Tess d’Urberville

I thought it’s time for a classic since I was not present here in a long time. So, I approached Thomas Hardy’s Tess d’Urberville.

Even though it’s a famous novel, I did not have the chance to read it so far, so here are my thoughts about it.

Tess is a sad novel, a depressing novel, somehow a Prometheus novel, a novel where life and ethics and society imposes enough restrictions to fully condition one’s life.

Tess starts from a young girl of coming age, a soft, uneducated, naive girl who is faced with far greater problems than she can handle, also fed by a pair of irresponsible parents, who sometimes look even more naive than her. Tess is not afraid of the world, but she doesn’t impose anything to herself, mostly because of her missing knowledge and lack of interest.

First, she is faced with the problem of obtaining the most of her ancient name, which is one thing that brings her worse things than better ones. Her name becomes a stain on her face, something that attracts people to take advantage of it, or run away of her. Her encounter with the so called cousin only brings her trouble: she is daydreaming, young, and one could say even stupid. She is eagerly punished by the following events, but her pride is one thing that she never loses until her very end. She gets pregnant and the death of her offspring makes her enter a period of denial, of self-punishment, of despair, of a world with no end and no light at the other side of the tunnel.

Life offers her a good chance in the person of Angel Clare and an idyllic job in a rich farmhouse. Her old ways of thinking, her self-punishment and oath never to marry, prevent her for being honest with her new romance. Even though Tess appears innocent, she makes several mistakes that nobody can be blamed for, not even herself, but these mistakes bring her only pain. Her wedding night scene is marvelously depicted, where the eternal love of one man melts away at a sorrow past, and love blindness uncovered makes Angel realize he does not know the woman in front of him.

Tess is torn apart, but her pride is again winning: she accepts being denied, thrown away, put back into a life of misery. Her admiration for Angel’s intelligence makes her overbelieve in him, altough Angel is only driven by ethic and society values, which destroy their relationship. In these scenes, Tess becomes more mature, and regrets not respecting her old oath, but still not strong enough to become a woman. Tess never uses her feminine side, she never shows weakness in front of others. Tess is like a statue of a warrior although inside she is full of tears, misery, pity and weakness. All the men in her life are attracted by her, although she denies herself, never loves herself and always refuses everything thrown at her.

The life of misery is depressing, grey, and full of hardfeelings. Her old seducer, raper, and mischievous man reappears in her life, and again, takes advantage of her weakness, the death of her father, the lose of their home, and forces her to become his woman again.

Angel returns too late, at a place where Tess only lives in resignation, just taking her existence from one day to another. The last scene is epic, and makes one really feel sorry for Tess. The author successfully achieves the highest dramatic point of the novel, where Tess’s only purpose in life, her only hope, reappears after a very long time, but it’s too late, in her own words. Her morality has been destroyed. Her pride has been stepped over. Her self esteem as a woman has been vanquished. Her last spark of will is concentrated in a desperate gesture to destroy the one man that has destroyed her life.

Her wedding with Angel is finally consumed in a five day hideout from authorities, where she feels complete, loved, cared for, and finally together with the one man she really loved. Some feelings many people have for long time, but never really appreciated, nor realized they have. The happiness is very bitter though, as the punishment draws near. Tess ends her life regaining part of her pride, at a sacrifice of their couple and their love.

The book depicts the destruction of a human being, by society and evil people, starting from young age to maturity. Tess is the model of the naive who expected so much more from people, and given so much less. Angel is the model of the man who made mistakes, regrets them, but doesn’t learn anything from it, sacrificing the life of maybe one single person he really loved for his own pride and society’s ethical values. Alec, the “cousin”, is the model of the decadent, the man without any remorse or moral values, who undergoes different stages in his development, but in the end showing his true evil face to the bitter end. Alec is punished for all his sins though, because the author punished almost everyone in this novel. Angel though gets a new wife in the person of Tess’ sister, this time unstained and full of pure virtue as he pleased. But is this what he really wanted? Pure virtue in a person he doesn’t care for? Or maybe he could be willing to forgive the person he really loved, for some sins that she actually never commit ?

Tess d’Urberville is bitter, really bitter.

