The Martian Chronicles, book review

For August Monthly Motif Challenge we were supposed to read a book that has won a literary award or a book written by an author who has been recognized in the bookish community. And I chose The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury, who won dozens of awards and prizes.

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I love Ray Bradbury. The first time I read him I was probably 11 or 12 years old. It was one of those amazing literary moments. In my English Literature class, with my favorite teacher, we read “By the Waters of Babylon”, by Stephen Vincent Benét. Our book was amazing, and I wanted to read everything, especially from that section of the book called “Setting”. After the shock that was “By the Waters of Babylon” we read “There Will Come Soft Rains”, by Ray Bradbury. It was like an intellectual slap. I had read all my life, but right then and there I was having one of my first real literary discussions. And it was too much.

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Over the years I read a lot of Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451(on of my favoritest books of all time), The Mummies of Guanajuato, The Sound of Thunder, The Illustrated Man, and a bunch of other short stories for school… but for some reason I had never read The Martian Chronicles. I actually didn’t know my beloved “There Will Come Soft Rains” was part of it.

So when I had to chose a 20thCentury classic and I saw The Martian Chronicles, ―published in 1950― in my shelf, crying in darkness, I decided to give it a shot. My edition has a stamp that says “National Book Award, Distinguished Contribution for American Letters”, so it also fit in the Monthly Motif Challenge.

I’m so glad I finally decided to read this book… I love science fiction, and I need to read more.

This is a book that narrates in loosely connected and chronological short stories the colonization of Mars. It starts in January, 1999, with a beautiful beautiful depiction of the “Rocket Summer”. How it was winter when all the rockets took-off, so —because of the engines—it felt as hot as summer. Then we go directly to Mars, we meet the Martians, with their remarkable powers of telepathy and their civilization.

The earth expeditions start arriving and failing, but in the end, they actually succeed. It’s terrible to see the colonization thirst of the white man. Destroying everything. Appropriating everything. Erasing everything. But things start going worse on Earth, so the settlers actually have to come back, leaving a few behind. But back on Earth there are others who, seeing the nuclear devastation, had other plans.

The Martian Chronicles is a fantastic book. One of my favorites now. There are so many beautiful and harrowing passages… It’s scary. We actually already passed the date of the nuclear war (2005), and we are very close to the end of the book 2026, thankfully we’re not close to those events. But the truth is we are closer. One could think that human race evolves, but reading this and knowing what’s happening in our world (Trump, Kim Jong-un, Putin, Elon Musk…) there’s no way I can’t believe this is a possible future. Terrible and sad.

There are quite a few jewels in The Martian Chronicles. “Night Meeting” and “Usher II” come to mind immediately. There are so many things I underlined and marked… It is definitely a book that will be with me forever.

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Para el reto de Monthly Motif de agosto teníamos que leer un libro o un autor premiado. Así que decidí leer Crónicas marcianas de Ray Bradbury, quien ganó muchísimos premios y reconocimientos.

La primera vez que leí a Ray Bradbury estaba en la secundaria, tendría 11 o 12 años y leímos “By the Waters of Babylon”, de Stephen Vincent Benét. Recuerdo muchísimo ese capítulo de mi libro, de mi clase de Literatura en inglés, con mi maestra favorita. Además de esa increíble historia, que me hizo tener una de mis primeras experiencias realmente literarias, estaba también “There Will Come Soft Rains”, que se convertiría en uno de mis cuentos favoritos, sin saber que formaba parte de Crónicas marcianas.

Como tenía que escoger un clásico del siglo XX también, para el reto de Back to Classics, decidí finalmente hacerle caso a mis Crónicas marcianas, que estaba guardando polvo en mi librero. Y como mi edición tiene un sello de “National Book Award, Distinguished Contribution for American Letters”, también valía para el reto de Monthly Motif.

Este libro narra la colonización de Marte a través de cuentos ligeramente conectados y en orden cronológico. Todo empieza con uno que es más bien una imagen hermosa, “El verano del cohete”, donde se describe cómo el invierno se convirtió en verano por un momento, debido a los motores de los cohetes de la primera expedición.

