What is mine

Today’s topic is What is mine by Anne Holt.

What is mine is a pure nordic crime novel, a book that doesn’t make you think too much, but fun and intriguing to read. I am not a big fan of crime novels, but because I read what gets into my hands, I will present you my insights about “What is mine”.

The main character, Johanne Vik, is a teacher in her forties, divorced, with a small child, and rather strange relationship with her former husband. Unfortunately she is the model of partly life-loser, a woman who did not manage to achieve neither a great professional success, neither on her personal plane, the family. She is a model for the 21st century woman, pursuing so many things, career and family, and being unsuccessful in both. However, she has her aces in her sleeves, she is a good psychologist, a good teacher, and a good investigator.

The model of the villain is a troubled man, like in most crime novels, a justitiary, a punisher, a man who wants to pay back his former lovers for what he considers he was mistreated with. Most of them have a happy life, have a family and kids, while our villain has nothing that can please him. He is very ingenuous, knows a bit of medicine, deceit, and how to play with the authorities and the mind of the people.

In the landscape we also have Stubo, a man who has been badly struck by fate, both his wife and daughter died in a horrible and stupid accident, and he is stuck with a pity about himself and with a nephew he can’t grow alone. He finds Johanne attractive, but his pity of himself, advanced age and bad looks make him feel terrible only thinking about it. He finds an obsession with Johanne by truly believing in her being able to help him solve his case. Even though she consistently refuses to help him, he insists and in the end manages to get her helping him.

The last piece of the puzzle is an old convict, Aksel Seier based on a true story, a man who was blamed for other people’s actions, but not powerful enough to prove himself innocent, and not willpowered enough to deny what is happening to him, accepting the blame other people have been putting on his shoulders.

Everybody in the novel is displeased with themselves, tired of being oneself, having missed life’s great opportunities and never been able to achieve their dreams or fulfill their desires. Aksel is the victim, a man who pays for the future sins of his own son he never meets, Johanne is the losing woman, Stubo is a deception, a man struck so bad by fate that he can only find consolation by solving crime mysteries.

The criminal is found, and the atrocities one person can make, as usual, always make me ask how believable life is, how believable the facts are, if the world Anne Hold proposes is veridic, and if somewhere in the real life there are such kind of persons. You could call me naive, but I prefer not to believe in this, as I rather have a restful sleep. Otherwise, my nights would be terrible.

Las cuatro fugas de Manuel

Today’s topic is Las cuatro fugas de Manuel, by Jesus Diaz.

Literal translation of the title is “The four flees of Manuel”, which is a representative title for a young cubanese student living in Ukraine, caught in the demolishing of the Soviet Union, and desperately trying to escape his departure in his natal country.

Manuel is a promising student in physics, studying in Kharkov, Ukraine, at that moment under the Soviet Union. He has little knowledge about human behavior, but he is very good in science. He has a good experiment running and working on his thesis, that shows great potential. He also has a dream relationship with a girl, under the pink view of an adolescent, where he does not expect too much, and puts even less thought in it. He begins from a dreamer, worry-free adolescent. All this will soon fall apart, as the Soviet Union is disbanded, and he has to return to his natal country, Cuba.

He knows he cannot go back, as it would mean his destruction as a scientist, and return to a miserable life full of debts that his relatives are living. He has no means of continuing his studies and become what he wants back in his country.

Manuel’s run begins here, where he attempts to go to Germany, then Poland and Switzerland. During his kafkian initiation journey, he faces so many perils that a full grown-up should be capable to face, but he is too young, too naive to even think about people trying to do him harm, or not wanting to help him. He finds refuge in Ayinray, a chillian student who becomes his lover and protector. She tries to awake him to the real world, but she is too a dreamer, thinking that she can keep him for herself. Life’s demands are too strong for Manuel, he doesn’t have identity card, passport, liberty to work or follow his dreams. Ayinray soon realizes she cannot keep him for long, and decides to let him go.

In his life, the girl represents a hook point, where his falling apart life hangs on. She is the mean to keeping him sane, and with a desire to continue the struggle.

All his attempts to flee are a representation of growing up: he entrusts another person with the belief that they could both attempt to cross the border to Poland by foot in the snowy winter of Siberia. He entrusts the local authorities in Germany to offer him asylum and gives them his passport. The Europe at this time is too hurt itself to care for a poor cubanese student. Nobody wants to protect him, and he is too weak to protect himself.

