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Time and Space in a Static World: Waiting for Godot

Waiting for Godot, besides being considered one of the founding texts of contemporary theatre, is certainly the best-known work of Samuel Beckett. The play unfolds in two acts, but the scene is always equal to itself. In the first act we see a street and a tree, and in the second Act, the actors move within the same place.

All the characters have the same gestures, and they repeat the same words. The staticness  of Beckett’s  comedy is evidently symbolic, and it conveys the message about the futility of  life of modern men without any definite purpose. Estragon and Vladimir are two vagabonds who express at the highest level possible the contemporary human condition. Both Estragon and Vladimir have no history: in fact, they have few and fragmentary memories of them.  So they don’t seem to have a future except maybe one:  they are waiting for a man named Godot.

Estragon and Vladimir are anxiously awaiting the mysterious Godot, who should give them a hand to find a stable paid employment opportunity.  But Godot never arrives, but he says he would come certainly tomorrow.  There were a lot of critics trying to unravel the mystery of Godot, often interpreted as God, given the presence of the English word God in the name of the elusive and always absent Beckett’s character; others have seen Godot as the symbolic image of happiness always so elusive, and others more generally attempted to find other strange solutions to the problem. Beckett never explained what he considered to be the enigmatic Godot, and he has always claimed that he “did not know” who Godot was, adding perhaps truthfully that if he knew him “he would reveal the mystery in his comedy.”

In essence, a vacuum expectation seems to dominate Beckett’s play. On a street at the foot of a tree, Estragon and Vladimir called respectively GoGo and Didi, await Godot.  Day after day GoGo and Didi attended yet, and they spend their lives on the street. And so the otiose wait of Vladimir and Estragon is the symbolical image of the human condition characterized by an existential vacuum. They are condemned to exist, and their speeches sound absurd and without meaningless, full just both of platitudes and paradoxes. Their conversation is only a parody of communication, and it symbolically demonstrates the absolute solitude of man and his substantial inability to enter into communication with the others. The power of Beckett’s theatre comes mainly from the use that he made of time and space; the characters are always in a wait without projection, because time is static, and space is fixed. The characters live in a situation of powerlessness, where there is no communication but   monologues without any sense.

The Theatre of the Absurd began in France, and the main feature of these plays is the combination of absurd and illogical situations with a realistic language. They reflect the meaninglessness of men’s life and the incoherence of a world where people are unable to communicate with each other and are consequently bound to live an isolated existence. The leading figure of The theatre of the Absurd in England was surely Samuel Beckett. He was born in 1900 in Ireland, and became first know in France for his drama En attendant Godot, later staged in England as Waiting for Godot.

Notes

Samuel Beckett, En attendant Godot, Paris,  Éditions de Minuit, 1952.

 

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Masters, White slaves and Black Slaves in Early America

William Stuart, in his important report on White Servitude, informed us that the Dutch West India Company, when decided to colonize the new territories of New York and New Jersey, did so for purely commercial reasons. The Dutch West India Company wanted to invest in countries with strong agricultural potential, but the key problem was the allocation of workers so as to ensure the maximum level of production of annual crops.

After a careful analysis of several of these territories, the West India Company came to the conclusion that an adequate strategy for the colonization of these regions was not only necessary but also the harbinger of new income-earning opportunities. But the number of workers who could be used was very limited, because anyone who had the economic means was reluctant to face excessive labor, deprivations and disease in large and hostile territories.

At first, the workforce plan of the West India Company started with a schedule based on masters and servants system. This form of contract looked too much to the serfdom system production widespread in Early Medieval Europe (400-1100) that was not particularly pleasing to Dutch settlers, in whose country there remained only the memory of serfdom. The West India Company granted huge tracts of land to the masters, with the proviso that, within the first four years, they managed to settle at least fifty individuals in their lands, who should  remain at work for at least ten or fifteen years.

The masters, for their part, had to subsidize their peasants with houses, barns, cattle, horses and all necessary equipment. The masters received back the rent of one half of the products of lands so cultivated.  For their part, workers were forced to remain on the lands for a period of at least ten years and, in addition, they were obliged to grind their grain in the masters’ mill, sell their agricultural products in the local market owned by their masters, and, finally, they could hunt and fish only by their permission. As we said above, Dutch farmers did not like at all this revival of serfdom, whereby the West India Company, circa 1638, quickly went back on its decision, both increasing the agricultural land base to the masters and offering a new, much less onerous long-term contract to the settlers.

When the British took possession of these lands, they retained the serfdom system production. The workforce problem however remained unresolved, especially in New Jersey, where workers were building forts, homes, barns, mills and roads.  In the second half of the 17th century, the West India Company managed to find a decent amount of settlers, some of whom came from Holland, others from England, and some still others from the Palatinate, Germany. Those who came from Holland to work on farms were prisoners and poor people with some rare exception. But white slaves were essentially poor people.

In 1654, the Burgomaster of Amsterdam found a rather ingenious solution in order to satisfy the demand for servants by the West India Company, and he notified the Director-General Peter Stuyvesant, Burgomaster of New Amsterdam, in writing that hospices in his town were exceedingly overcrowded and that, in order to alleviate the financial difficulties of the hospices, he had decided to send some guests to work in New Netherland. Thirty boys and girls were therefore transported by boat, so that, according to their fitness for the job, they could procure their sustenance thanks to their work.

According to William Stuart, many children of poorhouses at Amsterdam were sent to New Netherland In 1658, with contracts ranging from two to four years, depending on the age of them, who were also forced to serve according to their appointed time. Meanwhile, some common prisoners of war came from England. In 1693 other prisoners arrived both in New York and New Jersey, and, according to the report of the Governor of New York, we are aware of the fact that many children were also sent from the Palatinate as apprentices between1710 and 1714, with ages ranging from three to fifteen years, although most of them were between twelve and fourteen, and about 40% of them were orphans.

The reality of these unfortunate children was carried on the basis of absolute obedience. Usually the parents of these children and teenagers had also transferred their parental rights to the masters, so they, for the whole time of their service, depended almost entirely on their masters, and they were subject to various forms of corporal punishment, while food and rest were granted by masters themselves at their sole discretion. Both in New York and New Jersey, if someone was trying to escape, the penalties passed by a fine ranging from ten to twenty-five pounds to the internment in  correction houses. But they could be subject to no more than thirty-nine lashes.  Any adult could also be subjected to the punishment of the pillory, even in winter.

I conclude by noting that, since the white slaves were difficult to find and created complex problems, the masters finally opted for black slaves. The extremely detailed and informed report of William Stuart is actually a very important document on the early years of colonization in America that also throws light on the exploitation of children.  William Stuart stated that this phenomenon was not peculiar to New York and New Jersey, but it was relatively spread in Europe, and especially in Sicily, with the phenomenon of the so-called Carusi, viz. children working in sulfur mines in Sicily.

According to William Stuart, the issue of White Servitude can be fitted into the broader context of labor problem in the world, and he called for help the League of Nations to adjust the problems of work at the international level.  So that, in his opinion, White Servitude in the colonies of New York and New Jersey was only a short chapter of work in world environmental history.

It’s a pity that William Stuart had been over-optimistic.

Source

William Stuart, “White Servitude in New York and New Jersey”, in  Americana, New York, 1921,  Vol. XV, pp. 19-37.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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George Orwell and the Federal Bureau of Investigation

At first, I should remark the extraordinary political and social relevance of George Orwell’s  themes. He condemned all dictatorships, both communism and imperialism. His critique was particularly corrosive because Orwell was independent from any power:

“I felt that I had got to escape not merely from imperialism but from every form of man’s dominion over man” (1). Orwell’s moral conscience prevented him from accepting any compromise, even though he was forced to admit that the world revolves around hypocrisy and falsehood. In Burmese Days he wrote without possibility of misunderstandings that,

“Even  those bloody fools at the Club might be better company if we weren’t all of us living a lie the whole time.” (2). According to Orwell, in our time it is however impossible to leave politics, because everything is a political issue. But,

“Political language, and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists, is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one’s own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrases, some ‘jackboot, Achill’s heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno’ or other lump of verbal refuse, into the dustbin where it belongs.” (3). Starting from these philosophical premises, George Orwell became one of the best essayists and writers in English literature, and hence arose some Orwell’s  masterpieces such as  Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-four.

