Book Review of There Are No Gods In North Korea by Anjaly Thomas
I almost did not buy “There are no Gods in North Korea” a travel novel by Anjaly Thomas. I mean who is interested in North Korea ? I don’t see myself going to North Korea in near future but due to some quirky itchy finger I pressed the buy button on Amazon.in and bought the book.
And boy am I glad or what ? Well, read on……
When I was reading the first chapter of “There are no Gods in North Korea” I almost did not understand how to comprehend what Anjaly is trying to convey. So I read the first chapter again. You see the challenge was I was reading the book like you normally will read a travel blog, and not a travel book chronicling not just the visit of the traveler but also the life of the locals.
We all may say we like to mingle and live like locals but most of us rarely mix with the locals and maintain a respectable distance. But North Korea is a place where not only mixing with locals is actively discouraged by Uncle Kim and grandson but may land not only you but even the locals you try to mingle with in trouble. Once this point was home I realized that Anjaly has not written a travelogue she has portrayed the life of constant fear of living in a police state under constant surveillance by authorities. That sense of seeing something that is inherently wrong in the eyes of most people who grow up in freer societies led to a carefully subdued anger in her writing about North Korea. The smiling faces you see in the city are all trained good-looking citizens who put on an act for tourists like Ms. Thomas, who herself pretends to be a teacher, for travel writers are not welcome in North Korea.
The rebel and the traveler in Anjaly had to act like an obedient lion in front of a circus ringmaster while waiting for the first opportunity to chew his head off. But you can not chew the head off of a state so she resorted to small acts of rebellions like taking pictures of things you are not supposed to take and dancing in the rain. Yes, a simple act of dancing in the rain is a sign of rebellion in the Kingdom of North Korea, for that is what North Korea is where a dead monarch is still considered the guiding force and his chubby grandson rules with an iron grip, executing people at his whims and fancies.
So you can see the impact of this forced discipline and façade of everything hunky dory even on Anjaly’s writing that appears to be a bit dark in the first chapter. The anger in her spirit continues when she reaches China immediately after North Korea and you start feeling the change in the write-up. She starts by complaining and slowly comes in her true colors.
But one has to wait for Anjaly to reach Africa to see her true mettle and her free sprit as a storyteller. In my opinion, Africa is her true calling this is where she shows us not only the colors of Africa but also her own hues and talent as a travel writer. Be it writing about the past monarchs or her almost getting married to a Masai dude, you are truly impressed with her story telling skills that blossom on the wild safaris of Africa along with a thousand wild flowers that one encounter in the vast African open spaces.
It is here in Africa we learn a few personal things also about Anjaly that she guarded closely in the earlier chapters . Africa does that to you, one moment you are not on your guard and a Rhino may enter your tent for this is the path he and his ancestors have taken even before humans invented tents. As a global traveler, she knows how not only to avoid sleepwalking Rhinos but also get rid of unwanted advances by lecherous males of her own species.
Also do not miss her stories from Turkey where she realizes the blessings of being a traveler and the pain and sorrow of those who struggling in their daily life yet keeping a brave face. This led to her personal philanthropy project that she has carried on with the help of her friends and family.
Reasons to read There Are No Gods In North Korea
Read “ There Are No Gods in North Korea” for some lucid travel writing sprinkled with an innocent child-like humor that sometimes tickles you and sometimes make you think. Read “ There Are No Gods in North Korea” to know about a girl who by ethnicity may be Indian but who thinks like a global citizen and is not scared to go to places about which she has dreamed all her life no matter if she speaks the language or not or likes the food or not .
Read “ There Are No Gods in North Korea” for some simple storytelling that goes beyond “ How to find cheap hotel deals in Paris and the top 7 coffee shops in Nairobi kind of travel writing and introduces you to the forgotten art of storytelling.
Most of all read “ There are No Gods in North Korea” because it reinforces the fact that travel is good, and anybody with any passport, budget, or gender can travel and proves once again that Travel opens up your mind and kills prejudices in the process creating bonds among strangers that are stronger than borders that divide us.
You can buy “There Are No Gods in North Korea “ on Amazon, just like I did.
Printed price: Rs. 350 /-
Publisher: Niyogi Books
About Images in this blog post: The book does not have any images, but Anjaly shares images on her blog so, all images in this blog post have been shamelessly borrowed from Anjaly’s blog – ” Travel With Anjaly” totally without permission. Anjaly a lawyer by education sure knows how to sue, but if she would prefer for an out of court amicable settlement I would settle for a cup of coffee next time we are both in the same city, she will even get to pay for the coffee.
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