Tag Archives: Historical Fiction

History with fulsomeness and poetic license.

MORALITY & REDEMPTION

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

QB VII

Written by: Leon Uris

Narrated by: John Lee

LEON URIS (1924-2003, AMERICAN AUTHOR)

In 1970, “QB VII” is acclaimed as a page turning best seller.  It is the story of a libel trial against an author for naming a knighted Lord as a Nazi collaborator.  Among other things, it is a parable about morality and redemption.  The books fame is enhanced by a mini-series aired on ABC in 1974.  The author, Leon Uris, had been sued for a similar libel accusation in his first best seller, “Exodus” (see Dering v. Uris).  The title, “QB VII”, is an allusion to Queens Bench VII.

HANNOVER-AHLEM JEWISH CONCENTRATION CAMP WWII

The story is about the trial of a Polish surgeon who runs a surgical department in a Polish concentration camp in 1943.  The story begins after the war with Dr. Adam Kelno being held in a British prison while Poland is requesting extradition of Kelno for medical experimentation and abuse of concentration camp prisoners.

Inmates of a German concentration camp in Sachsenhausen, near Berlin, stand in line during attendance check, on December 19, 1938. (AP Photo)

Kelno’s  principal accuser is Dr. Mark Tessler, a Jewish prisoner and fellow surgeon in the prison camp.  Tessler testifies that Dr. Kelno victimized concentration camp prisoners, particularly Jewish prisoners that are experimented on at the direction of SS leaders.  Kelno argues that Tessler is a liar.  No corroborating evidence (neither witnesses or records) is found to support Tessler’s accusations.

Uris prepares the reader/listener for the ending of the story by having one of the British interrogators suggest Dr. Kelno is hiding something.  However, after two years of imprisonment, the English courts deny Poland’s extradition request, and the doctor is released.

BORNEO SARAWAK NATIVE

Kelno fears for his life because of Poland’s aggressive extradition attempt, and Tessler’s damning testimony.  Kelno secretively flees with his family to Borneo to begin a practice treating local natives and colonial British overseers.  The natives resist his help because of their belief in witch doctor’ traditions of health care and medical treatment.  Over time, Dr. Kelno and his wife gain the confidence and appreciation of the natives.  Kelno reputation rises in the colonial medical administration of the region.

BRITISH COLONIALISM IN NORTHER BORNEO

Kelno’s stature grows to the point of being knighted by England for selfless service in the colony.  Kelno raises a son with his wife who becomes a favorite of local natives.  As Kelno’s reputation rises, he eventually returns to England to begin a practice in a small community near London.

Uris then introduces a new character, an unorthodox Jewish author who is a young successful writer and becomes a sought-after playwright for the movies.  However, this writer longs to return to writing and become a noted author of Jewish history.  After milking the movie industry with a work of pulp fiction, Abraham Cady dedicates time to researching and writing what becomes an acclaimed best seller titled “The Holocaust”.  This event sets the table for a libel case because it reveals Kelno’s role in a Polish concentration camp.  What makes Uris’s story revelatory is the complexity of guilt and redemption for unpunished crimes, and the tenuous nature of morality.

Half of Uris’s story builds Dr. Kelno into a legend.  Kelno provides selfless duty to his patients and the medical profession after the war.  He seeks no fame, none of the accouterments of wealth, raises one son and inspires his son’s best friend to become a doctor for the natives of Borneo; while later settling into a life of obscurity in a small English community.  In contrast, Abraham Cady uses his youth to perfect his writing skill, join the military as a WWII pilot, and marry a nurse who cares for him after a disastrous plane crash.  After recovery, Cady chooses to live the life of a profligate, cheating on his wife, and prostituting his skill as a playwright.

However, the writer in Cady reaches a point of self-awareness that compels him to author something important.  This point leads to the publication of “The Holocaust”.  From Cady’s research, the accusatory testimony of Dr. Mark Tessler is found and the book references Dr. Kelno and his role as the Polish concentration camp’s medical director.  Dr. Kelno’s son’s best friend convinces Kelno that he should sue for libel.  Kelno had been found not guilty of any misdeeds when Poland tried to extradite him from England after the war.  It seems he had been unfairly imprisoned for two years, investigated, and found innocent because of lack of corroborating evidence.

