Category Archives: Non-Fiction

Sadako and The Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr

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sadako

Sadako and The Thousand Paper Cranes was recommended by an author friend of mine whose recommendations are incredibly valuable for me. It’s such a sad story of a little girl, Sadako, who died of leukaemia in Japan years after the bombing of Hiroshima.

My highlights from the book:
At breakfast Sadako noisily gulped down her soup and rice. Masahiro began to talk about girls who ate like hungry dragons.

The two had been friends since kindergarten. Sadako was sure that they would always be as close as two pine needles on the same twig.

After speeches by Buddhist priests and the mayor, hundreds of white doves were freed from their cages. They circled the twisted, scarred Atomic Dome. Sadako thought the doves looked like spirits of the dead flying into the freedom of the sky.

When the candles were burning brightly, the lanterns were launched on the Ohta River. They floated out to sea like a swarm of fireflies against the dark water.

At midnight she was in her cosy bed quilts when the temple bells began to chime. They were ringing out all the evils of the old year so that the new one would have a fine beginning.

It’s supposed to live for a thousand years. If a sick person folds one thousand paper cranes, the gods will grant her wish and make her healthy again.

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Saf ve Düşünceli Romancı – Orhan Pamuk

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Pamuk, yazı yazmanın ve romancılığın otuz beş yıllık meslek sırlarını, Harvard Üniversitesi’nde verdiği Norton derslerinde açıklıyor. Daha önce T.S. Eliot, Borges, Calvino ve Umberto Eco gibi yazarların da verdiği bu derslerde, Pamuk edebiyat ve sanat anlayışını bir bütün olarak sunuyor.

Bir romanı okurken kafamızda ne gibi işlemler yaparız? Roman kahramanlarıyla gerçek insanlar arasında ilişki nedir? Roman sanatı ile şiirin, resmin ve siyasetin ilişkisi nedir? Yazarın kendi sesi, imzası, özel dünyası nasıl oluşur? Romancı nerede kendisini, nerede başkalarını anlattır? Romanı gerçek yapan ”gizli merkez” nedir ve nasıl kurulur? Pamuk bütün hayatı boyunca meşgul olduğu bu soruları Türk ve dünya edebiyatından örneklerle cevaplıyor.

Pamuk, bu kitapta roman okurken ve yazarken karşılaştığı harikaları, kendi kişisel deneyimleri ve hatıralarından aldığı güçle, herkesin anlayacağı bir konuşma dili ve rahatlığıyla hikaye ediyor.

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Lion by Saroo Brierley

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My memories were all I had of my past, and privately I thought about them over and over, trying to ensure I didn’t ‘beget’.

Some of these memories were good, and some of them bad – but I couldn’t have one without the other, and I couldn’t let them go.

The people in the station weren’t people at all, but a great solid mass I couldn’t make any impact on, like a river or the sky.

Sometimes I wonder what would have happened to me had he not taken me in, or had I refused to trust him.

Today, there are perhaps a hundred thousand homeless kids in Kolkata, and a good many of them die before they reach adulthood.

It was only a couple of years after my period on the streets that the notorious ‘Stoneman’ murders began in Calcutta, following the same phenomenon in Bombay. Somebody started murdering homeless people bedding down at night, especially around the city’s major station, by dropping a large rock or slab of concrete onto their heads as they slept. Thirteen people died over a six-month period and no-one was ever charged (though the killings stopped after the police detained a psychologically disturbed suspect). Had I stayed on the street, there’s every chance I wouldn’t be alive today, and certainly not writing this book.

I later learnt that Ganesh is often called the Remover of Obstacles, and Lord of Beginnings. I wonder whether that was why the girl chose to give it to me. (Ganesh is also Patron of Letters, and so, in a way, is the patron of this book.)

That initial disbelieving desperation to get home – that feeling that, unless the world was immediately put back the way it had been, I couldn’t survive, couldn’t exist – had long faded. The world was now what I saw around me, the situation I was in.

Instinct, memory, doubt and excitement were all coursing through me at once.

Even at this first meeting, though, she told me she was grateful to my parents who had raised me in Australia, and that they had the right to call me their son because they had raised me from a child and made me the man I was today.

‘Everything is written’: destiny takes its inevitable path.

