Category Archives: Book Reviews

Book reviews and Las Vegas views of a Nevada resident.

DARK MONEY

Book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

DARK MONEY-The Hidden History of the Billionaires behind the Rise of the Radical RightDARK MONEY

Written by: Jane Mayer

JANE MAYER (AMERICAN INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST, GRADUATE YALE AND OXFORD, WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FOR NONFICTION)
JANE MAYER (AMERICAN INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST, GRADUATE YALE AND OXFORD, WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FOR NONFICTION)

When corporations became people, a flood of money aggravated the worst instincts of democratic government.  The inference of “Dark Money” is–with more money to influence opinion, those with the most gold, rule.  Jane Mayer, the author, alludes to a veil that hides the names of wealthy people who contribute to chimerical foundations that pay to play politics in American elections, government policy decisions, and educational institutions. That veil comes from the Supreme Court’s decision to remove contribution limits by corporations that choose to influence American government.  As long as contributions are not directly tied to particular candidates for office, the Supreme Court rules in “Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission” that any dollar limit on non-profit, and later, for-profit incorporation’s is a denial of free speech.

sons of wichitaMayer methodically researches the influence of a group of billionaires who believe all human beings can prosper when government is small and regulation of private enterprise is limited.  Some of Mayer’s named billionaires are the Koch brothers, Richard Mellon Scaife, John M. Olin, the Bradley brothers, Sheldon Adelson, Paul Singer, the Waltons, and others.  Mayer argues that these billionaires are behind the rise of a 21st century radical right.

Of course, the radical right has always been in America but Mayer implies that it is better organized and influential because of its sophisticated support,  political spin improvements, and abundant financial backing.  Mayer’s documentation is convincing.  It is interesting to read; not because it is right or wrong, but because it reveals how public opinion can be manipulated by a wealthy minority.

The manipulation Mayer chooses to expose is a class of billionaires who believe the American Dream exists, and that its existence is dependent on individual ability, hard work, and accumulation of money, power, and prestige.  It is also a belief that what is good for business is good for quality of life and the environment.

The argument of this conservative belief may be characterized in history as temporal but recurrent; i.e.  England grew to be a great nation in spite of the London fog from industrial development and early suppression of indigenous nations that became part of the English empire.  One might argue that London fog (industrial pollution) and colonialism diminishes when it no longer serves the environmental and economic welfare of the country.  These billionaires believe they, and all Americans, have the right to do as they please until it no longer benefits society’s wealth, power, or position.  What counts in this conservative movement is the right to do as the individual chooses until it is no longer in their self-interest.

Mayer systematically explains how several American billionaires financially support many organizations and individuals that endorse their conception of free enterprise.  The support extends to scholarships for students choosing a conservative ideological education, media acquisitions that spin toward conservative principles, professorships in universities supporting conservative views, financial support for conservative aligned non-profit think tanks, and Political Action Committees that finance wannabe elected officials who endorse the rights of self-interest.

AYN RAND (1905-1982)
AYN RAND (1905-1982)

The story of “Dark Money” is as American as apple pie.  It has been present in politics since the revolution of 1776.  It has become particularly acute in modern times because of the Supreme Court’s decision and the rising gap between rich and poor.  What is at the heart of this conservative movement is a delusion that self-interest (see Ayn Rand) always benefits humankind. It is a set of beliefs that argues individual self-interest benefits society through unregulated competition; i.e. conservative beliefs that survival of the fittest connotes value defined by money; influence defined by power, and goodness defined by prestige.  An opposing philosophy suggests value is defined by individual quality of life; influence by what others choose to give the individual, and goodness by doing no harm to others while being expert at what one does.

ADAM SMITH (1723-1790, AUTHOR OF -THE WEALTH OF NATIONS)
ADAM SMITH (1723-1790, AUTHOR OF -THE WEALTH OF NATIONS)
FRIEDRICH AUGUST von HAYEK (1899-1992)
FRIEDRICH AUGUST von HAYEK (1899-1992)

Mayer’s billionaires are misreading Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations” and Friedrich Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom”.  Neither Smith nor Hayek denies the importance of supporting those who are poor, those unable to break the cycle of poverty, or those who are disabled.  All human beings are subject to greed, corruption, and excessive pride.  That is why government’ checks and balances have served America so well. 

