18 Feb 2019

Cuando la realidad supera la ficción: Amy Tan


Hace unos años leí “El club de la buena estrella” y me enamoré de su autora, Amy Tan. El enamoramiento poco a poco se fue convirtiendo en asombro al enterarme de que gran parte de la historia sucedió de verdad. Tan es una maestra en coger eventos reales y convertirlos en ficción. Sin embargo, ese cambio, no les quita la crudeza que hace de cada lectura de sus novelas una experiencia única.

Por eso, al ver “Recuerdo de un sueño” no dude un momento: lo tenía que leer. Publicado por Editorial Planeta, este curioso libro de casi 500 páginas, es una mezcla original entre un ensayo, unas memorias, un diario y (sic!) ficción. Antes de nada quiero agradecer a Planeta la confianza que depositaron en mi al mandarme el ejemplar. Al pedirles la colaboración no esperaba una respuesta tan rápida y simpática, como la que había recibido. ¡Gracias!



SINOPSIS
Con una prosa espontánea y magnífica, Amy Tan articula un viaje a través de la memoria para mostrar cómo los recuerdos casi olvidados se convirtieron en los núcleos emocionales de sus novelas y cómo hicieron inevitable que se dedicara a la escritura.
La autora explora impactantes verdades sobre su familia y su pasado, como la verdadera razón por la que tuvo que pasar un test de inteligencia con seis años, por qué sus padres mintieron sobre su educación o los misterios que rodean a su abuela materna y, por primera vez públicamente, escribe sobre la compleja relación con su padre.
Recuerdo de un sueño sumerge al lector directamente en la mente de esta maravillosa escritora y lo lleva de la mano por sus recuerdos, su imaginación y las verdades que conforman su existencia.
«Un libro para tener cerca después de terminarlo. Un “atlas literario” para lectores que admiran la obra de Amy Tan.» Lector

Primero, tengo que decir que el libro no me ha defraudado. Podía parecer que al ser las memorias y las impresiones personales de la autora, sería, quizás, mas aburrido que sus novelas. Nada de eso. La vida de Amy Tan es tan fascinante como podría serlo cualquier novela. Hasta me arriesgaría a decir que más. Esto, junto con el lenguaje que emplea en todos sus escritos, llenos de metáforas y de esa prosa lírica tan suya, hace de esta lectura un viaje inolvidable. Pero, hay que advertir a cualquier lector potencial, que no es una lectura rápida. Los temas tratados son muy personales, muchas veces difíciles de asimilar, llenos de emociones y requieren reflexión o simplemente un descanso para poder seguir adelante. Por otro lado, la variedad de temas tratados requiere del lector una mente abierta y flexible para poder entender todo. Tenemos reflexiones sobre la música clásica, sobre la creatividad, sobre nuestro pasado, pero también de nuestros antepasados y como esto influye en el presente, muchas anécdotas muy personales o simplemente unas observaciones graciosas.



El texto está dividido en 6 partes: imaginación, memoria emocional, recuperar el pasado, finales desconocidos, leer y escribir, lenguas. No sólo cada parte se puede leer independentemente de las demás, si no que también cada capítulo-ensayo. Es la obra más personal de la autora, pero al contener reflexiones le permite mirar los acontecimientos desde la distancia necesaria para poder analizarlos.



¿A quien recomendaría el libro? A los fans de Amy Tan. A los que están fascinados por la vida privada de las mentes maravillosas. A los interesados en la escritura y su proceso. A los interesados en la lingüística y sus misterios, para ellos la última parte será una verdadera perla.

10 Feb 2019

¿Es el feminismo relativo? "El himen y el hiyab" de Mona Eltahawy


Hoy os quiero hablar de un libro que me regaló la editorial Capitán Swing y que me hizo pensar mucho y replantarme muchas cosas. Se trata de “El himen y el hiyab” de Mona Eltahawy, traducido por María Porras Sánchez



SINOPSIS
La periodista Mona Eltahawy no es ajena a la controversia. A través de sus artículos y acciones, ha luchado por la autonomía, la seguridad y la dignidad de las mujeres musulmanas, atrayendo a seguidores y detractores. En su primer libro, El himen y el hiyab, Eltahawy realiza una condena definitiva de las fuerzas represivas —políticas, culturales y religiosas— que reducen a millones de mujeres a ciudadanas de segunda clase. Recurriendo a sus años como activista y comentarista de los problemas de las mujeres en Oriente Medio, explica que, desde que comenzó la Primavera Árabe en 2010, las mujeres en el mundo árabe han tenido dos revoluciones que afrontar: una lucha junto a los hombres contra los regímenes opresivos y otra lucha contra todo un sistema político y económico que reprime a las mujeres en Egipto, Arabia Saudí, Túnez, Libia, Yemen y otras naciones. Eltahawy viajó por Oriente Medio y el norte de África reuniéndose con mujeres y escuchando sus historias, y su libro es una llamada a la indignación y a la acción para enfrentarse a esa «mezcla tóxica de cultura y religión que pocos se sienten inclinados a desenmarañar». Un manifiesto motivado por la esperanza y la furia en igual medida.”

