There are no Gods in North Korea
Publisher: Niyogi Books, New Delhi
(ISBN 987-93-85285-33-2, Rs 350; $ 10)
There are no Gods in North Korea is a pleasant travelogue. Written by Anjaly Thomas, the book chronicles her solo trips to North Korea, China, Mongolia, Egypt, Uganda, Nairobi and Turkey. The book is narrated in a conversational style, giving readers a sense of being privately engaged. The approach to the book is commendable as the author is being honest in her observations. From dancing in the rain in North Korea much to the chagrin of Miss Deer and Giraff, the tour guides, to finding her own roads in Mongolia where she is awed by the vastness of Gobi desert, she is the quintessential backpaker you’d want to go on a trip with. She doesn’t mince words; she is brutaly honest, which readers will find refreshing.
She related Pyongyang at night to a ghost city, and said, tellingly, that the Hermit Kingdom lacks people, life, colour, taffic jam and noise. Yet, she does not complain because, in her own words, she has stayed in far worse places. Even though she had to lie to gain entry into North Korea, her writing betrays that. She is honest yet restraint, in a good way, of course.
In Uganda, she is confronted by a pimp outside the airport asking if she needed a service. In Turkey, she tried couchsurfing and in China, she stopped to marvel at the Great Wall. These are some of the touristy encounters. She has done the African wild, too. Hoever, more than anything else if there is one thing that sets this book apart, it is this: through all these trips, she offers some interesting insights into the nature of human being and the extent of its diversity, all the while, questioning and celebrating.
In her writing, Anjaly uses sarcasm as an effective literary tool and asks a lot of rhetorical questions. The title of the book is not inspired by the communist ideology of godless state, but by the simple fact that North Koreans propitiate the Kims, much like the rest do their gods.
As you flip through the pages, you will get a sense of the zeitgeist that the author lived through, and begin to feel liberated even when confronted with vulnarabilities in the narration. You will find your own prejudices being radically redifined as you explore beyond your immediate surrounding through the book. Somewhere through the journey, you will find your own insecurity – to go out and explore the world – being addressed. There are ample humors too to lift your spirit. It is a journey of rediscovery worth taking. You must grab a copy and explore the world.