“The Distinguished Assassin is Professor Aleksei Klebnikov, banished to a Gulag labour camp in 1949 on trumped-up charges. Set free in 1952, he becomes a hitman for a gangster, assigned to murder six brutal, highly placed Communist officials. Klebnikov’s ultimate aim is to kill the man responsible for his captivity and who, he believes, seduced his wife in his absence. The story is told in alternate chapters covering his time as prisoner and after his release. Through Klebnikov, the plight of the Russian people under Stalinist rule is grippingly demonstrated. Taussig’s style – short on dialogue and long on descriptions and Klebnikov’s thoughts –takes a bit of getting used to, but turns out to be effective for the passionate political and emotional content of his novel.”
Marcel Berlins, The Times
“I was recommended to read this book by a friend and I can honestly say I couldn’t put it down. It’s a wonderful story with two wonderful characters. It really gave me food for thought as I certainly related to the New York Don. It’s very visual and I really felt like I was there in both New York and Thailand!!! The only other book that has had that kind of effect on me was The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe which I read when I was around 10 years old. I’m looking forward to reading Nick Taussig’s next book whatever that may be.” D. Hansford
“Don Don is a perfect entertaining book for me, spirituality and fiction. The book makes sense in many ways: the characters, Buddhism, Thai lives etc. Nick is very clever in the way he put things together. It could be a serious book: about life and death, and believers. But I have found myself laughing, and with tears in my eyes. The most important thing for me is it says something good about Thailand, and how we should see life. No doubt about this because I am Thai – a Buddhist myself.” Wallada Barnes
“Just finished Don Don… finished it in less than 8 hours… very interesting and enlightening… still thinking of the characters.. the author has used a very explicit language that I find honest and interesting. I also really liked the plethora of spiritual information contained in the book. The whole concept of soul merging with the universe which I had read about several times before – I could follow it better only after reading this book. I loved the non-deceptive tone of the author… it is a spiritual book with a difference. It takes reality into consideration and does not just rant on about spiritual stuff which none usually understands in other books. I especially liked the end quote by Andrew Harvey… it was very beautiful and put a poignant end to the story. Looking forward to Love and Mayhem now… This was my first book by Nick Taussig… best wishes to the author… also must add the book was unputdownable!!” 😀
“Borrowed your book Don Don from the library yesterday…started reading it some ten minutes back…had to find you out fast and tell you that I had never read a book as sharp as this.. felt like “straight from the heart-straight into the book-straight into the heart”…had never been this glad about a book…made me feel real happy for the first time in my life that I love reading books…” Poornima Sasidharan
To label the teenager Daniel Bartlam “evil”, as the Daily Mirror does this morning, is a gross oversimplification, not least because implicit in this label is the idea that he is somehow not human, something other, an abomination. He is none of these. Rather he is all too human – an isolated, troubled and destructive young man – who, lost in a violent and nihilistic virtual world of soap operas, video games and the internet, was driven to commit an evil act. We would do better to look into our own damaged and troubled hearts, rather than simply consign one teenage boy to hell. We cannot, and should not, let ourselves off so lightly.
I have a dear friend – an immensely gifted writer and artist – who not only produces wonderful work of real craft and quality but is faithful to it also. He is his art; his art him. What he creates reflects his character, no more than this, provides a window to his soul, and the soul one finds there, in each work, is perceptive, honest, probing and rich in thought and feeling. His creations can never be described as mediocre, shallow and superficial, these characteristics that define so much of contemporary art and culture.
As I look at his drawings, which can be found everywhere throughout his home, in his kitchen, living room, hallway and landing, I wonder why on earth he is not more valued, his art more appreciated. His work is not only better than many well-known and successful modern artists, but possesses a greater depth and integrity as well. He is perhaps a victim of these noble qualities, however.
Many of us see clearly the shameless and greedy charlatan in Damien Hirst, the false and talentless exhibitionist in Tracey Emin, yet we dare not voice such truths, these faux artists lauded by so many. How can so many be wrong? Quite easily, as history testifies to, many artists though celebrated in their lifetime subsequently judged to be average and overrated. The public is easily led, the likes of Charles Saatchi acutely aware of this. The man can give anything value if he gets behind it sufficiently, puts his name to it.
