April 15th, 2010


April Books 9) One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel García Márquez

I had read this many year ago, but it popped up on one of my various reading lists last week. It's about a small town called Macondo, founded in the middle of the jungle (though also confusingly near the Caribbean, and not far from the Pacific) and the people who live there, especially the Buendía family who dominate Macondo for several generations. Along with the everyday political fare of revolutions, war, execution of the losing side, etc, there are recurrent surges of magical realism, alchemy, peculiar family relations, children born with tails, and towards the end an unfortunate Belgian who gets sucked into it all.

There is tremendous scope and vision here, but it's not for the faint-hearted. I imagine that Márquez's dense prose sings rather better in the original Spanish; the Penguin translation doesn't really sing for me. Also I was mostly reading it in short bursts on planes which probably didn't help. But it is very enjoyable.

April Books 10) Seasons of Plenty, by Colin Greenland

I read the first in this series, the multiply award-winning Take Back Plenty four years ago, and am now at last catching up with the other two. Seasons of Plenty has the massive spaceship Plenty, commandeered by Tabitha Jute at the end of the previous book, setting off for (with any luck) Proxima Centauri, loaded with many inhabitants of different communities and factions, and also endowed with a certain life of its own. Not a lot actually happens - there is a feeling of setting the scene for the third book, while just travelling from A to B. It's oddly reminiscent of A Hundred Years of Solitude, which I was reading at the same time, except that Plenty really is a closed social space (which Macondo is not). It's difficult to imagine such an enterprise being quite as anarchic (or indeed diverse) as Greenland paints it, but if you can swallow that premise it is fun.

A useful piece of trivia

The highest capital cities in the world (eight at over 2000m):

Sucre (Bolivia) 2783m, though seat of govt is La Paz at 3660m
Quito (Ecuador) 2763m
Thimphu (Bhutan) 2736m
Bogota (Colombia) 2619m
Asmara (Eritrea) 2363m
Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) 2362m
Sana‘a (Yemen) 2253m
Mexico City (Mexico) 2216m

Data from here. There's then quite a jump from Mexico City to the next highest, Kabul (1807m).

Having just arrived in Addis, I wondered what it was that was making me feel more tired than I expected, and also why the weather was rather cooler than I had expected for 9° north of the Equator. Now I know.

(Also I bet there is no really measurable difference in alitude between here and Asmara!)

Political poster fun

I have my doubts about the UUP/Conservative narrative, but I have to admit they have been running a good campaign so far; their special election broadcast was rather good (compared to the SDLP's which was awful). Now they've pulled a beautiful stunt on the DUP, which may not get many votes but does get my applause for its chutzpah.

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I remain sceptical as to whether the voters of Northern Ireland actually care particularly about electing members of the main Westminster parties, but I admire the way the message is being delivered.

Though in the latest development, it seems that both parties may have breached terms of use for the photographs!