Ukraine: Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster – Svetlana Alexievich

Apriluntitled2 26, 1986. Early morning. The worst nuclear accident occurs close to the Ukrainian village of Pripyat. The friendly atom has striken – and the aftermath is worse than anyone could have possibly imagined. The USSR attempts to contain the spread of information, but not the spread of the radiation. The result: more than 3/4 of Europe is affected, more than 1 million Belarussians suffer from some sort of post-radiation effects (cancer, acute radiation sickness, other health problems). Sadly, nearly 30 years after the explosion of reactor 4 the area surrounding Chernobyl and the now deserted town of Pripyat is turned into an entertainment centres. In exchange for a substantial sum you can go and experience the nightmare millions would pay much more to never have experience. Unfortunately, most of them paid with their lives or with the lives of their most loved ones.

Svetlana Alexievich’s Voices from Chernobyl is the first book to present the personal stories of common people affected by the Chernobyl disaster. It’s also among the first to unveil the information Soviet officials withheld for so many years. I couldn’t possibly imagine what Alexievich might have felt while she spoke to those people. I thought there is possibly no way that the next story is going to be more tragic and more despairing than the last and yet it was. Women, who have lost their husbands. Fathers who have lost their children. Friends who have lost their friends. And people who have lost their health and their lives. What makes Voices from Chernobyl so powerful is the fact that the book presents exactly that. The voice of Svetlana Alexievich is rarely heard – she gave the microphone to those suffering people and let them share their pain in their own words, through their own reflections. It felt as if they waited for so many years to express the unbearable suffering they had to go through, to say openly to the world what exactly happened back then and back there.

Hours after the explosion the Soviet government had already began covering up the disaster. It’s true they didn’t know the exact effect of radiation on people – nobody knew because never before had something like this occurred - and yet they were extremely negligent, possibly looking to save their own a*ses. liquidator, soldiers, random men with Party cards were sent with no equipment and no protection to the site hours after the reactor exploded. Most of them died – quickly and more terribly than imaginable. The first story from the collection is exactly by the wife of such a liquidator – and her pain as she sees her husband transform from a human being into a monster. Within hours and days. People were being evacuated, animals were being killed, food was being confiscated. And yet at the same time scientists were silenced and the broader community was kept at ignorance as to the exact scale of the tragedy. Nobody told people to immediately stop eating or drinking anything from the region, to throw away all of their clothes, to immediately start drinking iodine. A liquidator that came back from the site gave his hat to his proud son – who contracted brain tumour 2 years later.

It was surprising (and rather depressing) to learn that most of the men send to Chernobyl to clean up felt proud – they felt they were serving their country but little did they know that they were giving their country their most priced possession. In times of despair vodka, the memories of their loved ones and the dream of returning a hero kept these men standing. It’s devastating to know that all they got for their bravery and sacrifice was a medal and cancer.

Alexievich gives voice to all those silent stories – liquidators, soldiers, teachers, children, old people who refused to leave their homes, refugees from war for which the Chernobyl area was the only safe place, Communists, generals, defendants of the regime, scientists, regular people. All of them suffering in their own way, all of them simply wanting to shout to the world their pain – the pain inflicted by a disaster a few could have prevented and effects many could have diminished. One of the most touching collection of stories, which would hardly leave anyone indifferent.

 

 

North Korea: The Orphan Master’s Son – Adam Johnson

untitledWhere we are from says one character stories are factual. If a farmer is declared a music virtuoso by the state, everyone had better start calling him maestro. And secretly, he’d be wise to start practicing the piano. For us, the story is more important than the person. If a man and his story are in conflict, it is the man who must change.

Everything hidden, mysterious and ultimately forbidden strongly attracts the imperfect human nature. The majority of people have already forgotten the meaning of the word “forbidden” – anything that even remotely attempts to take away their freedom – be it freedom of speech, act, or information – must be ultimately tackled and conquered. It’s understandable, then, that North Korea, a country completely shut out of the rest of the world, is a topic of constant interest and rumours. Nobody knows with 100% certainty what happens behind its closed doors – some say enemies of the regime are thrown to hungry dogs, others claim rich people live more or less the same life as you and me. When the time came for my book from North Korea, I was torn. Should I read something that has passed the strict eye of the Party, keeping in mind that all (or most of it) is pure propaganda? Or should I look for a book about North Korea from a more objective, yet distant and probably uninformed source? The Pulitzer-winning novel The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson leaned the scales in the later direction.

