Tag Archives: history

Sounds of the Underground #35

Boy, what records to be found in the underground this time, with Downfall Of Nur, Skuggsjá, Cormorant and Fuath. Great music for great listening!

Downfall Of Nur – Umbras de Barbagia
Avantgarde Music

source: bandcamp

Seldom have I heard music, blending folk and black metal, that feels so full of yearning for something lost as I did with Downfall Of Nur. The band is a one-man project by Sardinian musician Antonio Sanna, who moved to Argentina and there started making his music, inspired by the Nuragian society, which inhabited the island of Sardinia since the old days and still show some traces in the wild central parts of the island. So, the band is based in Argentinia where the young Sanna released a demo, an EP and this full lenght.

The music is a mixture of two styles, but balanced in such a way that you hardly feel the transfers from one to another. The production is phenomenal and the sound completely captures the forlorn spirit of its topic matter. The eerie screams of Sanna are haunting in the sometimes completely overwhelming waves of bleak, black metal. The special touch is the folk instruments, which start the album, but also help it to close of in a similar manner. This way the album becomes a unity, instead of a collection of seperate songs. It’s an absolute masterpiece, that combines the best of the atmospheric black metal bands of nowadays and folk music.

 Skuggsjá – A Piece For Mind And Mirror
Seasons Of Mist

source: bandcamp

The magical collaboration between Einar Selvik (Wardruna) and Ivar Björnson (Enslaved) was already succesful in its limited run of live shows. I had mixed feelings when it came to an album version of it, due to its temporary and unique nature, It was an event, a once in a lifetime thing, but now there’s an album. I have to retract any objections, because this is a music for the ages. With many collaborators on this piece of heathen heritage appraisal, it’s a work like no other. The Norwegians have tried to captivate its essence on this recording.

Though labeled as a blend of metal and folk, it feels more like a ritualistic bit of music. The changing of Selvik is combined with the riffing of Björnson en Grutle Kjellson. Mystical foggy fjörds are being painted with words and music. Through the mist of traditional instruments you journey into the Norway of a long forgotten past. It’s music that makes your heart pound, that makes you look at the stars with a new sense of wonder and embrace the forgotten past. The wide range of instruments comes together for something monumental and grand, but also dreamy and nostalgic for a time in the past. Thre’s hardly any true metal in the music, which is surprisingly not making it lack in power. It’s hard to really go into it, because it knows no equal. I’m for one very glad this music is available on vinyl now.

Fuath – I
Fortriu Productions/Neuropa Records

source: bandcamp

I’ve had this record on my shortlist for reviewing for a while, but somehow dropped it for a while, due to its musical nature. The post black metal that praises the land of the Britons has often represented in my reviews so I let it simmer for a while. That did not diminish anything of the beauty that Fuath has to offer. Andy Marshall knows how to make this kind of music. The Scot was also responsible for the work of Saor, Falloch and various others. Where Saor and Falloch are mellow, representing the wide heathers and hills, the music of Fuath is more harsh, more overwhelming and seemingly more about the deep forest.

The name Fuath translates as ‘Hatred’ in Gaelic. That tells you quite a bit already. The sound is more streamlined than the previous efforts and relies on that stream to create an atmosphere of a misty forest and being lost in its foggy depths. It invites you in, takes you into its warm embrace. Only then you feel the eerie cold and the fury behind it all in icy riffs and cold, distant drumming. Vocals are howls, raw and filled with hatred, in the background. Ever seen that scene in the old BBC Robin Hood serious where Guy Of Gisborne runs scared through the haunted forest? This was the soundtrack of that bit.

Cormorant – Dwellings
Self released

source: bandcamp

Yeah, this is something else. Cormorant is a black metal band that can trace its roots to the melodic and grandiose sounds of Emperor and Satyricon in the early days of the genre. Where the focus of bands is lately much on returning to its roots, like the Icelandic and Nidrosian scenes, this band returns to its mystic, fantastic origins. Think Bal-Sagoth, but without the cookie monster gutturals and and He-man like landscapes. The Bay Area band of Americans have released this album in 2011, but it crawled up on bandcamp for a bit and I had to check it out. I was amazed.