BRITISH COURT (The suit is drawn.  The case goes to the Queen’s Bench VII for trial.)

The suit is drawn.  Cady insists his research is accurate and refuses to retract his findings.  The case goes to the Queen’s Bench VII for trial.  This is thirty or more years after the war.  Cady is defended by one of the best lawyers in England with payment for services made by an English aristocrat (one of Cady’s lovers), and an obscurely identified Jewish interest group.

PENANCE (Doctors Without Borders)

The trial reveals Dr. Kelno’s guilt.  The complexity of the guilt is in Kelno’s penance by being a better person after the war.  It does not absolve his quilt but it makes him something less than a monster.  One is confronted with what he/she would do in a similar circumstance of war.  Would you say no to a supervisor that tells you to castrate someone if you believed you would be killed?  Stanley Milgram’s experiments show that normal human beings can be driven to kill other human beings for no other reason than their acceptance of someone else’s authority.

Kelno may have been an anti-Semite.  Poland is noted for anti-Semitism just as America is noted for Black discrimination.  Is Kelno less human because of his acculturation?  In a perfect world, yes, but who lives in a perfect world?  Kelno is despicable.  The Ku Klux Klan is despicable.  However, when any person is classified as something other than human, classifiers condemn themselves to inhumanity.

DISCRIMINATION (When any person is classified as something other than human, classifiers condemn themselves to inhumanity.)

There are so many questions raised by Uris’s story. How brave are you? Would you risk your life to save someone else’s life? Would you kill someone if you were told by the government it is your duty to kill another? Is their redemption in good works? A judge can sit in a chair and think what his/her answer should be, but any human in a circumstance of life or death can only answer the question with his/her action in the now. There are few winners in Uris’s story. There are many losers.

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ANOTHER SIDE OF LIFE

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

A Brief History of Seven Killingsa-brief-history-of-seven-killings

Written by: Marlon James

Narrated by: Robertson Dean Cherise Boothe ,Dwight Bacquie Ryan Anderson Johnathan McClain Robert Younis Thom Rivera

MARLON JAMES (JAMAICAN NOVELIST, 2015 WINNER OF THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE)
MARLON JAMES (JAMAICAN NOVELIST, 2015 WINNER OF THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE)

Another side of life is shown in Marlon James “A Brief History of Seven Killings”.  It takes place in two Jamaican cities and New York, but it is a vision of ghetto poverty, power, and politics.

The ghetto is “a part of a city, especially a slum area, occupied by a minority group or groups”.  “Ghetto” implies most residents are poor.  However, a few residents are powerful because minority groups have leaders.  “A Brief History of Seven Killings” is about leaders who influence or control the life and death of millions of people.  Every Ghetto has its leaders.

KINGSTON, JAMAICA GHETTO
KINGSTON, JAMAICA GHETTO

Some leaders grow up in the neighborhood; others come from outside.  Some are gang affiliated thugs.  Some are shoe shined bureaucrats that work for local, and national governments; others are agents of foreign governments or illegal cartels.  James implies these powerful leaders are intelligent, politically astute, and motivated to act in what they perceive is self-interest.  Violence is a tool, and sometimes a consequence, of their action.

JAMAICAN VIOLENCE (MORE THAN 1600 MURDERS IN 2008 KINGSTON-POLICE AND GANG VIOLENCE CONFRONTATION)
JAMAICAN VIOLENCE (MORE THAN 1600 MURDERS IN 2008 KINGSTON-POLICE AND GANG VIOLENCE CONFRONTATION)

The author, Marlon James, is the son of a Jamaican female police detective and Jamaican lawyer.  With a provenance that suggests James knows what he is writing about, “A Brief History of Seven Killings” explores the dark side of Kingston and Copenhagen City (a fictional suburb of Kingston).

James writes about the late 70s and early 80s in Jamaica.  In James story, America perceives Jamaica is on the edge of turning into a communist nation like Cuba.  The CIA has covert operatives who interfere in Jamaican political life.  One character is called Dr. Love who may be a double agent, a Cuban spy, or a freelance terrorist.  Dr. Love’s role is pivotal in James’ story.

