La Dame Blanche (The White Lady): Mont Blanc

Image by Ken Douglas on Flickr

Image by Ken Douglas on Flickr

Bonjour mes amis! (Hello my friends!)

I thought it might be interesting to study un peu de Géographie (a little Geography). Histoire/Géographie (History/Geography) was a combined course in French schools and part of the standard curriculum in the early 1990s. Students would call it Histoire/Géo for short and I clearly remember the green cahier (notebook) dedicated to the class. It was one of my favorite classes in 6ème and 5ème (6th and 7th grades, respectively) and one that ignited a passion for History (and to a lesser extent Geography) that I still harbor to this day.

If you happen to be a Francophile like me, you probably have heard of Mont Blanc (White Mountain), the highest peak in the Alps and coincidentally, the tallest summit in the European Union. Mont Blanc is part of the Massif du Mont Blanc, a mountain range in the Graian Alps that covers part of Italy, France (part of the Rhône-Alpes region) and Switzerland.

Ever since la première ascension (the first ascent) in 1786 by Jacques Balmat and Michel-Gabriel Paccard, Mont Blanc has remained one of the most popular go-to destinations for those hardy souls who enjoy l’alpinisme (mountaineering) and l’escalade (rock climbing). Attempting to climb Mont Blanc is neither for the faint of heart nor for those who suffer from le vertige (vertigo/dizziness). Reaching an altitude of 4,810 m (15,781 ft), the mountain can be very unforgiving, as evidenced par la mort (by the death) of seven climbers in the summer of 2014 alone. A sad affair indeed, however, for those who reach le sommet (the summit) the view is breathtaking as you can imagine (and measures only 30 m in length).

Mont Blanc became internationally renown as the site of the first Jeux Olympiques d’hiver (winter Olympics) in 1924. Hosted in Chamonix, a small ski resort on the north side of the mountain, Mont Blanc went from being a regular ski destination for locals in the early 20th century to becoming a world renown resort for more extreme sports such as ice climbing, paragliding, Wingsuit flying and extreme skiing.

Should you ever have a chance to visit the Alps, whether in Italy, France or Switzerland, consider taking a detour to visit la Dame Blanche (the White Lady). Both beautiful and deadly, she inspires a sense of awe and wonder that reminds us just how small and finite we really are.


How to use the Present Conditional in Italian

While I was replying a reader’s question last week about the differences between the congiuntivo presente and the condizionale, I realised that although I’ve covered the use of the congiuntivo presente I’d never written an article specifically on the use of the condizionale (conditional). So I’m going to make amends, beginning today with il condizionale presente (the present conditional). But first let’s have a look at how we conjugate it:

Coniugazione del verbo essere: Conjugation of the verb to be:
io sarei
tu saresti
lui/lei sarebbe
noi saremmo
voi sareste
loro sarebbero
I would be
you would be (singular, informal)
he/she would be
we would be
you would be (plural)
they would be

The present conditional is used:

1. to politely express a wish or a request:
vorrei un bicchiere d’acqua, per piacere = I would like a glass of water, please
mi potresti prestare una penna? = could you lend me a pen?
scusi, saprebbe dirmi dov’è Piazza del Duomo? = excuse me, could you tell me where Piazza del Duomo is? (literally: … would you know how to tell me …)

Medievalis part 2 073
Piazza del Duomo, Pontremoli. Photo by Geoff Chamberlain

2. to express a personal opinion, or to give advice:
secondo me dovresti andare dal dottore = in my opinion you should go to the doctor
io suggerirei di partire subito dopo pranzo = I would suggest that we leave immediately after lunch
sarebbe meglio se Marco rimandasse la partenza di qualche giorno = it would be better if Marco delayed his departure for a few days

3. to report a piece of news that has not been verified, or that we have doubts about:
secondo alcuni testimoni i rapinatori sarebbero ancora all’interno della banca = according to some witnesses the robbers are still inside the bank (literally: … the robbers would still be inside the bank)
ho sentito che il presidente del club starebbe pensando di presentare le sue dimissioni = I’ve heard that the president of the club is thinking of handing in his resignations (literally: … the president of the club would be thinking of handing in his resignations)
mi è stato detto che Marco vorrebbe trasferirsi in Inghilterra = I’ve been told that Marco would like to move to England

Lig 4
… una casa al mare in Liguria. Photo by Geoff Chamberlain

4. to say what we would do if the conditions were different:
se non piovesse andrei a fare due passi = if it didn’t rain, I would go for a little stroll
se fossimo ricchi ci compreremmo una casa al mare in Liguria = if we were rich we would buy a house on the coast in Liguria
se ci fosse abbastanza basilico si potrebbe fare una pasta al pesto = if we had enough basil we could make pasta with pesto (literally: if there were enough basil, one could make pasta with pesto)

Next week I’m going to cover the past conditional. A presto!