Después conocemos a los marcianos y su avanzadísima civilización y luego, a las siguientes expediciones, que fracasan hasta que los marcianos se contagian de varicela y su población se acaba, prácticamente. Por supuesto que muy temprano en la narración, deja de ser esperanzador. Todas las características de la humanidad, terribles y dolorosas, siguen en Marte…

Todo el libro es maravilloso, aunque hay algunas joyas que merece la pena resaltar. Por supuesto, “Usher II”, una oda a Edgar Allan Poe que no tiene parangón; “Encuentro nocturno”; “Un camino a través del aire”, que en una edición subsecuente lo sacaron, por alguna razón que no entiendo (probablemente por el uso de la palabra “negro”); y, por supuesto “Vendrán lluvias suaves”.

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I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, book review

For my June monthly motif (Crack the Case) challenge I had thought about the Sherlock Holmes Canon. I was going to read it anyway for Back to the Classics… But I had been reading a lot about I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer, by Michelle McNamara, and I had other challenges involving True Crime, so I decided to keep the SHC just for my Back to the Classics prompt, and read this one for the Monthly Motif Challenge.

This was my first ever True Crime book, and I decided to give it a try on Audible, because I read that the performance was amazing. And it definitely was. I was worried that I would get lost, but Michelle McNamara’s writing and Gabra Zackman’s narration are sooo clear. I did take a couple notes, but nothing I wouldn’t have done even with the printed book, because there are hundreds of bits of information.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark has a very interesting story. It was published posthumously in February of this year, 2018. The author, the obsessive woman, Michelle McNamara, died in April 2016. She was a crime investigative journalist who got interested in the Golden State Killer (a name she actually coined for the previously known EAR-East Area Rapist/ONS-Original Night Stalker) a couple years before her death. She became obsessed and after writing a piece for Los Angeles Magazine she got a book deal.

This book has the information all the agencies gathered through the years (+40!), condensed and explained in such a way that you almost feel like at the end she’ll just write the name. Of course it doesn’t happen. Actually, almost at the end of the book, her editor tells that Michelle called her once, asking exactly that: How do you end when you write about an unsolved crime? Unfortunately she never got to that point. But in a way she did.

Michelle McNamara died in her sleep, of an accidental overdose. And her husband, Patton Oswalt, reached out to her friends for them to finish her project. They used her drafts, and many many of her notes for the book and for the LA Mag article. And they ended the book with a letter Michelle wrote to the Golden State Killer. The letter itself is amazing. And after reading everything else, it just adds so much value. I’m pretty sure she intended to end I’ll Be Gone in the Dark that way, anyway.

The interesting thing is that the book was published two years after her death and they caught the Golden State Killer a couple months after the publication of the book, in April 2018. A lot of people, especially the police, say that the book didn’t help catching him, and of course her husband says it did, if not for anything else but for growing the following of one of the coldest cases in police history. I’m not sure if you can say that that’s help, especially because the GSK was never in the suspects list or in any piece of evidence. There’s one moment when the two other writers (Paul Haynes and Billy Jensen) tell the story of how they got the “Mother load”, boxes and boxes of evidence, and Michelle said that the possibility that the name of the perpetrator being in those boxes was 80%. Well, no, not as a suspect at least. But many of the characteristics and elements of the profiles they present finally became true. They were sure that the killer had inside information, because he always seemed to be a step ahead of them. In the end, he was a former cop, who got fired for shoplifting a hammer and dog repellent (!!!). His name is Joseph James DeAngelo. What Michelle got right was that he was going to be caught because of the advancements of technology. It was DNA that allowed making the match and apprehending him.

Is this amazing?

DeAngelo is now 72. He will be charged for murder, but not for the rapes because of the statute of limitations. It’s a shame. Justice is justice.

The doorbell rings.

No side gates are left open. You’re long past leaping over a fence. Take one of your hyper, gulping breaths. Clench your teeth. Inch timidly toward the insistent bell.

This is how it ends for you.

“You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark,” you threatened a victim once.

Open the door. Show us your face.

Walk into the light.

