Until just a few weeks ago, the only reason for why I read graphic novels now and then was because of people's constant recommendations about the beauUntil just a few weeks ago, the only reason for why I read graphic novels now and then was because of people's constant recommendations about the beauty and the value of those kinds of books. I will be honest; I am guilty of never believing those words. Most likely did I read graphic novels which didn't suit my personal tastes, but Art Spiegelman was capable of shattering my expectations and completely stunning me with the art of his writing and his illustrations.
But let's start at the beginning. Maus is a collection of two graphic novels with autobiographical background about the author, Art Spiegelman, and his father's recollections about his experiences in the Second World War. Spiegelman constantly switches between present and past, between the time when he writes down what his father tells him and the time when all the horrible events in the concentration camps took place. But he doesn't only include information about his father Vladek Spiegelman's tale of survival; the personal and very conflicted relationship between Art and Vladek also turns out to be a central part of the story, including controversy about Vladek's second wife and Art's personal approach to the success he had as an author when the first installment in his series of graphic novels was published.
Obviously, memoirs or autobiographies always include potential to let their author shine in a bright light, to let them appear heroic and exemplary. You have to rely on what the author tells you about himself and the people surrounding him, on which layers of his own character he presents. Art Spiegelman did so in a very convincing way, pointing out not only the horrible crimes which were committed during the Nazi period, but also the flaws he and his father had themselves, as human beings with all their faults and mistakes. Art and his father appear in such a realistic way that you can't help but care for them; something which never happened to me before in a book with autobiographical content. Of course, some parts of the novels were shocking, which you need to expect before reading something about such an important subject. Feelings of despair and fear overshadowed Vladek Spiegelman's recollections of his experiences during the Second World War, from his family's decline and his marriage to his transport to Auschwitz.
Perhaps the most memorable thing about those graphic novels is the way Art Spiegelman used animal heads in the place of recognizable human ones. The completely black-and-white illustrations vividly underline the feelings Spiegelman wanted to express with his books. And still now, almost two months after finishing them, am I stunned.
Do I need to mention that I'd recommend these graphic novels to everyone?...more
Night is perhaps one of the most remarkable, harrowing and haunting accounts of the events in the Nazi Germany concentration camps Auschwitz and Buche
Night is perhaps one of the most remarkable, harrowing and haunting accounts of the events in the Nazi Germany concentration camps Auschwitz and Buchenwald. I read this powerful work only a few days before news of the author's, Elie Wiesel's, death were announced, and both shocked me. The first, because unless you have experienced it for yourself, you will never be able to realize the full extent of what happened in the Second World War with all its different facets and emotions, and the latter, because with Elie Wiesel, a remarkable man has left this planet who fought for memorizing the Holocaust, who fought against violence, suppression and racism.
Perhaps you will not find the most eloquent, the most artful language in this work of literature, but that's nothing you should expect to find in a book dealing with something as frightening, as horrifying, as real as the Holocaust. In his nonfictional book, Elie Wiesel writes about his own survival in the concentration camps, about reflections of the father-son relationship with his father, about humanity and inhumanity. It's a book everyone should read, because ultimately, the Second World War is something everyone should remember. Forgetting would be the worst way to deal with it.
A lot of people, more people than would be good, claim that it has all been "so long ago", is so completely irrelevant nowadays, just belongs to this boring stuff people are tortured with in school because it belongs to this dry nonsense called "history". I usually don't tell people they're wrong ... usually. Because in this case, they can't be more wrong. The Holocaust needs to be remembered, because if humans forget the mistakes they did, they will tend to repeat them. And I think everyone can agree that the Holocaust should never, never be repeated.
This is a book which is incredibly difficult to review, just like it is difficult to read - not for its language or its style; I read it in one sitting in the course of three or four hours - but rather for the horrifying events Elie Wiesel talks about. I can only recommend to read this book to everyone, independent from how much you already know about the topic.
And on a final note: Rest in Peace, Elie Wiesel....more
The adaption starring Tom Hanks, Jim Broadbent and Halle Berry is one of my favorite movies (and I know it has its flaws and is criticized for good reThe adaption starring Tom Hanks, Jim Broadbent and Halle Berry is one of my favorite movies (and I know it has its flaws and is criticized for good reasons, but don't we all sometimes push rational reasons aside in our judgments?), so of course I have to read this book as soon as possible....more
If you have only thirty minutes of time left, then listen to the author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, reading her essay here for free. Whether you are aIf you have only thirty minutes of time left, then listen to the author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, reading her essay here for free. Whether you are a feminist or not, whether you are male or female, you won't regret listening to this, regardless of what your current view on the much-debated topic of feminism is like. Either she will open your eyes to some aspects you never thought about before, or she will convince you of your already established opinion. However it turns out for you, in my opinion, Chimamanda is an amazing person who deserves all the attention for what she put into words with her nonfictional essay on feminism.
In our modern culture, the word feminism is always associated with a negative concept, and I don't blame anyone for this - not as long as some German politicians want to equalize the female amount of little traffic light men because they feel like gender equality should be visible at traffic lights. Shouldn't it be more important to focus on equal opportunities at work, on the (sadly) still existing way women are looked at as something less in a lot of countries? Apparently not, if you look at what some politicians say nowadays.
In her essay, Chimamanda talks about how, especially in Nigeria, but also in a lot of other countries, young men are taught how they need to be "hard men", how they need to be physically strong and take over a leading role in order to take care of the "weaker" women. And she criticizes exactly this - with good reason.