All about Japanese Katakana


photo from tiseb from flickr.com


So, you might already know that there are three styles of writing in Japanese. Basic writing is done using what we call, Hiragana (平仮名、ひらがな). We have two other forms of writing called, Katakana (カタカナ、かたかな) & Kanji (漢字、かんじ).

In today’s article, I would like to give you an overview of what is Japanese Katakana is all about. Read on!

Japanese Katakana:

Each syllable in the Japanese language is represented by one character, or kana, in each system.

The following Katakana’s are the ones you need to know.

Source: Wikipedia


Gojūon – Katakana characters with nucleus
a i u e o

There are 4 main rules about using Katakana in Japanese.

1) Sound of Animals:

When expressing sounds of animals, we use Katakana to express it.

For example:

A dog is barking Wan-Wan.

Wan- Wan is a sound expression in Japanese. (In English, for example,  “woof,  woof” is common to use.)

To write this in Japanese,

Inu ga wan wan hoeteimasu. -犬がワンワン吠えています。(いぬが ワンワン ほえています。)

Notice that barking sound “wan wan” is expressed as “ワンワン″ in Katakana.

Besides the sound of dog bark, we also use:

Chun Chun (チュンチュン) for bird sound

Nya Nya (ニャー ニャー) for cats

Bu- Bu- (ブー ブー) for pigs

Mo- (モー) for cows

This is an interesting video showing you how we express animal sounds in Japanese.

Click here to view the embedded video.


2) Any Type of Sounds

The sound of rain drop, bells, and trains, they are all expressed in Katakana in Japanese.

For example:

Gata goto (ガタゴト) – sound of train running

bochan (ボチャン) – sound of drops, when you drop something into a water

bari-n (バリーン) – sound of breaking, when you break a glasses or mirror

gahan (ガチャン) – sound of closing doors


3) Foreign words

When we use the words that are foreign origin, we use Katakana rather than Hiragana.

for example:

Mafura- (マフラー) – scarf

Pan (パン) – bread

pasocon (パソコン) – Personal computer

sofa-(ソファ) – sofa

orugan (オルガン) – organ

piano (ピアノ) – piano


4) Name of foreign country, landmarks. Names of foreign people

Name of countries and names of foreigners are all expressed using Katakana.

for example:

Mikeru Jackson (マイケル ジャクソン) – Michael Jackson

Indo (インド) – India

piramiddo (ピラミッド)- Pyramid

grand canion (グランド キャニオン) – Grand Canyon

rasubegasu (ラスベガス) – Las Vegas


So there are the major rules you need to know when using Katakana’s. Hope you got to learn more about Katakana today.



Bernhard Schlink: Der Vorleser (The Reader)

Germany’s role in the Holocaust in World War II is still firmly fixed in the minds of many people around the world. For a long time, the occurrences had been placed under a taboo. Silence was considered to be an appropriate modality of Entnazifizierung (denazification) in both parts of divided Germany. Only gradually Opfer (victims), Zeugen (witnesses) and Täter (offenders) took courage to talk publicly about the cruel past. One of them is Bernhard Schlink, a German author and judge. In the novel “Der Vorleser” (The Reader) he deals with the question how the post-war generations should approach the war generation. “Der Vorleser” tells the story of Michael Berg, who was born during World War II, and his relationship with Hanna Schmitz, a former Wärterin (guard) at Auschwitz.


Part 1

By the age of 15 Michael falls ill with hepatitis. On his way home from school Michael throws up on the streets and 36-year-old Hanna came to his rescue. At his mother’s request Michael visits her after he has recovered and they strike up a sexuelle Beziehung (sexual relationship). Their meetings always follow a ritual. First, they take a bath together, then they have sexual intercourse, and afterwards Michael reads to Hanna. One day, when Michael goes to see Hanna he is told that she moved to Hamburg. The liaison is suddenly terminated.


