A Book Review “No One Writes To The Colonel”, Gabriel Garcia Márquez

Review & Summary:

There is something very interesting in this novel which is the main character and his wife are nameless, which makes both characters insignificant people living in Colombia, this is kind of genius by Márquez as the reader forgets sometimes that they are without names.

Published in 1961, the story talks about a retired colonel, a veteran of the Thousand Days War, who still hopes to get the pension promised to him since 15 years. He lives in some village in Colombia with his old wife who suffers an asthma, when martial law and censorship were taking over the country.

They suffer poverty, and keep selling whatever can be soled to be able to live day by day. Their son was killed for some political repression and chaos, and the only thing left from him is a rooster, that the colonel trains to take part in a cockfight, but even the rooster is causing a problem to them because feeding the animal is a financial burden.

Márquez likes to show his reader facts about his country and how the political regime back then affected people and repressed them with poverty and censorship, and how the rich doesn’t feel the need of the poor.

The story is so real in the way he wrote it, and it does reflect a lot of humanity in it, lots of hopes and lots of flaws in human’s character and behavior. It’s a very interesting read, yet kind of sad.

A Book Review “The Broken Wings”, Gibran Khalil Gibran

About The Book:

The book was written in 1912, Gibran dedicated the book to Mary Elizabeth Haskell, a woman he had fallen in love with. The story is not real, but it expresses what Gibran thinks of unfruitful pure love. Gibran told Mary that he creates his novel characters and all the events from scratch, reminding her all the time that during writing the book he had always thought of her, and that’s how he considered Mary a mother for the book somehow.

The broken wings is considered the first Arabic novel written in the modern time, and it came 2 years earlier than other novels written by other Arab writers at that time.

Summary:

The hero of the story is a young man who’s 18 years old, he narrates the events of the story, and the heroen is a young woman called Salma Karama, who’s 20 years old. The young man visits his friend who tells him about Faris Karama, a very respectable rich old man and his daughter Salma. Faris Karama happens to be the young man’s father’s friend in their youth. Later the young man visits Faris Karama who was always happy about his visits as he reminds him of his old friend, and there he meets Salma and from the first meeting they fall in love with one another, feeling that their souls happen to understand each other without having to talk.

Their true pure love is fruitless because Salma is forced to marry the Bishop’s nephew, without her father’s genuine approval, but rather pressured by the society, because no one can go against the Bishop or any other man with power. Salma’s life turns into a misery after her marriage, while the young man suffers the loss of his beloved girl.

Salma hopes to die as a salvation from her marriage, but suddenly she is in front of a new dilemma which is her father’s sickness and later his death, which leaves her facing her problems and agonies without a back bone, meanwhile she meets with her lover at her father’s house, before losing her father, after a long period of time of not seeing one another, who stands for her to face the reality of losing her only family member, her father.

her loneliness led her to start meeting with the young man secretly in an abandoned temple, where they talk about random subjects and share their sorrows, worries and hopes. Later their meetings started making her husband suspicious, and so she had no choice but to stop going to their secret meetings, and rather sacrifice to keep the young man safe, but the young man asks her to run away with him in a ship, where they can start a new life, but she refuses and chooses to go back to her husband’s house.

Salma continues to struggle against reality and her dreams until she gets pregnant, but as soon as she delivers her baby, the baby dies and she dies right afterwards, getting the salvation she always dreamed of.

Review:

Knowing Gibran Khalil couldn’t marry the love of his life, Mary Haskell because of her parent’s refusal, makes me understand this book of his, as he, as known, doesn’t like man made rules, simply because to him they are only man made rules, and saw them as silly, ridiculous and restricting thoughts that people follow and keep.

The story is truly sad and tragic, and paints endlessly a pure love between two. Gibran, with all the metaphors and figures of speech in the book, shows the reader what he thinks and how he feels about a genuine love between a man and a woman, and the union of two souls, regardless of whether or not they end up being together.

The Broken Wings is not just a novel, but rather a piece of art, where he shows the readers and the critics his Arabic language skills, and his knowledge of history, religions and other cultures.

If this is taken as a piece of art then it’s an excellent way of spending time, it’s also a very good food for thought, plus it’s a good way of reminding ourselves of the purity of ourselves and our souls. But if this is read to be criticized, then it can be easily criticized as too romantic to be true.

I recommend reading this book, better be in Arabic, since it’s the language Gibran used to write this book, if not possible then in any language available. The book is worth giving it a chance!

