Matej Valuch – University of Solitude – Real Life Story

University of Solitude cover

University of Solitude Review

Imagine traveling to a foreign country, for a business trip. Imagine being interrogated in your hotel room, taken to solitary confinement, and accused of espionage. Imagine spending 40 days in seclusion, without being aware of any crime, with a possibility of death sentence hanging above your head.

Most people would go crazy in such a situation, especially if we talk about imprisonment in Iran, where spies (real or dubbed doesn’t matter) are often executed. I definitely would go mad.

When I found the book called University of Solitude, and read the prologue, I thought getting crazy was a fate the main protagonist – Matej Valuch had experienced.

Yet I couldn’t be more wrong…. University of Solitude can firmly stand to the title of author’s homepage- Real life inspirational story.

 

Prison as a life changing experience

No doubt it is tough to be locked in a small cell, to experience torture, to be deprived of your basic human rights. Yet some individuals (I’d still call them ‘extraordinary’) can find positives even in the most negative situation, and get the best of it.

Everything was against Valuch–he didn’t know the language, his case was confidential–he couldn’t expect any help from the embassy, his health deteriorated severely in custody. And, eventually, as he found out, the connection to espionage existed though he had no idea about that connection until Iranian Security police arrested him.

Yet he not only managed to survive, but actually used the experience as a catalyst for a new direction in his life. Valuch spent his time in solitary reflecting on the most fundamental questions of life, such as why we are here, why some people strive and some suffer, if God exists, and what’s the purpose of life. An extraordinary surrounding and circumstances–a small solitary confinement cell and a possibility of death sentence, made his inner monologues authentic, emotional, and unique.
If you look for authenticity, you won’t find a better piece of reading than University of Solitude.

 

Philosophy of a prisoner

Seeing a world through the eyes of a prisoner, but not a typical one, the one who isn’t guilty, and the one who likes to think, motivated me to reflect on my own attitudes towards life and people around me.  How strange the life can sometimes be….

Isolated solitary confinement, probably the worst possible living space where you have no interaction with the world around you, can eventually lead you to the most profound discoveries. University of Solitude made me think again whether the real truths of life, the most fundamental wisdom, aren’t hidden somewhere deep inside of each and every one of us.

We just forgot them, because instead of searching, we learned to obey to authorities, and listen to what the others have to say.

Inspired to try and study on the University of Solitude? I definitely recommend doing so! You can get the book on Amazon.

 

What the others said about this inspirational true story

  •  What an amazing story. Can be compared to Viktor Frankl’s “Yes to Life”. It is the story of man’s renewal, changing one’s values, which all becomes under the threat of possible death penalty or life prison.
  • I immediately was drawn to this friendly smiling young man and was blessed by spending a good bit of time with a few glasses of beer and conversations over the length of the Camino. I was shocked when his book came out. I was quickly saddened that this tragedy had come upon him, but thanked God that he came out of the trials and tribulations intact of mind, body and spirit.
    I could not perceive in him any fear or suspicion of mankind, which I’m afraid would have been my fate. It is well written in English which is not his native tongue, and very suspenseful. A great read!

 

 

 


My copy of Lizzy’s book

Lizzy Hawker – The Runner Review

I knew I needed to start running. My cholesterol levels were too high, and my metabolism hasn’t been working as well as when I was twenty years old…. But how would a girl who never really did too much sports (outside of skiing) motivate herself to run? A reader like me has only one option–taking an inspirational book in her hands, ideally from a runner.

Hawker – A humble runner

Most books you’d find online were written by male runners. I haven’t heard of any of these runners while browsing the titles they had written, but the abstracts simply didn’t resonate with me…. They were sportsman, athletes, they looked in shape, they competed and won.

Hawker’s book was different from a very first page. More intimate, more philosophical, more sensitive. You could feel immediately it was written by a women, and she even wasn’t youngest anymore, and wasn’t winning anymore. she run simply because she found it the most beautiful and natural thing to do. I immediately knew the book will be a good choice for me, and I grabbed it.

