I’m afraid this book woke up the little tyrant in me, OK, let’s face it… it’s been there all along, it just exposed it clearly. I mean, this book was...moreI’m afraid this book woke up the little tyrant in me, OK, let’s face it… it’s been there all along, it just exposed it clearly. I mean, this book was supposed to machiavellian, right? Which in my dictionary meant pure evil, morally distorted… nothing even remotely similar to absolutely true. All in all, it surprised me. It’s not like Niccolò wasn’t a manipulative bastard (if you don’t mind me saying). Oh, he was, alright. But I find him honest and quite brilliant. This is a handbook for despots that clearly states that being nice, in politics, in war, in struggles for power, often ends with one person winning and the other person being in prison, disgraced, exiled, or dead (and yet, maybe not only in politics). Machiavelli understood this, and the product was this book. There is a damn good reason why so many people started calling him "the devil." Why the book was put on the Catholic Index of banned books. The book makes no promises about being nice or this or that. It delivers on what it promises - how a person can gain and acquire power and keep it, and the sometimes ruthless actions necessary to maintain it and protect one's own self. “it is much safer to be feared than loved because ...love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails.” (less)
This was quite an interesting read for a non-feminist, 21st century medical student. From 1972, Barbara and Deirdre bring us an academic, synthesized...moreThis was quite an interesting read for a non-feminist, 21st century medical student. From 1972, Barbara and Deirdre bring us an academic, synthesized approach to the History of female health professionals. It is quite obvious that women have always been the cornerstone of the medical arts, but for some obscure reason have never been regarded as so. In the dark ages, we called them witches, inferior to the rational knowledge of physicians and sought out feverishly, for even when their treatments were successful, the Malleus Maleficarum classified them as pure evil, thus protecting the medical class from any competition. In fact, what was labeled as superstitious was the basis of the empiric method we still use in some therapies; and what was called perverse might have been the first attempts at physical examinations, since the doctors even feared touching the patient for too long, dissecting was considered a crime and medical studies were dedicated to ancient history, astronomy and theology. Then it came the time for the midwives, restrained to child-bearing assistance, since too much knowledge was said to interfere with a woman’s fertility. And politics crept in to keep women from going to medical schools – the course was extended so that only the higher classes could afford to and younger women felt divided between starting a family or a career (this is where it starts sounding familiar). Moreover, even after graduating, women couldn’t perform as physicians since no hospital would take in a female intern. Finally, Florence Nightingale spreads nursing schools through the country, educating docile, submissive housemaids that History has baptized as the first nurses. Indeed, this was quite a surprise to me – for a woman that conquered so much, I didn’t expect Nightingale to be so determined to keep nurses as assisting maids, heeding to the doctor’s every order, with no scientific knowledge whatsoever. But certainly it was the beginning of a new era, nursing is now more than cleaning and feeding, it is a vast study. Presently, I can say medical schools are attended by more young women than men but I think such a long history of male supremacy in this profession has left its marks and they won’t fade for a long time. (less)
This is an ordinary story, it could be anyone’s really. Tolstoy masterfully narrates the life of a man that lives for appearances, for status, for his...moreThis is an ordinary story, it could be anyone’s really. Tolstoy masterfully narrates the life of a man that lives for appearances, for status, for his important work, for his fashionable house, for his mockery of a family, for a social life where everything is defined by what finer people decide is good or bad. As he ascends to what society considers best, his natural side gives in, and all his life is reigned by everything but genuine affection. It’s only when nature begins to abandon him - as an ignored old friend – that he clutches at every last sign of hope as his properly-built castle of cards quickly falls apart. It’s interesting that the only truly happy memory he possesses goes back to his childhood when life was still unmarred by common ambitions and the choking succession of affairs. At the end of it, it’s quite a relief to finish this long process of unmourned death which surprisingly hasn’t started with a diagnosis (not at all) but long before – when the child became a man. (less)