Manuel grows from a simple adolescent to an adult, to a person who can look after himself, and manages to find a place to temporarily live. His dreams continue about his ideal platonic love, and to be able to help one day his poor mother living in Cuba, or his dream as a scientist. He hardly acknowledges that the one needing most of help is himself.

Manuel’s story is one of the helpless individual against the system, with the individual being unable to break through or reach a state of happiness. That’s why Kafka’s universe keeps coming into my mind. Manuel is too innocent for this world, and this will cost him terribly. However, everything that is not killing him, it makes him stronger. Manuel grows and starts to discover human relationships, true friendship and the requirements one needs to have to pass through life.

Both Europe and Manuel are faced with destruction, just to emerge after some time with a lesson learned, a new future, and washing away all the sorrows.

Mobius Dick

Today’s topic is Mobius Dick by Andrew Crumey.

I have to admit it took me some time to digest this novel. The author presents the story through different threads, one in our present day, the story of John Ringer, and by using a fiction book technique, it presents corresponding elements few decades earlier, in the life of Schrodinger and Hinze. The author is a physics writer, a writer which combines principles from physics into literature. His story is based on different realities, parallel worlds, which begin to interfere.

The main character, John Ringer, an usual physics teacher, who has a linger for his lost love Helen, is caught in the wish of finding her again, only to find one of her replicas, a Helen which is very similar to his own, but yet completely different. The principle the book is based on is Schrodinger’s cat, a cat which is simultaneously dead and alive, until we open the box. At this point, the universe splits into two different ones, one in which the cat is dead and one in which the cat is alive. Every choice that we make, it opens up different realities, or different universes. The vacuum machine thins the boundaries between this realities, making them interfere.

The threads of the story are always interconnected, Ringer’s Helen is depicted in the past as Clara, a woman which Hinze exploits, and later is caught in a sanatorium for people with memory disorders, but also as Laura, an investigating journalist.

The author uses concepts from the fantastic novel, in which the character experiences some extraordinary events, which are completely unusual and supernatural. Ringer doesn’t know what is happening, although he has many of the pieces of the puzzle laying beside him. He begins to see glimpses of his alternate realities, meets his alter, and different versions of the Helen he once knew. He doesn’t understand though, and is lost in a fight he can’t possibly win. The confusion is primary generated by the interconnection with a different reality, one that cannot exist there.

The effect of the realities beginning to interaction is the mental disorder that doctor Blake is investigating. Here, the author exploits a more dark theme, where the mad scientist wants to do anything to prove his theory. Doctor Blake imposes false memories into the patients, confusing them and making them believe what she wants, only to prove her concepts. The doctor is willing to step on dead bodies just to prove that she is right, and for the good of the future patients, no matter the consequences of the current ones, which are being used for the greater benefit of science. Mental manipulation is present in everything doctor Blake does to her patients, unknowing that the hallucinations and memory loss are consequences of interfering with an alternate past or an alternate future.

Ringer and Clara prove to be mere consequences of some past actions. In the end they return to their zero moment, being sent in past before their birth moment. This only shows that their sole creation is the result of an experiment like Schrodinger’s cat, they are present in a reality but gone in another. Their whole life is the result of an action, and a folding of a specific created reality.

The question mark that the author rises is: what is the meaning of life and the world we are in ? Are we determined in this universe, or are we just random events, consequences of a different experiment, one in which we were created, while other versions of ourselves are somewhere as well ?

The book itself it’s from an universe in which some things can never be true: a female prime minister, or an actor elected as president, or some people that are famous in our universe, like Thomas Mann, never achieved glory.

Andrew Crumey doesn’t write for the uninitiated, and it presents a story full of physics and mistery, hard to digest, but worthwhile. It touches deep human questions and feelings, presented from a cold blood scientist’s point of view.

The mimic men

Today’s topic is The mimic men by V.S. Naipaul.

