In this blog I am going to review the Words of Wisdom book by Ram Dass. I am a big fan of Ram Dass and find that he has a wonderful way of concisely explaining sometimes complex philosophical concepts. This book has a sub title which sums up its content perfectly. “Quotations from one of the world’s foremost spiritual teachers.”
Ram Dass occupies a unique position in the field of spirituality having been a former Professor of Psychology. He bring this authority to his explanation and description of a range of spiritual traditions. To learn more about Ram Dass, you can’t go wrong with his autobiography Being Ram Dass. I wrote a review of that book here:
This book is conveniently divided into themed chapters covering a range of subjects and traditions. There are 14 chapters ranging from “Trusting the present moment” to “Approaching death with less fear and more curiosity.” Each chapter brings together Ram Dass quotes related to the title from a range of sources.
Ram Dass Quotes
Some of my favourite quotes from Words of Wisdom by Ram Dass are as follows;
“As the Tao says. “Truth waits for eyes unclouded by longing.”
“There is no best or right kind of experience in meditation; each session is as different and unique as each day of your life.”
“If you can’t stop thinking, can you let your thoughts go by without getting caught up in them. Just as a breath arises and then drifts away, can we let thoughts do the same. You don’t have to see where each breath goes. It’s just the breath coming and going. Allow the thoughts to be the same.”
“The qualities in yourself determine what qualities are in the world.”
“You are not holding on anywhere. You’re right here, always in the new existential moment. Moment to moment, it’s a new mind. You just keep giving up your story line.”
“I myself stand in need of the arms of my own kindness.”
Themes for Yoga Classes
Words of Wisdom by Ram Dass is a collection of quotes. As a result it is a rich source of inspiration for Yoga Teachers and themes to weave into classes. I have read many quotes from this book in my yoga classes and have written my own meditations inspired from it. A number of my yoga students have asked me for the details of the book.
In Summary– Words Of Wisdom by Ram Dass Book Review
A great book to dip in and out of for inspirational quotes. I highly recommend it.
West Kirby Bookshop
If you wish to purchase a copy of this book, at the time of writing West Kirby bookshop currently have this in stock. If it has sold they can order it in promptly. We encourage you to buy local and support your local bookshop.
West Kirby Bookshop is located at 6 Grange Road, West Kirby, Wirral, CH48 4HA. They can also be found on Twitter @westkirbybooks and also on Instagram @westkirbybooks
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If you enjoyed our “Words of Wisdom by Ram Dass Book Review”, check out these other resources:
Ram Dass’ website:
The Be Here Now network has some great podcasts to listen to;
Krishnamacharya his life and teachings by A. G. Mohan (with Ganesh Mohan)Shambhala Publications 2010
We review the book Krishnamacharya his life and teachings by A G Mohan in this blog. A version of this book review appeared in the British Wheel of Yoga magazine Spectrum Winter 2020 edition. A. G. Mohan describes his experience of learning yoga from his teacher Sri Krishnamacharya. Mohan studied with Krishnamacharya for 18 years until the death of his teacher in 1989 at the age of 100.
The father of modern Yoga
Tirumalai Krishnamacharya is widely considered to be one of the most influential yoga teachers on the development of modern yoga. He is oft referred to as the “Father of Modern Yoga.” It is without doubt that his most famous students spread the word and practice of yoga far and wide.
During his life time Krishnamacharya had no desire for personal fame or material success. This is the main reason why a lot of yoga practitioners may not know who he is and the impact he had on spreading the ancient wisdom of yoga. One of his favourite sayings was “a capable student brings fame to the teacher.” This book serves to shine some fame on this important, authentic, pivotal yoga teacher.
The book starts with a touching insight into Krishnamacharya the human being! Ganesh Mohan, the author’s son, describes how approachable and encouraging his father’s teacher was to him. He also details how he used to give him sweetened almonds as a treat.
