A Socialist Emperor’s New Clothes

Call me old-fashioned, but I still think that when you say you want a revolution, it means you intend to actually do something. It means you plan to work, to organize, to get together with other people to make things happen. You organize in the workplace, in the neighborhood, in the city. You build coalitions, you form alliances, you spend time and effort and bring forth concrete proposals and plans. You build from the ground up. Yes, I’m old-fashioned, and that’s how they did it in the old days. It’s how the trade unions started, and how we ended up with weekends and benefits and child labor laws. The civil rights act of 1965 did not happen because people voted for Lyndon Johnson. Lyndon Johnson all on his own was never going to do a thing like that. Ah, the old days.

It’s different today. All we have to do now is vote for Bernie Sanders and he will make it all happen. He will break up the banks and take all the billionaires’ money and give everybody free unlimited health care and education. It’s double rainbow wonderful and all we have to do is vote. And tell our friends to vote and #feelthebern. Never mind that Bernie Sanders has NO effective allies in government anywhere, that he has never done a damn thing for any other Democrat, that there is no chance in hell that anything he’s proposing would ever get anywhere in the real world. Oh no, he’s got a political revolution in the making, a political revolution that will be made exactly like a viral video or a number one single – it’ll just happen! It’ll be like Adele, it’ll be viewed a billion times on YouTube, it’ll be tweeted and re-tweeted and liked on Facebook and just like that – a revolution!

Wouldn’t it be nice? But where is the innocent child to point out that this socialist would-be emperor has no clothes? You might say, well, look at Donald Trump, this year anything can happen, it’s not like any other year, but a Republican controlled congress actually exists right now and could really do terrible things with a president of their own, and right when they seem on the verge of self-destruction with a parade of horrible loser candidates, do we really need the Democrats to rush in and get there first, all because they’ve fallen under the spell of an enchanter shouting out a string of magic words?

It’s a pretty cloth, a lovely garment, a finely tailored cloak he weaves, but it’s nothing underneath. Voting for this guy is nothing more than following Taylor Swift on Instagram, and in this day and age when three hundred million users is just not good enough (eh, Twitter?) it doesn’t matter how much you like the sound of the words, because it’s just another hit single, and we’ll move on after that to the next big thing. America loves a winner. What it doesn’t love is getting off its fat ass and making shit happen.

(In the past generation the closest thing to a revolution in America has been from the right, which has organized and won elections on the local and state level and proceeded to roll back women’s rights, undermine workers and do away with health and safety regulations, leading directly to crises like lead poisoning, while the left, to be fair, did manage to camp out for a few weeks one summer on Wall Street)

Recommended: Leena Krohn – Collected Fiction

If it were possible for a writer to be a major influence in your life in reverse chronological order, then I would say without a doubt that Leena Krohn is now one of my major influences, though I never heard of or read her before this past week. I think she would be 0kay with the concept. Her writing is a bright piece of a puzzle that’s been forming in my mind like a personal mandala over a period of decades, sitting alongside the Stanislaw Lem of Memoirs Found in a Bathtub, the Italo Calvino of Cosmicomics, the Macedonio Fernandez of The Novel of Eterna, the Cesar Aira of How I Became a Nun, the Julio Cortazar of Cronopios and Famas,and on down the line of the great absurdist/existentialist/philosophical/sci-fi-ish/masterful fiction writers that have every now and then burst upon my imaginary world and dazzled it with all-new impeccable fireworks. All of them I feel would be comfortable inside each others’ pages.

The Collection Fiction is packed full of treasures, novels and stories all in small byte-size pieces that add up to a polynomial of their wordcount. You could easily mistake it for one work altogether written over many years that’s sole intent is to open a window into a fascinating soul. A book is like a mirror, Georg Christoph once said, but some books are more translucent than others, and allow a depth perception in more dimensions than the visible.