Strange and very one sided perspective, The mimic men leaves me with the impression that there should have been more in the book, that something is left unfinished. The main character, Ralph Singh, is a normal person, with a bit less willpower, with strange feelings, who likes to let himself be carried away by others and doesn’t like to look back. His story , presented only from his narrow view, is somehow difficult to understand, or to get an objective opinion over it. His life is depicted started from the middle, continuing with his childhood and ending with his struggle as a politician.

The author presents us a recipe of a man who becomes a very powerful leader and then his downfall. We could put another title to the book : “How to become a politician”. Even if Ralph is considered mediocre or nothing out of the ordinary until his middle age, he has the luck to become more than he deserves, and the naivety to think that he was destined for it. A simple circumstantial environment makes him able to take some decisions that he doesn’t even consider too much. He is not being torn by anything, not by remorse against his bad decisions, not by joy of his good ones. He only thinks about the near future and how the wave has carried him to glory, somehow remembering past facts of least significance for his career, but significant for his emotional evolution.

Everything Ralph does is because others compelled him to. He goes to the Isabella college in his youth, where is a silent child, somehow abused by his colleagues, where he doesn’t emit any demands at being a leader, at being respected, or at having too much friends. He considers friends people who he barely meets, and spends most time pretending to read, pretending to be friends with his older and more social enhanced cousin.

Even his marriage is done by sole wish of his future wife, who decides this step for him, as well as their break-up. Ralph accepts somehow with fatality everything that destiny has there for him, and he does not regret not interfering with anything. As soon as his wife leaves him, he feels not much remorse or tension, but happy that things turned out in one way or another. He only has some memories of her in places that remind him of her.

His father makes a decision to become a spiritual leader and forget about his family and workplace, friends, but Ralph takes it as a granted. He does not even try to speak with his father. His political career is a mere fact of circumstance, his old time pseudo friend is involved in creating an image of poverty – relation with communism, that catches the audience. Ralph then pushes this image and promotes poverty and social well-being, which makes him gain a lot of credit within the people. Ralph however is not prepared to face continuity, and accepts his downfall with the same lucidity.

Ralph is the model of the over-night becoming politician, with no horizon for the future, he is also the fatalist, taking everything as is. The author presents a story of how to become known, and how you can downfall very easily. Isabella, the island and city where Ralph has both success and failure, is a model of undeveloped country, where poverty is acclaimed, but everybody only has desires for a better life, not willing to sacrifice or work for the benefit of the community. This role has been taken by many new emerging countries after the world war two with the autodetermination theory, and in recent history as well after the communism downfall, and probably in the future with countries splitting apart more and more based on ethnicity, social or economic differences.

The collector

Today’s topic is The Collector by Jown Fowles.

Everytime I read John Fowles, suprisingly, I find myself in the character. Even if the character is evil by nature. The author has the gift of finding some dark side in us that he exploits very well. Somehow, the crimes that the characters happen to do don’t have an initial evil purpose. They are made out of anguish, out of pure conviction that they aren’t doing anything wrong, that they deserve to do it, and that the victim should rather be happy and not shocked by their actions.

The collector exploits the theme of loneliness and secret love, or passion. The main character is at the edge of the society, introvert, and without connections to a real world as we know it. He finds himself obsessed with a single being, Miranda, and is concentrated on obtaining what he desires. The paradox is that the guy himself doesn’t really know what he wants. He knows he wants Miranda, but he doesn’t know in what way. His obsession evolves in time, from the need of only seeing the object of his obsession every day, watching and having different imaginative fantasies, to the need of having her close to him. He does not have any interest in her feelings or her desires. Miranda is considered not much than an object, and without expressing his feelings, he wants to be understood, without words, expecting a very high empathy on her side.

Obsession is tight up with the need to protect, to have the other one around, to watch and care, to be the hero, to be the necessary other that the male psychology requests from the man. Caliban, the main character, named by Miranda in this way, considers that Miranda should be his in all ways, putting her on a high altar of admiration, by the small things that make a man fall in love with a woman: her femininity, her small gestures, her way of being, which is so different from his: brutal, asocial, without any connection with social considered beautiful things. Caliban is so different from her, but he fails deeply to realize it. Miranda has so high aspirations, as to complete herself as a human being, to achieve perfection in her professional work, in her as an artist.