A scanner darkly

Today’s topic is A scanner darkly by Philip K. Dick.

One of the most scariest drug novels ever, A scanner darkly presents the life of drug addicts, the consequences of drug consumption, and the misery life of people who take drugs. The main character, Bob Arctor, is a secret police agent who infiltrates the life of the junkies in order to find proof about the big drug dealers. During his stay with them, he begins taking drugs himself, and living their life. Even though he periodically checks with his boss, he is using a specific mask that prevents anyone to know who he really is. He begins to develop dual personality because of consumption of substance D, but also because he must adapt to his new drug life, but also have a clear mind to do his police work.

The novel clearly depicts the mind affected by drugs, starting from a friend of Arctor’s who always thinks he has insects on his body and in his house, but there are none there, only in his mind, and ending with all his friends who lose their common sense, have panic attacks, or just cannot think straight, can’t even count. The horror of the drug effects is presented with examples in real life, people who lost their mind, people who get beat up, sell everything for drugs, withdrawal symptoms, and many others. The novel clearly is against the drugs, and presents a very good and educative way by negative example.

Substance D is a very strong drug that affects the mind by splitting the brain into two different personalities given by the two brain hemispheres. This looks to be based on some real scientific articles and some experiments in the 50s. Arctor becomes more and more addict, and the effects on him are stronger. He cannot realize that the policeman and the junkie is one and the same, and gets infatuated with another drug dealing girl, Donna. His friends do not care so much about him, and they only try to find cheaper and better drugs.

Arctor is alone, caught in a spinning wheel that never stops, and just spins harder. He doesn’t know what is happening to him, he doesn’t even realize. He refuses to admit that the drug has got to his mind, and still believes everything will be fine.

In the end, Arctor falls to the drug and severely loses his mind and suffers heavy amnesia. Donna, who proves to be also a police agent, puts him in a treatment clinic. Here, the conspiration is revealed, the treatment center is getting money by treating addicts, and produces the D substance, with the free help from mindless junkies that they produced themselves, he best business of the future, in Philip K. Dick’s imagination. It is shown that Arctor was intentionally let to get into this state, such that the police can have a man inside and uncover the truth. How helpful Arctor is in his vegetative state, it remains to be seen.

A scanner darkly is frightening, scary, but somehow it makes you feel empathic for the suffering, for the people who sometimes deserve their fate, but sometimes are too young or too stupid to realize what others are pushing them to do. Also it shows that sometimes getting involved too much for a job, impersonating something you are not, has grave consequences.

My name is red

Today I will discuss the latest classic I read, namely Orhan Pamuk and his My name is red.

My name is red starts presenting an unknown dark era, which we find out to be late 16th century, where people in old Istanbul live by the rules given to them by their religion, Islam, their habits, and their passion for art. We are introduced in a world full of love for the art: the miniaturists are the era’s painters, the most valued art creators in the oriental world. They paint, color, representing various mythical, religious or present day scenes.

During the novel we are presented with a love story between Shekure, a woman with two children, with a husband missing on the war front, who rejoins with Black, a man who was in love with her when she was a child, 12 years before, and has returned to Istanbul to seek out a family and his lost love. Sekure wants a new father for her kids, but does not want to leave her father alone, and is torn between her obligation to return to her husband’s house, where her father in law and her brother in law want her back, although her brother in law Hakan tried to abuse her; and the possibility of marrying Black, who desperately fancies her for so long time, and may be willing to accept all her needs: stay with her old father, take care of her kids, provide her with protection and financial support.

In the same time, a murder takes place in the miniaturists’ hansa: one of them becomes a killer, because of the changes that come to the Middle East from Europe: perspective techniques, portrait paintings, are things that the ottoman artists never saw before and consider to be out of line from the old masters’ ways. Here a very beautiful conflict is depicted between the old ways and the new ways: young people tend to try the new techniques from the Europe’s artists, while older people blame them for selling themselves for money and creating cult objects out of their portraits. Even though the dilemma may be outdated for our times, the interesting fact is that the conflict between the generations has and will always be present in our lives.