Jun Do (read John Doe), as the name suggests, has no defined identity. Born to a mother, who is stolen to be a singer in the capital of Pyongyang and a father who runs a work camp for orphans, Jun Do names himself after a saint and sees himself as part of the other orphans. The mystery of his mother’s disappearance haunts him throughout his life and leaves an unbearable emptiness, one that he seeks to fill with other women in need.

Because of his skills, Jun Do, for better or for worse, catches the attention of the state. Throughout his life Jun Do plays numerous roles – some chosen for him by the state, others chosen by himself. He becomes a fighter in the pitch-dark tunnels under the demilitarised zone, a kidnapper, a spy at sea and after a failed mission in Texas, a prisoner in a mining camp. Here ends the life of the Jun Do we know – for he is to be reborn into Kim Jong Il’s greatest enemy. In a state, which takes any identity and choice from its citizens, love and compassion towards another human being can be the biggest liability.

I am far from the idea that Adam Johnson’s depiction of life and death in North Korea is the ultimate truth. The author shares that his information is based on interviews with North Korean defectors as well as on a personal visit to the DRK. Of course, the accuracy of the information depends on the nature of the source. The defectors might have been corrupted. The reality presented to Johnson on his visit was most probably fabricated – he was allowed to visit pre-approved places and to talk to already trained people. Nevertheless, Adam Johnson skillfully imagines himself into the cruel world of Kim Jong Il. His depictions are so real and believable that one almost feels his world is the alien one, and not North Korea.

Jun Do grows from an instrument of the state to its victim, from a faceless representative of The Greatest Nation in the World to a powerful and fearless man. Through numerous points-of-view – Jun Do himself, a state interrogate and the state propaganda – Johnson portrays a cruel and ruthless world with short fleeting moments of beauty and love. Too short to be satisfactory, too long to be forgotten.

Other favourite quotes:

The darkness inside your head is something your imagination fills with stories that have nothing to do with the real darkness around you.

***

Jun Do gave the smile that puts people at ease in the moment before you strike them.

***

“But people do things to survive, and then after they survive, they can’t live with what they’ve done.”

***

Someone will save you, he thought. If you just hold tight long enough, someone’s bound to.

***

Never let pain push you into the darkness, Kisman said. There you are nobody and you are alone. Once you turn from the flame, it is over.

***

To survive in this world, you got to be many times a coward but at least once a hero.

***

In communism, you’d threaten a dog into compliance, while in capitalism, obedience is obtained through bribes.

***

I would’ve driven off the bridge and killed us both to make that moment last forever, such was my love for Sun Moon, a woman who was so pure, she didn’t know what starving people looked like.

***

The next day, she was silent. For breakfast, she murdered an onion and served it raw.

“She’s read every word I’ve written,” he said. “That’s the truest way to know the heart of another.”

***

Compared to forgetting, did living really stand a change?

Laos: Mother’s Beloved: Stories from Laos – Outhine Bounyavong

untitledGiven this was the first (and to the best of my knowledge the only) collection of Lao short stories to become publicly available in English, I hardly had any choice as to what to read from the South-East Asian country. Quite usefully, though, the book was available from Amazon and after about a month of waiting (I guess they had to dig it out) I received a rather unexpected novel. On one half of the page was the original text in Laotian, on the other side – the translation in English. As I was about to see, this trick was as much about upholding traditional Laotian culture, which was on the verge of extinction one too many times, as well about filling enough pages to justify publishing.

The history of Laos has been far from happy and uneventful. The little state went from being a Thai colony to a French one, got involved in the Indochina War, was severely bombed by the Americans during the Vietnam War and on top of that ended with 15 years of communist government. Since the fall of the USSR it has liberated somewhat, although there is still only one approved party – the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party.

Most of the short stories in Mother’s Beloved were written during the communist rule – the simplicity of the situations are typical for a regime, in which too much ambiguity is mostly regarded as politically suspicious. For the experienced reader it felt as reading fables. Bounyavong’s characters are faced with moral dilemmas, the resolution of which clearly demonstrates what the ideal citizen should be – humble, respectful, following traditional Laotian values and condemning any enemy of the state. In theory these are not bad qualities at all – in practice, though, the communist propaganda is ever so visible. I try not to criticise Bounyavong too much – for the only way to be published in Laos at that time was to please the ruling party. A country that has gone through numerous oppressions and influences is struggling to reclaim its literary identity – and the only way to do that is to oppose any former influences. Bounyavong was originally influenced by the French and brought up to admire French literature. When Laos was liberated (or in other words when from one oppression to another) he began admiring the literature of revolutionary communism and its supporters.

