La nueva izquierda argentina : 1960-1980, by Claudia Hilb and Daniel Lutzky

39350020Title translation (approx.): Argentina’s new left: 1960-1980

Like Terán’s book, this one is also about the “new left”, but instead of making a study specifically of the intellectual background, it centers in the political and social context that formed a  generation to enroll in clandestine guerrillas during the 70s.

It analyzes the methods of these organizations, their idea of a future society and their relation with peronism, considering that this radicalized youth grew up, unlike their parents, in a period of conscription of the peronist party. They yearned for Perón’s comeback and, once it happened, he didn’t step up to their expectations and they didn’t comply to his.

In case you didn’t guess, yes, another book for my graduation project. I’ve been reading several books about it, but these were the ones I read in their entirety (for now). Next week, back to the regular schedule.

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Nuestros años sesentas: La formación de la nueva izquierda intelectual argentina, 1956-1966, by Oscar Terán

30752723Title translation (approx.): Our sixties: the formation of Argentina’s new intellectual left, 1956-1966

This book is also included in my must-read for my graduation project from hell (I want this to be over).

This work studies the changes in the intellectual field, from the end of Perón’s second presidency to Onganías’s coup d’etat to president Illia. This period of feeble elected governs interleaved with military dictatorships saw the apparition of a “new left” in our country, distanced from the “traditional” left (socialism and communism) and in dialogue with the “third” position represented by peronism, in a time of persecution of any peronist manifestation, in the conflictive international context of the Cold War and the Cuban revolution.

This book analyzes the intellectual production of the period, contrasting and comparing the work of several intellectuals, journalists, politics, philosophers, etc., in a time when an “armed revolution” was more a thought that a possibility in our country,

Del Di Tella a “Tucumán Arde”: Vanguardia artística y política en el 68 argentino, by Ana Longoni and Mariano Mestman

1681796Title translation (approx.): From Di Tella to “Tucumán is Burning”: Artistic and political avant-garde in Argentina’s 68

As I’m working on my graduation project, to hopefully end with this torture (of knowing that I have to finish it and, yet, avoid it forever) once and for all, I had to read this book, which basically is 50% of what I chose to work on.

This book follows the works of group of avant-garde artists from the cities of Buenos Aires and Rosario, their relations with the art field and its institutions, how the tumultuous national and international context affected their works and a prosecution of actions that had them as protagonists during the year 1968, which concluded after a collective work, Tucumán arde, with all of them quitting their artistic careers, some for several years, some for good. The book does also an understanding of how this last work was interpreted by the art historiography as the time went by and it includes an annex with interviews with the protagonists.

While reading it one gets too caught up in the succession of events that they somehow seem to be way more relevant that they actually were. These artists were submerged in a context were revolution seemed imminent at the turn of the corner and wanted to be an active part of it. They wanted Tucumán arde to be a wake up call for the people, to make them realize the perverse politics of Ongania’s dictatorship. Needless to say, the impact they made was far from being massive, which is disheartening if one ever believed that art could change things.

The Private Papers of Eastern Jewel, by Maureen Lindley

6466895Peking, 1914. When the eight-year-old princess Eastern Jewel is caught spying on her father’s liaison with a servant girl, she is banished from the palace, sent to live with a powerful family in Japan. Renamed Yoshiko Kawashima, she quickly falls in love with her adoptive country, where she earns a scandalous reputation, taking fencing lessons, smoking opium, and entertaining numerous lovers. Sent to Mongolia to become an obedient wife, Yoshiko mounts a daring escape and eventually finds her way back to Peking high society—this time with orders from the Japanese secret service.

Based on the true story of a rebellious woman who earned a controversial place in history, The Private Papers of Eastern Jewel is a vibrant reimagining of a thrilling life—a rich historical epic of palace intrigue, sexual manipulation, and international espionage. (from Goodreads)

This book came to me from a friend, who was giving away some of her books.

I took in most of them.

Now I have books for at least two years worth of reading.

Anyway…

This novel is written as some sort of memoire, so it’s narrated in first person by Yoshiko, an historical character I’ve never heard of before. The story of the real Yoshiko seems vertiginous for a woman at that time and at that place (China/Japan/Mongolia), and the writer did a good job placing her as an exception and a person way ahead of her time, mostly due to her unusual upbringing and the facts that 1) she more or less received an education normally reserved for boys and that 2) she was forced to adulthood too early in her life. How much of this is actually based on historical facts, I can’t say. I chose to read it mostly like a work of fiction, as it was hard for me to wrap my mind around everything that was happening. What can I say? My lifestyle is quite unimpressive and my wildest adventures are always related to unfortunate commutes. That’s why I read so much…  

Is this a book I would have chosen in a bookstore for its cover or its argument? Probably not.

Did I like this book? Ehhh… I didn’t dislike it, but after a while the chapter’s cadence became repetitive, and every new element that came out to stir things up, got quickly absorbed into that monotonous rhythm. It’s just one of those books that leave me more or less indifferent, which is probably not a very nice thing to say about someone’s work, but that’s how I feel.