You think progressive usually takes a more agressive, extreme angle, but interestingly enough these San Francisco boys have taken it to a more traditional folk/heavy metal direction. More riffing, more soaring guitar parts and that galloping rhythm you’ll find in the power metal corner. Maybe even a bit of Iron Maiden? It creates a unique sounding band, that unites the cravings of angered D&D players with the need to stand bare-chested in a forest wearing corpse paint and wielding swords. It is not filled with hatred, but with longing for that other worldliness. On top of that, they do what they do in a magnificent manner. What an album! They did release a new one in 2014, but I’m most keen for more.


Lagos, Sagres, Portugal: Travelblog #2

If you visit the Algarve, you should visit more of it than one place. There’s a beauty to this region and a strange emptiness when you go just before the season. Some options I explored here.


Faro is an interesting town on its own, but there’s much more to see in the Algarve. One would say that public transport is a bit chaotic, messy or untrustworthy, but it’s not that bad at all. Sure, you need to have a certain amount of patience but that’s public transport itself.  everywhere.

It’s not like there’s a dense network of public transport options. There are busses, mainly travelling to and from the hubs, and there’s the train, which basicly has one track going east and one to the west. There’s also the track from Faro all the way north to Lisbon. This line really ends in Faro. The train is a bit more expensive compared to busses and the track to the west ends at Lagos. From there on you need a bus.

Sure, you can rent a car, which greatly widens the range of options for touristy visits of cool places, beaches and whatnot. There’s no airco that can beat the heat though and the travel times are quite long, so just being able to sit back for a few hours is really well worth it.


One of those places is the town called Lagos. It’s a 2,5 hour train ride from Faro through a stunning landscape (even when you’re in a wagon full of screaming children) and at the end of the railroad track. For me, that’s always going to be  strange feeling, to be at the end of the railroad.


If you walk into the town from the station, you immediately enter the Marinara, the harbor and when you cross the bridge you’ll find the bus station and the center. African sellers are lining up their bags and belts on the sidewalks, while smoking some cigarettes and vendors try to sell you a trip out onto the sea.

Traditional food, in a small tavern.

The town was important during the seafaring days, when it also was the capital of the Algarve untill it was destroyed by a earthquake. Walking down the promenade, it feels very clean and open, which might have to do with how it was rebuild. The streets are beautiful and even in early pre-season swarming with people. We found a great place to have a simple, hearty Portugese meal and walked around through the town, enjoying its architecture and vibrant atmosphere.
Downside: Lagos is a haven for Brittish sun seekers, which means you’ll find little authenticity when it comes to bars, restaurants and such, specially around the Marinara. Lobster red elderly Brits are looking for shade in one of the ‘happy hour’ bars and watch the horse races. Home away from home I suppose.


Source: Worldeasymap

It takes an hour or so by bus to get to our destiantion, which feels like literally reaching the corner of Europe and staring out onto the atlantic. Sagres is a sleepy little town around noon, for which the sweltering heat is one great explanation. The high cliffs offer a wonderful sight onto the sea and the gorgeous beaches, which are hidden from view unless you reach the edges.

Main attraction is the old fortress, which has served as an academy (allegedly) and looks over a beautiful bay. The town has been linked to prehistorical religious practise and throughout the ancient era as well by the Romans, Phoenicians and others. That always gives a peculiar aura to an area, specially this strange plateau on which the school/fort was supposed to have been. You can walk around there and picture yourself the folly that gripped man’s mind in the early age of Portugese discovery. Sailing out into the unknown. An age long lost it seems.

Sagres, land's end.
Sagres, land’s end.

If you are a surfer, Sagres is definitely the place to be I’ve heard, so check it out.

More places

We did skip visiting Albufeira, due to the long travelling time, but we lingered in Lagos a bit. Albureira is possibly the most touristic location on the southern Algarve and has some amazing parts to show, where millionaires build there houses and such. If you have the time, it’s definitely a place to either stay or visit at in the Algarve. Portimão is together with Faro one of the biggest towns and therefor a hub for the economy of the Algarve (during the off-season). Like Faro, it looks to the sea for a large portion of its income.

Going more inland is an option if you have your own transport, but it is very lowly populated. That might be your reason for going into it ofcourse. I guess bringing plenty of water is the best advice there.  From Sagres on, going up north seems like a great drive as well, though some preparation might be useful too.

