Sunday, 24 September 2017

REVIEW: FRACTURED LANDS - HOW THE ARAB WORLD CAME APART BY SCOTT ANDERSON

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Another important book from the Arab world that everyone should read.


After reading synopsis and preface of the book I was convinced, although doubting viability of such an endeavor, that what I am going to read is a kind of reportage with elements of comparative study of  4+ Arab countries, on basis of direct experience of six local people. And although Scott Anderson tends to form assumptions about the causes of ruptures in the subject Arab countries: "...lack of intrinsic sense of national identity, joined to a form of government that supplanted the traditional organizing principle of society...," these rather stem from a thorough knowledge of the region's intricacies and are here not to be proved but to bring clarity into the complexities of the region's current status.

Much of the book had first been published in a special issue of The New York Times Magazine on 14th August 2016. And it is precisely what I was craving for while reading this book - impressive, page-size journalistic photographs.

In the book Anderson relates stories of six people: the matriarch of a dissident Egyptian family, a Libyan Air Force cadet with divided loyalties, a Kurdish physician from a prominent warrior clan, a Syrian university student caught in civil war, an Iraqi activist for women's rights, and an Iraqi day laborer turned ISIS soldier. I think that there is nothing more telling than a firsthand recount of situation in place. More so in a war or fight against oppression. And although it is also true that these circumstances may in certain cases lead to a self-righteous advocacy of one's own stance, Anderson treats these pitfalls of human perception with detachment of a skilled war reporter and observer.

After reading The Morning They Came for Us: Dispatches from Syria by Janine Di Giovanni, I thought I was prepared and knew what to expect from this kind of books. However, reading Fractured Lands, my second book from war-torn Arab countries, I came to realize that there's no general group of hardships (to use the softest term to describe it), no general group of acts that can be called atrocities. There is each hardship, each atrocity standing on its own, devastating, hitting unexpectedly making you grasp for your breath while you are reading about it in the calmness and safety of your home. But that's the pure truth and today's world, flooded with false information needs to know the truth and therefore to have more books like the Anderson's and Di Giovanni's.


In terms of set up of the book, I found a bit disturbing that the stories of the six people did not form six standalone parts but were rather scattered across time-periods. Due to lack of time I read this book in the span of 2 weeks and I found it a bit difficult to remember where a story of one of the persons previously ended when Anderson picked it up again in a next time-period/part. I understand that this arrangement had been done on purpose, to emphasize concurrency of the stories but personally I've found it a bit tricky at times to follow through.

Provided that I am not that well oriented in the succession of events in Arab countries I was also missing some kind of a timeline of the most important turning points. And although these were mentioned in the text quite comprehensively I think that a basic timeline would help a reader to clearly place each single story within a larger picture.

But these are rather minor adjustments that did not change the fact that this is an important book I would recommend to everyone and therefore I gave it 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.


Last but not least, I would like to thank Penguin Random House for sending me Fractured Lands upon my request. It makes an important part of my slowly growing collection of books on Arab world and I will most probably go for rereading it soon or later due to valuable information about Arab countries it contains.

Friday, 1 September 2017

SEPTEMBER 2017 TBR: ARAB WORLD

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...with one exception


Slovensky
Zoznam kníh, ktoré by som chcela v septembri čítať, je zameraný na arabské krajiny Blízkeho východu a Afriky. Hoci, je tu aj jedna výnimka. Knihy, ktoré vyšli aj v slovenskom preklade, sú opísané aj mojim komentárom v slovenčine.

English
My September 2017 TBR has a regional focus on Arab countries of Middle East and Africa. Though, there's one exception.



Slovensky
Jedinou výnimkou na mojom septembrovom zozname kníh o arabských krajinách severnej Afriky a Blízkeho východu je kniha Svetlany Alexijevič: Vojna nemá ženskú tvár. Kniha je autentickým opisom Veľkej vlasteneckej vojny z pohľadu žien - vojačiek, zdravotníčok, na fronte a v okupovaných oblastiach - ktoré zažili jej hrôzy.

English
The only exception on my September TBR list of books about Arabic countries of the Middle East and North Africa is the Slovak translation of The Unwomanly Face of the War by Svetlana Alexievich. This reportage book recounts stories of women - soldiers and nurses, on the front lines and in the occupied territories - who experienced the horrors of the World War II.


In the forefront of my September Arab World TBR stands Fractured Lands: How the Arab World Came Apart by Scott Anderson, which I requested and was kindly sent for review by Penguin Random House.
In his reportage book Scott Anderson examines causes of ruptures in countries of Middle East and North Africa through the eyes and experience of six people: the matriarch of a dissident Egyptian family; a Libyan Air Force cadet with divided loyalties; a Kurdish physician from a prominent warrior clan; a Syrian university student caught in civil war; an Iraqi activist for women's rights; and an Iraqi day laborer-turned-ISIS fighter.


Slovensky
V slovenskom preklade tiež vyšla kniha Denníky z Rakky: Útek z "islamského štátu", ktorú som si v anglickom originály kúpila ešte v apríli a som rada, že sa ju konečne chystám začať čítať. Autorom knihy je 24-ročný Sýrčan, vystupujúci pod pseudonymom Samer, ktorý prežil hrôzy počas okupácie mesta Raqqa takzvaným Islamským štátom, a rozhodol sa o nich podať svedectvo a to aj napriek hrozbe trestu smrti. Okrem nesmierneho prínosu samotného svedectva a odvahy autora, je prínosom aj forma, ktorou je kniha spracovaná. Príbeh je doplnený ilustráciami v štýle urban art, ktoré robia knihu prístupnejšou a adresnejšou pre súčasnú spoločnosť.

