I have enjoyed reading Ken Follett with his book “Pillars of the earth”. I don’t know why it took me so long to go back to reading another one of his books. Century Trilogy is truly an epic book covering whole of history of 20th century. The first part “Fall of Giants” covers beginning of the century, Russian revolution and the first world war.
The world events are chronicled through the eyes of few families in US, UK, Russia and Germany. All these families are fictional characters but their interplay with actual historical characters is woven beautifully. There are times when I actually went and searched for some names to figure out whether they were fiction or real. Some of the families were already in aristocratic position but what is surprising is the role of common people who contributed to the history and their own advance through the century. This book reminds us once again that lot of things that we take for granted today like voting rights for women have come into picture only a century ago.
I remember very little of history from my school days and this was a kind of refresher course for me. I think history should be taught to students in this kind of storytelling way rather than expecting them to learn dates and events in isolation. This way of history teaching will also tell you how the events in history affected general population and what was the social impact of major political event.
I also think that lot more was happening around the world in other countries that is not covered by this book. But the events leading to world war and aftermath did shape the nations in the most decisive way for the century.
There is lot more to cover about other books and more importantly the social and family aspects of 20th century but that will have to wait for another time.
I return back to one of my favorite genres of fictional history though in this case it is more of history and more of non-fiction based on archeology, astronomy and study of various myths, monuments and cultures around the world. “Fingerprints of the Gods”, questions the established history of the world and tries to prove that some highly advanced civilization existed more than 10000 years ago that perished due to natural calamities but they have left part of their knowledge in various myths, monuments and cultures throughout the world.
The style of author Graham Hancock is really thought-provoking and very similar to Jared Diamond who had written “Guns, Germs and Steel”, but the subject matter is quite different. He has done extensive research on the archeological evidence found in Mexico, Peru and Egypt and asks several questions about unexplained mysteries if we were to believe in the currently established history. There are several references to Indian mythology as well and his thoughts are that these are not really myths and such civilization was in existence at that time and we may find the proof of such civilization if we dig deep in the ice sheets of Antarctica.
He has dealt with the Pyramids of Egypt in great detail and the main question is that none of these Pyramids were built to protect the dead bodies of Pharaohs, but their purpose was entirely different. The scientific precision and alignment to stars that is used in making of these Pyramids points to a different purpose and probably they were built to preserve the scientific knowledge of the past. I was also thinking that maybe these Pyramids were the Noah’s Ark and were meant to indicate when the next catastrophe will take place and then to protect the civilization at that time.
The problems with these theories is that you can never tell for sure whether they are just stories or have facts in them. But it is definitely worth considering them since they might affect our future.
Sometime back I had finished reading tales of Tenali Raman and recently finished reading stories of Mullah Nasruddin. In many ways the tales are similar but in some unique ways Nasruddin in very different from Tenali Raman. Nasruddin is a trickster and a jester at the same time. He manages to outsmart everybody most of the time but there are times when he also ends up being a fool and that is the beauty of Nasruddin.
The oldest tales of Nasruddin have been found in book called “Saltukname” and according to this book Nasruddin was born in 13th century in Turkey. I am not sure whether all the tales that are attributed to him actually happened or were they present in the earliest book. It is quite possible that over time people have added their own version of new stories using Nasruddin as the central character.
In many of his stories his donkey is a constant companion. Sometimes making a fool of him, sometimes getting beaten up, sometimes getting sold and sometimes showing a camaraderie shown between two friends. Many of the stories end up giving you lessons of life and many of them or just interplay of words. When Nasruddin ends up making a fool of himself, you wonder whether he is the same person who outsmarts everybody all the time.
I guess whether it was Tenali Raman or Birbal or Mullah Nasruddin and probably there are many more in different cultures of the world, the stories were created to provide some fun and teaching at the same time. But we forget about the common sense that is portrayed in these stories.
We have all heard of people like Birbal, Mullah Nasruddin and Tenali Raman. All of these are historical figures and worked as court jesters at different points of time in history. Tenali Raman worked in the court of Vijayanagar Empire in 16th century. Sri Krishna Deva Raya ruled the kingdom at that time and his court had many intelligent advisors but Tenali Raman is the most famous one. This book is a collection of short stories about Tenali Raman and how he managed to outwit everybody through his intelligence, shrewdness and ingenuity.
Many of the stories involve Tenali Raman taking on the King resulting in King getting angry with him but in the end it was Tenali Raman who always prevailed and managed to make the King understand his point of view. Some of the stories are very simple but many of them are with very deep meaning. In one story, Tenali Raman serves Sharbat (A kind of cold-drink) to courtiers in different types of cups. All of them try to take the best looking ones and the simple cups were left behind. Now the idea here was to enjoy the Sharbat but we all end up getting worried about the cups. It is so true in our lives as well.
It is really amazing that all these stories have survived. I am not sure whether they were written down or whether they have just been passed on from one generation to another through word of mouth. All the stories have feel good ending and make so much sense after we finish reading them. It is a coincidence that immediately after Tenali Raman, I am reading stories of Mullah Nasruddin but I will write about that some other time.
I am not sure whether it can be called as complete history or whether it had some fiction mixed with it. “Those Who Love” is the biography of second US president John Adams written from the perspective of his wife Abigail Adams. I have always liked Irving Stone’s work. His books are very well researched and pick on one particular personality and then goes deep into the life of that person as well as the era of that time. The book was lying with me for a long time but remained unread but eventually I picked it up and once I had gone past first few pages, it became very interesting. It is not a thriller but written in a style that you want to keep on reading it.
The story covers extensive details about US independence since John Adams was one of the founding fathers and had a great role to play before and after the declaration of independence. The story also covers the personal life of John and Abigail. I really liked the way their courtship and dating started and eventually resulted in their marriage. I was reading a biography after a long time and they have always amazed me. You start reading about the life from the time when the person is not so famous and then slowly you follow his trials and successes till he becomes the president of the US.
Since the book is written from the perspective of Abigail Adams, the author has tried to keep the language from those times. It brings a smile to your face when Abigail says that she is in the season again referring to her pregnancy. The book also covers their family life. How they pickle for the cold season and run the household, the mode of transport that is primarily horses and carts. Overall, a really great book and life.