Part 2

Only seven years later, Michael meets Hanna again in a Gerichtssaal (courtroom). By this time Michael studies law. Together with some fellow students he attends a Kriegsverbrecherprozess (war crimes trial) against female guards of a Außenlager (satellite camp) of Auschwitz. Hanna and further guards are accused of having locked up prisoners of war in a church that ran down after a bomb attack. Only two people survived the fire.
Hanna is the only person who doesn’t deny any of the crimes. The co-defendants even accuse Hanna to have drawn up a forged report of the fire in the church. It comes out that Hanna favored prisoners who read to her and Michael realizes that Hanna is illiterate. Hanna confesses all the crimes she is accused of and, as the chief culprit, is sentenced to life imprisonment.


Part 3

During the trial Michael is afraid of meeting Hanna. He only has the courage to see her after she has been in imprisoned for seven years. He starts the ritual of reading to her again, by sending her cassettes. The cassettes help Hanna to learn reading and writing on her own and also starts writing letters to Michael, which he doesn’t answer. After 18 years of imprisonment Hanna will be released from prison. The prison warden asks Michael to support Hanna with the social inclusion. At the release day, the warden informs Michael that Hanna hung herself in the prison cell.


Listen to the first two chapters of Bernhard Schlink’s novel “Der Vorleser” in German. Below you can also find the English translation.


Deutsch: Der Vorleser

Teil 1 – Kapitel 1
Als ich fünfzehn war, hatte ich Gelbsucht. Die Krankheit begann im Herbst und endete im Frühjahr. Je kälter und dunkler das alte Jahr wurde, desto schwächer wurde ich. Erst mit dem neuen Jahr ging es aufwärts. Der Januar war warm, und meine Mutter richtete mir das Bett auf dem Balkon. Ich sah den Himmel, die Sonne, die Wolken und hörte die Kinder im Hof spielen. Eines frühen Abends im Februar hörte ich eine Amsel singen.
Mein erster Weg führte mich von der Blumenstraße, in der wir im zweiten Stock eines um die Jahrhundertwende gebauten, wuchtigen Hauses wohnten, in die Bahnhofstraße. Dort hatte ich mich an einem Montag im Oktober auf dem Weg von der Schule nach Hause übergeben. Schon seit Tagen war ich schwach gewesen, so schwach wie noch nie in meinem Leben. Jeder Schritt kostete mich Kraft. Wenn ich zu Hause oder in der Schule Treppen stieg, trugen mich meine Beine kaum. Ich mochte auch nicht essen. Selbst wenn ich mich hungrig an den Tisch setzte, stellte sich bald Widerwillen ein. Morgens wachte ich mit trockenem Mund und dem Gefühl auf, meine Organe lägen schwer und falsch in meinem Leib. Ich schämte mich, so schwach zu sein. Ich schämte mich besonders als ich mich übergab. Auch das war mir noch nie in meinem Leben passiert. Mein Mund füllte sich, ich versuchte, es hinunterzuschlucken, presste die Lippen aufeinander, die Hand vor den Mund, aber es brach aus dem Mund und durch die Finger. Dann stütze ich mich an die Hauswand, sah auf das Erbrochene zu meinen Füßen und würgte hellen Schleim.
Die Frau, die sich meiner annahm, tat es fast grob. Sie nahm meinen Arm und führte mich durch den dunklen Hausgang in den Hof. Oben waren von Fenster zu Fenster Leinen gespannt und hing Wäsche. Im Hof lagerte Holz; in einer offen stehenden Werkstatt kreischte eine Säge und flogen die Späne. Neben der Tür zum Hof war ein Wasserhahn. Die Frau drehte den Hahn auf, wusch zuerst meine Hand und klatschte mir dann das Wasser, das sie in ihren holen Händen auffing, ins Gesicht. Ich trocknete mein Gesicht mit dem Taschentuch.
»Nimm den anderen!“« Neben dem Wasserhahn standen zwei Eimer, sie griff einen und füllte ihn. Ich nahm und füllte den anderen und folgte ihr durch den Gang. Sie holte weit aus, das Wasser platschte auf den Gehweg und schwemmte das Erbrochene in den Rinnstein. Sie nahm mir den Eimer aus der Hand und schickte einen weiteren Wasserschwall über den Gehweg. Sie richtete sich auf und sah, dass ich weinte. »Jungchen«, sagte sie verwundert, »Jungchen.« Sie nahm mich in die Arme. Ich war kaum größer als sie, spürte ihre Brüste an meiner Brust, roch in der Enge der Umarmung meinen schlechten Atem und ihren frischen Schweiß und wusste nicht, was ich mit meinen Armen machen sollte. Ich hörte auf zu weinen.
Sie fragte mich, wo ich wohnte, stellte die Eimer in den Gang und brachte mich nach Hause. Sie lief neben mir, in der einen Hand meine Schultasche und die andere an meinem Arm. Es ist nicht weit von der Bahnhofstraße in die Blumenstraße. Sie ging schnell und mit einer Entschlossenheit, die es mir leicht machte, Schritt zu halten. Vor unserem Haus verabschiedete sie sich.
Am selben Tag holte meine Mutter den Arzt, der Gelbsucht diagnostizierte. Irgendwann erzählte ich meiner Mutter von der Frau. Ich glaube nicht, dass ich sie sonst besucht hätte. Aber für meine Mutter war selbstverständlich, dass ich, sobald ich könnte, von meinem Taschengeld einen Blumenstrauß kaufen, mich vorstellen und bedanken würde. So ging ich Ende Februar in die Bahnhofstraße.

