Eat Him If You Like, by Jean Teulé

13559431Tuesday 16 August 1870, Alain de Money, makes his way to the village fair. He plans to buy a heifer for a needy neighbour and find a roofer to repair the roof of the barn of a poor acquaintance. He arrives at two o’clock. Two hours later, the crowd has gone crazy; they have lynched, tortured, burned and eaten him. How could such a horror be possible? (from Goodreads)

Yes. That happened (although the eating part was never proved).
When I read the back cover of this book I thought it was purely non-fictional. The fact that it was novelized, I believe, certainly reinforces the atrocity of the facts as it humanizes the main character, making it easier to empathize with his desperate situation. On the other hand, it also permits certain “poetic licence”, reimagining and creating dialogues and relations between characters, to reinforce certain gruesome aspects of the story, that may have never happened.
One way or another, it was far from being a pleasurable reading, and by this I don’t mean that it’s not a good work. It’s just hard to read, definitely not for those of weak stomach, heart, impressionable minds, etc
Interesting enough, it has some transcripts from the judicial process that followed the slaughter. And, for those interested in a more business-like and less personal rendition of the affair, the French Wikipedia article is very good (and I recommend the French one because is the most complete and extense).

Advertisements

Pequeños delitos abominables, by Esther Tusquets

13411570[Small abominable crimes]

This book is a compendium of little petty attitudes, selfish actions, and related “crimes”, basically a very abarcative list of things certain people do having absolutely no regard for other people. Like having a loud cellphone conversation on a public space (i.e.:, trains, restaurants, waiting rooms), being always late, general lack of empathy, beign unable to accept a favor or a present, useless and endless work meetings, parent/teachers meetings,  always having a bigger and better anecdote then the one you’re listening to, etc etc etc. The list is too long. Of some things I declare myself guilty, with others, I’ve been in the receiving end and I agree with the author, and there were even some I don’t consider relevant at all.
I honestly thought this book would be more entertaining, but  more often than not I found myself just bored of reading a peroration of complaints. Coincidentally, “Complaining too much” wasn’t part of the list. I guess this is book to read little by little, one item of the list at a time, instead of reading for long periods… But I just wanted to get over with it .
Who’s fault is it, then?

El amor y la mujer nueva, by Aleksandra Kollontai

38108551[Love and the new woman]

Aleksandra Kollontai was a Marxist revolutionary. After the Russian Revolution, she was the most prominent woman in the Soviet administration. She was a champion of women’s liberation, but she firmly believed that it “could take place only as the result of the victory of a new social order and a different economic system”, and has thus been regarded as a key figure in Marxist feminism. She believed that true socialism could not be achieved without a radical change in attitudes to sexuality, so that it might be freed from the oppressive norms that she saw as a continuation of bourgeois ideas about property. Kollontai believed that, like the state, the family unit would wither away once the second stage of communism became a reality. She viewed marriage and traditional families as legacies of the oppressive, property-rights-based, egoist past. Under Communism, both men and women would work for, and be supported by, society, not their families. Similarly, their children would be wards of, and reared basically by society.

This book gathers some of her writings where she exposed all these ideals. In many ways, her words are incredibly current, and I honestly can’t believe we still have to fight for these things.
I found her thesis about how the concept of family we have today correlates to an entire economic system, and how it’s been imbued into society as something completely “natural”, very interesting.
Even though I don’t fully agree with all of her ideas, there’s a lot to take and learn from her lifework.

To Have and to Hold: An Intimate History of Collectors and Collecting, by Philipp Blom

10375825From amassing sacred relics to collecting celebrity memorabilia, the impulse to hoard has gripped humankind down the centuries. But what drives people to possess objects they do not use? To Have and to Hold is a captivating tour of collectors and their treasures from medieval times to the present, including a Tsar’s display of teeth, a caabinet containing unicorn horns, the macabre art of embalmer Dr Ruysch, the fabled mansion of Randolph Hearst, and the men who stockpile food wrappers and plastic cups. Blom’s eccentrics, visionaries and fanatics all provide an engrossing insight into why a pastime becomes an all-consuming passion. (from the back cover)

When I ordered this book I thought it would be mostly a sort of psycological or sociological essay on collectors and why they (we) collect, assumption that was corrected as soon as I began reading it. The book, however, was far from being a disappointment. Sure, it eventually got to those particular things I was hoping for (way past half of the book), but I think is mostly somo sort of “history” of the activity of collecting, mostly from the renaissance to this day: who and why gathered collections and what they collected through the ages, how some of those collections did or didn’t survive, and how the “democratization” of collecting came to be. From relics, to butterflies, to [sometimes embalmed] human remains, to art, to books, to mundane objects… almost any type of collection is represented in this book. I’m such a nerd for this subject, I can’t even put into words the joy I experienced going through these pages, mostly because it was written in a trully entertaining way, that you don’t need to be interested or versed in the subject to actually enjoy it.
I did get some of the juicy parts that I was expecting, but I found that some of there weren’t exactly new to me, because I got from other sources before. The weird thing is those other sources were barely mentioned, and I found that rather odd.
Anyway, great, and I still have to digg through the bibliography at the end, to have some further readings.

