What does it mean to suffer? What enables some people to emerge from tragedy while others are spiritually crushed by it? Why do so many Americans think of suffering as something that happens to other people-who usually deserve it? These are some of the questions at the heart of this powerful book.
Combining reportage, personal narrative, and moral philosophy,
tells the stories of grass-roots genocide tribunals in Rwanda
and tsunami survivors in Sri Lanka
, an innocent man on death row, and a family bereaved on 9/11. He examines texts from the Book of Job to the Bodhicharyavatara and the writings of Simone Weil. THE BOOK OF CALAMITIES is a provocative and sweeping look at one of the biggest paradoxes of the human condition--and the surprising strength and resilience of those who are forced to confront it.
Trachtenberg (Seven Tattoos) wryly observes: "Everybody suffers, but Americans have the peculiar delusion that they're exempt from suffering." He shared in this denial until a friend died of cancer, and then he began to ask questions. "Most of these are unanswerable," he admits: Why me? How do I endure? What is just? What does my suffering say about me? about God? And what do I owe those who suffer? This book is "a layman's response" to unimaginable anguish, a collection of powerful stories rather than a philosophical treatise. Writing movingly about victims and survivors of natural disasters, war, genocide, domestic violence, addiction, illness, suicide and injustice, he deftly intermingles their stories with observations from religion, philosophy and literature. Not everyone will want to face this much misery, and Trachtenberg offers no easy solutions. His book, however, like Andrew Solomon's The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, succeeds because it asks the right questions, calls on the experience of articulate witnesses, andthrough skillful narrative and trenchant observationbeguiles the reader into facing heartbreaking reality. (Aug. 27) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.