So the books I read since the last update were about events in two different parts of the world: the 1995 Sarin Gas Attack in Tokyo and the 1956 Suez Crisis in Egypt. (This is the genre I most love, outside of poetry: current events/ history/ politics. So it certainly made for an interesting few weeks) Here’s the 13 point review.
1. Underground by Haruki Murakami gets a 4 out of 5.
2. Murakami presents dozens of interviews with survivors of the subway terror attack and tries to make sense of what happened and how the cracks in Japanese society may have contributed to it. The more the stories emerge of ordinary people on their way to work that terrible morning, the more you realize that when things break down, it could so easily be you: on a train, on the road, in a hospital, sick, damaged, dying or dead.
3. In Part Two of the book, he interviews a number of former members of the cult and delivers an almost surreal telling of their lives, beliefs and disillusions. He reasons that they too are ordinary people, leading average lives, bouncing “back and forth between feelings of pride and inadequacy. That might very well be me. It might be you.” He asks if the narrative of the cult that perpetrated the attack was so gruesome, what compelling alternative did society have to offer to those who sought that path? He seeks to break down the ‘us vs them’ simplification and suggests that what we exclude is perhaps just a darker mirror image of ourselves.
4. “When your head goes empty, even tears don’t come” – a relative of one of the victims.
5. “Everyone worries about the smallest things in life and then something like this happens” – a survivor.
6. “What am I supposed to do with all this rage?” – a survivor.
7. Blood and Sand – Suez, Hungary and Eisenhower’s campaign for peace by Alex Von Tunzelmann gets a 3.8 out of 5
8. Untangling some of the unbelievably ugly and chaotic events of 1956-57 following the nationalization of the Suez canal, she shines a light on the imperialistic aggression of Britain and France and their collusion with Israel that led to the “invasion plan that had been drawn up on the back of a cigarette packet”.
9. Tracing events transpiring at the same time in Hungary against Soviet rule, she tries to show (though not very clearly) how the two were connected and affected each other’s outcomes.
10. And she touches upon the role of the US as peacemaker, with President Eisenhower, up for re-election, moving pieces on the global chessboard.
11. She starts the book with Anthony Eden, British PM saying to Foreign Affairs Minister, Anthony Nutting, about Gamal Abdel Nasser, President of Egypt, “I want him murdered, can’t you understand?”and ends with Nasser’s remark when Eden eventually loses power and health, “It was the curse of the Pharaohs.” (Says it all, doesn’t it?)
12. “It’s impossible for me to return to the secular world. If there was something wonderful there, something uplifting, things might change, but right now there isn’t.” – member of the perpetrator cult in Tokyo.
13. “The Prime Minister is perfectly right. What we did was to go in and help the burglar and shoot the householder.” – Gaitskell , Leader of the opposition to PM Anthony Eden
I have updated my reading list and added a bunch of books to it. See the updated list here. What are you reading right now? Let me know in the comments section. Or throw in a recommendation (or two).