Reading this book was a real eye-opener as regards a chapter of history I knew very little about. A lot has been written about Orwell's excellent repoReading this book was a real eye-opener as regards a chapter of history I knew very little about. A lot has been written about Orwell's excellent reportage from the Aragon front, apparently an experience not written about by many (or any?) others from the international volunteer corps. Contrastingly, it appears a fair amount of criticism has been leveled against him because of his lack of background investigation as to the causes of the war and particularly the contributing factors to the troubles in Catalonia, and Barcelona in particular (see Professor Paul Preston's critique on the 80th anniversary of the Barcelona clashes. To be fair to Orwell he does acknowledge “my partisanship, my mistakes of fact, and the distortion inevitably caused by my having seen only one corner of events”. I greatly admire Orwell's ability to admit his subjectivity and probable bias but nonetheless to stake out a position with fierce intent and uncompromising ideals. He may have gone to Spain with high-minded Marxist ideals and return saddened and angry, but it never turned to disillusionment. He really did believe in the solidarity of the working class and many of his words and insights are amazingly prescient today. Reading Prof Preston's comments I can understand how his visceral and emotional defence of the revolution can irritate the objectivity-seeking academic, but I wonder if the scholar in question, and his ilk, haven't let their own bias affect their judgement of Orwell the man as opposed to Orwell the scholar. Orwell is portrayed as aloof and condescending to the workers with whom he fought, but reading Orwell's account it's hard to reconcile Preston's portrait of the man. If anything it shines a light on the mistrust and prejudice of members of the English working class who allegedly despised Orwells 'cut-glass Eton accent' and air of privilege. Without further qualification these comments cannot be taken at face value even if they were made, and I have no doubt that they were! According to Orwell's own account he felt great admiration and empathy for the illiterate anarchists and peasants he trained and served with and indeed great shame when one was accused of having stolen his tobacco. Having lived in Britain itself for a number of years and worked and trained alongside elements of this British working class, I feel I understand a little of what Orwell was up against. It seems class warfare has always existed in Britain but ironically it is because of the ability of the more privileged members of the society like Orwell to bridge the gap between his class and theirs that it has prevailed without deviating too far to the right or the left. It is also very interesting to read Orwell's insights into the propaganda on all sides and how first hand experience and subsequent reporting on the conflict coloured his view of politics and the great conflicts of the early-mid 20th century. It really goes to show how experience really is the best source of inspiration. He did after all go on to write Animal Farm and 1984...more
I very much enjoyed this book - many quotable quotes and a real sense that the author had a grasp of the Afghan temperament. He did at least travel anI very much enjoyed this book - many quotable quotes and a real sense that the author had a grasp of the Afghan temperament. He did at least travel and live in the country for quite some months before attempting this book. Others here havegiven a good synopsis and critique of the book. I just want to emphasize, in my opinion, that the value of this book lies really in the narrative surrounding the central feminine character, Ellen Jasper. Although we only meet her some 100+ pages into the book, she is talked of and analysed at some length prior to this. The reason: she is a young American woman from an influential family who marries and Afghan engineer, returns to his homeland and then goes awol. Concerned parents bring pressure to bear at home -> senator pressures American consulate in Kabul -> young American seconded to that office assigned the task of locating young woman. The plot may be a bit tenuous it's true but the character of Ellen Jasper isn't. She's a beautiful, worldly, intelligent, high-spirited girl who is liked and loved by almost everyone she meets, men and women alike. As it transpires she leaves her engineer for a group of nomadic Kochis and takes young Mark the diplomat along with her. Much thought-provoking dialogue follows as they venture inland though some magnificent scenery. Ellen Jasper embodies the restless energy of youth and its disillusionment with the status quo. She claims to have married her Afghan engineer simply to spite her father and to pour scorn on his 'petty scale of judgement', but one feels there is more to her than just rebellion. Michener's portrayal of her is quite prescient. In many ways her character forstalled the sandal-wearing hippies, 3rd word groupies and volunteers of the latter half of the 20th century who have foregone the comforts and certainties of their working-class lives for the adventure and altruism of traveling, living and working in the so-called developing world. One other thing worth contemplating today as much as yesterday, in the words of the leading male character of the book: "He's right," I [Mark Miller] told Moheb. "You'd both better get used to Ellen Jasper," I warned. "Because once you let your women out of the chaderi, Afganistan's going to have a lot of girls like her."...more
I have to say this wasn't an easy read but it was certainly a worthwhile one. Other GR members have written very comprehensive reviews so won't repeatI have to say this wasn't an easy read but it was certainly a worthwhile one. Other GR members have written very comprehensive reviews so won't repeat what has been adequately said. In summary Kapuściński's journalistic nose is definitely attuned to the investigative. Goodness knows how far he went in his efforts to interview such a wide selection of people, many intimately connected with the palace of emperor (Haile Selassie). Probably the best passage for me is his account of a feast for dignitaries, of how the plates pass out of the palace banquet along a chain of waiters to a distant kitchen and the sighing of the hungry masses who feed on the scraps passed to them. This description of the collective is possibly one of the most evocative I can ever recall. Credit must also be given to the nameless interviewees who he denotes simply by initials. The book would not have been possible without them. I suspect Kapuściński infused the interviews with his own writing style. One gets the sense after reading a number of consecutive chapters. This is not to detract from the readability or authenticity of the tale in any way. In conclusion a very interesting read of a medieval kingdom and it's omnipotent demagogue that withstood the tide of the 20th century for 8 miraculous decades before it's (and his) inevitable demise. For another great excerpt read this post: https://leopassi.wordpress.com/2016/0...
I enjoyed this book even if it hadn't been proofed very well or is a mediocre bit of crime writing. The real value of this book is in what it has to sI enjoyed this book even if it hadn't been proofed very well or is a mediocre bit of crime writing. The real value of this book is in what it has to say about the Gezi Park Protests of 2013, themes the author is obviously well informed of, presumably because she spent 10 years in Turkey as a journalist. Her main character, a western Journalist called Kate, is a strong feminine lead, who forms a tight bond with her camerawoman, a young Turkish woman called Pelin, Turkey's first independent camerawoman. Pelin embodies the bold, self-reliant, 21st century Turkish woman standing up as bet she can to the excesses of the ruling Islamist government. It is through her that the reader is informed of the challenges to the aspirations of women in modern Turkey. Having travelled and lived for a stint in the country I know something of the state of affairs and can corroborate a lot of what is presented as factual information in the narrative. The government really did (does?) want to build a mosque in Taksim Square, the heart of the entertainment district, and would be quite happy to see a more Islamic nation where women spend more time at home raising large broods than doing professional jobs. The character of Muhammed is truly frightening in his commitment to re-creating a more Ottoman and Islamic Turkey, one essentially ruled by Sharia Law. If even a fraction of young Turkish men in the police or armed forces have his sort of mindset then it truly is cause for concern! Sabral also presents a very interesting appraisal of the state of play amongst the major power players in the nation through the eyes of the characters. Shaheen, head of The Movement is no doubt a proxy for Fetullah Gulen, an influential Turkish Muslim living in self-imposed exile in the US. The president is never referred to by name, only as The President, but is no doubt the ruling AKP's Mr Tayip Erdogan. So in summary I would say, yes, read this book for an entertaning account of the Gezi Protests through the eyes of a western journalist and a bevy of Turks ranging from a self-assured camerawomen to a homicidal zealot of a policeman to a marginally corrupt but nevertheless good-at-heart public prosector. As a crime thriller it is mediocre but a work of non-fiction I give it both thumbs up!...more