In ‘Hakan and the x-creatures’, one of my favorite bits, Krohn describes how creatures in higher-dimensional spaces (say five, seven or even thirty-five dimensions) can know everything about those in the lower orders, but we lower ones can not even imagine them, yet they are certainly there, always present, never perceived. Throughout this particular novel (Pereat Mundis) an online advice counselor interacts with a man suffering from “eschatophobia” – the fear of the end of the world. The client’s communications are full of the possible end-time scenarios, while the counselor responds with trite advice about attending to one’s love life or perhaps volunteering in some do-gooder organization. They talk right past each other and neither takes notice of the other. It’s as infuriating and hilarious as any online comments section. I’m especially enjoying how she uses the same character (Hakan) for multiple characters – now he’s a hybrid human/chimp/wolf/goat, now he’s suffering from rapid aging syndrome, now he’s the eschatophobic client, now he’s a customer service rep for a cryogenics company – and why not? All the Hakans are wonderful!

These stories, along with their inventive playfulness and serious insights, are also beautifully written, charming and disarming. They make me happy and at the same time make me wish ‘if only I could do something like this’, wouldn’t that be great?

How My Brain got a nice review

On Goodreads. Made me happy and edged up my books’ overall Goodreads average rating to 2.99. Can they ever hit 3.00? The Law of Average would say “maybe”. If enough random people randomly read random books and rated them, that rating would likely be around 3.00, and that’s exactly what seems to have happened with mine.

Anyway: How My Brain Ended Up Inside This Box really is (IMHO) a pretty good story, a fresh and somewhat more sane take on artificial intelligence than the usual. And it’s free, of course, like all my books always are on Smashwords or Feedbooks.

Such a great book! A fresh new take on the whole Artificial Intelligence genre. And it’s simplicity is its beauty!

When the AIP discovers their self, we people’s-people reading it discover ourselves and the world along with them!

Glad I stumbled across this little treasure. It will be in one of my all time favourite reads.

The Unmarked Woman: A short story

(This story came to me in a dream this morning, so I just wrote it down)

The Unmarked Woman

In one year the transformation was complete.
One year from then to now
One year from that to this
That man once had the power but with his curse he had given it to her
Let no one see you
That you should never leave this place
That you should be mine as long as I live
One year was all it took
to bring his little kingdom down.