Krishnamcharya was born in 1888 and his first teacher was his own father who taught him the vedas, yoga asana and pranayama. He was clearly a very intelligent man and obtained two degrees from Mysore University. Krishnamacharya obtained a scholarship and a further degree in yoga and the theory of samkhya from Patna University. It is clear that the young Krishnamacharya was academically gifted and had a thirst for knowledge which he pursued. A significant period in his early life was studying yoga in the Himalayas with his teacher for 7 years.
Mohan presents the overview of Krishnamacharya’s life with the caveat that it is difficult to ascertain precise details and that Krishnamacharya himself did give differing accounts himself throughout his life. He was a man who did not like to talk about his achievements and this humility results in a degree of uncertainty.
Meeting his teacher
Mohan talks about his own life and how he started to explore the deeper meanings of life. He was told whilst working on a project to speak to a colleague called Srivatsa Ramaswami who recommended he attend a lecture being given by Krishnamacharya. Srivatsa Ramaswami is today a respected teacher himself and studied for 33 years with Krishnamacharya. Mohan’s beautiful description of attending the lecture and meeting Krishnamacharya is a joy to read. It sets his life on a completely different course.
Mohan takes us through his experience of being taught yoga asana and philosophy by Krishnamacharya. It is interesting to learn how Krishnamacharya imparted his knowledge to his students. He never referred to notes or books, his knowledge retained in his memory, texts and scriptures recited from memory, with nothing written down. It is striking how basic and simple the room was in which Krishnamacharya lived and taught;
“He was a person of few possessions, and the room reflected the simplicity of his life. It was furnished with only a chair, a bed and a carpet for asana practice.”
It is very insightful how Krishnamacharya with his vast and detailed knowledge of many yoga texts was also very discerning in what he taught. He did not teach kriya to his students and also would not teach parts of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. This is quite refreshing to read, as I am sure many readers will know the Hatha Yoga Pradipika has some very bizarre practices detailed that would likely get teachers arrested if they tried to teach them to their yoga students!
The source of modern Vinyasa Yoga
Krishnamacharya created the vinyasa system of yoga. This is such a commonplace style of yoga in our modern world. Krishnamacharya was the first person to intelligently sequence asana one after the other with the movement between the positions being linked to the breath. This transformed yoga from a static practice to a dynamic practice. One of Krishnamacharya’s favourite vinyasa sequences that he frequently taught was based around the Warrior postures and is included in the back of this book. As part of this article, after the book review, I have laid out this sequence so that you can try it for yourself.
Krishnamacharya taught yoga one to one and also therapeutically to those with ill health. It was only in his early life of teaching yoga that he conducted group classes. When approaching asana his attitude was to “never use force in teaching or practicing asana.” It is a shame that some of his students who went on to become famous teachers did not adhere to this advice!
Some criticism that is often levelled at Krishnamacharya is for the yoga demonstrations that he held. These were mostly with the boys he taught at the Mysore palace performing advanced yoga asana, sometimes with Krishnamacharya standing on them! In this book Mohan describes how Krishnamacharya dismissed these performances as “Yoga propaganda” that were perhaps necessary at the time to popularise and publicise yoga. It is clear that this was not something he enjoyed as clearly demonstrated by how he chose to live the majority of his life.
The chapters of this book cover pranayama, kriyas, yoga therapy, yamas, niyamas and meditation. Mohan imparts his teachers wisdom on these topics.
The later years
Mohan was Krishnamacharya’s student until his teacher’s death in 1989. The later years of his life are fondly recounted. He was in good health both physically and mentally in his final years. His physical health was only really affected by a hip fracture which he refused to have surgery for! Mohan describes how he was able to assist his teacher and help care for him.
In Summary – Krishnamacharya his life and teachings by A G Mohan – a must read
In my opinion this book is a must for any serious student of yoga. It gives an authentic insight into the origins of our modern yoga practice. We see Krishnamacharya as the incredibly intelligent erudite father of modern yoga. A person who was devoted to learning and spreading the teachings of yoga. A humble man who never sought fame or fortune and in fact clearly struggled through his life to make ends meet. Yet a man who’s legacy is evident in all corners of the world. When we look at lineage in the yoga tradition, Krishnamacharya is the source that I find myself referring back to more and more frequently. A reliable intelligent reference for our modern practice.
