Book Review: Understanding the Modern World through Sigmund Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents

civilization-and-its-discontentsCivilization and Its Discontents by Sigmund Freud

Civilization and Its Discontents is one of the last of Freud’s books, written in the decade before his death and first published in German in 1929. In it he states his views on the broad question of man’s place in the world, a place Freud defines in terms of ceaseless conflict between the individual’s quest for freedom and society’s demand for conformity. 

It stands as a brilliant summary of the views on culture from a psychoanalytic perspective that he had been developing since the turn of the century. It is both witness and tribute to the late theory of mind—the so-called structural theory, with its stress on aggression, indeed the death drive, as the pitiless adversary of eros. (Goodreads)

Written in 1929 and published in 1930, at the time when almost all of Europe was suffering from the bouts of the Great Depression, Civilization and Its Discontents presented a rather timely account of man’s progression in history propelled by what Freud referred to as the ‘love impulse’ and the ‘aggressive impulse’. It showed how man acquires company and culture as he advances further and further into human relations and how such associations bring along the weight of man’s discontentment and unhappiness upon his shoulders.

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Book Review: Embarking on a Sojourn through F. Sionil Jose’s Viajero

Viajero: A Filipino Novel by F. Sionil Jose viajero-f-sionil-jose

Viajero is a novel of history of the Philippine Islands and their people long before the Spaniards came. It is also the story of the Filipino diaspora as seen by an orphan who is brought by an American captain to the United States in 1945. Through the eyes of Salvador dela Raza unfolds the epic voyage of the Filipino, from the earliest contact with China through Magellan’s tragedy in Mactan, onto the heroic voyage of the galleons across the Pacific.  Viajero concludes with the movement of Filipino workers to the Middle East, and the travail of Filipino women in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Tokyo. (Goodreads)

The pathway to the past is marked by steep cobblestones, clothed by the deafening silence of an elapsed era, dressed in the eerie ensemble of a time gone by. Its avenues are trampled with relics of what was once an event, barred forever in the gates of human history, never to return again. Yet in the vast and desolate expanse of its abandoned boulevards specters of the distant past gather to bring the howling apparition of one man’s lucid and strikingly familiar account of his search for ancestry. In the midst of all that is burned eternally by the flames of our forgotten yesteryears lies the breathing ember of our memory, glowing in the Cimmerian shade of our consciousness, bursting to the anthem of our own heritage, reminding us of the blood in our veins and the color of our skin, awakening us to the truth of who we really are.

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Book Review: Exploring Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World

brave-new-world-cover Brave New World by Aldous Huxley 

Far in the future, the World Controllers have created the ideal society. Through clever use of genetic engineering, brainwashing and recreational sex and drugs, all its members are happy consumers. Bernard Marx seems alone harbouring an ill-defined longing to break free. A visit to one of the few remaining Savage Reservations, where the old, imperfect life still continues, may be the cure for his distress. Huxley’s ingenious fantasy of the future sheds a blazing light on the present and is considered to be his most enduring masterpiece. (Goodreads)

If there is a list of books I wish I read in college, Brave New World would definitely be included in that list. The book was a constant reference of one of my favorite professors in college. It was a habit of his to mention the book in a way that you would not normally expect an instructor to do, as in a way an instructor would carefully and especially refer to an external source, but in a way that would assume you have already read the book. He spoke about Brave New World so casually that it was almost painful to sit down and listen in class, all the while knowing deep in your brain that you have not read the book just yet.

About a month ago, I finally had the luxury of time to sit down and read Brave New World. In a matter of days, I was able to finish the book, but not without difficulty. The novel left me with a lot of questions, even more than when I first started reading it. And only now, after almost a month of toying with these ideas, will I settle to face and write all these questions.

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20 Most Memorable Lines from The Catcher in the Rye

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Published in 1951, the Catcher in the Rye created a rustle in the literary scene and brought a shock to publishers and readers alike—a novel impact that even after 65 years since its original publication, the book continues to capture attention as one of the most controversial books in the history of the printed word.

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Book Review: Rereading J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye

the-catcher-in-the-ryeThe Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

J.D. Salinger’s classic novel of teenage angst and rebellion was first published in 1951. The novel was included on Time’s 2005 list of the 100 best English-language novels written since 1923. It was named by Modern Library and its readers as one of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. It has been frequently challenged in the court for its liberal use of profanity and portrayal of sexuality and in the 1950’s and 60’s it was the novel that every teenage boy wants to read. (Goodreads)

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Rediscovering Murakami: On Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

colorless-tsukuru-tazakiColorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is the long-awaited new novel—a book that sold more than a million copies the first week it went on sale in Japan—from the award-winning, internationally best-selling author Haruki Murakami. Here he gives us the remarkable story of Tsukuru Tazaki, a young man haunted by a great loss; of dreams and nightmares that have unintended consequences for the world around us; and of a journey into the past that is necessary to mend the present. It is a story of love, friendship, and heartbreak for the ages. (Goodreads)

We can only live through so much damage. Damage we’ve done to ourselves, damage inflicted by those around us, damage that comes with living in the world. All sorts of damage. After that the heart, or at least what remains of it, ceases to carry any more burden and shuts itself out, grows harder than quartzite, if not freezes altogether. So much like a machine, the human heart has its point of breakage, a marked pain level that, when reached, announces through a loud blaring sound the signal to stop. Once the thin red line of warning has been crossed, an alarm siren goes off, an emergency line rings on, to send the screaming message inside of us: Enough is enough.

Haruki Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage (2013) offers a deep insight into the infernal interiors of damage. It shares the story of a young man whose encounter with life has brought him to the edge of death. A young man struck by the mammoth amount of suffering that it seemed no amount of healing would bring back what was marred within him, whose loss has proven to be so tremendous that he has created instead a spot near nothing where he nurtures his now barren life with all the safety he could afford.

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On Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five

slaughter-house-fiveSlaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut’s absurdist classic Slaughterhouse-Five introduces us to Billy Pilgrim, a man who becomes unstuck in time after he is abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore. In a plot-scrambling display of virtuosity, we follow Pilgrim simultaneously through all phases of his life, concentrating on his (and Vonnegut’s) shattering experience as an American prisoner of war who witnesses the firebombing of Dresden. (Goodreads)

But all the clocks in the city
Began to whirr and chime:
‘O let not Time deceive you,
You cannot conquer Time.

Another Time (1937).
W. H. Auden

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Quick Note on Haruki Murakami’s Sputnik Sweetheart

sputnik-sweetheartSputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami

Sumire is in love with a woman seventeen years her senior. But whereas Miu is glamorous and successful, Sumire is an aspiring writer who dresses in an oversized second-hand coat and heavy boots like a character in a Kerouac novel. Sumire spends hours on the phone talking to her best friend K about the big questions in life: what is sexual desire, and should she ever tell Miu how she feels for her? Meanwhile K wonders whether he should confess his own unrequited love for Sumire. Then, a desperate Miu calls from a small Greek island: Sumire has mysteriously vanished. (Goodreads)

I have just finished reading Sputnik Sweetheart. It seems to me that I have set for myself a record for reading a novel in a span of only two days. Sputnik Sweetheart not only portrays a picture of human loss and enstrangement in a world that has been perpetually cruel and harsh to human beings but also illustrates the fact that there is within the human heart a deep insurmountable desire, a supernatural longing for something beyond the temporal world; something that surpasses the finitude of our fragile human existence. I personally think that is precisely the very concept which Murakami has delivered perfectly well.

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