sábado, Julho 12, 2014

Du Côté de Chez Swann, de Marcel Proust

I finally read the first volume of À la Recherche du Temps Perdu in French - and already ordered the second. I'm a little of a bookworm, read lots of books, and if I had to choose the BEST, it would be Proust's seven volume book. I'm reading it now for the fourth time, the first time in French, and the pleasure is always the same. Du Côté de Chez Swann is such a wonderful book. The first part, Combray, introduces one to its universe in a most delightful way; the second, Un Amour de Swann, is the best treatise on love and jealousy I ever came across, and the third makes you yearn for the next book... And reading it in French is a delight in itself, with such an elegant writing in such a beautiful language. Some people say "there's no time to read Proust in modern times". Wrong! He's timeless.

quinta-feira, Julho 10, 2014

O Outono do Patriarca (The Autumn of the Patriarch), de Gabriel García Márquez

An interesting book, not as good, in my opinion, as Cien Años de Soledad or El Amor n los Tiempos del Cólera, but still engaging. The loneliness and alienating character of dictatorship are very well depicted; the writing is a little too baroque for my taste, but I think the translator did a very good job.

quarta-feira, Junho 11, 2014

Kafka à Beira-Mar (Kafka on the Shore), de Haruki Murakami

I read and enjoyed before a few books by Haruki Murakami, even if it usually I forget them completely not long after having finished. He is a great story-teller, and his books are always a very enjoyable read, full of twists and turns of a kind that has a long and honorable tradition in story telling, from the Arabian Nights until Paul Auster - the story flowing somewhat erratically and unexpectedly, without an apparent plan, making us turn the pages wishing to know what happens next, making us enjoy its sheer unfolding. Murakami is very alluring to a reader like me, who enjoys literature, music and cinema, he's cultivated and the books are full of references to the kind of culture I like.

And yet, sometimes - and this book is one of those - he overdoes it, and the result sounds somewhat shallow and pretentious. Too many cultural references, too many pseudo-metaphysical, pseudo-philosophical details, a story too baroque because in the end completely meaningless. It is an entertaining read, but often annoying, and more than a couple of times I almost put it aside. So, not a very accomplished book, I think.

domingo, Maio 25, 2014

How to Live - A Life of Montaigne in one question and twenty attempts at an answer, by Sarah Bakewell

A delightful book. I don't remember how I knew about it, probably read some review, and since I love Montaigne and like to read biographies, I ordered it from amazon, and then waited till finishing to read the Essais in French to read it. I liked it a lot; one can see the author loves her subject, and has assimilated a lot from him - guess it's impossible to assimilate everything. A most enjoyable read, very informative, and above all capturing what I think it's the essence of Montaigne's intentions in writing. I think it's an excellent introduction to Montaigne if you never read him, and also very interesting if you already did - it makes us want to go back to it right away!

segunda-feira, Maio 19, 2014

O Livro Negro (Bring up the bodies), by Hilary Mantel

The second book by Hilary Mantel about Thomas Cromwell, after Wolf Hall. Also a very good read, but I liked it less than the first - the historical plot is very interestingly and as accurately as can be told, but I didn't like much the writing, the flights of lyrical fancy that seem a little... far fetched. And I found Jane Seymour not very well accomplished as a character, hardly convincing and rather shallow.

domingo, Abril 20, 2014

Essais, de Michel de Montaigne

I had read a few excerpts of the Essais before, and found them immensely interesting, so the last time I went to Paris I bought the three volumes of the Folio pocket edition. I was amply rewarded! Montaigne had an incredible mind - observant, lucid, curious, tolerant, kind, ironic, funny... It's incredible how modern he sounds, discussing everything, from religion, justice, the New World (in this case with a clear-mindedness centuries ahead of his time) to love, friendship, jealousy and infidelity, to eating habits, clothing, illness and traveling. Never vulgar, he writes as if he was chatting over dinner, as he says he loved to do - stating that good company and pleasant conversation were the best dishes in a dinner party - and he takes us along his train of thought easily an pleasantly. Immensely knowledgeable and cultivated, especially on the classics he loved so much and quoted often, he surprises for his tolerance and good sense, which makes us realize how timeless great minds are. And above all, one is impressed by his love of life and living, and how he seems to have been able to grasp what was really important about it, what really mattered - to live, to enjoy every moment, not to pass through life worrying about the afterlife or the problems ahead (and this was in the 16th century!), and to accept death as a natural end to it all, not to be feared since it is inevitable. Actually, his thoughts about death and dying strikes us as remarkable for the time (even today, how many people have that good sense?): if there is an afterlife, he won't mind to be in the company of all those who died before, if there isn't, then there won't be any regrets because we won't feel anything anyway.

The French he writes in is elegant yet picturesquely ancient, which adds to the pleasure of reading, even if sometimes it makes it a little harder. But even if one has to reread some sentences to apprehend its full meaning, it's never a waste of time.

All in all, a fantastic book, hope to read it again sometime. I always felt richer and more complete after each time I read a few pages each day.

quinta-feira, Abril 17, 2014

The Emperor of All Maladies - A Biography of Cancer, by Siddharta Mukherjee

This is really a great book. Mukherjee tells the history of cancer as a story, almost like a thriller, extremely engaging and exciting, and never losing the human perspective. Very scientific, and I think easily understandable by lay people. It presents a very realistic and optimistic view of the near future of cancer medicine, and the narrative of past therapies - sometimes appalling - is extremely interesting and informative. I recommend it to anyone interested in the history of cancer and medicine.