Friday, 7 March 2014


What? Non-fiction?
Well, it couldn’t hurt.

Absurdistan is a book written by Eric Campbell, an Australian journalist who decided to work abroad in 1995, and ended up in Moscow, Beijing and the middle-east. I decided to read it because one of my customers at work had just read it and he told me it was really good; I leafed through it and liked the writing style.
The beginning is quite thrilling: it’s a prologue where Eric is wounded in a terrorist attack in Iraq. The rest of the book he explains how he ended up there, but also explaining a lot about the situation in the places he visited, places who were usually at war.
I found that I kept forgetting this was the real world I was reading about whilst I read this book. Some of the situations are just so unbelievably cruel – the work camps in northern Russia, war in Chechnya, Kosovo, secrecy and censorship in China,…

this is a excerpt  from when Eric was in Macedonia in 1999, when the Albanians and Serbian, well, disagreed with each other about Kosovo, to put it mildly.
(I apologise for my bad translation in advance)

… the Macedonian units enclosed a field near the border. The fugitives all had to find a place within the fence. They had no choice; they sat down on the ground with the meagre possessions they had managed to save. Everyone thought the camp was established to speed up registration. But the day went by and no one was let out…
…trains came and went. In two days there were more than 30.000 people in the camp. The UN fugitive organisation, UNHCR, predicted that another 200.000 people were on their way…
…there was no shelter, no water, no lavatories and no food. It was April and it was hot, the fugitives were thirsty. Because of a lack of toilets the fugitives just did their business wherever they could. We could smell the stench that was caused by that. The fugitives were only twenty metres away, but there was nothing we could do…

So yeah, it made me realise how ignorant I have been about the world. Granted, I was seven years old at the time, but I feel like these are things I should know more about.
Luckily, the book isn’t all woe. We meet Jack, a wannabe hero from America, people who still have hope after years of protesting, and Eric himself finds a wife and has a son along the road (figuratively). Those personal touches and impressions make the book much more readable – even though they can be quite horrible as well.

… I had a terrible toothache and gobbled painkillers to stay on my feet. When I couldn’t stand it anymore, I went to a dentist [in Moscow]. He told me a wisdom tooth had to be pulled out immediately. Five hours later I was home, heavily drugged, still in pain. The dentist called: ‘you probably noticed we accidentally cut of a piece out of your tongue, but you don’t have to worry.’
I hadn’t noticed, but hey, good to know. ‘We also accidentally drilled a hole in the bone’, he continued, ‘so that could stay painful for a while. You can always come by again if you have any issues’…

Should you read it? Well, I don’t know. If you read to escape from the real world, probably not. But if you read to cure ignorance, then yes, you should read this.

Until next time,


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