El Baguetti was what they liked to call a “tribal chieftain”. It was their way of trivializing the “natives”, of painting them with the same broad brush they had used to brainwash their own people about who was inferior and who was the light of progress. Of course they had their own “nobles” and “lords” but didn’t see it the same way, didn’t see it was the same thing, didn’t see they were just as stratified, just as bureaucratic, just as hierarchical as the “locals” in the places they had conquered and owned and now couldn’t shake off when it was convenient for them. Chickens that came home to roost and while roosting made a mess of everything, demanding recompense, seeking revenge. El Baguetti was a “warlord” in their eyes and in the headlines of their news. To the people around him, he was just a made man, self-made in many ways, a man with power, a man who commanded respect. He had come, he had seen and he had conquered. What was so different about that? Why not call him Mister President?
Because of his outrageous use of violence? Because of his undeniable “social media savvy”? Because he knew how to use a fucking computer? Who did he think he was? A damn savage, that’s what. He had spies, he had informants, he used blackmail, he used torture, he was a bad guy, a seriously bad guy who did what all the bad guys did and as bound to pay for it in the end but not until he’d made everybody else as miserable as he possibly could. Must have been something about his childhood, and the ways his parents had treated him. Must have been something about his makeup, about the psychology, that maybe he was bullied as a child growing up on a heap of garbage in the middle of fucking nowhere. Most likely he’d been a failure, a loser, a weakling who needed to compensate for the incredibly tiny penis that hung from his otherwise impressive body. There had to be an explanation, an easy way to understand, to pigeonhole, to put him in his place. Or maybe he was just an asshole.
Maybe he was just an asshole who liked to boss people around and built his organization the old-fashioned way, by manipulating people and events as he found them, by making decisions that turned out to be right, by “surrounding himself” with talented minions, the best and the brightest as far as “those people” went. He could have been a CEO if given the proper circumstances, the right milieu, a bonafide education and a much lighter skin tone.
His main weapon was fuel. Fuel for the fire, as he called it. There were a few varieties. Literal fuel itself was one, and he cornered the market on that in his region, one source at a time, using thugs and connections to control one market after another, until everyone in the area had to come to him, had to buy from him, and in this way he secured their money, their loyalty, their sons and daughters worked for him, he became the big boss man. It wasn’t enough. Money was good and power was good but down at the root of it all the man needed fuel, and that was the only truth about him that mattered. Another fuel was simply the fact of using people, of having them at his disposal. He loved to burn right through them, and so he took one man and set him against another, then another man and yet another, and soon he had a whole company full of dependents hanging on his every word, busily attempting to decipher his whims and wants and wisps of will. He was the CEO in fact, of this organization that went by many names, some in the various local languages, and then others in all the languages of the world as his influence spread and his name became known.
El Baguetti was the name he was most known by in the end. It was an insult, a joke, a demeaning way of saying he was not an equal, not a real man, not a “world leader”, not a “force to be reckoned with”, but a lout, a creep, a jerk, an evil son of a bitch who deserved only one thing and that was to get the very same that he gave – a brutal, miserable and torturous death, the slower and more vicious the better. If they had simply blown him up that would have been too easy. He would have “gotten off lightly”. He had so enraged the world that nothing would be too bad to do to him, the cruel bastard. And it was true he had murdered. And it was true he had tortured. He had raped and enslaved. He had stolen and destroyed many lives. He was certain to die and of course he knew that. He wasn’t a fool. He was a man, and a man, every man, knows that he is going to die, and some men don’t mind taking as many with them as he can, because what the fuck, who gives a shit, it’s just life, it’s just people, and life sucks, people suck, just look what they do, just look what they’ve done.
“I grew up on a garbage heap,” he told her during one of the many long nights of her seemingly endless captivity. “You think I give a shit?”
She could have said the same thing, and at a later time she would have said exactly that. One year later she would have said exactly that, but on the first night, the night her first life came to a halt, she said nothing. She was too utterly terrified to say a single word.
