domingo, agosto 06, 2017

O Sistema Periódico, de Primo Levi

A very interesting book; Primo Levi writes about previous life experiences from the perspective a a chemical scientist, his occupation before writing full time. The book consists in a series of independent texts, in chronological order, each named after a chemical element. It's an ingenious way to organise a memoir, and he succeeds beautifully. His writing is somewhat austere but always pleasant, and his musings are insightful and intelligent. Through his stories, one becomes acquainted with the situation in Italy during fascism, WWII and the post-war period, not only regarding the Jewish question. And he has the inestimable capacity to turn his reminiscences and reflections about himself and his experiences into a general musing about life in general; this capacity of universalising their experiences and thoughts is the true mark of a great writer.

domingo, julho 23, 2017

The Master Algorithm, by Pedro Domingos

This is a most interesting book about a fascinating subject - machine learning. It really helps you to understand the brave new world we live in. I admit I haven't understood all the details, my mind works in a gestalt way, and I couldn't really picture some of the concepts depicted in the book, But even so, the basics are extremely well explained, and I learned a lot. The writing is very good, the author reveals a remarkable culture and knows how to explain scientific stuff to lay people. A very enjoyable and informative book.

quinta-feira, julho 20, 2017

Moments of Being, by Virginia Woolf

I wonder why I hadn't read this wonderful book yet, being such a fan of Virginia Woolf and Bloomsbury. Which was fine, since I could have the unspoiled pleasure of reading it now for the first time. What a joy, after so many biographies of Bloomsberries, diaries of Frances Partridge and such, to read the real thing, the exquisite prose of Virginia Woolf herself, so much better than all the rest! This book is a posthumous collection of autobiographical essays written at different points of her life, which, besides the quality of each one, allows us to see how her writing evolved and changed over the years.

Reminiscences is clearly a youth piece, still very conventional and ladylike, but with clear signs of the immense talent and originality waiting to explode. A Sketch of the Past, written when she was a mature and accomplished writer, is amazing, as Old Bloomsbury, one of the three texts written to be read at the Memoir Club, the one that most perfectly depicts what Bloomsbury was and why it was such a groundbreaking movement. 22 Hyde Park Gate and Am I a Snob? are the other two pieces, perfect examples of her wit and inimitable style. What a pity depression got her at 60, when she was still so aware and productive, how many wonderful texts she could have written.

domingo, junho 25, 2017

The Year of the Flood, by Margaret Atwood

This is the second book of the MaddAddam trilogy, and it's as good - and scary - as the first. Margaret Atwood really has a knock for the dystopian, she creates them believable and plausible. And her characters show a thorough understanding of human nature. Excellent.

quinta-feira, junho 15, 2017

En finir avec Eddy Bellegueule, by Édouard Louis

What a wonderful, powerful book! I finished literally bouleversé. It's really remarkable - the writing is superb, beautiful even when depicting the most terrible events, never patronizing or romanticizing what and the author writes about. It's an implacable depiction of a mostly forgotten world, and extremely insightful and useful to understand the Le Pen phenomenon in France - and probably similar phenomena in other Western countries. It's very much about politics, and yet it keeps also to the personal view from an individual, whose personality and experience makes him question and face that world. The character of Eddy and his surroundings manages to be totally believable - and moving - never being didactic, and that's how a political novel should be. And how impressive to think Édouard Louis wrote this in his early twenties. I searched him online and read his excellent interview to the Paris Review; he's extremely articulate and to the point, and I think his will be a voice to listen to attentively in the future.

(Once more, I'm so grateful to Garth Greenwell for the suggestion!)

sexta-feira, maio 26, 2017

My Cat Yugoslavia, by Pajtim Statovci

This is a very good book, especially considering it's a debut novel. Beautifully written, moving, tender and strong, about being a refugee (first and second generation) and the search for one's identity, the need to be loved and accepted, and how that often lands one in abusive relationships. The narrative's structure is bold yet well achieved - two plot lines, elements of magical realism, characters believable even if sometimes feeling a little underdeveloped. I liked how the author followed the characters and the plot where they led him, leaving several unanswered questions and much food for thought. It made me sad, but also hopeful. And to think it was written by a 24-year-old, quite a feat! It makes me look forward for more work by this very talented writer.

sábado, maio 13, 2017

La vie devant soi, de Romain Gary (Émile Ajar)

What a wonderful book. Extremely well written, in a poetic tone, and extremely moving. It's the second book by Romain Gary I read, and I'm thankful to Matti Friedmann for letting me know this author.