The murder raises a storm in the hansa, and the Uncle, Sekure’s father, who was charged by the Padishah himself to create an unique book of miniature, is also killed. The struggle begins for Shekure, who is now found alone with her 4 year old boys, with no man to protect her, torn between the two men who desire her, in an age where women are not treated as equal to men, but who do have enough power to manipulate men in order to get what they would desire. Shekure is a master in this art, and convinces Black to bribe the authorities in making her a free woman, consequently acknowledging her husband’s death, and making Black her new husband. All this in one day.

The murder though cannot remain unpunished, and Black, together with the Master of miniaturists, face a greater challenge, the one to find the murderer in the hansa, by determining which of them painted a specific horse nostril, as each of the miniaturists has a certain drawing mark.

The guilty is found, Shekure must face the rage of Hasan, and come to her new husband, being unable to push out her will directly. Black must face everyone: his new wife denies him herself until the killer has been found, and imposes her word onto him, he must face the authorities and torture to prove himself innocent of the Uncle’s death, he must face Hasan to stop him from taking his new wife, towards which Hasan considers her his property.

The Master of miniaturists must face his imminent death, because his hansa has been corrupted, unless he finds the killer, which he knows he is incapable to find. He blinds himself intentionally, such that he is proven a great master: long years of miniature work always left the greatest masters blind, so he cannot miss this opportunity of respect and recognition.

The Uncle faces death, in a project that has been far too greater for himself, but he leaves his daughter and his new son in law to complete the masterpiece.

The killer finds his death at the hand of Hasan, although he mortally wounds Black, crippling him for life, but receiving the divine punishment.

My name is red is a marvelous book, who presents so many themes of the 16th Islamic and ottoman society, such that it’s even hard to begin counting: the condition of family, the condition of marriage, the condition of slavery, the condition of feminism and woman in society, the corruption of the state authorities, the respect for the Padishah leader, the miniaturist way of life and myths, ottoman legends like Husrev and Shirin legend.

A true painting of the society is done in this novel, strangely written from alternating perspectives, a love story, a murder story, a police story, all depicted with joy for life, art, love, and beautiful.

All the president’s men

Today I will write about All the president’s men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

The book is not a fiction book, but a memory of the years when the authors investigated and exposed the Watergate scandal, which led to the resignation of Richard Nixon as the president of the US.

Presented in a clear journalistic style, the book introduces us the world of The Washington Post, and it presents the life of a journalist, with the goods and the bads. Both authors start to work together after a break in the Watergate Hotel , where there was a meeting of one of the US political parties, the ones opposing Nixon in the next upcoming elections. Even though the break-in has little importance on the global world scale, Bernstein and Woodward being to track down who was behind the break-in, eventually leading to high powerful and influencing people around the White House.

The journalists present the facts as they happened, with a lot of professionalism. I was surprised that they did not want to publish fake facts, to look for the outrageous, or scandalous, and just find true facts where they are. This is the opposite of today’s journalism, where people tend to invent anything just to get their names on the front page and attract as much attention as they can get. The facts are discovered piece by piece, and put together in years of hard work, starting from tracking down missing money to Mexico, and interviewing hundred of people.

A turning point represented the information from Deep Throat, a high placed politician that was leaking information to the journalists, but who didn’t want to expose anything, just to try to lead them into the right direction in order to discover themselves what was behind the business. The turning point is represented by an article in The Washington Post , that almost got them fired, when the White House solidly denied the accusations, and missing of evident proof made the word of the White House literally smash the word of two small journalists. However they did not let themselves down, and after publicly apologizing, they continued their research, and came publicly only after having discovered significant facts.

The result of their long investigation was at first the resignation of Haldeman, White House chief of staff, and after some time the president itself resigned due to facing an obvious impeachment.

The long investigations are depicted in a marvelous way, the attention to details, the thorough searching, make the story an example of professional journalism, that I think everyone involved today should follow and take as a model. The book depicts the American’s love for their president, their respect for the state institutions. Nobody even wants to consider the president’s implications in this scandal, and assumes him innocent until the last moment. The American model of state and citizen are also very well depicted, and the role each citizen has for the country, for the good work of the state machine, and for it’s president. Another interesting theme is the fear of the superior power, where everybody tries to hide the truth because of fearing being fired, being accused as traitor, or being harmed.