She understood she had been marked. She had been seen, identified and selected. All of her life, from her happy suburban childhood in southern Indiana to her bustling college days at NYU, to her assignments overseas helping – as she saw it – feed the hungry people of the world, she had never known how she appeared, she had never seen herself as she was seen. She didn’t give a thought to what she wore. They were clothes, comfortable and fitting the occasion. She wore makeup, of course, but not very much, just enough to get by, to not stand out as one of those women who are making some sort of statement by NOT wearing makeup, which marked them just as much as those who did. A little bit of lipstick, something to highlight her lashes, which her mother had always made a fuss over. Those baby blue eyes stood out so well against the thick lush black of the lashes. She wore her brown hair medium length in a simple cut, a hint of bangs. She preferred dark colors, pea greens, denim blues, deerskin brown, but not real deer, nothing made of actual animals, never any fur despite the cold bleak winters of her youth. Her parents were conservative but solid, not mean of course but principled. They simply didn’t believe that anyone had a right to take any life, fetal or otherwise. And they kept some guns in the house just in case although they didn’t hunt and the only real valuables for miles around were in the jewelry store on main street.
Her name was Karen, Karen Folde, and she fit right in to where she was. She fit right in in high school, working on the newspaper, writing copy for the yearbook. She was pretty enough and smart enough and fit right on in. She had a boyfriend who took her to the senior prom but they only made out and didn’t go any further. It didn’t feel right. Not that she was “saving herself” or anything like that, but was determined to meet “the right guy” and do things the right way. It was no big deal. In college she was serious and her dedication was admired by her teachers and her fellow students, who looked to her to show the way and lead by example. She was a genuine leader, an excellent example and she did very well, well enough to land an impressive gig with the United Nations and get dispatched to various sites around the world where she could do good things for children in need.
This was when she first stood out, when she first became noticeable and noticed. She had a sense of that, of course. She had to learn the languages and in some places the customs were different enough that she felt lost and had to figure out what would be appropriate to wear, what would be allowed to say, where she could go, as a woman, of course because her compatriot men could seemingly go anywhere, do anything, and say whatever they liked. They didn’t have to wear particular robes or lower their gaze or stuff like that. But hey, when in Rome, they all said knowingly. She did her best to accommodate, adapt and adjust, but still she was marked. Those big baby blues said a lot, especially the way they stood out given those thick lush lashes.
It was her eyes that gave her away to one of El Baguetti’s spies, who’d been told he wanted a particular kind of fuel, a Western woman, a white woman, a non-governmental agency woman who would make for a decent little attention-getter. He had plans for her. He would use her. She herself was nothing, not Karen Folde, not from Indiana, not with parents, not with friends or even a potential boyfriend back home whom she’d kept on hold, kept waiting while she made up her mind if he was the “right guy” or not. She’d needed some time to think about that and time was up. She was captured. She was caught. It was over.
Everything about the next few days was more than a nightmare. It was everything bad. Blindfolded, tossed into a truck, knocked all around, beaten, bruised, kidnapped, raped, she had no idea where she was, who they were, all these men, or even El Baguetti, when they finally dumped her onto the floor in front of his makeshift throne and took off the blindfold and she could see him face to face, she had no idea who he was. Nobody seemed to know what he looked like. His nicknames were legendary but photos were rare. And he didn’t tell her who he was. He didn’t say much. He looked down at her, at her arms still tied behind her back and her ankles bound together, her outfit soiled and ripped, her pretty face battered and one big blue eye swollen shut, and he said,
“I grew up on a garbage heap.”
All she knew was that she was possibly worth something to this man, otherwise why had they not simply killed her. He was obviously the boss. She wondered if it mattered to him that she had already been raped, that they hadn’t delivered her all fresh and pure and virginal and all. Then she realized they already assumed she was a whore, being from where she was, the decadent civilization they despised so much. She was already impure from birth, and he later told her so. He lectured her in all sorts of matters, after he had had her cleaned up and bathed and dressed in fresh robes and this time raped her personally while mentioning that if she didn’t do exactly what he wanted he would slit her throat as readily as the fruit he was peeling at the time. She kept her eye on the blade he wielded, yearning only to grab it herself and in her dreams, or nightmares, all she ever did was slit all their throats as readily as he peeled that pomegranate or whatever the fuck it was.
They gave her just enough food and just enough water but over the next several days El Baguetti didn’t seem to know what to do with her. He might have discovered that she wasn’t worth very much money. Or maybe he’d demanded a ransom and been simply refused. Or maybe he had other priorities but it was only a few days, and maybe he just wasn’t that “into her” but one morning he decided he’d had enough of her presence, was bored with her company, or maybe she just wasn’t “the right one”, yet at the same time he never gave away anything once he possessed it, so his curse made sense in his own stupid way. He towered over her as she cowered shivering on the little cot he’d tied her to and uttered these words in some form of incantation, like he was a wizard or something. I’m telling you, this guy was full of himself. Power had gone to his head. He was a madman and was beginning to think he was a god. He said, and I fucking quote:
Let no one see you
That you should never leave this place
That you should be mine as long as I live

