I was hoping to scan some covers and share impressions of my summer reading – but it’s past Labor Day (Americanized MayDay) so summer is being ushered out. Time to get started!:
Shah of Shahs – Ryszard Kapuscinski. This book – about social upheaval, large-scale repression and its lingering impact, wrong-footed modernity, individual heroics and weaknesses that stitch together society – is almost too beautiful. Every page radiates poetic lucidity, even – especially – as he covers some of the more horrible aspects of Iranian life under the Shah leading up through the subsequent revolution. Kapuscinski’s observations spill into now; I can’t imagine a time when this book will not be relevant.
An excerpt from the introduction:
What’s more, you are never sure who has locked you up, since no identifying marks differentiate the various representatives of violence whom you encounter, no uniforms or caps, no armbands or badges–these are simply armed civilians whose authority must be accepted unquestioningly if you care about your life. After a few days, though, we grow used to them and learn to tell them apart. This distinguished-looking man, in his well-made white shirt and carefully matched tie, walking down the street shouldering a rifle is certainly a militiaman in one of the ministries or central offices. On the other hand, this masked boy (a woolen stocking pulled over his head and holes cut out at eyes and mouth) is a local feyadeen no one’s supposed to know by sight or name. We can’t be sure about these people dressed in green U.S. Army fatigue jackets, rushing by in cars, barrels of guns pointed out the windows. They might be from the militia, but then again they might belong to one of the opposition combat groups (religious fantatics, anarchists, last remnants of Savak) hurrying with suicidal determination to carry out an act of sabotage or revenge.
But finally it’s not fun trying to predict just whose ambush is waiting you, whose trap you’ll fall into. People don’t like surprises, so they barricade themselves in their homes at night. My hotel is also locked (at this hour the sound of gunfire mingles with the creaking of shutters rolling down and the slamming shut of gates and doors). No friends will drop by; nothing like that will happen. I have no one to talk to. I’m sitting along looking through notes and pictures on the table, listening to taped conversations.
ok. more books soon!