Miranda’s kidnapping is an expression of a young juvenile love, where the experience of a strange and compelling feeling completely changes a man. Caliban is broken apart from his normal life, become stranded on unknown land. He is unfamiliar with social conventions, with the human knowledge about love, with the reactions a man has when he falls in love. His act is somehow a desperate cry of a juvenile boy, expressed in the terms and power of a grown-up. I think that a strong majority of us had at least a thought that crossed their mind about what it would be like to kidnap the loved one, before approaching her, or after her denial. Normally this doesn’t end up in a kidnap, that is why I am saying that Caliban is the augmented expression of a normal juvenile feeling.

Miranda is aspiring completion, as in general female psychology, achievement on all possible planes: love, social position, professional fulfillment. She has however a slight misjudge on Caliban, as she considers him rude, driven by sexual desire, mad, unintelligible. She cannot realize his childish behavior.

Caliban on the other hand evolves in his torment from the simple juvenile love to the landlord, the owner of the property named Miranda. He only expects Miranda to act accordingly, and is sometimes intrigued by the fact that she is so different from him and surprises him. For him Miranda remains a mystery to the bitter end. Continuous lies, mischief, make Caliban’s love fade away into sole property obsession and fear of getting caught. Miranda manages to destroy his juvenile love and turn it into hate and deprive. Her attempts at seducing him and escaping only make Caliban fear her, as he realizes that his angelic image of Miranda is in fact stained, the discovery of her diary and admiration – love for another man bitters him deeply.

Miranda is a fallen angel, who never understands Caliban, going down from the statue of an angel to the deepest misery and sorrow. Her illness is a reflection of the bitterness of Caliban’s soul degradation. Miranda is a victim, one that didn’t deserve her faith, a sample of femininity that is unable to understand the deep of the male soul.

Caliban evolves from the innocent lover to a merciless criminal, with a child conscience, absolving himself of any guilt, and failing miserably at expressing his feelings and with an nonexistent empathy. He can never understand why Miranda doesn’t approve of his actions, finding guilt only inside her and never being able to distinguish past this point.

2001: A Space Odyssey

Today’s topic is 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke.

The first words that come to my mind are brilliant, visionary, a Jules Verne of the 20th century. Arthur C. Clarke has a marvelous imagination, and by logic and from his physics degree he just accurately predicts a very likely to be future. The book is an exercise of imagination, starting from artificial intelligence, human evolution, extraterrestrial forces, or evolution in physics.

I can tell you that 2001 is the most realistic science fiction novel I ever read. The author imagines a world where space travel is possible, but with realistic devices and speeds. The shuttle Discovery takes few years to reach Jupiter and Saturn, while their crew follows a very tight schedule and most of them are suspended in cryostate. The two main characters , Dave Bowman and Frank Poole have a very strict life aboard the ship, while the most powerful artificial intelligence ever created, HAL 9000, stirs up the plot and eventually tries to take control over the vessel. HAL 9000 is depicted with clear observations, and is the dark figure of the novel. HAL 9000 is a genius, it can play chess better than any human being, it can logic and reason, however his main fault is not being human, and it takes decisions over life and death as easy as moving a pawn on the chess table. HAL is strong, merciless, and deceiving. HAL is a combination of power in wrong hands and a child. As the child of humanity, HAL returns to its roots by singing the Daisy Girl song, which in the end proves that HAL itself is a child out of control, and that humankind needs to nurture it’s children more before letting them go. The last act of HAL also changes the public opinion about him, HAL becomes weak, innocent and cannot be blamed for his evil actions.

The relationship between an artificial being and a human being is depicted very clear: Dave doesn’t know how to talk to HAL in certain points. He was used with a docile machine, but is astonished when the perfect HAL proves faults. HAL builds an atmosphere that is about to explode, with a very predictable end. However nobody on the ship realizes that. Clarke uses cinematographic scenes, to make the people hold their breath waiting for the resolution. Dave proves himself very cold blooded and manages to disable HAL even though he witnesses the death of all his flight mates, including his long time friend Frank’s jettisoning. Dave proves a bravery out of common, by moving ahead with his mission despite the central command hiding the true nature of his expedition, the deaths of his comrades, and the need for him to pilot the ship alone.