Debería empezar por el feminismo. Soy feminista. Nunca he pensado o dicho nada diferente, aunque a veces alguien dice “No serás feminista” como si fuese algo para avergonzarme. Si, soy feminista. Creo en la igualdad de derechos y de oportunidades para todos. Dicho esto, hasta hace bien poco creía que el feminismo puede ser influido por la cultura de ciertos países/religiones y que no en todos los lugares del mundo significa lo mismo. El paternalismo y la creencia popular de que el mundo occidental es el que tiene respuestas universales siempre planteaba para mi un serio problema, no sabía hasta que punto algo puede o debe ser universal. El mejor ejemplo vino en julio 2017 con la prohibición del burka y el niqab en Bélgica. Me parece algo espantoso tener que cubrirse de esta manera, denigrante. Pero el hecho de forzar una ley así implicaba, en mi cabeza impulsar aun más el aislamiento de tantas mujeres arabes de la sociedad. Estuve muy en contra.

El libro de Mona Eltahawy trata, entre varios otros, ese problema. La conocida activista e feminista arabe, se hace las mismas preguntas que yo. Acusada por muchos ser la menos adecuada para hablar del tema (vivió y trabajo muchos años en el mundo occidental), cuenta sus experiencias más personales: desde decidirse a llevar el hiyab, por estar escondida bajo él durante 8 largos años, por quitárselo, hasta la violación que sufrió de manos de la policía antidisturbios egipcia durante el levantamiento del 2011.



Las 216 páginas no parecen muchas, pero no es una lectura ni rápida, ni ligera. Requiere tiempo para procesar bien toda la información, todos los números y ejemplos de casos reales que presenta Eltahawy. Tampoco es para personas con la piel fina, aunque creo que es algo que debería hablarse alta y claramente. Aunque escrito del punto de vista musulmán y concentrado en la situación de las mujeres en el mundo árabe, realmente muchos de los casos se puede en algún modo extrapolar a la realidad de cualquier extremismo religioso. La misma autora como ejemplo menciona la cultura de la pureza presente todavía hoy en día en los Estados Unidos. Para mi este punto, lo peligroso que puede ser mezclar el estado, la cultura y la religión, es el más importante, aparte de la obvia denuncia de la situación de las mujeres arabes.

Recomiendo la lectura de este libro a todos. Tanto los que no temen admitir que son feministas, como los que creen que no lo son. Si sois un poco delicados, ciertas experiencias descritas en él os van a resultar difíciles de asimilar, pero solo así, hablando de lo dificil, podemos progresar. El feminismo debería ser un movimiento global, independentemiente de la cultura de la que se hable: las vidas de todos y todas son iguales, sin importar la procedencia y la religión.

Gracias a la editorial Capitán Swing por mandarme el libro, ¡es una lectura muy enriquecedora!

3 Feb 2019

Yukio Mishima - Life Full of Contrasts

Yukio Mishima is considered to be one of 20th-century Japan’s most prolific writers, and was the first postwar Japanese writer to achieve international fame. Nominated three times for the Nobel Prize and author of 40 novels, 18 plays, 20 volumes of short stories and as many literary essays, Mishima was also an actor, a model, an expert swordsman, a traveler and a would-be "prophet."



He was born Kimitaka Hiraoka in the Yotsua district of Tokyo on Jan 14, 1925. He chose "Yukio Mishima" as his pen name, which was cryptically interpreted as "He who chronicles reason,", to hide his writing from his disapproving anti-literary father. However, it was his paternal grandmother, Natsuko Hiraoka, who had the most lasting influence on him. Just 29 days after his birth, Mishima was separated from his family and raised by his sophisticated yet capricious grandmother whose own background and personality shaped his character. He was with her until he was 12 years old.



He was forced to live a very sheltered life in which there were no sports, no playing with other boys, no going out in the sun. His grandmother was the illegitimate daughter of a Meiji era daimyo with familial links to the all powerful Tokugawas and was raised in a huge and rich, samurai-influenced household, with a reverence for Japan’s past, and the samurai fascination with beauty, purity and death. She was frustrated by the fact that with her noble past she married just a successful bureaucrat and her character and opinions had a lasting effect on Mishima’s later works and personality.

