14 votes

What are you reading these days? #11

What are you reading currently? Fiction or non-fiction, any genre, any language! Tell us what you're reading, and talk a bit about it.

Past weeks: Week #1 · Week #2 · Week #3 · Week #4 · Week #5 · Week #6 · Week #7 · Week #8 · Week #9 · Week #10

21 comments

  1. cadadr Link
    As I mentioned yesterday, I am reading Eichman in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil by Hannah Arendt, translated to Turkish by Özge Çelik, published by Metis Yayınevi. Adolf Eichmann was...
    • Exemplary

    As I mentioned yesterday, I am reading Eichman in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil by Hannah Arendt, translated to Turkish by Özge Çelik, published by Metis Yayınevi. Adolf Eichmann was a Nazi officer who most notably organised the deportation of the Jews of Europe to concentration camps. In the beginnings of 60s, Israeli forces caught him in Argentina and brought him over to Israel for a trial. Arendt was among those who watched the trial, and this book contains her observations, often put in historical context. I'm almost midway through it, yet it's already easily one of the best pieces of text I've ever read.

    I knew what everybody knew about the Holocaust: Nazi Germany massacred Jews and some other groups of people like Gypsies and handicapped people because they were deemed subhuman by them. While at it, they also robbed Jews off of almost all their possessions. Then, having watched Labyrinth of Lies, I also learned how Germany came to face its own crimes almost a couple decades later, and how it was more than a handful ambitious and inhumane warlords: so many people were involved.

    But now reading this book, I also got to learn how Nazis manipulated, with incredible organisation, the Jews over many years to finally make them kill theirselves. How they built a complex circuit of bureaucracy around manipulating these people into giving up their wealth, and organising their own death. And how the Jewish leaders and civilian organisations played an active role in manipulating the people. Eichmann was the Great Negotiator, finding those Jews who were powerful and open to manipulation. He and others manipulated these people so that they organised the Jews, even established ghetto police forces made up of Jews; they lead the efforts to document and report the belongings of Jews to Nazis; they compiled the lists of who would be saved and who would be sent to lagers; they convinced people to go and surrender themselves to Nazis; and they policed over who tried to rebel or flee. Most of the labour that went towards realising the massacres in the lagers were done by Jews selected by Nazis. If I hadn't read Se questo è un uomo of Primo Levi, I'd find all of this unbelievable, but if anything I'm now shocked by how bigger the thing was than wat Levi could recount. A guess attributed to Pinchas Freudiger, a "well-known member of Judenrats", is that if Jews weren't as organised and collaborative as they were, almost half of those who died could've been saved. Nazis were outnumbered, and most of them were bureaucrats, not warlords.

    I don't think that this diminishes the guilt of the Nazis, because they prepared, organised, perpetrated and executed the Final Solution, and did tonnes of other horrible things during the preceding decade. But, it sheds light on other parts of the story that's left in darkness, hoped to be forgotten. Even the Israeli state wanted to forget this, given the Court, and especially the prosecution, which was under the influence of Ben-Gurion, was trying to hide this fact. The trial itself was more of a spectacle than an actual search of truth, according to Arendt. Both the prosecution and the accused were quite stingy when it came to facts. It was more of a trial of Nazism in the person of Eichmann.

    It's simply incredible how "normal" Eichmann is. Mostly, it seems believable so far that he was nothing but an obedient, slightly foolish, and quite ambitious official (albeit not even nearly as naive as he tries to portray himself). And that's where the "Banality of Evil" is. It's almost as if the entire genocide happened because almost nobody gave it a thought when they were being ordered to do things that'd build up into it. Like a bunch of workers which were putting bricks and cement where they were told to, lacking meanwhile the knowledge of whether they were building a house, a statue, a school or a police station. They didn't even know where the walls they were building belonged, to a room, to a bathroom. And nor most of them knew they were walls indeed. Just putting bricks upon bricks. Only when they finished their work and found themselves caged in what they built did they understand that it was a lethal prison for them. And that's the evil "success" of the Nazis. Incredible.

    I was reading along while riding the bus when I encountered the part regarding Freudiger, and at that point I just had to close the book. The horror, the shock it gave me, I couldn't continue reading.

    I firmly suggest reading this and Se questo è un uomo (If This is a Man / Survival in Auschwitz). Incredible books.

    10 votes
  2. [3]
    iiv Link
    I've just finished One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and it was brilliant. It's incredibly concentrated (my Swedish translation is just 131 pages), but still manages...

    I've just finished One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and it was brilliant. It's incredibly concentrated (my Swedish translation is just 131 pages), but still manages to contain a whole historic era, the Soviet Union led by Stalin, and the people in it.

    It's critical, but balanced. It's heartbreaking, but heartwarming. I wholeheartedly recommend reading it. It's an experience you'll remember.

