sexta-feira, fevereiro 10, 2017

Un homme qui dort, de Georges Perec

Ever since I read the excellent La vie, mode d'emploi, I've been an admirer f Georges Perec, and even since no other of his books has appealed as much to me, I have liked all I've read by him. Un homme qui dort is very good, extremely insightful in what concerns the existential disenchantment with the world, a feeling we could call depression, but somehow if feels like is something simultaneous more and less than that, more a state of mind than a medical condition. And he writes in such a beautiful French! At the end, a sentence stuck in my mind: L'indifférence ne t'a pas rendu indifférent. He got it.

sábado, fevereiro 04, 2017

Sapiens - a brief history of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari

This is a really great book, I enjoyed it from the beginning until the last page. The author is extremely knowledgeable and writes in an engaging prose, and really knows how to convey the story of Homo sapiens since its origins until the present times.

It's also a very thought provoking book, the way it depicts the success of biologic evolution against the fate of individual beings, whether men or animals or plants. I really liked the author's description of the several breakthroughs in our evolution and history. All in all, it's an excellent book, and I highly recommend it.

terça-feira, janeiro 31, 2017

The Anatomist, by Bill Hayes

I heard about this book in Oliver Sacks' autobiography (Bill Hayes was his romantic partner on his last years). It seemed interesting, even if Gray's Anatomy was never a art of my college textbooks, since in Portugal we study by the French textbooks by Testut and Rouvière. It's a good book, it's interesting how the author started looking for the life of Henry Gray but ended up by writing mostly about the life of Henry Vandyke Carter, the other anatomist, the one who did the drawings that illustrate the famous textbook. Henry Gray looms like a shadow over the book, but Carter comes up as a lively and real person, whose aspirations and struggles are extremely well depicted. The narrative of the author's quest, his fascination for the study of anatomy, is also very engaging. I can relate to that, even if personally I hated the dissection classes in college - mostly because of the terrible smell of phormaldehyde, because I wasn't particularly impressed by the cadavers as people, they just seemed things, and mostly very repulsive ones. But all in all considering the author's quest and Carter's life and feelings as expressed in his diary, this book is worth reading.

domingo, janeiro 29, 2017

Les Confessions, de Jean-Jacques Rousseau

An extremely interesting autobiographic work. Rousseau wants to tell his life as fully and as candidly as possible, and he does it. One cannot but be touched by his candour and honesty, e really manages to convey a true portrait of a human being, with his faults, aspirations and qualities, all the more real for his flaws. And not only one gets a true picture of his life, but also of 18th century life and mores.

And I guess Rousseau would be diagnosed today as an ADHD patient, considering his life and the way he describes himself in several instances, as here:

J'aime à m'occuper à faire des riens, à commencer cent choses et n'en achever aucune, à aller et venir comme la tête me chane, à changer à chaque instant de projet, à suivre une mouche dans toutes ses allures à vouloir déraciner un rocher pour voir ce qui est dessous, à entreprendre avec ardeur un travail de dix ans, et à l'abandonner sans regret au bout de dix minutes, à muser enfin toute la journée sans ordre et sans suite, et à ne suivre en toute chose que le caprice du moment.

domingo, janeiro 22, 2017

Good Company, by Frances Partridge

It's always a pleasure to go back to Frances Partridge's diaries. For several reasons: I really like her personality, she must have been a very kind and warm person, passionate for life and friendship. Above all, I admire her capacity to keep making her life as interesting as she could, mostly out of her relationships with her friends, the good company of the title. Even over 60, she was still trying to make sense out of life, through reading, conversation with intelligent people, travelling. I like her keen observations about people and places and events, and I find her rending of her friendships extremely interesting and realistic - the way she conveys all the ambiguity and complexities of long term friendships is especially to the point when she describes her relationships with Julia Strachey or Gerald Brenan, who emerge from her depictions as real and lively people (not so much Janetta Woolley, who seems kind of lame).

domingo, janeiro 15, 2017

Short winter getaway to Seville and Ronda

The week before Christmas, I had a few free days and used them to go on a little road trip with my son to Spain. He loves driving, unlike me, so the driving was a part of the pleasure (for him doing it, and for me watching his joy). The weather was perfect, cold and sunny. We drove from Lisbon through Alentejo, Extremadura and Andalusia, on the highway and on the national road, stopping along to way for a coffee at a gas station or a smoke by some river, till we reached Seville.

Seville is a most beautiful city, I had stopped there a few years ago on my way to Granada (one of the most beautiful cities in Europe) and wanted to see more of it ever since. After leaving our things at a nice hotel in the centre, we walked around the city till the sun set, taking in the sights. I like the small squares, the wrought-iron balconies, the colourful buildings by the Guadalquivir, where some people were canoeing. The sun set with a beautiful light over the Torre del Oro, the Triana, the Giralda. There were several street Christmas markets, including one of nativities by the cathedral,and colourful Crhstmas light decorations in the streets. We ate calamares and iberian ham at the Triana before having coffee at the roof bar in our hotel, with a splendid view over the cathedral.

The next morning, we strolled around the city, enjoying its bustling life, and visited the enormous cathedral, climbed to the top of the Giralda to have some splendid panoramic views, and visited the wonderful Alcázar, with its Moorish architecture designed to a Christian king, an example of how complex the interaction between cultures was during the Reconquista.

After the historic Alcázar, some more picturesque streets and squares toward the Maria Luisa Park, and the huge folly that is Plaza de España, that was used lately as a scenery in the Star Wars movies.

We then left Seville, and drove across Andalusia to Ronda, where we arrived by night. We settled at the very nice apartment we'd booked and took a stroll around the narrow alleys of the old town, all white washed walls, suspended flower pots, iron grilles, and cats everywhere.

Only in the morning could we see what an astonishing place Ronda is. It looks like an eagle's nest, its white houses atop the cliffs, with the famous bridge, towering over the beautiful green landscape. We walked around the edge of the cliff, then went down taking a very nice walk, then up again, and visited the small museum, in a beautiful little palace with lovely courtyards and gardens with splendid views. I was sorry I couldn't stay longer, but was really happy I went there.

Then back to Portugal, crossing again Andalusia, Extremadura and Alentejo, and listening to the dreadful Spanish radio stations - we have definitely much better ones in Portugal! It was a very nice trip, and I hope I'll do others with my Little Lamb.

terça-feira, janeiro 10, 2017

História de quem vai e de quem fica, de Elena Ferrante

Reaching the third volume of Elena Ferrante's Naples books I am familiar with the characters and the writing. And it's a very engaging writing, the characters keep developing in believable ways; the narrator keeps us interested and wanting to know what will happen next, how the characters will evolve and deal with life. And it's also a good portrait of the late 60s and 70s, the turmoil in Europe at the time, in this case Italy. Sometimes, there are a little too many coincidences, but even so it's a very good novel, that brings back the pleasure of reading just to know what happens next.