Lockdown Diaries: Day 58 (The Decameron)

Today, we’re not escaping anywhere. We’re staying locked down, in an Italian villa, back in the 14th century…

Locked Down in Literature: The Decameron

640px-Villa_Medicea_di_Poggio
Medici villa (1470), Italy [Photo by Giuliano da Sangallo via Wikipedia CC-BY 2.5]
In 1348 the black plague struck Northern Italy, and ten young people, seven women and three men, escaped the city of Florence to shelter from the plague in a countryside villa. In other words, the ten young people went into lockdown… 🙂

To entertain themselves in their great isolation, they started to tell each other stories. Each of them told a story each night, for ten nights in a row; a hundred short stories in all.

This is the plot of The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio, a 14th century book of short stories.

So imagine you’re Italian, imagine it’s the 14th century, and imagine that instead of the relatively harmless coronavirus it’s the plague raging outside the walls. Light the candles, and listen:

Melchizedek, the Jew, with a story of three rings, escapeth a parlous snare set for him by Saladin

…Saladin,—whose valour was such that not only from a man of little account it made him Soldan of Babylon, but gained him many victories over kings Saracen and Christian,—having in divers wars and in the exercise of his extraordinary munificences expended his whole treasure and having an urgent occasion for a good sum of money nor seeing whence he might avail to have it as promptly as it behoved him, called to mind a rich Jew, by name Melchizedek, who lent at usance in Alexandria, and bethought himself that this latter had the wherewithal to oblige him, and he would; but he was so miserly that he would never have done it of his freewill and Saladin was loath to use force with him; wherefore, need constraining him, he set his every with awork to find a mean show the Jew might be brought to serve him in this and presently concluded to do him a violence coloured by some show of reason.

Accordingly he sent for Melchizedek and receiving him familiarly, seated him by himself, then said to him,

‘Honest man, I have understood from divers persons that thou art a very learned man and deeply versed in matters of divinity; wherefore I would fain know of thee whether of the three Laws thou reputest the true, the Jewish, the Saracen or the Christian.’

The Jew, who was in truth a man of learning and understanding, perceived but too well that Saladin looked to entrap him in words, so he might fasten a quarrel on him, and bethought himself that he could not praise any of the three more than the others without giving him the occasion he sought. Accordingly, sharpening his wits, as became one who felt himself in need of an answer by which he might not be taken at a vantage, there speedily occurred to him that which it behoved him reply and he said,

‘My lord, the question that you propound to me is a nice one and to acquaint you with that which I think of the matter, it behoveth me tell you a little story, which you shall hear.

An I mistake not, I mind me to have many a time heard tell that there was once a great man and a rich, who among other very precious jewels in his treasury, had a very goodly and costly ring, whereunto being minded, for its worth and beauty, to do honour and wishing to leave it in perpetuity to his descendants, he declared that whichsoever of his sons should, at his death, be found in possession thereof, by his bequest unto him, should be recognized as his heir and be held of all the others in honour and reverence as chief and head. He to whom the ring was left by him held a like course with his own descendants and did even as his father had done.

In brief the ring passed from hand to hand, through many generations, and came at last into the possession of a man who had three goodly and virtuous sons, all very obedient to their father wherefore he loved them all three alike. The young men, knowing the usance of the ring, each for himself, desiring to be the most honoured among his folk, as best he might, besought his father, who was now an old man, to leave him the ring, whenas he came to die. The worthy man, who loved them all alike and knew not himself how to choose to which he had liefer leave the ring, bethought himself, having promised it to each, to seek to satisfy all three and privily let make by a good craftsman other two rings, which were so like unto the first that he himself scarce knew which was the true.

When he came to die, he secretly gave each one of his sons his ring, wherefore each of them, seeking after their father’s death, to occupy the inheritance and the honour and denying it to the others, produced his ring, in witness of his right, and the three rings being found so like unto one another that the true might not be known, the question which was the father’s very heir abode pending and yet pendeth.

And so say I to you, my lord, of the three Laws to the three peoples given of God the Father, whereof you question me; each people deemeth itself to have his inheritance, His true Law and His commandments; but of whcih in very deed hath them, even as of the rings, the question yet pendeth.’

Saladin perceived that the Jew had excellently well contrived to escape the snare which he had spread before his feet; wherefore he concluded to discover to him his need and see if he were willing to serve him; and so accordingly he did, confessing to him that which he had it in mind to do, had he not answered him on such discreet wise. The Jew freely furnished him with all that he required, and the Soldan after satisfied him in full; moreover, he gave him very great gifts and still had him to friend and maintained him about his own person in high and honourable estate.

