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 Two in One Review

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Number of posts : 3518
Location : Rhode Island, USA
Dictionary Definition : Dictionary Definition: Paul-One of the few male LC creatures known to exist, this specimen is one of the eldest in the LC universe. This specimen is known to work long hours but still makes time to commingle with fellow LC denizens. This being has a peculiar sense of humor and has been observed to shun smilies, although this aversion has been lessening as of late.
Registration date : 2009-02-06

PostSubject: Two in One Review    Wed Nov 23, 2011 12:37 am

The Trial by Franz Kafka

My first foray into Kafka was an interesting one. Apparently this was Kafka's last book before he died, and he did not want it published. So much for honoring someone's last wish. Anyway, I found the story about a man being charged with a crime (along with the case's "progress") that is never explained to him, with the surrounding absurdity, to be actually quite relatable to those of us who seem to be pushed around and overwhelmed by life for no apparent reason. Every action that the main character, Joseph K., takes always seems to be the wrong one. Whenever he tries to find the reason for his predicament he is told by everyone around him that he is making things immeasurably worse for himself. Yeah, I can relate to that. Sounds familiar. Joseph K. almost seems to welcome what happens to him at the end.

The only thing about Kafka's writing that drove me nuts was his love of huge paragraphs. They would go on for pages at a time, not even breaking apart for dialogue. Maybe that's why I read it so fast: I couldn't find a place to stop and put in my bookmark.

My Friend the Mercenary by James Brabazon

This is a non-fiction account of a British journalist (the author) who goes to Liberia to film the civil war there around 2003. In South Africa he hires a mercenary by the name of Nick du Toit to act as his bodyguard and adviser. They meet up with the rebels who are fighting then-president Charles Taylor, and Brabazon experiences the horror, savagery, and occasional absurdity of the vicious back-and-forth fighting. During this he bonds with du Toit and becomes his friend.

Afterward du Toit informs Brazabon of a pending coup in another African country where he will be leading a mercenary force, and he invites Brabazon to film it. It turns out this is the ill-fated coup of Equatorial Guinea, where not only du Toit but such prominent British citizens as Simon Mann and the son of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher are implicated in the plot. Through a twist of fate (his grandfather's death and funeral), Brabazon avoids this disaster and the jail time many of the other plotters, like du Toit, are sentenced to in the infamous Black Beach prison.

The remainder of the book has Brabazon trying to figure out what went wrong, and why his friend du Toit hung around Equatorial Guinea when it was clear the planned coup was falling to pieces. Du Toit spends several years in Black Beach but is finally released in 2009, a fragile shell of the man he used to be.

The book and the details were interesting, and mercenaries have always had a fascination to me, but unfortunately Brabazon's writing more often than not comes out flat, as if he were repeating a oft-told tale. Still, for anyone interested in the volatility of African politics and the gritty world of mercenaries this is still a decent book to read.

So many things I would have done, but clouds got in my way.--Joni Mitchell
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Registration date : 2011-07-19

PostSubject: Re: Two in One Review    Thu Nov 24, 2011 12:46 am

Thanks for posting Paul. I’ve had my eye on The Trial for some time but haven’t had the time to read it. I have read a number of reviews about the book and almost all of them say that it generates a sense of frustration within the reader. I believe that was the effect Kafka was going for. I read The Metamorphosis a while back and found it a terrific read, but also has those long paragraphs, which as you have said, helped to finish it sooner than expected. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez was very similar in that respect; it broke only for chapters, not for dialogue or any other reason. Given the concept of that novel and the style it was written, it made starting the book a very daunting task, but rewarding none the less. The Trial is very high on my to read list, which is possibly longer than the Magna Carta right now. Very Happy

My Friend the Mercenary also sounds right up my street, as I have said before; I have always had a keen interest in African history and politics. The Simon Mann/ Mark Thatcher coup was a particularly interesting one. Damn you Paul, I have to add another book to my list. Wink
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