    8 votes
    1. cadadr Link Parent
      Added to my reading list, thanks! Looks like a great book, and in line with my readings of WWII stuff (Arendt currently, then Tregua by Primo Levi is waiting in line, and gulags are quite similar...

      Added to my reading list, thanks! Looks like a great book, and in line with my readings of WWII stuff (Arendt currently, then Tregua by Primo Levi is waiting in line, and gulags are quite similar to lagers in essence, albeit IDK the former good enough to know if there are material ties and the exact timing). Also in Turkey we had forced labour camps in the 40s for those who couldn't pay the Varlık Vergisi during the war. It was nothing like the scale of lagers tho, we had our Holocaust moment earlier, in 1915.

      1 vote
    2. Zarasophos Link Parent
      Currently waiting for Cancer Ward to arrive at my doorstep, so good to hear Solzhenitsyn is worth the time!

      Currently waiting for Cancer Ward to arrive at my doorstep, so good to hear Solzhenitsyn is worth the time!

      1 vote
  3. DonQuixote Link
    I'm reading Extraordinary Adventures by Daniel Wallace. Amazed at how much I like the introspective third person and the 'everyman' quality of the protagonist. Similar in character to the one in...

    I'm reading Extraordinary Adventures by Daniel Wallace. Amazed at how much I like the introspective third person and the 'everyman' quality of the protagonist. Similar in character to the one in Hemingway's Chair by Michael Palin. (Yes, that Michael Palin).

    In this novel, the bland Bronfman wins a condo presentation free trip, and sees it changing his life. I'm early on, nothing Extraordinary yet, but the character is so vanilla that any change at all seems extraordinary.

    5 votes
  4. [2]
    Atvelonis Link
    I recently finished Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. A lovely read all-around, and very character-driven. The way he describes the subtleties of a conversation are fascinating; the camaraderie...

    I recently finished Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. A lovely read all-around, and very character-driven. The way he describes the subtleties of a conversation are fascinating; the camaraderie and anger and awkwardness and panic that naturally pop up over the course of human interaction are expressed so accurately. I often question the ability of adults to replicate the thought processes of persons much younger than themselves, but Ishiguro somehow illustrates all the things that children focus on that adults have forgotten about, and all the strange ways that they interpret the world. It's a beautiful novel, and one that I highly recommend.

    I'm tearing my way through Fahrenheit 451 at the moment. I can hardly believe I've not attempted it already, considering how well-known it is. I appreciate Bradbury's overall message, of course, but what delights me the most is the way in which he illustrates moments of epiphany, and the ensuing chaos of emotion that marks a changed mind. I'll certainly be finishing this one: very curious to see where it leads!

    5 votes
    1. cadadr Link Parent
      I have When We were Orphans by Ishiguro on my unread shelve. Lemme read it for the coming week. It's been a while I read a pure, beautiful novel. I want to read Fahrenheit 451 and other similar...

      I have When We were Orphans by Ishiguro on my unread shelve. Lemme read it for the coming week. It's been a while I read a pure, beautiful novel.

      I want to read Fahrenheit 451 and other similar sci-fi/dystopia like Brave New World, but their immense popularity puts me off. Like, I see ads of them in the metro, at the same spots where Fifty Shades of Grey or other similarly banale stuff is put on display for the masses to consume. That suggests to me, subconsciously maybe, that anything that can appear on those spots need have a big component of banality, if not entirely banale. Now I know that these books like Fahrenheit 451 &c are not like that, that they are interesting, important books, but I can't overcome this prejudice.

      2 votes
  5. MimicSquid Link
    I've been binging on the audiobooks of the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch. The writing is good, and the reader adds such additional character and humanity through his reading.

    I've been binging on the audiobooks of the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch. The writing is good, and the reader adds such additional character and humanity through his reading.

    4 votes
  6. spctrvl Link
    I finished Use of Weapons and Men at Arms recently, working on Feet of Clay now. Use of Weapons is usually considered the crown jewel of Iain Banks' Culture series, but the story structure is a...

    I finished Use of Weapons and Men at Arms recently, working on Feet of Clay now. Use of Weapons is usually considered the crown jewel of Iain Banks' Culture series, but the story structure is a little unconventional and complicated, so I'd always petered out a couple hundred pages in. The thing I wish someone had told me is that there are two concurrent stories, running in opposite directions, and what you might suspect is the main story, the one running chronologically forward, is actually a sideshow. It was really good, but not the one to read as your first book in the series. For that, I'd recommend The Player of Games.

    Men at Arms, not much to say. Really phenomenal book, makes me see why the Guards series is a fan favorite. Up there with Witches Abroad for my favorite Discworld novel.

    4 votes
  7. [2]
    recursivePanda Link
    Finished Catcher in the Rye and Metamorphosis this week. Loved both. Gonna pick up One 100 years of solitude next!