English
I purchased The Raqqa Diaries: Escape from 'Islamic State' some time ago and I am glad that I am finally about to read it. The author of the book is a 24-year-old Syrian with pseudonym Samer, who survived horrors during occupation of Raqqa by the so called Islamic State and decided to testify even under the threat of death penalty. Besides the enormous contribution of the testimony and courage of the author, the asset of the book lies also in the form it was put together. The story is accompanied by urban art illustrations, which makes it even more accessible and designed for contemporary society.


Exit West by Mohsin Hamid was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize 2017. Some say it is a love story and some say it is nothing like that. And though, it certainly begins with a love story of a young couple, it is most of all a kind of magical realism planted into today's troubled world of a Middle Eastern country on a brink of civil war. And when the war erupts mysterious doors into faraway countries begin to appear for people to flee into safety.


Khomeini, Sade and Me by Abnousse Shalmani is a fiction with elements of a memoir, originally written in French. Shalmani was born in Iran but she refused to conform to Islamic rules for women. However, when her family emigrates to France she finds rules connected with religion being no less restrictive. I suppose this being a personal story of a woman and her attitude towards rules imposed by religion, formed under the influence of Islamic law and streams in French society.



Tuesday, 29 August 2017

CURRENTLY LOVING #3: SUMMER EDITION

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It's been a while since I last published one of my 'Currently Loving' posts. So here comes only the third in a row and this time a more lighter, summery one, comprising only three categories. Though, one of them has three subcategories. And, oh, this selection is so good!





'...I like large parties. They're so intimate. At small parties there isn't any privacy.'

'You can't repeat the past.'
'Can't repeat the past?' he cried incredulously. 'Why of course you can!'

These are probably the most well known quotes from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Great Gatsby enchanted me as well and my summer 2017 will be forever connected with immerse desire, limitless pomp of parties and aching deep disappointment spilling from this modern classic novel. It is a perfect summer reading and you should definitely include it into your TBR next summer.
To tell the truth, I downloaded The Great Gatsby soundtrack a couple of years ago, upon hearing it in my cousin's car while he was driving me somewhere, and I fell in love with it even without watching the film or reading the book beforehand. And now, after finishing the book I fell urge to finally watch the film as well. And although I liked it - it touched up my imaginations perfectly - the book was better ;)

Zdroj / Source: IMDb

(SK only) Je to úžasná náhoda, že po rokoch od objavenia hudby k filmu Veľký Gatsby, po lete kedy som si konečne prečítala knihu a pozrela film, Divadlo Jána Palárika v Trnave uvedie inscenáciu Veľký Gatsby, ktorá bude mať premiéru 16. septembra 2017 a predpremiéru 14. septembra 2017. V slovenskej, divadelnej verzii si hlavnú úlohu namiesto Leonarda DiCapria zahrá Marek Majeský.
Rozmýšľam ako sa dostať večer do Trnavy a späť ;)

Zdroj / Source: DJP

Zdroj / Source: DJP


The Book Depository: The Great Gatsby (book)





Have you already heard about Bullet Journal? I've discovered this great method of planning and organising only this summer and I am head over heals in love with it.
The whole idea of Bullet Journaling is based on a simple dotted notebook that allows you not only to organise your tasks but eventually to plan your life months before. Due to the dotted grid it is more or less up to you and your personal requirements how you set it up. Though, there are a couple of rules and good practices how to do it. The main idea is to keep it simple and effective, so that you spend less time setting it up and more time fulfilling your cleverly organised tasks.
For the whole idea explained I attach a short video by the 'father' of Bullet Journal Ryder Carroll. You can find a step by step guide on how to set up and use your Bullet Journal on the official webpage as well: http://bulletjournal.com/


Since I was not entirely sure if this is going to work for me as well, I decided to purchase only a cheap several pages long dotted notebook. I started at the beginning of August and now when I have almost a month of bullet journaling behind me, I can confirm that it definitely did work for me too.
The very list of tasks I set myself each day makes me want to fulfill them so that I can cross them out. It also keeps my long-term plans on my mind and do something to reach them each day. Although, honestly, procrastination managed to creep in sometimes, though, not as many times as it did before.


As you can see my Bullet Journal is a mixture of French, English and Slovak. The main reason behind French is that I would like to improve my language skills and I hope that using it daily and repetitively will get at least some of the common words into my blood. So I managed to find a French Bullet Journal guide somewhere and set it up more or less in French.
I use Staedtler Pigment Liner 0.3 to fill it in and Stabilo Boss pastel highlighters to bring things to my attention or to separate titles from the actual list.
After a month of using I also introduced some customized features. One of these are different colours assigned to different kinds of tasks, as you can see from the key on the bottom of my September Monthly Log page. This could be useful for someone who has more than one job or works on several projects at once. I don't usually take the highlighters with me (I used to but I was fed up after few days), I usually do the highlighting part each evening at home when I am setting up my tasks for the next day(s).







This summer I've also discovered a fantastic new YouTube channel for designers introduced by a young designer Charli Prangley. Charli comes from New Zealand but lives in London and works remotely as a web content designer but not only.
On her YouTube channel called CharliMarieTV she publishes quality design-related videos and vlogs every Tuesday and Saturday. Although her hardware and software tools are completely different from mine (she uses Apple hardware, iOS software and related tools; I rely on Asus and Windows and other mostly open source tools) her advice and practices can serve as an inspiration for me to search for similar solutions within my own tools.
Apart from her main job, other designing projects that come her way and her YouTube channel she has also her own apparel brand called Liner Note Kids inspired by music, selling hand-printed T-shirts and other stuff.


And guess from whom I've heard about the Bullet Journal for the first time? From Charli, of course. So here I attach her video on Bullet Journaling as a sneak peek of her YouTube channel.