 

Victories and losses

Lizzy takes us through a crazy carousel of amazing victories and tough losses she has faced in her life, but whether winning or losing, one thing never changes in her story — her attitude towards running, and towards life in general. She opens her heart to the reader, and shares what running means to her, how she feels when doing it, and why she continues despite all the struggles she has faced. I must say that her journey is truly inspiring, and that the two of us share something in common (although I have never before ran more than 1 km :)).

 

Knowing Nepal and Himalayas

As I already told you on my introductory page, I’d love to travel but cannot, and so I travel with the heroes of my books. Lizzy showed me a country called Nepal, a country I considered an untouched kingdom of nature, clean, and beautiful. And even though Nepal has this face, Lizzy showed me the other side of the coin as well–poverty, illiteracy, unequal rights of women…. Lizzy’s book has not only inspired me to start running. It has inspired me to visit Nepal one day, and until I can do it, to at least support local charities.

 

Run, or not run?

Even if you aren’t a runner, I definitely suggest you grabbing some small money and running to the nearest bookstore, getting this wonderful book full of intimate reflections about running, Nepal, and not-so-ordinary way of living. The book will inspire you for sure, and there’s actually a good chance you put your old trainers on, and hit the local trail. Even if it’s minus fifteen outside, just like now in Canada. If you prefer shopping online, you can get the book from here, as well as learn more about Lizzy – Lizzy Hawker page.

 

What others had said

  • I read a lot of books written by and for runners, but this novel from Lizzy Hawker is exceptional. It is very inspiring, and makes you think about what are the real important things in life.
    If you are into running, its a must, if not, its still a good read
  • Running, adventure, mountaineering, with an introspective dialogue that focuses on a Buddhist approach living life to its fullest, enjoying the moment, living simply, connecting with the world wherever and whatever one is doing…truly inspiring!

Cover of the paperback I have read

The Rugmaker of Maraz E Sharif Review

The refugee crisis resonated heavily with me a few months ago…. My grand parents were second world war refugees, and if they weren’t welcome in Canada, or hadn’t fled at all, I might had never written these lines (understand: I might had never been born at all :)).

I basically searched for books that depicted stories of refugees–real life stories, and found the one Najaf Mazari, an ordinary Afghani guy who had experienced not so ordinary journey….  I decided to go for it, and hoped it will help me to understand better what’s going on, what my grandparents had been through, and why those people flee their home-countries nowadays in such quantities.

The book narrates Najaf’s story from his early life as a shepherd boy in the mountains of Northern Afghanistan to his forced exile after being captured and tortured by the Taliban, to incarceration in an Australian detention centre… and finally to freedom.

From prison to prison

That’s exactly how I felt when reading Regmaker’s story. It was a painful read, though written in a simple and sometimes even poetic narrative, not lacking a good joke here and there. But the basic story of Najaf was getting from one prison to another.

It described perfectly how war impoverished the country of Afghanistan, and made thousands of people homeless in a blink of an eye. Najaf loses his home and family, he loses his ideals of the world, and the future. But he never loses hope.

Book doesn’t try to go too deeply into the immigration procedures, and it doesn’t condemn lengthy waiting periods refugees face when seeking asylum (which I definitely consider inadequate and unfair). The main hero simply describes his journey through the half of the world, and what happened there–ordinary meetings, nature, friendships among refugees, killings…. exactly as he experienced all of those. His attitude towards his tough ordeal is really inspiring, and you can call the story inspirational. Surely, Mazari could make a victim of himself, crying over his destiny and over the  injustice in the world. But he decided to narrate his story in a different way, and I can’t say nothing else than well done!

 

Happy Ending. Or not?

Rugmaker found new home in Australia, and even managed to bring his family over. Everything seems all right, but is it, really?

  • I wonder whether it is appropriate that he had suffered so much, and that so many others suffer in a similar way, and that most people just blindly ignore it.
  • I wonder what happened to those many characters from the book Mazari described, who hadn’t been granted asylum. Are they still waiting for their chance, in one prison or another?
  • I wonder whether he wouldn’t wish to return to Afghanistan, and find there a country he can still remember from his childhood, a country that will likely never exist anymore. But why did it have to happen?