– Michelle McNamara, Letter to an old man

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I’m hooked on the True Crime genre. I’m not sure if it’s something I’ll read much more, though. My country is very violent and I don’t think I need more violence. Perhaps if the cases are solved… But it’s so interesting. Do you have any recommendations?

I went through the rabbit hole for the first time ever!

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I know it’s a little late, because this was May’s book. I’ve been having a hard time writing. I’m not sure why. But here’s my Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland review. Finally! (I did read it in May, on the 29th, actually)

Since I was a child Alice fascinated me. Of course, the movie was first for me and I found an old book at my grandma’s and I read it/colored over it. It wasn’t a nice edition, don’t worry. It was a cheap abridged version in Spanish. When I grew older I read fragments in school, and I finally read the unabridged version in Spanish when I was a teenager, I think. I was mesmerized by the narrative. Like how on Earth can someone think about that!? I loved how everything magic seemed so natural, but at the same time it made no sense. It felt like you were looking into another dimension through a tiny window. And that feeling fascinated me. But I’m not sure why I had never read it in English. I started collecting Alice’s books (not too seriously, because I don’t have the money, but I have a couple of interesting [not in a valuable sense, just odd and weird] versions) but never got to reread it as a whole. Not in Spanish. Not in English. Just fragments here and there whenever I needed it.

When I came to the decision to read Alice’s for a few challenges, including PopSugar’s A childhood classic you’ve never read, I wasn’t really sure if it was the best idea. The truth is I was actually ashamed of accepting I hadn’t read it (in English) before. So here’s my confession.

This was my first time through the rabbit hole in its original language and OH MY GOD. I have to say, though, that now that I have read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in its original language I’m so amazed by the remarkable job the Spanish translators have made. Unfortunately I can’t find the book I read in Spanish as a teenager. This is a little detour, but you have to know I have a huge huge chunk of my book collection in my mother’s house (and we’ve been estranged for a couple years, so it’s basically inaccessible right now). Also, the only thing at home that got really affected by the earthquake last September were my bookshelves. I haven’t had the time —or the will or the money—to fix them. I hate seeing my books on the floor and all mixed up in what’s left of the bookshelves, but whenever we think about organizing them or even buying shelves, I sabotage myself. I’m sure I’ll be able to do it at some point. Just not now. So my Spanish Alice is there, buried somewhere. I wish I had access to it because I want to thank the translator so much. For making me fall in love with something like that. The magic of words is powerful.

I loved reading the riddles and songs in English. I had to look for a couple, to understand what was changed. I also adored the rhythm. It felt like waves. And, as I read it for the Monthly Motif Reading Challenge: Book to Screen prompt, I kept going back to the Disney film. Do you agree that it was actually a good adaptation? I mean, we all know Disney butchers the original stories/books. But isn’t Alice the least worse? I mean, it doesn’t tone the crazy down… not much, I think. I’d love to know your opinion.

So, yeah. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll is my entry for, as I said, Monthly Motif Reading Challenge: Book to Screen. And also for Back to the Classics 2018: A Children’s Classic.

Have you read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland? It’s more than 150 years old! I went crazy a couple years ago when every publisher made its edition. I bought the edition designed by Vivienne Westwood, and I love it. I think I’ll buy some more (The Yayoi Kusama one looks amaziiiing). Do you collect any kind of books?

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Sé que es un poco tarde, porque este era un libro de mayo, pero bueno… aquí está mi reseña de Las aventuras de Alicia en el país de las maravillas.

Siempre me sentí atraída por Alicia. Por supuesto que primero vi la película y después encontré el libro. Una edición antigua en casa de mi abuela, sobre la que coloreé. No se angustien, no era una edición chida. Solo una edición para niños barata. Cuando crecí fui leyendo fragmentos en la escuela, y finalmente leí la versión completa en español en mi pubertad. Me encantaba la narrativa. ¡¿Cómo podía alguien pensar en eso!? Me encantaba cómo todo parecía natural, pero al mismo tiempo no tenía sentido. Sentía que estaba viendo otra dimensión a través de una ventanita chiquita. Todo lo que veía tenía sentido en ese universo, pero solo ahí, nunca en el mío. No sé por qué nunca lo leí en inglés, aunque empecé a coleccionar Alicias (nada del otro mundo porque no tengo dinero, jajajaja, pero sí tengo un par de ediciones interesantes [no en un sentido de valor, sino raras, como en japonés o la de Rébecca Dautremer]). Nunca releí Alicia por completo. Ni en inglés ni en español. Solo leí fragmentos cuando lo necesitaba.

