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Inside some countries and contradicting capitalism

An anthology of Sri Lankan literature, getting to know Tibet better, unraveling paradoxes about capitalism and a journalist’s account of terrorism – the IANS Book stack this weekend has works from other countries.

1. Book: The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan (2001-2014); Author: Carlotta Gall; Publisher: Penguin; Pages: 330; Price: Rs. 499

This is the story of America’s gravest mistake – of how its most trusted ally turned out to be the very reason it was fighting the Afghan War. The author has reported from Afghanistan and Pakistan for almost the entire duration of the American invasion and occupation, beginning shortly after 9/11.

Gall chronicles just how much this war has cost the Afghan people, and how much damage can be traced to Pakistan and its duplicitous government and intelligence forces. She reveals shocking evidence which details the extent of Pakistan’s involvement in protecting Osama bin Laden and its training militants who operated in the region.

Her first-hand accounts of Pakistani intelligence thugs, Taliban warlords, American generals, Afghani politicians, and the many innocents who were caught up in this long war are riveting. Pakistan, not Afghanistan, has been the real enemy all along.

2. Book: Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism; Author: David Harvey; Publisher: Profile Books; Pages: 338; Price: Rs. 699

In this incisive account of what is happening around us, David Harvey, one of the world’s leading Marxist thinkers, unravels the paradoxes at the heart of capitalism – its drive, for example, to accumulate capital beyond the means of investing it; its imperative to use labour-saving technologies that leave consumers bereft of adequate means of consumption; and its compulsion to exploit nature to the point of extinction. Such are the tensions that underpin the persistence of mass unemployment, the downward spirals of Europe and Japan, and China’s and India’s unstable lurches in unpredictable directions.

Not that these contradictions are all destructive in the short term; they produce the crisis through which capitalism has historically reconstituted itself in new guises. But can capitalism survive in the long run by staggering from crisis to crisis? The author suggests the signs are not good and appearances can deceive, for while many of capital’s contradictions can be managed, others threaten the system at its very core.

3. Book: Many Roads Through Paradise: An Anthology of Sri Lankan Literature; Editor: Shyam Selvadurai; Publisher: Penguin; Pages: 510; Price: Rs. 499

The author pieces together the best of Sri Lankan poetry and fiction in this anthology. From the Sinhala and Tamil writers of the 1950’s to the diaspora writers of today, from stories of love and longing to those of brutality and death, this masterfully constructed collection will give you a rich sense of Sri Lanka’s history, its people and the stories they have to tell.

4.Book: Tibet: An Unfinished Story; Authors: Lezilee Brown Halper and Stefan Halper; Publisher: Hachette; Pages: 367; Price: Rs. 599

This book traces the origins and manifestations of the Tibetan myth, as propagated by Madame Blavatsky, Himmler, Archeson and Roosevelt. The authors discuss how, after World War II, Tibet – isolated, misunderstood and with a tiny elite unschooled in political-military realities – misread the diplomacy between its two giant neighbours, India and China, forlornly hoping London or Washington might intervene.

Drawing on declassified CIA and Chinese documents, the authors reveal Mao’s collusion with Stalin to subdue Tibet, double-dealing by Nehru, the brilliant diplomacy of Chou Enlai and how Washington see-sawed between the China lobby that insisted there be no backing for an independent Tibet and presidents Harry Truman and later Dwight Eisenhower, who initiated a covert CIA programme to support the Dalai Lama and resist Chinese occupation. It is an ignoble saga with few heroes, if any, other than ordinary Tibetans.