Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami [Book Review]

 

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By: Fatma Chingu

Warning : Spoiler ahead!

My Rating : Frustratingly good

My thoughts:-

I finished reading this book when I was on my flight back from Seoul to Kuala Lumpur. And yes, I brought along Murakami with me during my solo travel to Korea recently. A wise choice for a company? Lets just say I regretted that choice.

First and foremost, I would explain briefly the story.

The story was written from the first person’s view. The narrator is K, a school teacher who lives in solitude and befriend an eccentric aspiring novelist named Sumire. Both of them meet whenever they can and Sumire would call him up randomly at the middle of the night to talk about herself and all her problems.

For whatever reason, K becomes used to her and developed a crush on her.

Turns out that Sumire met Miu, a forty-something business woman and she fell for her.

So there we go, a love triangle. But the focus of the story shifted when Sumire mysteriously disappears during her getaway with Miu in a small Greek island. The concerned Miu called K to the island in hope that somewhat the situation improves, in whatever way.

K spent about 10 days on the island, cracking his brain to find any clue on where Sumire could be. That is when he found the drafts of a story Sumire was writing right before her disappearance.

The drafts, there are two of them were named Document 1 and Document 2.

Document 1 is mainly consists of  her inner thoughts, the changes she experienced since she met Miu. Personally, I read it as rantings and its all over the place (in which I have to re-read to digest what exactly she is writing). She also talked about her suppressed sexual desire for Miu.

In which, later in this book Miu told K about Sumire’s attempt to engage her into sex but ended in vain. Sumire ran away the next morning.

Document 2 on the other hand is the most interesting part of the book (at least for me). This is the part when I get most absorbed into the story. Surprisingly it is not about Sumire. It is about Miu.

Apparently Miu has gone through a traumatic-life-altering experience while riding a Ferris Wheel many years before. She was in her 20’s and the fun fair was closing at that time. She was the last person to ride it and while she was on it, she was left alone hanging because the person in charge already left (he was visibly drunk).

Therefore, she has no choice but to wait for help. Later she saw something that she never thought possible.

From the Ferris Wheel, her room is visible. In some way, though may be in pure logic you could not see from such a distance (my assumption is the fun fair should be around 5 km radius, well just my guess no solid proof), she clearly saw herself having passionate love-making with the guy she dated before-whom she dumped because he is too overwhelming for her to handle.

Her brain was unable to compute the sight she saw before her eyes as the scene playing in front of her eyes. How on earth it is possible that she is having passionate love-making in her room when she was aware of her entrapment in the Ferris Wheel?

That was the last thing she remembered. And when the rescuers found her, her hair was all white and she was covered in blood. Even the paramedics and rescuers were puzzled with that scene. What happened to her all night?

Thus that confusion leads to her being indifferent to anything else around her. She became numb. In short, she changed.

She lost interest in sex. Which (might) explain her rejection towards Sumire when Sumire wants to make love to her.

What happens to Sumire?

After ten days, still no clue on her whereabouts. Therefore, K just went back to Japan afterwards.

In the end of the story, K and Miu returned back to being strangers. At the traffic light K has described that when he saw Miu in her car waiting for the light to turn green, she seemed occupied in her own mind , ignoring K who was watching her intently from the side. Since Sumire is missing in this puzzle, both K and Miu are unable to reconnect and remain as separate pieces.

So that is the story in a nutshell. Lots of details are missing but yeah it has been months since I finished reading this book.

MY THOUGHTS

The storytelling is engaging as the story progresses in a rhythmic tempo. Like listening to an orchestra. At first it seems bearable and very entertaining. As the song goes on, the scale goes big and heavy, making you feel its too much to handle. At the end, you will be left confused of what just you experienced. You will sit there staring blankly into space, trying to recollect your balance.

Murakami has relentlessly used metaphors in his lines. Honestly I reread the same line for a few times because I just simply do not understand the meaning. Somehow I think he is playing a mind trick on me by placing the mismatched picture to lay down the details.

Ambiguous line between the reality and imagination.

Throwing doubts on my own interpretation.

Because of that, the story lingers around me for quite some time.

Literature of Murakami is eccentric. He does not intent to satisfy people by his stories, he just writes them on whim. This is a great quality of course because he provides us an escape into his unique storytelling. In all honesty I am new to his works, thus making it fairly difficult to adjust.

Sputnik Sweetheart is a story about unrequited love. All three characters stand in one line, each looking at the back of the person and unable to make them turn back.