1930, with his grandmother

One of Mishima’s earliest haiku dates from when he was seven years old, and it reads:
おとうとがお手手ひろげてもみじかな
Otōto ga o-tete hirogete momiji kanaMy younger brother spreads his palms, maple leaves
The “younger brother” here is Chiyuki, two years old at the time. He went on to become a diplomat, serving as ambassador to Morocco and Portugal.

One of the most characteristic features about Mishima was his superficial Western-ness in contrast to his inner Eastern-ness. His house was a copy of a late Victorian mansion, full of oil portraits of 19th century beauties or sailing ships and baroque and rococo objects on tables and shelves. The meals he (or rather his wife) served were also Western-style. He was fluent speaker of English and German, wore Western clothes. 

At home

Working as a model


However, he was extremely proud of his display of samurai swords and kendo equipment, which were very much in use. He took up body building and kendo (‘the way of the sword’). He was attracted to kendo, he said, because it brought you to the ‘border of life and death.’ He would spend long hours during the day honing his body and his swordsmanship, and write all night. In his 1968 autobiographical essay Sun and Steel, where he talks about his relationship with his physical self, Mishima decried the notion, stressed by intellectuals, of mind over body.



In his later speaches he also criticised the emptiness of modern Western values and believed in old Japanese, samurai values. That may have been a reaction to postwar Japanese society and Western values becoming all-present. He argumented that after American occupation Japan was forced to hide its real self:
Since World War II, the feminine tradition has been emphasized to the exclusion of the masculine. We wanted to cover our consciences. So we gave great publicity to the fact that we are peace-loving people who love flower-arranging and gardens and that sort of thing… The Government wanted to cover our masculine tradition from the eyes of foreigners as a kind of protection’.



"All I desire is beauty," Mishima wrote in his diary. He wanted to make himself beautiful as well as strong. Beauty for him was purity, a purity which might realize itself in noble action. He did not want to grow old for then he would not die beautiful. But his love of beauty was not simply personal. Partly on its account he hated postwar Japan. "We watched Japan become drunk on prosperity," he said, "and fall into an emptiness of the spirit."

All that love for his country didn't stop him, when the mobilization for the Second War War had started to lie to avoid fighting. He was with a cold when they interviewed him and he lied he had tuberculosis.


But there were more contrasts in Yukio Mishima. He is believed to be gay. He frequented gay bars such as the now defunct Brunswick bar in Ginza, despite a rushed marriage at 33. On june 11, 1958 he married Yoko Sugiyama and they had a daughter named Noriko (born June 2, 1959) and a son named Iichiro (born May 2, 1962). That happened ater he briefly considered a marital alliance with Michiko Shōda, who later married Crown Prince Akihito and is now Empress Michik. The decision to marry Yoko was without any doubt influenced by the fact that in his first novel he talked openly about homesexuality and that wasn't received with any enthusiasm by his family. Biographers such as close friend John Nathan claim that the tragic writer married for respectability. It was not well seen in the Japan of the 1950s to remain unmarried beyond the age of 30. To make things even more urgent, Mishima’s mother had been diagnosed with cancer a few months earlier. The marriage was a way to please his family, gain respect in the society, deflect suspitions about his sexual orientation. Some of the pre-nuptial demands made by Mishima to his new wife were: to respect his privacy, not to interfere with his writing or bodybuilding, she had to be shorter than him (Mishima was only 152 cms tall). After is death, his widow and children always stated that claims about his homosexuality were false and some started believing he was bisexual.



The woman who would become Yukio Mishima’s wife was a 19 year old college sophomore named Yoko Sugiyama. The day before he married her, he burned all of his diaries. Mishima wrote,
As we walked down the corridor on the second floor, a girl from the beauty parlor picked up the telephone in the corridor and began informing someone of our every step in a voice so loud we couldn’t possibly have missed it. As the elevator doors closed we heard her report, “They’ve just stepped into the elevator.” In our room whenever a girl came to clean up or bring us something she was always accompanied by two or three others who just tagged along for a good look at us on their way out. When a waitress from room service appeared and Yoko ordered a cream soda and I ordered one too, the girl said, “You drink the same drink! That’s passion!” I was appalled.