If you wish to purchase Krishnamacharya his life and teachings by A G Mohan I would encourage you to buy ethically. Ethical Consumer website rate Blackwells highly and recommend boycotting Amazon.
A riveting “On the Road” style adventure for the Yoga Generation! My Search for Yoga by David Williams is an autobiographical account of the authors search for yoga. It starts at the tail end of the 1960’s and ends in 1977.
Who is David Williams?
David is the first person who taught Ashtanga Yoga in the West! He is a highly respected ashtanga yoga teacher and lives in Maui. I discovered David through one of his students and friends David Swenson. My own practice of Ashtanga Yoga is based around how David Swenson teaches. I love his Ashtanga Yoga Practice Manual.
Being inquisitive, it took me to David Swenson’s teacher. As a result I discovered that David Williams was leading a workshop in Sitges. Sitges is just outside of Barcelona in Spain so basically on our doorstep compared to Maui! A few YouTube interviews reveal a gentle endearing soul. An “Aloha” catchphrase accompanied by a shaka surfer hand salute! We booked to go to Spain and then a world pandemic struck and lockdown.
Some friendly emails passed between David and I. As a result I purchased his recently written memoir, My Search For Yoga by David Williams!
The American Dream or Nightmare?
David’s journey towards becoming the Yoga Detective starts back in 1967 as a beach lifeguard in South Carolina. His version of the American dream is mapped out ahead of him, college, university, the legal profession, working 9-5, suburban life. The potential middle age spread and unhealthy older age. David desired another way, a different way to live life. The ever present risk of being drafted in to the Vietnam war existed in the background.
He meets his first “guru”, a fellow lifeguard called Bootie. Bootie imparts the following pearl of wisdom, which could only have been said in the late 60’s,
“….. you can do anything you want to do. You do not have to live a boring life like all the squares you have seen growing up.”
This spoke to David’s longing for an alternative lifestyle. The American counter culture at the time were embracing slogans such as turn on, tune in and drop out. Thankfully this was balanced with people that viewed the standard American dream as a dream. They successfully entered legal professions and other careers that keep society functioning. The equal and opposite lifestyles provide balance to our society. The rich tapestry of human individuality expressed through lifestyle. There is not just one way to live your life but a myriad of opportunities. David’s book encourages us to work out the path that is right for us.
Whilst at the Uni of North Carolina, David comes across Yoga for the first time via a fellow student. Tales of Yogis free from the shackles of the material world fire his interest.
The first Yoga class David attended was at the Atlanta International Pop Festival in June 1970. The class was introduced as;
“Before you get high on drugs, why don’t you try getting naturally high with Yoga”
At this music festival David was also lucky enough to see one of Jimi Hendrix’s last performances! As a music fan I am certainly a bit envious of that!
The underground Yoga scene is interestingly documented. People practicing Yoga from books and the odd teacher here and there.
On the Road in Search of Yoga
After reading a Ram Dass book David sets his heart on travelling to India to learn Yoga. David and his girlfriend fly to Europe and then embark on an epic cross land journey. They travel around Europe and make their way to India via Afghanistan and Iran.
A search around India for Yoga ensues. Whilst staying at an Ashram he witnesses a demonstration of Ashtanga Yoga by Manju Jois.
Returning to the USA, David is determined to return to India to further his study of Yoga. Another road trip across Europe to India takes him and Nancy Gilgoff (his girlfriend) to Mysore.
The descriptions of travelling across Europe to Indian in the early 1970’s are engrossing. You feel like you are on the road with David. The places he travelled through in the early 70’s are places that it would be very difficult and scary to travel through in 2020.
