Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization by Nicholson Baker: A Book Review

humansmokeSome critics consider this book now as a classic. It is indeed. First, if you were not a History professor nor do you have enough knowledge of the beginnings of World War II; then, it is the key to your curiosity. The author Nicholson Baker himself, gleaned all the government transcripts, news articles, memoirs, and journals from various personalities to create such a masterpiece compendium. Unlike reading the blow-by-blow accounts of the world history from our school textbooks, this book will get you to the deeper soul . You can understand the real persona of the main creators of the unforgettable and heinous war. Second, it is a question for a new civilized man like you whether war is the best solution to attaining the world peace or not. If you are a pacifist, you may give your side to Mohandas Gandhi, or you may take back your cause. If you are pro-war under any circumstances, you may be obdurate or change your viewpoints, for you might feel the deep emotions conveyed in the diaries written by the victims of the Holocaust. It is like you are under the deep blue sea.

I liked this book because I was always excited to turn every page as though I was eager to know what was going to happen next, what the exact details before Japan surrendered to the USA, since I have the ideas of how Japan buckled under the atomic bomb, as though I was overcome with the horrible conditions of the Jews as the butt of prejudice. But I was disappointed when the exact details about how the war ended were not narrated as though I wanted to kick and scream because of my excitement at how Roosevelt and Churchill had came up with the idea of dropping the atomic bomb, at what course of action Japan took after the war. Nicholson Baker may have intended it. But if I were him, to satisfy the readers, I would have written the details. He must have collected the articles. It would be like as though I had enjoyed reading the beginning and end of the story. Then, I would love to recommend it to my friends, nephews or nieces if they want to understand more the beginning and the end of World War II. Or I would have rated this 4 stars.

This book, on the other hand, has taken the brunt of negative reviews. For some reviewers, it is a “strangely childish book”, “self-important or self-righteous”, “fraud” , blah blah blah. But in my humble opinion, Baker may have intended to write such style – since most of his works focus on stream of consciousness – to lead the readers to the debate about PACIFISM. He may have intended to leave the readers patch up all the grains so that they can conclude their own opinions. He may have known that readers would consider this as “ pablum”. Whatever it is, I would say that this is a good read although the ending is lamentable since the title emphasizes the beginnings of Word War II and the END of Civilization.

I have had some insights into this book. Churchill turned out to be more aggressive than Roosevelt. He could almost be in parallel with Hitler. Hitler, on the other hand, was an ambiguous man. You might have the impression that he was a hypocrite. I think he was.

Rating: 3/ 5 stars


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