Saturday, May 4, 2024

The enchantress of Florence - Salman Rushdie

This is not the first book by Salman Rushdie that I read. He somehow reminds me of Umberto Eco: impressive historical references, wonderful command of the language and astonishing creativity.
The main locations of the novel are Mughal Hindustan and Florence, Italy; many chapters, though, are based in between those two places: Uzbekistan, Persia and the Ottoman Empire above all.

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Memoirs of Hadrian - Marguerite Yourcenar

This French literary wizard managed to write the imagined autobiography of one of the most important ancient Roman leaders, the third of the so called “five good emperors”.
Throughout the book Hadrian is going over the most important phases of his life, “the literary excuse” being a letter addressed to his adopted grandson Marcus Aurelius, the Stoic philosopher who would then become emperor himself.
Hadrian is a strong, clever, wise and erudite man, a great military and political chief, in love with Greece and Greek culture, and Yourcenar manages to revive the workings of this man’s mind by means of a refined and beautifully rendered prose.

Friday, April 5, 2024

Jerusalem: the biography - Simon Sebag Montefiore

The history of the holy and mystical city par excellence from King’s David reign to the intifadas.
This is a marvelous work by a famous historian who manages to tell the history of the city basing it on written, oral and archeological sources, stating merits and faults of all the people, civilizations and religions that had a part in it.

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

The city of Joy - Dominique Lapierre

Back in the seventies Father Stephan Kovalski, a French-Polish priest, arrives to one of the most infamous of the Indian slums: Calcutta’s “Anand Agar”, also known as the “City of Joy”. Being driven by a fervent faith and an equally ardent desire to help those in need, he definitely landed in the right place: notwithstanding its name, the slum is one of the poorest, dirtiest and socially problematic neighborhoods in India and probably in the whole world. As a western Roman Catholic priest in a slum full of poor Indian Hindus, Muslims and a few Christians, at first Kovalski is looked upon with skepticism. Yet through his willingness to share the same harsh conditions of his neighbors and help them, he slowly manages to win their trust. Towards the end of the book a rich, young and equally committed American doctor - Max Loeb - will join Kowalski’s group of volunteers.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Chilled distilled life

All of a sudden, for no apparent reason,
I want to be sitting at one of those courts
where Thai people go for beers and snacks.
An occasional foreigner can be spotted there,
brought by his local date, disoriented, out of place,
too dumbfounded to even be amused.
I want to be more bewildered than him,
for I'd go there alone, on my own accord.
I want to be a stuttering weird-worded weirdo,
speak Thai with a waitress
who’s expecting English.
I want to feel self-conscious,
stared at, gossiped about,
at least in the perceptual trap
of my paranoid thoughts.

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Einstein's dreams - Alan Lightman

There have always been speculations about Albert Einstein getting his most inspired ideas while he was dreaming. Even though this has never been confirmed, it is true that our brain develops new connections providing insightful ideas during REM sleep, precisely when we are dreaming. Those of you who want to know more about what happens to our body and mind while we are comfortably slumbering on our beds can have a look at “Why we sleep”, a great popular science book written by Matthew Walker.
In “Einstein’s dreams” Alan Lightman, who is both a writer and a physicist, tries to figure out all the dreams that the famous Nobel prize winner could have had over the months preceding the publication of his revolutionary paper on relativity theory and specifically about the concept of time.

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

On the black hill - Bruce Chatwin

I’ve had Bruce Chatwin on my author list for a long time. I thought he was mainly a travel writer: I remember some friends of mine referring to “In Patagonia” and “What am I doing here” as great travel literature. When I found “On the black hill” on the shelves of one of my favorite used book stores I realized that he wrote fiction as well.