Tuesday, March 27, 2018

John C. Hulsman

John C. Hulsman is president of John C. Hulsman Enterprises, a prominent global political-risk consulting firm. His books include Ethical Realism: A Vision for America's Role in the World, The Godfather Doctrine: A Foreign Policy Parable, and To Begin the World Over Again: Lawrence of Arabia from Damascus to Baghdad.

His new book is To Dare More Boldly: The Audacious Story of Political Risk.

Recently I asked Hulsman about what he was reading. His reply:
I am blessedly immersed in Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, having finished My Brilliant Friend and The Story of a New Name. While I make a living writing about history, international relations, and current events (and love reading good work on them), I find myself often drawn to fiction, in which the quality of the writing is often better and which says so much about the human condition. Both these attributes are often shockingly lacking in my discipline. For example, I make every intern I have read Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald, for the beauty and the brevity of the prose, and what they said about the Twentieth Century. It is an effort to cleanse them of the pernicious thinking too often prevalent in the academy, that poor impenetrable writing illustrates great thinking, which is almost never true. Instead, as Forster said, they must only connect. The best fiction does this.

And Ferrante certainly qualifies as the best fiction. Beautifully chronicling the life-long friendship between Lenu and Lina, it is a masterpiece of both language and psychology. My fiancé Sara (also from Naples) demanded that I read it, to understand something of where she came from and how it affects her. It did all this, taking me through exquisitely concocted pocket sketches of people and places to the perfectly constructed world of their neighbourhood. It is unflinching in pointing out the unseen and unspoken tragedies of both, the limitations of being clever women in a time and place that had little use for such people, and of the boisterous, violent, vibrant, and limiting place that they both loved and hated in equal measure. It is also masterful in illustrating both the love and more base feelings each harbors for the other, unflinching in its honesty.

I have devoured the first two novels and cannot wait to read the final pair. For joy and love unshared are wasted. In these books Ferrante has shared both. The result is marvellous.
Visit John C. Hulsman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue