Tuesday, 27 April 2010

sixteen: eco-terrorism

Mengele Zoo by Gert Nygårdshaug (1989)

First of all: why has this book not been translated?
Somewhere in the South American rainforest a young boy is collecting butterflies. He is aware that the indigenous peoples are being treated badly by the men of power and he decides to kill the leader of the military police. One day his whole village is slaughtered because they are opposing an oil company on their land. The boy escapes and runs into the wilderness where he is found by a magician. As they travel around South America he sees that multinational companies are killing the land and he decides to win the land back. A few years later he and three friends scare and amaze the world with the eco-terrorist group Mariposa.

It is beautiful yet a brutal book. Magic realism with amazing descriptions of the environment. Not a bad thing to say about it. Strongly recommended. And the next time I'm near a book store I'm buying the sequel, Himmelblomsttreets muligheter.

It reminded me a lot of another brilliant book with the same theme, the Monkey Wrench Gang (1975) by Edward Abbey. This one is about the damming of the Colorado River and a group of people who start blowing up construction supplies and bridges. Where Mengele Zoo is serious and sad, the Monkey Wrench Gang is a lot of action and also funny. Yet there are a lot of similarities, like the ideologies behind the terrorism and the love for mother nature.

Friday, 23 April 2010


the Island by Victoria Hislop (2005)

An English girl of Greek descendant goes on vacation to Crete, unaware of the fact that the island's former leper colony played a major role in her family's past. She meets an old friend of the family who tells her the secrets that her mother had been keeping locked up ever since moving away.

I almost threw the book away at page 8 when reading "How can I be twenty-five and so hopelessly uncertain of the future? she had asked herself as she packed her bag for the trip. Here I am, in a flat I don't own, about to take a holiday from a job I don't like with a man I hardly care about. What's wrong with me?" Luckily the book is not about the girl and her hardships in the beginning, but about her great-grandmother being sent to a leper colony and the daughters that she had to leave behind in the small Cretan village.

It could easily been a tragic story, but it's not. The story continues with the daughters and their dramas and then goes on to the story of the girl's mother. I liked the story, yet it was too predictable. I also felt that the beginning and the end did not correspond with the main story.

It was an okay read, but I doubt I will remember it in a couple of weeks.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

While waiting for my plane at Schipol, I went into a book store (surprise, surprise). I came out, for the first time ever, with two non-fiction books. Highly inspired by my Viking lessons to the 12-year olds, I bought Empires and Barbarians by Peter Heather. I also bought Things I've Been Silent About: Memories of a Prodigal Daughter by Azar Nafisi as Reading Lolita in Tehran is one of my favourite books.

Browsing the Internet one night, I came across Lists of Bests. It has, very conveniently, lists like 1000 novels everyone should read by the Guardian, Nobel Prize Laureates in literature, which are both lists that I have been working on for a couple of years already. I also ended up making my own list of all the books I own, and is kind of disappointed that I have only read 66% of those. There's also great lists of movies and music. Something to do on sleepless nights, perhaps?


Blood Meridian or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy (1985)

Texas-Mexico border, 1850s. Indians are the common enemies and hunters are paid for Indian scalps. The book follows a kid from Tennessee across the land, trying to survive, hunting and being hunted.

"See the child. He is pale and thin, he wears a thin and ragged linen shirt. He strokes the scullery fire. Outside lie dark turned fields with rags of snow and darker woods beyond that harbor yet a few last wolves. His folk are known for hewers of wood and drawers of water but in truth his father has always been a schoolmaster. He lies in drink, he quotes from poets whose names are now lost. The boy crouches by the fire and watches him".

McCarthy writes beautifully, yet this book is so violent I could feel it in my stomach. He leaves nothing to the imagination when it comes to the slaughtering of villages and it is not a pleasant read for the faint-hearted like me. This book has also had me dreaming of arid desert and creatures living there.

It was a brilliant read, but I still favour the Road when it comes to McCarthy. And I have the Border trilogy to look forward to.

Friday, 9 April 2010


Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco (1988)

This is without a doubt the hardest book I have ever read. I almost gave up after the first twenty pages as it was just a bunch of weird names and references. I have never googled more while reading a book and the impressive thing is that everything is correct. How Umberto Eco was able to write this book, I can't even imagine.

What is it about? I'd say everything. It is about three men working at a publishing house that hear a strange story concerning the Templars and then decide to look into it. And then they realise that there is a universal master plan that various secret orders are still looking for. This book manages to connect everything from the Crusaders to Hitler. It is confusing and demands a lot from the reader. I don't think I ever have learnt so much from reading something that is pure fiction. It is one of those books that I need to reread after reading a 1000 more books.

I loved Lia, the narrator's wife who had the most down-to-earth answers to the conspiracies. The part where she compares magic numbers to orifices in the human body is simply brilliant.

What I really didn't like about this book, was that a lot of it was in in other languages. With it being sources, I do understand why, but it just made it more confusing. I might have missed something significant because I cannot understand Italian or French. But that is my only complaint.

I can't wait until I get home to my bookshelves so I can read the Name of the Rose by the same author.

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