Category Archives: Reading

The Light

Candle by Eyasu Etsub on Unsplash

Photo by Eyasu Etsub on Unsplash

The light went out.

Thankfully, he had prepared for such emergencies.
He owned a flashlight. He was an organized guy.

Finding the nearest wall to lean on, he followed it towards the kitchen. Once there, his fingertips found the counter. They felt for the top drawer on the far left. Soon, the drawer handle rested firmly in the palm of his hand. Feeling the reassuring, cold steel, he pulled. The drawer opened. And yes, inside was the flashlight.

He turned it on and walked back towards the hallway. Grateful to have light again.
However, he had forgotten all about the garbage bag he had prepared for disposal. As he turned right towards the front door in the hallway, his gaze focused forward on the beam of light, he tripped over the large bag and fell. The flashlight hit the ground. The bulb broke. The light went out again.

As far as he remembered, there were matches and candles in one of the other kitchen drawers. He got up from the floor and kicked the air until he hit the garbage bag. It tumbled out of the way. His path now unobstructed, he felt his way back to the kitchen counter. Growing increasingly irritated, he opened drawers roughly with contents falling painfully onto his bare feet. The fourth drawer held the matches and candles he had remembered. He lit a match, burned his fingers, but managed to light the stubborn wick. Instantly, his home was illuminated again, albeit minimal and flickering.

But enough to carefully venture out into the hallway once more. He made his way to the front door and opened it. From the porch he could just make out his nearest neighbor’s house in the distance. The lights seemed to be on over there. This wasn’t a general power outage affecting the entire neighborhood.

The wind almost snuffed out the candle, forcing him to step back inside quickly. He needed to check the fuses in the basement. But could they all have blown at the same time? He quickly walked from room to room. None of the light switches worked. The house was utterly without sound. No humming refrigerator, no softly buzzing appliances.

Back in the hallway, he opened the door to the basement and, carefully, made his way down the raw concrete stairway into the dank, windowless underworld. The candle flickered and was almost blown out twice due to a slight draft following him from the ground floor like a whispering wave.

He opened the fuse box and was astonished to see nothing. All sockets were empty. All spares were gone.

Instead, a handwritten note inside the fuse box read, “You made it this far. Come into the boiler room.”
What? Why? Who was toying with him?
He walked down the hallway, carefully protecting the candlelight with the cup of his hand.
At the end of the short hallway was the boiler room.
The metal door stood open.
It shouldn’t be open.
Fear and unease almost made him turn around right then and there, but curiosity and mounting confusion drove him forward.

He stepped into the boiler room. Nothing but darkness.
He said, “Hello?”
No answer.
He took a few more steps.

The door behind him slammed shut with a bang. As he whirled around, he heard the outside bolts sliding into place.

The candle flickered violently, smothered, on the brink of going out. It gave just enough light so he could see a poster on the door. Large, black letters proclaimed:

“Now you have more time than you think.”

The candle didn’t recover. It suffocated.

The matches were in the kitchen.

The ordeal began.

‘Revenge is Sour’ – an Essay by George Orwell

George Orwell - by Florencia Viadana on Unsplash

Recently, I read “The Situation is Hopeless But Not Serious” by Paul Watzlawick. In his book (which I can highly recommend), the author at one point quotes passages from an essay George Orwell wrote after the 2nd World War…

Here is one quote from ‘Revenge is Sour’:

“But what this scene, and much else that I saw in Germany, brought home to me was that the whole idea of revenge and punishment is a childish daydream. Properly speaking, there is no such thing as revenge. Revenge is an act which you want to commit when you are powerless and because you are powerless: as soon as the sense of impotence is removed, the desire evaporates also.”

I was struck by the kindness and humanity reflected in Orwell’s words. 

Thus, I went and searched online for the full essay. Here it is, for your convenience. Orwell’s thoughts are just too thought-provoking and profound not to revive and share:



Revenge is Sour

Whenever I read phrases like ‘war guilt trials’, ‘punishment of war criminals’ and so forth, there comes back into my mind the memory of something I saw in a prisoner of-war camp in South Germany, earlier this year.

Another correspondent and myself were being show round the camp by a little Viennese Jew who had been enlisted in the branch of the American army which deals with the interrogation of prisoners. He was an alert, fair-haired, rather good-looking youth of about twenty-five, and politically so much more knowledgeable than the average American officer that it was a pleasure to be with him. The camp was on an airfield, and, after we had been round the cages, our guide led us to a hangar where various prisoners who were in a different category from the others were being ‘screened’.