On arrival in Mysore for the first time, David learns that a previous student had left with a broken leg. However, David has made an epic journey to get there and begins to learn Ashtanga Yoga from Pattabhi Jois.
David refers to Jois with the respectful title Guruji. He is indebted to him as his teacher. Learning Ashtanga yoga changed his life and set him on a trajectory on which he continues to this day.
On the last day of his first trip to Mysore, Pattabhi Jois seriously injured him. He was strongly “adjusted” in an advanced posture. David describes how his trusted teacher almost broke his back;
“The force of his adjustment compressed and rotated a vertebra in my lower back to the point that it punctured an intervertebral disc, the cushion between my vertebra.”
This is truly shocking to read. I was obviously aware of the serious allegations of sexual assault against Jois that have come to light in the last few years. The testimonies of those abused can be easily found on the internet and there is video footage which makes for uncomfortable viewing. Physical assaults and serious injuries that he inflicted on people in the name of adjustments were something that I was unaware of.
David does not address the abuse allegations in his book and I respect his right not to. This is David’s story of his search for yoga and the book would have a very different feel if it were to become an investigation into Jois. I have read elsewhere on the internet that David would warn people against going to Mysore.
David Williams – successful Yoga Teacher
The start of David’s journey to becoming a world renowned Yoga teacher is covered in his memoir. Let us remember here, he was the first Ashtanga Yoga teacher in the West! His make shift yoga Shala in Maui is where he went from strength to strength.
A 17 year old David Swenson is recruited to cover teaching at the Shala in Maui. David and Nancy return to Mysore where David learns the final series in the Ashtanga Yoga system.
A young Eddie Veder from Pearl Jam features. He was inspired to take up yoga after a demonstration given by David at his high school.
We should pause for a moment and realise that Ashtanga yoga is the source of the modern vinyasa style of yoga that is so popular around the world. David was the person to bring this flowing style of yoga out of India and to the west. Without David, the story and popularity of modern yoga could be very different.
Pattabhi Jois – Lazy by his own definition?
A very interesting detail in this book that jumped out to me is that Pattabhi Jois was not practicing yoga asana (physical postures). David meets Jois when the latter is 58 years old. At this point in his life Jois had stopped practicing yoga asana. He is still practicing pranayama. As a result I find it a little difficult to comprehend his dogmatic approach. Jois is oft quoted as saying;
“Ashtanga Yoga is for all people: old people, young people, fat people, skinny people only not lazy people.”
“Practice Yoga and all is coming”
“Yoga is 99 percent practice and 1 percent theory”
Jois is therefore lazy by his own definition! The only time David Williams saw Jois demonstrate asana was a Sun Salutation B practiced incorrectly.
Jois’ lack of practice of asana is in stark contrast to his teacher Krishnamacharya and also his contemporaries such as B K S Iyengar. It is well documented that Krishnamacharya practiced yoga asana, pranayama and chanting until his death aged 100.
Whilst David was clearly very fond of his Guruji, I felt that Jois comes across as not a particularly likeable character. At times arrogant and not open to any kind of questioning of his methods. Jois was influential in spreading ashtanga yoga and training many people in this particular method. Perhaps that is the more traditional method of teaching, however, it does not stand up to scrutiny. It does not allow for any sort of open dialogue and is rather dictatorial. A way of learning that I certainly would not enjoy.
In Summary – My Search for Yoga by David Williams
This was a very enjoyable book to read. A real page turner. It is both a great document of a travel adventure but also a very significant historical record of one mans search for yoga in India. A search which resulted in Ashtanga yoga being brought to the West.
We have a copy of this book that you can purchase from us. This book is only available from David Williams. To purchase a copy directly from him would cost $155 (about £126) including deliver to the UK which is what bumps the price up. It takes around 6 weeks to arrive. We purchased 3 books from David. We are keeping one, have sold one to a friend. As a result we have one to sell and can sell it at £108 which includes UK postage.
