quinta-feira, fevereiro 04, 2016

Contos, volume II, de Anton Tchekhov

It's always such a pleasure to read Tchekhov. In a simple language and a few sentences, that makes it seem so easy to write, he knows like no one else to sketch a situation, a few characters, the story flows so perfectly, and soon one is inside the story, and in the end it leaves a deep impression. I think he's probably the best short stories writer I know, a par with Maupassant and, in a completely different style, Raymond Carver.

segunda-feira, janeiro 25, 2016

Número Zero, de Umberto Eco

A nice read, but very weak considering Umberto Eco's previous books - not to mention the classic The Name of the Rose, the subject of conspiracy theories had already been superbly dealt with in Foucault's Pendulum, and much, much better. Of course it's always nice to read his erudite and entertaining prose, but one feels somewhat disappointed by this book.

sexta-feira, janeiro 22, 2016

The Children Act, by Ian McEwan

I have been an admirer of Ian McEwan ever since I read The Cement Garden, the first of his books that came my way. His writing is always beautifully articulate and precise, and the subjects are always interesting and intelligently dealt with. The Children Act is no exception - a beautifully written book, with an interesting plot very intelligently depicted. Sometimes his elaborate writing verges a little on the pedantic and can be a bit boring, but he always strikes me as a most sensible and intelligent voice. This book deals with religion and justice, and even if I think the development of the boy's character is a little farfetched, it still is a very good book. Not his best, but then his standards are very high.

terça-feira, janeiro 19, 2016

Meursault, contre-enquête, de Kamel Daoud

I love the writing of Camus, and even if my favorite of his books is La Peste, I also like L'Étranger a lot. So, I was curious when I knew about this Meursault contre-enquête, inspired by a very secondary character in Camus' novel, the Arab Meursault kills almost unconsciously. I always find interesting versions and variations inspired by good books' stories or characters - it always comes to mind the magnificent Wide Sargasso Sea, inspired by the first Mrs. Rochester in Jane Eyre, that actually impressed me more than the original. Books about books, like in The Name of the Rose, how can an incorrigible bookworm not be teased?

Meursault contre-enquête is a good book, although very far from the Camus novel. Very well written, even if a little repetitive, it expresses the sadness and frustration of a country caught in post-colonial impasse, something common to so many post-colonial countries, that can no longer blame their problems on colonialism but still haven't just not found their way. I have read some of Kamel Daoud's texts about Algeria, and he seems to be a sensible voice in a confused and mostly clueless region.

sexta-feira, janeiro 15, 2016

Kejsarn av Portugallien, av Selma Lagerlöf

So this is the first book I read in Swedish. A very beautiful story of love and longing, and I'm thankful to my Swedish friend who suggested it, because the language is easy and I could understand almost every word and didn't need to use a dictionary, not even once. I'm not familiar with Selma Lagerlöf's work, apart from Nils Holgersson, and I liked it very much, so guess I will try another one soon. And, as I expected from what I've already learned of the language in movies and tv series, Swedish has a poetic and melodic cadence, that I love.

segunda-feira, janeiro 04, 2016

The Inconvenient Indian - A Curious Account of Native People in North America, by Thomas King

I saw this book in Canada, and ordered it from Amazon after I got back. It's a good book, about the plight of Native Americans, or the First Nations, or just Indians, whatever we choose to call them. And it's a depressing story, as I already knew, and an enduring problem. Whether it's the North American Indians, the Australian Aborigines or the South American Amerindians, one cannot be but depressed about the fate of those peoples who were vanquished and had their way of life destroyed by the Europeans. But then what happened cannot be undone, and what can it be done now about them? It's not easy, and I don't think there it's possible to keep different civilizations in the same countries, be they Australia, Canada, the USA or other. Along the centuries of Human history, civilizations rose and fell, some peoples conquered other peoples and assimilated them - the Romans are a good example. I didn't see any Indians in Canada, but I remember seeing Aborigines in the Northern Territory in Australia, and I couldn't stop wondering how much better they would be if they were an integral part of the Western society around them. I believe that basic human aspirations are the same everywhere, and that every culture has its value - wouldn't it be possible that these cultures were integrated in our own culture, keeping some of their values, taking what's positive in our civilization, bringing their knowledge, and enjoying the same rights as we do? I know it's not easy, I'm not that naive, but I honestly think it's possible.

domingo, janeiro 03, 2016

The Aleppo Codex, by Matti Friedman

This is a very good book, about the story of one the most important books in the world, the oldest version of the Bible. I saw the book in Jerusalem, at the Shrine of the Book, on exhibition underneath the room of the Dead Sea scrolls, and now I know so much more about it. Very well written and exhaustively researched, Matti Friedman's book reads like a thriller - the story of how the codex was brought from Aleppo to Jerusalem, and the search for the missing pages - actually the most important part of the book, including the Torah. It also tells the story of the Middle Eastern Jews, their plight after the founding of the state of Israel and the hardships they faced on their emigration to Israel. I really liked this book, and am looking forward to read more of Matti Friedman's work - and I'm proud to count him among my Facebook friends.

L'Étranger, de Albert Camus

I read L'Étranger many years ago, and I liked it, but didn't remember it all that well, just the feeling I had got from it, not the details, and now I wanted to read Meursaul Contre-Enquête and so I reread it. It's a superb book, extremely well written, and that really makes us shiver. Two things are impressive about it: the personality of the main character, Meursault, his indifference and emotional detachment, a kind of existentialist anti-hero, and the fear that that difference from the norm inspires in the society, that makes him be condemned, not because of the murder, but because of his coldness on the face of his mother's death, a symbol of what apparently puts him on a different emotional / moral category from the others, ad it makes them so uncomfortable that they just prefer to condemn him, like they were eliminating a disease, a potential threat to their cosy notion of life. It's not my favorite book by Camus - that's La Peste, that now I want to reread too - but it's nevertheless an excellent and disturbing book.