Teil 1 – Kapitel 2
Das Haus in der Bahnhofstraße steht heute nicht mehr. Ich weiß nicht, wann und warum es abgerissen wurde. Über viele Jahre war ich nicht in meiner Heimatstadt. Das neue Haus, in den siebziger oder achtziger Jahren gebaut, hat fünf Stockwerke und einem ausgebauten Dachstock, verzichtet auf Erker oder Balkone und ist glatt und hell verputzt. Viele Klingeln zeigten viele kleine Apartments an. Apartments, in die man einzieht und aus denen man auszieht, wie man Mietwagen nimmt und abstellt. Im Erdgeschoss ist derzeit ein Computerladen; davor waren dort ein Drogeriemarkt, ein Lebensmittelmarkt und ein Videoverleih. Das alte Haus hatte bei gleicher Höhe vier Stockwerke, ein Erdgeschoss aus Diamant geschliffenen Sandsteinquadern und drei Geschosse darüber aus Backsteinmauerwerk mit sandsteinernen Erkern, Balkonen und Fensterfassungen.
Zum Erdgeschoss und ins Treppenhaus führten ein paar Stufen, unten breiter und oben schmaler, auf beiden Seiten von Mauern gefasst, die eiserne Gelände trugen und unten schneckenförmig ausliefen. Die Tür war von Säulen flankiert, und von den Ecken des Architravs blickte ein Löwe die Bahnhofstraße hinauf, einer sie hinunter. Der Hauseingang, durch den die Frau mich in den Hof zum Wasserhahn geführt hatte, war der Nebeneingang.
Schon als kleiner Junge hatte ich das Haus wahrgenommen. Es dominierte die Häuserzeile. Ich dachte, wenn es sich noch schwerer und breiter machen würde, müssten die angrenzenden Häuser zur Seite rücken und Platz machen. Ich erwartete, dass in dem herrschaftlichen Haus auch herrschaftliche Menschen wohnten. Aber da das Haus von den Jahren und vom Rauch der Züge dunkel geworden war, stellte ich mir auch die herrschaftlichen Bewohner düster vor, wunderlich geworden, vielleicht taub oder stumm, bucklig oder hinkend.
Immer wieder habe ich in späteren Jahren von dem Haus geträumt. Die Träume waren ähnlich, Variationen eines Traums und Themas. Ich gehe durch eine fremde Stadt und sehe das Haus. In einem Stadtviertel, das ich nicht kenne, steht es in einer Häuserzeile. Ich gehe weiter, verwirrt, weil ich das Haus, aber nicht das Stadtviertel kenne. Dann fällt mir ein, dass ich das Haus schon gesehen habe. Dabei denke ich nicht an die Bahnhofstraße in meiner Heimatstadt, sondern an eine andere Stadt oder ein anderes Land. Ich bin im Traum zum Beispiel in Rom, sehe da das Haus und erinnere mich, es schon in Bern gesehen zu haben. Mit dieser geträumten Erinnerung bin ich beruhigt; das Haus in der anderen Umgebung wiederzusehen, kommt mir nicht sonderbarer vor als das zufällige Wiedersehen mit einem alten Freund in fremder Umgebung. Ich kehre um, gehe zum Haus zurück und die Stufen hinauf. Ich will eintreten. Ich drücke die Klinke.
Wenn ich das Haus auf dem Land sehe, dauert der Traum länger, oder ich erinnere mich danach besser an seine Details. Ich fahre im Auto. Ich sehe rechter Hand das Haus und fahre weiter, zuerst nur darüber verwirrt, dass ein Haus, das offensichtlich in einen städtischen Straßenzug gehört, auf freiem Feld steht. Dann fällt mir ein, dass ich es schon gesehen habe, und ich bin doppelt verwirrt. Wenn ich mich erinnere, wo ich ihm schon begegnet bin, wende ich und fahre zurück. Die Straße ist im Traum stets leer, ich kann mit quietschenden Reifen wenden und mit hoher Geschwindigkeit zurückfahren. Ich habe Angst, zu spät zu kommen, und fahre schneller. Dann sehe ich es. Es ist von Feldern umgeben, Raps, Korn oder Wein in der Pfalz, Lavendel in der Provence. Die Gegend ist flach, allenfalls leicht hügelig. Es gibt keine Bäume. Der Tag ist ganz hell, die Sonne scheint, die Luft flimmert, und die Straße glänzt vor Hitze. Die Brandmauern lassen das Haus abgeschnitten, unzulänglich aussehen. Es könnten die Brandmauern irgendeines Hauses sein. Das Haus ist nicht düsterer als in der Bahnhofstraße. Aber die Fenster sind ganz staubig und lassen in den Räumen nichts erkennen, nicht einmal Vorhänge. Das Haus ist blind.
Ich halte am Straßenrand und gehe über die Straße zum Eingang. Niemand ist zu sehen, nichts zu hören, nicht einmal ein ferner Motor, ein Wind, ein Vogel. Die Welt ist tot. Ich gehe die Stufen hinauf und drücke die Klinke.
Aber ich öffne die Tür nicht. Ich wache auf und weiß nur, dass ich die Klinke ergriffen und gedrückt habe. Dann kommt mir der ganze Traum in Erinnerung und auch, dass ich ihn schon geträumt habe.