If you would like to purchase a copy of this limited edition book please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
After over ten years in the works, I am excited to tell you that my book has arrived, and we have just begun shipping them.
My Search for Yoga is my memoir. It focuses on the years between 1970 and 1977, telling my story beginning with my early fascination with yoga at age 20. That fascination evolved into my role as a â€œyoga detective,â€ searching in Europe, on two overland trips to India, and during the early days in the Carolinas, Florida, California, and Hawaii. My book includes many of the crazy stories (and more) that I have shared in my workshops over the years. It highlights the characters who were a part of my journey and the sometimes-hazardous, often wild adventures I experienced.
In addition to the stories of those days, my book documents the Ashtanga Yoga Syllabus as originally taught to me by Pattabhi Jois as it appeared on the wall of his yoga shala when I arrived in 1973. I later demonstrated this in my complete Ashtanga Yoga Syllabus poster which is available on my website.
The details: My Search for Yoga is a hardbound book measuring 9″ x 12″. It is 315 pages, weighs a little over 3 lbs., and has 132 color images that include the following:
90 color images from those early days
15 pages of my original documentation of the Ashtanga Yoga Syllabus
12 letters from Pattabhi Jois (27 pages), written for him by various letter writers
Through my story, I hope my book will tell my part in the early history of how Ashtanga Yoga made its way out of Mysore, India, and into the lives of millions of practitioners around the world today.
I have recently enjoyed reading Louis Theroux’s autobiography. The book was a kind gift from my friend Susan and it is a wonderful autobiography. I have always enjoyed reading autobiographies. Consequently, it is probably the genre from which I have read most. I hope you enjoy reading my Gotta Get Theroux This book review.
Who is Louis Theroux?
Most people know who he is! However, for those who do not know, Louis is a journalist and documentary film maker. He initially had a cult following. I think that saying he has a cult following does him a disservice. He is a stalwart of the BBC and has a very wide appeal. As such his status from cult to mainstream appeal transitioned quickly.
The documentaries he has made, seeking out weird, wonderful and often rather nasty subjects has created an unrivalled body of work. As a result his work will stand the test of time as an important body of anthropological study.
I am a big fan of Jack Kerouac and I wonder if Louis has read any of his books. The following Kerouac quote from On the Road could easily have been the criteria for the selection of subjects / guests featured in Louis’ documentaries;
The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Documentary maker and journalist
Louis’ journey into journalism and documentary film making is interesting. He did not set out with a burning desire to enter that world. Louis worked on a free alternative newspaper in Silicon Valley after graduating from university. Entry into the world of documentary making came through a one-off segment on the TV Nation show. This started a journey which continues today and has seen Louis win prestigious industry awards for his documentaries and work.
The journalistic and documentary film making profession comes with pressures. There is the need to keep creating interesting content and coming up with original ideas. Louis is open about his self doubt through his career and his feelings of being an imposter! An added layer of pressure which Louis acutely felt was from his father. Paul Theroux is a famous American Travel writer and novelist. The pressure stemmed from living in the shadow of an already established and successful parent.
Louis adopts an interesting approach to his documentaries. He is very involved in coming up with the ideas and topics. The research team then go to work and undertake recce trips and arrange subjects. Louis has limited involvement in this side of production. His approach is to be fresh to the subjects so that the first meeting as filmed is the real deal. This is an approach that he picked up and developed from his time working with Michael Moore on TV Nation.
The subjects and topics covered by Louis are vast. Follow the link at the end of this review to check them out.
Louis’ approach to documentary making and his interactions with people is always to try and see the rounded person. He never takes the approach of having preconceived ideas about people. In essence he approaches his subject with what, in Buddhism, is called beginners mind. It is this openness and blank page approach that clearly endears Louis to most of his subjects. Interestingly though, Louis does not give them an easy ride. He is ready to challenge his subjects with ease and ask those awkward questions at pertinent times.