And yet it is precisely Hirst’s and Emin’s capacity for deceit, and their complicity in Saatchi’s and other collectors’ mercurial profit-making dance, which explains their success. The hollowness of Emin is clear enough when we see her commission for David Cameron – a pink neon sign displaying the words “More Passion”. That is it, the kind of sign you’d expect to see on a shop front. It is not art. She claimed she wanted to give Cameron, the moral conservative, some “cool”. In truth what she gave him was the perception of cool, much needed after he’d locked up so many young people in the aftermath of the London riots. Where Ai Weiwei uses his art to challenge and subvert poor and immoral governance, Emin uses hers to prop it up, now little more than a Conservative Party lackey it seems.
Art must have a moral purpose, even if, in the case of Michel Houellebecq, the enfant terrible of French letters, this intends to illustrate nothing more than the utter foolishness and futility of practically all human endeavour. It must not be driven solely by profit and fame, Hirst and Emin slaves to both. There is little art in Hirst hiring others to make his art. Ai Weiwei might do the same, yet he is motivated by political conscience – to undermine the Chinese Communist authorities – rather than personal greed and vanity. And there is little art in Emin’s patchwork quilts, these works based on the hollow and unimaginative conceit of violent and sexual expletives expressed on something as “wholesome” as a patchwork quilt.
Houellebecq, the great cynic with his mighty sardonic wit, would likely concede this is precisely why they are so successful in this modern age of ours, which has made art out of that which is not art, wealthy fools like Elton John paying millions for their vacuous and unremarkable work. Behind the grand and provocative titles of their works, which you hope like Nietzsche’s writings will express something profound and prophetic about human nature and the human condition, they express nothing but the artists’ deceit – Hirst and Emin are brilliant salespeople, masters of presentation and hype, understanding fully the value of provocation and sensation in order to sell their work. Yet what they are selling is empty and purposeless, serving them but no one else.
One of the protester’s banners at Occupy London declares, “The 99% needs a safety net more than the 1% needs a security blanket.” Many mainstream commentators argue that the protesters are nothing but a bunch of demented anarchists and hateful Marxists in search of either chaos or utopia, presenting no viable alternative to the Capitalism system which they so despise. Yet there is nothing mad or contemptuous in the above statement, nor in the one below, which states, “The banks own you! The government has a credit card with no limit and you are their collateral! We are the 99%.” Both statements, rather, contain an ugly and awkward truth, that we live in a profoundly unfair and unjust society where the 1% – our rulers, the wealthy – have a lot and care little for the 99% who have very little. What’s most at fault here is human greed. The 1% will do all they can to hold onto their wealth, will do and say anything in its defense. If only these few had the courage to own their greed, confess to it, rather than to deny and seek to justify it. If only the 1% would say, “We have the lion’s share not because this is how the system works – capitalism an unfair system in which only the toughest survive – but rather because we are fucking greedy and are simply not prepared to help the 99%, see them prosper more, because if we do then we shall have less, shall no longer be the 99%.” How I long for the 1% to be this honest, to take personal responsibility, rather than hide behind endless increasingly unconvincing justifications for their greed. It has no other name, I’m afraid. Greed is greed.
It appears that Putin will be President once more, despite the protestations of the Russian people who cry not only foul play but also that they’ve had enough of Vladimir Vladimirovich – the leader who refuses to relinquish power in the vein of the many despots before him. Democracy in Russia is nothing but a façade, an illusion. Men such as Putin, former KGB apparatchiks, have little concern for the will of people – what they want and need. Rather such men, former nomenklatura, care only for the state, the Russian state, which they will serve, as they did the Soviet state, until the bitter end. Communism collapsed because the people had had enough of this state, which was utterly indifferent to them, hindering them and diminishing their happiness when it had claimed to be doing quite the opposite. Yet Putin’s state, this new state he moulded out of the debris of the old Communist one, is the very same. Vladimir Vladimirovich, a moody bugger like his monstrous predecessor Stalin, expects gratitude from his people for his dedication, his loyalty to Russia and her people. His surly face conveys a man who’ll be President again only because he knows best, what’s best for the Russian people, and that, despite the great demands of the job, he will make this enormous sacrifice for his people, a sacrifice which includes accumulating vast personal wealth. Putin might have labelled certain oligarchs thieves, yet he is perhaps the greatest thief of all. He robs the Russian people not only of their wealth but also their freedom.