Both colonialism and communism looked down upon traditional Lao views as being retrogressive and lacking in modernity. In his short stories Bounyavong attempts to contrast such traditional values with modern phenomena, while conforming to communist rules. I wouldn’t say the result is great. Nevertheless, the helpful introduction of the collection as well as some of the stories, which weren’t as naive as others, presented a good first step in understanding Lao literature. Of course, it’s worth nothing that there are very few alternatives from which to choose in English.

“Кажи на вълците, че съм си у дома” – Карол Рифка Брънт

download (1)Ако някога разполагам с много пари, ще си купя гора. Ще я оградя със зид и ще си живея там, както са живели едно време. Може и да намеря някого, който да пожелае да остане с мен. Стига да ми обещае, че няма да обели и дума за настоящето. Но едва ли ще открия такъв човек. До този момент не съм попадала на никого, който да ми обещае подобно нещо.

Кажи на вълците, че съм си у дома. Кажи им, че съм готова и не ме е страх да ги срещна. Оголената ми душа ще се изправи срещу оголените им зъби. Моята страст ще срещне тяхната ярост. Не знам кой ще победи, но знам, че не ме е страх да бъда това, което съм. Не ме е срам да им покажа, че съм различна, ранима, изплашена. Знам, че надушват слабостите ми и са готови да ги използват срещу мен. Да ме изобличат пред света, да му покажат грешките и паденията ми и да ми се присмеят. Аз съм готова. Кажи на вълците, че съм си у дома. Кажи им, че ги чакам.

“Кажи на вълците, че съм си у дома” е прекрасен пример за това каква трябва да е литературата за тийнейджъри (или за подрастващи, ако мразим англицизмите). За разлика от “Вината в нашите звезди”, която създава едни мелодраматични и многострадателни образи, които (особено главната героиня) едва ли не благодарят на рака, че се е появил и ги е срещнал. Ами не – смъртта (и ракът, и СПИН, и какво ли още друго) са си доста отвратително нещо. Няма лошо в оптимизма – стига да е на място, а това съвсем не е така в така прехваления роман на Джон Грийн.

Но да се върнем на “Кажи на вълците, че съм си у дома” на Карол Рифка Брънт. Това е роман за загубата такава, каквато наистина е – непоносима, болезнена, унищожаваща всяка жива клетка в тялото ти. 12-годишната Джун губи единствения човек, който някога я е разбирал. Вуйчо и линее от болест, която хората са се срамували дори да произнесат през 90те години. Сестра и Грета губи детството си в името на неосъществените мечти на родителите си. Майката на момичетата губи братът, който тъкмо отново е открила. Тоби губи единственият мъж, който някога го е обичал, въпреки това, което е. Почти всяка страница е промита с толкова мъка, така истинска и осезаема, че е невъзможно да остави дори и най-върлия циник безразличен. А вълците се притайват в тъмното, в ъглите на къщата, във фона на картините, в дебрите на гората, готови веднага да се нахвърлят към този, който не се вписва в тяхната глутница.

“Кажи на вълците, е съм си у дома” е едно безкрайно плачене – от първа до последна страница. Без излишни мелодраматизми и изкуствен отпимизъм Карол Рифка Брънт с майсторство рисува загубата, която се превръща в привързаност, за да се разпадне още по-бързо и болезнено. Една страхотна книга за всички непораснали деца в нас.

Други любими цитати

Струваше ми се, че най-сетне разполагам с доказателство, че дните не са еднакво дълги, че времето невинаги тежи еднакво. Доказателство, че съществуват най-различни светове, надградени един върху друг, стига да искаш да бъде така.

***

Наистина се чудех защо хората се занимават с неща, които не хареесват. Понякога ми се струваше, че животът е някакъв постоянно стесняващ се тунел. Когато се раждаш, тунелът е широк. Но само миг след това се стеснява наполовина. Ако си момче, вече е сигурно, че няма да бъдеш майка и е твърде вероятно да не станеш маникюрист или учител в детска градина. Докато растеш, тунелът постоянно се стеснява. Ако паднеш от някое дърво и си счупиш ръката, зачеркваш възможността да станеш бейзболист. Ако изкарваш само двойки на контролните по математика, зарязваш мечтата си да бъдеш учен. Ето така отминават годините, докато накрая не се заклещиш някъде. Като хлебар, библиотекар или пък барман. Или счетоводител. И това е. В деня на смъртта ти тунелът е толкова тесен, натоварил си се с толкова много направени избори, че накрая просто те смачква.