Even with some of his most repugnant subjects he is able to show, even if only a glimpse, another side to people. Sometimes that may be a kind softer side or it can be a glimpse into the twisted justification for a particular view point or stance. Louis has an ability to draw out these deeper and more complex aspects to his subjects. Consequently his subjects develop as complex individuals rather than one dimensional.
Louis reflects in the book on the complexity of human character. In his documentaries he shows that people are not 100% good or 100% bad. Louis reflects that is it not even a scale but something much more complex that creates individuals.
Louis addresses the issue of Jimmy Savile in this book. After his death, Savile was discovered to have been one of the most prolific sex offenders and abusers ever known.
Louis approached the initial documentary with the idea of finding out about Savile. The colourful, eccentric, quirky and downright odd ageing retired DJ and celebrity. The When Louis Met Jimmy documentary did reveal a slightly darker side to Savile but no hint of what subsequently came to light. As a result, Louis went through a period of self reflection, questioning how he was not able to unmask Savile.
Interestingly, Louis reflects that he at times liked Savile despite finding him quite annoying. They intermittently stayed in contact.
Louis revisited Savile in a subsequent documentary to both professionally and personally address the discovery of his crimes. In his book, Louis reflects that the qualities of Savile that made him likeable and charismatic were the qualities he used to hide his evil side. Qualities he used to evade discovery and capture during his lifetime. Louis reflects that we ignore these aspects of his character at our peril. We need to understand how Savile evaded capture. Retrospectively portraying him as a one dimensional character with a sole intent of pure evil could lead to us failing to understand the complexities of character that allowed him to go undetected. As such we risk failing to identify future such offenders.
It is clear that involvement with Savile had a profound effect on Louis. Sleepless nights, self reflection and self doubt ensued.
It would be remiss not to mention Louis’ ‘My Scientology Movie’ in my Gotta Get Theroux this book review. Making this movie proved an interesting challenge for Louis. He was tailed by Private Investigators and there was clearly a feeling of threat.
The movie also marked a breakthrough into documentary film making. The film became very popular and received awards.
Gotta Get Theroux This finishes with a reflection on the human condition and just how weird it is to experience life! There is a strangely moving part where Louis revisits an old neighbourhood where he lived in Brooklyn. The passage of time having rendered the place unfamiliar and unrecognisable. In contrast, Louis is transported back to familiarity when he smells the unique aroma of the New York Subway.
Gotta Get Theroux This book review
I would highly recommend this book. It provides interesting background and insights into the documentaries that Louis made. As a result you get a window into how Louis felt towards his subjects and the ongoing relationship that a journalist has with their subjects. Sometimes that relationship will be enjoyable and friendly and other times it can be quite the opposite. The weight and pressure that difficult subjects heap upon the journalists involved is not to be underestimated.
I am left with the feeling that the Louis we see on screen is the Louis that you would meet should you bump into him in the street. An endearing, quintessentially British in character, nice guy. Keep up the great work Louis!
If you enjoyed our Gotta Get Theroux this book review you can purchase a copy below. As a member of Amazon associates, we will earn a commission if you purchase the following items on Amazon from the links below;
I review Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell, his sixth published book and a commercial failure. An historically important account of the Spanish Civil War and featuring the seeds of some themes which were developed on in 1984.
The Spanish Civil War
Eric Arthur Blair (George Orwell) volunteered to fight in the Spanish Civil War on the side of the Republicans. The Republicans were made up of left leaning groups such as socialists, communists and anarchists. They were at war against the Nationalists, a more conservative right leaning group which was ultimately led by Franco.
The above description of the war sounds rather straightforward. However, the reality of the war was much more complex. Amongst the many varied groups fighting on the side of the Republicans were many differences of political opinions. As a result there was a large amount of fighting between them. The only thing that they seemingly could all agree on was their opposition to Franco and the Nationalists.
Reader feel free to skip!