And it worked. She became invisible, like a ghost. She was still the same, still the same Karen Folde, had the same shape, the same size but she no longer had a body, no longer had a look. She could not be seen. She had become an unmarked woman, the only way a woman can be unmarked. Without a physical body, there was nothing to hold her down, and after he left her alone again she simply passed through her bonds and rose to her feet. She could walk on the ground, somehow, but she could not pass through walls, she’d be stopped by any barrier but she could go about the compound completely unseen. It was amazing. Nobody noticed her. Nobody grabbed her. Nobody saw her. But they could hear her. Somehow she could be heard. When she spoke, people were startled and turned their heads in her direction, then shook their heads as if they must have been dreaming. She determined to remain quiet and all she wanted at that point as to get the fuck out of there, so she walked through the rooms and down the hallways and through the open doors (she was unable to open any that were closed) and finally, after waiting for someone to go outside she went outside behind them and down the path and to the front gate but there she could go no further. Even when the gate was opened, she could not pass. She was stuck. She was trapped. She hadn’t been killed, she knew that. She was still alive and still a hostage but one without form, without substance, without a body.
If only that were true. She still did have a body, still a face, only it was shielded from their view, from everybody’s sight, but in time she discovered that although she did not need food and did not need drink, she still had certain bodily functions. In short, she was pregnant. This was in no way possible, of course, but it was true. Likewise impossible but true, there was one person who knew she was there, one besides El Baguetti, of course. He still saw her plain as day but paid little attention to her. He only grunted and groaned when he became aware of her presence. He was done with her, wanted nothing further to do with her, and acted as if she had already been dispatched to whatever next world he imagined there was.
He had some kind of imagination about that, because he had developed a sort of theology, as all mad men eventually do. His was a mishmash of local flavors, ancient screeds and mystical ramblings, and it involved bloodshed and manliness and an end to everything at some point when certain conditions would be fulfilled. He ranted on and on about this crap to his followers who wrote it all down and disseminated the nonsense as if it were gospel, which it was, because it was the very definition of “gospel”, the ravings of some disciples of some lunatic who somehow knew the core root truth of everything despite being an ignorant peasant who had grown up on a fucking garbage heap. Karen Folde listened to his ramblings from time to time when she became bored of trying to find a crack or a fissure in the defenses of the compound that would allow her formless form to slip through and get away. What she would do after that was anybody’s guess but first things first, she told herself, first things first.
It was another enslaved woman who could see her. This woman had a name that Karen could not easily pronounce, but somehow sounded like “Bob”, so she called her that and thought of her as that. Bob looked right at her and told her, one day when they were alone and Bob was doing some laundry,
“How is it they do not kill you? They don’t feed you. They don’t fuck you. They don’t make you do any work. Why don’t they just fucking kill you?”
Karen was shocked that Bob was not only looking at her and saying those things but also using the word “fuck” because she knew that the women around there were not allowed to.
“You can see me?” she asked.
“Of course I can see you” said Bob, “you’re standing right in front of me. Blocking the sunlight too, god damn it. It’s cold in your shadow.”
“Sorry,” Karen said, moving out of the way. “Is that better?”
“Better,” Bob snorted. “Better would be dead, don’t you think?”
“They rape you,” Karen said and Bob snorted again. Karen would come to find that Bob snorted a lot. She had a lot of contempt for things, for everyone, for life. She was not that different from El Baguetti. He was making her become like him. He had a knack for that. It was one of his “leadership qualities”.
“So why don’t they kill you?” Bob asked again.
“They can’t see me,” Karen told her. Bob didn’t believe her, but Karen proved it to her, and once she did, Bob became her friend and ally. It was Bob who told Karen she was pregnant. Karen couldn’t feel it, didn’t know it. She was unable to even see herself. Bob was sly and figured out how to manage things so that she could speak with Karen and no one would suspect. She put on an act of a crazy woman and it proved to be useful to her. Men began to avoid her. Other women too. She had more time to herself. It was a good thing she was useful, could do a lot of work and do it well. El Baguetti in particular liked a stew she knew how to make, that nobody could prepare quite the way that she could.
“This is why they don’t kill me,” Bob told Karen. “They like my fucking stew.”
Karen moved in with Bob and slept on the floor in her room. It was not uncomfortable. Having no body had its perks. Bob wanted her to sleep on the cot, she was concerned about the baby, but Karen wouldn’t hear of it.
“What if someone saw you on the floor?” she said. She was always worrying about getting found out. Bob did not understand her.
“Who the fuck cares where I sleep?” she snorted, but kept to her cot anyway. It was better than the floor.
The long slow days went by like this. She followed Bob around and they had many interesting conversations. Karen told her all about growing up in Indiana and going to college in New York City. Bob told her all about growing up in a tiny desert village surrounded by goats and grain. Bob explained the various mysteries of El Baguetti’s made-up religion, and Karen explained why organizations like the one she’d worked for felt it was their business to go around the world interfering in other people’s lives, “making things better” when for all that Bob could see things would be even better if they were all just “left the fuck alone”.