As essayist, in his Political Writings Orwell stated:

“When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of  art.’ I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing. But I could not do the work of writing a book, or even a long magazine article, if it were not also an aesthetic experience. Anyone who cares to examine my work will see that even when it is downright propaganda it contains much that a full-time politician would consider irrelevant. I am not able, and do not want, completely to abandon the world view that I acquired in childhood. So long as I remain alive and well I shall continue to feel strongly about prose style, to love the surface of the earth, and to take a pleasure in solid objects and scraps of useless information.”  (4).

As you will see,  his “scraps of useless information” gave many a whole lot of trouble, and Orwell was kept under strict surveillance, because everybody considered him an authority now. In fact, Orwell’s literary career had unexpected enthusiastic admirers in the United States, because of it was also followed with “passionate” interest by The Federal Bureau of Investigation, because it was not clear whether Orwell was a “Communist” or an “anti-Communist” writer. And so C.F. Downing in his Office Memorandum wrote:

“A writer, George Orwell, wrote a novel in which he depicted America in 1984. Orwell predicted that by that time the private life of Americans will be viewed by means of secretly placed television screens. ‘There will be no escape from these secret eyes; asleep or awake, outside or indoors, in bed or bathtub, the watchful eye will be trained on you’, writes Orwell; ‘nothing will be your own, private, exclusive, except a few cubic centimeters inside of your cranium […]’.In this book […] Orwell did not direct his satire against the U.S., and in view of Orwell’s previous anticommunist  writings, such as Animal Farm, published in 1946, the target would more likely appear to be Russia.” Then C.F. Downing added:

“In reporting a recent Soviet statement that the novel [viz. 1984] was written about the U.S., the New York Herald Tribune described it as a novel theory.” The New York Herald Tribune concluded by saying, that

“We can console the people of American big business that there is no field in the American life that never yet has suffered a decline, but is flourishing year after year. It is police surveillance and investigation, Indeed, in this field, America has surpassed the world, and has no equal”. (5).

That’s why Orwell found in the Federal Bureau of Investigation an avid reader of his novels.

Notes

1)      George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier, 1958, p. 148.

2)      George Orwell, Burmese Days, 2004, p. 49.

3)      George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language,” in George Orwell. A Collection of Essays, 1981, p. 171.

4)      Political Writings of George Orwell, Bookyards Library to the World.

5)      Office Memorandum, United States Government, Date: March 31, 1959, To: Mister Parson  From C.F. Downing, in Federal Bureau of Investigation, George Orwell, Part 1 of 1, Bufile Number: 62-69317 (Source: Internet Archive) pp. 1-2.

 

 

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Businessmen, Progress, and a Ridiculous Question

“Much  of the best energy of the world is wasted in living in the past or dreaming of the future. Some people seem to think any time, but the present is a good time to live in. But one man who move the world must be a part of it. They must touch the life that now is, and feel the thrill of the movement of civilization.”

“Many  people do not live in the present. It does not know them. They are buried in books; they live in archives, and in history, but the great throbbing pulse of the world they do not touch. They are not a part of the world; they are never attuned to it.”

“The young man who would win must plunge the current of events. He must keep step with the march of progress, or he will soon be far in the rear. The current of the times must run through his veins, or there will be paralysis somewhere in his nature.” ( The Business Journal).

Because of this all-encompassing philosophy, the young man who would win must plunge the current of events is claiming to be the standard bearer of progress, of civilization, and even of the march of progress, because the current of the times must run through his veins. Everyone else, and above all those studying in the archives and history are excluded from the great throbbing pulse of the world, and so they do not touch the life that now is, namely, the progress and civilization.

But the people who  study in the archives and history know that, from the historical point of view, the idea of progress is far from easy to define, while it is a true-life event that many people only understand the progress both from a technical point of view, and as a continuing development of machines.

But the people who study in the archives and history know that,  so understood, the progress  is an unfinished concept, because it lacks the other side of the coin, namely,  the progress of society. Social progress has been very difficult to obtain in all Western societies, and as a result of fierce social struggles for political rights and democracy. So social progress is still a work in progress in this respect, not only in advanced industrial societies, but particularly out of them, viz. in those countries where there is insufficient income to meet minimum consumption needs.

As I have read  in The Businessman’ Handbook, the idea of progress is linked with the word civilization. Let me simply remark that today the word civilization is usually  written between quotation marks. This is a matter of great importance:

“People increasingly now use the word in quotation marks or with mocking sarcasm or speak not of progress in civilization but in barbarism” ( J. Colton).

And the most remarkable test of how  we are progressing toward barbarism are international and terrible new tragedies and  weapons, ruined economies and annihilation of the young generation. No one can deny these facts, because these facts are not debatable, taking place before the eyes of all. But today one would says that we can’t stop progress and civilization.

In the ‘Paean’ to the Invincible Businessman, I read:

“Men with strong individuality,

Are in demand everywhere,

As never before

In the history of the world!”

But had The Business Journal not assumed that history is a waste of time, and that we should live in the present?

What a ridiculous question!

 

Sources:

The Business Journal, October 1910, No 2, p. 10.

Colton, J., “Foreword,” in Progress and Its Discontents, Edited by G. Abraham, A. Chodorow & R. Harvey Pearce, University of California Press, 1982,  p. XI.

 

 

 

 

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The Trapdoor Spiders, the People, and Erroneous Ideas

Animals of different species have contributed to show us the way in taking benefit of the chances which nature affords us both to protect and to feed ourselves, but the trapdoor spider is surely one of the most cunning animals on earth. Trapdoor spiders have a lot of enemies, ranging from insects to men, and many of them retain huge advantages over them in both strength and dexterity. So birds are the bitterest enemies of trapdoor spiders because they are rapid in movement and able to hide where spiders cannot follow them; other enemies are provided with a suit of armor, against which trapdoor spiders haven’t any chance, while their bodies are exposed to dangers from them.

These problems are countered by trapdoor spiders with a number of cunning devices, and if cunning ideas are to be regarded as possible evidence of intelligence, it is very important to remember that   trapdoor spiders are, all in all, our relatives, and virtually members of the human family. The so-called trapdoor spider which lives in warm countries is undoubtedly one of the most resourceful spiders in the world. The trapdoor spider belongs to a numerous group of spiders not only largely widespread in America (especially in California, Nevada and Arizona) but also in the Mediterranean countries,  Africa and Australia.

This species of spiders both builds its home by burrowing a hole in the ground and covers it with silk to prevent falls. Besides, the trapdoor spiders build a door to keep out the rain and other unpleasant surprises. The trapdoor spider both uses a safety-lock providing its door by a flexible and durable silk hinge, and usually it leaps on the prey at the entrance of its door. When trapdoor spiders identify the prey passing by,  they attack it  and soon  return to the bottom of their home. The trapdoor spider hides the entrance to its home by placing moss on the outside of the door so that the entrance to its house camouflages itself   with the surroundings.  The detection of the trapdoor spider’s house is particularly hard because it is also protected with a layer of white lichens that divert visual attention from the nest.

Only the female trapdoor spider takes part in building the nest, while the male trapdoor spider has nothing to do with this work, wandering round the countryside in search of females, and digging holes in the ground. Instead, the female trapdoor spider takes charge of the children, treasuring both them and her home, and getting them away from all dangerous circumstances.  Sometimes, the female trapdoor spider digs another room, joining it throughout a tunnel to her main residence, and using it as a second emergency room. When the situation becomes particularly dangerous, the female trapdoor spider and her family take refuge in the second room, blocking the door.

Trapdoor spiders can live for many years, usually spending all their life in the ground, from which they come out hardly. As for female trapdoor spider, she never leaves her home. When the breeding season occurs, the female trapdoor spider closes hermetically the door. Trapdoor spiders hunt at night camouflaging with the ground; once captured the prey they run as fast as they can to their nests.  Ecological studies carried out in the world show that trapdoor spiders are active in all seasons and in different localities.  Soil moisture and  wet conditions would seem to be the only important factors influencing their lives.

Trapdoor spiders are predators, eating insects like birds or small mice, and even other spiders. They play also an important role in controlling the number of insects because they are voracious insectivores, and we must admit that trapdoor spiders not only don’t spread disease but also they are helpful for humans, devouring thousands upon thousands of pest insects, and so playing a key role in the environment. In their turn, trapdoor spiders are an important food source for many species of birds because of trapdoor spider silk is crucial for some species of birds that depend on it for nest construction.