You can wonder of many things, but this is a book review site, and my verdict is simple: Rugmaker of Mazar E Sharif is definitely worth reading. I wished current US president read the book, as well as all xenophobic people around the world…. You can find Najaf’s story on Amazon, here.

What others had said about the book

  • The Rugmaker of Mazar-e-Sharif is a book that changed my perspective on the asylum seeker issue in Australia. Najaf Mazari was a man whose only wish in life was to live in peace and make rugs. But his wish was denied to him in his native land of Afghanistan. The Mujahedin fought the Russians, then they fought the Taliban, peace was a condition neither Mujahedin nor Taliban obtained.
  • A fascinating insight into the struggles of honest citizens trying to live in a war torn country and then-establishing themselves in a new country where the kindness of people helped to allow them to settle and live a rewarding life.

Cover of my copy of Death and the Dervish

Mesa Selimovic – Death and the Dervish

I’ve read many books that are dark, and depressing. To even go for the book called ‘Death and Dervish’–which implied a dramatic story, relating to Islam, was a step out of my comfort zone. I had to forget my prejudice to open this book, and boy, I am glad I did!

The book recounts the story of Sheikh Nuruddin, a dervish residing in an Islamic monastery in Sarajevo in the eighteenth century during the Ottoman Turk hegemony over the Balkans. When his brother is arrested, he must descend into the Kafkaesque world of the Turkish authorities in his search to discover what happened to him. He narrates his story in the form of an elaborate suicide note, regularly misquoting the Koran. In time, he begins to question his relations with society as a whole and, eventually, his life choices in general. (Official introduction from the publisher)

 

More than a typical philosophical story

The introduction of the publisher doesn’t do the book a justice. One would expect a typical philosophical monologue, in a typical plot (arrest, suffering, suicide, … ). But Selimovic, a true master of a word, created something special with his work. The depth of the thoughts, and perplexity of the monologues of the main hero, Sheikh Nuruddin, are unmatched by anything  else I’ve ever read. It’s impossible to not getting involved in the book, and live the story with Sheikh Nuruddin.

Selimovic succeeded to connect the on-the-verge-of-life-and-death situation with common problems we all face in our everyday life, and with a mirk description of the Bosnian reality back in the eighteenth century. The book has a specific tune, and won’t satisfy everyone. If you look for an easy read–a book you’ll enjoy and forget at once, you should not open Selimovic’s masterpiece.

This book will make you think and wonder, and amaze, at the same time, on how beautifully and sensitively can someone describe ordinary sufferings of a man.

I could write much more about the plot, but I consider ti secondary to the thoughts, and at the same time want to leave you some surprises. Let me add just a few reviews at the end, that underscore my words and review of this amazing book.

Reviews from other readers (source amazon.com)

  • The word masterpiece is too often used for all kinds of material that barely rises above the level of mediocrity. Selimovich is a master of the craft, and this is his great work. As simple as that. It should be apparent to those with a sense of literary merit from the first pages that this is an exceptional piece of writing. If however you don’t like challenges I’d recommend lighter fare. Selimovich is intense to a point almost unbearable at times. The book is as internal as they come, but the narrative does move, and the characters that intrude on the tortured protagonist’s awareness are well drawn.
  • Imagine that all things remotely resembling justice flees your homeland. Imagine fair play becomes a faint dream of lost centuries; a spiritual aspiration carried aloft as low flame into the ever-present darkness. What if tending the flame became your inescapable duty? What if you alone held the last bit of light amidst bottomless evil?
  • I’m not sure what to say about this book here because I feel like trying to give a comprehensive review will simply be glaringly inadequate. All I can really say is that this book is beautiful. It is tragic without ever being cliche. The text is almost poetic. It has a compelling plot but retains philosophical profundity. It is dense. There is no denying that. But is is well worth it.

 

Interview with Selimovic

For those of you who speak his language, and can enjoy his work in original 🙂

 

 


About the reviewer

Hi, I'm Lindsey, an avid book reader and chocolate drinker. I review for you great books, mostly indie published, to give you an idea of a good read outside of mainstream garbage. Inspirational stories are the main topic of my reviews.

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