El último secreto de Eva Braun, by Enrique Amarante

38321143English translation: Eva Braun’s last secret

I read this book as part of Edición Anticipada’s program. These are books under Penguin Random House (in Spanish, I have no idea if they have something similar for other languages) that are offered to readers as an early edition to review. In this case, this was an ebook (I don’t think they do physical books anymore, despite what they say in their website).

The story goes about an ultra-secret plan, near the end of WW2, to bring Hitler to Argentina and launch the IV Reich from here. In this book, the whole suicide event is faked, and Hitler managed to escape in a submarine to the south Atlantic. I don’t know if you ever heard these kind of conspiracy theories, but they are familiar here, considering how many nazis actually managed to escape and perfectly blend in our society.

To be honest, I didn’t like this book, so I’m not very eager to talk about it. I asked it because I’m trying to get a little out of my comfort zone in my readings, and WW2 was never even close to that. I guess it is the pinnacle of my discomfort, dislike, uninterested zone. I actually had zero expectations and I began reading it with an open mind, but very soon I regret all my life choices. I really cannot say if I didn’t like the book because the subject was definitely not my cup of tea, or because I didn’t like the story itself.

Some of the things that were discouraging along the book were:

  • the gratuitous sex scenes that add absolutely nothing to the development of the story and that I found quite hard to believe could actually happen? I don’t know, I was never a spy, but really?;
  • the lack of interesting and believable female characters: I guess you could expect that in a book set in a military environment in those years, there weren’t too many women around, but the ones that appear here seemed to be all merely sexy decorations or femme fatales. I understand that it happens in the 40s and was a very different time, but ugh, so boring to read. These kind of things make me think this book is targeted exclusively to male readers, and even when that’s understandable, still, some women might have an interest in WW2, right?;
  • this is merely a formality, but at some point the notes lose correlativity and, considering that they’re at the end of the book and not at the end of the page, it made the whole reading process even more annoying.

There were so many other irritating things but, why would I keep complaining?

Inés of my soul, by Isabel Allende

11375476Born into a poor family in Spain, Inés, a seamstress, finds herself condemned to a life of hard work without reward or hope for the future. It is the sixteenth century, the beginning of the Spanish conquest of the Americas, and when her shiftless husband disappears to the New World, Inés uses the opportunity to search for him as an excuse to flee her stifling homeland and seek adventure. After her treacherous journey takes her to Peru, she learns that her husband has died in battle. Soon she begins a fiery love affair with a man who will change the course of her life: Pedro de Valdivia, war hero and field marshal to the famed Francisco Pizarro.

Valdivia’s dream is to succeed where other Spaniards have failed: to become the conqueror of Chile. The natives of Chile are fearsome warriors, and the land is rumored to be barren of gold, but this suits Valdivia, who seeks only honor and glory. Together the lovers Inés Suárez and Pedro de Valdivia will build the new city of Santiago, and they will wage a bloody, ruthless war against the indigenous Chileans—the fierce local Indians led by the chief Michimalonko, and the even fiercer Mapuche from the south. The horrific struggle will change them forever, pulling each of them toward their separate destinies. (from Goodreads)

I liked this book so much! In the last years I developed an interest for the Spanish conquest in the  American continent, but I haven’t read much since The Golden Empire: Spain, Charles V, and the Creation of America. Speaking of that book, even though it covers the Spanish advances throughout the entire continent, it’s mostly centered in what I believe where the biggest and most lucratives campaigns of Mexico and Peru. If I don’t remember wrong, Chile had a whole chapter, as it was quite related to Peru’s campaign, but it wasn’t as thorough as the main conquests.

I mentioned this because Allende’s book centers precisely in the conquest of Chile, filling that neglected aspect of the Spanish campaign. However, I must mark, unlike the 100% hard history content of The Golden Empire, Allende’s book is a very well researched fictional text.

Told from the point of view of Inés Suárez, a BAMF who is, apparently, usually overlooked by historians, it’s written as an autobiography. If you’re into strong female leads and historical fiction, this book will satisfy your wildest dreams (?), specially when you remember that the things that are told here actually happened (some of them, at least).

Once I finished the book of course I spent an entire afternoon (2 hours) reading in Wikipedia about all of these people. That’s how I found out that one of Valdivia’s BFF, Francisco de Aguirre, was the founder of Argentina’s eldest city to exist up to these days, Santiago del Estero. This is probably the most useless fact you’ll read today, but for the nerd that I am it was actually exciting.

Novel in nine letters, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

18941084Ivan Petrovich and Pyotr Ivanovich exchange letters that start in a certain amiable tone and end up in threats, while one complains about a certain young gentleman, introduced into their family by the other’s recommendation and the other reclaims some money lent which was never repaid.

I added this on the kindle app and when I began to read it I realized that I have read it before, and that I even had a physical copy in my bookshelves.

In my defense I can say that it was part of some compilation of works, so it was among other short stories and novels, so I never considered it on its own. I kept reading it, anyway, is no longer than 40 pages and epistolary novels are always fun.