Another wonderful characteristic of trapdoor spiders seems to be their reliance to fire. Studies carried out in Australia show that sometimes several species of trapdoor spiders select soils resilient to fire for their nests, adapting them to the inevitable environmental risks. And so, when the fires rage, the trapdoor spider’s nests put up fierce resistance to them.  Relevant research has been carried out in Australia by few scholars in 1991-1992, with the purpose of studying how “selected species” of trapdoor spiders may survive even in the case of large, hot fires.

Studies on trapdoor spiders are usually a difficult task because of the remarkable lack of interest among the people and erroneous ideas. So many people believe that trapdoor spiders are harmful to humans, but in reality they restrict themselves to eat other insects. Seeking to obviate misconception, many established cultural organizations both in the United States and abroad have developed several approaches that focus on trapdoor spider’s behavior. The first difficulty arises from the fact that trapdoor spiders have  hidden behaviors, and so specialists have problems detecting those that are present in many countries in the world.

Besides, according to the studies published in the PLoS ONE Journal, it seems that even if trapdoor spiders are sedentary, one variety of them voyaged across the Indian Ocean from South-Africa to Australia. They landed in South Australia’s Kangaroo Island throughout ships and other method of transport like floating trunks of trees, “rifting” or “oceanic currents.”  One might say that trapdoor spiders are not travellers, but they seem to have made an impressive journey from Africa across the Indian Ocean to Australia. Now they hardly move away from their nests and so are controllable and have been deeply studied.

 

Generally, we can conclude that the so-called “mygalomorphs,” commonly known as trapdoor spiders,   can cohabit with humans, because today their habitat is restricted to remnant vegetation and isolated areas. On the other hand, as we have seen, trapdoor spiders live in burrows and their nest is hermetically closed by them. Trapdoor spiders are sedentary, and they aren’t harmless to people. Many studies on trapdoor spiders are carried out by scientists in a lot of countries in the world because, above all, their nests are considered veritable works of art, even if much remains to be found out.

 

Notes

 

Bibliography on trapdoor spiders is truly boundless. Every nation today, from the United States to Australia, produces a significant amount of research on the subject. In an effort to simplify bibliography, I have grouped only several works that are focused on suggestions that take on very curious and interesting aspects of trapdoor spiders:

As for fire resistance, see Barbara York Main & Kylie Gaul, Response of Trapdoor Spiders to Fire in the Stirling Range. Zoology Department, University of Western Australia (1991-1992), p. 4.

As for the adventurous journey of Trapdoor spiders, the topic is largely widespread on the Web, but the original source is  the PLoS ONE Journal:

Sophie E. Harrison, Mark S. Harvey, Steve J. B. Cooper, Andrew D. Austin, Michael G. Rix (2017) Across the Indian Ocean: A remarkable example of trans-oceanic dispersal in an austral mygalomorph spider, in PLoS ONE 12(8): e0180139. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0180139.

Link to the article: Journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0180139.

For general information, you may see:

Richard J. Adams & Timothy D. Manolis, Field Guide to the Spiders of California and the Pacific Coast States, Berkeley & Los Angeles, University of California Press, 2014.

A work characterized  by high specialization level:

Jason E. Bond, Phylogenetic Treatment and Taxonomic Revision of the Trapdoor Spider Genus ‘Aptostichus’ Simon (Araneae, Mygalomorphae, Euctenizidae), on ZooKeys. A Peer-Reviewed Open-Access Journal, Sofia-Moscow, Pensoft, 2012.

 

An article of some interest, contained in Popular Science Monthly, Feb. 1923, pp. 52-53, and entitled Professor Braves Death to Prove Dread Spiders Are Man’s Friends,  was written by Prof. W.J. Baerg (University of Arkansas).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Luck of The Shadow line

The Shadow line,  by Joseph Conrad (1917), is a very intriguing novel from the psychological point of view. The novel tells the story of a young petty officer, dissatisfied with his present work life. Symbolically, he sees a kind of shadow line that divides his youth full of enthusiasm from the life that he is leaving:

“I will not consider here the origins of the feeling in which its actual title, The Shadow-Line, occurred to my mind. Primarily the aim of this piece of writing was the presentation of certain facts which certainly were associated with the change from youth, care-free and fervent, to the more self-conscious and more poignant period of mature life.”

With this awareness, he suddenly leaves his job, wandering without a destination.  The fate offers him the chance at getting command of a ship in Bangkok, because the old captain was ill. However, the navigation appears to be full of difficulties for the young Commander, and he had to cope with several unexpected events. They can’t sail in that calm, most of the crew fell ill, and there were no medicines on board.

The young Commander, however, has the strength to face problems with new energy, and he assumes that he has achieved a remarkable level of maturity through the encounter with the adversities faced by the navigation. The novel is pervaded by a strong emotional tension, which in the end fascinates the reader, who follows step by step the inner maturation of the protagonist, who would   give a new dimension to his life.

“This book was written in the last three months of the year 1916. I remember that period of my sea-life with pleasure because, begun inauspiciously, it turned out in the end a success from a personal point of view, leaving a tangible proof in the terms of the letter the owners of the ship wrote to me two years afterwards when I resigned my command in order to come home. This resignation marked the beginning of another phase of my seaman’s life, its terminal phase, if I may say so, which in its own way has coloured another portion of my writings. I didn’t know then how near its end my sea-life was, and therefore I felt no sorrow except at parting with the ship.”

The Shadow line is a novel that could easily inserted  in the pathway  of the European narrative tradition of the so-called Bildungsroman, or  novel of self-development and education, because of the hero’s efforts to overcome personal conflicts and objective difficulties, and of which   Wilhelm Meister Lehrjahre (Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship, 1795) by Goethe is  universally recognized  as the first typical example. But the same Conrad recognized that luck played a key role during his juvenile period:

“I suspect now that luck had no small part in the success of the trust reposed in me. And one cannot help remembering with pleasure the time when one’s best efforts were seconded by a run of luck”.

So luck was with him. On the other hand, we all need a bit of luck in our lives:

“Only the young have such moments. I don’t mean the very young. No. The very young have, properly speaking, no moments. It is the privilege of early youth to live in advance of its days in all the beautiful continuity of hope which knows no pauses and no introspection,” the same Conrad said.

Sources:

  1. Conrad, The Shadow Line, London, William Heinemann, 1921, Author’s Note, pp. IX-XIII, and p. 1.

 

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An Irrefutable Argument of Alan Sillitoe

Alan Sillitoe was born in Nottingham in 1928 and was an enterprising young man, leaving school at 14 to work in a bicycle factory, and later working also at a plywood mill. Sillitoe began to write in Malaya, and lived about five years in Majorca. Though Arthur Seaton, the hero of his first novel (Saturday Night and Saturday Morning, 1958) Sillitoe  expressed  the frustration of the workers despite the prosperity of the working class of his times. He stressed that the factory is still a drab and ugly place far too “different from the plush board room or the book-lined study.”

The same implications can be found in other novels like Key to the Door, 1962, The Loniless of the Long-Distance Runner, 1966, and in a number of other tales. The dominant features of society as represented in Sillitoe’s work are selfishness  and oppression.  Organized society is the framework in which man’s violence and predatory instinct operate. It is a real jungle where the fight for survival is still going on in all its fierceness, and where “Man, the creature of the jungle, is determined by forces stronger that he” (Gindin).

Sillitoe’s works were written in the 1960s, and he was talking about a general “organized society”; however, he preconized the future, and a real organized society  called “Megalopolis”, characterized by “dissolution,”  “disintegration, ” and “absence of human dimension:”

“Megalopolis: which this picture of cities dissolving into an interminable mass of undifferentiated urban tissue, stretching from Maine to Georgia, and from Buffalo to Chicago […] In a small way, as I pointed out,  ‘the technology of Megalopolis’ had already exhibited its characteristic  absence of human dimension,” Lewis Mumford said. In 1980 Ulf Hannerz identified four ways of urban existence, namely four ways on how individuals experience Megalopolis: encapsulation, segregation, integration and solitude.

What is the gist of his speech?

“We will identify these modes of urban existence tentatively in encapsulation, segregativity, integrativity and solitude. Real lives, of course, may be crossed between these, ” Hannerz wrote. Megalopolis may offer a very broad relationship network; however, everyone is usually subject  to superficial relationships, and  has “ a very limited use of the opportunity of the city,” because “the individual moves within a tight network of relationships, like  the privileged social classes, ethnic groups,  and religious sects.” So “Solitude is a mode of existence by and large without significance relationships.” (Hannerz).