Source: Schlink, Bernhard. Der Vorleser. Zürich: Diogenes, 1997. 5-11. Print.

English: The Reader

Part 1 – Chapter 1
When I was fifteen, I got hepatitis. It started in the autumn and lasted until spring. As the old year darkened and turned colder, I got weaker and weaker. Things didn’t start to improve until the new year. January was warm, and my mother moved my bed out onto the balcony. I saw sky, sun, clouds, and heard the voices of children playing in the courtyard. As dusk came one evening in February, there was the sound of a blackbird singing.
The first time I ventured outside, it was to go from Blumenstrasse, where we lived on the second floor of a massive turn-of-the-century building, to Bahnhofstrasse. That’s where I’d thrown up on the way home from school one day the previous October. I’d been feeling weak for days, in a way that was completely new to me. Every step was an effort. When I was faced with stairs either at home or at school, my legs would hardly carry me. I had no appetite. Even if I sat down at the table hungry, I soon felt queasy. I woke up every morning with a dry mouth and the sensation that my insides were in the wrong place and pressing too hard against my bones. I was ashamed of being weak. I was even more ashamed when I threw up. That was another thing that had never happened to me before. My mouth was suddenly full, I tried to swallow everything down again, and clenched my teeth with my hand in front of my mouth, but it all burst out of my mouth anyway straight through my fingers. I leaned against the wall of the building, looked down at the vomit around my feet, and retched something clear and sticky.
When rescue came, it was almost an assault. The woman seized my arm and pulled me through the dark entrance into the courtyard. Up above there were lines strung from window to window, loaded with laundry. Wood was stacked in the courtyard; in an open workshop a saw screamed and shavings flew. The woman turned on the tap, washed my hand first, and then cupped both of hers and threw water in my face. I dried myself with a handkerchief.
‘Get that one!’ There were two pails standing by the tap: she grabbed one and filled it. I took the other one, filled it, and followed her through the entrance. She swung her arm, the water sluiced down across the walk and washed the vomit into the gutter. Then she took my pail and sent a second wave of water across the walk. When she straightened up, she saw I was crying. ‘Hey, kid,’ she said, startled, ‘hey, kid’ – and took me in her arms. I wasn’t much taller than she was, I could feel her breast against my chest. I smelled the sourness of my own breath and felt a sudden sweat as she held me, and didn’t know where to look. I stopped crying.
She asked me where I lived, put the pails down in the entrance, and took me home, walking beside me holding my satchel in one hand and my arm in the other. It’s no great distance from Bahnhofstrasse to the Blumenstrasse. She walked quickly, and her decisiveness helped me to keep pace with her. She said goodbye in front of our building.
That same day my mother called in the doctor, who diagnosed hepatitis. At some point I told my mother about the woman. If it hadn’t been for that, I don’t think I would have gone to see her. But my mother simply assumed that as soon as I was better, I would use my pocket money to buy some flowers, go introduce myself, and say thank you, which was why at the end of February I found myself heading for Bahnhofstrasse.