The world needs people like Bernstein and Woodward, who will go anywhere for justice, and who still believe the world can be a better and fair place for everyone, and the truth will eventually triumph.

Engleby

Today’s topic is Engleby by Sebastian Faulks.

Engleby is a strange book, a combination of psychology, adolescentine themes, love, loneliness and despair. Most part of the novel is the first person view of Engleby, which tells us his story, starting from his young age to present day.

Engleby is the model of the lonely, the not understood, the enigmatic. He starts with a poor childhood, with a deviant father, with a full of despair mother, and only with a little sister to care about. Engleby has a horrifying high school experience, where he attends a famous school, but living in a common house with all other students, he suffers from exploitation, abuse in different manners: being called names, laughed at, made fun at, asked to perform humiliating tasks for the older students, like having a cold bath in the middle of the winter. Engleby’s response to all this is only ignorance, he only lives in his mind, presenting autism symptoms. Although on the outside he looks normal, on the inside he lives a life where he doesn’t care too much about the others, or even about what happens to him. In order to live, he begins stealing and conducting drugs merchandise. He also intoxicates himself with medicines, whatever he can get from pharmacies, he combines with alcohol to live a deprived life, where he is mostly drunk, junkie, and with a mind disorder. He acts under drug and alcohol influence, and his own personality is stranded by his addiction to all this stimulants.

Engleby has also glimpses of a normal human being: he is very erudite, reads a lot, knows a lot of stuff, and he spends a summer helping out his college to shoot a movie. Here, we are introduced to Jennifer Arkland, who quickly becomes his obsession. His life starts revolving at some point around Jennifer, he goes at her classes, tries to get in contact with her, but he doesn’t have any ultimate goal. His attempts at friendship or seduction are poor and without success.

Engleby’s diary is full of gaps, and we are confronted with the situation of Jennifer’s disappearance. Engleby is confronted by the police, but no evidence is found. He tries to continue his life without Jennifer, at first hard, but he soon manages to forget her by using again drugs and alcohol.

After a few years, Engleby is found working in journalism business, with not such great success. He tries to start a relationship with a woman from his work, but this is doomed from the start, when he tries to move in with her. His lack of social skills and empathy destroy his relationship.

A turning moment represents the finding of Jennifer’s buried body after many years, and with the help of modern technology, evidence indicates Engleby as a murderer. In the end, he admits his crime, and is sent to a psychiatric hospital, where he lives to the present day. His memories begin to surface, showing that the gaps produced by drugs also hide several murders and other toxic behavior.

Engleby does not indulge pity, he is a man that seem capable of controlling his actions, but through the book he only let me feel disgust. He is misogynistic, anti human, full of himself, even though in the start his early life deserves empathy. His punishment is completely worth, even after remembering his crime, he does not have any remorse nor does he blame himself for his actions. The only responsible for Jennifer’s death is Jennifer herself.

Engleby is a model of a naturalist sound psychopath, and the author tries to introduce us in the world of such a man, trying to make us understand how such crimes are possible, offering himself an analysis of Engleby’s psyche, through the forms of the papers written by his doctors.

Jennifer is the helpless victim, in her prime, and we can see through glimpses of her first person story diary, that she has a normal student life, only to be terminated by Engleby’s erratic act.

The novel itself leaves me with a bitter taste, hoping that there are not many Englebys out there, but knowing that the human mind is very complicated and still full of mysteries that we can possibly solve.

The orange girl

Today’s topic is Appelsinpiken ( The orange girl ) by Jostein Gaarder.

The orange girl is a very beautiful short novel, about love, life, purpose of living, universe and the human condition. The story is depicted as a letter to a 14 year old boy from his deceased father, which he barely met until he passed away when the boy was 4. His father wrote this letter to Georg, in order to tell him the main story of his life, so it could help him when he grows up, knowing that he won’t be there for him anymore.

The mysterious orange girl is his father’s love of his life, a girl which he meets in a public transport tram, carrying a bag of oranges. Because of him, she drops some oranges, and it’s lost on the streets, but somehow it marks the young Georg’s father for life. The orange girl becomes his obsession, and he desperately tries to find her. The theme of the young boy in love is depicted, the desperate search, the dreams and ideas that come to mind, the play of the mind and body. He takes the same tram over and over trying to see her again, wandering the streets imagining every person is her. The adolescentine and naive love is cheerfully colored, with a happy ending: he finally finds the orange girl, only to leave him eyes in the sun again, being mysterious and disappearing once again.

Another part of the story is depicted in the letter in the father’s present time : he tells the story of the child Georg, and the mirage of the Hubble telescope, a wonder of science that allows us to see past our current condition and into the greatness of the space and Universe. Georg’s father knows that he won’t live forever, and tries to teach his future older boy about his experience, about the meaning of life, and the gift that is only once given to us.

Georg realizes that the orange girl is really his mother, now widow and remarried, and with a new little sister for him. He begins to see something in his mother, something that his father was crazy about, something which completely changed his life for ever, and something which does not regret a single moment, even though it brought so much pain and so much happiness in the same time.

The letter changes Georg’s life as well, being now more mature of a sudden, and being more brave to speak with a girl himself dreams about. He begins to value other things in life, and tries to follow his path, as the most important result of a pure love between his father and the orange girl.

The novel depicts these strong themes, love, life, death, although it has a sad ending, the future does not sound bad at all, and life cycle begins again, with a new love, a new tomorrow, and new things to discover, for each of us. The experience of love is lived again and again, and our place in the Universe is well established, although very volatile and passing.

Wonderfully written, The orange girl leaves you with a bittersweet taste, one of found love, fulfilled love, but still, with an emptiness inside, that one needs to fill it in their own lives as best as they can. The author invites us to listen more to the stories of our parents, of our closest persons, and learn from their experiences.

Hunger

Today’s topic is Hunger by Knut Hamsun.

Hunger is a kafkan novel about the misery of ultimate human condition, in contrast with a civilized and high order culture. The novel has a main character who lives with the least amount he can get, surviving each day with the hope of a better tomorrow.

Main theme exploited by the author is the basic human need, nourishment, which lacks severely for the character. He is caught in a trap of society, where he cannot provide himself with the least necessary, but has an ego that stops him from asking for help from authorities or other people. The character prefers to suffer, without indulging penalties on the society or other people, struggling to survive. He begins to write something for a publishing house, but his condition itself is stopping him from achieving his goal. Living only with change and sometimes selling some of his minimal properties, like his jacket, keeps him alive every day. During the novel, he manages to get some money, only to spend them on a poor rent or by helping other homeless people, but not getting anything in return.

The main character is an intellectual, faced with the misery of needing to procure his meal and day by day needs without having any money or means of sustain. He could get out of this problem if he could sell his work, but the problem is it takes so much time until his work is sold, such that he cannot live by then. The intellectual is forced to live with the means of a low class pover, which is the contrast of the book. The author depicts the condition of hunger, lack of minimal life conditions with a character that struggles in waving sands, by his moves only getting himself deeper into the mess. Being unable to scream for help, he keeps all his suffering for himself, only praying that a higher power will save him. His fall is strong, and he somehow realizes that the world is unable to keep him.

Hamsun depicts his story in strong observations, giving me the feeling of hopelessness, of futile life and attempts to revive. The story is sad, however, it makes us appreciate more the simple things in life, and gives a role-model of poverty and generosity.

Kaputt

Today’s topic is Kaputt by Curzio Malaparte.

Kaputt is a very realistic novel, written by a person who was really there in the depicted landscape. Curzio Malaparte was an Italian diplomat in the second world war, and he had the chance to be on the eastern front, starting from Ukraine, Romania, Poland and ending in the Scandinavian countries.

His style is very frank, ruthless, and without mercy. Facts are depicted so naturally, which makes me consider him a part of the naturalism current from the early 1900’s. Kaputt presents the horrors of the war compared with the indulging and falsehood of the high ranked German society of the time. Malaparte depicts the story from his own perspective, of a man who waged wars before, who visits all the front line during the war years, who is friend to all nations, and enemy to all nations in the same time. Malaparte, acting as a main character as well, is ashamed by his condition of a dying European as a society, and as an axis ally, as a man, as a friend, as a soldier.