How will we get away from Megalopolis?  Sillitoes seems to leave this problem unsolved, or so seems to him, because Megalopolis is a “mystery” without any apparent solution. However, I heard it from a reliable source, and in strict secrecy:

“Happiness, in large part, is dependent on money, money that supplies food, drink, sex.” (Alan Sillitoe). Sillitoe is truth personified. Then he added another great truth:

“But, he told himself, we’ve no power to alter the circumstances that are unknowingly shaping our lives” (Sillitoe’s The General).

Taking one thing with another, I was convinced by the power of his words. We have in front of us an irrefutable argument, and unquestionable facts.

The full power of Megalopolis.

 

Sources:

 

James Jack Gindin, “Allan Sillitoe’s Jungle”, in Postwar British Fiction: New Accents and Attitudes, Berkeley & Los Angeles, University of California Press, 1963, p. 25, p. 28.

 

Lewis Mumford, The Urban Prospect: Essays, Harcourt, Brace & World, 1968,  p. 170, 249.

 

Ulf Hannerz, Exploring the City. Inquiries Toward an Urban Anthropology, New York, Columbia University Press, 1980, p. 260.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Leslies Poles Hartley and the Crisis of Sense of Self

Leslies Poles Hartley became known to the large public after the publication of The Go-Between, 1953, in which he tells the disturbing story of the difficult relationship and the psychological development of an adolescent, Leo Colston, who, acting as go-between for two lovers, becomes gradually aware of the reality around himself and loses his childish innocence. Leo Colston found a diary that he wrote when he was a 12-year-old boy.  Leo remembered several events that took place in the early 1900s, when he met Marcus Maudsley, who  belonged to the upper-class that seemed utterly astounding to him.

 

Marian, Marcus’ sister, was a beautiful girl, and Leo did anything for her, including taking secret messages to a certain Ted Burgess. But Leo dramatically soon realized what these messages were, discovering Marian’s relationship with Ted Burgess, and that she was to marry Lord Trimingham. So Leo refused to take any more messages, but at the same time he not only lost faith in the adult world, but also his self-confidence, experiencing psychosocial problems which he will have to endure for the rest of his life. Hartley was a great psychologist, and his work was so heartfelt that it is hard not to appreciate it, because it offered us an interesting psychological explanation for why a young man might choose a solitary life. Leo’s personality literally collapsed upon itself, and he discovered the chasm that divides the ideal world from the real one, which created in him the Crisis of Sense of Self or the breakdown of ego identity.

The 1950s were discovering studies on adolescence, because, back then, it was rare to find research focused on it.  For example, E. H. Erikson published a book on psychoanalysis in the early 1950s. In his Foreword to the First Edition, Erikson stated that his book “originated in the practice of psychoanalysis,” having determined to treat “anxiety in young children, apathy in American Indians, confusion in veterans of war.” However, he emphasized that his research was dedicated especially to “childhood,” because of “all people start as children.”

 

Undoubtedly, the years   following the Second World War represented the start of new lifestyles in Britain (consumerism, advertising, sexual freedom) that had a strong impact on adolescents. Therefore, according to the report of the former Ministry of Education, the young Brits  “[were] subject to continuous and considerable mental, emotional and physical changes” (  A. Ferrebe),  producing in them the crisis of sense of self alias  the  “breakdown of ego identity” , that is the “breakdown of previously established patterns of thought and behavior, while the ego was overwhelmed by a deep fear of failure, resulting in relationship difficulties and identity crisis.”

 

The fact is, that in the early 1950s  in England not only psychoanalysts but also writers began to be more interested in adolescence, and one of the most important of these writers was Leslies Poles Hartley, who denied to be familiar with Freud and psychoanalysis, and that his work was based upon a personal experience. But why is The Go-Between important today?  Because it is a historical novel,  in the sense that it  marks a decisive point in the history of adult-child relationships which often cause a very hard time in the life of young people.

 

 

Sources:

 

Leslies Poles Hartley, The Go-Between, London, Hamish Hamilton, 1953.

 

  1. H. Erikson, Childhood and Society, New York & London, W. W. Norton & Company, 1993 [First edition 1950], p. 16 and p. 44.

 

  1. Ferrebe, Literature of the 1950s: Good, Brave Causes, Edinburgh University Press, 2012, p. 19.

 

 

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25 Best Self-Help & Personality Development Books to Read in 2018

This maxim of Zig Ziglar is amply highlighted by astounding success of thousands of wealthy people around the world. Indeed, reading any type of book enriches knowledge, expands vocabulary, relieve stress while promoting eloquence.

Billionaires Who Read

Warren Buffet: American business magnate, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway and billionaire, spends at least 80 percent of his day reading books.

Mark Zuckerberg: CEO, Facebook reads at least two books every month. “Reading has given me more perspective on a number of topics — from science to religion, from poverty to prosperity, from health to energy to social justice, from political philosophy to foreign policy, and from history to futuristic fiction,” he says.

Elon Musk: CEO, SpaceX and Tesla, says, he learned to build rockets “by reading books.”

Oprah Winfrey: Globally acclaimed host of TV talk shows, CEO Oprah Winfrey Network, actress and philanthropist credits her rise from dithering poverty to billionaire woman to reading inspirational books. She now runs the ‘Oprah Book Club’ that promotes reading.

Bill Gates: The world’s richest man and founder of Microsoft reads at least 50 books per year. “Reading books is one of the chief ways that I learn, and has been since I was a kid. It is still the main way that I both learn new things and tests my understanding,” says Gates.

These examples clearly highlight the importance of reading books, regardless of their genre, for everyone who wishes to become successful in career and life. Some decades ago, buying good books, especially latest releases, was fairly arduous since one had to wait for an up-market bookstore to import them.

Prices were also fairly high and hence, unaffordable to the masses.

Fortunately, online stores like Amazon India, ShopClues, Flipkart, Crossword and others have made it possible to buy the latest releases immediately, at very affordable rates.

Best Self-Help & Personal Development Books

Amazon Kindle offers thousands of free e-books. Hence, you too can further your personal development by reading. Here we list 50 ‘must read’ self-help books from 10 assorted genres that you can read.

1. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People- By Dr. Stephen R. Covey

World famous American motivational speaker and author, Dr. Stephen R. Covey gives readers an insight into how habits formed since childhood mould future of individuals. This book is a “must read” for anyone aspiring for success.

The first three habits discuss the stages of every human, regardless of nationality and ethnicity, about development from state of dependence as child to independence, around teenage.

The next three habits revolve around the stage of females and males moving from independence to interdependence. The last habit speaks about living in an interdependent society.

2. The Eighth Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness – By Dr. Stephen R. Covey

The Eighth Habit is a sequel of sorts to the earlier book by Dr. Covey. This book opens up a totally new dimension of human potential for everyone. The author highlights, everyone has capabilities to become great.

He discusses how tapping into four attributes- talent, need, conscience and passion effectively, can lead us all from effectiveness to greatness. While in “The Seven Habits”, Dr. Covey speaks of living in an interdependent society, this book shows how one can flourish in such society.

We recommend reading both the books.

3. The Power of Onlyness- By Nilofer Merchant

Nilofer Merchant encourages readers to release their individual capabilities, without the need of approval from peers or others. She speaks about how the Internet has opened new opportunities for everyone to give wings to their creative thoughts and ideas to make a “dent” in the world.

Nilofer Merchant coins the new phrase “Onlyness” in her book, which signifies the unique spot in this world where you stand with your history, vision, knowledge and hope, among other elements.

The Power of Onlyness shows how we can release our trapped creativity and help solve problems that hitherto had no answers.

4. The Net and the Butterfly- By Olivia Fox Cabane and Judah Pollack

This is a very unique book by any standards. The two authors delve deep into human psychology and come up with a unique concept that anyone can utilize for personal development. They point out the human mind is like a butterfly- beautiful yet often restless.

Therefore, all ordinary humans are unable to exploit their brains to the fullest potential to progress in life and career. Hence, we need to use a net to catch this butterfly. The authors disclose several simple ideas on getting the mind under control.

The book contains very interesting exercises and tests that can be performed individually or with family and friends.

5. The Great Questions of Tomorrow- By David Rothkopf

Every human is directly or indirectly impacted by various imminent factors ranging from political scenarios to wars, technological advances to economic downturns. Technology has made this impact more inescapable for everyone on this planet.

