jueves, 11 de enero de 2018

Not a Book Review

"Reviews" are now on this website. Journalism-related stuff, on here.
Even though I won't be posting on this blog anymore, I'm keeping it as a souvenir for now.
Here. A cute cat for you. See you around.

lunes, 1 de enero de 2018

2017 on Goodreads


“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.”
― James Baldwin

I found that quote this year. I think it conveys, with the precision of a surgeon, how I feel about literature. Countless emotions inside an inconsequential atom. And then, that atom, amid the indifference of the universe once beautifully described by Crane, founds a book. And then another book. Perhaps, another atom. And then it escapes after seeing the other atom with a copy of The Alchemist. Fret not, there's another atom waiting somewhere, holding a book by Pessoa.
So! Hello reality; let's talk about this year.


* Disclaimer: This looks kinda nice on my screen, but it's still a work in progress.
** Photo credits: Fernando Pessoa, Marcel Proust, Yukio Mishima, Sylvia Plath, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Rodolfo Walsh, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, New Year cat / CC
Clarice Lispector / via ABC.es
*** 79/80: one book was read twice.


jueves, 28 de diciembre de 2017

On The Shortness Of Life: De Brevitate Vitae by Seneca


The problem, Paulinus, is not that we have a short life, but that we waste time.Life is long and there is enough of it for satisfying personal accomplishments if we use our hours well.But when time is squandered in the pursuit of pleasure or vain idleness, when it is spent with no real purpose, the finality of death fast approaches...

That notion is the book. You surely used different ways to rephrase the essence of your thoughts,
Seneca, which are mainly intended to point out that despite our whiny attitude, we have time. The problem is that we don’t use it wisely. I can’t say I didn’t feel slightly guilty while reading those words, as I remembered all the times I just stayed here, lying down on a couch looking at the ceiling, planning things I was never going to say or do or cook or fix. If I express that point of view using those exact words, it might sound like life going to waste. But what if I say “I stayed at home wistfully looking at the whitness of my wall, savoring my fictitious freedom, questioning my own existence and contemplating the futilily of life as I obstinately keep searching for meaning?” A more elegant way to convey the same thing: the waste of time.

On the other hand, what if I actually enjoy that? What if I think that discussing in my head the nature of thinking and the possible consequences of things that I’ll probably never do is, for me, another manifestation of life? I know some people think that staying at home reading is not living life fully. Neither going to the park with your backpack full of books nor hoping for a rainy Sunday since it’s the perfect excuse to stay at home reading and writing and not looking like a dull creature surrounded by coffee and blueberry muffins that taste like heaven. However, the fact that one might be able to find enjoyment in such activities should be enough to avoid regret, right? No, regret is an inherent part of my nature and can’t be avoided by reading nor bungee jumping – it doesn’t matter the degree of passiveness or risk.


I can’t relate to the meaning of your affirmation, which by the way brims over with prejudice. I may not be a fascinating riddle but you can’t know everything about me, pal. I’m aware of the passage of time on a level that could be considered almost unhealthy. Yeah, that’s how I live life.


I hear ya. Although one might wonder, what the on earth is living life? Couch, rollercoaster? Cake or salad? Silence or crowds? Love or complete independence? All? Oh, jeez... none? Choosing nothing is still a choice. What kind of sick, little game is this?
You’re writing and talking to the screen. You're typing exactly what you're thinking. I wish I could say that’s normal. You should leave this paragraph alone. Now.


Thank you, I thought I was ready to grab a sword and become Highlander.


My birthday is next week, please come and say exactly those words, we’ll have a blast. Though your presence might be the real news – and rather unsettling if I’m the only one who can see you. (This review was written before my birthday, actually.)


I don’t think watching videos with cats sleeping or jumping like ninjas should be considered trivia. Neither it’s binge-watching series and sitcoms on Netflix. There’s a lot to learn, even from women who spent 15 years in a bunker.




The last part sounds familiar; a constant source of disappointment. I think that’s all the help we can provide to the mortal who have the time to read this.

This little chat in the form of a “review” has been pure joy and I’m sure you are now bursting with a contagious can-do spirit, feeling more positive than Enthusiastic Parker. Or maybe you’re looking at the ceiling, immobile, sensing the minutes that will never return, seeing life as a choice between a path that leads to an abyss and another path that leads to, well, another darker abyss – I bet Melodrama Cioran sounds like a peppy cheerleader to you now.