I would never have imagined when I left here that I would one day willingly return, yet here I was now, looking over the place, a tourist of my old terrors.

lion

Zlata’s Diary by Zlata Filipovic

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zlata's diary

“War has crossed out the say and replaced it with horror, and now horrors are unfolding instead of days. It looks to me as though these politics mean Serbs, Croats and Muslims. But they are all people. They are all the same. They all look like people, there’s no difference. They all have arms, legs and heads, they walk and talk, but now there’s “something” that wants to make them different.

Among my girlfriends, among our friends, in our family, there are Serbs and Croats and Muslims. It’s a mixed group and I never knew who was a Serb, a Croat or a Muslim. Now politics has started meddling around. It has put an ‘S’ on Serbs, an ‘M’ on Muslims and a ‘C’ on Croats, it wants to separate them. And to do so, it has chosen the worst, blackest pencil of all—the pencil of war which spells only misery and death.”

War is no joke, it seems. It destroys, kills, burns, separates, brings unhappiness.

How you can come to love an animal! She doesn’t talk, but she speaks with her eyes, her paws, her meows, and I understand her.

…young people without arms and legs. They’re the ones who had the fortune or perhaps the misfortune to survive.

It’s as if Sarajevo is slowly dying, disappearing. Life is disappearing. So how can I feel spring, when spring is something that awakens life, and here there is no life, here everything seems to have died.

Suddenly, unexpectedly, someone is using the ugly powers of war, which horrify me, to try to pull and drag me away from the shores of peace, from the happiness of wonderful friendships, playing and love. I feel like a swimmer who was made to enter the cold war, against her will. I feel shocked, sad, unhappy and frightened and I wonder where they are forcing me to go, I wonder why they have taken away the peaceful and lovely shores of my childhood. I used to rejoice at each new day, because each was beautiful in its own way. I used to rejoice at the sun, at playing, at songs. In short, I enjoyed my childhood. I had no need of a better one. I have less and less strength to keep swimming in these cold waters. So take me back to the shores of my childhood, where I was warm, happy and content, like all the children whose childhood and the right to enjoy it are now being destroyed.

I keep thinking about the march I joined today. It’s bigger and stronger than war. That’s why it will win. The people must be the ones to win, not the war, because war has nothing to do with humanity. War is something inhuman.

Why is politics making us unhappy, separating us, when we ourselves know who is good and who isn’t? We mix with the good, not with the bad. And among the good there are Serbs and Croats and Muslims, just as there are among the bad. I simply don’t understand it. Of course, I’m “young,” and politics are conducted by “grown-ups.” But I think we “young” would do it better. We certainly wouldn’t have chosen war.

It’s freezing. Winter has definitely come to town. I used to love and enjoy it so much, but now it’s a very disagreeable guest in Sarajevo.

There are lots of beautiful pedigree dogs roaming the streets. Their owners probably had to let them go because they couldn’t feed them anymore. Sad. Yesterday I watched a cocker spaniel cross the bridge, not knowing which way to go. He was lost. He wanted to go forward, but then he stopped, turned around and looked back. He was probably looking for his master. Who knows whether his master is still alive? Even animals suffer here. Even they aren’t spared by the war.

Some people compare me with Anne Frank. That frightens me, Mimmy. I don’t want to suffer her fate.

I sincerely hope we won’t have to. But hoping doesn’t mean a thing here.

Again and again they keep sinking all our boats, taking and dashing all our hopes.

The Feel-Good Hit of the Year by Liam Pieper

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the feel good hit of the year

They were bohemian, sure, but it wasn’t a sixties-style commune with everybody jumping in and out each other’s futons.

When they came around Dad had to make himself scarce, lurking in the music room like a pallid, vegetarian phantom.

Drugs were everywhere. The wisdom of the time was that weed was a harmless alternative to alcohol. Joints were passed around like Carlos Castaneda novels.

…he looked like Easy Rider dressed as John Lennon for Halloween.

The citizens of Labassa wanted to explore an alternative lifestyle, and while one baby was a karmic blessing, two looked like selling out.

Ardian used to roam the streets collecting aluminium cans, for which a local recycling centre would pay him one cent apiece. He’d carry them in a huge hessian sack that he dragged behind him like a Dickensian-era Pooh Bear.

