segunda-feira, março 23, 2015

Strange Days Indeed, by Francis Wheen

A very good book about the '70s, that "golden age of paranoia". An easy read, very funny, and sometimes scary when you stop to consider how all this really happened and how very much of the paranoid spirit has endured and still influences politics today. I remember a lot of this - I was a child then, but never forgot the mood of impending catastrophes (there would be no natural resources in a few years! the bomb would blow up!), the catastrophe movies, the alien and paranormal furore. Remembering it left me vaccinated against alarmist predictions, since none of those became true, which was in itself a good thing, I guess.

terça-feira, março 10, 2015

Generations of Love, de Matteo B. Bianchi

A nice coming of age book, funny and sometimes moving, very evocative of the '80s. I heard about it through a friend, and read it in a Spanish translation, not being able to read Italian and not finding any other translation.

terça-feira, março 03, 2015

Waiting for an Angel, by Helon Habila

A good book about what the life under a dictatorship is like, in this case in Nigeria. Harsh and nevertheless hopeful, trusting in the basic humanity of people, it's a good reminder of the fragility of the rights we take for granted in Western democracies. And it made me, as usual, mad at the people who neglect to vote and say that everything is the same everywhere - they should spend some time in these countries to see how it isn't.

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.