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Pankaj Saxena "...the typist of Gwalior" (Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, India)
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The God Market - How Globalization is Making India more Hindu
The God Market - How Globalization is Making India more Hindu
by Meera Nanda
Edition: Hardcover

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Neo-Leftist Trash, 21 Feb. 2013
According to her, Swami Vivekananda, Bankim Chandra and even Nehru were guilty of the 'cardinal sin' of trying to appropriate modern scientific thought for Hinduism. Ramakrishna Mission and Aurobindo Ashram are declared as 'apologists of Hindutva'.

And this woman declares Protestant Christianity to be scientific??? So, Eve coming out of the rib of Adam was scientific? Anti-evolutionism, creationism is scientific?

Its very very clear she is a Leftist apologist who after the fall of the Left in the 90s is now an open mercenary and is currently working for Protestant Churches.

The image on the coverpage is very misleading, even symbolically, because Indian Government is far from issuing notes with Hindu religious figures printed on them. It is fanatically avowed to avoid any such thing. By contrast, Christian cross has appeared on many 2 rupee coins in India. And about her ridiculously absurd claim that Government of India is financing Hinduism, let me tell you a fact that its only Hindu institutions in India that can be legally taken over by the government at any time without notice. All minority institutions, including all the Muslim and the Christian properties, are exempted from this law. So much for government financing of Hinduism!

About India, all her information seems to come from an interview with the terrorist-hugging Mahesh Bhatt.


The God Market: How Globalization Is Making India More Hindu
The God Market: How Globalization Is Making India More Hindu
by Meera Nanda
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.95

1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Neo-Leftist Trash, 21 Feb. 2013
According to her, Swami Vivekananda, Bankim Chandra and even Nehru were guilty of the 'cardinal sin' of trying to appropriate modern scientific thought for Hinduism. Ramakrishna Mission and Aurobindo Ashram are declared as 'apologists of Hindutva'.

And this woman declares Protestant Christianity to be scientific??? So, Eve coming out of the rib of Adam was scientific? Anti-evolutionism, creationism is scientific?

Its very very clear she is a Leftist apologist who after the fall of the Left in the 90s is now an open mercenary and is currently working for Protestant Churches.

The image on the coverpage is very misleading, even symbolically, because Indian Government is far from issuing notes with Hindu religious figures printed on them. It is fanatically avowed to avoid any such thing. By contrast, Christian cross has appeared on many 2 rupee coins in India. And about her ridiculously absurd claim that Government of India is financing Hinduism, let me tell you a fact that its only Hindu institutions in India that can be legally taken over by the government at any time without notice. All minority institutions, including all the Muslim and the Christian properties, are exempted from this law. So much for government financing of Hinduism!

About India, all her information seems to come from an interview with the terrorist-hugging Mahesh Bhatt.


The Last Diary of Tsarita Alexandra (Annals of Communism)
The Last Diary of Tsarita Alexandra (Annals of Communism)
by Alexandra Feodorovna
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Fault of Alexandra, 17 Nov. 2010
The story of Nicholas and Alexandra is perhaps the most tragic of the royal families of the twentieth century. Robert Massie, the introductory of this diary of Alexandra, is a sensitive historian, who while being true to the art of historiography does not neglect the human angle of the tragedy of the Russian `revolution'.

The introduction is very important; it starts the reader on to the journey in the internal recesses of the last empress of Russia. Alexandra is a much maligned character of history; mostly because of the propaganda of the Communists, but also because of her association with Rasputin. Many accuse her for the destruction of traditional Russia.

This diary shows that the fault of Alexandra was something of which any woman could be blamed of. Her fault was her inwardness, her occupation with her immediate family and her religiosity. She was a simple woman who was simply at the wrong place; she was not made to deal with the brutality of the Russian `revolution'. Her fault was her simple religious worldview and her quest to defend it against all odds.

This diary is, of course, meaningful only for those who are Romanov fanatics and serious Communism students; but for them it's very valuable.


Piggy Foxy and the Sword of Revolution: Bolshevik Self-Portraits (Annals of Communism)
Piggy Foxy and the Sword of Revolution: Bolshevik Self-Portraits (Annals of Communism)
by Alexander Vatlin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £25.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Communism in Caricatures, 17 Nov. 2010
Like other Annals of Communism books, Piggy Foxy and the Sword of Revolution is for the serious students of the history of Russian communism. It shows us the lighter side of the `comrades'; the kind of jests they used to play on each other, particularly in making caricatures. This book is a collection of these caricatures and portraits. It mostly describes the period before the Great Terror, before the iron regime of Stalin stifled all intellectual imagination. Most prominently it features the wit and art of Bukharin, the man who, according to Solzhenitsyn, was capable of stemming the bloody run of the Communists in Russia.

