Saturday, January 30, 2016

island reads: The Humans, Life Lessons, Zerotime, The Hive

One of the joys of being here is.. having time to read at the pool. I brought some books, and blogged about them here already: global reading Europe: a random scandal book + a bestselling runaway novella - but I also went with chance, and tried the hotel bookshelf.

The Humans
The two books in the photo above are from there - "The Humans" by Matt Haig is a book a friend recommended last year, and it's really a great read that I enjoyed a lot, both reflective and funny and, well, human. The first chapters take a bit to get used to, but then it's picking up. Here's a quote from the introduction, about humankind as perceived from an outside / alien perspective:
“Let's not forget The Things They Do To Make Themselves Happy That Actually Make Them Miserable. This is an infinite list. It includes - shopping, watching TV, taking the better job, getting the bigger house, writing a semi-autobiographical novel, educating their young, making their skin look mildly less old and harboring a vague desire to believe there might be a meaning to it all.”
Life Lessons
The second book is a revisit: I read Grimaud's notes on her journey through Europe some years ago, and it was great to revisit it. There's so much in it, reflections and  conversations on art, wildlife, travel, life... here's my note from the first read:
 "Helene Grimaud, a French pianist who now lives in the States, at some point decided she needs to spend some time alone, and went to Europe to reflect on her life and the way to take. I didn't know her, and was amazed to read that she is a star pianist who at home, has created a home for wolves. I just started to read into her book. It's touching, open, and you can feel her two sides: the cultural/musical side, and the longing/connection to the wild."

And two other books I read here, picked at home and brought here:

"Nullzeit" is a novel by the German author Juli Zeh, and happens to be set right here in Lanzarote. So it's one of those "You Are There - Reading"-occasions, bringing this unique fun of reading a book in the exact place that appears in the book. It's a kind of suspense / thriller story with several twists, told from two perspectives: an expat diving instructor in Lanzarote, and one of his guests. The term "Nullzeit" ("zerotime" refers to the depth you can dive and get back to surface without having to pause below for a decompress-stop). Here's a bit about Juli Zeh, from the English wiki page:
"Juli Zeh (born 30 June 1974 in Bonn) is a German writer. Zeh lived in Leipzig from 1995, and currently resides outside of Berlin. Zeh studied law in Passau and Leipzig, passing the Zweites Juristisches Staatsexamen - comparable equivalent to the U.S. bar exam - in 2003, and holds a doctorate in international law from Universität Saarbrücken. Her first book was Adler und Engel (translated into English as Eagles and Angels by Christine Slenczka), which won the 2002 Deutscher Bücherpreis for best debut novel."

The Hive
And I read a Spanish book, from Nobel Laureate Camilo José Cela: "The Hive". A book with an unusual concept, written in short scenes that touch a lot of different characters - in some ways, it is "The Humans" as seen through a kaleidoscope of moments:
"The Hive (Spanish: La Colmena) (also translated as The Beehive) is a novel written by the Spanish author first published in 1950. The novel is set in Madrid in 1943, after the end of the Spanish Civil War, and deals with the poverty and general unhappiness found in Spain by examining a multitude of fictional characters in varying levels of detail. It is notable in that it contains over 300 characters and is considered to be the most important novel written in post civil war Spain. Because of rigorous censorship Cela was unable to get La colmena published in his native Spain, and was instead forced to publish it in Buenos Aires."

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