The power structure existing in James’ story revolves around gangs called Posses in Jamaica’s capitol city of Kingston.  One of the most violent and feared is the Copenhagen City’ Posse, led by Josey Wales.  The Posses are made up of thugs with colorful names like “Who Shot the Sheriff”.

BOB MARLEY (1945-1981, ACTUAL CAUSE OF DEATH AT 36 IS METASTATIC MELANOMA)
BOB MARLEY (1945-1981, ACTUAL CAUSE OF DEATH AT 36 IS METASTATIC MELANOMA)

James tells a fictional version of the famous Jamaican singer, Bob Marley, who is only identified as “The Singer”.  The Singer attempts to create peace among the Kingston’ Posses and is assassinated for the effort.  James suggests the assassination is to promote the idea of “one Don” to manage all the Posses and control the election of one or the other political parties in Jamaica.  One party represents interests of America and the other does not.   The “one Don’s” objective is to make whomever is elected beholding to him.  The crux of the story is that lives of Jamaicans are being influenced and controlled by leaders of corruption and foreign government interests; not by freedom of choice or election.

James antiheroes, like Mark Twain’s accented southern boys, are difficult to understand because of their patois but as one begins to understand what is going on, “A Brief History of Seven Killings” tragically, and sometimes comically, entertains listeners.  There are many stories told that show how a free press works; how women are unfairly treated; how nationalism can be a societal cancer, and how little influence the poor have on the course of their lives.

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SUFFERING

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

All Quiet on the Western Frontall-quiet-on-the-western-front

Written by: Erich Maria Remarque

Narrated by: Frank Muller

ERICH MARIA REMARQUE (1898-1970, GERMAN SOLDIER AND NOVELIST)
ERICH MARIA REMARQUE (1898-1970, GERMAN SOLDIER AND NOVELIST)

Suffering is fiercely defended and reviled in war.  Defense of war’s suffering comes from many; condemnation comes from survivors who view war as diplomacy’s failure.  Staunch defenders come from war’s “winners”.  Condemners come from war’s losers.  “All Quiet on the Western Front” is written by a former German soldier in WWI.  As loser of that war, Erich Remarque uses a narrative that sounds like poetry.  But, it is poetry that assaults the senses and reminds one of the smoke-stained Aleppo boy sitting on an orange chair in Syria.

SYRIAN CHILD OF WAR (OMRAN DAQNEESH)
SYRIAN CHILD OF WAR (OMRAN DAQNEESH)

How do intelligent human beings turn into warriors of hate and murder?  As a former veteran, military boot camp provides discipline, physical stamina, and age transition from adolescence to adulthood.  Modern American boot camps break down social barriers and build teams of soldiers that depend on each other.  In Remarque’s story, boot camp is a laboratory of pain.  It successfully creates soldiers that depend on each other but trains them to hate the “other”.

BOOT CAMP
BOOT CAMP

Modern American boot camps expose one to long marches, military armaments, and bivouacking. Many recruits return home after enlistment and move on with life.

In Remarque’s story, every boot camp leads to combat.  Today, many American boot camps are once again leading to combat.  Sadly, hate of the “other” has become part of American military training.  Yesterday, it was American internment of the Japanese; today it is Muslim profiling, incarceration at Guantanamo, and threats of deportation.

JAPANESE INTERNMENT CAMP IN CALIFORNIA'S EASTERN SIERRAS DURING WWII
JAPANESE INTERNMENT CAMP IN CALIFORNIA’S EASTERN SIERRAS DURING WWII
VIETNAM WAR
VIETNAM WAR

Remarque’s war smells of foxholes, gun powder, and poisonous gas with blown off appendages and scarred lungs.  It is the war of Vietnam in the 60s and Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, and Syria in the 2000s; all seem to be wars of failed diplomacy.  America lost the war in Vietnam.  We, and the indigenous people of Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, and Syria are not winning.

Erich Maria Remarque clearly illustrates how war is not the answer in “All Quiet on the Western Front”.  Everyone loses.  As Remarque notes one tribe says this is their homeland; then, another says this is their homeland; each cleaves to each, and without diplomacy murder and mayhem follow.

Every tribe or country leader that wins a war says suffering of the people is justified.  Every tribe or country leader that loses a war says suffering of the people is wasted.  History will record whether Obama, Putin, Assad, Ghani, al-Abadi, Abbas, Netanyahu, and Trump are right.   Omran Daqneesh and our children bear the consequence.