In my mind, I pictured them to be in this order;

K-Sumire-Miu

Murakami seems to fancy the idea of loneliness and the dark side of loving someone while being alone. What a weird theme to have.

He enjoys the fact that he could celebrate the loneliness in his story (this is purely my personal opinion) and pushing it forward in his stories. On the bright side, he embraced the weak and vulnerability of human emotion by turning it into the main idea of his stories. That is my thought after reading this book.

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Would I recommend this?

Yes. But please make sure that you are prepared to be confused.  Despite that, this is a fun book to read and you might want to reread it again.

Trust me, you will get addicted to be mind fucked.

P/S :- This post took me months to complete. Pardon the incomplete content.

 

 

 

My Norwegian Wood Experience (Spoiler Ahead)

by : Fatma Chingu

Its been ages my fellow readers~

Now I am gonna breakdown whats transpired from my journey through Murakami’s novel, Norwegian Wood.

First, I am going to confess that I don’t fancy the idea of reading a Murakami before. I am skeptical of course because Ruby loves him and I know I can never read anything that Ruby likes (sorry Ruby) since her taste is a bit “heavy” for me. In my defence, she loves to indulge herself in deep, philosophical, history kind of material (Palah too, just she is more interested in topics like ecosystem and Middle-Eastern issues) while me yeah, K-Drama and shallow things are more to my preferences.

How did I ended up reading a Murakami?

Simple, I just randomly bought one during my trip to Miri. It just so happens that I was strolling around the bookstore and saw Norwegian Wood. I got curious of course not by the title but because its Haruki Murakami. I thought “How fucked up his book could be? I should put myself to the test,” and there you go! My first Murakami.

I even posted that on my Instagram. A moment to remember heh?

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Now moving on to the reading part.

Well the story consists of the main character’s monologue and his views. His name is Toru Watanabe.

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In his head, he is the most normal guy. But for me as a reader, he is a mess. There might be people who thinks otherwise but I really think he is not a normal guy. Who can be normal with all those tragedies happening around you? Lost a best friend who committed a suicide and crushing his best friend’s girlfriend who he only meets years later who ends up disappearing after a one night stand?

And yet he considers himself a normal guy. Optimism.

He eats alone, basically he enjoys solidarity.

“Nobody likes being alone that much. I don’t go out of my way to make friends, that’s all. It just leads to disappointment. ”
Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood

He could not even bothered to make friend with anyone but a guy, Kazuki. Kazuki is a smart guy (with similar taste in literature as Toru) and he is a major playboy. He takes Toru around to sleep with girls every now and then. Sex is just a physical activity, its healthy-for both of them. Love and sexual intercourse are different circles altogether, they does not overlap.

Let’s face it, humans are beast. Not bad of Murakami to have that in the story right? I am pretty sure lots of people could actually relate themselves to that. Fair comment.

What is a story without a heroine?

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That girl who runs away after one-night stand-Naoko.

Strangely I am invested in her character the most. At first, she is just a sad girl but as the story progresses, she is depressing as hell. She got her scars embedded deep inside her as she has been through a lot since childhood and experience suicides from two people she loves. She is damaged and beyond repair.

But I rooted for her.

Until the end.

And its not enjoyable.

 

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Midori, the second girl. She is a bright character (at least she jokes around more) in this story. I like her character, a lot. Confident, brutally honest and lewd.

She talks a lot about herself with Toru but I noticed he has not opened up about himself with Midori. Somehow Toru is not that open with Midori but the good feelings is still there. I am pretty sure that Toru is drawn to Midori not because he wants to, but because Midori made herself someone who Toru could be attracted to. Now that’s girl power.

Halfway through the book, I was forced to stop reading and called Ruby. I feel like I have been consumed by the story. Suddenly I feel depressed myself.

Well to sum the conversation between Ruby and I about me being engulfed in the story (too dramatic of me apparently), Ruby advised me to treat the book as a literature, instead of a door to my subconscious mind or any window to my soul-that kind of self-realization shit.

That moment I realized this is not a romance fiction. This book is all about growing up and becoming a young adult and as one, I can relate to the struggles of being conflicted about responsibilities not just in terms of physical beings but also the chain of relationships with people around us. Being a young adult means you are in power of your own words and action. If you choose to end your life, that’s the end for you. But for the people you left behind? Their time still runs and the hurt from your passing remains until their time is up. Unfair right?

“Only the Dead stay seventeen forever.”
Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood

What I like about this story is each character represents the different approaches in life.