    Finished Catcher in the Rye and Metamorphosis this week. Loved both. Gonna pick up One 100 years of solitude next!

    3 votes
    1. cadadr Link Parent
      Metamorphosis by Kafka, no? I like Kafka's short stories too, they're generally way less famous than his novels; they are simpler in nature but still as nice a read. 100 Years of Solitude is a...

      Metamorphosis by Kafka, no? I like Kafka's short stories too, they're generally way less famous than his novels; they are simpler in nature but still as nice a read.

      100 Years of Solitude is a great book. I picked it up a few years ago, just around when I graduated from high school. Read it for quite a while, then quit in the middle because the copy I had---which came from a pile my mom just binge-bought, she buys them and never reads them---was really deformed. It was probably pirated. But I loved it nevertheless, and will go back to it later on, buy a proper copy and read it. Chronicle of a Death Foretold by the same author is one of my all-time favourites, BTW.

      1 vote
  8. Odysseus Link
    I've been trying to get back into reading more, so both my books this month have been rather short, but I really enjoyed Richard Matheson's I Am Legend and The Stranger by Albert Camus. I tend to...

    I've been trying to get back into reading more, so both my books this month have been rather short, but I really enjoyed Richard Matheson's I Am Legend and The Stranger by Albert Camus. I tend to really enjoy character driven stories where the primary focus is on the characters' thoughts and worldview, and both of these books fit that description rather nicely

    3 votes
  9. [2]
    mat Link
    I'm currently reading Ada Palmer's Too Like The Lightning and it's extremely annoying. I would not recommend people read it. It's not annoying because of her habit of repeatedly reminding the...

    I'm currently reading Ada Palmer's Too Like The Lightning and it's extremely annoying. I would not recommend people read it. It's not annoying because of her habit of repeatedly reminding the reader how clever she is (writing an entire scene in Latin can just fuck off); nor because of her clumsy efforts at post-modernism by having the reader occasionally talk to the narrator in the most bastardised "Elizabethan" style English; nor because of her weird obsession with telling us all about how her world doesn't use gendered pronouns, then constantly using them (and occasionally having her narrator chime in to explain how backwards we, the readers, are for caring about gender); nor is it her increasingly unbelievable characters and the interactions between them; nor her rambling and occasionally incoherent storytelling, bereft of decent pacing, no, none of that. What's annoying is that the basic story is interesting and engaging enough that I have to keep reading this dross to find out what happens!

    I will be incredibly annoyed if the main plot isn't resolved in a hundred pages time and I have to drag myself through another two books. But given my to-read list contains quite a lot of things I'm fairly sure are better than anything Palmer can do, I probably won't bother.

    Just to brighten this post up a bit, the book I read prior to this was Hannu Rajaniemi's Summerland which is absolutely delightful and I would recommend to anyone, sci-fi fan or otherwise. Rajaniemi is only annoyingly talented (he writes sci-fi to relax from his day job of being a straight-up genius)

    3 votes
    1. cadadr Link Parent
      Uh, that's strong :) I had a similar experience---the "surface" of a text ruining its essence---with Ficciones. It was because of the translation. It was horrible. The two Turkish translators have...

      Uh, that's strong :) I had a similar experience---the "surface" of a text ruining its essence---with Ficciones. It was because of the translation. It was horrible. The two Turkish translators have massacred the book. Especially Tomris Uyar, who is probably only allowed to do this job because she's dated and married some prominent poets (the last of which, Turgut Uyar, is the epitome of a fetishised producer of polished banality; I could not read past the first quarter of his mos famous book). Apart from the total absence of flow and from her failure to produce proper sentences in the target language (which demonstrates a lack of effort), her use of neologisms made me so mad that I had to quit reading the book. In Turkey, with the republic, a movement was started to purify Turkish, remove Persian, Arabic, Greek, French etc. words from the language. This has caused swathes of official neologisms to flood the language such that some texts are incomprehensible w/o looking up in dictionaries words that are supposed to be known to everybody. Think of it like saying wordbook instead of dictionary and workroomly instead of official. This horrible person has not limited herself to this sort of linguistic absurdity, but also went as far as to create neologisms that replace words that are etymologically Turkish. Weird thing is, she has also used obscure Persian and Arabic origin words, and there isn't even a foreword that talk about the stylistic choices of the translators, so I can only think that it's because her ignorant hubris and straight-up idiocy. The other translator, Fatih Özgüven, is better in that he does not use as much made up neologisms, but he too fails horribly at producing a translation that could at least be deemed mediocre. I would have had less trouble reading the Spanish version even tho IDK the language. I guess I will find an English translation later and read that...

      3 votes
  10. eve (edited ) Link
    So right now I'm reading and "reading" two books! I'm "reading" A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain via audible. The audible edition is narrated by Nick Offerman which is so...