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STORIES OF AN ERA

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

The Decameronthe decameron

Written by: Giovanni Boccaccio

Narration by:  Frederick Davidson

GIOVANNI BOCCACCIO (1313-1375, ITALIAN WRITER, POET, AND HUMANIST)
GIOVANNI BOCCACCIO (1313-1375, ITALIAN WRITER, POET, AND HUMANIST)

“The Decameron” is a series of stories about the western world’s comic/tragic society.  Compiled or written by Giovanni Boccaccio in the 14th century, it recalls 100 stories told by seven women and three men over a period of ten days. “The Decameron” pictures humanity as subject to luck, avarice, and lust.  Each story implies human relationship is determined by circumstance, and informed by nature.  The circumstance is societal position and the moment of experience.  Nature is the exigency of the emotive moment.

Written during or after the spread of the Black Death (1346-53), “The Decameron” skewers belief that God determines one’s fate.  The stories range from raucous to sedate, to sinful and salacious.

Each story implies humans are like wood chips loosed on the sea.  Humans float into and away from society’s harbor; toward and away from each other, driven by happenstance and nature.  Men are often depicted as lustful beasts; women as lustful manipulators of chance and circumstance.  Corruption of morals is as evident in the priesthood as in the lay public.  In Boccaccio’s world, God may have created the universe but everything after the seventh day is driven by chance and nature.

All stories are of tradesmen, merchants, upper class men and women who have the luxury of exercising desires in life; i.e. desires beyond the necessity of food to eat and shelter to protect.  Women are generally shown as weaker than men but also as clever clandestine operatives.  Women and men living above the level of abject poverty seem equally consumed by interest in love and lust.  Considering the history of human misogyny, love and lust may have been women’s principle source of security.  Love seems riven with lust in men while more frequently used as a tool of manipulation by women.

Neither the church or the lay public are shown to be morally superior.  The priesthood and upper-class laymen use the tools of wealth, power, and prestige to seduce women.  In contrast women use guile and sexual favor to clandestinely acquire the same earthly desires.  The exception is the wealthy widow that has some control over unforeseen consequences of chance.

The comic/tragic events of the stories offer a view of what it is like to live during the dark ages.  Some priest’s use the confessional to seduce women; nuns are found to sleep with Bishops.  Power, not surprisingly, lies in the hands of men but the fairer sex is shown capable of co-opting power with charm and cunning.  Revenge seems equally distributed between the sexes but consequentially more severe for women than men.

There are some insights to history and society offered by “The Decameron”.  A clever decision by a military strategist is to refashion bows and arrows with smaller slits than common.  The result is that enemy bow carriers on one side of a battle are unable to use arrows invented with smaller slit arrows.  But, the wide slit arrows could still be used by soldiers with small slit bows.  This small bow and arrow innovation gave one side of the battle twice the ammunition of the opposition.

More interesting insights are the rise of a middle class in the dark ages, and the early recognition of organized religion’s corruption.  God is still considered as all-powerful but organized religion is rife with the same sins of all human beings.  Women may have been treated as second class citizens but they still found ways to compete in the drive for money, power, and prestige.  Then and now, cuckold and adulteress share equal billing for shame.  However, the double standard for men that wander, and women that survive adultery is shown as appalling unequal then as it is now.  Men are forgiven while women are brutalized (sometimes murdered) and left to deal with the consequences of childbirth and poverty.

Finally, there is the underlying theme of nature and happenstance that determine the course of life.  Among Boccaccio’s followers, there is belief in God but only as Creator.  Humankind is on its own in stories of “The Decameron”.  Some suggest Boccaccio is among the first humanist writers (a system of thought emphasizing the human rather than the divine).  Buffering by nature pushes and pulls humankind with chance circumstances of the day.  Rich, poor, saintly, and heathen are equally decimated by the plague. God seems to have washed His hands of what happens on earth.  Plans of man are perceived as changed by nature’s unpredictability; not by God.