Toru is someone who choose a safe path, being very cautious and kind to the ones he loves and just follow the flow. And the flow is not necessarily good. Have a stand for god’s sake.

Naoko is the pessimist. She has been been beaten up in life and instead of fighting more, she chosen to go down and drown herself in sorrow. In a way we cannot blame her for being miserable but life does not end at will unless we decided that way, right? She is just a sad character, and I always wishes she could be the other way around.

“No truth can cure the sorrow we feel from losing a loved one. No truth, no sincerity, no strength, no kindness can cure that sorrow. All we can do is see it through to the end and learn something from it, but what we learn will be no help in facing the next sorrow that comes to us without warning.”
Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood

Midori is fierce, non-nonchalant and takes risk. Her effort to pursue Toru (set aside the fact she was dating someone else in the process) and outwardly confessed to him makes me want to applaud her. She is not someone who succumb to negative energy of events. She does the opposite. Like when her father dies, instead of being a potato and locking herself away in despair, she went out to a vacation with her boyfriend to cheer herself up.

“I don’t care what you do to me, but I don’t want you to hurt me. I’ve had enough hurt already in my life. More than enough. Now I want to be happy.”
Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood

Midori is clear with her feelings. To be honest, that’s a trait to be jealous of. For me at least. Compromising own feelings to avoid any unnecessary conflicts (be it work or personal life) proven to be a poison instead of a remedy. Truth to that. And in the end, Toru chosen her. Who wins? Everybody.

Who said being honest does not pay off?

To sum up the book experience, it is a complete literature and Murakami has impressed me with his style of writing. He makes me feel things, vision the scenes and empathize with the characters. Norwegian Wood is a story filled with truth, at least for me.

“Which is why I am writing this book. To think. To understand. It just happens to be the way I’m made. I have to write things down to feel I fully comprehend them.”
Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood

Fun facts :

His readers have been speculating that this story actually happens to him, and the main character was inspired from his personal experience. At the credit part of the book he quickly dismissed that by saying his real experience will only produced 14 pages. It was that boring.

And it has a movie version. Warning ahead, some scenes are absent. So keep an open mind before watching the movie if you read the book first.

Just read the book before watching the movie.

Be fair to yourself.

P/S: This is my first book review. So be open minded okay? Haruki’s fans might have a different opinion from mine. This review might be not be gory-ly detailed but I am writing this quite sometime after I finished reading it. So some facts might be inaccurate. But the quotes are from Goodreads so… they are the exact ones. /laughs/

Click on this to read Ruby’s review on another Murakami:

https://threechinguz.wordpress.com/2014/10/11/colorless-tsukuru-tazaki-and-his-years-of-pilgrimage-haruki-murakami/

Till next time!

No God But God by Reza Aslan – Book Review

By The Gorgeous Palah Chingu

This is such an excellent book. It was well elaborated and provoking in the same time.

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My Rating : 5/5

I was raised in the environment of strictly religious sunni muslim background. Not that i wanted to label myself as Sunni Muslim (i’d like to think we are all Muslims regardless of how the individuals practices and approaches their own religion). However, reading about other branches of Islam like Shiite and Sufi definitely is a treat to myself. I have been longing to know about it but i just cant find the right book that is not heavily one sided. Usually, it will be one sided and most of the arguments stressed on how their side of religion overrule one another.

To be honest, the book is quite thrilling and challenging to me. There are terms and words that forced me to open online dictionary to understand it’s meaning. There are moment that i have to look at it’s own glossary to really comprehend what is Reza Aslan try to share with his readers. Sometimes, i have to stop for a while and absorb all the facts from his book.Trust me, this book provided me more information about my own religion than what my 5 years combined in Islamic Boarding School. In my school, all they (Ustaz and Ustazah) talked about is ritual. Ritual (in a very conservative society such as mine) somehow influenced and judged heavily on being a good Muslim. If you are reading Quran everyday, then you are considered a good Muslim. the downfall for this is reading and understand is not the same. That’s what Reza Aslan try to point out in his writing. He was very bold on writing over the controversial sub topic. He criticized how some Islamic Scholars misinterprets Islamic law for their own purpose.