In his book ‘The Great Questions of Tomorrow’, the author, David Rothkopf explores how we can gain deeper insights into these changes and develop new ideas that are not only essential for basic survival but also to lead a fruitful and positive life.

This book deals a lot with basics of human psychology in context with the modern world, where every life is connected like a small element in an electronic circuit that depends upon the other.

Self-Help Books on Making Money

6. Rich Dad, Poor Dad- by Robert Kiyosaki

Anyone aspiring to be rich should read this global bestseller by Japanese-American businessman and author, Robert Kiyosaki. The book, ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’ is based on the author’s life. Born into a poor family of Japanese migrants to the US, the author’s best childhood friend hailed from a very affluent family.

The book talks about what fathers from economically weaker families teach their children such as the importance of education, value of money and hard work. He also discusses teaching gained from the rich father of his childhood pal, who groomed his son differently.

The basic difference, says Kiyosaki, is in thought patterns of rich and the poor. Changes in thinking can lead even a poor person to become wealthy and happy, says Kiyosaki, with examples from his personal life.

7. The Power of Broke- by Daymond John

Not many are familiar with the name Daymond John. However, he is the founder and CEO of FUBU brand of fashion apparel of the US. This book is ideal for every aspiring entrepreneur.

The author speaks about his personal experiences of starting a business with hand-sewn shirts from sidewalks of Queens in New York. Beginning with a very humble budget of US$ 40, Daymond John speaks about how innovative thinking and new ideas led him to build a multi-million dollar empire.

He aptly states that starting broke- or with very limited budget- gives entrepreneurs a clearer idea about how and where to invest. This, he says, spurs creative thinking leading to newer and out-of-the-box ideas that are essential to launch any successful business.

8. Own It- By Sally Krawcheck

For every woman aspiring to succeed financially at work or business, ‘Own It’ by Sally Crawcheck is a book that simply cannot be ignored. The authoress laments that most working women and entrepreneurs try to imitate men and end up competing or lagging behind.

Instead, women can make greater headway by effectively deploying their unique, feminine thinking and behavioral traits bestowed by nature and education.

She rightly points out that by recognizing and realizing personal potential, women will no longer need to compete with men for a top post at companies or stay underdogs in business. Sally Krawcheck’s book is aptly titled since it shows how women can own their success- as professionals or businesswomen.

9. It’s Rising Time- By Kim Kiyosaki

American authoress Kim Kiyosaki literally exhorts women into financial rebellion through this excellent book. She encourages women who do not want to depend upon their spouse, parents or other persons for financial stability.

Kim Kiyosaki also highlights how women need to play vital roles in making financial decisions for their households, personal finance and business. In very simple manner, the authoress encourages women to take charge of their financial affairs and shows ways and means to do so with boldness.

She speaks about how women can overcome traditional inhibitions, lack of confidence and other limitations to become great investors for personal finance and run their successful business. This is a “must read” for every woman who wants to secure her financial future without undue dependence on husbands and fathers.

10. Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman- By Gail Evans

In her book, Gail Evans aptly points out, very few biggest entrepreneurs and millionaires are women. Women, she says, are never taught entrepreneurial skills and nor do they exert extra efforts to acquire them through independent efforts.

In her book, the authoress speaks of ways and means that women can become successful at business and also overtake male counterparts by ‘playing like a man,’ in various spheres. The authoress has taken extra care to make her book very interesting to both genders by interspersing chapters with interesting and humorous real life experiences she encountered during her career.

She empowers women by providing them the right tools required for success at business and work. Interestingly, this book is not female specific. It also provides male executives and businessmen with a better understanding how to fully utilize the potential of women for promotions to very senior management levels.

Personal Development Books on Spiritual Guidance

11. The Real You- By Radhanath Swami

Born as American citizen in Chicago, Illinois as Richard Slavin the author is now better known worldwide as Radhanath Swami. He has been a globally renowned spiritual teacher and Bhakti Yoga practitioner of India’s largest spiritual movement, International Society for Krsna Consciousness (ISKCON).

‘The Real You’ is among the nearly a dozen books he has authored. ‘The Real You’ is suited for followers of all faiths. It focuses on two traits of human life, ‘Wisdom of Heart’ (of mind) and ‘Wisdom of Art (of action).

Radhanath Swami shows how combining wisdom of thoughts and actions in our daily lives can lead away to peeling away of undesirable traits that creep into every human being. The book takes readers on a journey towards spiritual progress, regardless of the religion they follow.

Hence, it helps you become a better citizen of the world by developing desirable traits like compassion, forgiveness, selflessness and other commendable qualities.

12. The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari- by Robin Sharma

This book is ranks as global bestseller. Based on fiction, it talks about a successful, wealthy lawyer Julian Mantle, who suffers a heart attack. Renouncing his wealth, he travels to India in search of spiritual life and succeeds.

This book teaches us how to live a simple yet meaningful life, regardless of wealth. Though the book is based upon a fictional character, it reveals the banality of living a purely material life based on personal achievements, selfish motives and greed for wealth.

The author subtly display to readers, how materialistic goals seldom bring lasting happiness during our lifetime. Author Robin Sharma does not encourage anyone to leave their jobs or business in favor of sainthood or other spiritual conquests.

The book opens vistas for the modern man to strike a proper balance between material requirements essential for life while attaining spiritual growth to become happy and spread goodness in the society.

13. The Alchemist- By Paulo Coelho

Brazilian author Paulo Coelho’s book The Alchemist has changed millions of lives around the world. The story revolves around a fictional boy named Santiago, who works as shepherd in Andulasia’s hills. Santiago often dreams of pyramids in a distant and unknown land, where treasures are hidden.

Believing the dreams to be true, he embarks on a near impossible journey in search of wealth. On his way, Santiago meets people from different cultures and walks of life. Every encounter with a new person imparts him some wisdom.

Eventually, Santiago realizes that wisdom is the greatest treasure and returns home a happy lad, though he cannot find material wealth. Dialogs between the shepherd boy and various characters in the book are loaded with wisdom for every reader, regardless of their religious inclinations, culture or nationality.

14. Miracles of Your Mind- By Dr. Joseph Murphy

Modern scientific research has proven beyond doubt that every human utilizes only a fraction of their brain during lifetime. Dr. Joseph Murphy, a Roman Catholic New Thought Minister ordained in Religious and Divine Science shows in this book how to unleash miracles by tapping hidden resources of the mind to achieve a fulfilled yet spiritually accomplished life.

He discusses the ‘power of attraction’ which helps readers to view their lives in a different light that strikes balance between demands of the modern world and materialism as well as intrinsic vacuum for spirituality in humans.

Dr. Murphy also gives examples of how a few simple steps can help improve your life by becoming more successful at work or business, attain financial success, lead a happier family life and become a very responsible and respected member of the society.

Though the author is Roman Catholic by faith, ‘Miracles of Your Mind’ is well suited for followers of every religion since it has blends spirituality without religion and practicalities for modern life.

15. Living the Mystery of Life- By Sri Sri Ravishankar

Everyone faces various challenges in life- sickness, financial problems, family discords and lots more. Often, we are flummoxed by these challenges and become despondent, leading to unhappiness and discontent.

The book ‘Living the Mystery of Life’ by Sri Sri Ravishankar, internationally acclaimed Yoga guru from India and founder of Art of Living Foundation, provides practical answers to these perplexing issues we humans encounter at every stage of life.

Once again, Sri Sri Ravishankar does not base his book on any religious teachings, which makes it suitable for people of all faiths, cultures and nationalities. The book features short talks, questions and answers from real life people and profound insights into human attitudes that make every adverse situation a problem.

Books on Effective Parenting

16. Know Your Child- By Sri Sri Ravishankar

Authored by Sri Sri Ravishankar in a rather humorous way, ‘Know Your Child’ is essential for every parent. Indeed, it is a guide for every parent on how to raise their kids from childhood till the time they become independent.

It guides parents on how to counsel their kids for everything from behaving at home, school and the society. ‘Know Your Child’ also educates teachers and academic experts on how to ensure a child learns better and retains vital knowledge throughout their lives.

Through this book, Sri Sri Ravishankar has made millions of parents worldwide to rethink about the manner of upbringing of their kids. The eminent Yoga guru and spiritual teacher give great examples about how parents and teachers should behave towards kids since they influence a child’s future development and personality.