Searching for meaning is philosophical suicide. How does anyone do anything when you understand the fleeting nature of existence? It wasn’t Camus or Sartre. It wasn’t a half-asleep Kierkegaard nor a drunk nihilist, but the point is still valid. You keep going, they said. You just keep writing.

P.S. I feel awkward writing Holiday wishes after this little ode to the shortness of a meaningless life but still, Merry Christmas everyone.


Note: Review written on Nov 2017.
* Photo credit: Book cover via Goodreads.

sábado, 30 de septiembre de 2017

On liars - Michel de Montaigne


How much less companionable than silence is the language of falsehood.
– St Augustine, City of God, XIX, vii; Montaigne cites Pliny from J. L. Vives’ note.
An unpopular essay
We shall now proceed to discuss the nature of lying. Actually, this is a selfish act; it's a way to remind
myself that I need to read Montaigne’s works more often because his writing is extraordinary, folks. And I wanted to say it again. Besides, I haven’t written a non-review for quite some time.

This essay on liars derives from Quintilian’s notion that a liar should have a good memory. With that idea in mind, Montaigne starts pondering the opposite case – something I can relate to. He explains that his lack of memory is often perceived as ingratitude, since if he forgets about something, it must be because it is unimportant to him.
I certainly do forget things easily but I simply do not treat with indifference any charge laid on me by my friends. Let them be satisfied with my misfortune, without turning it into precisely the kind of malice which is the enemy of my natural humour.

As I mentioned on another review, Montaigne’s prose is clear and often humorous. When he starts explaining the drawbacks and benefits of having a bad memory, examples of the latter are: I remember less any insults received - a fortunate man - and Books and places which I look at again always welcome me with a fresh new smile - I’m lucky too. The author also resorts to historical events to illustrate his points of view, which is another treat for the reader since they are not only informative, but also rather amusing at times, considering the solemnity of his century. Complex philosophical meditations interspersed with anecdotes that show a witty sense of humor. That's gold, Jerry.

The concept of memory is the bridge Montaigne provides to start discussing the main theme. After giving an explanation of the distinction between "to tell an untruth" and "to lie", he focuses on the liar per se: the kind of person either makes up the whole story or else disguises and pollutes some source of truth. According to the author:
Lying is an accursed vice. It is only our words which bind us together and make us human. [...] It seems to me that the only faults which we should vigorously attack as soon as they arise and start to develop are lying and, a little below that, stubbornness. Those faults grow up with the children. Once let the tongue acquire the habit of lying and it is astonishing how impossible it is to make it give it up.

Montaigne doesn't delve deeper into the infamous art of deception so, among other things, the essay omits to mention the vast array of methods we are in possession of. A fib, a lie, disinformation, a noble lie, defamation, half-truth, a white lie. My favorite, the barefaced lie: one knows or sense the truth and - fluctuating between calm and eagerness - contemplates the other person's liking for invention.

Some people say it all depends on the context. Some lies are inevitable, since if we all say what goes through our minds, the world would be even more chaotic. In that sense, certain false statements have a diplomatic nature (I know). However, some pieces of fiction involve other feelings; those are the kinds of lies that are usually unnecessary, like expressing love or friendship when one doesn’t mean it. Montaigne doesn’t refer to those samples of wasted time.
My imagination has given me the most vivid memories that never existed. I have a tendency to long for things which never ever happened. Not trying to find a human being unable to lie might be the first attempt to break the habit.

Montaigne’s wit and wisdom are exceptional. There's one gorgeous line that I must reiterate: It is only our words which bind us together and make us human. Deconstructing that statement might offer an entire new panorama.
In any case, if falsehood is your only language, silence is ambiguous; perpetual absence will suffice.


domingo, 23 de julio de 2017

Poems and Prose: A Bilingual Edition - Georg Trakl


Georg Trakl was born in Austria in 1887. He started writing poetry at a very young age, however he later decided to study pharmacy. After that, he enlisted in the army but never stopped writing. During World War I, he worked as a medical official. He witnessed the harrowing consequences of the war (a battle in Grodek inspired one of his last poems). As he found himself surrounded by wounds and death, his depression – which he suffered all his life – worsened and eventually died of an overdose of cocaine at 27.