Travel around

If you are not in Faro for very long, you can still see a ton of places. Make sure you bring a good book, always have a bottle of water and enjoy the train rides. You can also go east ofcourse, towards a more tempered climate and if you have the time even to see 3 countries.

The reading of books #13

Another series of books read, this time Plutarch, Greg KeyesDayal Patterson and Richard A. Knaak. From Ancient Rome to the Elder Scrolls and Warcraft.

Plutarch – The Fall of the Roman Republic

source: Goodreads

Yes, another book by Plutarch. This time focussing on the transferral periode from the late republic to the empire, describing the lives of Marius, Sulla, Crassus, Pompey the Great, Cesar and Cicero, who brought an end to the Republic. It’s a fascinating bit of storytelling, where Plutarch clearly shows he’s not in love with Cesar. In fact, he barely manages to keep it out of his words. Then again, none of the figures in this book appears to carry his favor, maybe Marius a little bit in most of his life. Sulla doesn’t get of lightly and Crassus looks like a buffoon. Pompey is the tragic figure in this version of events, together with Cicero I suppose.

The one life missing would be that of Cato, who opposed Cesar for as long as he could. It was a great read, that I enjoyed very much. Enough to order some more actually. What is lacking here, is the pairings with Greek lives. I’m also very curious about those and I must say I doubt the way the publishers dealt with that. All in all, it gives good insights in a highly confusing period of our ancient history.

Dayal Patterson – The Cult Never Dies: Volume 1

Source: Goodreads

Dayal Patterson started something big with his first book ‘Black Metal: Evolution Of The Cult’. It was not enough, he had the desire to catalogue the entire black metal scene and its aspects, so here is the second book and first in a continuing series of looking at the blackest music genre you can find. Patterson takes a clean, journalistic approach to bands like SatyriconSilencer and Mgla and many, many more. It opens up the scene to new investigators, without disclosing all and keeping its edge of mystery in place.

The print looks minimal, which is good. The pictures are only in black and white, which is also rather enjoyabable and fitting. Patterson illuminates specific sections in this book, like the Polish black metal scene and the SDBM scene that emerged as a progenitor of post-blackmetal. He does this by taking out pivotal bands, but also interesting marginal acts to illustrate the broader whole. A well worth read for fans of the genre and intriguees.

Greg Keyes – The Infernal City

Source: Goodreads

This is the very first novel of the Elder Scrolls franchise by Bethesda (known for their game Fallout mostly, but also Skyrim). The book tells the story of a human character Annaïg and an Argonian called Glim (Lizard people) in the world of Tamriel. A strange floating city approaches and brings doom to the lands. Annaïg and Glim decide to assault this city and try to warn others of the coming doom. While being captured by the dark denizens of the city, they succeed in reaching prince Attrebus.

Another story there unfolds, with the Prince’s life being under threat and his carreer an apparent illusion to facilitate Empire propaganda. The central imperial city has little interest in helping those under attack by the floating city on the fringes of the empire (even just outside it). Attrebus sets out to carve his own destiny and to become the person he is supposed to be as a prince. The book is well written and the characters do get some background, though sometimes they are a bit foggy in personality. The work introduces the figures and peoples of the Elder Scrolls universe and thus makes for a nice read and introduction. Now I should get part two though.

Richard A. Knaak – Night of the Dragon

Source: Goodreads

I felt this urge to read the only Warcraft book that was still unread on my shelves. Probably I was not up for some literary masterpiece, but the writings of Knaak for Blizzard are always fun and catchy. So I started reading this follow up to Day Of The Dragon, the very first in the novel series of Blizzard. In this book we return to the doomed mountain where the first novel took place and the same key players converge, unwittingly of eachothers whereabouts on Grim Batol. Krasus, the dragon/mage, Vareesa Windrunner and a bunch of angry dwarves.

The plot deepens, when another of the black dragon flight emerges and plans to…dare I say? Take over the world. This time the book does not involve Deathwing, but some familiar elements of his evil will return in this story. It rekindles and connects other  storylines, which is always very pleasant for an afficionado of the game like myself. The series of near-death escapes is a bit too dense for my taste though, but you can’t win ’em all, can you now? Looking forward to maybe playing some more in that fabulous world of Azeroth.


Romuvos: Appendix

With the interview I did with Romuvos there came a whole appendix with further information about pagan traditions in the Baltics. I like to share them here.