A Book Review “1984”, George Orwell

About The Book:

In 1984 Orwell creates a Dystopia; a fictional technologically advanced world, where life is so unbearable and extremely bad because of oppression, fear and terror. Oceania, a formal political union of USA and the countries of the British Commonwealth, is where the story happens, where people have no control whatsoever over their lives, thoughts and beliefs. They live under a cruel dictatorship ruled by “The Party”, where even their thoughts are detected by the thought police and they get punished for their political unorthodoxy.

“INGSOC” is the English Socialist Party, which is the political ideology of the totalitarian government of Oceania.

His aim was to draw an image of a world he didn’t want people to go after, being aware of the consequences of what the world could turn into after WWII. He actually in a way or another was right when he imagined a miserable world like that and assumed it would be around the 80s.

Summary:

Winston Smith is a citizen in Oceania, he works in the Records Department in The Ministry Of Truth, where all the information, documents, news, entertainment, education, and fine arts are being issued and controlled. His job was to rewrite, change and destroy history.

He is unhappy with the whole system of “The Party”, and unable to express his disappointment and  anger to others, because there is no body to trust and no real friends to lean on, therefore he starts writing what he thinks in his diary, while knowing the penalty of doing this can be death. People in Oceania are being observed by Telescreens that are installed everywhere possible, so that people don’t get any privacy.

Oceania is always at war either with Eastasia or Eurasia, the party controls facts and changes history, which is called “Reality Control”,none of the citizens remembers the past.

During the “Two Minutes Of Hate” Winston notices an inner party member, named O’Brien, and assumes he is an alley, while at the same time he notices a girl with dark hair, Julia, and assumes she is a foe from the “Thought Police” and assumes that she is there to observe him. This time the “Two Minutes Of Hate” is focusing on the treachery of Goldstein, a previous “Brotherhood” member who was as important as “Big Brother” himself, but tried to revolt against “The Brotherhood”.

A few days later Julia hands him a paper confessing her love to him, they manage to later meet alone, and later they both fall in love with one another, and believe that their loyalty to one another can never be changed or destroyed. Julia also is unorthodox, and doesn’t believe in the system. Winston manages to find a room to rent for both of them to spend romantic time alone as often as they can. The room belonged to Mr. Charrington, who didn’t mind to let it for some money.

Winston and Julia meet O’Brien and confess to him their hatred towards the party, believing O’Brien is a member of “The Brotherhood”, an underground organization that’s aimed to bring the party down. O’Brien welcomes them to “The Brotherhood” and promises to deliver “The Book” to them to read, the underground’s treasonous book written by Goldstein.

Winston starts reading “The Book” in their rented room, while Julia is napping next to him, and they suddenly hear some noise coming from the wall, and find out that behind the painting on the wall there is a Telescreen. They get caught and separated. Winston notices that Mr. Charrington suddenly looked younger and realizes that he belongs to the “Thought Police”.

Winston finds himself locked for days in “The Ministry Of Love”, which is responsible for law and order, in a room without windows and no one to trust and talked to. Finally O’Brien comes in and Winston thinks he also got caught, but he realizes that O’Brien is there to torture him, make him confess and break his spirit. O’Brien has been watching Winston for the last 7 years and the Party is made aware of all his crimes.

O’Brien continues to torture Winston for months, trying to change his ways of thinking, and forcing “Doublethink” into his brain,  which is the ability of holding two opposing ideas in one’s mind and believing in them both, it was impossible to achieve until O’Brien takes Winston to “Room 101”, the room where people are made to face their worst fears, and Winston’s is rats, O’Brien threatens Winston to open the cage of rats and let them attack his face. Winston loses control over himself and screams “do it to Julia” which shows a complete loss of dignity and principles.

At the end Winston is changed, he is not the man he used to be, he spends time at the “Chestnut Tree Cafe”, watching news on daily basis there through the Telescreen. He meets Julia by accident, they talk briefly, she has also changed, she is not as charming as before, she confesses to him that she betrayed him during the torture. Winston has changed so much that he finally comes to love “Big Brother”.

Review:

The idea of the books is awesome, it’s a great fantasy and a very well put dystopia. It’s very alive and real that the reader can feel the characters, they seem real and natural. The way things end is kind of predictable, but the amount of sorrow and the feel of sorry is unpredictable.

I didn’t like the fact that Orwell put a lot of unnecessary details into the book, it made the book a little too long and just a little boring sometimes; there are lots of details that could be unmentioned and the story would still feel and look great.

I wouldn’t say that it’s an easy read, sometimes the reader would need to read things twice to understand and connect things together. I would recommend people who read this for the first time to read different summaries and reviews to see the idea and the point of the book clearly!

