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Why you should not read The Kite Runner

I have, for the last year, been put through the pain of  having to not only read, but study this book – hailed as a best-selling eye – opener onto the issues in the middle east….not so in my opinion.

  1. The writing of this book is what I would call mediocre – there is employment of foreshadowing and such – these are things I was aware of from the age of 12 I’m sure. The over-worked structure of this apparently very well crafted redemptive arc provides outlandish coincidences – yes it is a small world but is a person really likely to meet and recognise someone in the whole of America that they haven’t seen for 20 years. But wait you say – narratives are fictitious, they are creations…all well and good but the truly skilled writing dupes his or her reader into believing these shadowed coincidences – they are the shadows not the blinding rays of obvious sun – metaphorically speaking.

 

2. The politics…..and this is were this book really falls flat in my opinion. Despite Hosseini being a Afghani his book adopts a very westernized, colonial view of the conflicts in his homeland. There is little comment on the actions of America or Russia – the Russians are brutish yes – but they also helped to arm the future Taliban forces – nothing is mentioned of this. Americans reading this at its time of publication – on the eve of the Iraq war might well have used the reading of this novel as a way of seeming pseudo-worldly. Another point: Assef – the neo-Nazi blond boy whose read Mein Kampf……but doesn’t know what ethnic cleansing is….how does that work. Politically flawed – ’nuff said.

 

3. The interspersing of Farsi could be seen as a way of showing that the narrator is speaking in his mother-tongue but other books that do this make it far more subtle. The inclusion of Afghani dialect seems like the kind of thing that editors and publishers would drool over without considering that the protagonist has fully adapted to his life in America and we are told that he has a medical degree. The book panders to Americanism throughout which seems tragically ironic given the destructive involvement of the US in the Middle eastern conflict of the past years

 

4. Class and Race are critiqued but nothing is done to redress the balance – Hassan and Ali are still sacked despite the family links and the word of the rich kid takes precedent over that of the truthful minority. The Hazaras continue to be ignored by the novel and it is condoned as ‘this is the way Afghanistan is’ – tradition cannot be changed. the rift caused by Amir’s spoilt lying could be mended easily and it isn’t – soooo frustrating.

 

I could go on but it would be so long and riling. What did you think of this book?

Comments much appreciated!

Hans Rauter, Holland and the Hunger Winter 1944

Holland’s World War 2 Resistance movement has often been overlooked due to the fame of their French equivalent – however the operations carried out in the Dutch area of Gelderland – chosen for its large amounts of woodland that made hiding easy, were arguably just as important in the Allied effort to end the war.

1944 was, for Holland, one of the harshest winters that the country had experienced for many decades – thousands of people were forced to walk for days in search of meagre amounts of food – such people were known as hunger walkers. Many died of starvation and frostbite that year. It was into this context that groups of SOE agents were parachuted in order to further the Allied battle against the Nazis from the inside.

Such agents were named after groups of rivers, vegetables – anything that was distinctive but still ambiguous enough to go un-noticed by the Germans. Such agents were kept alive by their own wit and the precarious supply drops of the RAF – operating radios from secret rooms and abandoned sheds – transmitting the movements of Dutch resistance groups back to places such as Bletchley Park.

Perhaps one of the most terrifying operations of that winter of ’44 and following year was the mistaken identity and consequent murder of Hans Albin Rauter – the chief for the whole of the Nazi occupation of Holland – he was on a trip home from a barracks on the evening of the 7th March when he was fatally ambushed and his car filled with 234 rounds of machine gun fire by reisitance fighters. Such things did not go un-noticed.

The same amount of Todeskandidatan – death candidates – were rounded up from all over Holland and shot at dawn the next day – 134 of which were shot and laid out along the road beside Rauter’s wrecked staff car. The resistance fighters responsible for Rauter’s death were not amongst the dead.

The events of the Hunger winter of 1944 and the dutch resistance are used as the basis and inspiration for Mal Peet’s brilliant novel ‘Tamar’ – a proper yarn. Read It.

Image: Rauter’s gunned car – you can see the shear amount of bullet holes.

Thanks for reading!

William Morris – the philosophy of an artist

William Morris is best known for his popular Victorian material prints that were widespread in England’s homes by the end of the 19th century. How did previously elitist culture manage to be accessed by the masses in such a classist society?

Morris, like Wedgewood and William Blake, had a deep belief that art and culture should be accessible and, most of all, affordable to people at all levels of society – it was important for people’s well-being – certainly true I would argue – particularly in an otherwise oppressive age of industrialisation and hard labour with few common rights.

With the advent of the industrial age nature seemed to be slipping further away – Morris’ designs were inspired by the pre-Raphaelite movement and brought depictions of nature back into people’s homes. Many people still have curtains and other furnishings that were designed by Morris over 150 years ago.

Thanks for reading 🙂

 

 

What’s bad for the heart is good for the art…

In an era where there is widespread political and social turmoil how does one deal with maintaining optimism in the face of such charged situations – the news is depressing and countries seem set to implode. But people, under their own power have the ability to change things through positivity and often, art or creative output of any kind.

Look back at the 60s and 70s: widespread protest against the Vietnam war, the growing feminist movement, Regean-omics, Thatcherism and the resulting punk scene. Cue: art, music and writing of a very politicised nature that is just as relevant today as it was then.

Perhaps it was a symptom of what was to come in 1968 when anti-Vietnam war protests lead to protests and riots on a global scale that transcended the issues of war and became about society as a whole problem. Nowhere was this more apparent than in France and America: marches attracted millions and May 1968 is synonymous with student activism and protest.

A key example of a work inspired by this uncertain era is certainly Margaret Atwood’s Handmaids Tale (1985) written in response to the growing far right in America, fertility issues and the threat of nuclear apocalypse. It is little surprise that this novel, along with many other dystopias, has surged in popularity since Donald Trump has been sworn in as president (I’m still asking myself how)

In music people commonly, and are right to, reference the music of the likes of the Undertones, the Sex Pistols and the Clash when talking of the troubles of the 1970s – such music epitomised the feelings of many young people at the time who were becoming increasingly discontented with the nature of society under Thatcher’s authority. Such bands scandalised the upper classes and this was exactly what they intended to do.

Perhaps we can learn something from this era…

 

11th May 1904 – Salvador Dali was born

On 11th May 1904 Salvador Dali was born. He would go on to become a leading member of the surrealist movement and one of the most famous modern artists of all time.

He is best known for his surreal paintings and sculptures such as The Persistence of Memory (the melting clocks) and the lobster phone. Much of his works looks at psychology and the existential nature of human existence.

The surrealist movement was born out of the later stages of the Dada movement of the early 20th century and went on to form its own distinctive style that set it very much apart from any art that had come before it and went to on to inspire many other future artists such as Meret Oppenheim.

Dali famously said: ‘ I don’t do drugs, I am drugs’ – which begs the question had he taken so many drugs that some amount of his body  had synthesised into drugs. It was more likely just a metaphor but you never know ey?

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