I was forced to enroll in Islamic boarding school when i was thirteen. Those 5 years living in that boarding school can be sum it up as hell to me. I didnt fit in and i kind of questioned everything especially when the culture of women seclusion seems normal in that school. Having read this book, it seriously opened my eyes especially Women rights in Islam. It is undeniably underrated in Islam. When reza pointed out his arguments of veil and the symbolization of Muslim women chastity in this book, i couldn’t be more happier. Anyway, the only added advantage that i got having an Islamic educational background is i am familiar with some of Arabic terms in this book. When Reza  Aslan argued on whether Hadith is legitimate sources because of their Isnad, or on the rationality of using Ijtihad than Hadith, I understood what is meant by  Hadith, Isnad or Ijtihad. I learned it before in school.

Overall, this is an excellent reading. Everything is written in elaborated style but in the same time you can understand it. From Prophet Muhammad history to 9/11 post effect, all of it has been covered in this. Yes, this book might challenged and provoked your thinking and idea about Islam ( especially the one you thought you knew) but thats the whole point of reading it. You may agree to disagree with Reza Aslan’s points but that means you are doing some thinking of your own. Rather than accepting it wholly without questioning it, i would prefer this approach better. Yes, Reza Aslan may go a bit overboard with his writing over how shiite was formed but that’s something i can accept considering he himself is a shiite Muslim.

This book can refresh the new idea of Islam and maybe in the same time, we can embrace this long-awaited Islamic Reformation. This book is highly recommended to any non-muslims who wanted to know more about Islam.

COLORLESS TSUKURU TAZAKI AND HIS YEARS OF PILGRIMAGE – HARUKI MURAKAMI

by Ruby Gege

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Haruki Murakami is my god in literature. And please take it metaphorically. I began reading him in 2011, a novel entitled Norwegian Wood and my life changed forever. I read it and literally felt magic in my soul. Since then, I grew to be an ardent fan and now, an undisputed Murakami fanatic. Jane Austen is the most important writer for me, Orhan Pamuk taught me of love and infatuation, Gabriel Garcia Marquez taught me of loneliness…. but Haruki Murakami feeds my soul!! (overdramatic alert!!)

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My Murakami collection situated at the first-tier of the yellow shelf aka The Royal Shelf

Upon completing IQ84 sometime around last year, I have been waiting and waiting for the English version of Murakami’s latest novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki. I was pretty excited considering how the premise of the novel revolved around friendship and love. Murakami does not do that often – mostly his stories are on surrealism and loneliness. More than often, his lead characters lack the capabilities of having friends. Yet, Tsukuru Tazaki had friends – not just one or two but four. Unlike other Murakami leads, Tsukuru during high school years BELONGED to a group of friends. His high school years was not ridden with isolation. He had memories, he had ambition. 

Tsukuru is different. Friendship possesses an extremely high value in his life. That is something I can relate to. All of a sudden, his friends abandoned him, cutting him off from their lives forever. Tsukuru knew he had no say in it. Thus, he accepted it. Yet, upon the loss of that friendship, he saw death. He believed something in him died. 

Ouh, feeellllsss…

What makes Colorless Tsukuru so enjoyable is also the fact that there is a mystery to be solved. Tsukuru was abandoned by his friends. Sixteen years had passed and he had moved on, at least externally. However, he yearned for an explanation, deep inside. For the youth was the best times of his life, being together with his friends, who were the colours of his life – Red Aka, Blue Ao, White Shiro and the Red Aka. When they disappeared from their lives, the colours left, too.

From left - the Red Aka, Blue Ao, White Shiro, Black Kuro and finally, the Colourless Tsukuru. Beneath the cover was the map of train lines.
From left – the Red Aka, Blue Ao, White Shiro, Black Kuro and finally, the Colourless Tsukuru. Beneath the cover was the map of train lines.

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When people ask me to review Murakami’s writings, I can’t really put it into words. All I can say it – if you enjoy writings that employs a more monologue-like style that explores a lot about your inner emotions, lonelinss, insecurities, mortalities, love, scepticism and the general mood of giving up about life but there-nothing-we-can-do-about-it type of thing, then you are going to enjoy Murakami so much. Read his books and be mindfucked. Read his books and never see the world the same again. Through his writings, I learned how to appreciate loneliness and death. Despite all the seemingly ‘negative’ emotions he writes about in his stories, he never put a negative spin on it. He writes about death but never fear. He writes about loneliness and love at the same time – how one can be in love yet lonely. He broke many of the stereotypes I had – how a certain emotion can help me overcome another emotion. That was untrue. Emotions are never in our control. We may control how we act on them but never how we feel. 

Back to Colorless Tsukuru!! 

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And my favourite pages in the book!!

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Of Death
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Of Unrequited Love
Of the Glorious Youth
Of the Glorious Youth

Cannot wait for his next work!!!!