Though some may be entertained by this presentation of “The Decameron”, it is not to this critic’s taste.  It is too long.  It is delivered monotonously.  It elicits little laughter.  It ponderously consumes thirty hours of a listener’s time.  However, as noted above, it offers a remarkable picture of life in an era of western world’ upheaval (consequence of the black plague) and change (from God’s plan to the unpredictability of nature).

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POPULISM

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

Imperium: A Novel of Ancient RomeImperium

 Written by: Robert Harris

Narration by:  Simon Jones

ROBERT HARRIS (ENGLISH NOVELIST)
ROBERT HARRIS (ENGLISH NOVELIST)
MARCUS TULLIUS CICERO (106 BC-43 BC, POLITICIAN, PHILOSOPHER, LAWYER, ORATOR)
MARCUS TULLIUS CICERO (106 BC-43 BC, POLITICIAN, PHILOSOPHER, LAWYER, ORATOR)

“Imperium” is a novel about a nuance of politics known as populism.  Though Robert Harris’s book is about the beginnings of the Roman Empire, it is the story of the rise of Cicero.  Cicero is among the first populists of the Roman world.  Before Cicero, only warriors and aristocrats dominate politics.  Only force of arms, heritage, and/or wealth give admittance to leadership.  Cicero’s weapons are words; not swords, patrimony, or riches.

A populist is one characterized as “a member of a political interest group that seeks to represent interests of ordinary people”.  Populists, like all leaders, are neither good nor bad; i.e. they can be either or both.  Slightly more is known of Cicero because of letters written by and for Cicero during his life time.  However, even with firsthand accounts, there are many historical gaps.  Writers like Harris fill in those gaps with research and imagination.

POMPEY THE GREAT AKA GNAEUS POMPEIUS MAGNUS (106 BC-48 BC)
POMPEY THE GREAT AKA GNAEUS POMPEIUS MAGNUS (106 BC-48 BC)
MARCUS LICINIUS CRASSUS (115 BC - 53 BC)
MARCUS LICINIUS CRASSUS (115 BC – 53 BC)

In the beginning of the Roman Empire (6th century BC), leadership revolves around warriors who conquer, and families that inherit new lands that become part of the empire.  Warriors and their offspring become Roman consuls.  By the 1st century BC, Harris suggests only those leaders that conquered new territories would be considered for consulship of the Roman Republic.  Though several vie for that position, Pompey the Great fits the characterization of new-land acquirer.  He becomes a Consul of the Republic.  In contrast Crassus (one of the richest men in Rome) would have a hard time becoming Consul because, as a general of a Roman army, he only regained lost territory.  Though Pompey qualifies for Consul of the Republic, he aspires to be the premier Consul, a singular dictator.  In that aspiration, Harris suggests, Pompey is aided by Marcus Cicero.  The following identify leadership positions in the Roman Empire:

Ordinary magistrates
Consul
Praetor
Quaestor
Promagistrate
Aedile
Tribune
Censor
Governor
Extraordinary magistrates
Dictator
Magister equitum
Consular tribune
Rex
Triumviri
Decemviri

Cicero earns a reputation for representation of “ordinary people” by prosecuting an Aedile (a lesser Roman leader) of Sicily that robs and murders local residents.  His more significant crime is to murder a traveling Roman citizen.  The murder of a Roman citizen, if proven, is a capital crime.  Against great odds, Cicero wins the case.   In prosecution of the trial, Cicero comes to the attention of Pompey the Great.

Harris suggests Cicero becomes a reluctant ally of Pompey.  Pompey’s plan is to take control of Rome.  Pompey gathers supporters and explains that he should be designated as the sole leader of the Roman Republic.  It that role, he would repulse pirates who are raiding Roman ports.  Harris suggests Pompey’s need for supreme power is out of proportion to the pirate threat to Rome.  Cicero, as one of the gathered allies, argues Pompey’s approach would be seen as taking power away from aristocratic senators and consuls who are leaders in the Roman State.  Cicero explains a direct appeal to the Senate for dictatorial power, even with control of a great army, will not succeed.  Cicero suggests the idea of seducing “ordinary” Roman Citizens.  He suggests that Pompey announce his retirement, declining any desire for power, while insisting that one military leader be appointed to abate Pirate incursions.  Cicero reasons that Pompey will be recalled by acclimation because of his history of conquest and defense of Rome.  No other Roman leader has as great a reputation as Pompey.

