Travels With Herodotus

By Ryszard Kapuściński.

This was an extremely enjoyable read. If you are looking for exactitude and factual journalism then maybe Kapuściński is not for you as his accounts are not to be trusted. He does make things larger than life in the same way as Cendrars and Celine (though both of these were dealing in personal reportage). Kapuściński does have a way with words and this travel with Kapuściński himself in the modern day juxtaposed with Herodotus’s Histories’ is very very entertaining. I read part of the Histories when years back but this book has inspired to pick it up again – I can see I didn’t understand it properly at the time.

The quote below could be seen as a sort of justification for his ‘magic’ journalism:

Herodotus is entangled in a rather insoluble dilemma: he devotes his life to preserving historic truth, to prevent the traces of human events from being erased by time; at the same time, however, his main source of research is not firsthand experience, but history as it was recounted by others, as it appeared to them, therefore as it was selectively remembered and later more or less intentionally presented. In short, not primary history, but history as his interlocutors would have had it. There is no way around this divergence of purpose and means. We can try to minimize or mitigate it, but we will never approach the objective ideal. The subjective factor, its deforming presence, will remain impossible to strain out.

 

 

 

 

 

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23 Things They Dont Tell You About Capitalism

By Ha-Joon Chang.

This book had its moments and there were a few points that started me thinking; one being that the the unqualified good of low inflation at any cost isn’t necessary for economic growth. This is the dominant view which is espoused everywhere and maybe it isn’t so. The book could be thought of as a primmer for further reading. Some parts are detailed – but mostly it is a summary of dominant free market views with rebuttals. Not all the rebuttals are watertight and more detail could be given, but then the book would be something more than what it is; a work canvassing and changing conceptions that the free market mechanisms are somehow moral and self-regulating.

Here are some good quotes:

So, when free-market economists say that a certain regulation should not be introduced because it would restrict the ‘freedom’ of a certain market, they are merely expressing a political opinion that they reject the rights that are to be defended by the proposed law. Their ideological cloak is to pretend that their politics is not really political, but rather is an objective economic truth, while other people’s politics is political.

 

It helps us break away from the myth that our economy is exclusively populated by rational self-seekers interacting through the market mechanism. When we understand that the modern economy is populated by people with limited rationality and complex motives, who are organized in a complex way, combining markets, (public and private) bureaucracies and networks, we begin to understand that our economy cannot be run according to free-market economics.

 

 

 

 

 

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Germinie Lacerteux

By Jules and Edmond de Goncourt.

This novel is an ever escalating catalog of misfortune a la L’Assommoir by Zola. I don’t think it has aged well – though at the time books such as this were probably quite important as they heralded a new realism and awareness in literature. Having said that I can’t say I enjoyed this at all: there was an exaggerated bleakness the lack of hope which seemed artificial. Still, the character of Germinie and the psychological elements are very interesting, and these have enough unique qualities to dispel the cliches. The character of her lover the sign-maker – could have come straight out of Balzac – including his confusion and misreading of Germinie. So, possibly the best elements in this story are inherited from Balzac.

 

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