P/S – Murakami did not win the Nobel Prize for Literature last year and this year. I know he deserves it, with all my heart. I want him to win it. But it’s okay. You won my loyalty for the rest of my life, Mr Murakami. Now please pay a visit to Malaysia and sign my Murakami collection… TT

[Book Review] – A Fort of Nine Towers (2013) By Qais Akbar Omar

By The Gorgeous Palah Chingu

“I have long carried this load of griefs in the cage of my heart. Now I have given them to you. I hope you are strong enough to hold them.”- Qais Akbar Omar

My Rating: 5/5 (Thats because I have not been so moved by a book in a long while).
My Rating: 5/5 (Thats because I have not been so moved by a book in a long while).

If you ask me is it that GOOD to give 5 stars for this book, i would say 5 is not good enough. I cried, I laughed, I cheered and I felt all sort of emotions that the author told me via his story. This book consisted of 3 parts of author and his family story in it. The first part, you felt warmhearted imagining at the back of your head how he told his childhood story. The way he presented his point of view about his culture is just an honest expression of how he felt due to the way he was raised. He was born in the Pashtun Family and he lived together in a big house with his uncles, aunties and his grandfather is in their culture. He talked about it and enlightened those who find it such a strange culture. He described his childhood to be bright and colorful as he was surrounded by playful cousins and loving relatives. He pointed out that though his family are from Pashtun ethnic but he never spoke Pashto in the house. All of his family members are comfortable using Dari (another language that are widely used in Afghanistan aside Pashto). It is not a big deal for him because he learned Pashto and knew how to use it but he stated that he preferred Dari More. The Kite competition during his past childhood is one of the fiercest battle he ever encountered when he was a kid. He bragged about how his cousin Wakeel can easily defeated other opponent and has been named as ‘The Cruel Kite Cutter’ in their neighborhood. He cherished the moment of one of his family’s servants, Bahar helped him to win the competition by cutting Wakeel’s kite. For the author, The childhood in the big house with all of his cousins is one of the best memories he had.

The second part, you started feeling sad and wanted to help them to get through that awful war ( from Russian, Mujahideen, Taliban and American army). When the war (The Mujahideen Army) is approaching Afghanistan, The Author’s family felt that they are the savior. They had came to chase the Russian and Communism. They felt optimistic about this Army and wished that they will build back their destroyed nation. They are indeed wrong. Not long after Mujahideen’s arrival, The power struggle between factions occurred. Many died because of that. The author’s family felt they are no longer safe staying at their big house. The battle between factions of Mujahideen had turned most of them from being a ‘God’s Man’ to ‘Low-class criminal’. They robbed other’s properties and killed those who defied them. Fearing that their life will not be saved, the author’s family decided to take a refuge in his father’s friend house. They stayed there until American Army came to hunt every single Taliban army that resides in the country. The whole feeling when i read the second part is helplessness. I cant bloody do anything, I just keep moving on to the next pages, hoping the author’s family survived the calamity fell upon them. There was one scene that i deeply remembered because i truly feared that the author and his grandfather will not survived. First scene is when his grandfather stubbornly wanted to take a look at his house that he left a long time ago since Mujahideen Army came. He wanted to bring Author’s uncle originally but his uncle pleaded to wait until a few days for ceasefire between factions to happen. However, His grandfather could not wait any longer and ordered the author to go with him. When his father did not object his grandfather’s decision, he knew he had to accompany him no matter what. When they are on their way, They has been captured by Hazara’s faction of Mujahideen. It was truly a terrifying moment. They had been locked in a room where the walls are full of writing of those who ever lived in it. His grandfather knew that they are going to be killed. He told the author to be strong and in case if he’s got a chance to live, try his hardest to escape. He also told the author that those men might ‘used’ him but he insisted him to endure as surviving is more important. The author cried and asked his grandfather to stop talking nonsense. When the leader of the faction asked what they are both doing in the area, His grandfather told that they are visiting his house in the area. It turned out before the war, the leader is one of the students of the author’s father. He decided to let them go and send them both back. The author picturized the whole scene as his first death escape experience.

