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What Are You Reading Currently? [OFFICIAL THREAD]

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Animal Farm by George Orwell and The Messiah in the Quran by Sayyed Reda al Sadr

and when I'm done, the rest of George Orwell's novels:

(Burmese Days, Clergymans Daughter, Coming up for Air, Keep the Aspidistra Flying and 1984)

yeah :mellow:

Sister, I have a recommendation: don't read Orwell. He is a waste of time.

I recommend that you instead read Huxley.

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The HarperCollins Book of New Indian Fiction: Contemporary Writing in English - Edited by Khushwant Singh

I am always interested in reading new fiction arising out of the pens (or keyboards) of the authors from the Subcontinent. What made me buy this volume, however, was the fact that the stories were selected by the legendary Khushwant Singh.

What makes this collection stand out is the variety of form and content. It includes two stories on science fiction in Indian context (Unfaithful Servants and Alienation), a story written in e-mail exchange format between a blackmailer and the blackmailed (Bollox), one which is written in pretty much urban slang about a young teenage girl growing up in a motherless house and with an uncle who is a lecher, and the difficulties which the girl faces (If Brains Was Gas), another about the ever growing and booming Indian media which coldheartedly plays on the sentiments of semi-literate people to get a good news story (Scoop).

My favourites are two. One which is about two kids growing up in a family in which the the daughter-in-law and the mother-in-law play home-politics against each other, using kids to their own ends, completely oblivious to their issues and giving them grievous psychological harm (Ajji's Miracle). The other story, which I rate as the best, is told from the eyes of a 5-years old boy who grows up in a town full of Hindu-Muslim riots. It shows the way in which a kid perceives the communitarian politics and riots which result in the deaths of dozens (During the Long Riots, the Fragrance of Caticura).

This collection was published in 2005 so if you are looking for the 'newest' fiction you should look out for books published most recently. However, 5/6 years aren't many in the life of fiction.

AMAZON LINK

Edited by Marbles

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Also reading Karen Armstrong's book, Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time (not for school)

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It's rather short, 200 pages. But it's deceptively long; the pages take longer to read than I would ever have guessed.

I've read maybe 30 pages.

So far, I notice a few things:

It doesn't seem like it's written from the perspective of a non-believer. Armstrong seems intent on defending every critique ever made against the Prophet (S), just as we like to do.

In the intro, Armstrong says that there is a distorted image of the Prophet in Western society because Western society is jahil. She gained a lot of points for me there. But then she referenced Emam Khomeini's hukm against Rushdi (painting it in a negative light), which brought her waaaaaaaay down in the Jackson polls. Whenever I have the chance, I should send her an email and explain to her the greatness of Emam Khomeini (since she appears to have an open mind).

For the first 25 pages or so, she gives a great overview of pre-Islamic society in Hijaz. For some reason, our books never go into detail about it. Yes, we know that they worshiped idols and that they buried their daughters alive, but that's it. Armstrong gives a very good description of the Bedouin culture, and also of the rise of mercantile capitalism in Makkeh under the Quraysh. She says that the Quraysh retained the worst aspects of the Bedouin culture (namely, the arrogance and ignorance) while abandoning the collective spirit in favor of a greedy, competition-driven market economy. She also notes the rise in hedonism during this time.

Anyway I think this will be a good book. On amazon reviews, a lot of people (people who don't take too kindly to Islam) have said some nasty things about her.

I have that book sitting on my shelf waiting for me to start reading it. Thanks for reminding me about it. happy.gif

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The following are two poetry collections I am currently reading. I am almost finished with the second one but half way through the first. I pick them up when I want break from fiction, history and politics.

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Selections from the Persian Ghazals of Ghalib - Translated into English by Ralph Russell and into Urdu by Iftikhar Ahmad Adni.

Mirza Ghalib (1797-1869) is undoubtedly the most important poet of Urdu. But most of his poetic works, Like Allamah Iqbal's, are written in Farsi. Ghalib didn't consider his Urdu poetry of much value. He concentrated on his Farsi verse and prided himself about it. But as fate would have it his Urdu verse is not only more popular but made him into the most important poet of Urdu. His Farsi verse, however, is relatively unknown among the Farsi speakers. (Iqbal, in comparison, is equally popular among Urdu and Farsi readers for his poetry).

This book is a selection from the Farsi verse of Ghalib and its side by side translation into English and Urdu. For the admirers of Ghalib who know him from Urdu (like myself), this book offers good insight into his Farsi mind.