The action is then built across the black monoliths which have changed the human history, and are the main enigma of all the space odyssey series. The discovery of alien structures is more impressive than third degree meetings in contemporary literature or movies. The Black Monoliths do not say anything, do not have a heart, do not want to do us harm, but still they are there and this is very frightening. The idea that a civilization was present in our solar system in a very far away past is astonishing. This civilization even contributes to the evolution of human kind. Even if the monoliths look dead, they have the power to turn Dave into the star child.

Clarke explores various themes that have been previously untouched by any other writer, which make him a door opener for modern science fiction. Starting from artificial intelligence, which he depicts as an eventual threat to human kind, and ending with alien presence in the solar system, Clarke presents a very believable world, sometimes even more believable than reality. His book doesn’t focus on characters, but on human attitude as a species and as a whole, and on engineering traits that make the novel a pleasure for an engineer or a physician. Space travel has never been as real as in Clarke’s novel.

About me

I just like to read books. Thought it might be interesting to remind myself of what I have been reading in the past. My articles are not teasers for books. My articles are not resumes of books. What my articles are, they are personal opinions. Usually I expect people to have read the book before looking on my opinion. That doesn’t mean you won’t get an idea about the book though. I don’t say I am right, I may be very wrong in what I say. It’s just my opinion and that’s it. Feel free to comment to my posts saying if you agree or not with what I say.

I read 20th and 21st century books. Not very old, not many very new either. I get books from wherever I can. If you can’t find a title you would like to read, and you are near my location, I can borrow you, in exchange.

Leave me a comment below if you want to contact me.

This is a blog about how I feel the experience of others, expressed in their books. Feel free to read, I won’t be upset if you don’t though.

My ether wallet , if someone wants to donate:


Saint Glinglin

Today’s topic is Saint Glinglin by Raymond Queneau.

A representative of a weird genre, Saint Glinglin exploits human faults, bad habits, tradition versus modernity, all in a humorous way. The action takes place around the Home Town, which is a fictional city, full of strange people and amusing habits. Different from the rest of the country, Home Town is a place where it never rains, people only drink bad quality wine, and take full joy in breaking thousands of plates, cups and other dishes in yearly based celebration. They are highly unwilling to accept any change from other people, and look towards strangers with amusement. They treat strangers very good but they do not want to break any of their strange habits, nor explain or give any reason for their behavior.

Main characters are from the Nabonide family. Pierre is sent to another town to learn their language, in order to bring new information and eventually become a translator for the people in Home Town. Not surprisingly, he finds himself intrigued by totally different things and comes home with a thrilling discovery of deep water fish. This subject fascinates him, but the people in Home Town only mock him because deep fish can’t be eaten. Pierre is an idealist, he finds sufficiency in spiritual things, like the life of the fish, not in simple things like money or food. Gossip is a very important theme, as all things spread epidemically from every town folk to another. People cannot understand Pierre, not even his father who wants to disinherit him. Pierre’s brother, Jean , has a different attitude and prefers solitude. He spends years on the lonely mountains near Home Town, living in nature and away from any problems in Home Town. The third brother Paul becomes infatuated with a cinema star, as the Home Town starts to adopt new things from the outside world. Their sister Helene is the model of the inadapted, a creature that is not considered entirely sane by the other people in town. She spends a lot of time locked in a basement studying insects.

The role of mayor is another important part in the story, as it’s taken by all Nabonide males, starting with their father and taking turns by both Pierre and Paul. The mayor is a respected role, but not all people accept the decisions the mayor takes. Pierre wants to bring the change and when he becomes mayor, brings a never stopping rain across Home Town, and abolishes the dish breaking frenzy festival on Saint Glinglin.

Ridiculous is exploited by the author at every point in the book. He ridiculizes Pierre for being a non stopping dreamer, Nabonide the father who turns into a statue and is exhibited in the town central plaza, he ridiculizes the town folk’s addiction to poor wine, also the easiness of the town women, who take turns in lifting their skirts on a play swing, or letting themselves touched by any interesting new male in town. Food doesn’t get forgotten, their strange dish becomes a very amusing part as it’s made of all possible dishes but still very highly praised by the town folk.

Overall, Queneau laughs at a closed city , full of bad or funny habits, reluctant to change, using a very interesting language and playing with words in an unique style. We could make a parallel of his own time, where changes started inflicting on people in the first half of 20th century, and were not easily accepted by anyone.