The third part is where the age of ignorance came and how the Taliban rules did alter the whole nation. He told what he deeply felt about them in this book. He stated that they brough strange peace into the country. How peace can be such strange thing? He revealed decrees of Taliban that insisted on Hudud Punishment and Fundamentalism of Islamic Law. No Music, No Entertainment, No Pictures, No Free Relationship between Boys and Girls, No Open Courtship and up to the extend of NO to everything. How did they governed Afghanistan? They said Yes to everything which considered good in Holy Quran. When he said strange peace, he does not mean it a good way. He felt the Afghan community and culture suddenly died and they can no longer do what they usually did. He said girls in Taliban’s time faced it much worse because they cant attend school , they have to wore Burqa all the time , they cannot work and they have to be accompanied by their male relatives if they wanted to go to other places. He portrayed vividly the moment of how Taliban used the stadium to carry out the punishment of those they claimed to be a sinner. To witness the scene of girls being stoned to death, the thieves whose hand is being cut and the murderers being shot at the head right away is one of the horrifying moments author ever had. He also reflected back the time he went to jail just for not cutting his hair according to Taliban Standard. In the jail, he was beaten by the religious officers and only to be released when he could answers all of their questions about Islam and Taliban.

According to this book, The author’s cousin named Wakeel and his grandfather played a big role in his life. He cherished both of them in temple of his heart. The wording that he put in this book to portray them both is simple yet poetic. You can sense his sincerity and tenderness in the book. The author even managed to share some of the stories of good people he met despite of war in his journey back and forth with his family.Whether it is from Hazara, Turkmenistan or Pashtun, They are indeed kind people who helped him when he needed it.

Can you see how huge this book is?
Can you see how huge this book is? The book size that i preferred is on my left (The Kite Runner Book) and in the middle one (which i tolerated because it is not that heavy).

To be honest, I hated books that had a huge size (compared to the normal size) which is for me difficult to hold it during reading. This book turned me off right away when i first saw it sitting among bookshelves in a local bookstore. I wanted to ignore the book and move on to another section but my instinct kept asking me to flip a few pages of this particular book. I turned a few pages of this book and i sighed. There is no foreword or rave review by other famous authors. I am skeptical at first but i bought it. I bought it in the sense that i loved non fiction books and above all, it is middle-eastern literature especially from Afghanistan and Iran. After reading a few chapters, I was completely blown away. I wondered how Afghani authors (Khaled Hosseini and others) can easily grasp my attention and i am completely hooked on the way he told his tale. If you like Khaled Hosseini, You should buy this book. What differentiate Qais Akbar Omar from Khaled Hosseini is he did tell the TRUE story and what really happpened to him while he was growing up in Afghanistan in a time of War. I can assure you guys that this book is indeed one of the best books i’ve ever read in 2014.

Book Review: The Cypress Tree by Kamin Mohammadi

By The Gorgeous Palah Chingu

My Rating: 4/5
My Rating: 4/5

We Iranians are like the cypress tree. We may bend and bend on the wind but we will never break’ 

I bought this book last year and I only got a chance to read it this year. Why I took so long to read, I don’t even know. Maybe it does not have an appealing cover like some middle-eastern non-fiction books like a piercing stare by a young girl who wore a burqa or a war image captured by some famous journalist.  Iran, in my opinion, is a truly country that makes you wonder and ponder. This country is formed from an empire of great Persia to the reign of Shah, then it has been handed to Khomeini and it changed into the Islamic Republic of Iran until now. This book featured an interesting perspective from a refugee who just returned to her own country where she used to call it home once.

I read some of the books about Iran like Persepolis, not without my daughter and so many more. However, this one struck in my mind a bit longer. Kamin told a tale about her big family but in the same time, she poured her heart out to her beloved country. She returned to Iran after a long time and sudden regret bloomed from her heart for not preserving her own culture and tradition in her foreign country. The language for this book is quite simple actually. When the language is not so difficult to understand, you connected with the author much quicker than you thought.

From the event of how her grandfather and her grandmother get married, how her mother standing up to her conservative father to avoid from being married off and even got a chance to further in higher education and work in a management level in some company until to the event of Shah Downfall in Iran and How Khomeini stated ‘He felt nothing’ when people asked how he felt right after he returned to Iran. I could connect with Kamin because she wrote the Iran history in a view of a person who yearn a freedom and peace for her country. She looked back into her childhood and teenage hood where she learned many things from her uncles, aunties, cousins and even her grandmother. She pointed out how the Iranian revolution somehow turned many things upside down including breaking many relations through betrayals and how many deaths she encountered during the event.

Kamin also vividly narrated the experience of leaving Iran and seeking a refuge in England somehow changed and altered her behavior but failed to change her parents. Her parents still continuing living in England like how they live in Iran but with a different community. Since they are no longer with a big family, gatherings will be attended by an Iranian community who’s faced the similar fate of fled from the country. Kamin confessed how her teen- rebellious phase forcing her to abandon Farsi, her language that she spoke everyday at Iran into a thick accent of English in England. Little did she know it will show how she made a bad choice when she barely able speaks that language when she returned to Iran.