17. The Smartest Kids in the World- By Amanda Ripley

The most common question among parents around the world remains: why kids from a particular country or geographic location better at specific skills than others. For example, kinds from China may be better at sports while their American counterparts have better analytical and pedagogic skills.

Indians make great IT experts while most renowned chefs of the world hail from Europe. In her book ‘The Smartest Kids in the World’, the authoress takes in-depth look at cultural influences on children around the world that molds them as adults.

She speaks of different types of upbringing methods and parenting patterns that eventually form habits in children. Sans proper parenting, children cannot attain their fullest potential.

She highlights her points by examples of a few exemplary kids who went on to become youngest millionaires of the world and what went into their parenting. A must read for every parent who wishes their kids to be very successful.

18. Positive Parenting- By Rebecca Eans

Every parent wishes the best for their children. However, a majority of parents take to nagging, punishments and other unpleasant techniques to get kids to behave in the manner they view appropriate.

The book ‘Positive Parenting’ is not a fictional guide about how to raise kids. Instead, authoress Rebecca Eans speaks of her own struggles and trials while trying to raise her children. She speaks about how the right kind of counseling for children to focus on their development rather than admonition for unruly behavior.

The authoress also highlights various examples where children can be encouraged to cooperate into studying well, maintaining proper etiquette and become great classmates and friends.

The book is not meant for foreign parents only. It suits every nationality since it deals with child psychology rather than laying emphasis on any specific culture or ethnicity.

19. Strong Mothers-Strong Sons- By Meg Meeker

Interestingly, Meg Meeker, MD, has also written another bestseller, ‘Strong Fathers- Strong Daughters’. Both these books deal with various phases of growths of a son or daughter. It deals with various sensitive topics such as reasons why sons or daughters move away from their mom or dad.

These books are based on the generally accepted principle worldwide that daughters are closer to their dads while sons are more inclined towards the mom. As mother of a son and daughter and a medical practitioner by profession, Dr Meg Meeker authors these books from her personal experience.

It contains interesting revelations about child psychology of which parents would be unaware. These books are also excellent guides to anyone having young children.

The book ‘Strong Mothers-Strong Sons’ speaks about maternal influence on some of the world’s most successful men while the ‘Strong Fathers-Strong Daughters’ speaks of how girl kids generally are influenced in various decisions of life by their father’s preferences.

20. The Danish Way of Parenting- By Jessica Joelle Alexander and Iben Dissing Sandahl

Wondering why Danish way? According to global survey of populations of the world, Denmark as the topmost where people are happiest. Happier populations are a result of superior parenting.

In their book, ‘The Danish Way of Parenting’, the two authors have studied in-depth the manner in which Danes groom their children from birth till the time they become independent.

The two writers are also parents and have given examples of how their modes of grooming kids led to happier children and eventually, happy adults. The book lays bare the myths of various countries around the world that their own, homegrown methods of parenting are correct.

It has helped millions of people worldwide to look at parenting with a totally new perspective while modifying techniques and beliefs. Indeed, the book is said to be a guide for enjoyable parenting since bringing up kids in the modern world can prove fairly difficult.

Books for General Knowledge

21. Manorama Yearbook 2018- from Malayala Manorama Media, Kerala, India

Anyone preparing for entrance exams for government jobs, admissions to institutions of higher education or wanting to excel in quiz contests can find latest information in India’s most popular general knowledge publication, Manorama Year Book 2018.

Indeed, this book is recommended for students aspiring to enter anything from Chartered Accountancy to Indian Administrative Service or eying a profession in India’s large banking and finance sector.

The comprehensive yearbook is an encyclopedia of the world and India of sorts. It has been published by the Malayala Manorama Media Group based in Kottayam, Kerala since 1959, when it made its debut in Malayalam language.

The book is available in English since 1965, Bengali since 1990 and Hindi since 1991. Regardless whether you are student or retiree, Manorama Yearbook should be an essential in every household.

22. Britannica Ready Reference Encyclopedia- from Encyclopedia Britannica Inc, UK

The full version of Encyclopedia Britannica costs as high as Rs. 29,000. It is considered the most comprehensive publications of its kind in the world covering nearly half a million topics and a larger number of subtopics.

However, a cheaper variant, Britannica Ready Reference Encyclopedia that covers a fewer but very relevant topics on general knowledge can be bought for about Rs.1,500 each.

The distinct advantage by owning this great publication is, you get excellent, verified and comprehensive general knowledge about various topics such as history, science, countries, economy, politics and lots more.

This book is ideal for students and retirees too who wish to broaden their knowledge either for excelling at quiz contests, increasing awareness about various topics or simply for entertainment. The book contains excellent illustration and explanations with footnotes.

23. Random House Unabridged Dictionary – from Penguin-Random House, USA

With nearly 320,000 entries, 2,400 illustrations, 75,000 example sentences, 35 page atlas of the world and 45 boxed charts and tables, the Random House Unabridged Dictionary is worth investing in for anyone who strives for career development.

For students, employees and business persons in India, framing proper correspondence or writing in English often proves a problem. India is not included in the list of 18 native English speaking countries of the world. Local accents and use of archaic terms greatly influence the manner in which English is spoken and written in India.

For a price of nearly Rs.12,000 the Random House Unabridged Dictionary is indeed an expensive to own. However, the benefits of owning one far outweigh the expense you incur.

Since English is commonly used in almost every transaction and all types of communications in India, this dictionary allows you to vastly improve your vocabulary while developing excellent interpersonal skills while dealing with foreigners.

The huge popularity of this book can be gauged by the fact that it is now published in India by a leading UK based media group, Hachette’s local division.

24. Limca Book of Records-2018- from Hachette India

Limca Book of Records-2018 is a comprehensive listing of India’s achievements from historical to modern times. The book is updated every year to include the latest information available at time of going to print.

The publication consists of all developments in India’s education, defense, political, government, entertainment, literature, arts, science, adventure, tourism, wildlife and myriad other sectors.

Additionally, the book also provides a comprehensive listing of various world records in various spheres. The 2018 edition contains more information about technology, business and economy and has easy-to-understand charts, graphs, tables and illustrations as well as graphics.

Real life pictures taken across India and in various parts of the world make it a coveted possession for every knowledge lover.

25. Mathurbhumi Yearbook Plus 2018- from Mathrubhumi Printing & Publishing Group, Kerala

The Mathrubhumi Yearbook Plus 2018 is excellent for every member of your family. It contains comprehensive information about various issues in India and the world and a listing of eminent personalities, world records, defense and economics related information.

Further, there are also insights into various new policies launched by the Indian government. Often, the Mathrubhumi Yearbook Plus comes with a free CD or DVD that also contains similar but abridged information that can be easily accessed on a computer.

The Mathrubhumi Yearbook Plus 2018 is not similar to the other Manorama Yearbook 2018. Indeed, both these yearbooks complement one another. Hence, it makes good sense to possess both.

However, the Mathrubhumi Yearbook 2018 is available only in English and Malayalam versions from bookstores and online.

India’s Decline in Reading

The reading habit in India has suffered a body blow thanks to mobile Internet and easy availability of affordable smart-phones. An anonymous author once said: “We live in an era of smart-phones and dumb people.” Sadly, Indians seem to be exerting extra efforts towards making this quote a reality.

According to NOP World Culture Score report for 2004-2005, Indians ranked as the world’s most avid readers. Studies by various media groups and independent organizations revealed, on average an Indian spends 10 hours per week or about 1 hour, 44 minutes per day on reading.

This made Indians the most avid readers of the world.

Thailand ranked as second country with people spending average of about nine hours, 24 minutes per week on reading followed by China at eight hours, Egypt with seven hours and 50 minutes, the Philippines at seven hours and 36 minutes followed by Czech Republic with about seven hours and 25 minutes per week.

In Conclusion

Widespread proliferation of mobile handsets and smart-phones over the last few years is suspected to have caused severe decline in reading habits of Indians. Rather than spending time to read books that increase knowledge and word power, an increasing number of Indians now engage in playing games or watching videos on smart-phones.

A study by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2015 found, Americans spend only about 19 minutes per day on reading. However, people in the US access newspapers and e-books online- a trend that is in embryonic stage in India.

Nobel Prize winner and world renowned physicist, Albert Einstein once commented: “I fear that day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.”

Indians seem to be striving hard to fulfill Einstein’s prophecy. Unless Indians revive reading informative books and inculcate the habit in children, this country could be saddled with people having limited or zero general knowledge.