As a student of Stalinist history, it came to me as a surprise that humor was still possible under the dictatorship of the proletariat. This book shows that even under extreme duress, human creativity breaks out in the most unexpected of places. While describing the underlying brutality of the Communist regime, these caricatures prove the basic premise of Communism wrong: it shows that social engineering is impossible; man can never be bound into ideologies.

The introduction by Simon Sebag Montefiore is very interesting and necessary for going through the portraits and caricatures.

This is not a book to be read in both literal and symbolic sense. The portraits cannot be leafed through at one go. One has to absorb the history underlying these portraits over a period of time, while studying other historical works and contemplating over the life of Communist Russia. Not a volume to be studied in isolation but very useful for those who are deep in the history of Russian communism.


Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag
Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag
by Kang Chol-Hwan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.68

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gulags of 21st century - a story of N. Korean Communist labor camp, 14 Mar. 2010
When Viktor Kravchenko published `I Chose Freedom' in 1946, the world at large came to know about the atrocities of Communism for the first time. Solzhenitsyn, Shalamov, Mandelstam and Ginzburg followed and at least in academics, there was enough proof to establish that if not worse than, then Communism was at least as bad as Nazism. The dominance of the Left in universities has prevented the truth about Communism to percolate to the masses, but since the fall of the USSR, the flood of memoirs and the research resulting from the opening of the archives in Moscow has confirmed the doubts of the first dissidents.

The Aquariums of Pyongyang is another nail in the coffin of Communism. This time the blow comes from North Korea. The system of gulags and concentration camps developed later in North Korea, maturing only in the 70s, and is still continuing.

The Aquariums of Pyongyang tells the story of an emigrant Korean family which returned to North Korea form Japan after `the Revolution' in 1950s in search of a people's paradise.

His grandfather was a successful businessman in Japan and had his qualms about returning to North Korea. The dream was his grandmother's. The rest of the family followed.

The warnings began upon their arrival in North Korea. They were given a ramshackle house to live in and after donating all their property to the State they finally got some jobs. Though they were living better off than others, the contrast of the life in North Korea with the life in Japan was hard not to notice.

They all continued in a painful silence, until he grandfather got arrested on the charge of being `socially dangerous element'.

The whole family, including chidren, minus mother was sent to Yodok, one of the North Korean gulag. The book is for the most part the description of this gulag. Yodok had natural barriers of mountains and jungles on all sides except one which was fenced. The prisoners did try to escape but most failed and those who were caught were publicly executed, often stoned to death.

The description of one such public execution reminds the reader of stoning to death in Islam, a process which not only terrifies the would-be transgressors, but also fuels the hatred towards those who dare to oppose the totalitarian regime. One cannot help but make comparisons between the two inhuman ideologies.

Food rations, being typically gulag, were hardly above the starvation levels, and so the inmates were reduced to eat rats and live salamanders.

While the Soviet gulags had cold cells, North Korean ones have `sweat boxes' in which one is left to survive on cockroaches and other insects in a crouching position.

The book is an average account of a great tragedy, the still continuing North Korean gulags. The author is not a great artist and falls short of the great prison memoirists like Ginzburg and Solzhenitsyn. What makes the book remarkable is the immense human tragedy which speaks through the simple and direct words of the author.

Although the homage to George W. Bush in the preface and the warm view of Christian proselytizers spoils it a little bit. The title is also not very appropriate. The author used to keep an aquarium in his house in Pyongyang, which he took to the gulag as one thing to carry. The fishes kept dying until the last one died after some months into the gulag... hence the name. However the title gives a feeling as if the life in Pyongyang was what there was to desire against all the atrocities of Communism. Something related to eating rats and salamanders would have been a better choice.


Life and Times of Michael K
Life and Times of Michael K
by J M Coetzee
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.74

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Life and Times of the mind of Coetzee, 31 Dec. 2009
`Life and Times of Michael K' is Coetzee vintage. One of the few books marking the milestones in the author's career... and I am not talking in terms of awards.