Unquestionably, there is a danger of too much government because making decisions for others have unintended consequence.  This is a failing that occurs at both ends of the political spectrum.  Liberal billionaires are as capable of leading America astray as conservative billionaires.  However, unintended consequence is what government checks and balances are meant to control, or at least mitigate.  Neither government nor the rise of the radical right or left is the source of America’s evils; i.e. human nature is the nemesis.

(Visited 14 time, 1 visit today)

WASTED IMAGINATION

Book Review Personal Library By: Chet Yarbrough

The Casual Vacancythe casual vacancy By: J.K. Rowling

J. K. ROWLING (MOST FAMOUS FOR THE HARRY POTTER SERIES)
J. K. ROWLING (MOST FAMOUS FOR THE HARRY POTTER SERIES)

J. K. Rowling’s book, The Casual Vacancy, is wasted imagination by a talented and successful writer. Rowling takes a break from magic to create a reality-based story about societal decay. It is a story of human degradation and society’s inability to deal with human nature’s frailties; frailties that engender poverty, addiction, child abuse, and psychosis–the ills of human’ history.

The Casual Vacancy disappoints. One expects better from Rowling. This 2012’ fiction seems unlikely to be read by many, without Rowling being known as author.

Rowling introduces her story by telling of an unexpected death of a Parish Councilman. The unexpected death creates a “…Casual Vacancy”, which is a Parish’ term meaning an unexpected political vacancy has occurred, and an election must be held. The vacancy is in the Pagford Parish, a middle class community that provides some social services to the adjacent community, The Fields. These two communities represent most of the ineradicable ills of society. The required election exposes some of those ills.

The preeminent ill is poverty. It is clearly exhibited in The Fields community. Pagford Parish is populated by residents that are outwardly more prosperous but inwardly troubled by the same human’ frailties as The Fields. Family tensions are displayed by Rowling’s story. Children are trying to find their way in life. Adults are equally busy finding themselves; each deal with their own insecurities and desires. Rowling shows how families suffer from lack of attention to relationship, their directionlessness, and fleeting empathy; i.e. many parents abuse without realizing; children rebel without purpose, and families forget others’ suffering.

Rowling mixes lives in these two parishes; the mixing magnifies the human’ consequence of poverty. Though addiction, child abuse, and psychosis are evident in both communities, the reality of poverty and its consequence are life threatening in The Fields. The family described in The Fields is poor and poorly educated with a single parent that is addicted to drugs. The Fields’ family’ story ends with accidental death and suicide.

The families in Pagford Parish are middle class, and better educated. The Pagford Parish families’ story ends with a funeral. The funeral is for two deaths in The Field’s family. The funeral is a symbol of the difference between struggling poor families and struggling middle class families; i.e. a fleeting reminder to Pagford’ residents of why empathy and care for others is important. It is fleeting because the funeral is only a symbol. It is only an event. It infers societal’ change is unlikely.  When a funeral is over, insight often becomes buried with the dead.

Reading The Casual Vacancy is like watching an episode of a television’ reality series; i.e. tragic or cloyingly saccharine events unfold but nothing new or enlightening is revealed. The Casual Vacancy is formulaic—event full (at least at the end), but empty of anything new; a wasted imagination.

(Visited 15 time, 1 visit today)

EVERY LIFE IS A WORLD

Book Review
Personal Library
By Chet Yarbrough

The Winner Stands Alonethe winner stands alone By Paulo Coelho

PAULO COELHO (WORLD FAMOUS NOVELIST AND BRAZILIAN LYRICIST)
PAULO COELHO (WORLD FAMOUS NOVELIST AND BRAZILIAN LYRICIST)  ALSO WROTE “THE ALCHEMIST”.