I must say I missed reading science-fiction… I’ve never been and assiduous reader of this genre, maybe because of the clichés it ends up developing or...moreI must say I missed reading science-fiction… I’ve never been and assiduous reader of this genre, maybe because of the clichés it ends up developing or even because film productions filled my needs. But I can tell this was GOOD sci-fi, not only action-packed but one of the most credible – scientifically speaking – I’ve ever laid eyes on. By 2021, the World War had killed millions, driving entire species into extinction and sending mankind off-planet. Those who remained coveted any living creature, and for people who couldn't afford one, companies built incredibly realistic simulacrae: horses, birds, cats, sheep. . . They even built humans. It’s deliciously ironic… after human kind conquered technology, it feverishly tries to recover any life form, which was supposedly a given part of existence. The balance was ruptured and our best intelligence and investigation has led us inevitably to self-destruction. This narrative is centered on Rick Deckard’s moral dilemmas as a bounty hunter – he “retires” rogue androids. For example, on the differences between humans and human-like machinery, that resides on the empathy shown between human beings and animals but not to androids or amongst them. Is that the only difference between our brains? Would “andies” live long if they weren’t handicapped that way in terms of survival instincts? What’s the meaning of that form of life? Is it legitimate for us to “retire” them at all? (less)
Em 1961 chegou às mãos de Cardoso Pires um relato de um homem que tinha sido acusado da co-autoria de um homicídio. Foi a partir desse relato e dos re...moreEm 1961 chegou às mãos de Cardoso Pires um relato de um homem que tinha sido acusado da co-autoria de um homicídio. Foi a partir desse relato e dos relatórios policiais referentes ao caso que idealizou este livro. O romance foi escrito no período pós-revolução de 25 de Abril de 1974. A acção situa-se no princípio dos anos 60, e retrata alguns aspectos da sociedade portuguesa em plena época da ditadura salazarista. A história começa com o relatório da descoberta de um cadáver enterrado na Praia do Mastro. Mais tarde, a polícia descobre tratar-se do major Luís Dantas Castro, um militar preso por tentativa de rebelião contra o regime vigente e que escapara da prisão. Esta leitura não se apresentou muito fácil, inicialmente. Parecia entrecortada por relatos e testemunhos e interrogatórios… o que só expôs ainda mais a nudez da realidade do Estado Novo. Acima de tudo, pude comprovar a destreza e precisão da escrita deste afamado autor contemporâneo. (less)
O mar tem um efeito hipnotizante, quiçá sedativo, em mim. Poderia passar horas a contar as ondas, a inalar os seus aromas, a afogar-me nessas sensaçõe...moreO mar tem um efeito hipnotizante, quiçá sedativo, em mim. Poderia passar horas a contar as ondas, a inalar os seus aromas, a afogar-me nessas sensações a cada vaga. E é precisamente esse embalar que Virginia Woolf conseguiu captar e traduzir com tanta destreza nestas 224 páginas. Simplesmente sublime. A pena de Woolf traz-nos as vidas de seis amigos de infância, até ao finar das suas vidas. Algo que só seria feito com tanta maestria por alguém com capacidades de observação extremamente afinadas. “As Ondas” são os fios que os unem, que os indissociam e que, ao mesmo tempo e indelevelmente, os afastam em caminhos tão diferentes. Esta escrita tão criativa torna difícil discernir a personagem por detrás da fala, inicialmente, mas à medida que as ondas os afastam e cada um ganha protagonismo, as indicações tornam-se desnecessárias. Observamos uma caracterização tão precisa e distinta das personagens que nos interrogamos como acabam irrevogavelmente por convergir as suas existências numa só, numa partilha de medos, angústias e solidões. Uma narrativa quase etérea que se debate sobre a passagem do tempo, o sentido da existência humana, e, claro, a morte. Consegue ouvir as ondas? (less)
The original publish date of this book was circa 500 BCE and that amazes me. How come humanity hasn’t essentially evolved that much since then? You co...moreThe original publish date of this book was circa 500 BCE and that amazes me. How come humanity hasn’t essentially evolved that much since then? You could conclude that after reading any History book but… it still amazes me every single time. After a small discussion about reading History books in my blog, reading The Art of War makes me need to add a final idea – each one teaches you a lesson you can directly apply to your life. This book is the result of a compilation about strategy made by a mysterious warrior-philosopher. It dissects organizations in conflict on every single level, in such a thorough way that it easily became a bible for politicians, executives, military leaders and, why not, for the common citizen of the world in his own little battles of ordinary life. "If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle." Sun Tzu (less)