Así que cuando decidí que iba a leer Alicia en el país de las maravillas para algunos de mis retos de este año (incluyendo el de PopSugar, un clásico infantil que nunca has leído [en inglés]), no estaba segura de que fuera exactamente la mejor idea. La verdad es que me daba pena aceptar que no lo hubiera leído. Pero, en fin. Esta es mi confesión.

Nunca había leído Alicia en el país de las maravillas en inglés (y solo una vez en español) y lo que más me llamó la atención fue la increíble traducción que leí. Me gustaría tener la edición que leí en mi adolescencia para agradecerle al traductor haberme enamorado, pero no lo tengo. Una buena parte de mis libros están en casa de mi madre, y los que tengo aquí en mi casa está completamente desordenados porque lo único que realmente se dañó con el temblor aquí fueron mis libreros. No lo he podido arreglar. Cada vez que digo: “vamos a ordenar los libros”, o “vamos a comprar libreros”, algo hago para sabotearme a mí misma. Sé que en algún momento llegaré y podré hacerlo, pero ahorita no. Así que mi Alicia está enterrada en algún lugar.

Me fascinó leerlo en inglés. Tuve que buscar varias veces algunas canciones y demás, porque no las conocía, pero me hipnotizó el lenguaje. Sentía que era como flotar en una ola. Empezó con la inundación del pasillo al principio y poco a poco me mecía en un mar de sinsentidos y drogas. Como lo leí para un reto acerca de adaptaciones al cine, pensaba siempre en la película de Disney. ¿Es buena, no? Digo, pensando en que Disney siempre destruye las historias originales, creo que en esta sí puedes sentir la locura de Lewis Carroll. No le bajan. No sé, ¿ustedes qué piensan?

May wrap-up

Me faltan cuatro reseñas de este mes: Profesora Haná, de Reem Bassiouney; Her Mother’s Mother’s Mother & her Daughters, de Maria José Silveira; Las aventuras de Alicia en el país de las maravillas, de Lewis Carroll y el Canon holmesiano completo, de Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Tuve mucho trabajo y quise dedicarme a leer más que a escribir, aunque creo que eso también debería cambiar, porque tengo que invertir más tiempo en mi blog. En fin… este es mi post fin de mes.

Leí cuatro libros. Además, terminé el Canon holmesiano, que empecé en enero. Mi intención era que todos fueran de autoras, pero tuve que meter a Lewis Carroll para el reto de motivos mensuales.

Aquí vienen las estadísticas.

Libros leídos: 4 (no voy a contar el Canon, porque son 4 novelas y 56 cuentos recogidos en 5 libros, así que ese será otro post)

  • Profesora Haná, de Reem Bassiouney
  • Heart Berries, de Terese Marie Mailhot
  • Her Mother’s Mother’s Mother & her Daughters, de Maria José Silveira
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, de Lewis Carroll

Autor: 1

Autoras: 3

Traducidos de otra lengua que no sea inglés: 2 (portugués al inglés y árabe al español)

Retos completados: 10 😀

Mayo fue un buen mes 🙂

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I’m still missing 4 reviews for this month: Professor Haná, by Reem Bassiouney; Her Mother’s Mother’s Mother & her Daughters, by Maria José Silveira; and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, de Lewis Carroll. I also finished the whole Sherlock Holmes Canon, but that will be a long post on it’s own and I won’t count it to this month’s statistics. I wanted to read only female authors, but I had to read Alice for the monthly motif challenge, so…

Let’s see what we’ve got.