Enjoy reading 1984,

Katia

 

A Book Review: “Men In The Sun”, Ghassan Kanafani

About The Author:

Ghassan Kanafani born in Akka, Palestine, April 9, 1936. Assassinated by a car bomb in Beirut, Lebanon,  by the Mossad, July 8, 1972. Ghassan was a writer and an active leading member of The Popular Front Of The Liberation Of Palestine. So besides being a writer he was a politician.

About The Book:

Published in 1963, It’s a reflection of actual reality of struggle of a lot of Palestinians to survive, to live or die, to face humiliation and face the cruelty of the world outside, which they didn’t know before 1948. Of course the story doesn’t only draw a picture of some people’s lives at that time, but it also symbolizes the dimensions of the tragedy and the disaster of a certain period of time in the Palestinian history, showing us part of the struggle and the aftermath of some deeds and decisions.

Kanafani in his narration in this book depended a lot on flashbacks and characters’ memories, the reader might feel confused at the beginning, he kept coming back and forth in time, and mixed stories, hopes, dreams, fears, tragedies, incidents and feelings together. I can say that, once the reader realizes that it’s based on flashbacks, they will enjoy it and find it very easy to read. Besides it’s very well-put and short enough that it won’t bore the reader. 

The Review:

In a 100 pages Kanafani tells a story of three Palestinian men who were seeking the future by trying separately & desperately to reach Kuwait through smugglers, but later they end up trying together, to run a way from Iraq, where they couldn’t find jobs and had no official papers to prove their residency, which ends up in a total failure and the death of the three of them.

Kanafani himself at some point of his life went through such an experience, when he had to remain hidden at home for some months because he had no official papers. So his story “Men In The Sun” is a reflection of reality showing the political, social and financial hardships Palestinians struggled with at that period of time. 

The story is made of 6 chapters and 4 main characters. The first chapter exposes the first character to the reader “Abu Qais” an old Palestinian man, From Jaffa,  who’s married and has a kid, living in Iraq, after he got exiled from Palestine, 1948,  in a small tiny room, that was offered to him by someone out of pity, he’s jobless and got no money, depressed and helpless.

The second chapter talks about “Asa’ad” a young man who ended up smuggled in Iraq after his exile from Ramleh in Palestine to Amman in Jordan. He tried his best to get to Kuwait but he failed once, and still insisted to try again. The money he had was what his uncle gave him, trying to help him in any way, to start his life and marry his daughter, whom he didn’t want to marry, but accepted the money for his own good.

The third chapter shows us another character “Marwan”, another young man who is forced to leave school to start working by trying to escape to Kuwait from Iraq as well, since his eldest brother disappeared and stopped sending money to the family, the family on the other hand is torn apart and no one is there to financially support them, he feels obliged and responsible to help them.

The three Palestinian men at random times meet the same fat smuggler who offers them his service cruelly for 15 Dinar, and everyone thought it was too much money, and they were afraid of trusting him, because they heard how some other Palestinians were abandoned in the desert, after they paid, and how they were lost there and dehydrated to death.

In the third chapter another character is introduced “Abu Khaizaran”, a Palestinian man, who’s got a stable job in Iraq as a water-tanker driver, who works for a rich man, but wants to make more money, since he couldn’t have another purpose for life. Before he moved to Iraq he was a victim of some explosion in Palestine and lost his manhood.

In chapter four, “Abu Khaizaran” offers the three men his idea of smuggling them through the borders of Iraq and Kuwait using the water-tanker, and explains his plan, the guys agree to hide in the empty water tank twice, once before the Iraqi check point, and Once before the Kuwaiti, and pay him 15 Dinar each upon arrival, assuring them that mission won’t take a lot of time since everyone knew him on the borders, and taking in consideration the deadly summer heat. The first check point was passed smoothly, while the next one took “Abu Khaizaran” time as the security men and those who worked in the office wanted to chat and catch up with his adventures. 

He drives fast inside the desert to be out of sight, and as he wanted to let the guys out of the tank, he finds them all dead. He throws them away on the side of the road, takes their money and someone’s watch, and gets angry and confused, wondering why they never screamed, shouted or banged the walls of the tank to ask for help, that’s in the last chapter.

Katia

A Book Review: The Other Thing “Who Killed Layla Al Hayek”, Ghassan Kanafani

To Mera, 

The girl who suddenly fill in love with Ghassan Kanafani, and has always been in love with Palestine.