Mishima’s interest in homosexuality was clearly illustrated in his first major novel, "Confessions of a Mask" (1948) where he tells of a man who conceals his true self and sexuality behind a mask of lies and pretense. This book is regarded by many as a semi-autobiographical account of the author’s own life and the exposure of his own homosexual and sadomasochistic desires. “Confessions of a Mask” includes a description of the narrator’s ejaculation, which occurs while he is transfixed by the arrow-pierced body of St. Sebastian, as depicted in a Guido Reni painting.
It was a sensational “coming out,” but he immediately after that stepped back into the closet. His family, with whom he still lived, dismissed his sexual fantasies as “nonsense” and Mishima was keen to avoid the stigma of being seen as a gay writer. Even with “Forbidden Colors” (1951-53), which includes descriptions of the gay demimonde that had sprung up in Tokyo after the war, Mishima claimed to be merely an observer, not a participant. He would never directly touch the subject again.
A year later, however, Mishima published another book in an entirely different style: The Sound of Waves (Shiosai, 1954). This was a ‘clean,’ traditional Japanese love story between a poor young fisherman, Shinji, and Hatsue, the daughter of a well-to-do ship owner on a remote Japanese island. As in many such stories, their love has to undergo many trials before Shinji proves to Hatsue’s father that he is worthy of her. For Western readers, the simplicity and universal appeal of this tale makes it probably the most palatable and enjoyable of Mishima’s books.
His extreme nationalist credentials were most notably illustrated in his founding of the Tatenokai (Shield Society) in 1968, a small private army of mostly university students dedicated to the bushido code and the protection of the emperor and the martial discipline of pre-Meiji era Japan. This dedication was not to Hirohito, the 124th Emperor of Japan, whom he had criticized for "dishonoring" the war dead by surrendering, and for renouncing his divinity after World War II, but rather to the symbolism of the emperor system for traditional Japan.
With Tatenokai mambers

On Nov 25, 1970, carrying with him a longing for a return to lost samurai values, and an obsession with a purifying and beautiful death, Mishima and four of his Tatenokai followers, entered the Japanese Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) headquarters in Ichigaya and attempted a coup d’etat which they hoped would awaken the Japanese from their spiritual and political slumber. Stepping out onto a nearby balcony, Mishima was ridiculed and jeered as he attempted in vain to rouse the present JSDF members below him to his cause. Realizing the hopelessness of his efforts, the "Lost Samurai" went back inside for his final act of drama.

Positioning himself in traditional Japanese manner on the floor of the office which they had seized, Mishima proceeded to ritually disembowel himself with a "tanto" (a small sword), exclaiming “Long live the emperor” just before a pre-ordained "kaishakunin" (the one chosen to decapitate Mishima) and later one other, made an initially botched but ultimately effective attempt at beheading the famed author. This act of seppuku - the ritual suicide of a samurai warrior - did not go to plan. Mishima failed to disembowel himself cleanly and his cohort's hands were shaking so much that he could not chop off his master's head in one blow. Yukio Mishima died an agonising death.

Debate surrounds Mishima’s motivations. Attempting a coup d’etat with only four other people was almost certainly going to be a failure. As his suicide notes later revealed, he expected to fail, but hoped that his seppuku would transform Japan. In his writings some years earlier he claimed that “spiritually, I wanted to revive some samurai spirit. I did not want to revive hara-kiri itself but through the vision of such a very strong vision of hara-kiri, I wanted to inspire and stimulate younger people.”
His dramatic death has been seen as a final yet futile stand against the direction of post-war Japan.
1970. shortly before his suicide


SOURCES:






28 Jan 2019

La vida novelizada de Louis Braille


Hoy os quiero hablar sobre un libro que, aunque me gusto muchisimo, me costo acabarlo. Lo recibí en un ebook de parte de Edición Anticipada (Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial) y era para mi la confirmación final, de que al trabajar todo el día con la pantalla, no puedo leer por placer desde otra pantalla (aunque sea el Kindle o otro e-reader bueno para ojos). Pero aún teniendo problemas en ese aspecto, la novela en si me pareció tan interesante, que no me imaginaba abandonandola. Estoy hablando de “Los caminos de la luz” de Coia Valls.