“Your people only want to give because they want to take,” Bob said. “First they take, and then they give. They take one thousand and they give back one. Then they take another one thousand. This is how it works. You are the one who comes around handing out the one, after the takers have gone.”
Karen began to see Bob had a point.
“El Baguetti, he is a taker too,” Bob said, “only he does not give back. You will see that his days are strictly numbered. Your people know how to play the game. El Baguetti does not even know it is one.”
Karen wanted to know precisely how many days El Baguetti had left. One day, when he passed through the room she happened to be in at the time, she asked him out loud.
“How many days do you have left?” she said.
He stopped and stared at her.
“What did you say? You dare speak to me?”
“How many days?” she repeated. “Or do you think it’s going to go on like this forever.”
“Fuck if I know,” he said.
“They’re coming to get you,” she told him and he reached out to strike her, to wipe whatever that look was off her disgusting face, but his hand passed right through it. El Baguetti could not believe his eyes. He punched her right in the face. His fist flew right past her, made no contact. She laughed at him.
“Fuck you,” she said, and laughed again.
“What the fuck is this shit?” he roared, then took a deep breath, and stormed out of the room. She decided to follow him.
She followed him everywhere he went and there was nothing he could do about it. Not a damn thing. She would only take a break at night, when he was sleeping, and then she went to visit Bob and they stayed up talking all night. This was going to be great, they agreed. He was already half bonkers. Now they were totally going to fuck with the bugger, drive him right out of his fucking gourd. All Karen had to do was provoke him. She could whisper into his ear so that no one else could hear it and he would have to react, either jump up or shout and smack at himself like there was a mosquito bothering him. It didn’t matter as long as he did something. And that’s what happened the first few times, but El Baguetti, as we have mentioned before, was not a fool. He was CEO material. You could have easily called him Mister President. He was the “tribal chieftain” of what had become a sort of country, one without officially recognized borders, but one that was beginning to be drawn on maps, discussed on the news, called by even more names in more languages around the world.
He changed tactics. He began to listen to what she had to say, and late at night he would keep her in his room by talking back to her. When the baby was born, popped out of nowhere or so it seemed, this little pale baby with big blue eyes and incredibly thick eyelashes, he even assigned Bob to mother it just to keep up appearances. He could otherwise not explain how it was that a baby was being held by an invisible woman in his bedroom.
El Baguetti listened because he was running out of ideas. He had talked and talked and talked so much that even he no longer had any idea what all his ideas had been. He needed the people around him to remind him of the mythology and all its details. Who was going to attack whom and where? And then what forces were going to be set in motion? And what were the laws that men had to obey in order to properly bring about this ultimate battle? And who could kill who and how? It had all become like a big epic movie, a major motion picture that might win Academy Awards but no one could really keep straight. There was a cast of millions, a clash of civilizations, too many heroes and too many villains. There were forces for good and forces for evil and both sides thought it was all about them.
Bob planted the seed in Karen, and Karen planted the seed in El Baguetti, that he would never survive by taking alone, that it was time to give back. The enemy, in Bob’s formulation, gave back one for a thousand, but he could do better, El Baguetti was better. He could show them how it ought to be done. He could give back a million for every one that he took. He could truly become the god he always wanted to be. He could liberate everyone, free the whole world. All he had to do was turn it all inside out. Instead of killing, give life. Instead of burning, grow. Instead of destroying, build.
“How can I do it?” El Baguetti asked her. He wanted to now. He wanted to change. All that his power had done was bring down the wrath of the bombs and, soon, traitors. He could see it all coming his way. It was obvious, now, as Karen described it from Bob, that his days were strictly and severely numbered. It was only a matter of time. He was losing, he would lose. The only chance El Baguetti would have was a radical shift.
“Can it even be done?” he wondered out loud. He paced around his bedroom all night. He couldn’t sleep any longer, convinced that assassins would come, that the number of his days was down to the last. He began to have extravagant ideas. He would distribute all of the wealth that he had piled up, in one big giant feast-like celebration. He would declare a new holiday. Make it so fucking holy. Everyone in the kingdom would have to be there and he would give them all presents. He saw himself dressed up in the finest of robes, handing out favors, loving and being loved by all of his people. It would be glorious, magnificent. They would call him new names, beneficent ones. No longer a figure of pure evil he would become the light of the world. El Baguetti would be handing out bread to the masses, enough for them all. No one would ever again have to grow up on a garbage heap. He would see to it. He would personally guarantee it. As a natural born leader, he would make it all happen.
Karen encouraged him. Egged on by Bob, she convinced him that his plan would succeed, knowing very well that his closest associates would turn on him instantly. He had given them power. They would keep it no matter the cost. Hadn’t he trained them too well? Didn’t they also have “leadership qualities”?
It was exactly what happened. Karen wanted to wait until it was exactly one year, one year to the day when he had ruined her life, and she ruined his. He gave the big speech to his most loyal associates, and just as if he was Julius fucking Caesar, they slit his throat open like whatever that fruit was, and Karen didn’t even have to get a hold of the blade.

