It has taken 22 years to publish the uncensored edition of Svetlana Alexievich’s “The Unwomanly Face of War“, a chronicle of testimonies of the Soviet women who participated in World War II. Though the book was completed in 1983, the Russian censorship condemned the author’s pessimistic approach towards their ‘heroic women’. According to them, Svetlana has humiliated women with a primitive naturalism, portrayed them as ordinary women instead of decorating them as war heroes and made their historic victory look terrible. They wanted her to tell the story of what all dream about, not the filth of war. But to her, the history of the war has been replaced by the history of the victory. She looks for ‘small great human beings’ who are trampled upon with a torn-off soul. She does not want to collect evidences, tapes, etc., and simply record them. She wants to delve deeper into human nature, into the darkness, into the sub-conscious, into the mystery of war and track down the human spirit wherever suffering makes a small man into a great man.
The book documents the experiences of these extraordinary women from all ranks, varied positions, doing all kinds of work amidst war, from a laundress to a radio operator; from a medical volunteer to a commander of anti-aircraft guns. Few married at the front and few worried about losing their femininity while returning to their homes/husbands. They tremble while speaking; burst into tears in silence. Their youth is lost in pain, and their present is nothing but memories of the past. Whatever they recall, howsoever they put, to them: “war is first of all murder and then hard work”. According to Svetlana, the Russian literature has written more about suffering than love and literary tools are insufficient to fully describe the nightmares of current-day events. So, in her own words, she wants to be ‘a historian of the soul’ in order to portray the tremors of eternity.
One of the greatest thinkers of our time, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, expresses his thoughts of wisdom in a compressed form in this book, “The Bed of Procrustes” – the third installment in the Incerto series, preceded by Fooled by Randomness and The Black Swan. Procrustes is the name of a man from Greek mythology who made his visitors fit his bed to perfection either by chopping off the tall ones’ legs with a sharp hatchet or by stretching the short. Taleb makes a clarification that “his use of metaphor of the Procrustes bed is not just about putting something in the wrong box but it is mostly the inverse operation of changing the wrong variable”. The (philosophical) aphorisms listed in the book deal with the known as well as the unknown. The sole purpose of the writer is to alter the perspective of how things are seen and abruptly showcase our failure in recognizing the reality.
Taleb suggests to read not more than four aphorisms in one sitting and a random selection would be preferable. So, here is my random picks for the day.
- Your reputation is harmed the most by what you say to defend it.
- You have a real life if and only if you do not compete with anyone in any of your pursuits.
- To value a person, consider the difference between how impressive he or she was at the first encounter and the most recent one.
- What counts is not what people say about you, it is how much energy they spend in saying it.
The final season of Game of Thrones premiered on 14th April, 2019. Its first episode is full of reunions and awkward catch-ups, especially the last one. The teaser of second episode has also been released and it seems that the great war is about to start. Looking forward to keep up the momentum and awaiting an amazing experience, as it has never disappointed.