SINOPSIS
Una revolución protagonizada por un niño y llevada a cabo desde el anonimato, sin más armas que un punzón. La obra más ambiciosa de Coia Valls cuenta la conmovedora historia del creador del sistema Braille. Esta impresionante novela de superación recuerda a Las Cenizas de Ángela de Frank McCourt y a la vez, el Oliver Twist de Dickens por la saga familiar que describe.
Los Braille, una familia de albarderos que vive en Coupvray, tienen su cuarto hijo y le ponen por nombre Louis. Corre el año 1809 y el pequeño se convierte en la alegría de la casa, pero un infortunado accidente le arrebata la vista con solo tres años de edad. Es, entonces, cuando empieza su íntimo peregrinaje a oscuras. Este recorrido estará plagado de incertidumbres, pero buscará un único propósito: acceder al conocimiento por medio de la lectura. Perseverancia, amor, amistad y esperanza son los motores de su proyección hacia la luz que iluminará la mente de todos los ciegos.”
La comparación de la editorial con “Oliver Twist” no es nada exagerada. La novela (en papel) cuenta con 400 páginas y nos relata la vida de Louis Braille, el inventor del alfabeto Braille, desde su desafortunado accidente en la niñez hasta su muerte causada por tuberculosis a los 43 años. El libro está clasificado como ficción inspiracional, pero a mi me parece una típica novela social con la diferencia que el personaje principal es realmente un heroe, todo un ejemplo de como superar las adversidades en la vida. Desconozco qué hechos de los descritos en el libro tuvieron lugar de verdad y cuales son pura ficción, lo único que sé a ciencia cierta es que Louise Braille realmente fue alumno del Instituto para Ciegos de París y que luego también enseñó en la misma institución. Bueno, y que inventó el alfabeto Braille, claro.
El libro nos presenta la vida de joven Louis, su empeño en vivir igual que todos los niños y en facilitar lo máximo posible la vida a otros ciegos. A la vez conocemos las realías de la vida en Paris del fin del siglo XIX, la higiene, los problemas de los edificios viejos y descuidados, la gran brecha entre ricos y pobres... Ante nuestros ojos Paris cobra vida y es un lugar despiadado, especialmente para un joven e inocente chico de la provincia, Louise Braille. La historia llena de anécdotas, nos cautiva tanto que al llegar a su final es imposible no sentir la decepción de haberlo acabado ya. Tampoco se debe obviar el hecho que la novela puede tener un papel muy importante en concienciar a la gente de como puede ser la vida de las personas invidentes y enseñarles a ser un poco más empaticos con ellas.

27 Jan 2019

"Kodiak": una audioserie negra de César Pérez Gellida


Hoy os quiero hablar de mis últimos dos descubrimientos: Storytel y “Kodiak” de César Pérez Gellida. Hace relativamente poco leí “Todo lo mejor” de este autor y la historia me cautivó por completo. Por eso cuando en Oh!Libro me propusieron una colaboración que consistía en escuchar su nueva obra, una audioserie en Storytel, no dudé ni un segundo. Por otro lado la aventura con audiolibros también es algo nuevo para mi: mi primer libro lo escuché a finales de septiembre 2018 (“La desaparición de Stephanie Meyer” de Joël Dicker) y la verdad, me apetecía mucho probar algo nuevo. Así que antes de nada, tengo que agradaecer este oportunidad a Oh!Libro y a Storytel: ¡gracias!




SINOPSIS
"Kodiak es la historia de una venganza; o, mejor, de una doble venganza. Los habitantes de la pacífica ciudad de Kodiak (Alaska) se preparan para un invierno que ya se había pronosticado como el más frío de la década. Entre los diez mil habitantes de la isla, una familia destaca por su riqueza y el poder que ejerce en la zona. Nadie en la ciudad está preparado para enfrentar el baño de sangre que está a punto de desatarse por el miembro más joven de la familia: Angelina.”

En palabras del mismo autor esta historia es “un thriller negrocriminal”, ademas de ser una audioserie original de Storytel. Lo curioso y muy cómodo es, que además de estar disponible en un audiolibro, esta también disponible en la aplicación en ebook, ya sea para consultar los nombres de los personajes o para leer cuando nos resulte imposible escucharlo, me parece una opción muy útil.
Dividida en 10 episodios (es imposible no pensar en los episodios en la radio de las novelas como “La guerra de los mundos”) absorbe tanto, que es totalmente posible escucharlo todo a la vez, sin parar (eso si, hay que tener unas 10 horas libres).



Muy dinámico, con un fantastico desenlace, tiene un poco de todo: acción, suspense, investigación policial, una familia rica, negocios sucios con un político implicado... Una montaña rusa de emociones. La ambientación de la serie (Kodiak, Alaska) nos trae a la mente “Fargo”, un escenario natural, a veces inhospito y la sensación de una montaña de secretos amontonados en un pueblo insignificante, que nos recuerda de algun modo a “Twin Peaks”. Personalemente el hecho de situarlo en Alaska me atrapo aún más. Me parece un escenario perfecto, muy estímulante para la imaginación. Tampoco es sin importancia, que la serie tenga dos personajes femeninos muy fuertes, por fin no es una historia típica de “hombres duros”. Angelina, una adolescente que sigue “el camino recto” de la venganza y Sam, la detective que lleva el caso, entregada y profesional, hasta cuando puede influir en su vida privada.

Pero si pensáis que el libro tiene solo unos pocos personajes, algo que a veces pasa en casos de novela negra, estáis equivocados. Vemos un abanico completo de diferentes personas, todos de alguna manera implicados en la historia, todos presentados de una manera compleja, con su propia historia para contar. El final, aunque explica bien los hechos de esta serie, deja la posibilidad de seguir. ¿Visitaremos Kodiak de nuevo? A mi me gustaría....

