Friday, November 24, 2006

On Bullshit - Harry Frankfurt

"One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit, Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted."
After reading these lines, I do not think anyone can keep this book down until you complete reading it.
As I was walking through the stalls in the Bangalore Books Exhibition, I saw this small book and the name attracted me to it. The above lines lines caught my attention as I slanced through the pages and I was willing to spend Rs125 for this Bullshit.
This book written by Prof Harry Frankfurt , profession and philisopher from Princeton Unitversity.
I was expecting a rather funny book and I was surpriced it was a serious work of writing , no bullshitting. This is more to do with philosophy and can be called intellectual humour.
Bullshitting is not lying or bluffing. Bullshitter is faking things . Bullshitting is creativity . To tell a lie, requires a degree of craftmanship. In order to invent a lie, he must know what is the truth. On the other hand, the bullshitter has much more freedom. As he says bullshit is unavoidable whenever circumstances require someone to talk without knowing what he is talking about. How true in our profession. !!
Oxford English Dictionray define bullshit as " trivial, insincere, or untruthful talk or writing; nonsense."
He also takes examples from other literally works. "Never tell a lie when you can bullshit your way through" Eric Ambler ( Dirty Story ) is an interesting one.

I recommend this book to all ( and I'm not bullshitting )
Book : On Bullshit
Authot : Harry Frankfurt
Pages : 67
Publication : Princeton University Press
Price : Rs 125

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Himalayam - Shaukath

My in-laws had recently undertaken a North India pilgrimage visiting all the famous temples in the himalayas. This is a continuation of their last years Amarnath and Vaishnodevi trips. I have been hearing about the great places in the himalayas and their personal experiences during their journey. Last time when I went home, he handed over a book written on the himalayan journeys by Sri Shaukath.

I was expecting to read another travelogue, describing places of interests the temples and rituals , cheating middlemen and the horror of the journey through the narrow roads and bridges at the mercy of snowfalls and landslide.

However, this book is not all that, though he do describe the beauty of himalayas, the holy rivers and the places. It is more like his communication to himself and the people he meet. The high mountains and the sadhus in their huts and caves gets us to realise about ourselves. He meets innumerable Sanyasis away from their normal life, staying in the snow clad mountains even during the hard winter season. All the sadhus we meet in his writing are so selfless and living their simple life serving the people with hot tea/food and shelter apart from sharing the priceless wisdom and knowledge they attained by 'tapas' and 'dhyana'.

Shaukath , unlike many other travel writers do not bring himself at the center of the events. Book drags and become repetetive at places, otherwise it is a very interesting read. The book is in Malayalam and is published by Kerala Bhasha Institute.

Friday, November 10, 2006

A Woman in Berlin by Anonymous

War and related struggle of life has inspired many great books and movies. Some of them stands out by their way of narrating human stories and NOT those army / muscle men victory tales.
Worldwar II and the related Nazi and Holocaust stories are also abundant. All those stories were told by the victors or by the victims prior to the Allied Forces triumph over Germany, mostly those horrifying stories of the survivors.

Nazis were defeated in the war and the Germany was occupied by Russian and the Allied forces and the subsequently split Germany into Communist controlled east and US-allies controlled west.
I have just finished reading an amazing book by a woman who remain anonymous . She is writing in her notebook the time during the surrender of Nazi forces and occupation of Germany by the Red Army through the 8 weeks period, experienced by she and people around her. It is interesting to see the effects on the people who were forced to surrender and bear the aftermaths of a lost war. As in the case of any war stories, the occupied forces continue their loot , destruction and rape of the victims in their conquered land and the Russians were no exception. In a deserted city of Berlin , where most of the men are killed or fighting some loosing war elsewhere in the front or missing , the women and the old are enduring the occupation and humiliation . It is interesting to see the change in attitude and their willingness to co-operate the occupiers and accepting their fate brought on them by their rulers.
The visible change it brought to me is that I realised that under or after Nazi rule of Germany, the real victims were the German people themselves.

The author - the book is published after her death - we understand is from the publishing experience, comes out to be very intelligent and articulative. She had travelled Europe and Russia prior to the war and have basic knowledge on Russian and other european languages. She uses this to her advantage in dealing with Russians and also works as a interpreter between the occupiers and the survivors. She was also not spared in the onslaught of Russian Officers and she describe the incident in a matter of fact. The woman suffered at the hands of Russians live their sorrow by discussing this with their fellow victims.

While reading through the diary you will also realise the effect of this in the society and the narrator uses multiple incidents to take us through the ruins. Most of the woman associates themselves with one of the high ranking officer to escape the assault and they find nothing wrong in them.

While the "Diary of Anne Frank" is attributed to a girls innocence and Ellie Weisels books are intellectual and deep , this diaries are of a grown up intelligent person.

The world has not changed since then. Vietnam , Afghan , Iraq , Bosnia etc are still in front of us and the story is the same..