The White Tiger by Avavind Adiga

I really enjoyed reading this novel of how one man elevated himself from a life of 3675538poverty and misery. It is a darkly humorous book that shows the tenacious spirit of one man against the corruption, filth, and desperation to survive in contemporary India. Some of the descriptions of the filth and unsanitary conditions could be called gut-churning but really, the tongue in cheek observations of Balram take some of the edge off. Balram is rather sweet. He survives abuse in childhood but he develops a cunning which is to be his saviour. His tale is in a series of letters or missives to the then Premier of China, Wen Jiabao, who is to visit India on a state visit. Balram hears this on All India Radio and scoffs at the contents of the information pamphlet the Prime Minister will give him. Lies lies lies!! Inspired, he takes pen to paper to tell Jiabao about the real India, the one he has experienced as a poor village boy and as a successful and wealthy entrepreneur. It is also a way to assuage his minor(!) guilt feelings about killing his employer. Well, it is a dog eat dog world and only the most cunning survive. And he does, and tells the tale.

 

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Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist – Sunil Yapa

29098211I found the torture and brutality used by the police against the WTO protesters hard to read. These horrible actions should never be forgotten, but unfortunately I had. I had to go back to news reports about the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle and what they were protesting about. This news report from The Guardian is really informative and well worth reading. After I read it, I was horrified at the bullying tactics used by the US against poor countries as well as Europe. No wonder people were angry about what dirty deals were tried. I was glad that the African countries had banded together to resist the US robbing them blind.

The novel itself is told first person through a number of actors – three police (one the chief), the pc’s son, two protestors and a WTO delegate from Sri Lanka. The story is choppy and there is a lot of focus on police violence. I found out that the original novel was longer and on a laptop which was stolen from the author and these parts are the rescued parts that were worked on. This doesn’t explain the choppiness though. Sentences are either short and snappy or long and trying to evoke emotion. These didn’t evoke any emotion in me because the violence became the focus. It was hard for me to read because I am soft hearted and can’t stand cruelty against any animal (including humans). Funnily enough, medical images of surgery or other procedures don’t bother me (mostly). I also thought to myself that not only were the police reduced to thugs, they had become militarised and since then, police violence in the US has been the norm.

I don’t think this was a particularly well written novel, but it did something important: it reminded a lot of people about the WTO protests and why they happened.

Banned Books in Australia – Stephanie Jaehring

Wow – who knew that Australia was more repressive than banned-exhibition_tcm16-70965the US?! People who worked in the creative industries did, that’s why they left for Europe in droves. Australia has still got a censorship regime, though not as extreme as it was. It all came to unravel when the White Australia policy began to crumble in the ’60s. This book has generated a lot of thought and discussion. Censorship was at its height during the ’30s through to the late ’50s. Boomers and their parents. This can explain in part why these generations are damaged culturally and politically, leading to the problems we have in Australian society today – racism, homophobia, and possibly others. Governments were very paternalistic and by their actions, coddled and kept the population in ignorance. Anti-Nazi information was prohibited, as well as the more well known Communist material. 1984 was banned for a long time. This was mostly to do with the fear of revolution and what if people got hold of seditious material?? What if people decided that the Australian government was just like the one depicted in 1984? This can explain why Australian politics has remained fascist and authoritarian country which now has a growing right ring entity. This is the generation that was born and grew up during the time when censorship was at its most extreme. It can also explain in part why the Australian public remains apathetic – no real information previously and now. Politics is still censored Australia through big media conglomerates like Murdock. This books has made me wonder if Murdock was always a tool rather than a manipulator. Medical books about sexual problems and how to treat them were prohibited – impotence for example. Contraception of course! Any hint of homosexuality was immediately banned. What about treating people who were raped? No medical books on the subject available! Anthropologic studies in sexuality was virtually impossible. Made me wonder about the worth of university degrees awarded to people during this time – restricted information makes some of these degrees almost worthless. Some imported books ended up bowdlerised in order to be imported – these were called Australian Editions. Australia was and still is dominated by Roman Catholics. Their influence is slowly fading though – thank their lord! Any information about anti-christianity was prohibited but the blasphemy law (only for christianity) was neutered before 1850 and therefore became unused. Pell tried to reactivate it but failed, hooray!! Interestingly – India has a blasphemy law that protects ALL religions. Euthanasia is still censored – read about Ruddock’s repeated blocks after Nitschke and Stewart found loopholes and immediately exploited them. Now that euthanasia has been legalised in Victoria, I wonder if this book will be allowed to be sold in bookshops?

 

Cold Jackal Moment – Sami Nayal

bullets-1556108__340This collection of poetry describes the despair, grief and lack of hope that Nayal experienced as a child during the civil war in Lebanon. Translated from Arabic, these poems are powerfully evocative of the effects of war on children. A reviewer writes on the back of this collection that they convey an almost nihilistic   attitude that is probably the result of traumatic experience. On reading these poems, I felt a sadness; the essence of someone had been destroyed and stamped on. Here is a poem from the collection:

Punishment

After their death
a shadow
would separate from the crowd
and stand opposite to the wall…

There are poems about insomnia and I guess these are his experiences as an adult. These are also sad and have an air of nihilism – they seem to convey emptiness.

Powerful and will leave you feeling powerless.

The Adventure of the Colonial Boy – Narrelle M Harris

This is the first fanfic that I’ve read. Harris does a great job emulating Doyle’s 9780993513626.inddwriting style in his Sherlockian stories. It is a good mystery that’s also written as a big adventure. This micro-publisher focusses on Sherlock and Holmes romance. The romance  is lovely but I felt there was too much emphasis on the physical nature of the relationship. This detracted from the erotic nature of the first encounters. I enjoyed reading about early Melbourne – Park Street which I regularly walk down and Bourke Street (now the location of a large mall). I’ve not visited Ararat, just passed through it on the train on the way to Adelaide. It is a fair distance from Melbourne so the long horseback journey is not fanciful (just a side note – it takes 12 hours by train to get to Melbourne to Adelaide). All in all, this was an enjoyable romp and if you like adventure stories with romance, this could be an enjoyable read for you.

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