Around the World in Way More Than 80 Days

It’s almost an annual tradition that I hear from someone far, far away who expresses an interest in translating one of my free ebooks. This time it’s from Algeria, a university student in the Sahara Desert, claiming to be translating the first few chapters of ‘Prisoners of Perfection‘. She asks, “why did you write this story?”

Why indeed?

I often ask myself the same question about everything I write.

Ties that ought to bind

One thought i had today about my European Jewish ancestors. My father’s great grandfather came to America around 1830, from Germany. At about the same time, the people who were living where i live now, in Coastal California, were being exterminated by European immigrants. In other words, by the same kind of people as my ancestors. The local people had been living here in a stable culture for hundreds, even thousands of years, certainly for longer and with more continuity than my European ancestors.

Some of my ancestors’ relatives were no doubt victims of a different and more recent attempted genocide, those who did not leave Germany (or Poland or Ukraine, where my mother’s ancestors lived). There is a long chain of these crimes against ourselves, and none of us is disconnected.

We have to see ourselves and each other as humans first or there will never be an end to this insanity.

Recommended: This Hell of Mine by Lara Blunte

Lara Blunte writes immediately absorbing stories. Her stories grab me with an irresistible magnetic pull, right from the start. “This Hell of Mine” is certainly no exception and, as in all of her work, includes an extra unexpected element that makes the whole thing jump to another level entirely. It’s this kind of magic that compels me to read everything she writes, no matter the genre, and she has written in many.

I first happened across Lara Blunte’s writing on Wattpad, through her fascinating collection of travel essays called ‘The Lazy Traveler’. She seems to have been everywhere and seen everything, and brings a unique depth and perception to her writing. In “This Hell of Mine” she is just at home in Mexico City high society or out in the middle of the Sonora desert, at a fancy dress ball or in the streets of Cuernavaca during Day of the Dead festivities. Her writing is clear, fresh and compelling, her characters vivid and alluring. There is plenty of romance here, and also tremendous suspense, danger and thrills. It’s great stuff. Highly recommended!