Two young sisters are separated and one is given the choice of living a life of sin and luxury, the other chooses to obey God and remain chaste. Every...moreTwo young sisters are separated and one is given the choice of living a life of sin and luxury, the other chooses to obey God and remain chaste. Everything bad that can happen happens to Justine, the pious sister and everything good that can happen happens to the sister who forsook God and embraced premarital sex, murder and sin. Well, so much for wondering about the origin of the term “sadism”. Sade certainly has such a way of describing sexual scenes that sometime made me look forward to the philosophical interludes he presents us; he was such a good writer that he made the reader linger on every juicy detail… until some get nauseous. It’s his peculiar way to give moral lessons… ok, this might sound contradictory, but it isn’t, not at all. Justine's attempts at reason towards her captors and their rebuttals and explanations were philosophical and demanding. This fascinated me at times, for it questioned concepts such as ‘virtue’ and ‘purpose’. I must say Sade was certainly a visionary, ironic, smart man and… probably the founder of pornography. Many people will disagree with me, but this novel is based too much on highly unlikely scenes that end up with highly predictable outcomes. Does that ring a bell to you? Well, that’s just why I couldn’t rate this novel with more than three stars. Moreover, the edition I own is embellished with some nice illustrations, accompanying the narrative. (less)
Do you remember when you were little and you sneaked up with your mates to the basement or the attic to share ghost stories or the most recent creepy...moreDo you remember when you were little and you sneaked up with your mates to the basement or the attic to share ghost stories or the most recent creepy local event? Or even when you had contests on what was the scariest tale? No? Well then, I’m very sorry for your childhood. I consider storytelling a basilar part of growing up and spooky narratives can obviously captivate a kid’s curious attention and scare the hell out of them, at the end, and maybe share a good laugh with his or her little friends. As a matter of fact, I don’t think it is healthy for a child not to wander in these darker realms but then again I’ve never been a usual child, but I digress… Don’t expect an entangled plot, adorned by a creative writing. Don’t expect psychological in-depth. Don’t expect horrid manipulated photographs. This is a story to be told from the kid who’s sneaking up inside us to a group of wide-eyed children, pending on every word we may utter. [If you’ve never experienced this, I greatly recommend it. I do hope I’ll get the chance to read this one aloud to an eager audience.] All in all, it can be a disappointing read when you’re not a child or a young adult or simply young at heart, but it was very well entangled with the photographs and turned out to be a pleasant book. Oh I almost forgot, I’ll leave you with a final thought - all of the photographs are vintage, authentic pieces, collected over the years by dedicated enthusiasts. (less)
If you’re in the mood for some light reading, about a Celtic warrior-queen and aren’t expecting too much historical detail, this book might be a good...moreIf you’re in the mood for some light reading, about a Celtic warrior-queen and aren’t expecting too much historical detail, this book might be a good choice. Better yet if you’re a Marion Zimmer Bradley’s fan and therefore are curious about the ancient Celtic culture and creed. Although this was not written by the author of “Mists of Avalon”, her colleague Diana L. Paxson does justice to her investigations about Boudica. “Ravens of Avalon” is set in Britannia like most of the Avalon series and shares the religious background that “Mists of Avalon” magically presented us to. Nevertheless, it’s the only aspect they share, since the historical onsets are quite different. Being this fictional, I was presented with a much more insecure and subdued (perhaps, more human?) main character than I expected and found the writing quite plain. Another downside of this novel was the anticlimactic lack of detail, mainly in the battle chapters. When you’re reading about a bellic legend that finally asserts herself and her people against the Romans, you certainly don’t expect her to lose consciousness to the Lady of Ravens and simply wake up after the warfare is over, do you? All in all, it’s a useful read to learn a bit about Boudica and the romance she lived in such harsh times for the Celtic people, but I’m afraid it didn’t live up to my expectations. (less)