Every life is a world. Paulo Coelho’s The Winner Stands Alone magnifies the ephemeral nature of being rich, poor, famous, unknown, powerful, or powerless.

An atheist would conclude that in life, we stand alone; in death, we die alone. Coelho suggests something significantly different in his ending; i.e. we stand or die alone with either a good angel or a bad angel. It seems Coelho believes human existence is a fulfillment of destiny.

The Winner Stands Alone is a love-it or leave-it experience. If it is a first exposure to Coelho, a reader will likely leave it. It is a dark tale, cleverly written about the world of glitz, glamour, fame, and fortune. Set in Cannes during Festival, the vacuity of fame, fortune, glitz and glamour are stripped bare. Cannes is where aspiration and success mingle.

The cleverness of Coelho’s story is in short chapters that steadily reveal an evil protagonist’s amoral, nihilist belief; i.e. a belief that existence has no objective meaning or intrinsic value. His name is Igor, a Russian millionaire. Igor is a soldier of fortune with skill of a killer, passion of a romantic, and intelligence of a savant. Igor lives by instinct, like a leopard with a human brain. He creates a demented plan to recover the love of his ex-wife.

Igor’s plan is to destroy worlds to demonstrate depth of love for a woman who has abandoned him. Igor murders several of Cannes’ rich attendees and one poor shop girl with each victim losing their life; i.e. their personal world of experience and existence. Igor sends IMs to his ex-wife at the end of each murder. Each destroyed world punctuates Igor’s arrival and pending reunion with lost love. The reunion caps Coelho’s story.

An aspiring Cannes’ police detective recognizes a serial murderer is at work before Igor’s reunion takes place. Coelho recounts former serial murderer’ cases to reveal common threads of intent. Igor’s intent is seen by the detective as a message that, once delivered, will stop serial killing at the Cannes’ festival.  This paradoxically offers some solace to the Cannes’ police department and elected officials; the murders will end–good for the city, but not for current or future victims.

What may keep a reader reading is the desire to know how the story will end. Will Igor be caught? A casual reader will be surprised. What if human existence is only a fulfillment of destiny?

(Visited 11 time, 1 visit today)

HUMANITY

Book Review
Personal Library

By Chet Yarbrough
Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden from 9/11 to Abbottabadmanhunt By Peter L. Bergen

PETER BERGAN (NEWSPAPER, MAGAGZINE WRITER & CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST)
PETER BERGAN (NEWSPAPER, MAGAGZINE WRITER & CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST)

Hunting down and killing another human being diminishes humanity. Sadly, despite that diminution, the story of the search and killing of Osama bin Laden perversely satisfies human nature’s desire for revenge. Written by Peter Bergen, Manhunt is a page turning thriller that tells America’s story of the search for and killing of Osama bin Laden, an acknowledged mass murderer.

OSAMA BIN LADEN (1957-2011)
OSAMA BIN LADEN (1957-2011)

Osama bin Laden accepts responsibility for the 9/11 killing of nearly 3,000 innocents–bin Laden went to his grave believing in the justice of terrorism. Bin Laden justifies 9/11 with a belief that America is an evil empire that manipulates and destabilizes Middle Eastern culture to satisfy worldly greed. Bin Laden calls Americans infidels because they do not believe in the truth of his understanding of Allah.

Al Qaeda’ followers believe they know the truth of life and the hereafter; anyone who disagrees with Al Qaeda’s believers is an infidel, subject to death. Al Qaeda’s Jihad dances with the same devil as the Christian’s Crusaders. Contrary to religious zealots’ opinion of truth in life or the hereafter, the nature of human beings is to be free to choose what one believes.

History shows that humans murdering humans represents the worst in humanity. Al Qaeda’s justification (rationalization) for terrorism condones discriminate murder of others.   That rationalization includes indiscriminate murder of innocent bystanders.