The protagonist Michael is a simpleton to the point of being mentally challenged, having been institutionalized in childhood. The apartheid war is going on all around him, but his is a life completely calm, until his mother falls ill. He then embarks on a journey to her birthplace. This becomes his quest, his purpose. On the way his mother dies but he continues the journey. At last he reaches the supposed birthplace of his mother and stays in the wilderness there, trying to live off the land. He is drawn into the war a few times but he refuses to participate in it and again and again returns to try living a simple life. At last he returns to the city, with the same sense of confusion and disorientation of war.

The protagonist Michael is a non-conformist, who is unwilling to join the war between the civilization and the barbarians, on either side.

Coetzee treats Michael K differently than his previous heroes. He is neither a brutalized caricature of a racist-colonialist like the hero of Dusklands, nor is he the romantic hero of `Waiting for the Barbarians' who, in a Quixotic act, turns against his own civilization, completely taking the side of the black Africans.

Coetzee is maturing in this novel. Unlike his unequivocal leftist sympathies of previous works, in this novel he just theoretically sympathizes with the barbarians. In practice he prefers living off the land, unconcerned with any side of war and favoring a Romantic return to the nature.

This is a disturbing novel. Ten pages into it and you feel dejected, confused and overcome by a sad lethargy.

In varying degrees, this is true of every work of Coetzee. Every page of his reflects the confusion arising from the African history. The delicate intellect of Coetzee looks with confusion at the innate violence of South Africa, the hopelessness of a nation made of irreconcilable halves and irresolvable issues, a nation clubbed together by historical accidents of its racist-colonialist past. The only emotions it can evoke are of horror, dismay fear and pity. But at the end every feeling mutates into a melancholic confusion. This is Coetzee's reaction to the African tragedy. And this is the hero's reaction too. Michael K is Coetzee, minus his intellect.

Michael also reflects the political orientation of Coetzee:

"Politically, the raznochinets can go either way. But during his student years he, this person, this subject, my subject, steers clear of the right. As a child in Worcester he has seen enough of the Afrikaner right, enough of its rant, to last him a lifetime. In fact, even before Worcester he has perhaps seen more of cruelty and violence than should have been allowed to a child. So as a student he moves on the fringes of the left without being part of the left. Sympathetic to the human concerns of the left, he is alienated, when the crunch comes, by its language - by all political language, in fact."[1]

Exactly! Skimming along the fringes of left but not completely owning it.

The novel asserts that a `simple' man like Michael does not take any side. The only wish he has is to live a `simple' life with Nature. But the reader suspects that the simplicity of Michael is not that simple at all. He muses whether it is an indifference forced upon a simple personality by a superior intellect, an intellect committed to a certain point of view, certain ideology.

A simple man would not have remained indifferent to such a human tragedy. He would have reacted with anger, pity, sorrow or dejection.

Such a vision as that of Michael can only be that of a white male of South Africa who is fiercely committed to the race, which is not his own and in consequence rejected by both of them. Only he can be so detached, so unable to take sides.

Any less delicate personality than Coetzee may have reacted otherwise. Such a literary genius as his deserved to be born in the pre-Victorian or Victorian England, patronized by the court or nobles. But unfortunately for him and fortunately for us he was born in a deeply disturbed time and a deeply disturbed place. All of his works stacked one upon other tell us this story, the story of a delicate literary genius trying to comprehend and prevent all the misery but at last unable to do so. The fact that Coetzee finally migrated to Australia shows that it came to a breaking point finally where he could no longer watch it.


Dusklands
Dusklands
by J M Coetzee
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

3 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dusky Dawn, 31 Dec. 2009
This review is from: Dusklands (Paperback)
Being Coetzee's first work of fiction, Dusklands marks the signs of a debut work. It consists of two separate narratives set in different times and places, but united by a common theme of racist oppression. The first narrative is set in Vietnam, during the Vietnam War. The U.S. is shown as a colonial power and the Vietnamese are shown to be suffering under its attacks. The protagonist is a captain, who sees the `truth' and tries to convince the authorities to see it too, but predictably fails. Driven into frustration he kills his own son.

In the other narrative, a seventeenth century white explorer leads an expedition in the heart of the native territory. A petty incident is interpreted by him as an attack on the Empire and in a second attack he destroys the entire tribe, including his former servants.

The narratives are hard to read and it's not easy to keep track of events, especially if we compare it with other works of Coetzee. Language is complex and the reader has certain difficulties in muddling through the text.

Coetzee's vehement anti-Americanism shows the fervor of 1970s and Coetzee's own youthful convictions. His leftist sympathies are clear and one feels that the parallels drawn between the apartheid regime of South Africa and the U.S. Government is forced and artificial.

