of the book.
Peter Abolins
Apr 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I personally liked this book, and would recommend it to anyone who is open to the idea that "everything is not what it seems".

A lot of different thoughts are covered, and while not all of the thoughts are nicely wrapped up with a socially accepted conclusion, you are definitely left thinking that even if the world is currently a mess, there are at least some people who recognize that and are prepared to voice their concerns.
Jan 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Cusack and Roy are excellent. I'm going to keep this near me so as to re-read at every opportunity. There is so much insightful commentary in every section, from both the authors and Daniel Ellsberg and Edward Snowden are amazing to 'meet' in the flesh, as such.
Jul 12, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
Most of us are more familiar with seeing John Cusack on the movie screen (whether as actor or as credited director) as opposed to seeing him on the political scene. In Things That Can and Cannot Be Said: Essays and Conversations, he has accomplished something intriguing—a conversation between Daniel Ellsberg, leaker of the Pentagon Papers, and Edward Snowden, exiled leaker of NSA strategies, moderated by radical activist writer Arundhati Roy and himself.

I find myself very much in sympathy with
Jessica Jin
Cool concept, half baked, kinda smug.
Want to read more from Arundhati Roy. She carried this text and Cusack was really only there for her to bounce ideas off of. I can already tell she's gonna radicalize my ass.
Roy has really fresh and foreboding views on modern humanitarianism and NGOs and borders and power. I'm afraid of the hopeless cynic I might become as I read more of her work but I'm going to read it anyway.
These two flew all the way to Moscow to chat with Ed Snowden and Daniel Ellsberg
A fascinating and engaging recount of conversations between Arundhati Roy, John Cusack, Daniel Ellsberg and Edward Snowden at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Moscow, about the state of the fucked-up world we live in. And to add insult-to-injury and rub salt into the wound Donald Trump is president of the UnitedStatesofuckingAmerika. I am glad that Roy forsook practicing architecture and writes.
Hoda Marmar
Nov 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
4 stars for the things that should be said and were said, and looking forward to hopefully hear about the other stuff that weren't said in these recordings.
Teresa Hjellming
Jan 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fast read. Barely tips a toe in but still thought provoking.
Wade Arthur
Aug 06, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2018
Little new information here for me, but it's fun to eavesdrop on a conversation between three earnest and inspiring people (and John Cusack, who is fine).
Bineydeep Singh
Jun 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The kind of situation we have in India in the year 2018, don't think many people will like the book. in fact, people consider Roy a villain already. but having said that, it's an amazing book to read, gives a good perspective to things all over the world.
Megha Sreeram
Basically this is an account of the dialogs, the exchanges between Ms. Roy, Mr. Cussack, Mr. Snowden etc.

There is considerably less about the internet surveillance and about the ethical and moral parts of it. There is just too much of Ms. Roys take on what India is and what it should have been, which is at times deplorable to read.

I would personally would have loved to read more about Mr. Snowden and Mr. Assange.

A disappointing read.
Randall Wallace
Dec 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Re: Iraq: “Is it alright to force a country to disarm and then bomb it? …Your short-term gains are the world’s long term disasters.” Women in Afghanistan were free, they studied, they were doctors and surgeons and then the US funded the Mujahideen and that led directly to the Taliban. Educated Afghani women know what the US did to them. In India, you can talk about Palestine but you can’t talk about Kashmir. “In Kashmir, for years they have monitored every phone call, every e-mail, every Faceboo ...more
Natasha Samani
Jun 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Let me start this saying that I love John Cusack. I might have watched the movie Serendipity so many times that I may know the lines by heart.
If John Cusacks character in Serendipity or High Fidelity was a real person who I knew I would have married him. Plus he lived in Chicago and I also lived in Chicago….I lived in LA and so did he…. it’s just too perfect. If only he could notice me….
A couple of day’s ago Arundhati Roy was trending on Twitter which reminded me to preorder her new book “The M
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