340 Pages, Paperback

ISBN: 969-516-045-X

Price: $10.00

Price: Rs.295 





Fear of Mirrors


Tariq Ali




Vlady, a former dissident who loses his job when he refuses to renounce his socialist beliefs in the new, unified Germany, wants to tell his alienated son, Karl, what his family's long and passionate involvement with Communism really meant. It is the story of Ludwik, the Polish secret agent who recruited Philby, and of Gertrude, Vlady's mother, whose desire for Ludwik is matched only by her devotion to the Communist ideal.

As the plot unfolds through the political upheavals of the twentieth century, Vlady describes the hopes aroused by the Bolshevik revolution and discovers the almost unbearable truth about their betrayal.

Written with deep political insight and sensitivity, Tariq Ali's Fear of Mirrors relates the extraordinary history of Central Europe from the perspective of those on the other side of the Cold War.


Tariq Ali is a writer and filmmaker. He has written over a dozen books on world history and politics, five novels, and scripts for both stage and screen. Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree was the first in a planned quartet of historical novels depicting the confrontation between Islamic and Christian civilizations. The second, The Book of Saladin, was the fictional memoirs of the Liberator of Jerusalem and has been translated into several other languages. The third The Stone Woman, the latest in the series, is set in and around fin-de-siecle Istanbul and follows the soul-searching confrontation with modernity of the noble Ottoman family of Iskander Pasha.



We live in a dreary void and this century is almost over. I have experienced both its passion and its chill. I have watched the sun set across the frozen tundra. I try not to begrudge my fate, but often without success. I know what youíre thinking, Karl. Youíre thinking that I deserve the punishment history has inflicted on me.

You believe that the epoch that is now over, an epoch of genocidal utopias, subordinated the individual to bricks and steel, to gigantic hydro-electric projects, to crazed collectivization schemas and worse. Social architecture used to dwarf the moral stature of human beings and to crush their collective spirit. Youíre not far wrong, but that isnít the whole story.

At your age my parents talked endlessly of the roads that led to paradise. They were building a very special socialist highway, which would become the bridge to constructing heaven on earth. They refused to be humiliated in silence. They refused to accept the permanent insignificance of the poor. How lucky they were, my son. To dream such dreams, to dedicate their lives to fulfilling them. How crazy they seem now, not just to you or the world you represent, but to the billions who need to make a better world, but are now too frightened to dream.

Hope, unlike fear, can never be a passive emotion. It demands movement. It requires people who are active. Till now people have always dreamed of the possibility of a better life. Suddenly they have stopped. I know itís only a semi-colon, not a full-stop, but it is too late to convince poor old Gerhard. He is gone forever.

These are times when, for people like me, it sometimes requires a colossal effort simply to carry on living. It was the same during the thirties. My mother once told me of how, a year before Stalinís men killed him, my father had told her: ĎIn times like these itís much easier to die than to live.í For the first time I have understood what he meant. Life itself seems evil. The worst torture is to witness silently my own degeneration. I really had intended to start on a more cheerful note. Sorry.

Your mother and I, she in Dresden and me in Berlin, moved towards each other, seeking, shelter from the suffocation that affected the majority of citizens of the German Democratic Republic. We yearned for anarchy because the centre of our bureaucratic world was based on order. Gerhard and all our other friends felt exactly the same. We loved our late-night meetings where we talked about the future full of hope and kept ourselves warm by the steam from the black coffee and the tiny glasses of slivowitz. Even in the darkest times there was always merriment. Songs. Poetry. Gerhard was a brilliant mimic and our gatherings always ended with him doing his Politburo turn.

We were desperate for liberation, so desperate that, for a time, we were blinded by the flashes emanating from the Western videosphere, which succeeded in disguising the drabness of the landscape that now confronts us.
The old order possessed, if nothing else, at least one virtue. Its very existence provoked us to think, to rebel, to bring the Wall down. If we lost our lives in the process, death struck us down like lightning. It was mercifully brief. The new uniformity is a slow killer; it encourages passivity. But enough pessimism for the moment.

This is the story of my parents, Karl. It is for you and the children that you will, I hope, father one day. Throughout your childhood you were fed daily with tales of heroism, most of which were true, but they were repetitive. And for that reason, perhaps, you will hate what you are about to read. Just like the poor used to hate potatoes.

Ever since you became a cultivated and capable young man, your mother and I have found it impossible to draw you out, to make you talk with us, to hear your complaints, your fears, your fantasies. Now I know why you couldnít say anything to us. In your eyes we had failed, and to the young failure is a terrible crime. Whatever your verdict on us, I would like you to read this till the end. At my age the passage of time appears as a waterfall, and so please treat this request as the last favour your old fart of a father is asking of you.



Home | Titles | Authors | Order | About | Contact

Book Excerpts | Ghazals