Title: On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century
Author: Timothy Snyder
Illustrator: Nora Krug
Publisher: Bodley Head, Vintage Books Genre: Graphic Nonfiction, Essay
I would like to begin this review by saying: This book must be read by everyone who knows how to read. Do yourselves a favour and read this book, a primer about history, its failures, and how together we can overcome what we are going through right now.
Snyder speaks of tyranny and its root – where does it come from? Why does it exist? What can we do to overcome it? And while doing so, we have twenty lessons to learn, some which we already know.
The book is extremely American leaning and perhaps because the author is from there – however it is sadly applicable to all other nations that have faced some form of tyranny or are doing so right now. I could see so much of India in this book and what is going on right now in our country because it being a one-party state.
I was shaken to the core while reading this book because it hit home so hard. Snyder speaks of the Nazi brutality, of Putin and how he came to power, of how tyrannical structures methodically rise, and at the same time he also shows us what we can do to overcome all of that. Right from protecting our right to speech to safeguarding institutions, to listening for dangerous words and not using them, to ensuring we look out for each other, it is all in this book and more.
The writing is simple. Not once does Snyder takes sides but tells it the way it is. The writing is lucid, full of examples from history and its follies. All of these twenty lessons make so much sense separately and as whole, for us to work on step by step. These go hand in hand with the most stark, disturbing, and brilliant illustrations by Nora Krug.
For those who say the personal and the political are separate, need to take a long hard look at the state of affairs not only in their own country but around the world to understand how intertwined the two are and one needs the other to coexist. Therefore, the individuals have so much power to rise and take charge.
On Tyranny speaks to all of us – the ones who support the tyrants as well. It shows us what we perhaps already know and choose to ignore most of the time. The question is how long? How long will we ignore the ways of the tyrant and totalitarianism? When will we raise our voices in unison and know the strength we have?
As the last lesson, “Be as courageous as you can” says: “If none of us is prepared to die for freedom, then all of us will die under tyranny”.