Up at one end of the hangar about a dozen men were lying in a row on the concrete floor. These, it was explained, were S.S. officers who had been segregated from the other prisoners. Among them was a man in dingy civilian clothes who was lying with his arm across his face and apparently asleep. He had strange and horribly deformed feet. The two of them were quite symmetrical, but they were clubbed out into an extraordinary globular shape which made them more like a horse’s hoof than anything human. As we approached the group, the little Jew seemed to be working himself up into a state of excitement.

‘That’s the real swine!’ he said, and suddenly he lashed out with his heavy army boot and caught the prostrate man a fearful kick right on the bulge of one of his deformed feet.

‘Get up, you swine!’ he shouted as the man started out of sleep, and then repeated something of the kind in German. The prisoner scrambled to his feet and stood clumsily to attention. With the same air of working himself up into a fury — indeed he was almost dancing up and down as he spoke — the Jew told us the prisoner’s history. He was a ‘real’ Nazi: his party number indicated that he had been a member since the very early days, and he had held a post corresponding to a General in the political branch of the S.S. It could be taken as quite certain that he had had charge of concentration camps and had presided over tortures and hangings. In short, he represented everything that we had been fighting against during the past five years.

Meanwhile, I was studying his appearance. Quite apart from the scrubby, unfed, unshaven look that a newly captured man generally has, he was a disgusting specimen. But he did not look brutal or in any way frightening: merely neurotic and, in a low way, intellectual. His pale, shifty eyes were deformed by powerful spectacles. He could have been an unfrocked clergyman, an actor ruined by drink, or a spiritualist medium. I have seen very similar people in London common lodging houses, and also in the Reading Room of the British Museum. Quite obviously he was mentally unbalanced — indeed, only doubtfully sane, though at this moment sufficiently in his right mind to be frightened of getting another kick. And yet everything that the Jew was telling me of his history could have been true, and probably was true! So, the Nazi torturer of one’s imagination, the monstrous figure against whom one had struggled for so many years, dwindled to this pitiful wretch, whose obvious need was not for punishment, but for some kind of psychological treatment.

Later, there were further humiliations.
Another S.S. officer, a large brawny man, was ordered to strip to the waist and show the blood group number tattooed on his under-arm; another was forced to explain to us how he had lied about being a member of the S.S. and attempted to pass himself off as an ordinary soldier of the Wehrmacht. I wondered whether the Jew was getting any real kick out of this new-found power that he was exercising. I concluded that he wasn’t really enjoying it, and that he was merely — like a man in a brothel, or a boy smoking his first cigar, or a tourist traipsing round a picture gallery — telling himself that he was enjoying it, and behaving as he had planned to behave in the days he was helpless.

It is absurd to blame any German or Austrian Jew for getting his own back on the Nazis. Heaven knows what scores this particular man may have had to wipe out; very likely his whole family had been murdered; and after all, even a wanton kick to a prisoner is a very tiny thing compared with the outrages committed by the Hitler regime. But what this scene, and much else that I saw in Germany, brought home to me was that the whole idea of revenge and punishment is a childish daydream. Properly speaking, there is no such thing as revenge. Revenge is an act which you want to commit when you are powerless and because you are powerless: as soon as the sense of impotence is removed, the desire evaporates also.

Who would not have jumped for joy, in 1940, at the thought of seeing S.S. officers kicked and humiliated? But when the thing becomes possible, it is merely pathetic and disgusting. It is said that when Mussolini’s corpse was exhibited in public, an old woman drew a revolver and fired five shots into it, exclaiming, ‘Those are for my five sons!’ It is the kind of story that the newspapers make up, but it might be true. I wonder how much satisfaction she got out of those five shots, which, doubtless, she had dreamed years earlier of firing. The condition of her being able to get close enough to Mussolini to shoot at him was that he should be a corpse.

In so far as the big public in this country is responsible for the monstrous peace settlement now being forced on Germany, it is because of a failure to see in advance that punishing an enemy brings no satisfaction. We acquiesce in crimes like the expulsion of all Germans from East Prussia — crimes which in some cases we could not prevent but might at least have protested against — because the Germans had angered and frightened us, and therefore we were certain that when they were down we should feel no pity for them. We persist in these policies, or let others persist in them on our behalf, because of a vague feeling that, having set out to punish Germany, we ought to go ahead and do it. Actually, there is little acute hatred of Germany left in this country, and even less, I should expect to find, in the army of occupation. Only the minority of sadists, who must have their ‘atrocities’ from one source or another, take a keen interest in the hunting-down of war criminals and quislings. If you asked the average man what crime Goering, Ribbentrop, and the rest are to be charged with at their trial, he cannot tell you. Somehow the punishment of these monsters ceases to seem attractive when it becomes possible: indeed, once under lock and key, they almost cease to be monsters.