(The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio)

Recommended Book:The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio
Keep safe, keep sane – tell each other some stories! 🙂

Lockdown Diaries: Day 29 (Books That Make You Look Good When Dead?)

Locked Down in London, Day 29: Too Many Books?

A few years ago we had to have some repairs done to our roof and for a few days we had a workman in. On the last day he finished work early and had to wait for a colleague to pick him up with the company van. We sat him down in the living room with a cup of tea, and he looked at the bookshelves and asked: “How many books do you have?”

Well, truth be told, I don’t know. Mostly I feel that not enough. At some point however we did try to catalogue them by using a scanning program and although we never finished and keep forgetting scanning new books in, I was able to make an educated guess.

“About three thousand,” I said.

His jaw dropped. “Three thousand! And did you read them all?”

That made my jaw drop. “Well, of course…” I have read a lot more than 300o books in my life, actually. The ones on the bookshelves – those are just my favourites.

Literary Escape: Books That Make You Look Good When Dead?

“Always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.”

(P. J. O’Rourke)

I’m sure we all know somebody who never reads but proudly displays his intellectual status by having bought in the collected works of Dickens. As far as I’m concerned, for example, on reflection I have to admit that actually I haven’t read all three thousand volumes in the house. And I don’t just mean that I haven’t read all of Mr Anglo-Saxonist’s books – most of which I qualify under smart-arsery – but that I myself have a couple of books that actually I bought because it would make me look good if I dropped dead with them in hand.

And then never read.

The Republic by Plato

I don’t know what maggot got into my head when I bought this one on an impulse from one of those tables selling second-hand books on the South Bank. I mean I do like the Ancient Greeks but I never liked philosophy. My philosophy starts with Matsuo Basho and ends with Omar Khayyam; it can be summed up as ‘Let’s eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we will be dead’ and that’s where I would really like to leave it. So what the devil was I doing buying Plato?

Looking good, that’s what.

In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust

Strictly speaking, that one is not mine. It belongs to Mr Anglo-Saxonist but he freely admits that he bought it out of sheer intellectual snobbery. He never got any further than the madeleine episode; but the other day he picked it up out of lockdown desperation and gave it another five minutes of his time –  that’s five minutes he’s not going to get back, he said.

Antología Poética by Francisco de Quevedo

One day in Rye in Sussex we stopped to mooch around in a promisingly quirky looking second-hand bookshop and I discovered a book of Spanish poetry. It was a comprehensive collection of the poetry of Francisco de Quevedo, a Spanish poet from the early 17th century, whom I mostly knew only as a character in Arturo Pérez-Reverte’s delightful series about Captain Alatriste. Here was an excellent opportunity to read his actual poems. Er… yes. Except my Spanish really is not up to it; something I realised as soon as I opened the book in the bookshop. So why did I get it? Because the bookshop owner complimented me on both being able to speak  Spanish and on having an excellent taste.

Of course, I keep telling myself that someday my Spanish will be able to cope with Quevedo!

Time to revise your own bookshelves – what book do you have that’s only there to make you look good if you drop dead? 🙂
Further Reading:
Francisco de QuevedoThe Republic by Plato (on Project Gutenberg)
Keep safe, keep sane – keep reading!

Lockdown Diaries: Day 23 (Christ Recrucified)

Locked Down in London, Day 23: The Police Is Losing the Plot

Earlier in the week, the Northamptonshire chief constable threatened to send his policemen to check on shoppers’ baskets and trolleys because in his opinion going out to buy chocolate Easter eggs is not essential!

What about buying the dye for the boiled eggs?! 🙂

Photo by Boris Manev on Pexels.com

 

Virtual Escape: Christ Recrucified

Our virtual escape today, in honour of Easter, is to the small fictional Greek village of Lycovrissi, in Anatolia, under Turkish rule, about a hundred years ago. Christ Recrucified by Nikos Kazantzakis (of Zorba, the Greek fame), tells the story of the year preceding the village Passion play. Every seven years Christ’s Passion is reenacted for Easter; on this occasion with some unexpected and tragic consequences…

The following excerpt describes the village elders discussing which villagers to choose for the various characters for the following year’s Mystery in the beginning of the book:

“We are therefore met together today,” the pope continued, “to choose—and may God enlighten us—those to whom we shall entrust this sacred mystery. Speak freely; let each put forward his opinion. Archon, you are the first notable, therefore speak first; we are listening.”

