Sometime last October, there was a sale called Big Bad — okay I just misspelled that as Bald… eheh ^^; — Wolf Book Sale; everybody in KL knew about it (and probably went as well, by the looks of it). My family and I went on the last day, so there wasn’t much of a variety left (no art or craft books ), but we still came back with these:
Since we were focusing on fiction anyway, I purposely picked out books that looked “exotic”. That is to say, they weren’t about American or British lifestyles, with lead female characters in dilemmas about their marriage / love life / credit card debt / insert-other-petty-life-matter-here. I hoped that a change of setting in the stories would present us with more mind-opening and enlightening issues, rather than just as a source of entertainment and drama. (I never really saw the point of chick lit anyway… )
I’m just gonna post little summaries of the ones I’ve read below, inshaAllah. (How I wish I could write proper reviews with quotes and this and that, but … no. )
This was not bought at the sale, but was given as a gift. Apparently it was published in 1943 and has sold more than 6.5 million copies worldwide. I guess that makes it some kinda classic. It does read like one; the author has a very particular literary style and all that. I’d say this story is about a certain philosophy, placed in the setting of two industries: architecture and the printing press. The book was originally titled Second-Hand Lives, referring to lives that are lived for other people: to appear good to others, to make others’ acceptance and fame, food for one’s soul. It is also a very grown-up book, demonstrating how manipulative certain powers can be, how twisted certain characters are in “playing the game”, and also how strong a character can remain in upholding his principle, willing to sacrifice everything except his personal vision.
After reading The Fountainhead, this little book was a bit of a downer. It is not exactly a children’s book, judging by the language, but it does include such fantastical characters and concepts like a celestial cow, humans that turn into birds, various ghosts and monstrous creatures, the underworld, a quest to save a sister… and not altogether in the most grabbing manner. I kept forgetting which name is which character (and I doubt it is because of the Russian names) and didn’t feel like I got to know Moscow or its history much at all. There were no particular plus points in the writing style either, that I could pick out.
This was the first of two books I read that had to do with life during the war (in this case, also post-war). It was translated from Japanese, which brings a certain precision and honesty in the writing which I immediately liked. I already wrote a little bit about this book on Facebook (I started doing that with movies, too: so far I have Wall Photos about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Sang Pemimpi, 3 Idiots and Mulan. ) :
I have no particular interest in WWII, Japanese history, or even history in general, but this was such a good read. We often think of movies and books as ‘escapes’ — well this was more like a big ol’ lesson. On what others’ lives were (are) like: as those involved in war and war crimes; life post-war when the country is in such a terrible state; then as fugitives; having to conceal your identity, fearing everything; being captured; awaiting your sentence; life in prison…
‘Then which of Your Lord’s favours will you deny?’ (Surah Ar-Rahman)
I think this book gave a very visual experience to me, like a movie playing in my head. A bit too visual at some points (read: lice, urine, killings), but all adding to the story. Highly recommended.
I might be a bit biased towards this one, because the story is set in Palestine, and I believe many of us, Muslim or not, have a soft spot for Palestine. Being a children’s book though, this was written in the eyes of 13-year-old Hayaat, and is dotted with humour and childish naivety. I also already love the Arab culture and Arabic language so I now know a few more words like dabka, the folk dance, and ya zalami, which means “oh man”, etc. But on a serious note, I believe the author’s intention was indeed to shed light on the Palestine-Israel conflict, to bring out the things we might not know or even think about: how life goes on during war (people have weddings, children go to school, families need to go shop for groceries), the multi-religious society (Muslims, Christians, Jews), how there are good people in all religions and how prejudices and generalisations just do not work, injustice in the littlest and biggest things… And I also like how the author portrays the family in this story, in particular the grandmother-granddaughter and sister-sister relationship. I’ll probably slap on some of my favourite quotes now, because with this book I took the time to use tiny post-its to mark the pages:
Feel as you wish; that is your right. But you will soon find that even hatred will not give you comfort. It will only make you miserable. — Sitti Zeynab
Once upon a time a fisherman went out to sea. He caught many fish and threw them into a large bucket on his boat. The fish were not yet dead, so the man decided to ease their suffering by killing them swiftly. While he worked, the cold air made his eyes water. One of the wounded fish saw this and said to another, “What a kind heart this fisherman has — see how he cries for us.” The other fish replied, “Ignore his tears and watch what he is doing with his hands.” — Raghib
Your soul is strong, Hayaat. Do not deprive the world of your soul and heart. Justice will come when those who hope outweigh those who despair. Hope is a force that cannot be reckoned with, ya Hayaat. You will find a place for yourself in this world. — Sitti Zeynab
Please never stop praying for Palestine. :’)
I think part of what makes books, and reading books, interesting, is that the experience may be different for each reader. Quoting what my friend Moon wrote on Facebook, “I write what I write. The reader sees what the reader sees, like a mirror. Literature shows more of what is already inside the reader than that of the writer.” Many a time, I’ve caught my mind adding other thoughts to the ones that emerged from the reading. For instance, I would relate what Islam (The Qur’an and Sunnah) says about the matter, or combine points from another source to further understand the issue. It may be similar to other activities like watching TV shows or movies or documentaries, but somehow I feel like my part in those are much more passive.
Okay, going off now. Salaam alaikum peeps.