My latest read – April 2016

This month I have read two books, very different from each other but both very good. The first one by Richard Zimmler, called “The Seventh Gate”, that I read in its Portuguese version (edited by “Porto Editora”); the second one, I read in its original version, Spanish (as far as I know it’s not translated into English yet, but it seems the title will be “Five points”). It is called “Cinco Esquinas” and it’s the latest book by Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa (edited by Alfaguara).

Many people ask me how I manage to read so much, with a hectic life such as mine – but the fact is I do. I read mostly in bed, at night, and also on weekends, in the morning. I read quickly, it is a fact, and the more I enjoy a book the more I’ll stick to it and want to know how it ends.

“The Seventh Gate” was given to me on my birthday by a friend. From the beginning it seemed interesting, its action mostly taking place in Berlin in the years before the Second World War. It tells us about the beginning of the persecutions against Jews and forced sterilizations performed by the Nazis in people with mental and physical disabilities. There is also a crime and the main characters set out to solve it while trying to live in a more and more difficult and cruel environment. It is a hard book, but in the midst of all the horrible things happening there is some poetry, there is love, there is sensitiveness, there are people that fight for their beliefs and even die for them. For me it was doubly interesting as, having visited Berlin two years ago, I was constantly finding familiar names of streets and places I had been to; even the infamous concentration camp of Sachsenhausen that I visited with my boys was mentioned in the book – and I think it was the first time I saw it mentioned in a book, as it was considered to be a “small” camp, and not “famous” (for the horrendous reasons known to us all) like Auschwitz and others.

In the beginning the book is not so easy to get into, but as the story unfolds it enthrals you and near the end you go from one surprise to the other and you just can’t put it down. It will be on my list of very good books, definitely.

As for “Cinco Esquinas”, it was a huge surprise. Or maybe it shouldn’t have been, after all we are talking about Vargas Llosa, a giant of literature, a Nobel Prize. But, for me, this is not a guarantee that I will enjoy a book. Incredibly, I had never read anything by him, but of late I have read much about the writer and also very good reviews about the book, so I decided to buy it in Madrid when I was there a few weeks ago. I love reading in Spanish and it’s very good to practise the language, so I always bring home a few books when I go there. I started reading it only a week ago and I was amazed at how vividly he tells the story, what sense of humour he displays (I have always found South-American writers have a very particular sense of humour), how naturally, even with elegance, he describes highly erotic situations; when you start reading this book you just can’t put it down, and each chapter surprises you more than the previous one…in one of the last chapters he somehow “mixes” all the different situations and characters of the story, and he does this in a masterful way…you’ll have to read it to fully appreciate this, as it is very much indescribable. A masterpiece – and now I’m going to read several other books by him, I just have to.

After two such books, I don’t know what I’ll read next, but certainly it will be hard to keep such a high level. But that is the fascination of books – however interesting they may seem, they are always like a closed letter, whose content you never know until you open it – or read it. I still have many “unread” books on my bookcase, but I’m waiting for some new books from Amazon as well, so be it a new book about the Cathars or about Richard III, one of the last volumes of “Game of Thrones” or the book I just brought from Paris, I’ll certain be spending fantastic moments travelling in space and in time and getting to know more fascinating stories.