The United States has a new president. I stand by my initial reading last November. No fundamental change is coming with the presidency of Barrack Obama. The same old imperialist agenda pursued by his predecessors will continue. “It would be extremely naïve,” in the words of Fidel Castro, “to believe that the good will of a smart person could change what is the result of centuries of selfishness and vested interests.”
However, I would like to clarify that I am not denying the symbolic value of Obama’s victory. On the contrary, his election has the effect of inspiring millions of people around the world. “Nothing was decided with Obama’s victory,” says the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek, “but it widens our freedom and thereby the scope of our decisions.”
“The reason Obama’s victory generated such enthusiasm,” he adds, “is not only that, against all odds, it really happened: it demonstrated the possibility of such a thing happening.” A better world is possible.
Moving on, I’m almost done with Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. It’s light-years away from Joseph Conrad’s scathing remark of it being “… an impossible lump of valuable matter. It’s terrifically bad and impressive and exasperating. Moreover, I don’t know what Dostoevsky stands for or reveals, but I do know that he is too Russian for me. It sounds like some fierce mouthings of prehistoric ages.” Prehistoric: I can very well say the same about Heart of Darkness. What “a bloody racist,” the Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe once said of Conrad.
Anyhow, the Guardian Book Section just came out with a list of 1,000 novels everyone must read. Other publications also have their own lists but somehow there’s always some significant work missing because of the limited number of titles that can be accommodated. Although I lament the absence of not a few names, Guardian’s list is still the most comprehensive. They’ve assembled an amazing list of books to read about crime, war, fantasy, travel, science fiction, family and love.
There are many cheap, interesting sounding science fiction and crime genre novels just lying around in the secondhand bookshops around the city that I’m afraid to buy because of my lack of familiarity with them. Now, at least, I have a definitive guide that can serve useful next time.
I’ve been following acclaimed American author Jeff VanderMeer’s “60 Books in 60 Days” series where he reads one book from Penguin Great Ideas series everyday and write about it in his blog. He’s now in book no. 35, Von Clausewitz’s On the Nature of War. VanderMeer’s discussion makes me want to go out and get a copy of Christine de Pizan’s The City of Ladies.
What an immensely better world it would be if everybody reads all those books. ■