Many of these events and the emotions they prompted appear in his poetry, which is gracefully tinged with the colors of Expressionism.

Trakl’s poetry abounds with nostalgic reminiscences, the bleak colors of the evening, the reverberation of silence. But above all, with the images of death. A dark imagery which creates a sad and oppressive atmosphere.


His delectable language, which fluctuates between fragility and strength, brims over with allusions to death. It's definitely hard to explain, but despite the beauty of the language, the considerable amount of references to such theme started to get a little tiresome. After reading a bit about his life, I understand. Nonetheless, I felt like I was reading an obituary. A long, bluish lament that after a few pages became somewhat monotonous. It reminded me of my experience while reading Cioran and his overused concept of darkness.
In this sense, I wasn’t able to connect with Trakl’s verse – though I did enjoy his prose, and that explains the 3-star rating:


My levels of enthusiasm varied widely, regardless of my penchant for melancholic poetry (but this was beyond melancholic; I couldn't handle the lack of balance). After a while, the sense of expectancy was gone. I already knew that the next page was going to show me another shade of the recurring theme of this collection. Lethal predictability. 


sábado, 22 de julio de 2017

The Diary of a Madman - Guy de Maupassant

*Una "reseña" que me olvidé de subir/An old "review" I forgot to post.

25th June. To think that a being is there who lives, who walks, who runs. A being? What is a being? That animated thing, that bears in it the principle of motion and a will ruling that motion. It is attached to nothing, this thing. Its feet do not belong to the ground. It is a grain of life that moves on the earth, and this grain of life, coming I know not whence, one can destroy at one's will. Then nothing—nothing more. It perishes, it is finished.


10th August. Who would ever know? Who would ever suspect me, me, me, especially if I should choose a being I had no interest in doing away with?

A dangerous story for a troubled mind.


* Photo credit: Book cover via Goodreads.

Bobok - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

*Una reseña que me olvidé de subir/An old review I forgot to post.

This review may have a little spoiler.

I love short stories and novellas. It's fascinating how a writer can say so much in a few pages. Bobok is another excellent example of this writer's talent to describe people's virtues and miseries. He wrote major works concerning the human condition, and they all seem to be written yesterday.
The wisest of all, in my opinion, is he who can, if only once a month, call himself a fool — a faculty unheard of nowadays. In old days, once a year at any rate a fool would recognize that he was a fool, but nowadays not a bit of it.

Timeless! And kind of funny.

So, this book is about Ivan Ivanovitch, a frustrated writer that went to a funeral of some distant relative. He complained about the cemetery, the smell, green water, the smiles of the dead that haunt his dreams. Well, It's a cemetery... not a place you'd go to have a picnic, I'm guessing.

Then, he sat on a tombstone and started to think about random stuff. Deep reflections about little details, I love that. Suddenly, he began to hear a conversation. He was all alone and he heard a conversation. In the cemetery. ALONE. I'd drop dead and end up under some tombstone in a heartbeat. (The last heartbeat, I guess.)

These dead people were not quite dead. They were aware of everything that surrounded them. They played cards, they discussed among each other, they even shared anecdotes. An active conscience after death is a theme I already saw in The Dream of a Ridiculous Man. It's an interesting yet disturbing theme. However, we can't help to ask ourselves, during several moments of our lives, if death really is the final step or not. Personally, I wish it was. I don't like some people here; I can't imagine what it would be like to be in some cemetery, stuck with annoying people for three or four months and not being able to go away!

Back to the book. Yes, their consciousness was active for about three, even six months until they decomposed. That's why these dead-not-so-dead people decided to spend those months as agreeable as possible. In order to do so, they were determined to cast aside all shame and be brutally honest. Because lying is needed on Earth, but when you're dead, why would you care, right? Anyway, their crazy conversations were a delight to read.

What this short story is trying to tell us—in my humble opinion—is that even dead, human beings are capable of depravity. These guys were willing to waste those months that were given to them, probably to think about their existence on Earth and find some sort of redemption. Instead, they wanted to keep partying. A party of shameless degradation they started while living! The lowness of human condition appears even after death. Or not... I mean, meditation would be the right thing to do. But these people were freaking dead. Actually, they were about to be completely dead. So, it's a tough call.


* Photo credit: Book cover via Goodreads.