Wow, almost two weeks since I last wrote anything. Tsk tsk.
For this entry I thought I’d do something way out of my comfort zone – a book review. People who know me, knows that I am a notoriously slow reader. It’s something to do with having to find the time to squeeze a page or two (mostly on the comforts of a toilet seat) and the fact that my reading speed is comparable to glacial motion – granted that nowadays, glaciers may be moving faster, thanks to global warming.
Anyways, the book I’ll be talking about is, Adults in the Room, written by
Lord Voldermort, Yanis Varoufakis, the infamous, leather-jacket-clad, no-tie-worn-at-meetings, self-proclaimed radical left wing, former Greek Minister of finance, and co-founder of Diem25 (Democracy in Europe Movement 2025).
Narrated by Yanis, Adults in the Room is a political memoir, dubbed “one of the greatest of all time” by The Guardian. It is an account of his journey as reluctant finance minister who has to re-negotiate Greece’s asphyxiating austerity program, administered by the often sinisterly portrayed creditors, the Troika (made up of the European Commission, The European Central Bank and the IMF).
The book itself is engrossing. It is written in a style that reads like a thriller, that kept me flipping from one page to the next.
Yanis portrays himself as somewhat of a lone wolf, navigating through crocodile infested waters, made up of people who he thought was his ally, as well as vultures flying overhead, awaiting for the demise of the newly elected Greek government (or mostly for his downfall).
Throughout the book, the finance minister, is seen to be motivated by the plight of the Greek, particularly a recurring character, a homeless translator named Lambros. The interpreter, named Lambros, made Yanis promise that he would do all he can to stop the ongoing humiliation that the European administration has continued to impose on ordinary Greek citizens.
Varoufakis depicts the battles that he had to forge, to renegotiate the austerity plan imposed by the Troika in exchange for Greece’s bailouts. The plan, as Yanis puts it was never going to work. A nation that very clearly was already under economic distress, was never going to recover by further pressing its peoples. Without a recovery in sight, he argues that the continued austerity would not have allowed Greece to generate enough economic activity to be able to pay back its creditors.
The central theme around the ‘story’ is that Greece would go to Brussels to negotiate a deal with the Troika that revolved around debt restructuring and reform plans to help Greece get back on its feet to economic recovery. But as the book progressed, it started to look very clear that Greece’s creditors weren’t really looking to get their money back. In fact, it seemed apparent that they knew they were never getting their money back. The entire drama surrounding Grexit, according to Yanis, was pretty much just a show of power, about keeping someone’s dead project alive, rather than admitting that the austerity plan wasn’t working and that a new, more practical plan was required.
Every now and then, Yanis would portray going into a meeting with his creditors with every intention of meeting in the middle and seeking solutions that are not only pragmatic but also allowed the Greeks some dignity and a sense of autonomy in charting their country’s course, only to be smitten down by people who had no interest in Greece’s welfare, out of fear of having to admit to implementing a fallacious and potentially disastrous economic policy.
Of course, the entire story was written through the eyes of Varoufakis himself, so a lot of times you have to take a step back and ask yourself, “is this really impartial?”. The answer is of course, a resounding no. It is his version of the story after all. And as a story of someone who feels victimised by the large machinations of European politics, you can expect it to be laced with a lot of emotion.
As written by Helena Sheehan in her review, Varoufakis very often presents himself as Prometheus, fighting against the Gods, but often does sound like Narcissus. It almost does sound like he’s the only person who had the Greek’s well-being in mind (along with a few allies here and there), while everyone else seemed to be acting in their own self interest, or the Troika’s.
Despite the expected bias that you would find in the book, you do have to take serious note of how broken the system has become. So much so that a European official would rather see Greece pay up its creditors and let ordinary Greeks continue to suffer than to negotiate a more practical approach to Greece’s crisis.
A riveting read, one I’d highly recommend.