Here are my thoughts on the quality and methods of translations:

There is a difference between the approaches of both translators. English translations are pretty much done in prose style. This is probably the best way to translate couplets of Ghazal because if you try to rhyme it in English, you run the risk of changing the content, meaning and style of the original couplet. Urdu translation of the same, in comparison, follow the usual rhymed and metered approach. The Urdu translator looks for rhyms and sets them on relevant meter to make it sound 'poetic'. Because if you do a prose Urdu translation of a metered and rhyming Farsi verse, it ceases to be poetry. So the difference between the approaches of the two translators makes it easy for English translator but difficult for the Urdu one.

The English translator, late Ralph Russell, was a scholar of Farsi and Urdu and has done a good job at translating Ghalib. He has also taken pains to add explanatory notes where a seemingly simple Farsi verse means much more than its corresponding English translation. I liked it as it gives insight into how the translators themselves understand Ghalib.

I am, however, not particularly impressed by the quality of Urdu translation. I can't compare it with original Farsi as I don't know the language but I notice the lack of Ghalibness, so to speak, in Urdu translation.

Here, I found an online link for the book. Click HERE

The other book will follow shortly.

Edited by Marbles

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Chero Hath Na Murli by Ashoo Lal Faqir - چھیڑو ہتھ نہ مرلی - اشو لال فقیر

Language: Saraiki - سرائیکی

It is a collection of poems first published in 1989 by an apparently Hindu poet from the Saraiki Belt of Pakistan. The poems are characteristically composed in short metre. Many fall under the 'free verse' format.

These poems are steeped in the classical tradition of Saraiki poetry. They are full of folk metaphors, idioms and images. The poet has made a concerted effort to use characters and stories from Hindu mythology to embellish the poems. This is unusual in contemporary Saraiki poetry. The poet in the foreword argues that Saraiki culture and language has a rich tradition ranging back to pre-Islamic times and therefore it suits today's Saraiki writers to accept that tradtional heritage and to make it part of contemporary expression.

Being a natural progressive that I am, I don't buy this approach. I think Saraiki literature and poetry needs to move forward from old tradition and explore new horizons of subject, metaphor, form and language. That doesn't mean I reject classical heritage. I value it highly. But I feel Saraikis are overdoing it. It has rendered their literary expression stagnant. Most of the Saraiki poetry today, as well as fiction, sadly, is still trying to find its legitimacy by employing old methods.

Moreover, the language employed in the poems has a lot words and phrases which i think are obsolete. Even Khwaja Ghulam Farid, who is what Ghalib is to Urdu and Hafez is to Farsi, is somewhat easy to read. I felt reading this collection that I was reading a Saraki version of Shakespeare lol.

I don't think this book review will interest many. :squeez:

Edited by Marbles

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Partisans of Allah: Jihad in South Asia by Ayesha Jalal

I started this book but couldn't finish it due to lack of time. I have read it now and found it worthy of a detailed review for the benefits of the ShiaChatters.

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It is a brilliant exposition of the concept of Jihad in Islam, its theological origins, various manifestations and the way the concept was understood and acted upon by the believers with particular reference to the Muslims of the Subcontinent

It is not one of those feel-good apologia for Jihad that try to hammer out the “true” meaning of the concept in Islamic scriptural canon. It is more an attempt to put the concept in its proper context and explain how Muslims of South Asia throughout history have understood and implemented it.

Jalal argues that Jihad is a concept central to Muslim theology. It forms the basic core of Islamic ethics. She called Jihad “a struggle to be human”. She identifies the trends that led to different understandings of Jihad expounded by different Muslim theologians and rulers with reference to the reality of time and place they lived in.

The Indian Subcontinent, says the author, presents an interesting case study because here the power rested in the hands of Muslims but the population which they ruled was, and is, overwhelmingly non-Muslim. So in order to coexist successfully with the “infidels” and to rule the land in relative peace, Muslim rulers and theologians understood the concept of Jihad on a different level than by their counterparts in predominantly Muslim regions such as Arabia, Persia and Central Asia.

The social and political conditions in the Subcontinent before and during the British Raj form the background of this study. Muslim rulers and theologians, owning to the difficulty of ruling a non-Muslim population, tended to understand Jihad as ethical struggle to be good rather than putting the non-Muslims to constant warfare. There had been divergences in this approach with disastrous consequences. For instance in the case of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb and theologians like Shaykh Ahmed Sirhindi, both of whom leaned toward harsher measures against the non-Muslims.

