A review of The Peacemaker by Casey Dorman
I can hear someone is whispering: “What is Sengupta doing here? Does he not have enough assignments to keep him busy?” Wish I could answer these questions. Given a chance I would have said, “The Peacemaker gave me more food for poetry. It came as a refreshing break!” Honestly, I misread the title in the first place. I thought the book was titled “The Pacemaker.” After reading the entire book I can conveniently say The Peacemaker can really work wonders to the heart that is tired from reading cliché fiction novels and their stagnant monotony.
The Peacemaker is a science fiction novel and it deals with several social and environmental issues. The book justifies Dorman’s dexterity in storytelling, especially his glorious attempt in addressing a few relevant social concerns through an extremely well-conceived plot. What is The Peacemaker all about? Is it primarily a story that involves two sibling planets (Talus and Noruna) in the galaxy? Is it a story that evolves from three races namely Tontors, Falstinians, and Aphorians? Does The Peacemaker depict only the adventures of Jason, the protagonist? No doubt, the book encourages a holistic way of living life through empathy. The Peacemaker, in spite of being a sci-fi novel, is capable of altering human behavioral attitudes.
I meant behavioral attitudes, really! Dorman, through his exceptional narration, made me remember a recent incident, which involved a fairly known Indian editor-cum-woman-poet. A few weeks ago she gave me a poem and sought my remarks on it. She did not give me a clue as to who the poet was, and inquired if I liked the poem. Honestly, I was not happy as I read it. The poem read like a translated verse that I thought was originally written in an Indian language. I quickly asked her, “Whose poem is this, by the way? She responded, “I wrote it, come on!” I was taken aback, and without even pondering the poem one more time I said, “Hey! Are you kidding me or what? You just can’t write this poorly in the English language. The lines read pathetic!” There was an absolute silence for more than a minute, and finally she broke the ice, “You may be right, Kiriti, but I expected some amount of empathy from you.” I felt terribly sorry, and generously apologized for my not-so-polite expression.
I won’t say I was rude. I wasn’t that at all. But why did I speak so ruthlessly with my fellow poet, without even acknowledging her effort and heart that she invested in her writing?
This is indeed a problem with us, the poets; especially with the Bengali poets. We (except for a few polite poets) don’t sound soothing as we critique others’ poetry. We tend to think we understand better than the rest of the poets, and that we have the final say on someone’s work of literature. Moreover, we find it in-fashion to air our grievances in an impolite way! Bitter, but true.
But then, why am I speaking about Bengali poets here? Casey Dorman’s The Peacemaker does not even have slightest association with Bengali literature. The world of literature is perhaps infested with many less-empathetic people who don’t bother to understand the psyche of the authors. Understanding of psychology is important for any critic, let alone the literary workers of the world. Dorman has painted the central character, Jason, in the color of humane compassion:
Jason was a Peacemaker, one of the select few of his race, the race which, from behind the shadows of vague myth and superstition, sensed by other inhabitants of the galaxy only as mysterious, perhaps supernatural beings, watched over those myriad worlds and insured the ongoing tranquility of interplanetary relations … Jason routinely reacted with his own distress to the distress of others and with his own joy to their signs of happiness — the signs of a true empath.
Dorman, in The Peacemaker, has left no stone unturned in explaining the background of Jason, so we realize the importance of a psychology-driven learning system. He informs us:
Jason had been raised separately from the rest of his race’s population by surrogate parents, themselves chosen for their empathic abilities. Along with a select group of other children, chosen for the same abilities, he was isolated from his planet’s population, educated in the Psychae Academy, where he had spent all of his growing years, all of his social interactions carefully managed, his knowledge of his own race, its history and its customs obscured from him so that he would form no prejudices to later influence his peacemaking activities.
No doubt, Dorman has tactfully indicated our society’s indifferent attitude towards surrogate parents. And here again, “empathy” is the keyword. I can remember while translating a few Bengali poems (those were published under the title Poem Continuous — Reincarnated Expressions, Inner Child Press, Limited in association with Hawakaal Publishers, September 2015) by the distinguished poet Bibhas Roy Chowdhury, the poet opined, “An efficient translator suffers the agony of a surrogate mother.” And look, worldwide, the translators are given a second-grade treatment as authors of their translated literary works. If you read The Bhagavad Purana, a significant Hindu scriptural text, you’ll find Krishna was raised not by his biological mother, Devaki, but by Yashoda, a surrogate mother. It goes without saying, Lord Krishna is regarded as an epitome of love, compassion, and empathy by the Hindus around the world. The exciting adventures of Jason, as substantiated by Casey Dorman in The Peacemaker, has its mighty root deep into the soil of his extra-ordinary upbringing!
Also, The Peacemaker makes us conscious of racial discrimination, a never-ceasing social stigma that challenges mankind. Talus’ two dominant races, the Tontors and Falstinians, left behind the Aphorians following the “Great Migration” and resettled themselves on Noruna. They took along a few Aphorians who could serve them as their slaves. We read: “Although a few Aphorian slaves had been brought to Noruna with the migrating Tontors and Falstinians, slavery, as an institution, had been done away with, although the Tontors still regarded themselves as the superior race.”
But when the Falstinians decided to return to Talus, they were prevented by terror attacks by the Free Aphorian Army, led by an Aphorian, Larssen, who grew up under the dominating influences of the Tontors and Falstinians on Noruna. Dorman wrote:
The Aphorian civilization that had remained on Talus and witnessed its ecological rebirth, was regarded by the Tontors and Falstinians on Noruna as hopelessly primitive and a confirmation of their belief that the Aphorians, as a race, were backward. But the inhabitants of Noruna were ignorant of the Aphorian educational system, crowned by its Eco-University, which taught knowledge of nature, of animal behavior, of chemistry, of the biology of Talusian plant life, and of the their own racial instincts, which had to be either cultivated or mastered in order to live peacefully in their world. The Aphorians had not turned their back on science; they had simply emphasized the natural and biological sciences.
Racism or racialism is intimately associated with our intolerance to others’ worldly appearances. I have a huge black birthmark (it is called an Hemangioma) on the inner side of my left hand. I’m often asked if I have burned my hand, and if the mark existed before. Skin color is often used to determine if someone is white, black or brown. And these colors are used as the general markers of civilization. I’m proud to belong to the browns, but then, what would you probably say of my black birthmark? I made it my "Color Code," a poem that I have included in Healing Waters Floating Lamps (Moments Publication, March 2015). Would you mind reading the following lines from the poem?
They said you were black
They knew they were white
They loved their eyes
The immigration officers were curious
I pulled my sleeve up to the elbow
Showing them the identifying mark
And I said
This has been the Nelson Mandela patch
The Peacemaker is an out-and-out spiritual novel that has no strings of religions or prophecies attached to it. Spirituality has nothing to do with the Masters and their teachings. It has no ingredient of ritualism either. Spirituality is as spontaneous as breathing and life. The Sanatana Dharma (Eternal Religion) suggests: Pranahi Bhagavanishah (Prana only is God), and if you go by the scriptural definition of God, The Peacemaker allows you to meditate on your mental, social and environmental wellbeing. The book helps its readers to identify and to get rid of the impurities of modern civilization that has placed them away from a soulful, spiritual living.
[The review has been edited by Don Martin (Tucson, Arizona)]
Healing Waters Floating Lamps by Kiriti Sengupta [Moments Publication, Gujrat, India]