quinta-feira, abril 05, 2018

Albertine Disparue, par Marcel Proust

I enjoy so much rereading Proust, he's the best writer EVER. So insightful and clever, in the most beautiful and elegant prose. Albertine is the perfect embodiment of an object of desire and longing, and the author's depiction of mourning is just perfect. And then there are all the other perfect scenes, from the article in the Figaro to the gossip and considerations about the society weddings and homosexual husbands.

Proust is definitely the author whose books I would take to that desert island.

segunda-feira, abril 02, 2018

Rubicon, by Tom Holland

I always loved History, and always had a particularly soft spot for Ancient History - first through a fascination with archaeology, then the Greek myths, then the exciting perversity of the TV series I, Claudius, and so on. Later I read Suetonius, Tacitus, Cassius Dio, Edward Gibbon, and I still love to get my hands on a good book about Roman history; fortunately there are still people writing them. I enjoyed Tom Holland's Dynasty, so I now read this one, and it's also very good. Holland writes History like a novelist, sometimes like a thriller writer, and his books are a pleasure to read. What fiction drama could be more fetching than the turbulent last century of the Roman Republic? It would take a really imaginative mind to invent such characters and plot. From the Gracchi to Augustus, it's hard to imagine a more remarkable set of people, like Sulla, Pompey, Caesar, Cicero, Clodius, Antony, Cleopatra. Some people can say this somewhat romanticised and fictionalised way of writing history is not serious enough, but I disagree - history writing is always a kind of fiction since it assumes a lot and weaves a more or less plausible explanation for the events, so as long as the facts are right (according to what we know for the moment, of course, which may change), it's perfectly legitimate to imagine what those people felt, and it's definitely a very engaging way to capture our interest and make us wonder about human nature and aspirations, not that different from our own whenever the epoch.

So I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes History in general and Roman history in particular.

quinta-feira, março 29, 2018

Everyone is Watching, by Megan Bradbury

A lovely book about New York City, focused on its history through an artistic vantage point. Very well written, it has a certain dreamy character. And it makes one want to see the art works the author talks about, like the beautiful photos by Robert Mapplethorpe or Thomas Eakins.It's also about how cities change, the nostalgia for a lost past, and the bittersweet effects of gentryfication. A very good debut novel.

terça-feira, março 27, 2018

La Grande Illusion, de Jean Renoir

This is a wonderful movie - beautifully directed and acted, a strong story about war and changing times, solidarity and humanity in hard times. It's amazingly modern for the time when it was made (1937) - the use of different languages (something unthinkable in Hollywood until recently), the portrayal of Germans as men as humane as the French. All in all, a great French movie, on a par with others such as Jeux Interdits, Le Salaire de la Peur or Les Diaboliques.

terça-feira, março 20, 2018

2084, La Fin du Monde, par Boualem Sansal

A very good book; a novel set in a dystopian world ruled by radical Islam. It cleverly depicts the dangers of religion and theocracy, as Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale also did using radical Evangelical Christianism, and the corruption, hypocrisy and moral decadence so characteristic of any totalitarian regime. The writing is excellent, in a beautiful and elegant French.

La religion fait peut-être aimer Dieu mais rien n'est plus fort qu'elle pour faire détester l'homme et haïr l'humanité.

Depressingly true words.

segunda-feira, março 19, 2018

The Undoing Project, by Michael Lewis

A very interesting book, worth reading by its content if not by its writing, which is overall fairly poor. But the story is fascinating - it depicts the lives and work of the two Israeli psychologists, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, whose collaboration produced the fundamental work about human bias in decision making, proving that we are not that rational in our choices after all and that our mistakes are actually systematic and so mostly predictable - and unavoidable? It's a knowledge relevant to all fields of work, including Medicine, and explains many of our mistakes in work and life - politics included. So, even if the writing is not that good (but an easy reading nonetheless), it's still worth reading.

quarta-feira, março 07, 2018

The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. Le Guin

A great book by Ursula K. Le Guin, from whom I had loved the first three books of the Earthsea series and the wonderful The Dispossessed, read many years ago. The recent death of the author made me wish to read more from her, and I'm happy I did - this book is intelligent, imaginative and beautiful.