Imagination needs inspiration to bloom.


Mysteries of the World: Unexplained Wonders and Mysterious Phenomena by Herbert Genzmer and Ulrich Hellenbrand

The book, with a somewhat reverse translation, "Mysterier: oförklarliga under och sällsamma händelser", brings up a lot of strange and unexplained phenomenon. Genzmer mentions very interesting mysteries that have been capturing people's minds for several millenia, as well as phenomenon from the last century. The author presents theories and explanations, suggested by researchers and scientists, that are possible and extraordinary.

Have you ever had the feeling that you have experienced something before? Have you wondered about ancient cities and their knowledge of astronomy and technology that made them build something resembling batteries? Have you wondered about events in the Bible? Are you fascinated by the holy grail? This book is about most of the mysteries there has ever been, and the reader is on a constant adventure. Every page offers incredible information and interesting explanations.

Genzmer discusses Atlantis, the pyramids, Stonehenge, ancient technology, nano-spirals, the Piri Reis map, the holy grail, Bible stories, the Bermuda triangle, the Nazca lines, the Loch Ness-monster, Tunguska, déjà vu, ghosts, ufo:s, crop circles, healers, clairvoyance, telepathy and time travel.

The reader gets much information about different areas and gets the opportunity to cultivate an interest. Even though it's not so much about each one of the phenomenon, it's a great reading experience and it serves as a gateway, an inspiration to further reading.


Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

The novel was published 1873-1877 in The Russian Messenger. Fyodor Dostoevsky, Vladimir Nabokov and William Faulkner were all very impressed by it. Faulkner even claimed it to be the best work ever written.

The meeting of two women will irrevocably change their lives forever. When Anna Karenina gets to know Kitty Shcherbatskaya, she also gets the chance to know her acquaintance Vronsky. Kitty, on the other hand, has to get to know herself before knowing who she should get to know. The two women are the very opposites of each other but after this day they both begin to transform. The graceful Anna is destined to condemnation and the childish Kitty is destined to insightfulness - give or take a few years. It’s not until then that their true destiny can be revealed.

To follow the conventions of the time was essential, and much of the unhappiness in the book is due to the common view. In this way, the characters are trapped in the conventions of society and people's expectations, not free to make their own choices. Not until they decide to stop caring. Perhaps Karenin isn’t more unhappy than the society forces him to be. Perhaps Kitty’s feelings for a man that suites the aristocracy are not her own feelings. How do one know what’s true and what’s not when constantly affected by one’s environment? To what extent do people’s expectations around us influence us? This shows Tolstoy’s opinion of the higher social levels of society. He was himself apart of it, and didn’t like it. The character Anna, on the other hand, sacrifices not only being part of society but other things as well for the life she wants to live. It seems women often had to make these decisions. In a world of hypocrisy, Anna's brother, Oblonsky, is constantly unfaithful to his wife, while Anna’s situation makes her fall from grace. She is banned from the very same circles that receive both her brother and lover. 

Anna, a kind of feminist of her time, builds up a facade of indifference and seductive charm. Holding her head high, refusing to accept herself as a condemnd, fallen, disgraced woman, she is fighting with all the means accessible to her. Being dependent of a man outside marriage is slowly poisoning her. Behind the facade, her world is beginning to fall apart. Is it really possible for love to rise above social conditions?

Tolstoy writes in a magnificent way. Many themes are masterfully spreading a light over the Russian society in a very interesting time. Discussions about industrialization, agriculture, politics, education and religion reveal a country on the verge of turmoil. Parts of Russia wanted the country to Europeanize, while others wanted it to maintain its traditional values. There was an identity crisis, where the population spoke French while at the same time discussed what it meant to be russian. Russia was torn between people wanting to overthrow the tsar, while others wanted to industrialize agriculture for the country to become as modern as the west. All this is explained through the eyes of the characters. It’s fascinating to feel the dissatisfaction boiling beneath the surface, thriving and growing, the beginning of which would finally escalate into the Russian revolution.

Every chapter feels necessary to get to know and understand the characters. The only flaw is the sometimes long, tedious parts. Even though Levin with his existential philosophic pondering - not unlike Tolstoy himself - is a favorable character, the mowing was really tiresome. It can't be necessary to know so much about mowing. It isn’t even interesting in the first place. But Levin comes alive and shines in the presence of hard work with his peasents. In line with his own book where he describes that a man is influenced by his surroundings, he is himself influenced. When in town, he becomes a different person, but in the country he is always Levin.