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Може би ми беше писано да се влюбвам в хора, които не мога да притежавам. Може би имаше най различни недостижими мъже, които ме чакат да ги намеря. Чакат да ме накарат да изпитам същата невъзможност отново.

“Куклената къща” – Туве Янсон

downloadМного често наивно ни се иска да вярваме, че животът е низ от случки и събития, които ни оставят без дъх (било то добри или лоши). Преминаваме тичешком, почти на сън, през дните, в които не се случва нищо интересно и които следват обичайния си път, и стремглаво се устремяваме към онези дни, които ще ни разтърсят из основи и ще променят житейския ни път (отново, било то за добро или за лошо). Някак си в този водовъртеж не разбираме, че от първите в животът има прекалено много, а вторите вечно не достигат. И отнова така грешно игнорираме първите – смятайки наивно и доста глупаво, че в тях няма нищо, от което да извлечем полза, още един загубен ден, в който ставаш, ядеш, работиш и спиш. И чакаме ли, чакаме да дойдат вторите, а те, горкичките, идват толкова рядко и за толкова кратко, че остават почти незабелязани. Не остава нищо друго освен май-май да се фокусираме върху първите.

Това прави и Туве Янсон в своя сборник за възрастни “Куклената къща”.Натъртвам на “сборник за възрастни”, защото всъщнот Янсон е известна повече като детска писателка. Освен това е и художничка, и скулптурка и какво ли още не. Родена в артистично семейство, Янсон от малка поема по пътя на изкуството, скачайки от едно на друго с още по-голям устрем и успех. Не съм чела разказите и за деца – но мога да кажа, че разказите и за възрастни са едни от най-прекрасните разкази, които въобще съм чела. Простичко и без излишно доукрасяване и патос Янсон рисува своите герои – и те като нея артисти.

В разказите на Янсон на пръв поглед излиза ежедневието – онова скучно и сиво ежедневие в залеза на живота (или кариерата) на един човек. Онова скучно и сиво ежедневие, което всеки ден лека полека те трови. Човек се хваща за каквото може. Строи куклена къща, за да избяга в нея от своята собствена. Търси любовта измежду коловозите, за да осъзнае, че винаги ще бъде сам и неразбран. Танцува и пие до забрава, въпреки че отдавна е възрастен за тези неща. Опитва се да общува с хората, но разбира, че единственият му приятел е една отвратителна маймунка. Показва любовта към най-близките си по малко странен и груб начин и не винаги успява да ги предпази.

Туве Янсон рисува едни откровено трагични истории, но някак си съумява да запази доза оптимизъм – или поне реализъм. Това е истинският живот, този, който ни подминава ден подир ден. Това са и проблемите, които ни чакат. Решението понякога е толкова абсурдно, колкото и самия проблем. Туве Янсон е била чудачка и в живота, и в разказите. Определено едно от най-хубавите неща, които съм чела от много време насам.

Georgia: Murder on the Leviathan – Boris Akunin

Phoenix-81843-a Akunin Murder on the LeviathanFor even the beloved’s imitation is worthy, in love’s eyes, of adoration.

When I was quite young and I was just getting introduced by my mom to the magical world of books, we had a Saturday day ritual. We would go to this famous square in Sofia (“Slaveykov” for the Bulgarians out there) and we would spend hours looking through the old and the new books. I knew what I was looking for – a crime novel by Agatha Christie featuring the infamous Hercule Poirot, which I hadn’t yet read. By some point the task became almost impossible – I was a person possessed and I had read every single story with Hercule Poirot. I moved on to Miss Marple (who I didn’t like that much) and I had no peace until (almost) every book by Agatha Christie was in my possession – carefully read and utterly admired.

Then puberty hit me (along with all the fun, drama, desperation and self-loathing) and I was too busy with other endeavours, which I am not particularly proud of, so reading was a thing of the past. A couple of years ago I did go back to reading with an even bigger enthusiasm but it seemed I no longer needed the thrill and mystery of detective novels. Murder on the Leviathan in that sense was a challenge for me – to see how much my perception from the times I loved Poirot to now has changed.