“Judas! We’ve got him,” the captain interjected. “You’ll never find a better one than Panayotaros, the plaster-eater; sturdy, spotted with the small-pox, a real gorilla, like the one I saw at Odessa; and what’s even more important, he’s got the beard and hair for the part: red as the Devil’s in person.”

“It’s not your turn to speak, captain,” said the pope severely; “don’t be in such a hurry, there are those whose turn comes before yours. Well, archon?”

“What shall I say, pope?” replied the archon. “I desire only thing: that you should choose my son Michelis to act Christ.”

“Impossible,” the pope cut in. “Your son is a young archon, big and fat, eating and drinking and enjoying life, while Christ was poor and thin. It isn’t suitable, forgive me. And besides is Michelis capable of going through with so difficult a part? He will be scourged, he will have to wear a crown of thorns, he will be hoisted up the cross: Michelis won’t have the strength, do you want him to fall ill?”

“And the most important of all,” the captain cut in, “is that Christ was fair, while Michelis’s hair and moustache are as black as boot-blacking.”

“For Mary Magdalen we’ve just the thing,” said Ladas, clucking: “widow Katerina. The bitch has everything required; she’s a fine whore with golden hair; I saw her one day in her yard, combing her hair, and it cam edown to her knees; devil take her, she’d damn an archbishop.”

The captain already had his mouth half-open to utter some jest, but the pope gave him a look which made him hold his tongue.

“The bad ones are easy to find,” said the pope; “Judas, Mary Magdalen. But the good ones? That’s where I’m waiting for your advice! Where shall we find, where shall we find—Lord forgive me!—a man resembling Christ? Let him but resemble Him more or less physically, that will be good enough. I—for days and weeks I’ve been hatching this idea in my head and many nights it’s kept me awake. But I believe God has had pity on me; I’ve found the man.”

“Who?” said the old archon, stung; “out with it.”

“With your permission, archon, someone in your service, whom your lordship also loves well—your shepherd, Manolios. He is mild as a lamb, he can read, has been in a monastery too; has blue eyes and a short beard as yellow as honey, a real Christ like an icon. And pious into the bargain. He comes down from the mountain every Sunday to hear Mass, and every time I’ve confessed him and given him Communion I’ve found not the least pecadillo to reproach him for.”

“He’s a wee bit crazy,” squeaked old Ladas, “he sees phantoms.”

“No harm in that,” the pope assured him; “it’s enough that the soul be pure.”

“He can stand the scourges, the crown of thorns and the weight of the cross. What’s more, he’s a shepherd, another advantage; Christ is also shepherd of the human flock,” said the schoolmaster sententiously.

“I approve,” concluded the archon, after having reflected for a good while. “And in that case, my son?”

“He’ll do very well for John,” said the pope enthusiastically. “He has everything required: well fleshed, black hair, almond eyes, and of good family, just as the well-beloved disciple was.”

“For James,” said the schoolmaster, watching his brother the pope timidly, “it seems to me we couldn’t do better than Kostandis who keeps the café. He’s thin; fierce-looking, crabbed, and that’s how they represent the Apostle James.”

“And he has a wife who worries the life out of him” (it was the captain again. “Was the Apostle married too? Well? What’s your opinion, most learned of all the learned?”

“Stop joking about sacred things, blasphemer!” cried the pope angrily. “You’re not on your boat here, telling dirty stories to your scum. We are considering a mystery.”

The schoolmaster plucked up courage.

“A passable Peter,” he said, “would, I think, be Yannakos the carrier: narrow forehead, grey curly hair, a short chin. He loses his temper and calms down, flares up and goes out as easily as a tinder; but he’s a good heart. I can’t see a better Peter than him in all the village.”

“A bit of a cheat,” said the archon, shaking his big head. “But what can you expect of a tradesman? It doesn’t matter.”

“They say he killed his wife,” wheezed father Ladas; “he gave her something to eat and she died of it.”

“Lies, lies!” cried the pope; “don’t come telling that story to me! One day, out of sheer greed, his late wife at a whole great bowl of raw chick-peas; it made her so thirsty she couldn’t bear it. The poor woman was thirsty, she drank a whole jugful of water. She swelled up and died. Don’t damn your soul, father Ladas!”

“Served her right!” said the captain; “that’s where drinking water leads to, she need only have drunk raki.”

“We still need a Pilate and a Caiaphas,” said the schoolmaster; “I think we shall have trouble in finding them.”

