The Philosopher Book Tag

I spotted this interesting book tag at Anne with A Book (original creator – Betweenlinesandlife) and decided to post my answers to it, too. I am not tagging anyone specifically, and everyone is free to participate! Philosophy is such a rich and diverse field of study – everyone’s answers will be different (and interesting)!

1. Thales is considered the first known philosopher. Which text introduced you to philosophy or which text would you like to read to get you into philosophy?

I cannot remember my first philosophy book or author, but in high school I read both Immanuel Kant‘s theory of ethics and deontology, and Jeremy Bentham‘s work on utilitarianism, as well as books by Friedrich Nietzsche (Beyond Good and Evil [1886] and Thus Spoke Zarathustra [1883]). The Myth of Sisyphus [1942] by Albert Camus started my passion for the philosophy of existentialism.

2. Karl Marx is a political philosopher, turning the world upside down with the Communist Manifesto. Which political event or event in history would you like to read more about in fiction?

I would like to read more about the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 and have already put on my TBR list Paul Ham’s book Hiroshima Nagasaki [2011]. I also want to read more about the fall of Nazi Berlin and the siege of Leningrad in 1944.

3. Jean-Jacques Rousseau highly influenced The Enlightenment, a period which introduced critical thinking to the common people. Which book or author forced you to think more critically?

Perhaps I will give a banal answer since this is a philosophy book tag, but, most certainly, Albert Camus, Franz Kafka and Jose Saramago (naturally, their books) “forced” me to think more critically when reading.

4. Voltaire once said: ” I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it” Which is a popular book everyone seems to love but you didn’t?

It was only last year that I realised that I cannot stand the “supremely popular” Haruki Murakami (and in particular his book 1Q84 [2009]). Generally, I love Japanese literature, but this author’s manipulation, pretentiousness, self-indulgence, sexism and “re-workings” of the “nostalgic” styles of so many other writers, from J. D. Salinger to Kurt Vonnegut, in his books do not agree with me at all.

5. Hannah Arendt – Doomed controversial even by her friends, Hannah Arendt did not shy away from telling what she thought was true. Name a book that will leave readers uncomfortable, but tells an important story.

If This Is A Man [1947] by Primo Levi. Levi was a Holocaust survivor and his powerful, unflinching memoir about his time at Auschwitz is probably his best-known work.

6. “You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.” A wonderful quote from Nietzsche out of “Thus spoke Zarathustra” Which book do you go back to for its beautiful writing?

Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things [1997] is a book I will return to again and again. It was a reading experience I don’t think I will ever forget.

7. Jean-Paul Sartre raised the question “What is literature?” in one of his books. What is good literature for you?

It could be many things. It is something powerful that has the ability to make one feel and think deeply. Literature can open up another point of view, introduce one to another culture or just provide a joy of reading. Great characters and beautiful prose are always a plus. An emotional or thought-provoking/mentally-stimulating core is important for me in a book. Good literature leaves something in you long after you stopped reading a book. It is “truth” in a shell of a good story, to elaborate further on Albert Camus’s famous statement.

8. Albert Camus – Which book did you have to keep pushing through because you really wanted to understand it’s meaning?

The Devil’s Elixirs [1815] by E. T. A. Hoffmann. I think this book is very challenging. The narratives merge and diverge, doppelgängers appear, disappear and confuse, enigmatic words are here and there, the plot weaves its complex knots endlessly. It was frustrating in many respects, but rewarding in others.

9. Which are the three philosophers you would love to sit down and have a chat with?

It is very tempting for me to name some “existentialist” philosophers, including Søren Kierkegaard, Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre since I have been infatuated with their theses and books since my teenage years, but I think I will go for something different this time around and will sit for a chat with William James (The Will to Believe [1897]), Bertrand Russell (The Analysis of Mind [1921]) and Michel Foucault (History of Madness [1961]).

9 thoughts on “The Philosopher Book Tag

  1. 100% agree that I would like more fiction about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Kamila Shamsie’s Burnt Shadows starts with the bombing of Nagasaki but then quickly moves away from it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t know about Burnt Shadows, interesting! And yes, I feel like I want to read something in-depth on the topic, be it fiction or non-fiction and my curiosity was probably piqued last year when I read “Hiroshima Diary” (1955), a real, diary-like account of the Hiroshima bombing from the point of view of a doctor who tries to make sense of the symptoms and sickness around him. Around that time, I also read the manga and watched animation “In This Corner of the World”, which, though fictional, covered some of that episode too.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Such an interesting topic and love the shout out to The God of Small Things which is also a favorite of mine! I read it as a teenager and it was one of my first introductions to ‘literary fiction’ for lack of a better term and writing that really set my mind on fire in terms of its poetic and super innovative style. An absolute gem.

    I’d love to read your thoughts on books about the atomic bomb if you end up reading more fiction on Hiroshima. As for the siege of Leningrad, I actually read a novel a while back called Hunger which follows a group of scientists during the siege who basically are starving even though they’re surrounded by plants and seeds they could eat because they want to protect their scientific samples. So that might be an interesting one to check out! Thanks for this post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comment! That novel Hunger (by Elise Blackwell, right?) does sound very interesting, I got to track it down, thanks! I love existential themes like this one in literature, life-or-death decisions and difficult choices. It is not a stretch to imagine that humans are capable of seemingly absurd decisions all in the name of science and scientific progress.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, I’m so glad you did this tag! I really enjoyed doing it. And quite few of these books I’ve never heard of before and sound very intriguing. “If This Is A Man” sounds particularly interesting, because I love learning more about the holocaust.

    Liked by 1 person

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