Part 1 – Chapter 2
The building on Bahnhofstrasse in no longer there. I don’t know when or why it was torn down. I was away from my home town for many years. The new building, which must have been put up in the seventies or eighties, has five floors plus finished space under the roof, is devoid of balconies or arched windows, and its smooth façade is an expanse of pale plaster. A plethora of doorbells indicates a plethora of tiny apartments, with tenants moving in and out as casually as you would pick up and return a rented car. There’s a computer shop on the ground floor where once there were a pharmacy, a supermarket, and a video shop.
The building was as tall, but with only four floors, a first floor of faceted sandstone blocks, and above it three floors of brickwork with sandstone arches, balconies, and window surrounds. Several steps led up to the first floor and the stairwell; they were wide at the bottom, narrower above, set between walls topped with iron banisters and curving outwards at street level. The front door was flanked by pillars, and from the corners of the architrave one lion looked up Bahnhofstrasse while another looked down. The entrance through which the woman had led me to the tap in the courtyard was at the side.
I had been aware of this building since I was a little boy. It dominated the whole row. I used to think that if it made itself any heavier and wider, the neighbouring buildings would have to move aside and make room for it. Inside, I imagined a stairwell with plaster mouldings, mirrors, and an oriental runner held down with highly polished brass rods. I assumed that grand people would live in such a grand building. But because the building had darkened with the passing of the years and the smoke of the trains, I imagined that the grand inhabitants would be just as sombre and somehow peculiar – deaf or dumb or hunchbacked or lame.
In later years I dreamed about the building again and again. The dreams were similar, variations on one dream and one theme. I’m walking through a strange town and I see the house. It’s one in a row of buildings in a district I don’t know. I go on, confused, because the house is familiar but its surroundings are not. Then I realized that I’ve seen the house before. I’m not picturing Bahnhofstrasse in my home town, but another city, or another country. For example, in my dream I’m in Rome, see the house, and realize I’ve seen it already in Berlin. This dream recognition comforts me; seeing the house again in different surroundings is no more surprising than encountering an old friend by chance in a strange place. I turn around, walk back to the house, and climb the steps. I want to go in. I turn the door handle.
If I see the house somewhere in the country, the dream is more long-drawn-out, or I remember its details better. I’m driving a car. I see the house on the right and keep going, confused at first only by the fact that such an obviously urban building is standing there in the middle of the countryside. Then I realized that this is not the first time I’ve seen it, and I’m doubly confused. When I remember where I’ve seen it before, I turn around and drive back. In the dream, the road is always empty, as I can turn around with my tyres squealing and race back. I’m afraid I’ll be too late, and drive faster. Then I see it. It is surrounded by fields, rape or wheat or vines in the Palatinate, lavender in Provence. The landscape is flat, or at most gently rolling. There are no trees. The day is cloudless, the sun is shining, the air shimmers and the road glitters in the heat. The firewalls make the building look unprepossessing and cut off. They could be the firewalls of any building. The house is no darker than it was on Bahnhofstrasse, but the windows are so dusty that you can’t see anything inside the rooms, not even the curtains; it looks blind.
I stop on the side of the road and walk over to the entrance. There’s nobody about, not a sound to be heard, not even a distant engine, a gust of wind, a bird. The world is dead. I go up the steps and turn the knob.
But I do not open the door. I wake up knowing simply that I took hold of the knob and turned it. Then the whole dream comes back to me, and I know that I’ve dreamed it before.

