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review 2017-11-23 19:34
Tales in Colour by Kunzang Choden
Tales In Colour And Other Stories - Kunzang Choden

This is a surprisingly good collection of short stories about the lives of women in contemporary, mostly rural Bhutan, by a Bhutanese author, whose own life I wanted to read more about after the all-too-brief introduction detailing her own culture shock as a young girl in an Indian boarding school and her observations of the way women’s lives have changed in Bhutan, often becoming less independent under the influence of foreign culture.

The quality of the book was unexpected to me because, first, I bounced off the author’s novel awhile back (I may now give it another chance), and second, the publishers really let the author down here. The punctuation is bad and there are some grammatical mistakes. It’s unfortunate, though understandable, that this lack of professional copyediting has led some to conclude that the author lacks literary talent, when other indications are to the contrary. The thirteen stories are well-structured and engaging, getting the reader quickly invested in the characters’ lives.

As a cultural document this is fascinating, illuminating various aspects of ordinary life in Bhutan. The stories range from optimistic (a young woman who alternates between visiting her brother in the city, where she adopts the life of an urban sophisticate, and returning to the country to muck out sheds for her mother) to tragic (a dwarf who is shunned by most of her family and community until her death). There’s a strong sense of community life: in one story no one will turn in the village thief because everyone is interdependent, while another, about a single mother whose hard work gets her son through school and allows him to achieve a comfortable life for them both, feels not quite triumphant because it’s framed by the villagers left behind, who experience their success only by viewing photographs.

But the stories are still focused on individual choices and lives; many of the protagonists are poor single mothers, either giving birth outside of marriage, or providing for their families after leaving or being left by their husbands. It is certainly a more dynamic view of individual and family life than Western stereotypes about Asian farmers would lead you to expect. It’s mostly a realistic collection, but there is room for fancy too, as in one story about a misunderstanding between a woman and a mouse.

I finished through this collection quickly, was engaged by the stories, found the characters believable and sympathetic, and enjoyed the strong sense of place and learning about Bhutan. It’s a shame the publishers didn’t do their part; with a bit of polish and a strong publishing house behind it, this could be a real literary success.

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review 2015-06-16 07:44
Oddech Boga - Jeffrey Small,Agnieszka Kalus

Kolejna pozycja, przy której od razu nasuwają się porównania do książek Dona Browna. Tym razem nie wiem, czy to źle, czy dobrze. Mimo podobieństw do bestsellerowych "pierwowzorów" i schematyzmu konstrukcji fabuły, książka jest dość strawna.

 

 

Co prawda znowu mamy młodego amerykańskiego naukowca (doktoranta), który ma lekką fobię przed publicznymi wystąpieniami, ale jest też momentami dość infantylny w swoich zachowaniach. Chwilami odnosi się wrażenie, że bohater dąży "do doktoratu po trupach"... Nie jest denerwująco "wszechwiedzący" jak u Browna. Trzeba mu na przykład tłumaczyć podstawy wiedzy o różnych religiach (może poza protestantyzmem), mimo że jest doktorantem od lat zajmującym się religiami i ich historią (na "czołowych" amerykańskich uniwersytetach). Ale na przykład wie doskonale ile dokładnie cali szerokości i długości mają księgi czytane przez mnichów w buddyjskim klasztorze w Bhutanie...

 

 

Co prawda znowu mamy młodą, śliczną dziennikarkę, ale jest dość ogarnięta.

 

 

Co prawda znowu mamy psychopatycznego obrońcę dogmatów, posiadającego znakomite źródło informacji i bliżej (początkowo) nieokreślonych potężnych mocodawców, ale przynajmniej jego działania nie idą równoległym torem z działaniami policji i FBI.

 

Autobusy turystyczne w Sarnath. Szacunek dla tych, którzy uważają, jak bohaterka książki, że można tam dojechać w dziesięć minut z Waranasi (Sarnath, 2012 r.)

 

Jest też niestety dość standardowe postrzeganie świata. Oto poszukiwany artefakt powinien trafić do Stanów, bo tylko to zapewni jego ewentualną analizę. Inny sposób weryfikacji jego prawdziwości nie wchodzi w grę. Bohater nie ma co do tego absolutnie żadnych wątpliwości. Gloria na amerykańskim uniwersytecie, albo niebyt.

 

"- Sarnath! - wykrzyknęła Kristin. - Miasto, do którego udał się Budda, kiedy osiągnął oświecenie.
- Tam, gdzie miał swoje pierwsze publiczne wystąpienia? - Grant zrozumiał dopiero po chwili.
- Byłam tam - przytaknęła Kristin. - Sarnath znajduje się dziesięć minut drogi od Waranasi."

Jeffrey Small "Oddech Boga"


Koniec końców otrzymujemy rozwinięcie dość ciekawego pomysłu na temat losów świata i łagodne wprowadzenie do religioznawstwa (buddyzm, chrześcijaństwo, islam) okraszone kilkoma niezłymi opisami Indii i Bhutanu z trochę mniejszym poziomem szczegółowości niż u wspomnianego Dana Browna. Mam wrażenie, że autorowi (tłumaczowi?) pomylił się Tajwan z Tajlandią i że zabrakło dżinizmu, ale w sumie całkiem to strawne, może nawet potrzebne, zakładając że kilka osób dowie się z książki co to Bhutan czy Sarnath.

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review 2014-10-02 13:24
Radio Shangri-la: What I Learned in Bhutan, the Happiest Kingdom on Earth by Lisa Napoli
Radio Shangri-la: What I Learned in Bhutan, the Happiest Kingdom on Earth - Lisa Napoli

bookshelves: bhutan, published-2010, travel, nonfiction, autobiography-memoir, midlife-crisis, autumn-2014, journalism, 5-review-from-author-zzzzzz, bellybutton-mining, abandoned, next

Read on October 02, 2014





Description: Lisa Napoli was in the grip of a crisis, dissatisfied with her life and her work as a radio journalist. When a chance encounter with a handsome stranger presented her with an opportunity to move halfway around the world, Lisa left behind cosmopolitan Los Angeles for a new adventure in the ancient Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan—said to be one of the happiest places on earth.

Long isolated from industrialization and just beginning to open its doors to the modern world, Bhutan is a deeply spiritual place, devoted to environmental conservation and committed to the happiness of its people—in fact, Bhutan measures its success in Gross National Happiness rather than in GNP. In a country without a single traffic light, its citizens are believed to be among the most content in the world. To Lisa, it seemed to be a place that offered the opposite of her fast-paced life in the United States, where the noisy din of sound-bite news and cell phones dominate our days, and meaningful conversation is a rare commodity; where everyone is plugged in digitally, yet rarely connects with the people around them.

Thousands of miles away from everything and everyone she knows, Lisa creates a new community for herself. As she helps to start Bhutan’s first youth-oriented radio station, Kuzoo FM, she must come to terms with her conflicting feelings about the impact of the medium on a country that had been shielded from its effects. Immersing herself in Bhutan’s rapidly changing culture, Lisa realizes that her own perspective on life is changing as well—and that she is discovering the sense of purpose and joy that she has been yearning for.


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