Poco más os puedo decir sin revelar demasiado de la trama. Sin ninguna duda son unas 10 horas muy bien empleadas. Estoy deseando ver los futuros proyectos de César Pérez Gellida cuanto antes.

15 Jan 2019

Historia de Película: "Infiltrado en el KKKlan" de Ron Stallworth


Muchos de vosotros seguramente habréis oído hablar de la película “BlacKkKlansman” (“Infiltrado en el KKKlan”) de Spike Lee, pero quizás no tantos sepan que está basada en una historia real descrita por Ron Stallworth en el libro homónimo. Tuve el placer de ver la película en el Festival Internacional de Cine de San Sebastián. Me encantó. Tocó temas que por la situación politca de los Estados Unidos son más actuales que nunca. Por eso al enterarme de que la editorial Capítan Swing publicó el libro de Ron Stallworth, supe que lo tenía que reseñar y tengo que agradecer a la editorial que lo hicieran posible mandándome un ejemplar.




SINOPSIS:
En 1978, cuando Ron Stallworth —el primer detective negro en la historia del Departamento de Policía de Colorado Springs— encontró un anuncio clasificado en el periódico local pidiendo a todos los interesados ​​en unirse al Ku Klux Klan que se pusieran en contacto a través de un apartado de correos, hizo su trabajo y respondió con interés, usando su nombre real, pero haciéndose pasar por un hombre blanco. Imaginaba que recibiría algunos folletos y revistas por correo, y aprendería así un poco más sobre una creciente amenaza terrorista en su comunidad. Pero unas semanas más tarde sonó el teléfono, y la persona al otro lado le preguntó si le gustaría unirse a la causa supremacista. Stallworth contestó afirmativamente, arrancando así una de las investigaciones encubiertas más audaces e increíbles de la historia. Reclutó a su compañero Chuck para interpretar al Stallworth «blanco», mientras él mismo dirigía las conversaciones telefónicas posteriores. Durante la investigación, Stallworth saboteó quemas de cruces, expuso a los supremacistas blancos del Ejército e incluso se hizo amigo del mismísimo David Duke. Su increíble historia es el retrato abrasador de unos Estados Unidos divididos y de los extraordinarios héroes que se atrevieron a defender sus derechos.

Leyendo el libro nos damos cuenta de inmediato de que la película exageró y/o cambió algunos aspectos de la historia, pero principalmente la historia es la misma: Ron Stallworth, el primer policía negro de Colorado Springs consigió infiltrarse en el Ku Klux Klan. En las 184 páginas que tiene el libro cuenta los detalles de la investigación, de como contactó con el lider local y luego en multiples ocasiones habló por telefono con David Duke, el entonces lider nacional del Ku Klux Klan. Stallworth sin rodeos describe la ideología y creencias de los supremacistas blancos, de los grupos que les apoyaban (como Posse Comitatus), pero también habla de los grupos militantes negros que gracias a su trabajo se mantuvieron alejados y no entraron en conflicto abierto con el Ku Klux Klan.



Considerando la situación politica de los Estados Unidos y el crecimiento de los moviemientos de extrema derecha esta lectura debería ser obligatoria. Los planes de David Duke de llegar a los mandos más altos del gobierno, su “capacidad de cambiar de bando” para cumplir sus objetivos recuerdan mucho ciertas personas de hoy en día y esa similitud a cualquiera que lo vea le dará mucho miedo.

Por último, no se puede omitir la traducción de Ernesto y Carlos Estrella. Es un libro de no ficción, con mucha jerga y términos policiacos y creo que los traductores hicieron un trabajo maravilloso. Además el libro cuenta con fotos privadas del propio Ron Stallworth con notas que explican en detalle cómo y dónde fueron tomadas.

Resumiendo, es un libro que trata de historia todavía hoy en día muy vigente, importante para concienciar a la gente sobre el creciente problema de los supremacistas blancos. La historía es como de una pelí, otra vez confirmando que las mejores historias están escritas por la propia vida. Una pena que esta vez la realidad superase a la ficción. Sería mucho mejor, si justo este tipo de casos se quedasen solamente en las páginas... De todos modos el libro es muy, muy recomendable. Para todos.

14 Jan 2019

Jane Austen´s Life


What did it mean to be a woman in Jane Austen times? Let's go back to 1811. The beginning of regency period. King George III is declared unfit to rule (he probably suffered of porphyria, a disorder in the production of hemoglobin, which causes sensitivity to light, severe abdominal pain, mental changes, such as anxiety, confusion, hallucinations, disorientation or paranoia among others). Prince of Wales, his son (later King George IV) assumed the role of Prince Regent, but instead of trying to bring back the popularity to the Crown lost together with the American colonies, he indulged into excesses.



