sábado, fevereiro 21, 2015

Monsieur Ibrahim et les Fleurs du Coran, de Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt

A little jewel of a book I found thanks to the suggestion of a friend. Short and simple like a Sufi or Zen tale, expressing the view that it's our humanity that counts, more than race or religion. And it's a good thing to remind people, in this time of Islamic fundamentalism, that not all Muslim tradition is of intolerance.

quinta-feira, fevereiro 19, 2015

Deux Jours, Une Nuit, de Jean-Pierre et Luc Dardenne

A very good movie, austere and humane, the proof that you can make an excellent film with a good script, good direction and a few actors. The portrait of a very real Europe, a good example of the present trend in working conditions and the state we're in concerning solidarity and work security; also, in a way a picture of an ethnic mix that is optimistic for a change. Marion Cotillard is superb as always, one of the great actresses of today.

terça-feira, fevereiro 17, 2015

Half of a Yellow Sun, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I was a small child then, but I still remember seeing the pictures of the Biafran famished people; Biafra was the synonym of hunger, starvation. I knew very little about this forgotten war until I read this book, and there is not really much to know - a secession war, that became a horrible war like so many others, just remarkable for the degree of starvation and the pictures we all saw.

Half of a Yellow Sun is a novel about that war, and it could be about so many other wars. It's a very good book, sometimes terrible because it's so evocative. It shows the effects of the war on normal people, it could be us, caught in the dehumanizing horror of it all. It's impressive and humbling.

And I got to know the beautiful Igbo-Ukwu bronzes thanks to it.

quinta-feira, fevereiro 12, 2015

A Writer's World, by Jan Morris

A few years ago, talking to a friend, I mentioned how I enjoyed reading travel books, and he asked me if I knew Jan Morris. I didn't, and he told me she was a great travel writer, the best, and strongly advised me to read her books. I forgot about it for a long time, until a couple of months ago, when I was browsing through Amazon, and I ordered this collection of essays to sample her writing. Well, I liked it, it's good and a very enjoyable reading, but it doesn't make me dream of travelling to the places she writes about, unlike Patrick Leigh Fermor or Bruce Chatwin, for instance. But I found it very interesting nevertheless, especially because, more than a travel book, it's a testimony of the world through the second half of the 20th century: in an impressionist way, Jan Morris shows us how the world was and changed. She's an intelligent and attentive observer, and knows how to vividly depict places and events. The writing is good, even if sometimes bothersome by the use of the same expressions in several of the texts, but then, they were written at different times. I don't think I'll be looking for more Morris books, but it was a nice read.

quinta-feira, dezembro 18, 2014

David Hockney, the biography - A Rake's Progress, by Christopher Simon Sykes

I first knew about David Hockney when I saw a reproduction of his probably most famous painting, A Bigger Splash, later I saw Mr. and Mrs. Clarke and Percy, and then a series of paintings of the same trees in different weathers. I like his style, very sharp and colourful, a kind of sunny version of Hopper, he's one of the contemporary artists whose work I enjoy. I knew nothing about his life, but am usually curious about the lives of artists I like, and enjoy reading biographies, they're so informative not only about their subjects but also about their times.

So it was interesting reading about his life and the art scene in London in the Swinging Sixties. He seems like a nice man, devoted to his work and able to escape from the traps of contemporary painting, that so often is just pretentious and unoriginal. It's curious how the author depicts his work and ideas as ground breaking and original; I don't agree, think most of what he does has lots of similar precedents throughout the history of European art - just consider Flemish Renaissance portraits, for instance -, but he's certainly a very talented painter and has known how to masterfully depict his contemporaries and California.

terça-feira, dezembro 09, 2014

Mani - Travels in the Southern Peloponnese, by Patrick Leigh Fermor

A very good travel book; Patrick Leigh Fermor clearly loved Greece and he can convey his fascination with the country in the most enjoyable way. Reading his descriptions and his dilletantish digressions about its culture and history, one really wants to go there, and how more successful can a travel book get? It's very well written, even if not as good as A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water, which are his best books. It's very interesting to read about Greece under the Byzantine and the Ottoman Empires, and know about the continuity of its history from the Classical times until the 20th century.

domingo, novembro 23, 2014

Sweet Tooth, by Ian McEwan

As always, Ian McEwan writes supremely well, the book is enjoyable and easily readable, but I was again somewhat disappointed. I still think his last truly great book was Atonement. His books used to surprise and make us shudder inside, we felt like we found something hidden and scarily true about our human nature; these last books are just nice.