Calendar Feasts of the Pagan Balts

Pusiaužiemis, January 25th
Mid-Winter Festival, though in some parts of Lithuania they celebrate Kirmeline instead, whcih means Day of Serpents. It’s the day when symbolicly the snakes wake up from their winter slumber. Food and milk is put out for them, and if it’s gone later it will be a good year.

Perkūnas Day, February 2
Gabija Day, February 5
Užgavenes, March 1st

The exit of Winter essentially waits for Spring and helps prepare for the new season. The holiday consists of processions, costumes, tomfoolery, games, and plays. The main parts are: receiving guests with treats; rides and races; processing the More statue and then destroying her by fire; plays with people costumed as animals, strangers and mythological beings; performing the war of Winter with Spring symbolized by the Lasininis (the bacon-being) with the Kanapinis (the hemp-being); portraying weddings or funerals; spraying people with water; fortune-telling.

Velykos, Spring Equinox
Christianity incorporated Lithuanian equinox traditions into Easter, and replaced the ancient Lithuanian name for the equinox with the Slavic word ‘Velykos’, i.e. Easter. ‘Pavasario lyge’, meaning Spring equinox, remains the only non-Christian name for the holiday. The week before equinox, called the Velykos of Veles (souls), concludes the annual cycle of commemorations of the dead. As during Kucios (Winter Solstice Eve), families remember their dead and leave their dinners on the tables overnight for the veles to eat.

Jorė, Spring Festival
Samborai, Spring Festival
Sambariai, which names the ritual meal at the conclusion of sowing, or Paruges, which means the day by the rye. Households gathered on their fields with food and drink, where an open-air ritual meal was held. Households held the ritual separately; it was not a community rite. The ritual included ancient sacred songs called dainos and ancient ritual rounds or sutartines that blessed the grains. Families would prepare for Sambariai by stocking up on food, especially meats, and by brewing a special beer (traditional ritual drink and libation beverage). If the ritual was held at home, the house would be decorated with fresh-cut birch branches. Occurs at the end of May, after the planting of rye and other grains is finished and the seed has grown. This tradition survived undisturbed until the beginning of the 20th century in parts of Lithuania. Sambariai also once marked the start of the swimming season.

Rasa, Summer Solstice
Order of celebration: (1) dancing around the gates, (2) dancing around the kupolas, (3) misc. games, predictions, circle dance, (4) vaises (ritual meal), (5) greeting the setting sun, (6) lighting the bonfires and offerings, (7) visiting and blessing the fields and trees, (8) principal bonfire, burning of the More (straw doll symbolizing the old), circle dances around the bonfire, (9) swimming and bathing, a boat with a bonfire sails to shore, symbolizing the nocturnal trip of the sun, (10) casting the wreaths (11) greeting the moon and the stars, (12) worship of the rising sun and bathing in the morning dew.

Žolines, August 15
In honour of Žemyna, Earth Goddess. Associated with Rugiu Svente.

Rugių Svente, Rye Harvest
Beginning with the end of July and throughout August — depending on the growing conditions each year — the Lithuanian farmers start to harvest rye, the single most important grain cultivated in Lithuania. Rye is a divine grain; its fields are sacred. The harvest begins with the ritual Festival of the Rye, which expresses thanksgiving for the harvest. Women and men wear their finest white linen for the ritual, and harvest the rye in these clothes.

Dagotuves, Winter Rye Planting Finished
Velines, All of October
Velines is in honour of the Veles, the shade of the ancestors – either of the family or the village. Because families would live in the same house/village for centuries, Lithuanians came to believe that the veles acted as guardians for the family and for the village. This is when the veles would enter the family home for the rest of the winter – leave at Velykos to go into the fields, to encourage the fertility of the land.

Kučios/Kaledos , Winter Solstice Eve – Beginning of the Year
Marks the end of the year, when the world returns to darkness and non-existence. However, as death begets birth, the two holidays also herald the rebirth of nature and the return of the sun. The Lithuanians distinguish the two subsequent days, now celebrated on the 24th and 25th of December, with a variety of ritual customs.

Baltic deities.
Here are the gods and dieties of the pagan Baltic people. Mind that the perception of Gods was/is different than that of current day Christianity.