Ironically, American justification for drone use also condones discriminate murder of others; including indiscriminate murder of innocent bystanders.  Voltaire suggests, “As long as people believe in absurdities they will continue to commit atrocities.”  This idiotic cycle of blaming and killing goes on and on.

PAKISTANI' DRONE STRIKE OPPOSITION
PAKISTANI’ DRONE STRIKE OPPOSITION

Osama bin Laden manages to evade capture for over ten years after 9/11. Bergen infers this long period of evasion is a result of distracted American military focus, poor American intelligence, and the political ambivalence of Middle Eastern allies.

IBRAHIM SAEED AHMED (AKA ABU AHMED al-KUWAITI , THE KUWAITI, KILLED IN THE ABBOTTABAD RAID)
IBRAHIM SAEED AHMED (AKA ABU AHMED al-KUWAITI , THE KUWAITI, KILLED IN THE ABBOTTABAD RAID)

The key to tracking Osama bin Laden is Ibrahim Saeed Ahmed, aka Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti (the Kuwaiti). Bergen explains that Ahmed is a trusted courier for Osama bin Laden. Ahmed is summoned to a compound in Abbottabad, after having been away from Al Qaeda for nearly a year. This summoning and extensive surveillance of the Abbottabad compound suggest a high-ranking al Qaeda leader is hiding in this northeastern Pakistani’ city of nearly 1.5 million people.

Bergen reports on a concerted effort by a team of American government leaders and military analysts to infiltrate the Abbottabad’ compound for actionable intelligence. The focus of the team was to determine who the high-ranking person was in the compound. Speculation grew to a 50/50 chance that the person was Osama bin Laden.

VIDEO-LINK-OF-ABBOTTABAD-ACTION-TO-KILL-OR-CAPTURE-OSAMA-bin-LADEN
VIDEO-LINK-OF-ABBOTTABAD-ACTION-TO-KILL-OR-CAPTURE-OSAMA-bin-LADEN

Bergen’s build up to the decision to send a team of Navy Seals into the compound rivals the best drama one could write about a secret military action. The highest government and military leaders of America wrestle with life and death decisions, based on too few facts for guaranteed mission success.

Bergen illustrates the difference between being a manager and a leader. The former keeps an organization running but the latter gives organization purpose. Just as George W. Bush chooses to invade Iraq, Barack Obama chooses to invade Abbottabad’s Al Qaeda’ compound. Right or wrong, both Presidents show themselves to be leaders by making final decisions based on the best information available.

GEORGE WALKER BUSH (43RD PRES. OF THE UNITED STATES)
GEORGE WALKER BUSH (43RD PRES. OF THE UNITED STATES)
BARACK OBAMA (44TH PRES. OF THE UNITED STATES)
BARACK OBAMA (44TH PRES. OF THE UNITED STATES)

By the end of Bergen’s story, a listener knows the managers and leaders of the Obama administration. On reflection, one realizes bin Laden, Mao, Stalin, and Hitler were also leaders. The obvious cautionary conclusion is that followers and managers should choose their leaders carefully.

This Youtube’ video on the Abbottabad raid most accurately tracks Peter Bergen’s book,  “Manhunt” :

(Visited 18 time, 1 visit today)

SVENGALI OR da VINCI

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

The Singularity is Nearthe singularity is near By: Ray Kurzweil

Narrated by George K. Wilson

RAY KURZWEIL (AUTHOR,SCIENTIST,INVENTOR,DIRECTOR OF ENGINEERING AT GOOGLE)
RAY KURZWEIL (AUTHOR,SCIENTIST,INVENTOR,DIRECTOR OF ENGINEERING AT GOOGLE)

The Singularity is Near, written by Ray Kurzweil, bodes the impertinence of Svengali or the prescience of Leonardo da Vinci. Ask a sixty-six year old if he/she would like to be thirty-five again. Ray Kurzweil predicts it will be possible by 2048. However, there is a Faustian bargain to be struck if Kurzweil’s prediction comes true.

Kurzweil’s prediction is based on three beliefs; i.e. one, continued geometric improvement in computer processing power; two, expanded use of nanotechnology with infinite improvement in artificial intelligence; and three, melding of human biology and A. I.’ technology.

