Fritz Tucker, Zeteo Associate Editor
[One in an ongoing series of posts. For the full series see Zeteo is Reading.]
I just read Shah of Shahs, by Richard Kapuscinski. It was the perfect book for getting back into the academic mood in the late summer without actually being an academic. Written from the first person perspective of an Iranian revolutionary journalist by a Polish man who was not actually present during the Iranian Revolution, Kapuscinski nevertheless gets to the heart of the matter in a novel way. Shah of Shahs is a work of literature that may be completely true; a history book with no citations, making for some good, relaxing reading without having to take too many notes.
In one section, Kapuscinski talks about the state of Tehran just after the 1979 revolution.
These uneasy nights force people to lock themselves in their own homes. There is no curfew, but getting anywhere between midnight and dawn is difficult and risky… [I]t’s no fun trying to predict just whose ambush is awaiting you, whose trap you’ll fall into. People don’t like surprises, so they barricade themselves in their homes at night… No friends will drop by; nothing like that will happen. I have no one to talk to.
This passage made me realize how much more important family must be to people living in cities with an official or unofficial curfew. It also made me realize how helpless, worthless, and alone somebody must feel when their entire family is killed. With little social and civil life to make up for a lack of family life, self-immolation, or more violent forms of suicide, begin to make a whole lot more sense.
30 August 2013
I came across this article from Medium.com about words in languages other than English that do not translate directly into English. My favorites are:
Culaccino (Italian): the mark left on a table by a cold glass
Iktsuarpok (Inuit): the feeling of anticipation that leads you to keep looking outside to see if anyone is coming
Komorebi (Japanese): sunlight that filters through the leaves of trees
Goya (Urdu): the transporting suspension of disbelief that can occur, i.e. in good storytelling
Pochemuchka (Russian): a person who asks a lot of questions
For some reason, I feel like that last one is probably a bad word. Here’s my list of English words that I feel probably don’t translate into every language: onanist, gerrymander, pathetic, gallivant, burger.
31 August 2013
On the subject of words, here is another passage from Shah of Shahs:
The other people at the bus stop had been listening in dread, for they had sensed from the beginning that the feeble elderly man was committing an unpardonable error by saying “oppressive” to a stranger. Experience had taught them to avoid uttering such terms as oppressiveness, darkness, burden, abyss, collapse, quagmire, putrefaction, cage, bars, chain, gag, truncheon, boot, claptrap, screw, pocket, paw, madness, and expressions like lie down, lie flat, spread eagle, fall on your face, wither away, gotten flabby, go blind, go deaf, wallow in it, something’s out of kilter, something’s wrong, all screwed up, something’s got to give–because all of them, these nouns, verbs, adjectives, and pronouns, could hide allusions to the Shah’s regime, and thus formed a connotative minefield where you could get blown to bits with one slip of the tongue (Kapuscinski, pg. 44).