At the same time the first experiments with electricity are made, Mary Shelley publishes “Frankenstein” (1818), the gas is brought to the London streets to illuminate them by the Britosh Gas Company funded in 1812 and the first steamer crosses the Atlantic. All the improvements didn't change much the situation of women. The young ladies ready to get married are officially presented into a society at the official dances, it's in fashion to have visit cards. Curiously enough those that belong to women are bigger than the ones that belong to men.

But to be a woman in regency period is reduced to be under the supervision of a father, a husband or some other kind of male relative. Women are always dependent on men. That's the world that Jane Austen experienced.

Pencil and watercolour portrait done by her sister, Cassandra

Waxwork based on a work of an FBI expert, who analysed Austen's letters and diaries

What is more, a spinster is not in a good position. She usually lives with the relatives and takes care of the house, children, tries to be as useful as possible to pay back for the place she's living at. That was the situation in which Jane was. One of the examples of her obligations, one which was a little bit more pleasent than others, esa tea. Tea was considered a luxury and was quite expensive (to that point that some shops to make it cheaper mixed it with other things including arsenic and sheep excrement). Fot that reason the person who took care of it had to be a responsible one and usually it was some less important family member, not servants. In he house of Austen's brother, the one who took care of it was Jane and she kept the tea and all the things necessary to prepare it under lock and key. The only one with the access to it was her. 

Twinnings where Austen was buying tea

Twinnings today

The dining room at Chawton The cupboard on the left was where Jane locked away the tea

She prepared tea and breakfast, which consisted of toasts, muffins or rolls with butter, homemade jam or honey from her sister´s hive. That rituals are reflected in some of her novels: in “Mansfield Park” it is Fanny Price who takes care of tea, not a servant, due to her position in the family. Austen bought tea always in the same shop: Twinnings in London, as that was the place she could be sure it would be unadulterated. The shop is still there, on the Strand and it's popular as ever.
Tea and its price were the recurring topic in her letters to her sister Cassandra: “I suppose my mother recollects that she gave me no money for paying Brecknell and Twining, and my funds will not supply enough.”; “My mother made her entrée into the dressing-room through crowds of admiring spectators yesterday afternoon, and we all drank tea together for the. first time these five weeks.”; “We began our China tea three days ago, and I find it very good. My companions know nothing of the matter. As to Fanny and her twelve pounds in a twelvemonth, she may talk till she is as black in the face as her own tea, but I cannot believe her -- more likely twelve pounds to a quarter.”; “I am sorry to hear that there has been a rise in tea. I do not mean to pay Twining til later in the day, when we may order a fresh supply.”.

On the other hand, the first half of XVIIIth century witnessed the growth of a novel and shortly after that, the progress of Romanticism into literature. However, towards the end of the century, a new genre appeared in England: a novel of manners, repeating after Wikipedia: “work of fiction that re-creates a social world, conveying with finely detailed observation the customs, values, and mores of a highly developed and complex society.
The conventions of the society dominate the story, and characters are differentiated by the degree to which they measure up to the uniform standard, or ideal, of behaviour or fall below it. The range of a novel of manners may be limited, as in the works of Jane Austen, which deal with the domestic affairs of English country gentry families of the 19th century and ignore elemental human passions and larger social and political determinations. It may also be sweeping, as in the novels of Balzac, which mirror the 19th century in all its complexity in stories dealing with Parisian life, provincial life, private life, public life, and military life. Notable writers of the novel of manners from the end of the 19th century into the 20th include Henry James, Evelyn Waugh, Edith Wharton, and John Marquand.”


Jane Austen was born on 16 December 1775 in rectory in Steventon, a little village in north-east Hampshire. She was the second daughter, seventh child of the Reverend George Austen and his wife Cassandra Leigh, who he married in 1764. Apart from her older sister, also called Cassandra Jane also had 6 brothers. The fact that there were only two sisters in teh family and six boys, brought the girls very close. In order of birth, all the Austen siblings were: James, George, Edward, Henry, Cassandra, Francis, Jane and Charles. Of all of the brothers, Jane was closest to Henry, who acted as her literary agent in the later stages of her writing. Of her brothers, two were clergymen, one inherited rich estates in Kent and Hampshire from a distant cousin and the two youngest became Admirals in the Royal Navy; her only sister, like Jane herself, never married.