I have no criticism on the book as I always enjoyed reading non-fiction books. I love reading about people lives, tragedy, experience, difficulty or any events that changed the idea of living their life. I find it very gutsy and me myself hoping I could able to do that someday. I wish Kamin did put an assemblage of her family photos in the book so that readers could see it. If you wanted to know about Iran’s history but does not want to read a thick book with a very small letter, this book might do you good.

THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF NELSON MANDELA – LONG WALK TO FREEDOM

by Ruby Gege (yeah, I’m using Gege now because I’m obsessed with ancient Chinese princesses drama. Haha)

Aside from our love for shopping malls, food and having bitchy difficult opinions about almost everything, the Three Chinguz also share the same love of reading. We may not have lots of time to but we love love love to read. From fiction to non-fiction, I’d say that I have a pretty balanced equation of love towards both.

I have this general belief that people don’t read history or autobiographical books for fun. Or to feel butterflies in their stomach. Or to feel happy. No. People read history mainly because they want to know more about subjects they are interested in. Instead of seeking fun, history fans seek to be inspired and learn from the past history of people they admire.

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Mr Mandela looking out the window from his prison cell

After watching the Mandela film, I bought the autobiography from which the film was adapted. The deeply revered figure, who died just last year, left a remarkable mark in history. Almost everyone on earth know who he was, and the oppression he was fighting against. He became the symbol of freedom, of hope, patience and perseverance.

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My own copy of the book… which looks has deteriorated rapidly over the week due to my aggressive reading.

IMG-20140421-00003The book surprised me in many ways. Firstly, as I was reading the book, it was as if I could hear Mr Mandela’s voice narrating his story to me. The language he used is very simple – no big fancy words – which makes the story very easy to follow. His style of writing is also very heartfelt – he began the autobiography with his childhood days as an innocent child, then to his school days, post-graduation, work and family life, his fight against apartheid and his imprisonment, followed by his release.

Here is the breakdown of the chapters in the book.

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IMG-20140421-00005His writing is very ‘friendly’ to me. I felt as I was reading the book, I was reading letters from my uncle or grandfather. To illustrate, here is the excerpt – paragraph 1, Chapter 1:

“Apart from life, a strong constitution, and an abiding connection to the Thembu royal house, the only thing my father bestowed upon me at birth was a name, Rolihlala. In Xhosa, Rolihlala literally means “pulling the branch of a tree,” but its colloquial meaning more accurately would be “troublemaker.” I do not believe that names are destiny or that my father somehow divined my future, but in later years, friends and relatives would ascribe to my birth name the many storms I have both caused and weathered. My more familiar English or Christian name was not given to me until my first day of school. But I am getting ahead from myself.”

Slowly and very smartly, Mr Mandela’s storytelling absorbed and overwhelmed me. I grew more curious to the story, finding it hard to put down the book. I want to listen more to the wise man’s words, his beliefs, his personal principles, his pain, his suffering and his joy and satisfaction as a freedom fighter.

There are MANY SUPER INSPIRATIONAL QUOTES in the books. In every page, I dare say at least one sentence inspires you to live your life for the better and to be grateful for the freedom that we have.

The most famous quote is, of course, Mr Mandela’s final words during the Rivonia Trial right before he was sentenced to more than 20 years in prison.

“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

He knew he wouldn’t win the trial and would most likely be sentenced to death. Nevertheless, he did not fear dying for his country and for the freedom of his people. There and then, I knew that his determination had became rock solid. He would not flinch. His strength, right there, was awe-inspiring. It displays to us that fear should never be an obstacle in standing up for what we believe in. For freedom. For justice.

*damn it, FEELSSSS!!!!*

There are also a number of paragraphs in the book where Mr Mandela was narrating about the garden he cultivated in prison. He described the withering state of his plants as a metaphor to his life and leadership.

“In some ways, I saw the garden as a metaphor for certain aspects of my life. A leader must also tend his garden: he, too, plant seeds, and then watches, cultivates, and harvests the result. Like the gardener, a leader must take responsibility for what he cultivates; he must mind his work, try to repel enemies preserve what can be preserve, and eliminate what cannot succeed.”