“A better Pilate than your lordship we shall never find, my dear archon,” the pope hazarded, in a honeyed voice. “Don’t frown; Pilate too was a great nobleman; proud in manner, well stuffed, double-chinned, well groomed, with just your bearing. A good man, too; did what he could to save Christ, and at the end even said: ‘I wash my hands of this.’ By that he escaped sin. Accept, archon, and you’ll enable us to give grandeur to the Mystery. Imagine what a glory it will be for our village and what a crowd it will draw when people hear that the worthy archon Patriarcheas is to act Pontius Pilate!”

The archon gave a self-satisfied smile, lit his chibouk and was silent.

“Father Ladas would make a first-rate Caiaphas!” said the captain, breaking in again; “we couldn’t find a better. In your opinion, pope, since you paint icons, tell me, what do they make Caiaphas look like?”

“Well…,” said the pope, swallowing, “rather like father Ladas: skin and bones, grimy, cheeks hollow, nose yellow and narrow…”

“And was his moustache, too, scurfy?” asked the captain, who liked giving pin-pricks. “De he, too, grudge giving a drop of water even to his guardian angel? Didn’t he, too, walk about with his boots under his arm so as not to wear out the soles?”

“I’m going!” shouted Ladas, jumping up. “And you, captain, why don’t you take a part? What are you waiting for? There’s not a smooth skin needed, by any chance, is there?”

“I? I form the reserve,” said the captain, with a laugh and the gesture of twirling moustaches. “Perhaps in the course of the year—after all we’re men, and not young!—one of you will go west: you for instance, Ladas of the moustaches, or even his lordship Pilate… If so, I shall take his place, to save the Mystery.”

“Find another Caiaphas, that’s all I’ve got to say!” bawled the old skinflint. “Anyhow, I must do some watering. I’m off!” And he made for the door.

But at one bound the pope was there and, with outstretched arms:

“Where are you going? Our people are coming, you shan’t leave. You don’t want to make us all ridiculous?”

Then, wheeling:

“You must make a sacrifice, like the others, Mr. Ladas. And think of hell-fire; many of your sins will be forgiven you if you aid us in this work, which is pleasing to God. A better Caiaphas that you we shall never find. Don’t hold out against us. God will note it on His tablets.”

“I don’t want to be Caiaphas!” shouted old Ladas in terror. “Find another! And as for those tablets—”

But he had no time to finish his speech: the villagers were already coming up the stairs and the pope unbolted the door.

“Christ is risen, notables!” About ten villagers came in, their hands on their chests, lips or foreheads. They formed a line along the wall.

“Risen indeed!” replied the notables, placing themselves more squarely on the divan. The old archon passed round his tobacco-pouch.

“My children, the decision has been taken,” the pope announced…

Links:Nikos KazantzakisPassion and Compassion: Nikos Kazantzakis's Christ Recrucified
Keep safe, keep sane – Happy Easter!

Lockdown Diaries: Day 11 (A Martian’s Guide to Budapest)

Locked Down in London, Day 11: Hungary Loses the Plot

While here all I have to moan about is the Derbyshire police’s dislike of people in scenic spots, in Hungary Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, better known by the ordinary citizen as Viktátor, or sometimes as King Viktor, has decided that he can’t have too much emergency powers and he can’t have it too long: he’s pushing through a new bill on the extension of the already existing emergency powers – without a sunset clause.

Meanwhile Hungary’s Chief Medical Officer for Public Health advocates that people soak eggs in bleach before eating them (!) – it’s lucky that apparently you can’t get bleach at the moment.

Virtual Escape: A Martian’s Guide to Budapest

Since we were talking about Hungary, today we’ll escape the coronavirus misery by taking a city break in Central Europe’s most beautiful capital, Budapest. I dare you to disagree. 🙂

(Click on the gallery to enlarge the pictures.)

The book that accompanies us has not been translated into English (or any other language) to the best of my knowledge, so you’ll have to make to do with my makeshift translation:

The Martian arrived safely in Pest on a sunny day, took a room in the Bristol, brushed the star dust from his clothes and phoned me to show him the City as previously agreed.


Sir, much respected Alien, first of all I have to ask you emphatically: do not to listen to journalists and eminent observers who tell you that the people of Pest are like this and like that. The people of Pest of whom they are talking about are exactly like merchants everywhere, if you have no money. What does it matter for a Martian? In fact, people in general, are people actually important in a city? In Paris it’s only the people who are disagreeable and boring.