Murder on the Leviathan is a classic “closed room” mystery novel with a lot of potential and a sharp sense of humour, which led to a couple of loud giggles from my side on the tube. Paris, end of the 19th century. The eccentric Lord Littleby, a collector of rare Indian treasures is brutally murdered in his home. Alongside with all of his servants. A golden statue wrapped in a priceless Indian shawl is missing. The murderer, however, made one mistake, leaving a clue that suggests he/she is one of the passengers on a large steamship,the Leviathan, travelling on its maiden journey from Southampton to Calcutta. Police commissioner “Papa” Gauche, a somewhat funny and clueless version of Hercule Poirot is in charge of the investigation. By identifying ten key suspects and placing them in the same dining room throughout the journey (which I found a bit easy and simplistic to be honest) he begins his theories of conspiration. He is not the real hero, though. A mysterious Russian diplomat, Erast Fandorin, is the true master mind of the investigation, rebuking Papa Gauche’s stupid theories and eventually solving the mystery. Apparently, he is quite a character, featuring in numerous Boris Akunin novels (most prominently in The Winter Queen, which should have been the one I read…) and his style and process of deduction very much remind of the prominent Sherlock Holmes.

All good, yet I failed to be impressed by Akunin. Most of the suspects were one-dimensional characters – stupid but self-confident Papa Gauche, eccentric and rather crazy Englishman, misunderstood Japanese, a spoiled wife of a Swiss banker, etc, etc. Limiting a whole ship of suspects to just a few people seemed a rather easy escape for Akunin. Finally, the ending didn’t leave me in awe – I rarely do, but now I guessed the murderer half-way through and his/her reasons for committing the crime seemed rather shallow and underdeveloped. Still, Erast Fandorin is a charming and enchanting character and the few jokes here and there made Murder on the Leviathan sort of good read. I must say, though, my passion for detective novels hasn’t disappeared even a bit – it’s just that Akunin is not exactly my type of cake.

Quiet – The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking – Susan Cain

71NDnv8+hvL._SL1500_“And the self-help industry, into which hundreds of thousands of Americans pour their hearts, souls and some $11 billion a year, by definition reveals our conception of the ideal self, the one we aspire to become if only we follow the seven principles of this and the three laws of that. I want to know what this ideal self looks like.”

A new job in an old place and a room full of 30 new faces with whom you must either interact successfully or be forever condemned to isolation. For some this might seem a dream come true – for me it’s a disaster waiting to happen. Ever since I can remember I have hated small talk - I am terrible at it, I make the worst first impression because I literally have no idea what constitutes “small talk” and frankly I do not enjoy it even a bit. But in my high school, in my university and in my job you have to be sociable and communicative. At interviews you have to say you are a team player, you absolutely love working with many people and you cannot imagine working anywhere else but in an open space with 60 people where even when you go to the bathroom you meet at least 5 colleagues with whom you should exchange absolutely useless words. Otherwise you are seen as socially inept.

I always blamed myself for that. I spent most of my teenage years trying (almost successfully) to be like the extrovert kids – center of attention, always screaming, chatting and laughing. It took me so much energy to pretend that I often came home absolutely exhausted and I needed to stay by myself for a long time. I was sure there was something generally wrong with me – and that I would never succeed if I don’t learn to be a successful communicator. One that is always happy to talk to people about senseless things.

Before becoming a writer, a blogger and a motivational speaker, Susan Cain was trapped in a job that somewhat was not fitted to her personality. A lawyer in a large New York firm she needed to be on the top of her game – charming and communicative – but there was always some sort of pretense in her behaviour. After she quit her job Cain focused all of her time on a subject that has been tormenting her – how did the world change from the Cult of Character to the Cult of Personality? Back in the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century quiet and reserved people were widely admired. The more a woman was considered gentle and unassuming, the better party she was. And there came Dale Carnegie on the horizon (I do enjoy his How to Win Friends and Influence People, do not get me wrong) and we suddenly become obsessed with the Cult of Personality. Up to today people spend an outrageous amount of money trying to fit the ideal that society has placed upon us – extrovert equals success / introvert equals isolation.

