Author Archives: Oxana Gutu

“Ali and Nino” by Kurban Said

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I rarely read Introductions, for they tend to give you certain perspectives right from the beginning. Yet, the Introduction to Ali and Nino is worth reading, while remembering that: “Ali and Nino would be well worth reading even if it were not the brilliantly achieved novel that it is. It takes us, as Western readers, into a world in which it is very good for us to be.” To me the novel gives voices to all engulfed in the turmoil of the first world war: Ali, a mohammedan in heart and deeds, Nino, a Georgian aristocrat staying true to herself even in a harem in Persia, an imam who can distinguish between love and senseless sacrifice, true friends who’ll put their friend’s best interest above their own… The novel takes the reader to Azerbaijan, Georgia, Dagestan, and Persia, and we learn about the morals reigning in all these places during those times, while Nino and Ali’s love between a christian and a mohammedan unfolds in spite of everything and everyone.

My favourite passages:

“The Orient’s dry intoxication comes from the desert, where hot wind and hot sand make men drunk, where the world is simple and without problems. The woods are full of questions. Only the desert does not ask, does not give, and does not promise anything. But the fire of the soul comes from the wood. The desert man—I can see him—has but one face, and knows but one truth, and that truth fulfils him. The woodman has many faces. The fanatic comes from the desert, the creator from the woods. Maybe that is the main difference between East and West.’”

“The wise man must not let himself be disturbed by either praise or blame.”

“The magic of this town lies in the mystical bond between its races and peoples”. – about Baku.

‘This wine is pure, for God is in it.” – Georgians about their wine.

Probably one of the most just description of Georgians: “Georgians seem to me like noble deer, strayed amongst the jungle mixtures of the Asiatics. No other Eastern race has this charm, these graceful movements, this fantastic lust for life and healthy enjoyment of leisure.”

“Maybe you should talk to someone” by Lori Gottlieb

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This is the kind of books I could read every day. It made me laugh and it brought tears to my eyes. I found it a touching, honest and humble ode to us, humans. The writing style is like a feather on a cheek, soft yet direct.

Lori Gottlieb arrived at therapy from the worlds of journalism and medicine. The stories of her clients, told with compassion, intertwine with solid references in the science of psychology. Lori’s personal story, with all its ups and downs, brings something many feel as missing in her profession – humanity.

I made a long list of take-away and come-back-to notes. Here are my favorite:

“In idiot compassion, you avoid rocking the boat to spare people’s feelings, even though the boat needs rocking and your compassion ends up being more harmful than your honesty. People do this with teenagers, spouses, addicts, even themselves. Its opposite is wise compassion, which means caring about the person but also giving him or her a loving truth bomb when needed.”

“People often mistake numbness for nothingness, but numbness isn’t the absence of feelings; it’s a response to being overwhelmed by too many feelings.”

“I once heard creativity described as being the ability to grasp the essence of one thing and the essence of some very different thing and smash them together to create some entirely new thing.”

“Not knowing is a good place to start,”…

“Most of us end up being the “good-enough” parents that Donald Winnicott, the influential English pediatrician and child psychiatrist, believed was sufficient to raise a well-adjusted child.”

“PEACE. IT DOES NOT MEAN TO BE IN A PLACE WHERE THERE IS NO NOISE, TROUBLE, OR HARD WORK. IT MEANS TO BE IN THE MIDST OF THOSE THINGS AND STILL BE CALM IN YOUR HEART.”

“…freedom involves responsibility, and there’s a part of most of us that finds responsibility frightening.”

“Talking can keep people in their heads and safely away from their emotions. Being silent is like emptying the trash.”

Flannery O’Connor quote: “The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.”

“The psychoanalyst Erich Fromm had made this point more than fifty years earlier: “Modern man thinks he loses something—time—when he does not do things quickly; yet he does not know what to do with the time he gains except kill it.”

“… ultracrepidarianism, which means “the habit of giving opinions and advice on matters outside of one’s knowledge or competence.”

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.” – Viktor Frankl.

Frankl’s book: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

“Take the case of a mother who came from a household with little money and who now admonishes her child every time she gets a new pair of shoes or a new toy by saying, “Don’t you realize how lucky you are?” A gift wrapped in a criticism.”

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not. —Ralph Waldo Emerson”

“The inability to say no is largely about approval-seeking—people imagine that if they say no, they won’t be loved by others. The inability to say yes, however—to intimacy, a job opportunity, an alcohol program—is more about lack of trust in oneself.”

“Just because she sends you guilt doesn’t mean you have to accept delivery.”

“I think of something else Wendell once said: “The nature of life is change and the nature of people is to resist change.””

“It’s one thing to talk about leaving behind a restrictive mindset. It’s another to stop being so restrictive.”

There will be an answer, let it be

“The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah

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It is no news that history is selective and the greatest human stories are left unwritten. This is one of the reasons I am drawn to authors who bring to light, even through fiction, the stories of those we will not find in historical accounts.

Kristin Hannah tells us why she wrote “The Nightingale”: “In war, women’s stories are all too often forgotten or overlooked. Women tend to come home from the battlefield and say nothing and go on with their lives. The Nightingale is a novel about those women and the daring, dangerous choices they made to save their children and their way of life.”

“The Nightingale” – or rosignol in French – takes the reader to the German-occupied France in the second world war. Nightingale is a code name for a Resistance member who rescued downed airmen in France and took them on foot through Pyrenees mountains to the British consulate in Spain. The main characters’ stage is shared by two sisters – Vianne and Isabelle – who were estranged after their mother’s death and reconnected through unbelievable struggles of war. The characters seem to be opposites at the beginning. As the story unfolds, we see them more alike than apart, each brave in her own way.

“The Great Alone” by Kristin Hannan

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Alaska. The Great Alone: Alaska – the great alone. Alaska: the great – alone. Alaska – the Great, alone… each reader will find his/her own understanding in this rich novel. I loved the plot, the characters and the style. I was looking forward to pickup my Kindle in the evening to keep reading it.

The story of a young woman married to an ex-Vietnam soldier who brought the hell in his mind to their marriage. Their daughter – thirteen-year-old Leni – is caught in the middle of her parents toxic relationship. In the hope of a fresh start, they move to Alaska. It is never easy to read about domestic violence. In this novel it is amplified by the harsh climate of Alaska, which is unforgiving: “A woman has to be tough as steel up here. You can’t count on anyone to save you and your children. You have to be willing to save yourselves.” Yet Hannah shows it to us from a survivors’ and not from a victim’s perspective. They find true friendship, love and finally – peace.