Books read: 4

  • Profesora Haná, by Reem Bassiouney
  • Heart Berries, by Terese Marie Mailhot
  • Her Mother’s Mother’s Mother & her Daughters, by Maria José Silveira
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll

Male: 1

Female: 3

Translated from a language other than English: 2 (Portuguese to English and Arabic to Spanish)

Challenges prompts completed: 10 😀

May was a great month…

April wrap up! (a little late)

I know it’s a little bit late, but here’s my April wrap up post XD

I’ve had lots of proofreading and translation work. Of course I can’t talk much about it, because of privacy and confidentiality agreements, but what I can say is that I do have a project with an old lady who discovered she loves writing at 74. I’m excited with her book and I hope I can show it to you soon.

So, anyway, April was crazy, but not as crazy as the beginning of May hehehe. I read three books in total.

These were interesting books. You can read each of my reviews if you’re interested. The only thing I regret is that they were only male authors 😦 I think I shouldn’t let this happen. Hopefully in May I’ll be able to turn things around.

Here they are:

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Books read: 3

  • Zona cero: Breve memoria de los sismos 1985-2017, Rafael Pérez Gay
  • Oblomov, Ivan Goncharov
  • Dejen todo en mis manos, Mario Levrero

 

Male: 3

Spanish: 2

Translated from a language other than English: 1 (Russian to Spanish)

Challenges prompts completed: 3 :-/

Is Oblomov a millenial?

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It took me a while because I’m swamped in work, and just today I decided to take the morning off to write the two reviews I’m missing. The first one will be about Oblomov, by Ivan Goncharov.

This book was published in 1859 in installments in Russia. I don’t remember loving Russian literature this much when I was studying, but I’ve read two books already this year and I want to read more and more. I even want to give Crime and Punishment a second chance.

The book tells the story of Ilya Ilyich Oblomov, an indolent, a generous slothful nobleman. During the first part —11 chapters!— he only moves from his bed to a chair and back to his bed. Almost 200 pages!

He falls in love of an active and modern young woman, but is unable to do anything to solve his current situation to finally marry her. She loves him, but is certain that if he doesn’t actually *do* something, nothing can really happen between them.

In the end he lets her go, she marries Oblomov’s best friend (who is an active, diligent, and modern half-Russian half-German man used to work and travel), and Oblomov dies having had a son with his landlady. Oblomov’s best friend takes care of his son.

I loved this book. It talks about so many important things that we still live right now in the 21stcentury, 159 years later. The characters feel sooo modern. I couldn’t help but think that Oblomov is what older generations think about millenials, they think millenials don’t do anything and are in bed all day everyday. But this book also talks about weddings, and feminism (without saying the word, of course). It talks a lot about writing and writers (Oblomov kinda could be one, if he chose so). And it also talks about a burden that we still have in our society: bureaucracy.

I loved the relationship of Stoltz and Olga (Oblomov’s best friend and his love interest). It feels so current. There’s one part where Olga feels mad for every book Stoltz reads without her, isn’t that like Netflix cheating now? And she desires for everything to be accessible to her, just what I feel in 2018.

I remember I HATED my European Literature of the 19th Century classes in school. I didn’t finish ONE Russian book. I’m sorry, it’s true. But I’m rediscovering these authors and I’m falling in love with them. I don’t think I’ll read anymore Russian classics this year, but I’m excited for the years to come…

As a side note, something [I think] weird happened during my reading. We were watching a French movie (Delicacy, La Délicatesse) by David Foenkinos with Audrey Tautou. And suddenly, she’s there, lying on the couch reading Oblomov! Perhaps it’s something common, but it had never happened to me that a character in a movie is reading the same book as I! 😮

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This is my entry for Back to the Classics challenge prompt: A 19th Century classic 🙂

March wrap up

March started as an incredibly busy month. I was swamped with work and by the end of the month I thought I was barely going to finish two books. Fortunately, things cleared up and I was able to read a couple more. I’m still trying to catch-up from last month’s one book, but I’m still behind by two for my yearly goal. This month’s books were very interesting, and diverse (not in a Diversity with capital D way, but varied and different), and I enjoyed them very very much. I’m happy with my speed at the end of the month, I wish I can keep at it for the coming days.

