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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Poor Economics

I hate reviewing my readings with too much delay and not enough time on my hands, in the process not doing either these books nor my blog due justice. And this especially when it comes to a gem such as Poor Economics by Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo. The authors navigating between Scylla (William Easterly) and Charybdis (Jeffrey Sachs) introduce randomized controlled testing into development economics trying to determine what really matters for life choices of the poor.

There is no clear storyline to their book, which makes reading it a bit chopped at times, but that's also simply the point I think. There is no clear theoretical explanatory narrative to life and those who pretend that they know one are deceiving themselves. Duflo & Banerjee concentrate on simple, individual decisions such as why the poor do not vaccinate their children sufficiently, or only send their gifted kid to school. Really an extremely interesting insight in the reality that development programs collide with in the field.


One of the random classics lying around in my unread-books library, I recently picked up Nostromo by Joseph Conrad for no particular good reason. A great find it was though. Conrad tells the story of a fantasy Central American country, where putsches follow upon dictators follow upon putsches. His is a tale of the greed for money and power (but also love, if only for one character) and how it determines people's choices while leading to dubious individual outcomes. Ironically, one could argue that his happy ending is, well, a bit too happy to be realistic. Another sticking point for me was the inherent racism of his portrayal of indigenous or creole citizens of this non-existing republic. Conrad might have been opposed to colonialism, he is not devoid of his times' attitude towards non-White, non-Western people(s). Yet, a very enjoyable read, exploring the depravities of human life.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Der Golem

Ein tschechischer Bekannter hatte mir Gustav Meyrinks Roman Der Golem empfohlen und da ich zwar mit der Sage vertraut war, aber nie von diesem deutschsprachigen Prager Autor (wie Kafka, wie Egon Erwin Kisch) gehört hatte, kaufte ich mir das Buch vor meiner Stippvisite in Prag. Ein toller Fund! Der Golem ist ein fantastisches Werk, wie ich es eigentlich seit meiner Jugend kaum noch lese, aber es ist vor allem ein fast Furcht einflößendes Beispiel von gothic literature wie ich es sonst vielleicht von Edgar Allan Poe kenne (oder dem Phantom der Oper). 

Meyrink erzählt nicht die Legende des Golems neu, wie ich es ursprünglich gedacht hatte, sondern gibt die niederdrückende Stimmung im jüdischen Ghetto Prags anbei seiner grausamen, naiven, verliebten und hassenden Protagonisten wieder. Der Golem taucht natürlich auf, wie er dies jede Generation ein mal tut, aber vor allem sind es die Bewohner (und Besucher) des Ghettos, die eine Rolle spielen. Ein fesselnder Roman, der trotz (oder wegen?) seiner phantastischen Elemente die Lektüre lohnt für seine Einblicke in das (jüdische) Prag aber auch einfach wegen seiner literarischen Qualität.