Changing History -- A philosophical novel
by How Kuff
||November 12, 2007
Seven travelers explore their happenstance meeting in the mountains of Tibet and exchange personal life-changing stories that reveal a globally-connected web of power and influence.
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Changing History develops in present day from a happenstance meeting of seven international travelers. Caught in a sudden snowstorm in the mountains of Tibet, they stumble upon a teahouse and seek shelter along with a journeying Buddhist monk and nun. During the night, the seven travelers tell tales of circumstances and events that drove them to question fundamental aspects of their lives. In modern-day Chaucerian style, each compelling personal dilemma reveals drama and circumstances transcending race and culture. A unique philosophy of human affairs unfolds as the protagonists struggle with war, religion, politics, economics and social cohesion.
They come to realize that their sagas of personal strife and conflict are interwoven in a web of relationships that span the globe and breach the metaphysical. As they grapple to make sense of their changed perceptions of humanity, an extraordinary event occurs that facilitates their departure with new purpose and direction.
“I think I understand where you are going,” said Lana. “We see facts through
the impacts they have had on what we know. We can look at them in no other
way. We are bound by our own point of view. So they only exist within our
“So looking at our history, we can’t change the fact that people were tortured and killed … but we can act in the present to make these facts reflect a great change for humans. Though those people are gone, their lives and energies live on through the changes that were brought about by their lives and deaths,” concluded Raz.
It was a pleasurable experience. I liked he mixture of poetry and prose, the exchange of ideas through dialogue, the tasteful eroticism, the presentation of human beings searching for the truth, for peace, for justice, for companionship. It is a soulful book, a spiritual book, yet it does not avoid the realities of the world. Thank you.
(Author of A People's History of the United States)
If insight can incite, if an enlightened response comes from shared wisdom, then Changing History might do just that. Philosophy thinly disguised as a novel reaches for a wider, younger, more adventurous audience than would be apt to read and ponder the same ideas and logic set in a more conventional framework.
Author How Kuff brings together a group of world travelers and local pilgrims seeking shelter from a blizzard in the mountains of Tibet. Fortunately, they all get to a remote teahouse where they pass the time by each telling his or her story in turn. The resulting collection of short stories, with segments of prose, blank-verse poetry and Socratean dialogue interspersed with and following each, is reminiscent of early English classics such as Canterbury Tales or The Compleat Angler. In all three books mentioned, the basic plot development is similar. Strangers meet traveling and become friends; conversations start shallow and quickly go deep. All of the characters in Changing History contribute, each seeking high ground morally and spiritually, as well as in the landscape which drew them there. Shared aspirations extend the group to include the reader, with all on a common quest.
Obscene dialect by some of the characters and occasional straying from plots to recall graphic sex are time-honored devices of novelists to sustain readers’ interest. Overuse of vulgarities is a fact of contemporary speech, but it tends to distract from the underlying ethics and positive motivation which is the heart of Changing History.
In incremental doses most readers can take, profound concepts and abstract reasoning keep appearing throughout the book, and eventually prevail as themes for discussion. The book finishes with the challenge implied by the title made clear, to conceptually bridge cultural gaps. This is neatly summarized by the short line of Tibetan script below the mantra. The positive and hopeful ending empowers the reader with the realization that future history is now, and that we change history by changing ourselves. Whether the travelers to Beijing end up as saviors, martyrs, or lost along the way; what is important is that the attempt was made. That’s what Changing History is all about.
Kent Bonar (The Naturalist)
Newton County Wildlife Association
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