    So right now I'm reading and "reading" two books! I'm "reading" A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain via audible. The audible edition is narrated by Nick Offerman which is so very, very fitting. I have never myself read a Mark Twain book before but this book was one that I was interested in, mostly in part because people list it as one of the earlier time traveling books and I just wanted to see how it would go! I'm on something like chapter 20 right now, and so far it's pretty fun. In fact, it's kind of better than I thought it would. Twain is a pretty funny guy and I love the Yankee and how he views everyone and manipulates them with their profound superstition and ignorance. It's also just funny how Hank just like casually does SO many things behind King Arthur's back. Like the guy made a match factory and a soap factory and made some soap door to door salesmen? It's all just ridiculous and very enjoyable.

    The other book I am actually reading is called Geisha: A Life by Mineko Iwasaki. So if any of you guys remember the book/movie Memoirs of a Geisha, the author initially interview Iwasaki and several other geisha to learn about the culture and what went on in the geisha houses and so on. The author apparently bastardized the whole thing and has been denounced by Iwasaki. Another point made by Iwasaki is that the author took A LOT of what she told him about her life and put it into the book, so it wasn't just little details it was very specific, larger events even though that wasn't supposed to happen. Sorry for the derailment, but this is how I was actually introduced to this book, the firsthand account of Mineko Iwasaki's like as a geiko and more for her house. Truthfully, my knowledge of Geisha and their world doesn't go much further past Memoirs of a Geisha, and I wanted to know more about it! So far it's very interesting. She paints many beautiful scenes from her early childhood; it's all been pretty picturesque and overall I like it so far! I'm hoping I continue to enjoy it to the end!

    3 votes
  11. [2]
    Ludo Link
    I recently finished reading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline after seeing the movie. Interesting book and I prefer it over the movie (which I like as well), but considering the difference in the...

    I recently finished reading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline after seeing the movie. Interesting book and I prefer it over the movie (which I like as well), but considering the difference in the media and how they're processed I can understand the changes.

    I've gotten some books from the local library in order to work on some skills which could help with hobbies and possible job prospects.

    2 votes
    1. CrazyOtter Link Parent
      Huh when I read Ready Player One I felt that it was written for the screen. I thought they did a decent job with the movie but nothing earth shaking.

      Huh when I read Ready Player One I felt that it was written for the screen. I thought they did a decent job with the movie but nothing earth shaking.

  12. mrbig (edited ) Link
    After reading Permutation City, a brilliant mind-bending sci-fi by Greg Egan, I was hooked by the game Witcher 3, based on a series of polish books. So now I'm reading the first in the series, The...

    After reading Permutation City, a brilliant mind-bending sci-fi by Greg Egan, I was hooked by the game Witcher 3, based on a series of polish books. So now I'm reading the first in the series, The Last Wish. Witcher is very different from regular fantasy universes. It is dark fantasy, but not to the point of ridicule... bad things are a part of life, but it is not gratuitously grueling, with raping and dismembering every step of the way. The whole concept of a Witcher is really great: they're like mystical samurais, sword masters who battle monsters with spells, alchemy, knowledge and potions. It's more about strategy than strength. I'm at about half of the book. Geralts' good heart and pessimistic personality remind me a lot of the noir detectives I know from Raymond Chandler and movies like Chinatown and The Maltese Falcon. I like both versions, but in Witcher 3 Geralt is stronger and manlier. In the books he's more like a noir detective: smart, ironic and irreverent. There's more space for subtlety and self-doubt. Each part contains stories that are independent, but loosely connected, making for a light and entertaining reading experience. Which, again, reminds me of Raymond Chandler.

    Plus: just like PIs, witchers are both needed and despised. Yep, I think Witcher is noir now.

    2 votes
  13. Kelsier Link
    Reading Lord of the Rings for the first time. I am a pretty big fantasy fan but somehow never got around to reading them. Finally have the entire book set and am pretty excited.

    Reading Lord of the Rings for the first time. I am a pretty big fantasy fan but somehow never got around to reading them. Finally have the entire book set and am pretty excited.

    2 votes
  14. CrazyOtter (edited ) Link
    I'm just starting reading "Manufacturing Consent". Always seen it referenced online so I'd like to read it for myself.

    I'm just starting reading "Manufacturing Consent". Always seen it referenced online so I'd like to read it for myself.

    1 vote
  15. drsh0 Link
    I have been thoroughly enjoying Greg Egan's Axiomatic. I haven't felt this immersed in scifi/cyberpunk for so long. My favourite so far has been A Kidnapping.

    I have been thoroughly enjoying Greg Egan's Axiomatic. I haven't felt this immersed in scifi/cyberpunk for so long. My favourite so far has been A Kidnapping.

    1 vote