Dievas: Supreme God
Lada: Great Mother
Perkunas: God’s Scourge, Sky/thunder
Patrimpas: Spring, joy, peace, earth
Pikulas/Velnias: God of the underworld
Sky Gods: Menulis: moon Saule: sun (the planets and stars are their daughters).
Zemyna: earth, birth, growth, ripening.
Domnestic Gods: Nonadieve/Dimstipatis/Zemepatis/Gabjauja
Laima: fertility, newly-born, pregnant women
Giltine: death, ordained the end of a life
Fertility Gods: Puskaitis: fruits of the earth and grains, lives under sacred elder tree. Pergubre/Pergubris: Goddess of blossoms and field work. Kupuole: Field vegetation, her daughter Rasyte would water the plants with dew. Vaisgamta: Stimulating growth.

Other Gods:
Jurate: The queen of the Baltic Sea was a beautiful mermaid.
Kastytis: A son of the earth.
Siaurys: The North wind.
Aitvara: Considered to be divine creature, regulates relations and wealth
Pilnytis: The wealth god.
Kovas and Junda: War god.
Ausaitis: The health god.
Ganiklis: The schepherds’ god.
Keliukis: God of roads.
Milda: Godess of freedom.
Krumine: Godess of corn ears.
Nijole: Wife of the underworld god.
Medeine: The goddess of woods and trees.
Austeja, Bubilas: The goddess and the god of bees.

Athens: Travel Report

Yes, I’ve returned from this ancient city that gave us democracy, a lot of statues and nightmarish traffic. Athens was a week of seeing and experiencing the city, but also good friends, good times, good food and a lot of laughter.


What you notice soon, when visiting Athens, is that the traffic is a nightmare. Not that it’s stuck or slow, it just is totally random. People try to get ahead, slip in between, pass another by and so on in a total random fashion with a certain disregard for life. Usually, this is done while holding a phone or helmet on the arm. Beware of the pizza drivers and the souvlaki delivery guys, they are even more dangerous.

Statue of Zeus or Poseidon
Statue of Zeus or Poseidon

Old stuff

Greece has a lot of old stuff, statues, buildings and such. They take pretty good care of it nowadays and a lot is behind fences or under lock and key in the museums. Some items are weirdly accesible though, like old statues and vases in the archeology museum. You almost feel tempted to touch stuff, like on the Akropolis.

The collections are vast and you will see pieces of art that you probably saw on the cover of a book on ancient history before. The halls may look minimal and in some ways not doing justice to the importance of its contents. In a way that gives the works exactly the attention they need: it is placed at the very centre.

Quite a drive outside of Athens, you’ll find the temple of Poseidon in Sounia. A much more romantic and less visited spot for those who dare to venture there. You follow a road by the sea side for kilometres, facing some moronic traffic to reach this spot. It’s location on a cliff top makes for great sunsets that bring back a feeling of a forgotten past.


Athens: The City

The city itself is not so filled with ancient history and what is there is carefully preserved. The town itself feels modern and mediterranean. For those willing to see it or learn about it, it is clear that the city tells its own tale of its recent histories. It’s protests all the way back to the Junta government and the conflicts with Turkey or even the independence.

The city is strewn with coffee shops and places where you can buy some souvlaki or other quick meals. Greeks like to eat and they like to get some take-away, particularly on football days.

Roads in Athens are not always of the greatest quality and when it rains, you better put on some rainboots. When the sun shines, that matters little though. If you like cats, you’ll enjoy the city even more, because there are cats everywhere! Also pigeons, which are less loved.


Most of all…

The most important thing is the warmth and hospitality I experienced. I stayed with my friend K. who took great care of me during this week. Everyone has been remarkably friendly and that is definitely something that deserves some pointing out.

It was great to hang out with old friends and in a way, finally meet up in this great city, sharing drinks and stories. I hope this won’t be the last time.

"The Angels Of Death", Grombidal, Tyrus, Lovensand and Azdrubael.
“The Angels Of Death”, Grombidal, Tyrus, Lovensand and Azdrubael.

What we see in the media is angry protests, Golden Dawn radicalists and an unwilling government. That is not a story that just started, it is part of how modern Greece formed and shaped and grew in the last century. Protests have always taken place, for weeks sometimes. Golden Dawn is actually a marginal group that I have not seen a single sign of. Greece is a country with a heavy historic heritage, but a traumatic recent past. To understand that, visiting this country is a must.

