The Importance of Bluster

The livable landmasses in today’s world are choked and even the seaways are extremely busy. Even as the members of NATO are not as well bonded together as they used to be in the last decade; China has been increasing in power and influence for a few decades now. New alliances may form as Russia sidles closer to China; North Korea and Pakistan, besides several countries of the African continent also look more towards Beijing for leadership. The political developments in the US in the last few years have led to a situation where a show of strength as well as a display of willingness to engage in combat has become essential as is shown by some recent events:

South Korea fires warning shots at Russian military aircraft

We need not wonder why Russian planes flew through the airspace over the disputed Dokdo/Takeshima islands. When you pass through sea or land, you are claiming your right and ability to do so. While the Americans have tried to carry out similar moves near South China sea and Taiwan, these do not seem to be having much impact as China continues to entrench itself by building and expanding its bases in the South China Sea.

Beijing strengthens its hold on South China Sea

The submarines and rivalries underneath the South China Sea

Though the current US administration comes across as inconsistent and ungainly, with hardly a week passing without a senior officer handing in papers; it must be said that global trends and realignments were already evident under the previous presidency of president Obama, who perhaps saw it as a fact of life about which nothing much could be done. Every problem that you overlook has the potential to become a monster and eat you up. He concentrated on his priorities in righteous support of the Arab spring which ultimately led to the turmoil of an Islamist Arab winter. The longer term effects are still being revealed.

The present US administration began by being extremely friendly to Russian president Putin, which wasn’t such a bad thing, except President Putin continues to work more with China and also increasingly with Pakistan and at the same time noticeably less with India. To top it all here’s what a recent study by the National Defence Study Commission of the US says:

US military ‘losing its competitive edge’

In order to bluster effectively, countries need to have the muscle to back it up. So whatever be the principles leaders mouth, nobody is a pariah anymore and countries are making bilateral arrangements in attempts to stay strong and safe. Even as Britain continues to be stuck in an isolationist Brexit, hoping for a golden age Boris Johnson is going to bring in.

Imran Khan: Pakistan PM meets Trump in bid to mend ties

Trump uses veto to unblock $8bn weapons sale to Saudi Arabia

My Top 5 Fiction Picks

I buy books frequently. Lately many of these have been non-fiction, though there was a time I used to spend hours engrossed in fiction. There are so many fiction books that absolutely moved me or took a grip of me in a way that was difficult to shake off for months. This list doesn’t have all the books that I have liked; doesn’t have any classics either; only the ones that come to mind most immediately.

Perhaps I should also compile another list; that of the books that I absolutely hated. You don’t hate a book that’s just bad. The books you hate are the ones that may be written by your favorite author. You hate it when she has betrayed your trust. Perhaps I will make a list like that at some point but below is a list of my favorite fiction books, (Clicking on the picture of the book and some of the other links, will take the reader to the amazon website):

Number-5

5-A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif

Emma Donoghue’s Frog Music was earnestly jostling for this slot with this winner and “A Case of Exploding Mangoes” by Mohmmed Hanif has won out with not too wide a margin.

This is a seriously funny book that has the background of real historical events that happened in Pakistan a few decades back. In 1988, the then President of Pakistan General Zia ul-Haq was killed when the presidential plane exploded mid-air. I really admired Mohammed Hanif for thinking up this tale (perhaps it has some basis in truth..) and then having the courage to write it down. I absolutely enjoyed the description of military life in Pakistan because it felt so authentic. The lead character, Shigri is very interesting (εΎˆζœ‰ζ„ζ€) but then the tale has a slight unexpected twist, somewhere in the middle. This twist takes the story down a notch for me but maybe good for some others. You have to read it to know all that.

Number-4

4-The Great Swindle by Pierre Lemaitre

Pierre Lemaitre’s The Great Swindle has at its center something dreadful that took place when the first World War was ending. Henri is an unscrupulous and ambitious officer, the type you would love to see brought short in his scheming, if only you could manage it. The lead characters are soldiers Albert and Edouard who suffer and are transformed by their experience of war. This leads them to carry out the greatest rip-off imaginable. The author writes beautifully, so that you are never sobbing in tears but always turning the page as the great swindle is revealed.

This is a beautifully written novel where you are always in anticipation.

The paperback with me has a different cover picture .

Number-3

3-Oh, Play that thing by Roddy Doyle

Henry leaves his past in Dublin, moves to New York and quickly learns to survive there. This book is about New York full of immigrants during the mid 1920s and Chicago in the age of Jazz where Henry goes when New York becomes too hot with the mob after him. Here he meets Louis Armstrong, the renowned trumpeter. “Oh, Play that thing” finds this esteemed slot owing to Roddy Doyle‘s capacity to invent and bring to life the period with all its detail. Many good books are made great because they let you travel in time; something science (rather science fiction) promised long back. Dialogue is amazing.

Number-2

2-The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

This story has a story within it, and the two stories are intertwined. Iris Chase Griffin, born 1916, lives in Port Ticonderoga (In this book club article in the guardian, the author talks about her novel and the setting). The main story is her POV. Iris hides more about her dead sister Laura than she reveals. This Laura is an enigma for the reader. She wrote a fantasy novel, quite in another dimension of space. The fantasy novel forms the second story.

Checkout some reviews of this book at librarything.com.

I read this novel some time back, and it is my first and favorite book by Margaret Atwood. I imagined Atwood to be quite like Iris. but as we can guess from her article in the guardian book-club, she probably is somewhat different.

Number-1

The numero uno in my list of fiction books was first published in English in 2001 by Faber and Faber Limited. It is a historical murder mystery first published as Benim Adim Kirmizi in 1998 and there is nothing quite in the same class. Here it is:

My number-1 fiction book

1-My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk

The book is set in the sixteenth century and takes the reader into the mind of the painters and mystics of the Ottoman empire. The story is full of spiritual experiences that are enlightening but the very worldy and often macabre goings on shake you up.

This book is full of the exotic experiences that come from visiting far off lands from another time. This book is Orhan Pamuk‘s best.