The policies of Muslim rulers of the Subcontinent, in general, since the days of Delhi Sultanate, were in contrast to the Muslim rulers of Afghanistan, Persia and Arabia who emphasized the more militant aspect of Jihad, and launched military attacks on non-Muslim lands. This behaviour can be seen in the various incursions of the Muslim lords into the Subcontinent. Jalal holds that all of them conquered India under the pretext of Jihad though their real purpose was money and land (For instance, the devastating attacks of Mahmud Ghaznavi, Nader Shah, Ahmed Shah Abdali etc all were labelled Jihad). This the author sees as subversion of the concept of Jihad and a departure from its theological meanings. Rightly so.

The book then moves on to the subject of Jihad in colonial India. There is a detailed chapter on what is now being called the first incident of modern Jihadist terrorism. A group of Muslims led by Sayyid Ahmed and Sayyid Ismail waged an armed struggle against the “infidels” during the years 1826-1831. All of them were killed. This Jihadist episode was also narrated at length in Charles Allen’s book, which is incorrectly titled as: "God's Terrorists: The Wahhabi Cult and the Hidden Roots of Modern Jihad", which I reviewed in this thread a couple of years ago.. These men were deeply affected by the theology of Shah Waliullah Dehlavi, who spent some years in Makkah when Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab was still alive, and got acquainted with the rising Wahhabi ideology in the peninsula. Thus the Jihad of Sayyid Ahmed and his followers is seen as the first manifestation of modern Wahhabi jihadist extremism in the Indian Subcontinent.

The next section details the lives and works of some Muslim intellectuals who understood and explained their anti-colonial nationalism in the colours of Jihad. For them it was a noble thing to do and perfectly in line with Islam. Figures like Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, Ubaidullah Sindhi, Muhammad Iqbal, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, and Jamal al-din Afghani (though Iranian but the one who left a deep mark on the thinking of some Indian Muslims during his sojourns in India) is discussed in detail.

Finally, the last section, which is instructively titled “Islam Subverted: Jihad as Terrorism?”, gives a lot of pages to the man who is rightly called the architect of modern Jihad: Sayyid Abul ‘Aala Maududi; His philosophy of Jihad, his antics and his politics are analyzed in great detail. (He was the father of the same Jamat-e-Islami about which Vali Nasr wrote a big book. ) Almost all modern Jihadi groups and their mentors intellectually go back to Maududi and before that, to Shah Waliullah. I won’t delve into that for the sake brevity for the review has gotten longer than I anticipated.

But a great book for the students of Jihad and Muslims in general and that of South Asian Islam in particular.

On the scale of 1 to 5, I will give this book 5.

AMAZON LINK

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Finished my first book on my Kindle. What i Believe by Tariq Ramadan.

It's pretty much an introduction about his views. Now as I'm writing this, I've realized I've forgotten most of what he said. So i think I'll read it again.

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Finished my first book on my Kindle.

I'm jealous :dry:

It's pretty much an introduction about his views. Now as I'm writing this, I've realized I've forgotten most of what he said. So i think I'll read it again.

You were concentrating more on the gadget than on the writing mate.

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Nah, it's because i've been reading a bit too much. I need to read a book at a time, and leave the articles for later.

And yea, the Kindle is just awesome.

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Partisans of Allah: Jihad in South Asia by Ayesha Jalal

thanks for the review marbles

seems like a good read to me, as it covers the subject of jihad and most importantly has a south asian perspective to it,.... iA i'll buy it soon

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Reading from the collected works of Thomas Paine, published by the American Library.

So far, working through Common Sense and the "American Crisis" letters.

Thomas Paine was an American patriot republican intellectual and pamphleteer from the revolutionary period (Late 1700s).

Students of the Iranian revolution might find it interesting to read this insider insight into the circumstances that led to the founding of America as an independent nation, to compare with the later Islamic revolution.

http://www.amazon.com/Thomas-Paine-Collected-Writings-Pamphlets/dp/1883011035

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My INfamous Life: The Life of MObb Deep's Prodigy by Albert Johnson [Prodigy], I've read Taliban by Ahmad Rashid 2 to 3 times and it really opened my eyes, andHow Communism was Destroyed [i's 1/2 book 1/2 collection of articles] by Dr. I forgot his namee

Edited by Mr. Elephant Tusk

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So in light of revelations about Greg Mortenson's fabrications and gross exaggerations, i have decided to burn my copy of "Three Cups of Tea" - all the cool kids seem to be burning books these days, so i say why not join the club. This book burning event of mine will take place on the coming Monday at 11:00AM. It will be hosted on justin.tv.