First of all, the blacks have equal rights in the U.S. and the State does not discriminate against them. The apartheid regime had occupied the land of Africa, driven out the natives, killing indiscriminately and extirpating a lot of cultures and tribes. We have no such equivalent in Vietnam War. The U.S. did not kill innocent civilians. It did not displace people by transplanting American people on the Vietnamese land. It did not try to convert the natives.

Secondly, the Vietnam War was initiated by the Communists. Soviet Union and China were the clear aggressors. In a post-1945 world, they had blatantly tried to overrun a free country torturing and massacring thousands of locals who opposed the Communist invaders. The U.S. jumped in only to prevent another country becoming Communist. In the process, it saved Vietnam the pain of a nationwide cultural destruction, like of which China had to suffer during the Cultural Revolution. There were some tactical mistakes on the part of the U.S., but the Vietnam War was a Communist folly. The U.S. had to pay for a crime of communists. It was due to the heavily biased leftist media of the Cold War era, which through selective reporting turned the public opinion of Americans against their own country.

After failing to gain a foothold in Vietnam, KGB's main focus was to slander America in which it succeeded. Many of the journalists and academicians were on the payroll of the Communists; many others with humanist concerns were swept away in the mass hysteria of 1970s anti-Americanism. Coetzee was one of such gullible humanists.

This work should be seen in this light; keeping in mind that the author had strong leftist sympathies and commitment when he wrote this work.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 5, 2014 6:38 PM BST


Waiting For The Barbarians
Waiting For The Barbarians
by J M Coetzee
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Welcoming the Barbarians, 31 Dec. 2009
Waiting for the Barbarians is one of Coetzee's early works, bearing the characteristics of his early phases of literary evolution.

The hero is an employee of the Empire, a magistrate running a borderland settlement, fencing it from the natives, the barbarians. In the typical Coetzee style, the Empire symbolizes the colonial government of nineteenth century South Africa. The magistrate's feelings towards the natives take a dramatic turn when he falls for a native girl orphaned by the Empire. At first, his sympathies for the natives are mild but when he sees an interrogation of the natives by the Empire employees, things start to change. At last he turns against the Empire completely in a quixotic revolt against the racist injustice. He is imprisoned and persecuted by the Empire. The title is an irony over the racist situations. After the revolt of the hero, the Empire and its employees are called the barbarians.

The style of Coetzee improves dramatically in this work. We almost see the grace and ease of `Disgrace'. Waiting for the Barbarians is a pleasant though sad read. It flows smoothly. The use of present simple as narration makes it a little dreamlike. Though events and thoughts blend in but the reader can easily differentiate between thoughts and events.

Coetzee is still a fervent socialist and many dialogues in the novel hint at the Cold War situations.

It is a sympathetic narrative which touches one's heart, but it is clearly the imagination of a late-twentieth century white male with liberal commitments. The setting of the novel in early nineteenth century does not seem natural. While the colonialists were definitely cruel and racist, judging them according to the present standards seems a little harsh. As compared to a full-blooded support of the natives by a white man today, even a slight insubordination to the colonial authorities on the part of a nineteenth century colonialist employee was a far greater act of bravery. Nikita Khrushchev may remain a reviled Commie figure in the West, but if he had not given that famous secret speech of 1956, denouncing Stalin, then the path for many who later brought down the Communist regime would not have cleared. We have to see history in this evolutionary light. Waiting for the Barbarians is essentially a twentieth century novel with all the latest liberal inputs and we witness the grafting of a twentieth century intellect over a nineteenth century landscape.

Coetzee is still to disavow himself from the commitment to the political Left. This he would do in Life and Times of Michael K.


The White Castle
The White Castle
by Orhan Pamuk
Edition: Paperback

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pamuk's start as a post-modern novelist, 31 Dec. 2009
This review is from: The White Castle (Paperback)
The White Castle is set in medieval times. A Venetian sailor is captured by the Turkish pirates and is forced to convert to Islam. But he refuses to do so. He then is given as a personal servant to the emperor and is employed with the royal scholar Hoja, who is an exact physical resemblance of the narrator.