If you look at job advertisements, they almost always feature key words such as “team player”, “open”, “communicative”, etc. In school and university we are constantly forced to work in groups, and being evaluated on it. The quiet and reflective type of person is pushed back in favor of a more expansive personality. In her Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking Susan Cain incorporates more than 100 years of history and philosophy to show that we might be losing more than we are gaining from this change. Even though at some points Cain is rather one-sided (implying introverts are much better than extroverts) more or less she is indeed trying to stay within the grey area. In a world that moves faster than we can even imagine, it is important we stop and listen to the quiet voices in the room. You might say (and I was thinking the same) that these quiet voices must make themselves heard. They do; it’s just that their style is not so expansive and they more often than not remain unheard in the background.

Despite the loopholes and the somewhat unreadable style at times, Susan Cain raises an important question. Society must stop forcing people to change and we must within ourselves fight the self-help industry that is forcing us to buy this book or attend that seminar so that we emerge identical. By a standard someone decided is successful and appropriate.

Quiet must be read by anyone who feels their inherent quietness is an obstacle to their personal development. And it must be read by anyone who ultimately believes an introvert is a shy person. If you ask anyone, I rarely come across as introvert. I am outspoken (even though I hate small talk), I tend to communicate well (even though only when I have something I really want to say), and I smile a lot (even though mostly at people I like). However, almost every day after work I go home and I feel utterly exhausted not only by the 16+ hours spent in the office but also by the endless communication, most of which doesn’t add any value to my (or their) life. And I prefer those quiet evenings with just a few friends and a few bottles of wine to the large groups of people I don’t even know (or like). In that sense disregarding a few weaknesses in Quiet, it appealed to me.

To end with a personal example (given Cain’s novel is full of personal examples). The last seminar of my 2-month training to become an investment banker was a seminar with an US personal trainer, who spends her time coaching CEOs and other senior people on how to be successful and likeable individuals. I disagreed with most of the things she said but I became quite infuriated when she made us choose a really powerful word that we want people to associate us with. I was among the last ones and until my turn came around, I heard a lot of magnificent, epic, fighter, great, ambitious, amazing, etc. I said: I want to be a person other people can depend on. She wanted me to make it more powerful. I said No. I said I don’t think that being enthusiastic and expansive is the only way out here to be successful. I rarely show any excitement – not because I am not actually excited but because I am not the kind of person who easily shares her emotions. And I refuse to buy self-help books or hire an expensive coach to teach me how to be someone else to succeed. I believe I can do it being the person I am. And I believe that’s exactly what Susan Cain is telling us. If only we remain quiet for a bit to actually listen.

PS: After the seminar several of my colleagues told me they agreed with me but didn’t want to say that given the lecturer was not exactly impressed with my way of thinking…

Other favourite quotes:

All of which raises the question, how did we go from Character to Personality without realizing that we had sacrificed something meaningful along the way?

***

We don’t need giant personalities to transform companies. We need leaders who build not their own egos but the institutions they run.

***

You once said that you would like to sit beside me while I write. Listen, in that case I could not write at all. For writing means revealing oneself to excess; that utmost of self-revelation and surrender, in which a human being, when involved with others, would feel he was losing himself, and from which, therefore, he will always shrink as long as he is in his right mind…That is why one can never be alone enough when one writes, why even night is not night enough.

Franz Kafka

“#НаЖивоОтСофия” – Александър Шпатов

NaJivoOtSofia-coverКогато за първи път чух заглавието на “#НаЖивоОтСофия”, ми прозвуча като някакво ТВ предаване,в което добре изглеждаш мъж около 30те, среден на ръст, със зелено-сиви очи (или поне така мисля) и с бира в ръка (позовавайки се на корицата) ни разказва с някакъв особен плам какво точно се случва в София, на живо от центъра на събитията така да се каже. Не мисля, че съм много далече от истината – всеки, който познава Александър Шпатов, поне веднъж през живота си е засядал с него на пейка, я на Кристал, я на Народния, и с бира в ръка е слушал истории, истории, истории. Като типичен писател (предполагам) Александър Шпатов рядко казва нещо с малко думи, ако може да го каже с много. Но в “#НаЖивоОтСофия” той е стегнат, всяка дума си е на мястото, няма излишно изречение или параграф. И ако за момент забравим, че четем това от книгата, като нищо си седим с Шпатов на най-далечната пейка на Кристал и той сериозно и задълбочено ни обяснява защо трябва да обичаме своя град. Нещо, което доста често забравяме.