The Rectory, Steventon, Hampshire


The Rectory was Jane's house for the first 25 years of her life. The family believed in open learning and dialogue between adults and children and it is known Jane was very close to her father, who apart from working in the rectory, also did some farming and teaching to maintain the family.
In 1783, Cassandra and Jane, just 8 at the time, were sent to a boarding school to Oxford and Southampton to be educated. Formal education for girsl includes French, music and dancing. During an outbreak of typhus at the boarding school, Jane almost died and finally both girls returned home to continue their studies. That meant that the further education was done by the father and older brothers and was radically different to that official one. Also, the extensice library that belonged to the reverend was open without any limitations to both girls and the reverend was eager to provide Jane with writing materials. The family debated together, organised plays of known works, in general the environment was very creative.
From 1785 to 1786, Jane and Cassandra attended the Reading Ladies Boarding School, where they studied French, spelling, needlework, music, and dancing, but the economic problems forced the family to bring the girls back home again.
More or less in 1795 she wrote her first novel, “Elinor and Marianne”. In the years 1787 – 1793 she wrote numerous poems, comic pieces, stories and those were compiled in 3 notebooks, which experts refer to as the Juvenilia.
In December 1795, Jane met Tom Lefroy, the nephew of her neighbor at Steventon, a student at London to become barrister. It's the only time we know she fell in love: in her letters to Cassandra, she wrote about spending time with Lefroy and mentioned her romantic feelings for him. However, Tom's family considered that union impractical, and sent him away. They also took care of them never seeing each other again.
After that, Austen began work on a second novel called First Impressions, which would later become Pride and Prejudice. The first draft was completed in 1799. And then, Austen began to revise her initial outline for Sense and Sensibility and worked on Northanger Abbey, a satire of the Gothic literary genre.
At the same time Mr. Austen wanted to help his daughter and tried to publish one of her works through Thomas Cadell, a publisher in London, who refused to even open the package. Jane probably never knew about that attempt.
In December 1800, George Austen told the family that he was retiring from the clergy. That meant that the family had to leave the house in Steventon and they moved to Bath. It made Jane profoundly unhappy and her creativity and productivity in writing fell down. The family first rented number 4 on Sydney Place (1801-1804), to move later to number 3 on Green Park Buildings East.

4, Sydney Place Bath

It was in Bath that Austen received her only known marraige proposal. In December 1802, Harris Bigg-Wither, a childhood friend of the family asked her to marry him and she agreed. But knowing she was not in love and only looking only at the practical outcome of the relation, she revoked her acceotance the very next day. It is easy to imagine reading her novels, or a letter she wrote some years later to her niece, that she believed a marriage should be based on true love and her not being in kove with Harris Bigg-Wither made it impossible for her to go on with the arrangement.
In 1803 her brother Harry visited a publisher, Benjamin Crosby and sold the rights to “Susan” (later to become “Northanger Abbey”) for 10 pounds with the promise that it will be soon published. It never was and the fight over the rights to the novel took some years.
On January 21st 1805 George Austen died and left his wife and daughters with no means to live. The brothers stepped in and took care of them. They first moved to Southhampton and then to Chawton (1809) to a little cottage on Edward's property. The cottage is known as Chawton cottage. It made their lives easier and gave Jane new strength to continue with her work.
Her brother Henry stepped in again to help with publishing and in October 1811 “Sense and Sensibility” was released by Thomas Egerton. It was well received and sold out by 1813. Then Egerton published “Pride and Prejudice” in January 1913. By October the second edition is ordered. Next one was “Mansfield Park”, which even though not as well received by the vritics as other novels, was the biggest economic success as long as Jane was alive.
To make her works even more popular Austen left Egerton and started working with John Murray, who published “Emma” and the second edition of “Mansfield Park”. At that time businesses led by the prothers Henry, James, Frak and Edward were passing through some really difficult moments and all the family was in a precarious situation.
At the beginning of 1816 Jane's health rapidly declines but she continues working more then ever on “The Elliots”, which she finished by January 1817. She immediately starts working on “The Brothers”, but she manages to write only 12 chapters before her health declines even more. At the age of 41 she suddenly can't even walk. By April she is completely confined to her bed. In May 1817 Henry and Cassandra take Jane to Winchester for medical treatment. On July 18th, 1817 Jane Austen died in Winchester (College Street 8) and was burried in Winchester Cathedral. She possibly died of Addison's Disease. In 1967 the commemorative plaque was presented in the place of her burial.



Henry and Cassandra published “Northanger Abbey” and “Persuasion” with Murray as a collection set and relieved the author's identity up to that point unknown.Jane Austen was for the first time publicly connected to her works.

As a final curiosity I would like to tell you that at the beginning of XXth century Austen became extremely popular and her enthusiasts received the name “janeites” (first used in “A memoir of Jane Austen”, 1870). According to Austen scholar Claudia Johnson Janeitism is "the self-consciously idolatrous enthusiasm for 'Jane' and every detail relative to her"