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HR Interview Questions and Answers for Freshers & Experienced

Every jobseeker looks forward to an interview call. Regardless whether you are a fresher or veteran in your field, an interview will be conducted by any prospective employer, before hiring.

Sometimes, questions asked can be predicable. However, an interviewer can occasionally toss an odd or awkward interview questions that can overwhelm an experienced jobseeker too. Hence it is vital to know the significance of an interview and what it entails.

What is an interview?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Language defines interview as: A formal consultation usually to evaluate qualifications as of a prospective student or employee.”

Chambers 21st Century English Dictionary describes it as “A formal meeting and discussion with someone, especially one at which an employer meets and judges a prospective employee.”

From these definitions, two words stand out- ‘evaluate’ and ‘judge’. This is exactly what will happen with you during an interview: One or more interviewers will evaluate and judge your educational skills, personality, work aptitude, socio-economic status and much more.

Regardless of what you mention on your Curriculum Vitae (CV), Resume or Bio-Data, every employer will conduct an interview to assess whether you are worth hiring.

Are interviews tough?

A job interview is not a test of your skills. It is a test of your abilities to use these skills at the right time and place. “Job interviews are like first dates. Good impressions count, awkwardness can occur, outcomes are unpredictable,” says an unknown author.

Job interviews are not necessarily tough. As fresher, you will be asked a few basic interview questionsduring interview. For professionals and experienced applicants,interview questions will focus more on past and current employment.

To help prepare better we present a list of common and off-beat HR interview questions and answers for fresher and experienced.

HR interview questions & answers for fresher

Mostly, interviewers do not ask very complex questions whereas they just ask basic interview questions to a fresher. Understandably, a fresher cannot possess in-depth knowledge about the work, since this would be their first employment.

Regardless, a fresher can face some truly tough interview questions for a job. Here are some examples how to answer HR interview questions:

Q-1: Can you tell us something about yourself?

A: Answer this question by describing your family background and academic achievements briefly. Read this to know how to answer this.

Q-2: What do you know about this job?

A: Some research into profiles of the job applied for will give you a good idea about tasks you may have to perform.

Q-3: What do you know about this company?

A: Again, doing some basic research about the company, its business, products and services as well as history will help you answer some Top hr interview questions.

Q-4: Why are you applying for this job?

A: You need to convince yourself first about the career you choose. This will help you assure the interviewer you are serious about the job.

Q-5: What are your strengths and weaknesses?

A: Stick to only those strengths and weaknesses that are relevant to your job and can impact your career. Highlight your weaknesses that will work in favour of your career.

Q-6: Can you define your career goals?

A: Here, it is best to stick to short and medium term goals that you expect to fulfill while working for the employer. Keep your career goals simple and achievable. Provide a deadline by which you expect to attain them.

Q-7: Are you willing to work extra hours, late nights and on weekends/ holidays?

A: Answer affirmatively. Saying yes increases your prospects of getting the job. As fresher, you also get to learn more, test your skills independently. You can also earn more by overtime work.

Q-8: Why should we hire you?

A: Speak about your skills that can be best utilized by the employer. Highlight that you are willing to go the extra mile to make a career in that organization.

Q-9: Can you work under pressure?

A: Yes, why not? Remember, every job entails pressure regardless whether you are fresher or experienced. Such pressures are occasional and allow you to improve your skills.

Q-10: What family commitments do you have?

A: Be frank enough to tell your interviewer about commitments you have towards your parents or spouse and kids. Speak of how a career in that company will help fulfil these family obligations.

Q-11: Do you have any vices or bad habits?

A: Should you be consuming alcohol occasionally or smoking, say so. If you answer negative but arrive someday at work reeking of booze, you can lose the job. The odour of tobacco smoke cannot be concealed. Stains on teeth will clearly indicate if you chew ‘paan’ or tobacco.

Q-12: Can you travel at short notice?

A: Of course, yes. Traveling for work is exciting and interesting. It allows you to test your skills in new locations. Further, you also get an opportunity to develop a network of contacts in your field of work.

Q-13: Are you willing to relocate to another city or town?

A: Once again, accept the challenge. Relocating to another city or town for work can provide you better pay and work conditions. Understandably, you will develop better skills on your own capabilities and make friends in new places.

Q-14: Are you a good team player?

A: For a fresher, some job HR interview questions may be tough to answer. However, you can speak about how you studied or played in teams during school and college days. Point out that you enjoy working in teams since it allows you to learn more about the work.

Q-15: What motivates and inspires you?

A: Speak about your short and medium term ambitions and dreams. Speak about the extra efforts you are willing to exert to attain them. Be careful and skip talking about long-term goals since the company might not be able to offer you much career development avenues.

Q-16: Can you tell us about other career options you are eying?

A: Once again, as fresher hoping to embark on a career, you can be honest about other options you are considering. However, ensure these options are in line with your educational qualifications and personal aptitude.

Q-17: Will working with us help fulfil your career objectives and goals?

A: Respond to this most common HR interview questions with utmost caution. With some prior research into the employer’s profile, you can assess how rapidly you can grow in your career. Reply affirmatively to this type of typical interview questions. Tell your interviewer how you can use and develop skills while working for them.

Q-18: What is the guarantee you will not leave us soon?

Point out to the interviewer you are not merely looking for money. Instead, you are more interested in developing a career, acquiring new skills and developing your talent. Also highlight that jumping jobs frequently will reflect poorly on your CV, Bio-Data or Resume.

Q-19: Why should we hire a fresher instead of experienced candidates?

Never deride an experienced candidate. Instead, you can point out that as fresher, you are open to new ideas, can adapt easily to the work culture, handle extra pressures and work load. Point out to your educational and extra-curricular achievements that can be useful for the employer.

Q-20: How would you handle criticism from teammates and seniors?

Say that criticism does hurt. Yet it teaches some vital lessons. Show that you are open to positive, justifiable criticism as long as it helps you develop as a better person and make a good worker.

Q-21: Do you have any hobbies and interests?

You can safely mention your hobbies and interests even if they include something as mundane as collecting stamps and coins or watching movies. Also talk about extra-curricular activities you took interest while studying such as sports, story, poem and essay writing or joining Scouts and Guides, National Cadet Corps, National Social Service and other similar organizations.

Q-23: What were your favourite and hated subjects while studying?

Here, you can briefly answer which subjects in your field of study interested you and assign reasons. You can safely discuss which subjects you lagged and why you loathe them.

Q-24: What are your salary expectations?

Some employers indicate what salaries they are willing to pay. Others do not. Some research into existing pay scales for fresher in your field will indicate the size of your remuneration. You can ask for a pay package in line with prevailing market rates.

Q-25: Would you like to ask me any questions?

This question opens up several vistas to display your skills. Ask the interviewer about your job profile. Seek more details about the company, the size of your team, managerial structure and the current market share for its products or services. You can also enquire about future plans of the company and its expansion, forthcoming launches and information related to your industry. Avoid speaking about your prospective employer’s competition and rivals.

Note:

As fresher, you may also be quizzed about your family, especially parents, their educational qualifications and work. Some interviewers may ask about your daily routine. Yet others can ask about your political and religious beliefs. If such questions do feature in your interview, answer them with utmost honesty but without being judgmental about anything. We include some such questions later in this article.

HR questions for experienced

Understandably, jobseekers with previous work experience will face tougher questions at interviews. However, some questions that will feature during an interview can be similar to those asked to a fresher. HR questions for the experienced will mainly revolve around work skills, past and current employment and work conditions. Some common list of interview questions and answers for experienced all the answers to interview questions are mentioned blow.

Q-1: Can you describe your employment history?

A: It is vital to remember what you mention on your application. Give a concise yet accurate account of your past employers- beginning from the first to the latest or current. Mention the approximate period you worked at each job, designations held and your responsibilities.

Q-2: Why are you looking for a new job?

A: Take care not to criticize your former and current employers. Instead, speak about how your skills can be better utilized by the place where you have applied for work. Point out areas where your skills were redundant you could not use to optimum in previous workplaces.

Q-3: Why do you believe our company can fulfil your needs?

A: Harp on your skills. Tell your interviewers, the new job will help you develop and fine-tune your skills that can prove beneficial to the company and add value to its products, services and functioning.

Q-4: How do you rate job satisfaction at previous workplaces on a scale of one to 10?

