S M F G · A Counter-Clockwise Trip Around The World

Books

Apr 11th 2009
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On this page I’ll post the books I read during my journey—not including guide books. As I am dropping each one after reading, if you happen to be the one who found it, you should leave a comment here. It would be nice to keep track of the people reading those books after me.

Adeline Yen Mah — Falling leaves
Maski gave me this one in Chile. From a literary point of view, this is nothing special, but, being an autobiography, the story told is indeed interesting: you get to have a rather good idea of life in China in the last half-century and of Chinese psyche.

For Ye Ye, life became increasingly lonely. Although visits from friends were not forbidden, Niang succeeded in making them feel so uncomfortable behind a veneer of politeness that they gradually ceased coming altogether.

He spent his time reading and practising calligraphy. Once he wrote the character 忍 ren (endure). He instructed Aunt Baba to study the word. Divide ren into its two components, top and bottom. The top component, 刀 dao, means knife, but it has a sheath in the centre of the rapier 刃. The bottom component, 心 xin means heart. Combined together, the word is telling us a story. Though my son is wounding my heart, I shall ensheath the pain and live through it. To me, the word 忍 ren, represents the epitome of Chinese culture and civilisation. Aunt Baba looked at the word and saw the pain and fury evident in each stroke of the brush. Ye Ye did not display his beautiful calligraphy on the wall for fear of offending Niang.

I left it in Cali, Colombia, at Mónica’s place.

Juan Carlos Onetti — El pozo
Valentina gave me one of her copies when she hosted me in Montevideo. This is the first from my list of Latin American writers. This book (first published in 1939) is seen by many as the origin of a literary generation in Uruguay.

The excerpt that follows is the very one that Vale read me that day.

He leído que la inteligencia de las mujeres termina de crecer a los veinte o veinticinco años. No sé nada de la inteligencia de las mujeres y tampoco me interesa. Pero el espíritu de las muchachas muere a esa edad, más o menos. Pero muere siempre; terminan siendo todas iguales, con un sentido práctico hediondo, con sus necesidades materiales y un deseo ciego y oscuro de parir un hijo. Piénsese en esto y se sabrá por qué no hay grandes artistas mujeres. Y si uno se casa con una muchacha y un día despierta al lado de una mujer, es posible que comprenda, sin asco, el alma de los violadores de niñas y el cariño baboso de los viejos que esperan con chocolatines en las esquinas de los liceos.

I am still bringing this one in my backpack.

Allan Folsom — The day after tomorrow
I swapped The lord of the flies for this one in a hostel in Rotorua, New Zealand. One of the worst books I ever read — actually I don’t even know why I read this trash to the end. The author is a script writer, and you can tell it. I sincerely hope nobody will ever make a film out of it. Just a heavy piece of crap. If you ever happen to start reading it, please don’t bother, I can save you the effort: the small square box around which the whole story develops contains — guess? — the deep frozen head of Adolf Hitler!

Lame.

William Golding — Lord of the Flies(1)
An all-time classic. I bought it in Broome, Australia, along with Mishima and Erodotus. I dropped it in a hostel in Rotorua, New Zealand. Many have written about it, so I save you my opinion.
Douglas Adams — The Hitch Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy

A classic. I bought the trilogy in four books in Broome, Western Australia. I left it in a hostel in Newcastle, New South Wales. Quotations follow.

There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.

There is another theory which states that this has already happened.

He moved his body round slightly to catch the first rays of the third and greatest of the primeval Vod’s three suns which was now creeping over the ludicrously beautiful horizon, and the sky now glittered with some of the greatest tanning power ever known.

A fragrant breeze wandered up from the quiet sea, trailed along the beach, and drifted back to the sea again, wondering where to go next. On a mad impulse it went up to the beach again. It drifted back to the sea.[…]

The fragrant breeze drifted from the sea again.

A magician wandered along the beach, but no one needed him.

For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much — the wheel, New York, wars and so on — whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man — for precisely the same reasons.

Friedrich Dürrenmat — Il giudice e il suo boia
I bought this one in Marcon, Italy, during one of the last lunch breaks of my preceding life. I never felt like reading it, until I found it in my ex-room during the wedding of my brother, and I decided to bring it with me. I read it in Australia, west coast. I give it to Manu, my travel mate, who happened to be learning Italian :-)
Leonardo Sciascia — Il giorno della civetta
I bought this and the Pasolini’s one in Gili Trawanagar, in exchange for Choke.
Pier Paolo Pasolini — Lettere Luterane

I bought this and the Sciascia’s one in Gili Trawanagar, in exchange for Choke. This is a collection of Pasolini writings published in newspapers and magazines in 1975, only a few months before his death. Some of his considerations are still incredibly up-to-date in the 2009 Italy. A couple of interesting quotations follow.

Gennariello. Il Mondo, 15 maggio 1975:

Il conformismo degli adulti è tra i ragazzi già maturo, feroce, completo. Essi sanno raffinatamente come far soffrire i loro coetanei: e lo fanno molto meglio degli adulti perché la loro volontà di far soffrire è gratuita: è una violenza allo stato puro. Scoprono tale volontà come un diritto. Vi investono tutta la loro vitalità intatta, e anche, naturalmente, la loro innocenza. La loro pressione pedagogica su te non conosce né persuasione, né comprensione, né alcuna forma di pietà, o di umanità. Solo nel momento in cui i tuoi compagni divengono amici scoprono forse persuasione, comprensione, pietà, umanità: ma gli amici sono quattro o cinque, al massimo. Gli altri sono lupi: e adoperano te come cavia su cui sperimentare la loro violenza e nei cui confronti verificare la bontà del loro conformismo.