Hoja tries to learn everything from the narrator, and slowly the mutual exchange of ideas makes them resemble each other more and more, until at last the reader absolutely cannot make any distinction between them. They are ordered to build a war machine to siege the white castle in the Carpathians, which they do but ultimately the machine fails and the only meaningful thing they do all this while is to know each other. At last the narrator returns to Italy, but the reader is not entirely sure whether it was really him or Hoja who returned. The White Castle is an attempt, rather a hope of making the West and the Middle-East meet. Pamuk sees the West as too inner-directed and the Middle-East as too outer-directed.

Those who are familiar with Buddhism and Hinduism will know that the meaning of being inner-directed is entirely different from what the West means by it. For the West it means intensive individualism. For the East, it is a journey of self-exploration by meditation.

So in The White Castle, the inner-directedness of the West means individualism at its best, and the outer-directedness of the Middle-east means materialistic totalitarian society, like that of the Ottoman times. Pamuk hopes that these two ends can meet.

A brief look at the nature of Islam and Christianity makes it hard for us to believe that they indeed can meet. Both of these religions are the extreme forms of monotheism, bent upon world conquest through sword. Being extremely exclusivist they do not tolerate any difference, any idea of `the others'. Their followers meet only when their authority is slackened by local restraints, and as soon as it is again possible to oppose, they do. Even then, only the followers meet, not the respective religions.

The White Castle is to be enjoyed for its style. Observer says about Pamuk, `Up there with the best of Calvino, Eco, Borges and Marquez'. This is very true about The White Castle. If you are prepared to delve into the late medieval times and the Ottoman alleys with a magical, exotic touch, then this is the book for you. Though this art form will be developed more thoroughly by Pamuk in his later book, I am Red, the reader will not be disappointed in this work.


The New Life
The New Life
by Orhan Pamuk
Edition: Paperback

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Metaphysical Thriller from Pamuk, 31 Dec. 2009
This review is from: The New Life (Paperback)
Orhan Pamuk entered the post-modern writing, with The White Castle. He established himself firmly into it with The New Life.

As the title suggests it's a symbolical journey of a nation into the modern era, an era free of religious fanaticism. The narrator, Osman, runs away with the heroine, Janan, after reading a life transforming book, The New Life. Yes! There are a lot of self-references in Pamuk's works!

The book promises a new life which will give voice to the new generation. Naturally the Kemalists, the Communists and most zealously, the Islamists are against them and trying to kill them. That is why Osman and Janan are trying to flee the religious fundamentalists. Janan loved Mehmet who was shot at by the Islamists but escaped. These Islamists are against everything produced by the West, including Coca-Cola. According to them there is a Great Conspiracy which aims to undermine the Islamic culture and destroy it at last. This is the reason the Islamists are against the books and everything printed, as they are the mass producers and carriers of the Great Conspiracy. According to them, watches and guns are the only two useful products ever invented by the West.

They go on a surreal and violent bus journey which at last has a horrible accident. In a surrealistic scene they see headless bodies and severed limbs, but the TV screen is intact and the hero kisses the heroine long. They reach the house of Mehmet's father, who himself is against everything new. The book drifts off into more dreamy scenes and the protagonist tries to find the real writer and the real meaning of the book, The New Life.

This is a post-modern piece and is a hard read. The New Life is a Borges' story extended to a novel, as put by D. M. Thomas. No matter how zealously postmodernists argue in favor of post-modern writing and the inevitability of it, it is not easy to go through it and no matter how confused and disillusioned the modern psyche maybe, most of the readers still love a good story. This is the reason most Hollywood movies are still rooted in the `old fashioned' way of a good story and engaging action. This is the reason that now-a-days, thriller writers like Dan Brown sell far better than `literary' authors. Everyone can enter the world of Khaled Hosseini. It is so accessible and comprehensible, but in order to read a post-modernist story of Borges, you have to be in a certain frame of mind, certain mood, which is very hard to induce and may never be induced by itself. With Borges, however, the reader has to remain in that idiosyncratic world for just a few minutes; while with writers like Pamuk you have to keep the pace for more than three hundred pages. The New Life is a metaphysical thriller which makes it a hard read.

What kept my attention is the struggle of Islam and the West, a topic in which I am immensely interested. Pamuk is a diligent student of history. The New Life, like other of his novels, is littered with cultural, political and religious references which are very relevant to the debate of Islamization vs. Westernization. This is what makes it a compelling read for me. This is what kept my attention to the book. If not for those stray references about, Islam, the Quran, the Prophet, Kemal Ataturk and the West, I would have left this book unread or drifted off to sleep in one of those metaphysical, surreal passages of gore and death.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 5, 2014 6:45 PM BST


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