Tuesday, August 23, 2022

To have and have not - Ernest Hemingway

The first time I read a Hemingway’s novel I was still a student. It was an Italian translation of “The old man and the sea” (“Il vecchio e il mare”). I liked it, but it didn’t lure me into reading more from the same author. Maybe it was the translation, or I was not yet ready for it. A few years later - I was already working and travelling around the world and my English had gotten a bit better - I bought another one of his books - not sure whether it was “The Sun also rises” or “The first 49 stories” - and I fell in love with him. His apparently plain style that is actually meant to start the reader onto a psychological digging trip, the train of thought technique, the intense dialogues, the fascinating characters, the extreme situations, feelings, actions and consequences, they all got me hooked. I kept reading Hemingway for months on end. I loved it. It even shaped my own communication style in some way. And then I looked for other authors that reminded me of him. That’s how I got to read F.S. Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, Henry Roth, Cormac McCarthy and many more.
A few weeks ago I found this book at one of my favorite family run second hand bookstores in Bangkok, and I realized that I had never read it. I bought it and once I started leafing through the first pages the old feelings got back over me. The protagonist is a typical Hemingway character, a tough, smart, stubborn seaman riding his boat between Cuba and the Florida keys. The situation is complicated, the Great Depression, prohibition is gone and not even alcohol smuggling can help. People around him are literally starving. Workers are being abused. But he won’t let his family down. He has to take up odd and dangerous jobs to gather the money they need. And of course he will. Drama is just around the corner. Read on.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Life, the universe and everything - Douglas Adams

I was looking for the most famous book by the same author - The hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy - and as I didn’t find it I left with this one instead, to see what it is about.
It’s a comic science fiction novel. I had already read some science fiction books before, even though it’s not my favorite genre, but never one of the “comic” variant. I didn’t even know it existed as a category, actually.
Well, first of all it’s really amusing, and in a very clever way. Secondly, it plays with science most advanced theories and paradoxes in an extremely cunning fashion.
The plot is quite complicated but always consistently woven. The protagonists are retrieved from some remote spacetime deadlock where they have probably been left at the end of the previous book of the saga. Then they are launched into an adventurous trip (of course across spacetime) that will finally bring them to save the world (a couple of times!) from an army of robots built by the inhabitants of the planet Krikkit (it rhymes with cricket, and not by chance), which are actually good-hearted folks who’ve lived for eons thinking that they were the only living beings in the whole world and got enraged when a spaceship crashed on the surface of their planet and they suddenly realized that there must be someone else out there. Don’t mind the fact that the spaceship was actually a decoy designed by some kind of conscious computer/algorithm…but I’m saying too much: you better read the story yourself.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

The disappearing act - Florence de Changy

I remember the MH370 case very clearly. I was in S.E. Asia at the time, chilling out in the Philippines. I knew Malaysia airlines very well, having flown with them numerous times. Not Kuala Lumpur to Beijing (the actual route of MH370), but from KL to Bangkok, Singapore, Manila and also Kunming in the PRC. I might even have been onboard that same aircraft, or have met some of the unfortunate flight crew members.
I remember the airplanes, the airports, the cabin crews and their uniforms, the food and all the amenities. It was one of my favorite airlines. Then came 2014, the annus horribilis of Malaysian aviation: first the disappearance of MH370, then the destruction by a missile over east Ukraine of MH17 bound to Amsterdam, and finally the crash of an Airasia flight that had just left from Indonesia.
MH370 is known as one of the greatest mysteries in modern aviation, maybe the greatest. And it’s had a huge impact on the public opinion worldwide, mostly because of the disappearance narrative, the enormous contradictions, the various parties involved and the desperation of the families of the victims.
I was surprised that no one had actually written a book or made a movie out of it, but I was wrong. Florence the Changy, an excellent French journalist, has dedicated years to investigating the case, and has come up with a remarkable work. Her conclusion might be labelled as conspiratorial by some, but it actually makes much more sense than the official one, which is full of inconsistencies, contradictions and blunders. I was flabbergasted by the implausibility of the official story since the beginning: a plane which is perfectly fine suddenly disappears, stops emitting any kind of signal, changes route, makes a left turn over the Thai-Malaysian border, totally unnoticed, then heads south, pinged by a satellite system that is supposed to do something else, keeps flying for hours undetected and finally crashes fuel-starved into the Indian Ocean. Where no one can locate any remains, even after spending millions of dollars and using the best technology at hand.
De Changy’s version of the story might not be accurate, but it makes much more sense. Read the book and find out about it.