A: It is best to give an honest assessment of your job satisfaction levels at previous workplaces. The interviewer can interject and ask you more questions about some workplace where you rate job satisfaction as low. Be ready to provide answers without criticizing any employer, its policies, management and colleagues.

Q-5: What additional skills have you acquired from your previous employment?

A: You can answer this question best, since you will have definitely gained vital experience, developed new skills and learnt a few tricks of the trade during your tenure with past and current employers. Highlight how these skills can benefit the interviewer’s company.

Q-6: What roles do you foresee for yourself in this company?

A: Talk about your short and mid-term goals and skills you offer. Talk about how to intend to achieve these goals and progress in the company by optimal use of your education and skills. Shun talking about specific designations. However, you can speak of various functions and departments where your skills are useful.

Q-7: Can you briefly explain reasons for leaving your past employers?

A: Once again, do not run down your past employers or their staff. Point out to your application and highlight that it shows an upward move in your career. You can explain you switched jobs for progressing in your career.

Q-8: What problems do you face in your current (or past) job?

A: Here too, stick to your objectives of career development. Speak about areas where you could have done better in your current or past job. Cite reasons such as lack of opportunities or unavailability of technology to develop and utilize your skills. Once again, shun criticism.

Q-9: You seem to change jobs frequently. Why is that?

A: Understandably, this question can unnerve anyone who has a history of frequent job changes. It does not disqualify you automatically from the new job. However, you will have to provide valid and acceptable reasons for frequently switching jobs.

Q-10: Why are there are several periods of unemployment in your career?

A: Regardless of your great qualifications and unbeatable experience, patches of unemployment indicate something may be wrong with you. It could include anything from domestic problems to illness, addictions to inability to cope with work pressure, strained relations with seniors and colleagues. Answer this question very truthfully. Remember, you are called for the interview, meaning the employer would be willing to overlook this flaw.

Q-11: How long would you work for us?

A: Honestly, no mortal can foresee the future. However, you can respond to this question in a tacit manner. State that you are looking for a prolonged career that offers you high job satisfaction and allows you to utilize your experience and skills for the employer’s benefit.

Q-12: Could you describe your former (or current) manager and management style?

A: You will have to answer this skill with great tact. Any criticism about your previous or former boss should be presented in a positive manner. Highlight their achievements and good character or qualities. Speak about how they helped you and your great experiences while working with them.

Q-13: What is your working pattern and style?

A: Give a brief description of your daily routine at work. Provide details about your work and how to go about executing it effectively. You can also speak about how you collate between tasks and coordinate with colleagues. Also include details about any work related assistance you provide juniors.

Q-14: Does anything prevent you from performing better?

A: Please be very honest about factors that impede you from utilizing your skills and experience to the maximum. This could be anything from lack of sufficient opportunities, technical snags, long commutes, family problems and issues at workplace such as obsolete technology. Shun speaking about irascible bosses and uncooperative colleagues.

Q-15: What would you require from us to excel at work?

A: This is a question you should welcome. It signifies the company wants to enhance its performance and looks forward to you for doing so. Be modest in your demand and ensure that existing staff will be able to cope with any new technology you are likely to introduce. State that cooperation from all levels of staff at the company will help you work better.

Q-16: How would you approach a problem at work or in life?

A: Indubitably, you would have done a lot of troubleshooting in your previous jobs and at home. We all have our own unique ways to approach problems and solve them. You can talk about these methods you derive from experience.

Q-17: How would you rate your professional success and failure a scale of one to 10?

A: A detailed answer is best for such questions. You will have to sort your skills and rate your achievements at work on this scale. At the same time, describe instances where you skills proved useless or were redundant causing you to fail at some tasks. Honest self assessment is always treasured by interviewers. It leaves a good impact and furthers your chances of bagging the job.

Q-18: Would you be able to cope up working with a younger team?

A: Of course you would be. Younger employees are more energetic and open to newer ideas. They also have their own ideas about how a particular task can be best executed. Working with a younger and often lesser or inexperienced team is great fun. Accept this challenge whole-heartedly.

Q-19: Do you have any issues in reporting to a younger boss?

A: None whatsoever. Younger bosses have better grasp of modern technologies and other skills, thanks to newer trends in education. Indeed, you can learn loads of new stuff by working with a younger boss. Further, you will also be able to chip in vital information with your experience.

Q-20: Could you tell us something about harassment at your previous jobs?

A: Regardless whether you were harassed or adored at your previous jobs, never speak anything negative about your former seniors and colleagues. However, you may cite a couple of instances where you felt you were overburdened with work without valid reasons.

Q-21: What value can you add to this company, if employed?

A: You will need to do some research into the company on Internet or other sources to prepare yourself for this common question. You can point out areas where you believe the company could fare better and maximize its profitability. Feel free to discuss any changes that you wish to see or can bring about, without harming existing employees or drastically altering its corporate culture.

Q-22: How would you point out to wrong decisions taken by your boss?

A: The answer is fairly simple. Say that you would meet your boss in total privacy, indicate the reason you are there and provide solid reasons why you believe a decision is wrong. That you would do it in a very positive manner, bereft of criticism and for better of the company.

Q-23: Are you a member of any organizations, clubs, political parties or trade unions?

A: Generally, companies are wary of hiring people with strong connections to political parties or are members of trade and labour unions. However, if you are a member or affiliated to such groups, it is best to disclose. Remember, it does not mar your chances of getting the job since such choices are generally considered personal and do not have any bearing upon the company.

Q-24: Are you willing to join us for this amount of salary?

A: This is purely your decision. We have no suggestions to offer. You need to base your decision upon your liabilities, monthly expenses and other costs. If you are jobless, the salary can prove a boon. You may wish to settle for less if offered a good designation or for better career prospect in a large corporation. However, the decision about your remuneration is at your sole discretion.

Q-25: Can you tell us something about the projects you are working on and plans of your current employer?

A: Avoid answering this question at all costs. It is tantamount to leaking information to a competitor. In any case, you should safeguard any sensitive information about your past or current employers. Say you cannot divulge this information since it would mean breach of trust of your former employer. An interviewer may ask you this question for two reasons: To assess your integrity as an employee or to gain some insider knowledge about a competitor. In both cases, never disclose such information.

Offbeat HR interview questions

Often, interviewers toss off-the-cuff questions at jobseekers. These HR questions during interview do not come under any specific topic and are unrelated to your educational qualifications or work experience. Instead, they are asked to judge your presence of mind, wit and quick thinking as well as problem solving abilities. Or they could be asked to test your general knowledge. A few such questions while are:

Q-1: How do you view the current political scenario of this country?

Q-2: What is your assessment of our national economy?

Q-3: Where would you go on a vacation?

Q-4: Can you describe an ideal spouse?

Q-5: How would you spend a million dollars won in lottery?

Q-6: Who are your favourite film stars and why?

Q-7: Would you return home if your dress got stained while going to work?

Q-8: Do you think you are too old for this type of a job?

Q-9: How many hours you spend on mobile, TV, Facebook etc?

Q-10: Can you describe your in-laws and their habits?

Q-11: How much money you need to become rich?

Q-12: If there is a fire in this building, what would you do?

Q-13: Can you describe your circle of friends?

Q-14: In your opinion, who is an ideal employer?

Q-15: How would you select the best employee for promotion or an award?

Q-16: What makes you jealous about your colleagues?

Q-17: Do you believe that life exists in outer space and why?

Q-18: How many days can you go without food and sleep?

Q-19: What goals you wish to fulfil before retirement?

Q-20: How would you invest this much amount of money and why?

Q-21: Which of your dreams you wish to see fulfilled?

Q-22: Do you believe in environmental protection?

Q-23: Can you drive a vehicle when drunk?

Q-24: How often do you pray?

Q-25: How important is money for you?

Above is the list of top offbeat hr interview questions for which u should be prepared before interview.

Useful tips

Firstly, never expect an interview to be easy. Unlike in the past, interviews nowadays do not focus only on your educational qualifications and skills. Interviewers are also trained to assess jobseekers upon their body language or non-verbal communications. They are quickly able to judge whether you are speaking the truth or pulling a tall one.

Furthermore, your confidence and demeanour during an interview also count. Over-confidence is harmful and diffidence is suicidal. Pre-interview stress and panic are common among jobseekers, especially those who are currently employed or were working earlier. Such stress and panic levels are lower in a fresher, who views an interview as an adventure of sorts. Prepare well for an interview by learning more about the prospective employer.

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