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Category: Books


52nd Post

English: World Athletics Championships 2007 in...

English: World Athletics Championships 2007 in Osaka – Jamaican 200 metres runner Usain Bolt (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have done the golden jubilee, half-century or just plain 50.Now racing to the hundred. Actually sprinting, so Usain Bolt better watch out!

I thought to celebrate the grand occasion,I would review one of the best books I have read, and share my views.

KAFKA:  The Trial

The trial is about a man called Joseph K who, on his 30th birthday gets accosted by two ‘police officers’ and gets arrested for a ‘crime’ he never committed. A ‘crime’ he was not to know either. Josef K is a junior manager for a bank and lives by himself. He is of course very enraged and starts to wonder what is really happening around his world. Thus the nightmare begins.

The book is a detailed account of the trials and tribulations Josef K goes through until the day he is ‘judicially murdered’ a year from the day he was first arrested. It is like someone somewhere has been watching Josef K and is reminiscent of Big Brother (1984) in a way. Kafka is subjected to ‘Chinese water torture‘  for the whole year. The saying ‘those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad’ aptly describes the ordeal he had to suffer throughout that period. His life is turned upside down and he becomes a ‘prisoner’ and is told to ‘accept his situation’. The warders and the courts never tell him what his ‘crime’ is.

The bureaucracy and Invisible Law is staggering. He attends court, there are constant court appearances yet he does not know what the charge(s) is/are. The legal system is so crushing and it is hopeless. Maybe he should never have acknowledged that he had committed a ‘crime’. He is made to interminably wait and they simply mess up with his head. The court systems is at best very strange and yet at the same time there is such a bureaucratic mire he has to navigate. The court officials do not seem to have an acute understanding of cases and ‘consequently they could hardly ever quite follow in their further progress… ‘It looks like there is a psychological determination to destroy him.Perhaps its he way the bureaucratic system was perceived in early 1900s when the book was written. Joseph K is offered advise from ‘mentors’ and they all seemed to at times. He also tries to put his trust in females,but no one can help him with his case. He is marooned.  The psychological quagmire he is entrapped is so suffocating. ‘Guilt’ seems to be the overriding theme. Everyone assumes he is ‘guilty’ or else he would not be in that ‘situation’. When he tells court claim that he is ‘innocent’, he is asked in turn ‘innocent of what’? He has no human rights whatsoever and his life is at the mercy of the state apparatus.

It is not difficult to find oneself sympathising with this character. The state has pressed a self-destruct button and although he tries to keep level-headed, going to work and keeping to routines, he can not escape the knowledge that in the eyes of the law he is deemed  guilty. Its said Kafka did not finish the book and the end comes rather unexpectedly. Maybe that is why there seems to be a gap between the Cathedral  scene and his final demise. At the Cathedral he seemed to suggest to the priest he was going to fight to prove that he is not guilty. Yet when the two warders come to collect him and lead him to his death he does not protest. Joseph K ultimately dies at the hands of the state’s executioners. He accepts the inevitability of his death. Is this a final act to escape the nightmare or is it mere submission to authority yet again? At least the nightmare comes to an end.

The book seems to want to highlight the problems with bureaucracy. Even senior officials do not know the rules, they claim to work under. People who work in these bureaucracies might as well be robots. It also portrays the state as an organ that it can willy-nilly disregard the rights of  citizens. It is omnipresent and also destroys people’s lives. Kafka  also cleverly illustrates the human tendency to submit to authority. Even when the authority’s actions are questionable. However, one finds themselves wanting to support him, and or expose the state for what it is, a cold-hearted bully.

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Hamlet:
To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. To die—to sleep,
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to: ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;
To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there’s the rub:
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause—there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th’oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of dispriz’d love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th’unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovere’d country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action.

Macbeth

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Danielle Darrieux in the French film Lady Chat...

