My rating: 3 of 5 stars
this story could be a metaphor for every war where a technologically more-advanced country waltzed in and kicked the shit out of a more agrarian one. only in this one, the locals are tenacious; even with their butts kicked militarily, they refuse to adopt the culture of the victors. they adapt it–they co-opt it–they ignore it, and they go on believing in their beliefs and continuing their practices.
must be mighty frustrating for the victors, to have those backward sorts refuse to see how superior they are.
vonnegut said, in reference to anti-war books, that one might as well write an anti-glacier book. all anti-war books have the same theme: war is bad. this book is no different there. but if one is going to be run over by a war machine, one might as well remain unconquered, and if you’re curious how that might play out day-to-day, this is the book for you.
in the Afterword, the author writes:
“All our words have worn out. Democracy, freedom, socialism, economics. They’ve all become kitsch. They summon up kitsch images.”
i don’t honestly know whether that’s true, although it sometimes feels like it. two images are summoned up for me: at Tiananmen in 1989, the ersatz Statue of Liberty. it did strike me as kitsch. but then the other image: the anonymous man standing, shopping bags in hand, stopping a whole line of tanks. that is definitely not kitsch.
and the stubborn holding-onto the characters in this book display isn’t kitsch; it’s identity under the wheels of the machine. given our burgeoning corporatocracy, is something we might all wish to invest some time in thinking about.