The Reading of Books #7

Another series of books have been read, this time Louis Theroux, Bertrand Russell, Isaiah Berlin and one of the Warcraft books by Richard A. Knaak.

Louis Theroux – Call of the Weird

I’ve loved the docu-reports of Theroux, visiting weirdos all over the place. What I did not experience as yet is a particularly personal touch to all that. In this book Theroux describes his return to a numver of these individuals and groups, like neo-nazis, porn actors, UFO believers and gangsta rappers. This time only armed with a laptop, it’s a  quest for understanding and connection with the individuals he met during his journeys. In some cases getting closer, in others just running into brick walls.

It’s most surprising how Theroux makes people open up and be vulnerable. In writing he is more honest and sincere then when he was in front of the camera. He writes from a personal perspective, which makes it easier to relate to his writings and find understanding for the weirdos he meets with. This book is a must for those who watched the show and who wonder what became of the figures you came across back then. Some will surprise you quite a bit, some stories are new and shocking.

Bertrand Russell – A History of Western Philosophy

Bust of Russell, source: Wikipedia

I will admit that it took me forever to finish this book, which is, obviously about philosophy. This is probably the book that helped Russell get his Nobel Prize and pretty much how he was certain of enough income for the latter part of his life. It has been critisized a lot, but that is hardly surprising, seeing it embodies a whole history on its own. Some parts are totally clear and others, like the bit on Bergson, are very incomprehensible. What is so strong about this book, is that it makes the otherwise dour topic rather witty. In fact, Russell does not shy away from making jokes.

“There are two motives for reading a book; one, that you enjoy it; the other, that you can boast about it.” – Bertrand Russell

Why did I read this book? I have to ask myself that question, since I really started it more than 2 years ago. I listened to it, because it was clear cut, interesting and filled with a wealth of inspiration. It’s hard to understand every philosopher, but it helps to have it buried somewhere in your mind. Apart from that, I must admit that I find a certain joy in struggling with the problems they created, the philosophers, and following their footsteps towards solutions. If that is in any way your thing too, I recommend reading this bulky masterpiece.

Isaiah Berlin – The Crooked Timber of Humanity

Source: Goodreads.com

Berlin is one of the writers I have always felt opposed to untill recently. I started getting intrigued by him due to trying to understand the tradition of counter-enlightenment. Stating that Berlin is a full on part of that, would be false. He does however, offer genuinely philosophical arguments considering problems in the tradition that currently seems to be the prevailing one in the West. In this book a collection of essays and shorter articles tells us about the not so perfect state of humanity and how we try to make the best of it with often faulty, though lofty ideals.

The density and clarity (the combination is the refined brilliance that needs to be mentioned here) of Berlins writing makes me an instant fan of his philosophical writing. Not only is Berlin very clear and cohesive, he also does not shy away from being witty from time to time, which is essential in keeping someones attention peeled for a whole book. His insights have helped me develop new ones and that is the greatest gift a book can give you in my humble opinion. I salute this writer and if I ever pen down one article as brilliant as his, I will be happy.

Richard A. Knaak – Wolfheart

Source: Goodreads.com

Yes, also during this month some pulpy reading took place with a new Warcraft book about king Varian Wrynn. The book ties up some old stories, like the War of Ancients trilogy and Warcraft III. Knaak is a brilliant writer and has been responsible for most of the Warcraft books, or so it feels like. He writes lively characters, with insecurities and flaws and thus creates a debt that in-game you hardly find and that separates the fans from… well, the rest.

source: Galleryhip.com

Also the Worgen start making sense, where I had some issues with the inclusion of a werewolf race at first. It now seems like a brilliant twist to add a race without an actual homeland and thus bringing back good old Gilneas to the fold. The character of Genn Greymane still lacks a bit of debt in my eyes and could really do with some bolstering, but then again, I have not read all books as yet. Varian Wrynn is becoming a nice counterpart of The Horde’s ‘Green Jesus’ Thrall, which is good but should not be the same mistake as before. I am a bit bummed that Maiev turns out to be such a twat. The return of her brother Jarod Shadowsong was more than welcome though. There is also the danger of making Malfurion and Tyrande the mommy and daddy of the alliance, which would suck a bit too. Both have a bit more fury in them then Knaak shows in this book.


