This is the second book by Asne Seierstad I read. “Two Sisters” is her sixth book. Released in Norway in November 2016, it became the bestselling book of the year, and won the prestigious Brageprisen.
The book is about the journey of two Somali sisters from Norway into the jihad in Syria. The author did a tremendous job to reconstruct the scenes as accurately as possible, which is not at all an easy task. In literary journalism the accuracy depends almost entirely on sources and in this case there were scattered, plentiful and fragmented. If you are interested in the methodology the author applied, read the post-face.
The “entire world is trying to understand the reasons for radicalization among Muslim youth” and this is the impetus of the book. As the author herself puts it: “There is no single explanation, but one can point to several factors, including the search for identity, meaning, and status; the desire to belong; the influence of others; excitement; the need to rebel; and romantic notions.”
Imagine waking up one morning and reading an email from your daughters saying “We have decided to travel to Syria to help out down there the best we can … . It was painful to read about the struggles of the father who travelled to Syria to bring back his daughters and who gave it up failure after failure of rescuing them. It was even more painful to read about how judgmental or indifferent humans can be in the face of a family’s tragedy. This book is a must-read for parents and guardians. As children grow and start interacting more with circles outside the family the vigilance must increase.
Thanks to the translation by Lin Coffin and verbatim translation and editing by Prof. Dodona Kiziria I was able to savour the classics of classics of the Georgian literature.
A masterpiece of its time, written in what is known as the Golden era of the Georgian history, “The Knight in the Panther Skin” by Shota Rustaveli is a must read for everyone willing to understand the soul of Georgians, the kindest people on Earth, by me. I was happy to learn from my Georgian friends that it is still part of the schools curricula. I find it telling when societies keep their creative roots and pay tribute to the founders of beautiful things on earth.
The plot is described in many open sources so I will not do it here. There is love and jelousy, betrayal and brotherhood, wealth and poverty, war and peace and all other wordly things in “The Knight in the panther skin”. This is the third/forth attempt to translate it in English. Big kudos to the translators, who did the magic of teleporting the readers to the times of beauty of human relationships fueled by love, friendship, loyalty, courage and faith in God.
My list of favourite verses is very long. Here are only a few:
“She said: ‘Wise people say those who are prudent should never make haste. They act calmly when pressed by Fate, not raging against where they’re placed.”
“If a lover says he listened to a prayer for patience – he lies!”
“Patience is the fountainhead of wisdom, I feel.”
“Lying, we know, is the source of all things ignoble.”
‘Love exalts us’ they tell us, as if heaven’s bells a song would raise. If you cannot conceive this, how can I hope ignorance to raze?”
“Something that God doesn’t will doesn’t happen, and what He wills, stays.”
“The eyes long for all things lovely and beautiful on which to gaze.”
“Wherever I may be, nothing matters if I have my free will!”
“The sweetly discoursing tongue can lure the serpent out of its lair.”
“In the end, I am sure, everything that’s hidden shall come to light.”
“They didn’t say “We don’t have this”; to envy their hearts didn’t yield.”
“Who grieves the future wastes time and strives without reward.”
“This hidden truth was revealed to us by Dionysus, the wise: God creates only good; He lets no evil in the world arise.”
When my colleague Elda Moreno announced on Linkedin that she self-published a book, I immediately got it on my Kindle. I found the book touching. It permeates with sensitivity and gives a voice to those of us who become invisible not by their choice – the elderly. I loved that the author gave the reader a multi-generational view on seniority and even the view of a pet, who remain perhaps the most loyal family members as we grow old.
The book is a wonderful reminder that we do meet in our lives “Butterfly people”. As the author explains us herself: “Butterfly people conquer the sky because they embrace and generate change. They know and are true to their essence. They see opportunities where others only see risks. If the wind knocks them down, they learn from it and pick themselves up.”
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.”