She came to stay

Today’s topic is “She came to stay” by Simone de Beauvoir.

The original French title is “L’invitee” which actually means the invited one, in feminine gender. Obviously this refers to Xaviere, the main mistery and a very carefully created character in the novel.

Xaviere comes into the picture in a rather silent and peaceful environment, to stir up the action and make everything revolve around her. The world in the novel was stable and very well designed, with Francoise and Pierre having a nearly perfect relationship. Xaviere changes all that with her flegmatic attitude and incisive underskin intentions. From a young country girl, basing on very strong feelings, Xaviere manages to change everyone’s life and evolves into a more powerful being, capable of disrupting happiness, influencing others’ feelings, indulging remorse, pity, affection, hate, a full rainbow of sentiment.

Francoise and Pierre are both affected, in a way that would change their life forever. Francoise is torn between the affection for Pierre, and the word she gave Xaviere that will take care of her. When Xaviere’s actions split them apart, by commiting adulter against the trio, which is a mutual agreement superseding an usual man woman couple, Francoise is affectionately destroyed, having a share of non understandable feelings that put her in a very difficult position. She has to choose between disengaging her commitment to Xaviere or greatly disappointing Pierre by asking him to step over his pride and forgive something that he clearly was not up to. Xaviere on the other hand has a very egocentric position, putting herself above everyone else. She lacks understanding of many human habits that find her amusing on some part, and disgusting on the other part. She is willing to put personal vendetta as a primary goal, only because her position in the trio is not first. Actually all the three characters take turns in feeling like the third wheel to the bike. First is Xaviere, after that Francoise, and sometimes Pierre, when his sole occupation is his work, the theater, and the two women spend most of their time together.

Love is a strong emotion that is depicted throughout the novel, but without high implications. Francoise thinks herself in love with Pierre, but has nothing against accepting Xaviere into their life, to a certain point. She also has no remorse in having an affair with Gerbert. Pierre is not very affectionate, but in key moments he does prove the willing to protect Francoise. Both of them have an open relationship, which is a very interesting point to debate. They are willing to accept each other’s affair, as long as there is an intellectual and sincere communion between them. Francoise suggests herself that Pierre could have an affair with Xaviere, but inside her soul there is a moment of refrain. However she knows she can’t hold Pierre only to herself. Giving him a free will would make him eventually turn back to her. The question is, is it the same thing? Knowing that the other person in the couple has been through an affair, with all the emotion involved, does it make it in the long run ? Can she live with herself accepting that ? Only thing that matters is that Pierre is beside her, but it does not matter at all what kind of Pierre she has?

Her love to Xaviere is one purely of protection and of curiosity, she is very intrigued about her, never fully understanding her, but not willing to let her go when Xaviere proves herself that for her Pierre is more important.

Pierre on the other hand seems to be more easy hearted and does not seem to have problems with accepting Francoise as is. On the other hand, the couple from his point of view is secondary to other matters in life, and Pierre is seeking personal achievement by having success in professional life.

We could extrapolate and fill the blanks regarding the characters, as I perceive them. Francoise is the sentimentalist, willing to do anything for a balanced life and making everyone happy, thus it’s the empathic. Xaviere is the frivolous, wanting to live every moment no matter the consequences. Pierre is the intellectual who seeks mostly pleasure in social relationship, but has a completely different life that nobody can reach, in his professional work.

These characters are extremely powerful and we can clearly match Francoise with Simone de Beauvoir herself, and Pierre with Sartre, the exceptional intellectual. Xaviere remains a more dark figure in history, but this book is a tribute to a good friend and student of Simone de Beauvoir, who nearly disrupted her relationship with Sartre. Their relationship is clearly pictured here, always a couple, but always free. And still, their relationship was stronger than many other of today’s.

I didn’t like the end. Unlike other Simone the Beauvoir’s novels, which are like a symphony of orchestrated character build, She came to stay ends completely unexpected. Francoise’s act is a desperate scream against all oppression, maybe a sign of freedom, maybe a hidden will that the author herself never had the courage to do. This act brings Xaviere and Francoise on the same plane. Francoise proves to have human flaws too, while Xaviere proves she can feel pain as well. The last mirror image scene leaves the reader in total confusion, as both women are split by the same feelings, after all.

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