One of the biggest tragedies of the end of twentieth and the beginning of the twenty first century is that the full scale of the horrors and depravityOne of the biggest tragedies of the end of twentieth and the beginning of the twenty first century is that the full scale of the horrors and depravity of communism have been so easily forgotten. Many former communist countries in Eastern and Central Europe had enough troubles on their plate in the post-communist decades (failing economies, civil wars) that most people didn’t have much appetite for a critical and detailed account and reflection on the wounds of the past. In the west on the other hand, the public was never fully aware of the full extent of life under communism, while the intelligentsia in the media and the educational establishment actually harbored strong sense of sympathy for communism and the regimes that adhered to it. As someone who has actually grown up under communism, and seen many of its evil and dehumanizing aspects, I can only feel a profound sense of sadness, frustration and disappointment that communism has not been judged harsher by the history, both in some of its former strongholds, as well as in the rest of the world. It is one of my enduring life missions to raise more awareness about this totalitarian system and its bloody trail of destruction and horror.
In the light of all that I’ve said above in my lengthy introduction, I was very eager to read Teodor Flonta’s “A Luminous Future.” It is one person’s account of growing up under communisms during some of its darkest hours in Eastern Europe – between the late 1940s and mid 1960s. The title of the book is very self-consciously ironic and mocking, as it uses one of the communists’ favorite slogans against them in a very scathing indictment. The book is a very personal account, with all the charms, personal joys and tragedies, which millions of other people around the world could relate to, with the menacing specter of Communism intruding into their daily lives. Because of its everyman human quality this book could very well be the definitive indictment of communism. Yes, the book features plenty of persecution, imprisonment, torture, even death, but it’s in its day-to-day cruelties and injustices where the true evil of communism can be found for the vast majority of its victims.
The book is very gripping and interesting to read. It combines personal and national history, ethnic customs, peculiarities of village life, and, not least of it, very endearing coming-of-age story. The writing is very fluid and even entertaining at times. It was hard for me to put the book down, and was a bit disappointed that it ended somewhat abruptly. By the end I had come to see Teodor as a kind of a long lost distant relative, someone I would love to share a meal with and exchange life stories till the wee hours of the night. It was a pleasure to get to know him and his life story in this way, and would warmly recommend that you do the same. ...more
Materials are everywhere. Right now, sitting at my desk, I am surrounded by a variety of typical office objects made out an almost unfathomable varietMaterials are everywhere. Right now, sitting at my desk, I am surrounded by a variety of typical office objects made out an almost unfathomable variety of materials: metal, glass, plastic, fiber, ceramics, paper, etc. Our lives, our culture and our civilization are almost completely determined and shaped by the materials that we use. It is our human ability to create and fashion materials in order to serve our multifaceted needs that distinguish us most visibly from all other creatures.
This very short introduction is a gentle yet deep and informative introduction to materials. It takes the reader on a journey through history, chemistry, physics and biology of various materials that we encounter. It pulls out many fascinating facts that I either did not know or never even stopped to think about (it's because of bronze's unique composition that bells have their distinct sound, and only thanks to some very special features of silver salts was photographic process possible to occur.)
One of this book's greatest virtues is its scope - all too often a material scientist has a very particular predilection for his/her own special class of substances, and focuses most of his attention to that topic. However, this short book is very comprehensive and covers pretty much everything that can be classified as material.
The other great aspect of this book is its easy and erudite writing style. The book is highly accessible and easy to follow, even for those who may not happen to be total science nerds.
Overall this is a decent introduction to "Liberalism," or at least to the general idea of what goes by that nomenclature these. Like most overarchingOverall this is a decent introduction to "Liberalism," or at least to the general idea of what goes by that nomenclature these. Like most overarching political ideologies, Liberalism can mean many different things depending on who the target audience is. The author of this short introduction tries to come up with a very layered and ad-hoc description of liberalism, but comes across as very strained and designed to purposefully justify including and excluding particular movements from the category. Overall, the book feels more self-serving and ideological, thana cool and objective assessment of a political category. In particular, I wish it had taken into the account recent research by Jonathan Haidt on moral clusterings and the way they pertain to different political affinities. ...more