Pot smoke was our matzo ball soup.

…vegetarian, karma-neutral foods.

I also picked up bits and pieces from other religions—Buddhist parables from my Malaysian godparents, scraps of Hindu and Jewish wisdom from my parents’ friends—and by the time I started primary school I was a fizzing mess of confused, contradictory hippie bullshit.
These stillborn communiques broke across the faces of people I tried to talk to in waves: confusion, incomprehension, dismissal.

…with lots of pleases and thank-yous, like a tourist trying to order coffee in Paris.

During our lunch ours together, I’d act steamily towards her—not like a Latin romantic, more like a dumpling. I was clammy and pale, a thin white skin covering meat of dubious provenance.

People glanced at me, then quickly looked away. At the time I thought they were just being street smart, but the response was probably closer to confusion and pity at the chubby, ponytailed androgyne twitching down the street like a traumatised chimp who’d escaped from a Krispy Kreme research facility. But I believed I looked dangerous and that’s what mattered.

He was like the Aldi of narcotic wholesale.

After a lifetime of wanting the Australian idyll, he’d ended up in a Tim Winton novel.

There are a lot of writers who try to dress up death in pretty words to make it more palatable, but I can’t do that. Death looks like what it is, and Ardian looked dead. I could see where he’d bled, trickles had dried on the side of his face from his nose and mouth, two rivulets that merged in a fork that ran down his check, black blood on blue skin. His skin was starved of oxygen, a choked-off purple-blue that whitened as it moved down his body. I could see every bit of sparse chest hair, every follicle of his beard, or at least as much of a beard as he could grow. He was twenty-one.

The dead are not static. Long after they are gone, your relationship with them remains, grinding on, as relentless and world-changing as tectonic plates. Every night for months, I would dream about Ardian suddenly walking through the door, or picking me up from school, or calling me on the phone, with some simple explanation for how his death was a mistake, that everyone could stop worrying, that he’d been living on an island in the Philippines, that he was fine. ‘Of course I didn’t die of an heroin overdose,’ he told me in one dream. ‘As if. What a cliché!’

So here’s my metaphor: grief is a long, dark night in a wet sleeping bag at a shitty music festival that everyone seems to be enjoying but you. It’s cold, it’s raining, it’s unpleasant, but you’re not going to wriggle out of your damp cocoon because the alternatives are even worse.

…and ended up spouting Yiddish truisms like some suburban Woody Allen.

Katya was, in a word, Russian. She was diminutive, violent, sexy, vicious, brilliant and alcoholic.

The whole place reeked of decay, despair and abandoned dreams.

Often I would meet someone nice at a bar and invite them home, only to generate from an excitable, eager-to-please lad into a twitchy, sullen Gollum in the space of a taxi ride.

Now, lying shrivelled in the doctor’s palm, my dick looked like an abandoned yum cha dish.

Apart from those who had been foolish enough to move in with me, any real friends were all gone by now, tired of my shit. The times we’d shared and the memories we’d built were left on the cutting-room floor as I edited my life into a version that let me get on with wasting it.

The one thing that being wretched teaches you is that there will always be someone willing to grind you deeper into the dirt.

With no access to coke or any other uppers, I just drank heavily. To borrow from my father’s old Zen books or, indeed, my new home, I was all yin and no yang.

Long-lost regrets crowded in from the back of my mind, fighting for real estate.

I could feel the guilt and anger and sadness that I’s been hanging on to for years turn up to the party, with friends.

Psychiatrics call what happened to me the ‘onset of dysphoric syndrome’, alcoholics call it a ‘moment of clarity’, but it felt to me like the end of the party.

Regrets that I’d deferred thinking through years ago rose up from the dark and found me, and each felt like trying to pass a gallstone of Catholic guilt.

She was beautiful, yes, but in the same way a glacier is beautiful as it inches down the valley to crush your village.

Church runs in my veins. Long after the Catholicism has left a family, the traits run on; the tides of shame and judgement, the secrets they necessitate, they stay in the blood. Deep in each of us, the value of discretion, the clandestine church-pew whisper, the moral cowardice afforded by the Serenity Prayer.

The hippie generation passed me a torch, and I used it to burn the world down.