The ploy fails because, as Cicero expected, Roman aristocrats (Senators and fellow Consuls) do not want to lose their own power.  The point is Cicero’s populist appeal offers a way to achieve dictatorship; i.e. create an outside threat to Rome and enlists citizen fear to support a supreme leader.  Though it fails in this instance, it sets the table for the rise of Julius Caesar.  Identifying outside threats is a ploy of dictators throughout history.

Not to lose sight of Harris’s clever story, there are many twists and turns that lead Cicero to the pinnacle of 1st century Roman power based on populism.  Populism leads to constructive as well as destructive change.  Cicero becomes a Consul but is assassinated in 43 BC.  The irony of “Imperium” is that Cicero is opposed to dictatorship but becomes a tool and a victim of its ascension.  Julius Caesar and his adopted son become the first dictators of Rome.  Dictatorship is the beginning and the end of the Empire.

This narration of “Imperium” is excellent but unnecessary pauses between chapters degrade Simon Jones’ presentation.

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A CHILLING VIEW

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

The Death of the Adversary: A Novelthe death of the adversary

Written by: Hans Keilson, Ivo Jarosy

Narration by:  James Clamp

HANS KEILSON (1909-1970)
HANS KEILSON (1909-1970)

“The Death of the Adversary” is a chilling view of the rise of Nazism in Germany. Hans Keilson never mentions the word Jew, Hitler, or Germany in his novel about the 1930s but notions of history inform the listener of what Keilson is writing about. Names are not named because Keilson writes the story while hiding during WWII. He flees Germany to join the Dutch resistance when denied the opportunity to practice medicine as a Jew.

ADOLPH HITLER (1889-1945, The unnamed adversary.Hans Keilson never mentions the word Jew, Hitler, or Germany in his novel about the 1930s but notions of history inform the listener of what Keilson is writing about. Names are not named because Keilson writes the story while hiding during WWII. )

The main character of Keilson’s novel refuses to believe his father, or acquaintances at work and school, of the threat of an unnamed adversary in his home country.  This anti-hero pursues his life as though the threat of State terror would pass without affecting his life.  However, as events unfold, the anti-hero hears the radio voice of “…the Adversary” and begins to understand the underlying murderous intent of a charismatic political actor who will turn the country’s lives upside down.  Keilson writes of a speech given by “…the Adversary” to give the reader/listener some insight to the power of words in the hands of a consummate actor.  “The power of words” is a terrifying realization to the anti-hero.  The realized terror is that spoken words by one actor can lead to a genocidal mania on the part of a chosen people.

NAZI BROWN SHIRTS (WWII, In Keilson’s story, one of the youngest of acquaintances tells of his recruitment in an obscure organization.  He volunteers to go on a night mission under the supervision of the organization’s leader. )

Next, Keilson tells a story of a meeting at a friend’s house where several young men congregate to discuss a local incident.  The anti-hero’s friend is a woman who is employed at his place of work.  One of the young men is her brother.  It appears the young men are relatively close friends that choose to allow the anti-hero to join their conversation.  One of the youngest of the group tells of his recruitment in an obscure organization.  He volunteers to go on a night mission under the supervision of the organization’s leader.

GRAVE DESECRATION IN GERMANY (The recruitment is for a team of miscreants to desecrate the graves of a cemetery which one presumes is a particular ethnic graveyard.)

The recruitment is for a team of miscreants to desecrate the graves of a cemetery which one presumes is a particular ethnic graveyard.  The purpose is to defile the memory of the people buried in the graveyard and the common beliefs that hold society together.  Some of the participants are ambivalent about the mission but go along with the leader’s direction.  Head stones are overturned and graves are shat upon; a disgusting exhibition of how disrespectful a society can become.

BATTERED SUIT CASE (Keilson recounts the love and guilt of his anti-hero by explaining how his father prepares a suitcase for himself and wife, and his son.  The parent’s suitcase is preparation for a knock on the door in the middle of the night.)

Keilson recounts the love and guilt of his anti-hero by explaining how his father prepares a suitcase for himself and wife, and his son.  The parent’s suitcase is preparation for a knock on the door in the middle of the night.  The poignancy of the things to be put in the suitcase highlights the ugliness of necessity.  The parents do not plan to leave their country in spite of the danger of staying.  The suitcase for the son is to escape the country.  The son seems resigned to let life happen.  He is an anti-hero that is prepared to let events control his life; even though the consequence may be loss of his parents.