I want to introduce you to the city; I think the houses are really important. Or maybe not the houses: the eroticism of the streets curving into each other, which sometimes expresses strength, on occasion grace; the traffic’s degree of heat perhaps; the climatic conditions of the squares and statues; the literary associations relating to bus numbers, or something like that. You know what I mean.

(Antal Szerb: Budapest Guidebook for Martians)

Although the Budapest Guidebook for Martians is not available to read in English, Antal Szerb is a very highly regarded author and one of the few Hungarian authors whose books have been widely translated. Try any (or all) of the following:

  • Journey by Moonlight
  • The Queen’s Necklace
  • The Pendragon Legend
  • Oliver VII
  • Love in a Bottle

And then let me know how you liked them!

Keep safe, keep sane – keep holding on to your democracy.

Give a Quarter of a Year to the Mixture and Beat it Until it Cheers Up

No, I haven’t gone insane (yet) due to having to stay at home: the above gem in the title comes from Google Translate. It’s a paragraph from a tarta di Santiago recipe, which I was sharing with family & friends on Facebook, as part of my Lockdown Diaries. (I have to post bilingual on Facebook for everybody to be able to understand and I was too lazy to translate an entire recipe. 🙂 )  

Continue reading “Give a Quarter of a Year to the Mixture and Beat it Until it Cheers Up”

Quarantine in the Grand Hotel

A luxury hotel on a holiday island has been placed under quarantine after a case of an infectious disease was reported to the authorities by the management. The police cordoned off the building and its gardens, quarantining not only the hotel guests, but the staff on the premises, and various diverse characters who, for their misfortune, happened to be present – from the stern-faced missionary who stopped for lunch in this palace of sin to the souvenir seller and the unemployed dockyard worker busy loafing around in front of the hotel entrance, not to mention Miss Lydia who received the deportation order this morning after she spent two years on the island with the excuse that she was waiting for the return of an officer of the merchant marine, who had stepped outside for a few minutes…

Continue reading “Quarantine in the Grand Hotel”

Hungary in Ten Books

In a few hours time I’ll be taking a late night flight to Budapest; by the time you’re reading this I might have even arrived. This latest visit home prompted me to write a long overdue book list for you. 🙂

The Széchenyi Chain Bridge in Budapest in winter fog. Photo by Noval Goya via Flickr.

One good way to get to know a people is by reading their literature.  Unfortunately, in the case of the Hungarians this is not easy as the language is obscure and difficult (and no, it’s bloody not related to Polish, or Russian, or German!¹) and not a lot of the country’s literature has been translated into English, let alone into other languages.

So what follows here is not any kind of representative list of Hungarian literature – it is, nevertheless, a list of ten good books which were all translated into English. If you ever decide to visit Hungary, you could do much worse than reading one of them on the flight there. 🙂

Continue reading “Hungary in Ten Books”

Musashi: The Master Swordsman of Medieval Japan

The Battle of Sekigahara… anyone?

Well, I’d never heard of it either before I read Eiji Yoshikawa’s novel, Musashi.

Which brings us to the next question: Miyamoto Musashi, anyone?

Your answer, of course, is in the title of this post: Miyamoto Musashi was one of the most famous – if not the most famous – swordsman Japan ever produced. Already in his lifetime he became a legend.

Continue reading “Musashi: The Master Swordsman of Medieval Japan”

El Samurai

Read this in English: The Samurai

…y el sacerdote

Porque El samurai, esta novela por el autor japonés, Shusaku Endo, tiene de hecho dos protagonistas, aunque el título sólo menciona uno. Dos personajes principales en paralelo: unidos en el propósito pero, al mismo tiempo, con un marcado contraste entre los dos.

El propósito que une el samurai Rokuemon Hasekura y el padre Velasco es negociar privilegios comerciales con Nueva España para los japoneses a cambio de que los misioneros europeos puedan predicar al cristianismo en Japón. Lo que los separa es… pues todo los demás, empezando con sus razones para participar en la embajada. El año es 1613, y el caudillo Tokugawa Ieyasu acabó unificar Japón bajo su propio mando.

¿Y la recompensa para los dos protagonistas después de un viaje arduo cruzando dos océanos? El samurai espera que recobre sus tierras solariegas; el sacerdote sueña de hacerse el primer obispo de Japón. Pero sus Señorías sólo les conceden sus deseos si consiguen la misión …  ¿pueden hacerlo?