Recently a young woman was gang raped in a university in Nigeria. And the response of many young Nigerians, both male and female, was something along the lines of this: "Yes, rape is wrong. But what is a girl doing in a room with four boys?" Now if we can forget the horrible inhumanity of that response, these Nigerians have been raised to think of women as inherently guilty, and have been raised to expect so little of men that the idea of men as savage beings without any control is somehow acceptable. We teach girls shame. Close your legs.Cover yourself. We make them feel as though by being born female they're already guilty of something.
I can only talk about my own experience now as a young man about how it is in Germany, but what I had to learn so far was this: A lot of people have no idea of what the concept of feminism truly means, they think of it as something some weirdly-brained writers of bad self-help books must have invented in order to torture humans with their implausible beliefs (yes, yes, I did so myself for a long time). I know someone who has always had trouble in finding a girlfriend, even though he was probably the friendliest and nicest guy out there. One day he had enough of it and decided to just begin to treat girls badly. Guess what? He was in a relationship only a few weeks later. And this is something that angers me, because not only do some men find pleasure in treating women like shit, some women also encourage them to do so. But inspite of that, this is no excuse for rape. Nothing can excuse something as horrible as rape, something that should never be wished upon any person. Never ever.
I am angry about this. I am angry about the fact that if you refer to "Studenten" (German for "students") instead of "Studentinnen und Studenten" (German for "female and male students"), you will immediately be verbally attacked because you downgraded women, but if you treat women like garbage, you will be praised as the ultimate male hero everyone else has to look up to. I am angry that in order to be looked at as a "man", you have to raise yourself up from women - otherwise there will always be people who start laughing when you call yourself a man and who are going to say that someone like you could only be a "kiddie".
Chimamanda also mentioned that a lot of people argue how female apes bow down to male apes, and after all, apes are our relatives, right? Her answer to this, simple and humorous alike: "But the point is, we're not apes. Apes also live on trees and have earth worms for breakfast, but we don't." And she couldn't be more correct about this. After all, men are human just the way women are human, except for the obvious biological differences, and if you put this into a simple mathematical equation, it would be something along the lines of this: men = human women = human Thus, the following must apply as well: men = women (See? Sometimes maths is good for something after all!)
More people need to read this book. More women, but also more men, because the term "feminist" doesn't mean that you need to be a woman in order to be a feminist. It is sad to see how only a handful of male Goodreads users have read this book, even though Chimamanda doesn't only talk about how women need to fight for their rights, she also talks about how men need to learn to accept women as equal.
This essay should definitely be required reading in school. You can't learn the lessons Chimamanda teaches in her text early enough. Even more importantly, she doesn't say that you need to be a feminist (even though the title implies so). No, she talks to you about the situation in Nigeria and other countries, and she makes you think about it and allows you to form your own opinion. And that's what I truly respect her for.
You are a feminist? Fine, then you might still learn something from this essay. You are no feminist? Good, that's even more of a reason for you to click on that link on top of my review....more
Though not as popular as Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner, "A Thousand Splendid Suns" is an extremely important novel with a huge number of interestiThough not as popular as Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner, "A Thousand Splendid Suns" is an extremely important novel with a huge number of interesting themes which are explored in its rather short amount of pages. In this family saga and moving tale of friendship, hate and love at the same time, Hosseini abbreviates several decades of important history into a fictional story spanning more than thirty years.
It's a depressing novel, consisting of a rather dark atmosphere and many chapters which will leave you gasping for breath due to the sheer amount of brutality and inhumanity some characters seem to love carrying out. What I found most intriguing in this novel was the way Hosseini managed to provide a lot of information about the history of Afghanistan, a country which has been dominated by war and destruction for such a long time. At times he came close to sounding like a nonfictional correspondent of the events with his prose, but fortunately it never felt like the author was trying to pour infodump out on his readers.
"A Thousand Splendid Suns" is a tough book to review, simply because it deals with so many socially relevant issues that it feels like nitpicking to talk about the writing and the characterization. It's an important book which I can only encourage everyone to read as soon as possible, considering that it offers plenty food for your thoughts and leaves you pondering about themes and questions which you may not have thought about in such detailed precision before. My biggest problem with the novel was mostly about the main characters Laila and Mariam, who - thanks to the rather detached and neutral writing style - felt very difficult to connect or relate to. I started rooting for these characters throughout the course of the novel, though that's rather obvious to say considering the fate these two women had to endure in the course of the plot.
As a final note, I think this book - or Hosseini's other books in general - should receive more attention by the public. Nowadays, especially here in Germany, there is a lot of displeasure directed towards foreigners and their cultures, not necessarily people from Afghanistan, but the Middle East and Far East in general. Hosseini manages to introduces his readers who are not familiar with the cultures described in this novel to a different world, a world I personally didn't know as much about before reading "A Thousand Splendid Suns" (and still wouldn't consider myself knowing a lot about). Khaled Hosseini's writing transports the important message that no matter where we come from, we are still all humans. Here in Germany and probably in many other places on our planet as well, people often tend to forget that coming from a different culture does not mean those humans are worth any less than we all are, and I think Hosseini's writing has the strength to remind more people of this fact. We are all human, and everyone deserves to be treated as such - no matter which cultural background you belong to....more
My favorite children's book of all time. Read this to your kids if they haven't yet, or read it yourself if you haven't yet, but read it. This peculiaMy favorite children's book of all time. Read this to your kids if they haven't yet, or read it yourself if you haven't yet, but read it. This peculiar tale deserves more attention, as it so profound and meaningful that a kid will appreciate its atmosphere and an adult will appreciate its deeper meaning....more