The final chapters offer the anti-hero the opportunity to kill “…the Adversary”.  He chooses not to and history shows his decision to be both right and wrong.  It is right in light of the ultimate death of “…the Adversary” because of actions of others who stop his reign of terror.  It seems wrong because of the death of many (particularly the anti-hero’s parents), and his failure to confront “…the Adversary” before it is too late.  Keilson makes a fine and ironic point by having the anti-hero murdered before escaping the country.

One is compelled to wonder about oneself in listening to Keilson’s story.  Who will choose to confront the adversary?  Who will “go along to get along”?

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SARAJEVO

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

Rose of SarajevoRose of Sarajevo

Written by: Ayse Kulin (Translated by Kenneth Dakan)

Narration by:  Kathleen Gati

AYSE KULIN (TURKISH NOVELIST AND COLUMNIST)
AYSE KULIN (TURKISH NOVELIST AND COLUMNIST)

Sarajevo, a town of less than 70,000 in 1917, grows to over 500,000 in 1991.  The murder of one Austrian King (King Ferdinand) in Sarajevo precipitates WWI in 1914.  The murder of thousands of Sarajevo citizens in 1992 nearly goes unnoticed.  “Rose of Sarajevo” is a fictionalized story of an estimated 14,000 Sarajevo’ lives lost at the hands of Serbian soldiers.

SLOBODAN MILOSEVIC (1941-2006-3RD-PRESIDENT-OF-YUGOSLAVIA-BECAME-1ST-PRESIDENT-OF-SERBIA-1991)
SLOBODAN MILOSEVIC (1941-2006-3RD-PRESIDENT-OF-YUGOSLAVIA-BECAME-1ST-PRESIDENT-OF-SERBIA-1991)

Slobodan Milosevic is President of Serbia during the military’s campaign to reconstitute Yugoslavia into a greater Serbia after the death of former President Tito.  Sarajevo’s population is estimated at less than 380,000 today.

Ayse Kulin, a Turkish author and newspaper columnist, writes of a female Muslim journalist that lives through the beginnings of the Balkan Wars in the early 1990s.  The fictional journalist is married with two children and a husband who works as a free-lance engineer.  Her husband is often absent from the family because of the nature of his contract work.  His wife also works on assignment for the local paper and the children are babysat by their grandmother.  The journalist wife falls in love with a fellow journalist.  The husband finds out and leaves his wife and family.  These personal circumstances are folded into the beginnings of the 1990’s Balkan Wars.MAP OF FORMER YUGOSLAVIA

JOSIP BROZ TITO (1892-1980, A YOUGOSLAV REVOLUTIONARY AND STATESMAN FROM 1943-1980)
JOSIP BROZ TITO (1892-1980, A YOUGOSLAV REVOLUTIONARY AND STATESMAN FROM 1943-1980)

The perspective of the war is surrounded by the nationalist drive for independence of the former countries of Yugoslavia after the Croatian born leader, Josip Broz Tito, dies.  Tito’s army is principally made up of Serbs and, upon his death, the power of that military devolves into the hands of Milosevic who is a Serb.  Milosevic’s uses that military power in an attempt to create a greater Serbia.  He attempts to enlist Croatia and Montenegro in an alliance that would gobble up Bosnia, Slovenia and any other satellite interests of the former Yugoslavia.  Because of the military weakness of other independent nations, military power seems to go to Milosevic’s head.  Kulin’s story reinforces the dictum of “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.  Ethnicity becomes a reprehensible rallying point for Serbian aggression.

Milosevic preys on the ethnocentric differences between Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovenia, and Croatian citizens to foment the army’s murder and rape of innocence.  Kulin focuses her story on the atrocity of war and how people’s ethnic differences are tools of political power to foment human terror and slaughter.

Kulin’s personalization of history is modestly successful with a love story that exemplifies the worst of what humans are capable of becoming.  “Rose of Sarajevo” compels one to review the history of the Balkan wars.  Kulin deserves some praise for that accomplishment.

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