Continue reading “El Samurai”

The Samurai

…and the Priest

Because The Samurai, this novel by Japanese author Shusaku Endo, has two protagonists for all that only one of them is mentioned in the title. Two main characters in parallel, united in purpose – yet in contrast to each other.

The purpose that unites them is gaining an agreement for the establishment of direct trade between Japan and Nueva España, New Spain, in exchange for Japan allowing Christian misssionaries to proselytise in the country. What separates them is… everything else, beginning with their reasons for setting out on the embassy. The year is 1613, and the warlord Tokugawa Ieyasu has recently managed to unify Japan under his own rule.

The samurai, Rokuemon Hasekura, hopes to get his ancestral lands back; the priest, Father Velasco, dreams of becoming the Bishop of Japan. Their desires will only be granted if their mission is successful…  can they carry it off?

Continue reading “The Samurai”

Seven Snowy Stories

The winter’s first – and in these parts possibly only – snowfall put me in mind of books in which winter features prominently. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the ones that came to mind immediately were children’s stories. So here are seven snowy stories to surprise your children (nieces, nephews, grandchildren, your best friend’s horrible brat…) with. Perhaps for Christmas? 🙂

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The Amazing Cynicism of the Tao Teh King

In Search of Tranquility

I occasionally see world weary westerners traipsing down Regent Street in loose robes and sandals chanting ‘Hare Krishna’, apparently believing that this would ease their existential angst, or, better still, solve all their problems – I blame the Beatles. Personally, I’ve never yet felt tempted to sing ‘Hare Krishna’; mainly because it’s somebody else’s cultural background and I’ve got a perfectly serviceable one of my own. Even so – and despite the Beatles – I recognise that the East has much to offer us.

Continue reading “The Amazing Cynicism of the Tao Teh King”

The Persian Letters of Montesquieu

Thirty-odd years ago I thought that the French author Montesquieu was enlightened, witty and clever. I based this opinion on reading his Persian Letters, an epistolary novel which details the experiences of two Persian travellers, Usbek and Rica, in France in the early part of the 18th century. Last month I picked up Persian Letters again… and found out what a change thirty-odd years made.

Continue reading “The Persian Letters of Montesquieu”

A Book with a History

The book is green with golden letters, cloth bound. Sunlight faded the spine into autumnal yellow so that you can no longer make out the title and the author very well. When you open it, the yellowed pages rustle, feeling slightly stiff to the fingers. The title page is followed by the picture of the author printed on smooth, glossy paper that contrasts with the coarser pages that follow it. I turn the pages and think: they don’t make books like this anymore.

And then there’s the way it smells. The smell of decades which lingers on  your fingers even after you put the book down.

Continue reading “A Book with a History”

Aesop’s Fables in Nahuatl

While reading a history of the Latin language recently, I came across one of the fables of Aesop – translated into English from Nahuatl. In case you’ve never heard of Nahuatl, it was the language of the Aztec empire and in consequence the lingua franca of Central-America up to the 16th century; it is still spoken in parts of Mexico.

The book in question is Ad infinitum: A Biography of Latin by Nicholas Ostler and I wouldn’t recommend it to the general public although if you do happen to be interested in historical linguistics and especially in Latin, it’s fine; all the more enjoyable if you can actually know Latin of course (sadly I don’t).

But what has a Nahuatl version of the fables of Aesop – who after all was Greek – got to do with the history of Latin?

Continue reading “Aesop’s Fables in Nahuatl”

The World According to Tolstoy (El mundo según Tolstói)

Over a year ago I read an article by Mario Vargas Llosa, who was at the time engaged in re-reading War and Peace by Tolstoy. It was so damnably well-written that not only it made me re-read War and Peace myself but it also made me to read Mario Vargas Llosa.

El año pasado leí un artículo por Mario Vargas Llosa (enlace al final del post), quien en aquel momento se dedicaba a releer la Guerra y paz de Tolstói. Y estaba tan condenadamente bien escrito, que no sólo me causó volver a leer Guerra y paz, sino también me animó leer el propio Mario Vargas Llosa. 

Continue reading “The World According to Tolstoy (El mundo según Tolstói)”

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (of 2016)

Last year I borrowed the title of this well-known spaghetti western of my childhood for an end-of-year post, choosing a book for each category. I don’t see why I shouldn’t cast a look back at this year’s reading and do so again… (And I hope you appreciate that I’m sparing you an embedding of Ennio Morricone’s theme tune to play in the background while you’re reading this!)

Continue reading “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (of 2016)”