Danielle Darrieux in the French film Lady Chatterley’s Lover (L’Amant de Lady Chatterley) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have heard a lot said about ’50 Shades of Grey’, by E L James. Apparently its ‘soft porn‘ and one of the best books out there. Its flying off the shelves, and has led to an upsurge in Kindle sells. I now know who to blame if there is an upsurge in the Greenhouse effect! Just kidding!

We should be thanking the writer for getting our female friends or partners to get interested in reading again. I have since had more time to play FIFA12 on my PS3 since I bought, the Kindle and the complete set of the book!! Small price to pay for domestic bliss.

This book/set of books has also made me think – since our OHs are now pro-soft porn, surely they should not frown upon us men if and when we decide to watch the late-night soft-porn channels. After all what is good for the gander should be good for the goose! I shall try and test this new ‘enlightened’ world one of these nights and ‘accidentally’ turn the tv over to one of these hitherto ‘banned’ channels. I shall report back on the reaction. One thing I learnt in Chemistry when doing experiments is that you should always wear protection and be prepared for different outcomes. My ‘protection’ (ha-ha, not that type!) will be alcohol so I intend to be slightly inebriated so that I can blame it on the booze. I don’t plan to be too inebriated for I intend to utterly enjoy a positive reaction,if one is forthcoming.

Ever since the day I bought the books, I have been slowly and quietly counting down to the day that I shall receive my real ‘Thanks’. I do not intend to read the book, but like any good investor, I intend to reap the rewards. And on those special occasion(s) I get a return on my investment, I shall secretly be saying ‘thank you’ to E L James.

An update

I have read somewhere that a jealous boyfriend squirted his girlfriend with Ketchup because he was getting jealous of the time she spent with Mr. Grey. Sorry, I meant reading the novel! He is also alleged to have slapped her as well. We should not condone violence at all, for whatever reason. As for squirting the sauce, what a waste of ketchup? However, Mr Bounderby would have used baby oil instead! Not out of jealous! This tome, or ‘mommy porn,” as it is called now, has been a revolutionary revelation. Just looking at a cross-section of Facebook status updates, it is amazing how many women are saying ‘going to bed early’ to read ‘mommy porn’. Mr Bounderby is a very enlightened man, and will never look down upon people who decide to read. Reading is a joy. More people should engage in it. However, I think if we were to juxtapose that with Facebook updates (imaginary updates for the time being) from men stating: ‘I’m off to bed to read Playboy’ or Penthouse’, Hustler’ or even just to watch some late night ‘soft-porn TV‘ ; I bet there would be an outcry and some choice words would be thrown in the men’s direction too. Society is still somewhat uptight when openly talking about what the ‘majority’ consider ‘taboo’.

We should be glad though that ’50 Shades of Grey’ has somehow and unwittingly enlightened a lot of people. A significant proportion of the population anyway. Does anyone remember the hullabaloo that followed the publication of ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover‘? (D. H. Lawrence). The furore and obscenity trials in the USA, Canada,UK and Australia. Maybe we are living in more open times. Times that allow the proliferation of independent thoughts, ideas, divergent opinions, acceptance of diversity, acceptance of free speech etc. Perhaps society is slowly accepting that some of these taboos are a thing for History lectures. Or am I dreaming of some fantasy world? Judging by the reaction of that British gentleman above, and stories like the one below we are still struggling to cope with openness especially when it comes to the same ‘taboo’ subjects like ‘sex’. Feminists are all agog, saying books like ’50 Shades’ denigrate women, and Christian fundamentalists think they are heinous. I am not 100% sure what other religions’ fundamentalists would say or do if they see their women folk reading the book.

I have not read the book myself. However, I am glad the book has been written for it has given me some fodder for the blog. Apart from that, it has also made a lot of women buy and read books. It has also made society realise women actually like that type of written material and that they also do enjoy ‘sex’. Some have come out and confessed they had not read a book for years. Surely anything that makes people read should be welcome. I am certain the nation has benefited immensely. So have the men.

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