It’s been a while huh? I know.
For some unknown reason, September and October are not really good months for me. I tend to be very unproductive during these intervals. What I could not produce in terms of legitimate ‘work’, I absorb in terms of stimuli. So contrary to how it appears to the members of my immediate vicinities, I have been ‘occupied’ nevertheless.
My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk has kept me occupied. It’s a long and dense book set in 16th-century Istanbul about a group of miniaturists (artisans who decorate books) working on a publication commissioned by the Sultan as a celebration of his life an empire. This book (and all its illustrations) is to be done in the European manner; IE. contrary to Islamic/Eastern notions of art. When one of the miniaturists is murdered, the book goes into murder-noir territory and turns into a search for the killer. It takes you to the workshops where these artisans paint and conjure images of “Allah’s vision of the world”, or royal courts where one still trembles at the presence of a respected and trusted King. A great murder-mystery on one level and an enlightening insight into Eastern vs Western culture, politics and religion.
As mentioned before, it’s dense and I have only been able to read it a little bit at a time and have yet to finish it. Perhaps the fact that Orhan Pamuk was recently named recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize for Literature will encourage me to finish it soon.
I have also been occupied with Noam Chomsky’s Understanding Power. This is a collection of his talks given on a wide range of subjects including American Imperialism, social inequalities, the nature of power, and the need to question authority.
The book tells me that a 30 year old Malaysian teacher has so much more to learn from history aside from standard issue school textbooks. It shakes my convictions to its very core and compels me to dream about a better world. Because sometimes the life of a 30 year old Malaysian teacher can be absolutely dreary and pointless.
A noteworthy film that I was occupied with was Munich, directed by Steven Spielberg. The film recounts the events unfolding after the 1972 Munich Olympics when 11 members of the Israeli athletes and games officials were taken hostage by an extremist Palestinian group known as Black September. 9 of the hostages were killed.
The story revolves around an Israeli patriot and Mossad agent called Avner as he is recruited to join 4 others in a mission to kill the planners of the Munich massacre. Here, Spielberg demonstrates his flair for directing elegant action sequences. In an attempt to kill one of the targets by phone-bomb, the target’s daughter unexpectedly returns and picks-up the phone at the moment of detonation. A tired Hollywood cliche perhaps, but it managed to scare the shit out of this viewer.