The Reading of Books #6

Another edition of books that I read, with Plutarch, Vargas LlosaMurakami and Kahneman. Keep on reading!

Plutarch – On Sparta 

Source: Goodreads.com

This edition of Plutarch’s writings on Sparta combines the lives of famous Spartans with an abundance of further notes and information. It’s a rather complete work for those interested in the legendary city state, that most will know from the film 300. The work of Plutarch has suffered many revisions by editors, trying to figure out a cool way to present it to the audience. Earlier I read a book by Penguing on The Age Of Alexander, where they cut descriptions of lives in half, splitting them in timeframes, since Plutarch loved to compare Greeks and Romans (preferably finding fitting couples). Thist time Penguin has decided to go for thinner books on a theme.

To compensate for the relative little amount of work, some extra resources have been added, which make this book to a rich source of information brought together under one cover. There is little commentary, but some critical notes that help the reader to relate to Plutarch and take his work with a grain of salt here and there. Truly, parts are very entertaining and others seem to be uncritical glorification. That seems to be a fatal flaw of historic works in general though.

Daniel Kahneman – Thinking Fast And Slow

Source: Goodreads.com

I’ve always had a dislike to psychology, I cannot help it. This book was also kind of selected by mistake, because it was categorized as a philosophy book. Well, what can you do? I listened to this on my iPod and was very much captivated by it. Not only does Kahneman have the unique ability to make things relatable and come up with proper examples, his whole explanation seems to be aimed at generating understanding. Not trying to be pretentious (which most psychology is) and actually explaining how difficult certain lessons and insights were to gather.

Kahneman explains that we have two systems of cognition, an instantanious top-of-mind one and a secondary, analytical and calculating one.  This explains a lot about the way we act and react to what happens around us. Learning to understand this system may be vital to understand why you feel and think certain things. I would call that a great insight and well worth the read/listening.

Mario Vargas Llosa – Dream Of The Celt 

Source: Goodreads.com

I’ve read this book on my e-reader, which is a new toy I have, which was captivating to the end. I spoiled this book a bit for myself by reading up on who Roger Casement, the protagonist of the book, actually is. Vargas Llosa dusted of this hero of the Irish struggle for freedom and tried to write his story, without making it all glorious and epic. It’s the story of a man with pain, haemeroids, represessed sexual feelings but a moral backbone and humanitarian ideals. It’s told as a a story that might be true and shows that people are more than who they sleep with.

Roger Casement was knighted for his daring reports on cruelties in Congo and Peru during the early 20th century. He visited these places and saw the greed and inhumanity of the Peruvian rubber company and Leopold II’s Congo. He also writes daring erotic stories in his diary of encounters with younger, vital men. Then he gets involved with the Irish struggle for independence, gets arested and eventually executed and slandered for his sexual preferences.  Vargas Llosa succesfully shows the whole person in a wonderful book.

Haruki Murakami – 1Q84

Source: Goodreads.com

I’ve never really gotten into much un-Western literature, by which I mean literature with a setting away from the world I’m used to. In reading the three books that make up 1Q84, I’ve definitely had a good choice in experiencing some of that and the excellent writing of Murakami. The story is about two people who seem to traverse to a parallel world, where strange things occur. The two people have met as children and never truly forgotten eachother. Aomame is a fitness instructor, she lives alone and has a minimal life style. Her other activities include casual sex with balding men and murdering men that abuse their women for a rich lady with a grudge.

Tengo teaches math in a school and in his spare time, he is a writer. He likes to read, cook and on friday has sex with his older girlfriend. His friend, the editor Komatsu, approaches him with a manuscript, written by a 17-year old girl. He plans to let Tengo rewrite it for a contest. From here on, life becomes strange for both figures that get themselves mixed up in something bigger then them. A world where logic doesn’t count for what it does in the real world. They relive their pasts and in the end their quest will bring them together. The title refers to the name that Aomame comes up with, as an alternative for the year the story takes place in (1984). The book is brilliantly written, never rushing but also never letting you hang in there. It offers a continuous story with magical aspects, deep characters and well measured emotions.

Like many Murakami readers before me, I want more.