About The Author:

Ghassan Kanafani born in Akka, Palestine, April 9, 1936. Assassinated by a car bomb in Beirut, Lebanon,  by the Mossad, July 8, 1972. Ghassan was a writer and an active leading member of The Popular Front Of The Liberation Of Palestine. So besides being a writer he was a politician.

kanafani 5

The Book:

The Other Thing “Who Killed Layla Al Hayek”, is a novel that was published the first time in the weekly magazine”Al Hawadeth” in Beirut, in a format of nine episodes, starting in June 1966. Ghassan Kanafani never publish it separately, maybe as assumed, dude to political reasons; The 1967 War.

The Review:

Many critiques saw the book as a negative thing in Kanafani’s works, relating that to the difference in theme and style of his writing, since usually he referred all his books and fictional books to the political situation in his motherland, Palestine.

After reading the book, which is of a fiction/Detective genre, full of suspense and analyzing of the circumstances that made the main character “Saleh” the murderer of “Layla Al Hayek”, I still didn’t see why was it considered different. The whole story, if quickly read without any further analyzing, or without being given a further thought, looks like many other fictional books, I agree. But looking deeply into the story and the idea behind it, Ghassan Knafani shouldn’t had been criticized.

If we re-read the book once more, and viewed “Layla Al Hayek” as “Palestine”, everything will change in our eyes. Ghassan Kanafani is a symbolic writer, and a good writer/Author, he wouldn’t, as many good authors, teach us how to read him, he simply wrote and we simply read and still reading. “Layla” if taken as “Palestine”, would make complete since, the case of all Arabs and Palestinians, murdering their own land by “Accident” or “Ignorance” or “Personal Interests”, pointing fingers on the most logical “Person” or “Party”, who is “Saleh” in the story, and the “Arabs” in real, being in the right place and time under the perfect circumstances.

“Saleh’s” silence in the story, is one thing that doesn’t really make sense to the reader; why would anyone not defend themselves in court, in front of a death sentence? To me at least, Ghassan did want us to see how “Saleh”, as “Arabs”, knew there was nothing much he could do to change his destiny, as everything around him was totally against him, and much stronger than him. Which can also be related to what “Arabs” had to go through back then, although at that time, they did try to change things, either with their resistance, silence, their blood being shed, sacrifices or else how.

But there is also the mutual feeling “Saleh” and “Arabs” have/had, which is hope. “Saleh” had hopes for something magical, some miracle maybe, to happen to get him out of the curse he was under, to be taken to another world, where he isn’t standing in a court accused for a murder of a woman he barely knew, but desired to feed his ego as a man, he wished for his past peaceful life back, but he didn’t fight for it, he was sentenced to death and all he did was writing a letter to his wife, which can be the new life and the next generations of the Palestinians and all the Arabs, asking her to believe that he didn’t kill “Layla”, and that he loved her, his wife, genuinely.

There is one more mutual feeling between “Saleh” and “Arabs” in the story, which is “Shame”; shame of allowing something stupid like that to happen, by not assuming he was walking towards a trap set by life and circumstance. He didn’t defend himself, because he was ashamed to admit out loud that he was having an affair with a married woman, who’s his wife’s friend. He was ashamed of being seen as a filthy lawyer, and an unfaithful man to his own family, he was also afraid to ruin the reputation of “Layla” too, and that’s what “Palestinians” did later on when they flee and immigrated and left their lands behind them, they felt ashamed not knowing how to justify their act and behavior.

In the story “Saleh” admits in his letter that he, at some point, wished “Layla” dead, because this is the only way he could keep her love in his heart, without problems, besides the love he had to his wife. And this is also what happened to “Palestinians”, who lost their lands; they deep inside them will always love what they were forced to lose.

He at the end shared his will with his wife, to use the letter for future reference for herself and others around her to start a new life, to turn a new page and keep going, not to give herself a chance to look back, reminding her that time is a healer. He even shared his fears with her, he hoped with terror that he can keep his silence in front of the hanging rope and face death quietly, and this is every “Palestinian’s”, inside “Palestine”, attitude, the full surrender to death for the sake of the sacrifice.

This whole thing might show something here, maybe the disappointment Ghassan Kanafani might have had felt back then at some point while writing his episodes for the magazine, the tiny bit of political surrender he might have had had in his heart at a certain stage of his life, of the sadness towards his love to his country.

Ghassan didn’t point out his attachment to the land directly in this book, nor showed it to us in fictional understood rhythms,and that to me , certainly, makes it a very successful piece of art. Maybe I’m wrong, and maybe the critiques were right, thinking Ghassan did write something different that had nothing to do with the case of Palestinians, all Arabs and Muslims. But literature is an art, and you go figure 🙂

Katia