On one side of the story, the soldiers and their life in the war is depicted: people away from homes, brave and fighting in a war they never wished for. The soldiers have little desire for battle, have little desire to save their countries. many of them just fear the inevitable death, or wish to find a solution of escape for themselves. There is no altruism in men’s thoughts.There is no mercy for any enemy, not for their own comrades.

On the other side, there are the women and the people behind the front line, suffering in silence, on both sides, allies and axis. German women work full day in order to supply their men with what they need to wage a war of complying Europe to the German needs, a war of settling German order through death and blood. Italian or Romanian women just live, full of fear, not knowing what tomorrow may bring. Life itself becomes a gift from above.

Another side is the dead people, who according to Malaparte, they have the best condition: cannot be harmed, it’s an eventual state for all the people, and they have so much power in affecting the living. Dead have a huge psychological effect for the living. Dead can kill the bravest of the soldier’s courage, dead can attack and suffocate the living.

Yet another category can be seen, the high ranked German society, who is full of ridiculous and falsehood. While the Jews die of hunger, disease and cold, the Germans enjoy in parties, with drink, music, joy, and wonder with ridiculous humor, why the Jews children die so much and are so bad educated? The Germans are a nation full of culture, with their children happy in homes with their families, studying and enjoying childhood, while Jews children have no parents, no home, no bed, no toys, no books, no clothes, just death to play with. The cold blood of the Germans and their complete lack of whatsoever empathy or feelings, makes their humanity condition not greater than a beast’s, and sends them to the lowest ranking humanity ever experienced.

The suppressed, the Jews in the Polish ghetto’s are the people who are the most human, and the most kind and empathic. Even though they live a miserable life, they are willing to donate all their clothes to their friends when the Nazis are taking them for execution, and willing to walk naked in the snow facing their death, knowing that a small piece of garbled clothing may help their friends and family live a more livable few moments.

Surprisingly, Malaparte finds a strange explanation for the German’s massacres, which is the fact that the Germans fear and repel the weak, the ill, the old, and destroy it. Inside their soul they are so scared of these people, that they are willing to kill them, putting them through more suffering, just to not have them nearby and face their fear. The real Kaputt, the victims of this war, are the Germans as they have gone below zero with their humanity, and face a more grave danger than the people who have already died.

Kaputt is cold, poetic in many situations, a death song for the suffering, a ridiculous pointed finger to a nation who has decided by it’s own means that it’s superior, a pointed finger to the leaders of all countries, a depiction of suffering in it’s most elementary and powerful ways. On the other hand, Malaparte gives the feeling that Europe deserved it’s fate, and by this war, all the blood washes all the sins, and the novel ends with an image of Napoli trying to rebirth from it’s ashes, with the sick, the dead, and living altogether, surrounded by the cold and immense sea, which should wash away the blood and suffering, bringing new hope and a new way of life for the people who witnessed the most destructive events of human history and society.

What is mine

Today’s topic is What is mine by Anne Holt.

What is mine is a pure nordic crime novel, a book that doesn’t make you think too much, but fun and intriguing to read. I am not a big fan of crime novels, but because I read what gets into my hands, I will present you my insights about “What is mine”.

The main character, Johanne Vik, is a teacher in her forties, divorced, with a small child, and rather strange relationship with her former husband. Unfortunately she is the model of partly life-loser, a woman who did not manage to achieve neither a great professional success, neither on her personal plane, the family. She is a model for the 21st century woman, pursuing so many things, career and family, and being unsuccessful in both. However, she has her aces in her sleeves, she is a good psychologist, a good teacher, and a good investigator.

The model of the villain is a troubled man, like in most crime novels, a justitiary, a punisher, a man who wants to pay back his former lovers for what he considers he was mistreated with. Most of them have a happy life, have a family and kids, while our villain has nothing that can please him. He is very ingenuous, knows a bit of medicine, deceit, and how to play with the authorities and the mind of the people.