What makes Tolstoy’s characters so convincing? Perhaps their tendency to be totally convinced at one time, and doubting the next. To be totally in love with someone, and the next moment not really sure. To be cynical, and from a sudden inspiration see people’s goodness. Their personalities are floating like waves in the sea, indefinite forms, evolving, changing, but never altering shapes. Tolstoy was a master when it came to character development. All these vivid contradictory characteristics make them human. They come alive before the reader's eyes. Anna with her perseverance and fear of abandonment, Karenin with his emotional torments and vengeful manner, Vronsky with his struggle of feelings and lack of understanding family bonds, Kitty with her naivety and attentiveness, Levin with his humanity and fits of jeolusy and despair, Varenka with her goodness and inspirational manner, Dolly with her endurance and indulgence, and Oblonsky with his love of women and way of giving advice.

In the center of it all stands Anna and Vronsky. We get to see a relationship from the first innocent glance, to a flourishing relationship, and to the final destruction. Anna and Vronky tear their relationship apart by circumstances caused by conventions. The contrast between the two main couples is strong. While one is evolving and prospering, the other is falling apart.

Time Magazine’s J. Peder Zane, along with William Faulkner, considers it to be the best book ever written. I think it’s definitely a must read for everyone that is in the least interested in a time of change, character development caused by internal but also external factors, and how it intertwine with human destiny. Not only does the book paint a picture of the former Russian society like a theater, where people have different roles to play on stage, judged by their appearance rather than their personal, authentic goodheartedness, and how this leads to one of the world's greatest love tragedies. It can also, with a little imagination, with a little imagination, be applied to the society of today.


The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan by Jenny Nordberg

They dress like boys, act like boys and have the same rights as boys. A ”bacha posh” is a girl in Afghanistan that from an early age are brought up as a boy, and thereby changes her gender identity.

The parents have many reasons for this. There's pressure to have sons, to give their daughters another perspective and self-confidence, and superstition - if a girl is dressed like a boy, the next baby will be a son. Regardless of the reason, these girls get more liberty. Until puberty.

Azita, a politician and former member of the parlament, was a bacha posh and is now dressing her daughter as a son. Mehran holds her father's hand learns to speak her opinion. She lives in a different world from her sisters. In Afghanistan, where bacha, child, means boy and dokhtar, the other, means girl, the possibilities for women are limited. 40% of the girls are married before they turn 18. Afghanistan is, according to the author, the worst country in the world to have a baby. The life expectancy for women is 44 years, many of which consists of pregnancies. 

The bacha posh phenomenon is an indication of a patriarchy that forces women to take the role as men to survive. This is not unique for Afghanistan. The concept of gender is considered relevant in most parts of the world. To show a baby's gender by dressing it in blue or pink was invented in the US as a sell trick in the 1940's. Before that, babies were dressed in white. Rules for clothing has always been a tool to maintain the patriarchate order, according to Nordberg. In France, the law to forbide women wearing pants, was formally abolished as late as 2013. Bacha posh is a universal phenomena and seems to arise in segregated and uncertain places. It existed as early as the middle ages, in many places in the west, including North America and Sweden, according to the author. In Sweden, an orphan named Ulrika Eleonora Stålhammar dressed like a man, went into the army and fought the Russians to provide for her sisters and escape a forced marriage.

The book gives birth to questions about gender identity and gender differences. According to the men interviewed, women are vulnerable and caring. According to the women, to be a woman means absence of freedom. A greater context is whether or not a person is born into a gender identity. The bacha poshes that Nordberg met are convinced it is formed by the environment.

Jenny Nordberg tries to understand without coloring her words. She gives the reader a piece of the puzzle that might make it easier to view the complexity of the structure. Her book indicates that it's the people with economic power that hold the key. Nordberg thinks that men have to realize that women are not a threat, and that a daughter or wife with education and a job, are a benefit for the family and society as a whole. The organisations that try to improve the situation for women by speaking to women should instead turn to the men, since the ultimate power lies with them.

Nordberg explains that women rights have become an issue for the elite, and associated with the west, something nationalistic and islamistic people feel they have to distance themselves from. Another problem is that when the foreigners are withdrawing from the country, the people that sympathized with them, also leave. The people left are conservative and therefore it's difficult to improve the situation. The books also indicates that it's more difficult to improve women's conditions during uncertainty and war. When Azita was young, she wanted to continue her education and had dreams, but was forced to marry an analfabetic cusin in the countryside. The price was 1000 dollar and some property. Azitas father is an academic and liberal, and his dreams during the communist era were shattered by the talibans, and the family had to flee. He wanted Azita to be able to achieve her goals in life, but considering the dangerous time, he felt he had to marry her off to protect her. She wasn't a traditional woman and her father had to convince her husband to allow her to work. Later, Azita became a politician. This indicates that war is preventing human rights, and that a place has to be peaceful to become more equal.

The book is professionally written. The statements are backed up by facts. Everything from UN and other organisations for human rights, to theories by Sigmund Freud and world leading research on gender identity. But, in the end, what makes this book really special is that as a reader, you are transferred into Afghanistan and becomes the little girl, the teenager, the daughter, the wife, the politician, the warrior and the taekwondo teacher. They all have something in common. Everyday is a battle.