What would happen if Satan were to alight on a modern metropolis like Moscow and wreak havoc in it? That's just one of the questions asked and answere...moreWhat would happen if Satan were to alight on a modern metropolis like Moscow and wreak havoc in it? That's just one of the questions asked and answered in this twentieth-century Russian classic, which is said to have been the inspiration for the Rolling Stones song 'Sympathy for the Devil'. Bulgakov's Satan is not necessarily purely evil; he just punishes sceptics and greedy people, and does so in extremely creative ways. He has a lot of personality, and if that weren't enough, he also has a fascinating retinue of demons and zombies who gleefully go about creating their own brand of creative mischief. The result, as you might expect, is an orgy of chaos in which people get killed, scared out of their wits, humiliated and spirited away, usually in fairly inventive ways. It's hard not to admire Bulgakov's imagination in these scenes; he really does come up with some outrageous stuff, and except for the one chapter in which one of the main characters flies over Moscow on a broomstick, you'll buy it… even the gun-toting cat who cannot be killed. That's how good his writing is. The prose flows kineticly, bouncing the reader from the time of Pontius Pilate to 20th century Moscow to a ball in honour of Satan and back again, all the while paying extreme attention to the tiniest minutiae of any one character's actions. Not suprisingly then, it manages to convey well the sense of chaos that descends on Moscow when a quad of ostensible black magicians come to town. The translated text conjures in my mind imagery somewhere Franz Kafka and Belleville Rendezvous although this can't have been the authors intention for reasons of terminus ante quem! Whether there are political undertones to the book it is hard to tell as I know little of Russia during this period. Stalin, however deemed The Master and Margarita to be subversive and therefore saw fit to ban it and in fact all of Bulgakov's works (to go hand in hand with other 'subversive' works by Shostakovich, Eisenstein, etc). Most of these have now been post-humously published. I would thoroughly recommend you get hold of a copy any which way you can and jump on board for a non-stop fantastical riot. (less)
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH. These sentences keep echoing in my head. This dystopian novel reveals a fictional dictatorshi...moreWAR IS PEACE.
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY.
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH. These sentences keep echoing in my head. This dystopian novel reveals a fictional dictatorship of the Big Brother. Where memories and language are controlled, even people’s thoughts become more and more restrained in time, until contrary concepts become one in its (nonexistent) meaning. It was quite a frightening read. Although I don’t believe Orwell wrote it as a premonition of any sort, its futuristic analysis of political power seems quite familiar in some ways. The main character Winston Smith will probably not gain much of the reader’s appreciation for he’s "a new kind of hero: one who loses." (Faulks on Fiction 2011, p. 79). In his struggle to subvert the system, he acknowledges his death will be the pay for future freedom. YOU. ARE. THE. DEAD. George has an uncanny ability to get to the base of the human psyche, at times suggesting that we need to be at war for many different reasons, whether it's at war with ourselves or with others. That is one thing I have never fathomed: why humans feel the need to destroy and control each other. Its psychological depth makes it a captivating read. It's groundbreaking yet at the same time, purely classic. Ahead of its time, yet timeless. (less)
I think I’m still assimilating this book and probably will never absorb all of its greatness. Climbing up this mountain is surely not for the light-he...moreI think I’m still assimilating this book and probably will never absorb all of its greatness. Climbing up this mountain is surely not for the light-hearted and I’m not sure I’ve ever read something as rich and as worthy of a second (perhaps third, fourth?) read. Over 800 pages of growth of a young, naive man – Hans Castorp- whose ideologies are being disputed by peculiar characters such as Settembrini, a boisterous Italian literary humanist, and Naphta, a sharp-tonged communist Jesuit. Set in an ethereal tuberculosis sanatorium in the Swiss Alps, where time finds an unique way of (non-)existence, Hans finds himself spending there seven years of his life, while he intended to be back in a few weeks after visiting his cousin Joachim. Thomas Mann depictures thus the numbness and the sickness of a society that could only be awakened by the roaring thunder of World War I. I can only recommend a book that has just jumped up to my top ten. Thoroughly and elegantly written, a novel about dualities that has absolutely put Thomas Mann as an aim to my next reads. (less)
I'd call Mr. Stevenson a master of suspense, if we didn't all know Mr. Hyde is Dr. Jeckyll's alter-ego, a projection of his...moreAtmospheric. Noir. Humane.
I'd call Mr. Stevenson a master of suspense, if we didn't all know Mr. Hyde is Dr. Jeckyll's alter-ego, a projection of his baser urges. But I can tell this novel was crafted as an avant-garde thriller, which became a paradigm of human dualities . Not the turning-page type, though, but the one that takes its time to savour. I believe that is what makes it such a delicious read.(less)