Kurzweil believes modern science (its discovery and implementation) grows at geometric rates. He believes advances in computer technology guarantee continued geometric growth of research and development in science. Kurzweil notes that knowledge naturally advances at an accelerated rate because of World Wide Web interconnection. This interconnectedness monumentally increases the number of minds working on new ideas in all fields of discovery. Kurzweil notes that computer capability has enhanced human intelligence by making information more organized and widely available. Computer’ search engine operating systems monumentally improve human research and development.

Moore’s law shows the number of transistors on circuit boards doubles every two years. Moore and other computer scientists suggest that this doubling may be nearing its peak but Kurzweil believes DNA computing or some other non-silicon based technology will replace circuit board technology. Kurzweil suggests replacement technologies will continue geometric growth of computer processing power.

Kurzweil shows that nanotechnology opens a new world of discovery that crosses borders of all science. He argues that the miniaturization of computers is a bridge between robotics and humans. Research in nanotechnology extends medical science by offering software driven, atom-sized bots that can search and destroy pathogens in the human body. DNA based nanobots are being created to target cancer cells. Current research suggests nanobots will cross the blood-brain border to modify and improve brain function.

Kurzweil argues that the geometric advance of science in robotics and artificial intelligence will meet the strictest interpretation of a Turing’ test; i.e. humans will be unable to tell whether they are communicating with a robot or a human when asking a question.

Kurzweil argues that reverse engineering of the human brain will improve human intelligence with the use of customized nanobots that will be able to replicate themselves like genomic DNA. Human access to information will become instantaneous. More crucially, nanobots will be able to organize and focus information within a human brain to ask or answer questions only history’s geniuses contemplated. Every human brain will have its own Sherlock Holmes’ mind-palace. Computer hardware and software, through nanobots, will become a part of human DNA; i.e. a part of the evolutionary cycle of humankind. With succeeding generations, humans will become a different form of life.  Genetic changes will happen at much higher rates of speed than postulated for humans by Charles Darwin. The nature of nanobot replication will accelerate human evolution.

This is the point at which Kurzweil argues for the singularity, “a hypothetical moment in time when artificial intelligence will have progressed to the point of a greater-than-human intelligence.” Kurzweil believes computer processing power will become a part of human DNA. Humans will be both human and not-human with artificial intelligence that will surpass the intelligence and/or insight of any and all humans in history.

Kurzweil infers that nanobot introduction to human evolution is only a continuation of the DNA-RNA replication system of the first carbon based life forms on earth.

Artificial limbs for humans were the beginning of the meld between human biology and computer technology. Kurzweil argues the confluence of biology and robotics will extend to organ replacement. Organ transplants will become commonplace. Technological innovation will provide for human tissue samples that will regenerate hearts, livers, eyes, ears, and noses. All human body parts will be replaceable. Human organs will no longer be rejected because of auto immune responses. Every organ transplant will have a perfect DNA match.

Equally, robotics in the form of atom size nanobots will become an integral part of human brain function. This conjunction of human and nanobot is Kurzweil’s singularity. Human beings will become cybernetic organisms; i.e. humans will be both human and “mechotronic” (a combination of mechanical, electrical, telecommunication, and computer) beings.

The Faustian’ bargain that must be struck is in the singularities god-like potential that can destroy as well as create. The universe may become a heaven or hell with the arbiter being a replicating nanobot.

Interestingly, Google employs Kurzweil as a director of engineering. Kurzweil happens to be sixty-six years old this year. One presumes he would like to be thirty-five again. The year 2048 means Kurzweil will be one hundred at the time of the singularity. Kurzweil is in a race against time. (Some would suggest he is in a race against reason.)

The Singularity is Near is well written and a fascinating vision with an optimistic view of the future. Faust declares at the end of Act V: “He who strives on and lives to strive/ Can earn redemption still”. That is the best one can say about Kurzweil’s predictions.