Идеята, доколкото аз поне знам, се заражда около протестите миналата година. Шпатов, когото “дъвката, че София не е България” (тук неточно цитирам самия автор), докарва до тиха (и не толкова тиха) ярост, взима нещата в свои ръце и година по-късно ни представя сборника на нашия живот – на всеки който е обичал, плакал и живял в София. А може би идеята се е зародила още от преди – София е непрекъснат персонаж в разказите на Шпатов и горко на момичето, което се опита да открадне сърцето му – той май вече го е дал на тази въпросна София.

Въпреки че бях чела около половината разкази под един или друг формат, реших да се придържам към подредбата и да открия за себе си идея в нея. Пък и винаги съм виждала сборниците като един вид роман – с различни персонажи и различни истории, но в крайна сметка водещи ни към една главна идея, която за всеки е различна, а за автора най-вече. А никой не чете главите на роман в избираем ред, нали?

Отгръщайки първата страница на “#НаЖивоОтСофия” е все едно виждаш табелата “София” след 10-ина дни на морето или пък се сблъскваш лице в лице с пословичната българска учтивост, когато лелката/чичкото зад гишето ти казва: “Абе личната карта бе!” Оттам нататък е един водовъртеж от емоции и случки, които само един истински софиянец (да не изпадаме в спорове какво е това животно и има ли почва то у нас) може да усети. Шпатов ни прекарва през жълтите павета, Славейков, НДК, Младост, Народния, Крисал, Микстейп, Мтел, Петте кьошета и къде ли още не (тези места за мен са по-скоро близки познати; истината е, че нямам идея къде има и няма кавички, ама предното обяснение звучи по-добре). И навсякъде са тези персонажи и тези места, които ни карат да обичаме София – пък била тя и мръсна, и тъмна, и мрачна, и опасна.

Всеки би трябвало да може да открие нещо за себе си в този сборник. За моя радост аз открих любимия си Шпатовски (май тази дума не звучи особено добре…) разказ “Момиче от София”, но също така открих “Задържане” (много близко до първото място), “Вероятности” (тази история съм я чувала от автора с цел да ме убеди, че Бог съществува; не успя), много любимият “Принцеси от Славейков”, който наскоро излезе в “Гранта България”, странният “Тоалей” (който всеки път ме забавлява), един разказ, в който читателят е и главен герой и съавтор (единственото, което му е нужно са няколко бири, свободна пейка и слушатели), и други, но нека не издаваме всичко. Понякога си мисля, че Александър Шпатов и след 50 години ще седи на Орлов мост и ще ти разказва за първата му и единствена любов София и за живота им заедно. И за онова време с първите целувки някъде на Лилиите в Борисовата, и за еди-кой-си купон, или пък за помниш-ли-онзи-път-когато…

Още от Шпатов: 

“Разкази под линия”

“Календар с разкази”

 

Иран: “Моята орис” – Паринуш Сании

moiata-oris-parinush-sanii

Всичко, което исках, постигнах един ден, когато вече не го исках!

“Моята орис” може спокойно да бъде и “Нашата орис” или по скоро “Тяхната орис”. Защото това е историята на повечето жени родени и израстнали в ислямска държава. Защото това е един от малкото случаи, в които думата е дадена на жената – това така нисшо и контролирано същество според Исляма. Защото в “Моята орис” Паринуш Сании с прости думички и истории разказва за цялата болка и за цялата несправедливост, която идва с раждането на едно момиче. От явното съжаление на родителите, че тя не е той (въпреки че от чисто практична и репродуктивна гледна точка жените са точно толкова необходими колкото и мъжете), през задължителното омъжване за някой абсолютно непознат, до посвещаването на целия живот на децата и съпруга, до момента, в който дори и децата не жалят собствената си майка. Забранявана два пъти от режима в Иран, “Моята орис” все пак става една от най-популярните книги и е преведена на няколко езика. Наскоро авторката даже беше в България, но аз както обикновено със закъснение откривам добрите автори (така изпуснах и Керет), така че ще се задоволя да пиша все едно съм я срещнала.