So these are my March books:

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Books read: 5

  • The Book of Mirrors, E. O. Chirovichi
  • Five Weeks in a Balloon, Jules Verne
  • A Cat, a Man, and Two Women, Jun’ichirō Tanizaki
  • The Witches, Roald Dahl
  • Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman, Anne Helen Petersen

Male: 4

Female: 1 (fuck)

Spanish: 3

English: 2

Translated from a language other than English: 2 (Japanese and French)

Translated from English: 1

Challenges prompts completed: 9/107

What an amazing storyteller is Roald Dahl

When I was seven years old (probably eight), I watched one of my absolute favorite childhood movies: The Witches. I remember being mesmerized by the Grand High Witch and terrified to see the little girl trapped in the painting getting old. Back then in 1990 (probably 1991, because back then movies didn’t travel as fast as today to other countries) I had no idea that the movie was based on a book, I don’t think that Roald Dahl was translated in Spanish even, I really don’t know.

But then, some years later, I found out The Witches was an adaptation, and I wanted to read the original book. I was so happy to find out that it was published in 1983, because I could put in my Birth Year Challenge list.

It was an amazing read. The Witches is positively scary, and funny, and intelligent, and light, and deep. I love how Roald Dahl writes to children, with so much respect… From equal to equal. One of my life goals is to read all Dahl, because his voice is like a light in a dark forest. Whenever I feel down, or stressed, or whatever, I always go to him and I feel better instantly.

It doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like so long as somebody loves you.

Pages: 201

A Cat, a Man, and Two Women, by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki

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I read this book because I signed up for the Kitty Lit Reading Challenge, and this was one of the first books I found. I’m so glad about this challenge, I have found a bunch of books about cats that I want to read, and I’m also incredibly happy about this choice.

A Cat, a Man, and Two Women (I read the Spanish translation directly from the Japanese by Ryukichi Terao and Ednodio Quintero titled La gata, Shozo y sus dos mujeres), by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki, was published in 1936. Tanizaki was one of the most important writers of the modern Japanese literature. In this little book that can be read in one sitting, he tells us the story of a tortoiseshell cat named Lily that is the object of the dispute between an ex-wife and a husband, involving the new wife and the mother in law. It’s such a simple and fun story. You can’t read it without smiling and crying a little, especially if you have a cat, of course.

There are dialogues where the cat actually answers, and with that I’m completely sold.

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I adored this book, I always want to read more of all the Japanese authors I get my eyes on. I’ll try to look more by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki. Do you have any recommendations?

A girl reading Jules Verne in the 21st Century

So I remember reading Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea when I was a little girl. I probably read it a couple times before I was 12. I also read Journey to the Center of the Earth, Around the World in Eighty Days, and School for Crusoes (I refuse to use the title Godfrey Morgan, because I read it in Spanish under the title Escuela de Robinsones). Of course, back then, twenty years ago, I wasn’t thinking of feminism or intersectionality, and I was amazed by the extraordinary deeds of these extraordinary men without even noticing that there wasn’t even the mention of a girl. Ever.

So now, I’m 34… with the goal of reading more diversily, at least 50% women authors. And I find myself reading Five Weeks in a Balloon for two reading challenges.

It was painful.

There was actually a mention to a woman: Madame Blanchard. She was the first woman to work as a professional balloonist, and also the first woman to be killed in an aviation accident.

But that was it.

Throughout the book I could read terrible examples of colonialism, of toxic masculinity, of discrimination, of exploitation of resources… That was how the 19th Century [male] mind worked, and that’s what brought us where we are: still fighting gun violence against black people (who were brought by the kind of guys portrayed in Jules Verne’s books as slaves), losing our last male northern white rhino (Sudan died just a few days ago, and there’s basically no hope in recovering the species), and with women still struggling for equality.

It was especially painful to read Five Weeks in a Balloon in March, just after seeing (twice) Black Panther. The fictionalized portrayal of what could have happened if people like Samuel Fergusson, Dick Kennedy, and Joe Wilson hadn’t destroyed Africa was such a pleasure to watch.

Anyway… I finished Five Weeks in a Balloon, and as much as I [think I] love Jules Verne, I will keep away from him for a while. A long, long while.

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This is my entry post for the Monthly Motif reading Challenge: Travel the World, and also for the Back to the Classics Challenge: A classic travel or journey narrative.