Two Brothers by Ben Elton

Two Brothers by Ben Elton

Two Brothers by Ben Elton

I very much enjoyed Ben Elton’s latest novel in my summer reading package this year.  Two Brothers is the account of the Stengel family; Berlin Jews who try to make their way through the unfortunate events of the 1920’s – 1940’s.  The two brothers find themselves on different sides of the racial issue through their own manipulations, bravery and cleverness.  It is a tough read that is made easier by the courage and resilience of the main characters.  You can look elsewhere on the web for a synopsis (I don’t want to take the ‘fun’ away), but it is enough to say that the cast of strong characters in an appalling environment provide a convincing counter to the spurious argument that the Jews did not resist the Nazi-instituted hate as much as they could have.  The boys’ mother Frieda is amazing and at the end profoundly brave.  The character with the most flaws is the beautiful and manipulative Dagmar Fischer… the extent she goes to survive is testament to her audacity and sheds light on the profound and sacrificial nature of the devotion and courage of the Stengel family.  The novel is an enlightening insight into the contrasting ways that humans respond in crisis… it brings out the best in some and the worst in others.
Elton is a great storyteller and this is among his best and most creative.  For me, his novels based around wars – this and The First Casualty are his best.  Interestingly he dedicates the novel to his uncles Heinz and Geoffrey – both who served in WWII on different sides.

The Beauty of Humanity Movement

I have been reading Camilla Gibb’s 2010 novel in the book group I am part of.  Set in Vietnam it is a bold thing for a British/Canadian author to tackle – her PhD in anthropology obviously helped because it is an equisite insight into the real world behind the tourist mecca that Vietnam is.
It is a low-key drama that unfolds gradually and in a way not compellingly, though I wanted to finish it.  The loss and division in the history of Vietnam for over 60 years (well, forever really) plays out in the lives of the characters – Hung with his Pho (pronounced Pha) rice noodle soup makes connections that are all marked by tragedy, and the artist’s daughter gets caught up in it is well.  Good read.

slowly, humanly, peacefully

I am reading John Dear’s book Jesus the Rebel
I am being forced to read it slowly and contemplatively – I figure that this is the way the man wrote it.
On the first temptation of Jesus in the desert – the ‘turn these stones into bread one, Dear writes this:
“Like Jesus, we are tempted by the culture to change to bread, to bring about tangible results.  But Jesus calls us back to the Scriptures and urges us to not rely on our own powers but o God and God’s word, for it is God who does the changing and brings all the results.  It is God who makes the difference, not us.  We are called not to be successful but faithful to God and God’s word, which works slowly, humanly, peacefully – not inhumanly, violently, and forcibly, like the empire.  We are not called to be powerful but powerless, instruments only of the nonviolent power of God, God’s word.  We are not called to be relevant but as irrelevant as Jesus – hungry in the desert, dying on the cross.  we take up the effectiveness of the cross which, as far as the culture is concerned, is complete lunacy, an absurd failure.”

I wonder what the recent Presbyterian General Assembly did when it resisted working slowly, humanly and peacefully on the sensitive issues of sexuality, leadership, and marriage.  Did we perpetrate violence?


The view out the window

I sit on the sofa
reading of God’s non-violent reign of love
made known and lived out by Jesus
a love taken to a cross
into the brutality of violence
taken there, even there,
to that darkest of places
because to love
is to love completely and with everything

I gaze out the window
– our small corner of beauty greening
as the spring emerges from winter’s death-like grasp

If I am beloved, and I am,
then the greening is the only true work – the beautiful work
and it is unfolding constantly, everywhere.

What I am reading:
“Then, when he sees the Spirit of God rest on Jesus, John the Baptist knows that the Annointed One has appeared.  But as he points people to Jesus and starts to ‘decrease’ he begins to have his doubts.  This Jesus isn’t organising a non-violent overthrow of the empire for the sake of Yahweh.  “Perhaps I am wrong,” John thinks.  After Herod arrests him, John sends out two messengers to inquire once and for all if Jesus is really the one sent from God.
Shortly before the king executes him, John gets his answer:
‘Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the lind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.  And, blkessed is the one who takes no offense at me.” (Luke 7:22)
The Baptist dies in prison knowing that the revolution of Gd has come – and in much greater ways that he could ever imagine.  Jesus has started a permanent revolution of transforming nonviolence.  Indeed, the reign of God is breaking through here and now.”  John Dear Jesus the Rebel p7

what my nose is into at the moment

I’m reading two thoughtful books at the moment – both with theological wisdom. The first is the Mary Doria Russell novel Children of God.  If it is anything like it’s predecessor The Sparrow, it will be a classic – promising so far!
Take This Bread is an interesting account of Sara Miles making her way into the life of faith in Jesus Christ.  She seems to be bringing her quirky self along for the ride, which is only reasonable as she is bound to meet mostly quirky people in the church anyway.