Corriere della Sera, 18 ottobre 1975:

Quali sono le mie due modeste proposte per eliminare la criminalità? Sono due proposte swiftiane, come la loro definizione umoristica non si cura minimamente di nascondere.

  1. Abolire immediatamente la scuola media d’obbligo.
  2. Abolire immediatamente la televisione.

Quanto agli insegnanti e agli impiegati della televisione possono anche non essere mangiati, come suggerirebbe Swift: ma semplicemente possono essere messi in cassa integrazione.

[…] è ben chiaro che chi ha fatto la scuola d’obbligo è prigioniero del proprio infimo cerchio di sapere, e si scandalizza di fronte ad ogni novità. Una buona quinta elementare basta oggi in Italia a un operaio e a suo figlio. Illuderlo di un avanzamento che è una degradazione è delittuoso: perché lo rende: primo, presuntuoso (a causa di quelle due miserabili cose che ha imparato); secondo (e spesso contemporaneamente), angosciosamente frustrato, perché quelle due cose che ha imparato altro non gli procurano che la coscienza della propria ignoranza. […]

Quanto alla televisione non voglio spendere ulteriori parole: ciò che ho detto a proposito della scuola d’obbligo va moltiplicato all’infinito, dato che si tratta non di un insegnamento, ma di un esempio: i modelli cioè, attraverso la televisione, non vengono parlati, ma rappresentati. E se i modelli son quelli, come si può pretendere che la gioventú piú esposta e indifesa non sia criminaloide o criminale? È stata la televisione che ha, praticamente (essa non è che un mezzo) concluso l’era della pietà, e iniziato l’era dell’edonè. Era in cui i giovani insieme presuntuosi e frustrati a causa della stupidità e insieme dell’irraggiungibilità dei modelli proposti loro dalla scuola e dalla televisione, tendono inarrestabilmente ad essere o aggressivi fino alla delinquenza o passivi fino alla infelicità (che non è una colpa minore).

I sold it in Broome, Australia, in the book shop where I bought the Adams’ trilogy.

Chuck Palahniuk — Choke
Lin from Sweden gave me this one in Langkawi. She brought it from Australia!

Here are a couple of quotations one may find interesting:

I mean, how many times can everybody tell you that you’re the oppressive, prejudiced enemy before you give up and become the enemy. I mean, a male chauvinist pig isn’t born, he’s made, and more and more of them are being made by women.

After long enough, you just roll over and accept the fact that you’re a sexist, bigoted, insensitive, crude, cretinist cretin. Women are right. You’re wrong. You get used to the idea. You live down to expectations.

Even if the shoe doesn’t fit, you’ll shrink into it.

The truth is, sex isn’t sex unless you have a new partner every time. The first time is the only session when your head and body are both there. Even the second hour of that first time, your head can start to wander. You don’t get the fully anesthetic quality of good first-time anonymous sex.

I swapped it with the next two ones in Gili Trawangar, Indonesia.

Zadie Smith — The Autograph Man
I found this one in the same guest-house that the preceding one. I passed it to Maria in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.
Emmanuel Adely — Agar-agar
I found this one in Krabi, Thailand, the day before going to Malaysia. I chose it because the author and title were written horizontally in the spine. Then I read the back cover:

Elle est arrivée toute heureuse cette femme, ici, dans ce nouveau pays, et cet homme-là plutôt que de se remettre en question, il préfère pulvériser cette femme, la tognoler, et plutôt que de vouloir sauver son couple il fout tout au panier avec l’eau du bain et l’enfant il le gicle avec elle qui est venue ici le retrouver, qui était si fière de lui, si fatiguée aussi, mais elle a fait l’effort de s’amender elle, ça l’homme ne pourra pas le nier, ça, qu’elle a fait l’effort de s’amender mais lui il n’a fait aucun effort, c’est lamentable ce qu’il a fait, il a préféré tout noyer sous les immondices et qu’elle s’en aille avec un grand sac sur le dos impossible à porter, et l’enfant, sans parler des problèmes d’argent, et il ne faut pas s’étonner qu’elle soit désagréable avec lui puisqu’il est désagréable avec elle.

On the first page there is a dedication from the author. Dropped it in Malacca, Malaysia.

Haruki Murakami — Kafka sur le rivage
My first Murakami. In French! Anyway, I don’t speak Japanese. I took it from a guest house in Ko Pha Ngan, it had a note on the first page saying somebody left it in that same island in 2007. I left it in Krabi, Thailand.
Don DeLillo — The Body Artist
My first one in English from one of my favourites writers. I bought it in India, at the book fair of Pondicherry. I think it was new. I dropped it in Ko Pha Ngan, Thailand.
Martin Amis — The House Of Meetings
Richard from London gave me this one in Gokarna, the day we left. I lost it (with my bag) in a club in Bangkok before finishing it. This was a great one, I hope I can find another copy somewhere.
Anne Michaels — Fugitive pieces
Timi from Budapest gave me this beautiful one at the CS Summer Camp in Naxos, Greece. I dropped it in Ko Pha Ngan, Thailand.
Louis Ferdinand Céline — Viaggio al termine della notte
I received this one as a birthday present in 2005. I lost it in the main bazaar in Delhi. I was around three-quarters.

  1. This is not the cover of my version of the book, because I forgot to take a photo of it! :-(

6 Responses

  1. Enrico says:

    bellissimo l’uomo autografo di Zadie Smith!

  2. Laura says:

    Bellisisma idea! Magari esistono già siti in cui si possa condividere con altri i libri che
    ci sono piaciuti… ma questo é il primo che vedo! Bravo davvero, grande idea!

  3. Enrico says:

    Adesso che sei nella sua città, leggiti “La versione di Barney” di Mordecai Richler!
    Bellissimo!!

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