Unfortunately, there is often a need of some concrete incident before one can discover the real state of one’s feelings. Here is another memory from Germany.

A few hours after Stuttgart was captured by the French army, a Belgian journalist and myself entered the town, which was still in some disorder. The Belgian had been broadcasting throughout the war for the European Service of the BBC, and, like nearly all Frenchmen or Belgians, he had a very much tougher attitude towards ‘the Boche’ than an Englishman or an American would have. All the main bridges into town had been blown up, and we had to enter by a small footbridge which the Germans had evidently mad efforts to defend. A dead German soldier was lying supine at the foot of the steps. His face was a waxy yellow. On his breast someone had laid a bunch of the lilac which was blooming everywhere.

The Belgian averted his face as we went past. When we were well over the bridge he confided to me that this was the first time he had seen a dead man. I suppose he was thirty-five years old, and for four years he had been doing war propaganda over the radio. For several days after this, his attitude was quite different from what it had been earlier. He looked with disgust at the bomb-wrecked town and the humiliation the Germans were undergoing, and even on one occasion intervened to prevent a particularly bad bit of looting. When he left, he gave the residue of the coffee we had brought with us to the Germans on whom we were billeted. A week earlier he would probably have been scandalized at the idea of giving coffee to a ‘Boche’. But his feelings, he told me, had undergone a change at the sight of ce pauvre mort beside the bridge: it had suddenly brought home to him the meaning of war. And yet, if we had happened to enter the town by another route, he might have been spared the experience of seeing one corpse out of the — perhaps — twenty million that the war has produced.


Essay by George Orwell, published 1945

Photo by Florencia Viadana on Unsplash

Essay source online: https://orwell.ru/library/articles/revenge/english/e_revso

IT… is about life

2019 IT Chapter 2

I’ve heard many comments lately on how long and boring the movie IT Chapter 2 is…

Stephen King’s IT is one of the most voluminous and complex horror stories ever written. In the 80ies, with far less advanced special effects, a creative team did their best and translated the 1’116-page book into a TV mini-series.
In 2017, the movie industry gave it another go. The 1st part was 2 hours 15 min long. Now, two years later, the 2nd part is 2 hours 45 min long. The director is being respectful and truthful towards the book. Considering this, five hours for the whole story doesn’t seem drawn out at all.

I remember reading IT as a teenager. After several nights waking up screaming from nightmares, I had to stop reading after it got dark. Somehow, this tale cut so deep, my mind had troubles brushing it off as just another story.

What I see is a metaphor of life. IT is about our deepest fears. About growing up and learning to stand up for ourselves. About finding the strength to face our fears, no matter how terrifying the prospect might be. IT is about the danger of trying to run away and attempting to forget what has hurt us so deeply. Rather than trying to put time and geographical distance between our pain and us, IT shows us the wisdom of going back to where that pain is, to understand it and deal with it once and for all. To lay it to rest and live our lives without old demons creeping up on us. IT is about believing in ourselves, about taking charge of our lives, about taking responsibility, about the value of friendship, about the importance of honoring the promises we make to each other, and about holding on to those people in our lives who truly care for us.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think there is such a thing as a book which is too long. When a story is good, then it doesn’t matter how many days or even months it takes for me to read it. On the contrary, I’ll treasure every minute, and once I finish the book I’ll feel sad, empty even, as if I have just lost a good friend.

As for movies, I don’t mind them being long either. I don’t care what genre it is. If it’s a good story, then I love following the adventures of the characters. I deeply enjoy having time to get to know them better and understand their motivations.

I loved those 2 hours and 45 minutes in the cinema today. For me, IT is one of the great story-telling treasures of our time, be that as a book, or as this latest movie adaptation in two parts.

As a conclusion and parting gift, let me give you a glimpse of an altogether different, long cinematic moment. Have you ever seen the cake scene in Once Upon A Time In America, by Enio Morricone? It’s my favorite movie scene of all time.
Here is the link on YouTube in case you are interested: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=grJ_IQwtVWw&list=PLkWR4BBKR1pTbIvHI6EdrueQ753dAp04X&index=11&t=0s

Morricone takes 3 min and 36 seconds… an eternity, considering today’s rapid cuts and scene changes… to let us remember and re-live what it means to be a child. It is a deliciously long moment of pure poetry and magic.