(Visited 15 time, 1 visit today)

HORRORS

Book Review
Personal Library
By Chet Yarbrough

Purepure
By Andrew Miller

The word pure is defined as something which has foreign elements removed. “Pure” is a novel by Andrew Miller set in 1785. The year is relevant because it takes place in France, four years before the revolution.

HORRORS OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
HORRORS OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION

The author does not refer to revolution but there is a macabre prescience and parallel to France’s 1789 rebellion. Social deterioration depicted in “Pure” reminds one of the horrors reported in the aftermath of the French revolution.

LES INNOCENTS (AKA SAINTS-INNOCENTS BEFORE CLOSURE)
LES INNOCENTS (AKA SAINTS-INNOCENTS BEFORE CLOSURE)

“Pure” is about dismantling a grave yard in Paris. Les Innocents’ grave yard was disgorged of cadavers and abandoned in 1786. Miller writes about an engineer, commissioned by the French royal court, to relocate burial remains and dismantle a church from an overburdened cemetery. The engineer reluctantly accepts the commission and moves from a small town to Les Innocents in Paris.

IMAGE OF GRAVE REMOVAL
IMAGE OF GRAVE REMOVAL
IMAGE OF FRENCH ARISTOCRACY
IMAGE OF FRENCH ARISTOCRACY

Miller’s engineer is commissioned to purify Les Innocents just as the French revolution is designed to purify France. The Les

Innocents’ commission is to remove area degradation caused by too many graves. The French Revolution’s commission is to remove degradation caused by too many aristocrats. The consequence in both instances turns into something more than purification. Human beings become savage and irrational; life becomes driven by repressed anger rather than normative morality.

GRAVE DIGGER
ROBESPIERRE'S HEAD BY MADAME TUSSAUD
ROBESPIERRE’S HEAD BY MADAME TUSSAUD

Upon arrival in Les Innocents, the engineer smells the fetid air of decaying corpses. The smell permeates clothing, housing, and the psyche of local residents. Residents are accustomed to the smell. Some believe it is the smell of history and society; they love it. Others think it is only the smell of death and a reliable employer; so they tolerate it.

The engineer is from a mining town. He calls on a former friend to offer work as foreman for the grim job. The friend is to hire a team of miners to demolish a church and remove bodies from an adjacent graveyard.

Because they are miners, they are accustomed to digging and are willing to pursue less dangerous work above ground. The team arrives at the cemetery and begins work.

MINERS WORK
MINERS WORK

Soon after beginning work; digging through dirt and stacks of bodies, the miners, the foreman, and the engineer begin to have behavioral problems. All seek escape from their grim duties by soliciting local prostitutes. The foreman rapes a 14-year-old girl and shoots himself.
The engineer closets himself from society. He rents a room in a local family’s home. The landlord’s daughter attacks the engineer.  She bashes a groove in the engineer’s skull.

The Landlord’s daughter is obsessed with the cemetery’s history. She focuses her terror of loss on the engineer because he is destroying her interest in life, her obsession with the cemetery. The engineer nearly loses his life. He suffers from memory loss, severe headaches, and bad dreams.

The Landlord’s daughter is exiled from the family home. The engineer chooses a prostitute to live with him in the daughter’s former bedroom. The landlord is demeaned by the arrangement but allows it because of guilt over his daughter’s actions. The engineer’s arbitrary commands remind one of stories of unjust treatment of the poor and middle class by revolutionaries that were supposed to rid France of arbitrary decrees from Aristocratic masters.

DEPICTION OF THE PEASANTS OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
DEPICTION OF THE PEASANTS OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION

Les Innocents is to be abandoned because it became a dumping ground for human remains. France needed a revolution because cities had become dumping grounds for the poor.

There were justifiable reasons for closing Les Innocents but the nature of the work became dehumanizing. The same may be said of the French revolution.

Miller infers abandoning normative morality makes savages of us all. Life is not only about why or what human beings do. It is also about how it is done. For the health of residents in the area of Les Innocents, the cemetery had to be moved. For the poor of 1789, France’s government had to change.