The passage was melancholic to me as Mr Mandela, who was deemed leader of his community, was not able to lead his people during his incarceration. He served them in whatever capacity he could as an adviser and endured for as long as possible. As a leader, whatever decisions he made would be on him. One mus never look back. One must be brave and courage. The values enshrined here is in line with the “I am Prepared to Die” speech above.

Later, he also narrated how he wrote his wife a letter about his dying tomato plant. He told his wife how he wished for their marriage to not wither away like the plant. However, he felt that, indeed, as a prisoner, he “had been unable to nourish many of the most important relationships” in his life, ending the passage with a poignant remark – “Sometimes there is nothing one can do to save something that must die“.

It was the first hint of his marriage’s impending doom. Even though Mandela and Winnie were optimistic in their marriage in the beginning, slowly, I think, the hope of any romance and passion to remain dies as they remained separated. They were married for about thirty years but managed only to function as husband and wife during the first five years of their marriage. Nevertheless, their devotion for each other and also for the fight against the apartheid system was incomparable. Notwithstanding whatever huge sacrifices Mr Mandela had to make, he always knew in his heart that the future of the nation and the fight for freedom will ALWAYS prevail over individual happiness.

Sad, but true. Still, super sad. But super true.

The book also teaches one a lot of things about governance and the practice of democracy from the South African perspective. At that time of history, South Africa, which population was dominated by black Africans, was ruled by a minority white government. The white leaders were reluctant to let go of their power but sought Mr Mandela’s assistance in achieving internal peace between the whites and the blacks. Mr Mandela replied:-

“Majority rule and internal peace are like the two sides of the same coin, and white South Africa simply has to accept that there will never be peace and stability in this country until the principle is fully applied.”

Later, once he had been released by the government after many years in prison, he recalled how he was brought from places to places to meet up with his followers and plan the African National Congress’s next step. No time must be wasted. The fight must go on. Justice must be achieved. As a free man, Mr Mandela carried the hopes of the entire nation on his shoulders. However, he wrote melancholically that:-

“My dreams upon leaving prison was to take a leisurely drive don to the Transkei, and visit my birthplace, the hills and streams where I had played as a boy, and the burial ground of my mother, which I had never seen.”

The sentence illustrated one of the many sacrifices Mr Mandela had to make, where he let go of his desires and dreams selflessly to serve his people. For the freedom of others, he let go of his. For others to have a better future, he forgot about his own.

No matter how great a national leader that Mr Mandela was, he often reiterated in his book about the tremendous love he had for his children. However, he could not be there for them and for the most of their childhood, he was an absent figure. Such conflicts had to be faced by children of great men and women. A sad passage illustrated Mr Mandela’s lasting sadness and regret over giving up his family life for his country:-

“”We watched our children growing up without our guidance,” I said at the wedding, “and when we did come out (of prison), my children said, ‘We thought we had a father and one day he’d come back. But to our dismay, our father came back and he left us alone because he has now become THE FATHER OF THE NATION.'” To be the father of a nation is a great honor, but to be the father of a family is a greater joy. But it was a joy I had far too little of.”

In all honesty, I felt like crying whilst reading this passage. It summarized Mr Mandela’s sadness so beautifully. Maybe because I, like many children of successful men who spent little time with family, can relate to it. Despite the great love and constant devotion, to fight for a better future will always be a priority to our parents. They want to ensure we will have a better life than theirs. Thus, they would do anything in their power to do as such. I believe Mr Mandela did what he did for his children and the children of many others. The fight against apartheid would ensure that the children of South Africa are treated justly and equally for the essence of being human beings. He wanted to ensure that they won’t be oppressed just because of their skin colour and experienced the same sufferings his generations did. It was a great sacrifice that he made but he had no regret.

I can’t possibly rate this book. I am not worthy to do as such. This book should not be rated. This book should be experienced. It has become the best autobiography I have ever read. Through this book, I have learned a great lesson about patience and perseverance. He served 27 years in prison for going against the racist Apartheid system, he was oppressed and his life was taken away by the authorities. Yet, he endured and endured until the end. Thus, how can one privileged youngster like me complain about having a difficult life? It teaches me not to be impatience and to always be calm and strong in facing obstacles. Bravery is a must. Courage is indispensable. And whatever happens, always look at things positively. 

If only I can have 1% of Mr Mandela’s spirit, I’ll be a happy enough woman.

I am going to end this review with the book’s final passage, that should really be adopted as everyone’s principle in life. Mr Mandela wrote:-

“I have walked that long walk to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom come  responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.”

 

*cries*

Thank you, Mr Mandela.

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