Orwell acknowledges in the book that the political background to the war is a rather dry topic. Consequently he invites the reader to feel free to skip a couple of the chapters where he explains this. I must admit that with all the various acronyms, it is rather difficult to follow. The couple of chapters dedicated to this clearly convey the confusion that must have existed. People fighting on the same side ultimately began fighting against each other. The group that Orwell joined to fight with was the POUM. The POUM were actually outlawed as the war progressed. POUM soldiers returning from the front were arrested or even worse shot. They were shot for being a member of a political group that was now illegal.
Orwell is very readable and brings alive what could have been a very dry subject. Trench warfare is described in vivid detail. As you read the book you feel that you experience the trenches of the Spanish Civil War.
Interestingly there is a complete lack of action in the trenches. Soldiers were ill equipped with a lack of guns and bombs. Equipment that was provided to soldiers was often dangerous and very old. Next to no training was provided to the soldiers. As a result a very hopeless picture is painted.
The trenches were too far apart for any real fighting to take place. Soldiers were wounded mostly be stray bullets or a lucky shot landing. Orwell himself was shot in the trenches. His description of this is very powerful and he also discusses the mental effects that this had on him.
Rumble on La Rambla
La Rambla is the lovely main street that runs through the city of Barcelona. It is a wide avenue with beautiful old buildings, flowers sellers and newsagents. Upon arriving in Barcelona, Orwell finds a city owned and run by the people. A city where tipping is outlawed and everyone is a comrade.
Orwell describes how La Rambla is transformed into a battle ground. As a result of the fighting amongst the republican groups, street fighting broke out. Orwell details his experience of this and also the many differences in the reported versions.
A very understanding Mrs Blair
As you read this book, Orwell happens to mention that his wife is with him! He occasionally mentions that she is in a hotel in Barcelona whilst he is at the front fighting the forces of Franco! Mrs Blair’s account of the whole experience would have been very interesting too. As the book draws to a close, we see Mr and Mrs Blair trying to escape Spain. Orwell is wanted by the police for having been a member of a now outlawed political party. It is quite clear how lucky they were to escape and that Orwell lived to write his future masterpieces.
The Truth is what we say it is – origins of 1984
In Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell, the writer states from the outset that he is describing his personal experiences of the Spanish Civil War. He makes this clear because his account differs to some of the widely accepted accounts or facts of the war.
Orwell discusses how every event that took place was subject to propaganda and spin. We often hear the phrase that the victor of a war writes the history. In this situation we become aware of how printed propaganda just serves to confuse historians. Just because something is written down does not make it true. The irony of this is not lost on Orwell as he is writing his own version of events. His version of events that will be flavoured with his own political opinion and leanings.
Let us remember that we are also talking about propaganda amongst the forces fighting Franco. During the street fighting in Barcelona amongst the Republican forces there were many differing accounts of events. For each event that took place there was at least the Government’s official version, the anarchist version and the Communist version.
Orwell reflects on the in-fighting and war in general;
Everyone believes in the atrocities of the enemy and disbelieves in those of his own side, without ever bothering to examine the evidence.
Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell
As the war progressed, Orwell states that it became evident that some form of dictatorship would result. He reflects on the political leaders who he saw as having power to say that 2 + 2 = 5 and for it to be held as true. These themes of propaganda and control of truth are explored and developed in 1984.
La Sagrada Familia
Barcelona is a beautiful city and has wonderful architecture. La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona’s cathedral, is a huge tourist draw. The cathedral is completely unique and is unlike any other in the world. The way it is constructed allows for a beautiful and magical dance of colours inside from its stained glassed windows. Orwell describes it as “one of the most hideous buildings in the world.” Sorry Eric but I must disagree with you there!
Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell is an interesting book from a number of perspectives. It is a first hand experience of trench warfare in the Spanish Civil war and also of the Barcelona street fighting.
The book also explores themes that Orwell developed later in 1984. Themes of totalitarianism and government controlled rewriting of history.
I knew very little about the Spanish Civil War before reading this book. As a result this is what attracted me to the book. Following the yogic concept of self-study, svadhyaya, I set out to learn!