As for what i'm reading. I'm acting reading "Three cups of deceit" which is written by one of Mortenson's former associates - detailing the latter's twisting of facts, mismanagement of funds, egotistical and self obsessed nature. It's a short book and I'm almost all the way through. But if you - like me - were misled by the grandiose claims of Mortenson and happened to donate large sums of money - i donated my lucky penny - then this book lays out a devastating case, that Mr.Mortenson is in fact serving tea with rotten milk!

Edited by Fiasco

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So in light of revelations about Greg Mortenson's fabrications and gross exaggerations, i have decided to burn my copy of "Three Cups of Tea" - all the cool kids seem to be burning books these days, so i say why not join the club. This book burning event of mine will take place on the coming Monday at 11:00AM. It will be hosted on justin.tv.

As for what i'm reading. I'm acting reading "Three cups of deceit" which is written by one of Mortenson's former associates - detailing the latter's twisting of facts, mismanagement of funds, egotistical and self obsessed nature. It's a short book and I'm almost all the way through. But if you - like me - were misled by the grandiose claims of Mortenson and happened to donate large sums of money - i donated my lucky penny - then this book lays out a devastating case, that Mr.Mortenson is in fact serving tea with rotten milk!

I wonder how many such accounts of messianic works of social importance done by the Noble White Man are exaggerated or fabricated to score brownie points, and, of course, to earn fame, plaudits, recognition and, indeed, printo-dollars.

I am glad I haven't read the book. I am going to read it for sure, but now with a different outlook. I bought a pirated copy in good time some time ago. So at least I didn't add to Mortenson's book sales revenue :D

thanks for the review marbles

seems like a good read to me, as it covers the subject of jihad and most importantly has a south asian perspective to it,.... iA i'll buy it soon

You are welcome.

Yes, it's a document worth reading :)

Edited by Marbles

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I wonder how many such accounts of messianic works of social importance done by the Noble White Man are exaggerated or fabricated to score brownie points, and, of course, to earn fame, plaudits, recognition and, indeed, printo-dollars.

I am glad I haven't read the book. I am going to read it for sure, but now with a different outlook. I bought a pirated copy in good time some time ago. So at least I didn't add to Mortenson's book sales revenue :D

Readers who may not know much about the political situation in remote areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan, still know, based on images they see on television, that the situation of women is disastrous. Three Cups of Tea reaffirmed that message, and provided a savior in the form of Mortenson. But what about women’s organizations in Pakistan and Afghanistan? Why are they not part of this picture of empowerment of women? These questions are not directly addressed in these kinds of discussions, because, by definition it seems, Afghan and Pakistani women are victims, and not actors in their own lives; they are in need of help from the outside.

The other reason for the popularity of the book is its inspirational message. To a certain extent, it gives American readers a chance to redeem themselves for their government’s disastrous involvement in the region. After all, the drone attacks that the US government has been conducting in the region since 2004 have resulted in untold numbers of civilian deaths—which set back the cause not just of women’s rights, but of human rights in general. By donating money to the Central Asia Institute, people feel that, in spite of the fraught nature of this involvement, at least some good is being done. http://lailalalami.com/2011/greg-mortenson-and-the-business-of-redemption/

The boded is very true. Muslim women, even by the well intentioned Westerner, are generally viewed as passive, unable to take initiative, and thus the need to be "saved". There's little acknowledgement that grassroots work is being done for education and womens rights in Pakistan. Before the Afghan war, women in Afghanistan were organizing to create a network to fight back again Taliban chauvinism. The only reason CAI has been effective is because of the massive funding it's received. Otherwise, it would be a disaster because of it's gross incompetence and inefficiency.

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The Leopard and the Fox: A Pakistani Tragedy by Tariq Ali

(First publised 2007)

This is a short screen play on the last years of Bhutto government, his overthrow in a military coup and his execution by the military junta (1977-1979).

BBC commissioned Tariq Ali to write the play but they abandoned the project when the rehearsals were about to start. The reason was the pressure from the British Foreign Office (talk about free Western media) because the writer alleged that the US gave green signal to the hanging of Bhutto. Not only this, the US was in covert talks with the Zia-led army to "fix" the "problems" in Pakistan. At the time of the writing, Zia was an ally of Britain and fighting the Hot part of the Cold War for the US. He couldn't have been angered with the publication of a book which accused him (Zia) for the judicial murder of the first elected prime minister of Pakistan. So the BBC came up with the excuse that there was a possibility of a range of defamation suits.

