Learning and Thinking with the Help of Fiction

DSC01591

I’ve recently read two really great books and I wanted to mention them on my blog, so, in the end, I decided the best thing to do was to talk about them together. After all, they have something in common.

The first book is Honour by Elif Shafak, which I already mentioned in an award post. The book actually deals with quite a lot of topics, but the central theme is an honour murder about which the reader learnes in the first chapter and is held in the grip of its imminence. The novel depicts everything that lead to the murder, for the most part the way of life in Kurdish villlages in Turkey, and all that followed. Since certain characters leave Turkey for London, it also explores the issues of living in a culture different than your own and the danger of being influenced by extremists. This is presented in a way which doesn’t propagate anything, but only opens the door of understanding and gives the reader something to think about. The story is spread through three generations, and it follows multiple points of view, but it never gets confusing. The characters seem very real, and the language is gorgeous. Even though the main event of the novel is an honour murder, and at points it gets very sad, the reader cannot help but notice just how beautifully Elif Shafak writes. And even though the novel is sad, I didn’t find it depressing – in the end, it’s even hopeful. After reading it, I immediately decided that I would read more of Shafak’s novels in the future.

The other book I want to talk about is Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This one is, I think, quite well-known. The novel follows two Nigerian characters, Ifemelu and Obinze, and is at first sight a love story. Except that it is not really a love story. The book deals with immigration, culture, social classes, and most of all with the issue of race. In comparison to Honour, which touches on similar topics, Americanah is much more factual, especially the parts presented through Ifemelu’s point of view since, after moving to USA, she starts a blog about her experiences as a “Non-American Black”, as she puts it.  A lot can be learned about Nigeria from this book, just like Honour gives an insight of rural Turkey. And just as in Honour, the characters in Americanah are very real and believable. Even though both books were a pleasure to read, they also made me think and taught me a lot. And isn’t that the best combination one could wish for?

Even though I liked Honour a little bit more, I’m aware that’s just a case of personal preference, and I would recommend both books with equal vigour. But most of all, I would recommend reading books about the issues or cultures you may not be as familiar with. There are so many books like that out there. I can add another example – The Golem and the Djinni, a book about which I wrote before. (see the post HERE)

Learn about the world you live in as much as you can! Happy reading! 🙂

The Sunflower and the Worm

Image courtesy of Pixomar at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Pixomar at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Why do you always hide in the ground?” the Sunflower asked the Worm.

“It is my home”, the Worm replied.

“Such a sad home it is, so dark and cold! I pity you for I spend my days proudly, facing the brilliant Sun.”

“No, it is I who pity you”, grumbled the Worm. “For the Sun blinds you and you can’t see that life isn’t always bright.”

“You envy me”, smiled the Sunflower.

“How could I envy you, when you have nowhere to hide?” asked the worm.

“What would I hide from? The world is so beautiful and full of splendour, so why hide when you can live?”

The Worm did not reply, but crawled into the ground, thinking how stupid the yellow flower was.

And so they lived, one in the sun and the other in the ground, but it was hard to say who truly lived in the light and who was in the dark. The world didn’t care, it just went on. Many sunflowers and worms lived before these two, and many more will live after them, each in their own way – the best way they know.