Review Coming Soon…
Imperium by Ryszard Kapuscinski, is an excellent and unique book offering an unparalleled insight into life in the former Soviet empire, and life in the current Russia and former Soviet-bloc states. Growing up as a Pole from where is currently Byelorussia, Ryszard is ideally positioned to commentate and annotate life under the former Soviet regime. He is an exceptional, if not the most exceptional, proponent of “travel reportage” in any case, and here he works on reportage from an area he clearly has massive emotional attachment to.
The Soccer War by Ryszard Kapuscinski is a collection by this one-of-a-kind author of his escapades, adventures and experiences in some of the 27 (yes, twenty seven) revolutions slash wars he personally experienced during the 1960s and early 1970s. Ryszard was a Polish journalist with responsibilities at any one time for over 50 countries in Africa and South America, and this book offers his insights and experiences into among others, Patrice Lulumba, the Algeria of Boumedienne and Ben Bella, barbarous civil war in Nigeria, and the eponymous Soccer War between El Salvador and Honduras.
The Musicians of Auschwitz is Fania Fenelon’s autobiographical account of her life and experience in the Birkenau concentration camp, which was the female “camp” in Auschwitz, and later of her time in the Bergen Belsen camp. This book was written thirty years after she gained her freedom, on the 15th April, 1945. The account is quite extraordinary, as it is really a dual autobiography – that of “die kleine Sängerin” Fania, and also the “autobiography”, if you will, of the life and existence of the orchestra of camp inmates she played and sang in.
This book also gives a terrifying insider’s view of the humanity and inhumanity, and of life and death, inside these concentration camps. The book is extremely well written in its own right, and Fania was assisted in the writing of it by Marcelle Routier. Hers is a nightmare tale of deprivation, starvation, cruelty and insanity but also of hope.
Jerusalem – The Biography, from the pen of Simon Sebag Montefiore, is a fittingly epic work chronicling the history of the city of Jerusalem. As you would expect from the author of Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, which was the most impressively researched biography I have ever come across, pieced together as it was solely from the actual correspondence of Stalin and his cohorts, this “biography” of Jerusalem is an incredibly well researched and authoritative account of this mystical city from approximately 1000 B.C through to present times.
It is a brave undertaking, as the sweep of history covered in this book is truly immense. Helpfully though, the author has employed a novel approach here, in that he treats Jerusalem as a biographical subject, and that Jerusalem acts effectively as a witness to the historical events that occur throughout this broad expanse of history. This keeps the historical focus squarely on events impacting Jerusalem, and acts as a sort of historical filter. This device works very well for the most part, and despite there being a few flaws with it, the reader is richly rewarded with not just a detailed, thorough, exciting and vibrant history of this city, but also having read it will likely emerge with an illuminated and refreshed view of world history in general.
Some books grab you by the seat of your pants for wild adventures, some whisk you off on wonderful fanciful trips of the imagination, others still reminisce on lovely lovers. This book forcefully pitches you head-long into an almost alien-like world of insane violence and ultra-hard living, never lets you up for air, and leaves you almost dumb-founded at the end. No need to read the rest of the review really, just read the book!
Blood Meridian ostensibly tells the tale of “the kid”, who remains nameless throughout, and his blood-soaked trudge through life, in mid-19th century America and Mexico. However, its is much more than that – I have read it described as a parable, and I would have to agree I think. In fact I believe the author has dropped clues to this fact throughout the work, as mentioned further below.
When I Am Playing With My Cat, How Do I Know She Is Not Playing With Me: Montaigne and Being in Touch With Life, penned by Saul Frampton, is an analysis and commentary on the 16th century philosopher/writer/connoisseur Michel De Montaigne’s vast body of work, known as his Essays.
Montaigne was a fascinating character, and his musings on life in general range over a vast array of subjects – from how best to avoid being shot, to the alleged beauty of the prostitutes of Florence. Continue reading
Treblinka: A Survivor’s Memory by Chil Rajchman is probably the most powerful, and I would argue one of the most important, pieces of literature that exists. This isn’t just a book – this is a recording and recollection of the cruel murder of 800,000 people.
This book literally hit me like a kick to the stomach – I felt utterly compelled to read it in one sitting, and having read it, I actually felt sick in my stomach the next day. I can honestly say the world seemed tangibly different to me having read this book.