Паринуш Сании заминава за Щатите, но се връща през 1979, когато избухва известната Ислямска революция. В своя роман авторката обхваща пет бурни десетилетия от иранската история през очите на една обикновена жена, която упорито и без особен успех се опитва да се бори срещу нормите. Масуме е нормално младо момиче, което се увлича по учението, въпреки неодобрението на майка си и братята си. Единствено (изненадващо) баща и я подкрепя, но тя губи и тази своя опора, когато се влюбва. Няколко погледа и съвсем невинен разговор между момче и момиче в Иран са равносилни на престъпление. Масуме е принудена да забрави своята любов към скромния аптекар Саид, бита е от семейството си и накрая е омъжена за човек, когото среща в деня на сватбата. Последват трудните години на иранското съзряване, от което съпругът (в крайна сметка сравнително приемлив) е важна част. Масуме не изоставя мечтата си да завърши висшето си образование, но измежду децата, съпруга и неговите политически пристрастия това става все по-трудно.

“Моята орис” звучи като вика на всяка една иранска жена, която не желае повече да бъде предмет или жертва. Това е опълчването на по-слабия пол, който иска равен достъп до обучение и работа, и който желае да се омъжи по любов а не по задължение. Докато Иран се бунтува срещу шаха и се опитва да установи една нова система (чиито идеали естествено са съвсем различни от резултата), една жена се опитва да се опълчи първо срещу семейството си, после срещу съпруга си и накрая срещу децата си. И почти винаги губи. Целият си живот Масуме прекарва в служба на другите – и когато на стари години очаква разбиране от своите деца, тя не го получава.

“Моята орис” е простичката история на един живот изживян в подчинение и страдание. Масуме има своите щастливи моменти, за които обаче се бори дълго и после плаща още по дълго. Паринуш Сании вдига завесата покриваща иранската жена, за да покаже на Запада без грим и украса каква всъщност е съдбата на една жена в ислямска държава. А тази съдба не е никак лесна и завидна.

Любими цитати: 

Всеки ден си казвах, че го обичам повече от предишния, че просто е невъзможно да обичаш някого толкова, но на другия ден отново откривах, че може да се обича повече.

***

Проумях, че нито упреците, нито похвалите на хората имаха някакво значение.

***

Никой не ни иска заради самите нас, а заради себе си.

Norway: Hunger – Knut Hamsun

hungerI will exile my thoughts if they think of you again, and I will rip my lips out if they say your name once more. Now if you do exist, I will tell you my final word in life or in death, I tell you goodbye.

Knut Hamsun’s Hunger was recommended to me by a very good friend, whom I never associated with reading. I started reading it at one of the most difficult times of my life a couple of months ago and suffice to say, it’s not the book that will help you get up. It’s probably the book that will convince you that life is pretty much awful and hardly worth the trouble of living. So i threw it away for a time when I might be more stable to adequately appreciate it beyond the This book is so depressing it makes me want to kill myself type of attitude.

Knut Hamsun must be read for at least two reasons – he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1920 and he was a strong and outspoken supporter of the Nazi regime and Hitler himself. Disregarding the latter (or at least attempting to separate distinctly the writer from the human being) Hamsun possesses an immense talent and a vocabulary good enough to make you lose your mind.

In his powerful somewhat autobiographical novel Hamsun follows the slow alienation and obsession of an unnamed male character living in Oslo. The man is an aspiring author to be (much like Hamsun before his debut in 1890 precisely with this novel) but is somehow unable to adapt to life. The young writer struggles to achieve self-discovery and its ultimate artistic expression but fails every time, even worse than the time before.

It was extremely painful to read Hunger. Beyond the actual, physical hunger of the main character, there was a more painful despair and strive for self-destruction. The novel goes beyond the insanity of an unsuccessful young writer – it goes on to explore that particular time of one’s life when you are thrown into adult life and you realize you not only have to work to survive, but you might be actually forced to exchange your time and ideals for money. And food.

The protagonist of Hunger acts more like a child than like a grown up man. He refuses to accept the rules of the game. In his idealistic mind he can write about whatever he wants to and be celebrated about it. In his idealistic mind the woman he loves will love him back despite of his poverty and alienation. Hamsun paints an unforgettable portrait of a man driven by forces beyond his control to the edge of self-destruction. The feelings of anger and frustration are almost palpable in a man who doesn’t know how to live life and whose irrationality and instability cause his ultimate destruction. It’s difficult to survive in a world when you don’t play by the rules. Hamsun’s Hunger I would assume is the author’s rebellion against the rules. His ultimate struggle to live the way he wants to without confirming to society’s rules. I know for a fact this doesn’t work – you either adapt or you die. Thanks, Darwin.

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