The poetics of space, by Gaston Bachelard

2346861Beloved and contemplated by philosophers, architects, writers, and literary theorists alike, Bachelard’s lyrical, landmark work examines the places in which we place our conscious and unconscious thoughts and guides us through a stream of cerebral meditations on poetry, art, and the blooming of consciousness itself.
Houses and rooms; cellars and attics; drawers, chests and wardrobes; nests and shells; nooks and corners: no space is too vast or too small to be filled by our thoughts and our reveries. (from Goodreads)

While I was researching about dollhouses for my art project, this book was referenced in an article, so I thought it might be worth to read and use in my project. The author researches in poetry and, sometimes, narrative, images about different types of spaces to explain what sentiments and experiences these spaces generate to people. I’m not sure of I’m making any sense…
I’ve been dragging this book since mid-2018. Not that I didn’t like it, it just wasn’t my type of preferred reading. I started it very enthusiastically, and eventually just prioritized other things and the book was left forgotten. Since I’m finishing my project, I wanted to finish it so I could began writing my piece.
In itself it’s a beatiful work. It introduced me to some authors I might like to read more about, and my edition had the extracted fragments of poetry in its original French (translated to Spanish below), so it was an interesting excercise to step up my neglected French a bit.
I can’t think of anyone right now I would recommend this book, as it’s not a reading for everybody, it being mostly philosofical about poetry and spaces, but I’m sure I’ll eventually find someone to pass it along.

The six wives of Henry VIII, by David Loades

8154500The story of Henry VIII and his six wives has passed from history into legend – taught in the cradle as a cautionary tale and remembered in adulthood as an object lesson in the dangers of marrying into royalty. The true story behind the legend, however, remains obscure to most people, whose knowledge of the affair begins and ends with the aide memoire ‘Divorced, executed, died, divorced, executed, survived’ (from Goodreads)

I’ve never had a particular interest towards the English monarchy (I have friends that are more interested in the subject, and I can always go ask them when in doubt) and I always found it rather confusing (too many people with the same names?) and I mostly had some notion of it regarding its relations with other monarchies, such as the French or Spanish ones. However, it was hard to elude Henry’s “myth”, and I had a very superficial knowledge of him and his wives.
I don’t think this book would be of much interest, or contribute great insight to people who already has some knowledge in the matter, but for a newcomer as myself, it was a good introductory work. Seems to be very well documented, and tries to separate rumor and tall tales from documented facts, which is nice. I like particularly how each one of his choices of wife related to both the internal and international affairs, despite of his own capricious behaviour, always present

A Sentimental Murder: Love and Madness in the Eighteenth Century, by John Brewer

20798428One April evening in 1779, Martha Ray, the pretty mistress of a famous aristocrat, was shot dead at point-blank range by a young clergyman who then attempted to take his own life. Instead he was arrested, tried and hanged. In this fascinating new book, John Brewer, a leading historian of eighteenth-century England, asks what this peculiar little story was all about. Then as now, crimes of passion were not uncommon, and the story had the hallmarks of a great scandal–yet fiction and fact mingled confusingly in all the accounts, and the case was hardly deemed appropriate material for real history. (from Goodreads)

I had zero expectations with this book, since I mostly bought it because I liked the picture in the cover  and because it was super cheap. I barely read the dust jacket synopsis, so I wasn’t even sure if it was either a fiction or non-fiction book. Impulsive purchase at its finest. So it was a very pleasant surprise to realise that I was actually liking it very much and that it was right up my alley.

Parting from the murder of Martha Ray, mistress of the Earl of Sandwich, by James Hackman, Brewer introduces us to these protagonists, their place in London’s Georgian society and how  the murder and their role in the event were interpreted by their contemporaries and during the subsequent centuries.

I liked the way the author sets every account made of these events in their cultural context, expliciting why certain interpretations and treatments of them and their protagonists were favored at certain times, how and why some manufactured letters became little less than “historical documents”, influencing later accounts of this story and how the concept that history has of itself varies through time and affects other literary and pseudo-historical genres.

It also made me reflect in the way our culture and moral values as a society permeate our own interpretations of events in our own time and how we see and judge past times, and how we should approach said times to try to get a closer comprehension to the way those events were perceived contemporarily.

I found this article by the author that more or less sums up the events of the murder and hints some of the things that he expands in the book, in case I got you interested in the book and/or subject.