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Avdullah Monthly Book Review #1 - January 2022
Graham Greene's tragedies in failed nations, and Ernst Junger's lust for war and life
I’ve missed you, my friends. I’ve seemed to adjust to posting once a week as time permits, but that still doesn’t feel enough with all the support I’ve gotten in such a short period of time since I started taking writing seriously. This is the schedule I’m keeping for now and it will be no less than this, but don’t be surprised if the muses allow me to drop an extra post here and there.
For this Saturday, I’m starting a new series on the latest books I’ve been devouring each month. As many of you know, my taste in books has taken on a semi-permanent taste in the old, spiritual, and atypical of the mainstream garbage most who consider themselves “bookworms” consume today. This is not a means to toot my own horn as I have much to learn, but it’s well beyond proven to me that 100 of the modern-day excuses for popular books are dust in the road compared to just one of Junger or Mishima’s; an anecdote of Conrad or Dumas destroys entire catalogs of what exists in the reading lists of “intellectuals” today.
I was told this was quite the hilarious book, though to me it came in short bursts across the story (especially in the last third of it) rather than a slow burn of comedic jabs. The Comedians is about an aging, lonely Englishman who goes to Haiti to see his insane dying mother and inherit her hotel. He has a great time running it when Haiti was a leisurely vacation spot until the infamous Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier takes over and turns it into a steaming shit hole filled with Shabiha style secret police, the Tonton Macoute, that drain the country dry like gangsters. He flees, then the story starts three years later when he returns trying to sell what’s left of his once-bustling hotel.
It’s an outrageous story filled with strange, equally outrageous characters you’d expect from such a setting. I do admit I got quite bored in the first act, but it was nice to reflect on the realities of a failed state. I don’t speak of the material or physical aspects of it; those you can get used to. The stress, anxiety caused by unpredictable chaos, the feeling that your entire fate rests on the mental stability (or lack thereof) of a mad ruler who can chimp at you with unrestricted insanity for policies depending on how he feels that day. Sound familiar?
What I took from The Comedians, above the lessons of the story, was this reality of the failed nation. It’s not losing power or access to luxuries that truly kills the populace, the dopamine withdrawal ends at some point. It’s exactly that state of unpreparedness and sudden chaos that breaks your will as a citizen. In the end, I found myself remembering a great thread by my friend Clawson Smith on this similar kind of state-sanctioned enslavement in communist states. Duvalier was not a communist, but it’s not a coincidence that failed “far-right” dictatorships and communist ones end up becoming metaphysically the same.
There’s also the plot of love he has with a German lady, and the hilarious naivete of an American couple he meets and stays at his hotel. “Mr & Mrs. Smith” reminded me much of today’s idiotic progressives, many who are kind at heart yet so out of touch with the ways the latrines of the world outside the US work that it would be adorable if it weren’t so detrimental to everyone around them. They were the characters I enjoyed the most because of their ridiculous nature, and Greene’s portrayal of them shows the delusions these types have when confronted with the violent nature of the God-forsaken holes they try so hard to pull their “fellow man” out of.
I don’t know when I’ll explore Greene’s work again, but my next pick is going to be The Power and The Glory as recommended once by Benjamin Braddock, a friend of ours many of us know.
War as an Inner Experience
There’s plenty I can say about Junger, the first of which is that I feel indebted to him each time I read one of his fantastic works. War as an Inner Experience follows his first installment in his WW1 diaries, The Storm of Steel, which I read last summer.
Unlike The Storm of Steel which was a matter-of-fact telling of his time as a stormtrooper from deployment in France to the Prussian defeat, WAAIE was an exploration of the masculine soul in combat. What envelops the heart and spirit of man as he kills another he’s never met? As the shells and bullets rain upon you yet spare you their impact? What’s there to say or feel as your trench is submerged in water, mud, and shit to such a degree that it forces you to walk across No Man’s Land and shake the hands of those men you were fighting because the same had occurred to them? These questions and more are explored by Junger. He makes you understand the meaning of war, of brotherhood, and what it truly means for the courageous man to have an enemy he does not hate but respects with almost intimate regard.
He let’s loose fully, as he did in The Storm of Steel, his Nietzchean attitudes of youth and vitality that inspired much of his work. Very often he refers to a “them” in the book; the cowardly and anti-war amongst any nation who does not understand such urges. What I found most endearing was the style in which he wrote such aphorisms. It felt as if he was addressing the reader, the young men taking after him, with a kind of brotherly intimacy that's always found amongst groups of men who are true friends. It’s the literary form of the wink you give a friend after telling an inside joke in public. “Yes, the things I speak of is something we, the brave men, get. Not these losers!” was the vibe that defined this short, yet poetic work. It’s no wonder why the young German men of his time admired him so much. He spoke to them like brothers amongst them in the trenches, not from a tower above like a pompous braggart.
This is the work I plan on recommending to anyone who asks the question of war, or that of men’s obsessions with it as it evolves throughout the centuries. His next two war diary books, Copse 125 and Fire and Blood, are definitely on my list for next time.
I give both of these books high marks, and I recommend them to you. The Comedians could have been more engaging in that first half, but I blame myself for that as a part of the Gen Z iPhone generation rather than Green’s capabilities as a writer, and the lessons he includes are still invaluable.
If you learn one thing from this monthly series, it’s the gems and eternal truths are always found in old books of these kinds. If you have any recommendations for others, drop them in the comments (not for me please, my reading list is too stacked already).
Until we meet again, auf wiedersehen!