The Road Ahead

2016 liam speaking

It’s been a while since the publication of my first book Paralian.
From the very first word I typed into my laptop in October 2013, to the publication of Paralian in May 2016, it was an amazing experience. I felt whole. Driven. For the first time in my life, I did something that felt entirely worthwhile and meaningful.
Considering the business side of it, I was naive when first getting started. I thought I’d be able to sell thousands of books. To this day, I sold only about 900. But I am told, for the first book of an unknown author, (and it being in the hard-to-sell memoir genre to boot) this is a fabulous outcome.
Paralian won 5 literary awards. I’m so grateful all the hard work and soul I put into it has been recognised. However, the real success of Paralian lies in how many lives I was able to reach. I loved being in touch with some of my readers, being accessible and doing my best to be there for them. Someone once quoted Spiderman to me, “With great power comes great responsibility.” I agree wholeheartedly. I have powerful stories to tell, and have the power to write well enough to be able to share these true stories and tales in a natural, authentic, compassionate, and honest manner. I believe I do have the power to touch people’s hearts. It is a responsibility I take very seriously.
One thing I also discovered through the entire publishing journey is that I am a gifted public speaker. I enjoyed these face-to-face moments with small and large groups of enthusiastic listeners as much as they did. The Q&A sessions after each event were surprisingly engaged and open. I enjoyed putting myself out there, building bridges, and making a real difference, no matter how small my contribution might have been in the grand scheme of things.
Last year, family and work led me from Europe to far away Southeast Asia. As soon as I left the Western World, all opportunities to give presentations and continue building my author network dried up instantly. As much as I treasure all new life experiences, I feel as if I have lost part of myself. Every day finds me longing to write (but mostly being too physically exhausted to keep my eyes open when I come home from work). I know I’ll have to fight exhaustion and make time, even if this means getting up early before work every morning to find 2-3 hours of uninterrupted writing time. So far, I couldn’t. In the long run, I hope I am tenacious and strong enough.
I also long to get out there again, connect with other writers, readers, kindred spirits. I long to find ways to continue giving presentations and make a real difference in my passionate, personal, and soft-spoken way. If this is impossible in Southeast Asia, who knows, maybe I will be coming back to the Western World again in due time. Or, hopefully, I’ll find a way to build the necessary connections from afar, travel long distances to get to the events where speakers like me are needed.
My second book is currently still in its first draft… slowly developing… The aim for the months and years to come will be to finally find a literary agent who will believe in my potential. If there is one thing I have learned, it is that I suck at negotiating business deals. Plus, it takes too much energy away from me. It distracts me from focusing on the creative process.
Keep your fingers crossed on all fronts, dear friends. I’ll always keep you up-to-date, even if sometimes there will be longer pauses in between.

(for the photograph, a big thanks goes to Literally PR who have been nothing but fabulous in all our work together)

Come Visit My Website

website

If you haven’t yet, come and have a look at my website.
You’ll find lots of info there about my 1st book Paralian and me. By early spring next year, the website will be expanded to include previews of my 2nd book as well.
Still busy writing!

And He Would Tell a Story…

sebastian konrad

“You’re not frivolous Tom. Back in the caveman days our ancestors would huddle around the fire at night. Wolves would be howling in the dark, just beyond the light. And one person would start talking. And he would tell a story so we wouldn’t be so scared in the dark.”

This is from the movie ‘Genius’ (2016), a true story. Editor Max Perkins comforts his author Thomas Wolfe in a moment of doubt… assuring him that, as a storyteller, he is fulfilling a need in people older than time, something vital and irreplaceable.

I’ve always felt like this about stories as well, be they true or imagined. It’s why I am so passionate about both reading and writing. Stories help us find our way. They make life more bearable. They comfort us and let us know we’re not alone with our troubles, not alone in being lost at times.

Liam Klenk on Goodreads

goodreads to-read

The only thing I don’t like about writing is that it gives me far less time for reading. So many books out there… so many fascinating themes… alternate realities… and lives, I’d love to disappear into for a few days at a time.
Are you on Goodreads? Here is my page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14425961.Liam_Klenk
See you there sometime, maybe?
And off I go. Today is both, a reading and a writing day.

60 Seconds with Liam Klenk

Capture

A fun interview with JJ Marsh from Words with JAM (thanks for the oppportunity!). I’m answering some personal questions about favorite books, what I am working on, inspiration, coffee with Amarula, etc.

To read the full interview, just click here.

A ‘Vanilla Latte’ Kind of Writing Day

writing at starbucks

I am spending the afternoon writing at Starbucks with my notebook and a vanilla latte. Funny how this really is the perfect backdrop to writing a book (provided the place isn’t too crowded). Soft elevator music in the background, droning, indistinct voices, the rattle and hum of coffee machines, scents of sugary delicacies, and the sense of this being an exile far removed from the daily grind. After all, these cafes all look alike. I’ve experienced their laid-back atmosphere everywhere and could be in Singapore, New Delhi, Alaska, Zurich, or Timbuktu for all I know… What better than the promise of diversity and space to get the words flowing…