Source: Schlink, Bernhard. The Reader. Trans. Carol Brown Janeway. London: Phoenix, 1997. 1-7. Print.


The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón: our suggested reading.

¿Estás buscando algún nuevo libro que leer? ¿Una historia que te atrape y no te deje abandonar el libro hasta que lo termines? ¿Quieres conocer a un autor que construirá un lugar mágico para ti, de la misma forma que Gabriel García Márquez hizo con Macondo? ¿Un rincón lleno de misterio al que siempre desearás volver? Si tu respuesta es sí, continua leyendo…

Hace algunos años fui a una entrevista de trabajo, y hablando sobre mis hobbies, la persona que me entrevistaba me sugirió leer un libro de un tipo llamado Carlos Ruiz Zafón. No conseguí el trabajo, pero siempre le estaré agradecida por su recomendación. Así que permitidme que os presente La sombra del viento, y la increíble biblioteca que encontraréis en sus páginas.

La sombra del viento comienza en una oscura Barcelona tras la guerra civil, y nos cuenta la historia de un joven, Daniel Sampere, que es conducido por su padre a una biblioteca secreta, el Cementerio de los libros olvidados. Una vez allí, se le permite elegir un libro, que protegerá toda su vida. Daniel escoge La sombra del viento, una novela escrita por el enigmático Julian Caraz. Tras su lectura, Daniel se verá envuelto en una oscura búsqueda para encontrar información sobre la tragedia del autor, y la insólita desaparición de todas las novelas de Carax a manos de un misterioso extraño que se llama como uno de los personajes de dicho autor.

A este joven Sherlock español le echará un capote en su búsqueda un personaje fascinante, el ingenioso y siempre alegre Fermín Romero de Torres, un antiguo mendigo con demasiado cariño a los problemas. (Me encanta, tengo miles de citas subrayadas de sus discursos…). Con su ayuda, Daniel descubrirá una historia de asesinatos, locura, corrupción y secretos que deberían permanecer sin desvelar. Y también conocerá los distintos rostros del amor.

Para terminar esta breve nota sobre el libro, dejad que comparta las palabras de Michael Dirda en El Washington Post:

“… cualquiera que disfrute una novela que sea de miedo, erótica, conmovedora, trágica y apasionante debería salir corriendo a la librería más cercana y hacerse con La sombra del viento. De veras, debería.”

P.d. ¿Lo has leído ya? Si tu respuesta es si… ¿cuál es tu cita favorita? ¡Sería genial si la compartieses con nosotros!

la sombra del viento

Are you looking for a new book to read? A story that catches you and doesn´t let you leave the book until you finish it? Do you want to meet an author who will build a magical place for you, in the same way that Gabriel García Marquez did with Macondo? A place full of mystery where you will always want to return? If your answer is yes, keep on reading…

Some years ago I went to a job interview, and talking about my hobbies, my interviewer suggested me to read a book by someone called Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I didn´t got the job, but I will be always grateful for his recommendation. So let me introduce you to The Shadow of the Wind, and the amazing library you´ll find in its pages.

The Shadow of the Wind is set in a dark, post civil war Barcelona, and it tells the story of a young boy, Daniel Sempere, who is taken by his father to a secret library, the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. One there, he is allowed to select a book that he will protect for life. Daniel picks The Shadow of the Wind, a novel written by the enigmatic Julián Carax. After its reading, Daniel will be engaged in a gothic quest searching for information about the author´s tragedy, and the weird disappearance of all of Carax´s novels at the hands of a mysterious stranger named after one of the author´s characters.

This young Spanish Sherlock will be aided in his quest by a fascinating character, the witty and always good-humored Fermin Romero de Torres, a former beggar very fond of troubles. (I really love him, I have thousands of quotes highlighted from his speeches…) With his help, Daniel will uncover a story of murder, madness, corruption and secrets that should remain untold. And he will also know the different faces of love.

Just to end this brief note about the book, let me share Michael Dirda´s words in The Washington Post:

“… anyone who enjoys novels that are scary, erotic, touching, tragic and thrilling should rush right out to the nearest bookstore and pick up The Shadow of the Wind. Really, you should. “

Postscript: Have you already read it? If yes… what´s your favorite quote? It will be great if you shared it with us!