The play starts with the politically charged atmosphere in the country in the aftermath of the national elections in which Bhutto was reelected for the second time. There was evidence of widespread ballot rigging and the Opposition demanded nothing less than fresh elections. As Bhutto and the Opposition were busy in intense talks the Army led by Zia, fearful of loosing its power and influence in the country's establishment, was plotting against Bhutto's government.

The main concern of the generals was the policies of the government which did not please the US (Socialist oriented economy, nuclear program, and Bhutto's public announcement in favour of building an atom bomb). The US threatened to withdraw all its life lines to the Pakistan military, which depended heavily on US military aid since it joined Cold War US alliances.

The military of Pakistan, an institution unto itself, wanted to safeguard its interest as well as its hold on Pakistan's economy and politics with the ouster of Bhutto, who in his term in office, ruled with an autocratic hand and made a lot of domestic political enemies who could be mobilized against him. On the international scene, despite the fact that Pakistan was a technical ally of the US (or The Free World) against the Soviet bloc, Bhutto's government angered the US by turning to China and cultivating good relations with the Soviets.

The scene was set. The drama unfolded. The generals who did not support the coup were threatened with consequences and silenced with incentives, and the guy who was promoted by Bhutto over 5 (or 6) senior generals to be the head of Pakistan Army, Zia-ul-Haq, thanked his beneficiary by ousting him from power and later hanging him till dead.

This play is much better than Tariq Ali's other play on the BCCI. It faithfully depicts the historical characters, the dialogues are strong and the sequence of scenes keeps the reader interested till end. It is a book you can read in one sitting.

My book rating: 4/5

AMAZON LINK

Edited by Marbles

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The Sunset Club by Khushwant Singh

(First Published 2010)

What do you do at the age of 95? The answer is write a novel. That's right. Khushwant Singh, now 96, well, alive, and sill writing with hand, is back with his latest novel. He says in the preface that he had no intention of writing anything besides usual columns in newspaper (his column "With malice towards one and all" is famous and continuing). But one of his friends persuaded him to record the memories of his old and dead friends which he so often talks about. This became the raison d'être and he began to write.

It is a story of three octogenarians; a Hindu, a Muslim and a Sikh. The Sikh character is in large part autobiographical, having the same views as author's autobiography (Truth, Love a Little Malice). The thee old men are living retired lives and have a lot of free time on hand. They meet every evening in Delhi's Lodhi Gardens which is surrounded by historical monuments especially from Indo-Islamic past. They talk and exchange views about the current Indian politics, culture, religion and other things. The narrative is set from 26 January 2009 till 26th January 2010.

Reading the novel one gets to know about the city of Delhi, its past, its present, its trees and flowers, and its cultural life. The issues in contemporary Indian society are looked at from the eyes of a dying generation.

The novel has all the characteristics of Khushwant Singh except one. It has clarity of language, acid wit, excellent depiction of desi Indian life, superb translation of vernacular expression, free pen to sex, except an engaging story. Actually the plot does not exist. It is a big weakness which takes away the suspense from reading.

"The Sunset Club is a deeply moving exploration of friendship, sexuality, old age and infirmity; a joyous celebration of nature; an insightful portrait of India’s paradoxes and complexities. "

In the end, the Hindu and the Muslim of the trio die and leave Boota Singh, the Sikh one, alone to wait death. A true reference to the author's own life who says that not a single friend of his from old days is alive. He is, after all, 96.

My book rating: 3/5

PUBLISHER'S LINK

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Absolute Khushwant: The Low-Down on Life, Death and Most Things In-Between By Khushwant Singh & Humra Quraishi

(First Published 2010)

This book will interest those who want to know more about Khushwant Singh. In it the author tells about his life and views on a range of topics. For example the chapters are titled "On Being very old man; On happiness; Solitude: the secret of longevity; On love; My regrets; My biggest worry: intolerance; All bout sex" and many other topics of interests like his views on communal violence, religion, Urdu, Pakistan, Indra Gandhi, and so on.

This is a post-autobiography book, like a meeting with an old man who still speaks and writes like a full-of-life 30 years.

From the link below:

"One of the great icons of our time, Khushwant Singh, 95, is a man of contradictions. An agnostic who’s well-versed in the holy scriptures; a vocal champion of free speech who supported the Emergency; a ‘dirty old man’ who sees ‘the world in a grain of sand and beauty in a wild flower’.

My book rating: 3/5

PUBLISHER'S LINK

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