In the landscape we also have Stubo, a man who has been badly struck by fate, both his wife and daughter died in a horrible and stupid accident, and he is stuck with a pity about himself and with a nephew he can’t grow alone. He finds Johanne attractive, but his pity of himself, advanced age and bad looks make him feel terrible only thinking about it. He finds an obsession with Johanne by truly believing in her being able to help him solve his case. Even though she consistently refuses to help him, he insists and in the end manages to get her helping him.

The last piece of the puzzle is an old convict, Aksel Seier based on a true story, a man who was blamed for other people’s actions, but not powerful enough to prove himself innocent, and not willpowered enough to deny what is happening to him, accepting the blame other people have been putting on his shoulders.

Everybody in the novel is displeased with themselves, tired of being oneself, having missed life’s great opportunities and never been able to achieve their dreams or fulfill their desires. Aksel is the victim, a man who pays for the future sins of his own son he never meets, Johanne is the losing woman, Stubo is a deception, a man struck so bad by fate that he can only find consolation by solving crime mysteries.

The criminal is found, and the atrocities one person can make, as usual, always make me ask how believable life is, how believable the facts are, if the world Anne Hold proposes is veridic, and if somewhere in the real life there are such kind of persons. You could call me naive, but I prefer not to believe in this, as I rather have a restful sleep. Otherwise, my nights would be terrible.

Las cuatro fugas de Manuel

Today’s topic is Las cuatro fugas de Manuel, by Jesus Diaz.

Literal translation of the title is “The four flees of Manuel”, which is a representative title for a young cubanese student living in Ukraine, caught in the demolishing of the Soviet Union, and desperately trying to escape his departure in his natal country.

Manuel is a promising student in physics, studying in Kharkov, Ukraine, at that moment under the Soviet Union. He has little knowledge about human behavior, but he is very good in science. He has a good experiment running and working on his thesis, that shows great potential. He also has a dream relationship with a girl, under the pink view of an adolescent, where he does not expect too much, and puts even less thought in it. He begins from a dreamer, worry-free adolescent. All this will soon fall apart, as the Soviet Union is disbanded, and he has to return to his natal country, Cuba.

He knows he cannot go back, as it would mean his destruction as a scientist, and return to a miserable life full of debts that his relatives are living. He has no means of continuing his studies and become what he wants back in his country.

Manuel’s run begins here, where he attempts to go to Germany, then Poland and Switzerland. During his kafkian initiation journey, he faces so many perils that a full grown-up should be capable to face, but he is too young, too naive to even think about people trying to do him harm, or not wanting to help him. He finds refuge in Ayinray, a chillian student who becomes his lover and protector. She tries to awake him to the real world, but she is too a dreamer, thinking that she can keep him for herself. Life’s demands are too strong for Manuel, he doesn’t have identity card, passport, liberty to work or follow his dreams. Ayinray soon realizes she cannot keep him for long, and decides to let him go.

In his life, the girl represents a hook point, where his falling apart life hangs on. She is the mean to keeping him sane, and with a desire to continue the struggle.

All his attempts to flee are a representation of growing up: he entrusts another person with the belief that they could both attempt to cross the border to Poland by foot in the snowy winter of Siberia. He entrusts the local authorities in Germany to offer him asylum and gives them his passport. The Europe at this time is too hurt itself to care for a poor cubanese student. Nobody wants to protect him, and he is too weak to protect himself.

Manuel grows from a simple adolescent to an adult, to a person who can look after himself, and manages to find a place to temporarily live. His dreams continue about his ideal platonic love, and to be able to help one day his poor mother living in Cuba, or his dream as a scientist. He hardly acknowledges that the one needing most of help is himself.

Manuel’s story is one of the helpless individual against the system, with the individual being unable to break through or reach a state of happiness. That’s why Kafka’s universe keeps coming into my mind. Manuel is too innocent for this world, and this will cost him terribly. However, everything that is not killing him, it makes him stronger. Manuel grows and starts to discover human relationships, true friendship and the requirements one needs to have to pass through life.

Both Europe and Manuel are faced with destruction, just to emerge after some time with a lesson learned, a new future, and washing away all the sorrows.