The story of “why” and “what” seem clear in the novel, “Pure”,  but the “how” is in question. When one knows the “why” of life and the “what” of action, the ends do not always justify means.

(Visited 66 time, 1 visit today)

A FIGHT FOR INDEPENDENCE

Book Review
Personal Library
By Chet Yarbrough

A Golden Age
By Tahmima AnamA Golden Age

TAHMIMA ANAM (WRITER OF THE BEST FIRST BOOK-WINNER OF 2008 COMMONWEALTH WRITERS' PRIZE)
TAHMIMA ANAM (WRITER OF THE BEST FIRST BOOK-WINNER OF 2008 COMMONWEALTH WRITERS’ PRIZE)

“A Golden Age” is Tahmima Anam’s first novel.  Ms. Anam was born in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh.  Anam, though born after independence, writes of Bangladesh’s revolution.

Anam’s 2007 publication is the first of a planned trilogy. The trilogy is to reveal the trauma of independence and the struggle of Bangladesh before, during, and after the revolution; i.e., “A Golden Age” reflects on early days of battle with West Pakistan for Bangladesh’ independence.EAST AND WEST PAKISTAN (PRE-1971)

East Pakistan, before it became Bangladesh, seceded from India as a part of Pakistan in 1947.  However, the two halves of Pakistan were separated by the land mass of India.  Though both West and East Pakistan are united by Islamic religion, East Pakistan was a part of the Bengal nation, with its own tradition and language.  East Pakistan felt cheated by West Pakistan’s domination; West Pakistan denied equal partnership of East Pakistan in the fruits of foreign investment that created West Pakistan’s ruling military.PAKISTAN AND BANGLADESH (POST-1971)

East Pakistan sought independence from West Pakistan in 1971. West Pakistan invades East Pakistan and murders an estimated 200,000 to 1,000,000 East Pakistanis. Rape was common during the conflict; rape became sexual reward to West Pakistani’ soldiers for platoon’ operations. This nine month war is backdrop to Anam’s novel.

Through the eyes of a widowed mother and her two adult children, Bangledesh’s fight for independence reveals the hardship of Bangladeshi’ life. It reflects on the morality of choices made by human beings when poverty or death threatens those who are loved.

BANGLADESH

Rehana Haque, the widowed mother, loses her husband to a heart attack before the war begins. With consequent poverty, from the loss of her husband and East Pakistan’s court system, Ms. Haque loses her children.  Her daughter and son are ordered sent to West Pakistan to live with a married brother that can afford to raise her children.

Ms. Haque is faced with abject poverty. She is near capitulating to an undesired marriage to provide enough wealth and security for the return of her children. However, through accident, the elderly suitor rejects Ms. Haque.  Ms. Haque, by accident–that becomes intent, steals from the rejecting suitor.  The theft offers Rehana the wealth she needs to get her children back and build a house in which they can live in East Pakistan.  The children are still young.  This is some years before the war for independence.

——————BANGLADESH CIVIL WAR———————–

Rehana is riven with guilt for her theft.  It seems a hint of what is to come when civil war knocks at her door.  Her children grow to adulthood before war strikes.  Both children become revolutionaries.  Rehana becomes a reluctant revolutionary.  Rehana’s journey to self-understanding tells the story of Bangledesh’s independence and the impact revolution has on the moral integrity of presumably good people.

——————–CIVIL WAR IN UKRAINE———————-

Bangledesh’s story is familiar.  It is told in France’s revolution by Charles Dickens in “A Tale of Two Cities”.  It may be told again in Russia as Putin moves to quell Ukraine’ unrest in February of 2014.

Anam’s story makes one wonder what choices would be made by anyone in a revolution; e.g. choices of the French in 1789 and now, the Russians in 2014.  The beauty of “A Golden Age” is in its lyricism and thematic consistency.  The added benefit is information about a young South Asian country little known by most Americans.

(Visited 70 time, 1 visit today)