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.

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman

16065736Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.
Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what. (from Goodreads)

In a very recent group swap, in which we talked about podcasts and audiobooks, I publically declared my undying love for Neil Gaiman’s voice. So Cindi asked, “Hey, have you read this?” and no, I hadn’t, so I dived right into it because I have no selfcontrol.
Thank you, Cindi, for the recommendation.
I really liked this book! The supernatural characters nonchalantly living in our terrenal realm reminded me of American Gods, although the overall tone of he story is quite different. I spent a very cozy couple of afternoons listening to it, and I do highly recommend it 🙂

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.

Howards End, by E. M. Forster

Howards EndA chance acquaintance brings together the preposterous bourgeois Wilcox family and the clever, cultured and idealistic Schlegel sisters. As clear-eyed Margaret develops a friendship with Mrs Wilcox, the impetuous Helen brings into their midst a young bank clerk named Leonard Bast, who lives at the edge of poverty and ruin. When Mrs Wilcox dies, her family discovers that she wants to leave her country home, Howards End, to Margaret. Thus as Forster sets in motion a chain of events that will entangle three different families, he brilliantly portrays their aspirations to personal and social harmony. (from Goodreads)

This was such an interesting book, and exceeded any expectation I had of it. Not that I had any particular expectation, but I guess it just was different of what I thought it would be, but in a good way.
The author did an amazing work marking the subtle and not so subtle differences among social classes, and how those differences affected the interactions between them, their decision making, their expectations, etc. At the same time, continously notes the ongoing changes in society and the consequences of this new modern life has for the surrounding spaces, the urbanization of London, and the living style at the beginning of the 20th century.
Immediately after reading this I watched last year’s BBC adaptation, which is really well made, but even though the action and the dialogues were spot on, I realised that there’s a lot of the story that occurs in the voice of the narrator, or in the characters inner thoughts which are, understandably, left out.

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