The bad girl/Travesuras de la niña mala, by Mario Vargas Llosa

This is Mario Vargas Llosa’s last book, published in 2006. I recognize that I felt curiosity for this book since the first moment I’ve heard of it. And I also recognize that I knew from the beginning that this was not the greatest novel of all times, nor his greatest novel, but still, I wanted to read it. So I did.

WARNING: This part of the post might contain spoilers.

They say it’s a love story, but I still can’t see any love in this novel, at least my eyes cannot see it. The story starts when Ricardo was a teenager living in Lima, in Miraflores, the neighbourhood where he grew up. He knows Lily, a Chilean girl and he likes her. All normal until now. Ricardo always dreamt about living all his life in Paris, so he eventually leaves Peru and moves to Paris where he starts to work as a translator for the UNESCO. A few years after he moved to Paris the false Chilean girl, now a young woman, appears again in his life. This time as a guerilla fighter. They meet, they spend some time together, they share the bad a few times and then she leaves. This is when the story becomes a repetitive description of all the appearances and disappearances of the bad girl whose name is always different, whose stories are always surprising (and invented most of the times). The only thing that is constant is her cruelty and her coldness towards Ricardo, “el pichiruchi” who is always trying to forget about her but as soon as she appears again he becomes one more time a foolish lover who believes again and again the lies of the bad girl.

I said that I see no love in this book, it’s true. In my opinion Ricardo is not in love with the bad girl, this self-destructive feeling cannot be love, but a sick obsession who makes him forget all the mischiefs of the bad girl as soon as their lips come together into a kiss to which most of the time the bad girl doesn’t even respond. The guerilla fighter, than wife of an important UNESCO representative, than lover (slave?) of a japanese gangster named Fukuda who almost kills her with his passion for perversions always came back to the “pichiruchi” when she had problems, or when she didn’t have them, just to hear some of those nice things that “men nowadays don’t say anymore”, but she wouldn’t stay with him forever because she couldn’t get used to a mediocre life as a “loving” wife of a two bit translator. Ricardo knew that from the beginning: she would leave again in search of a rich man to make her feel like a queen, but as much as he tried to he never really managed to forget about her, or at least stay away from her. There is still a good part for Ricardo in this story: even if she could’t live as a loving wife of a two bit translator, she could die this way, so at least he had her with him until the end.

This is not the greatest love story of all times, I have heard of better stories, but still, Mario Vargas Llosa does a very good job in writing it. Even if the story itself is not great, the way in which Vargas Llosa writes it is quite peculiar and I can say I liked it. Every time he starts a new chapter he does not start from the moment in which the previous chapter ends, but from a subsequent moment so you cannot avoid asking yourself what happened in this lapse of time so basically you cannot stop reading. He then comes back to what happened and then continues the story. This happens in almost all the chapters and for me, this is what made me read the book in three days (which is quite fast taking in consideration the fact that Alex doesn’t leave me much time for reading).

Also the book has lots of historical content, which is easy to read and quite revealing, and this is what makes you say, when you finish the book “At least I’ve learned something”.

Although, as I said before, it’s not a great novel, it’s an easy reading book which might entertain you for a while. So if you have the opportunity you should read it to see a completely different Vargas Llosa in action.

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The Departed, Scorsese’s most deserved Oscar


…and his only one. Martin Scorsese is a great director, this is something I know, you know, he knows, everybody knows. Taxi Driver, New York, New York, Goodfellas, Gangs of New York, The Aviator are just some of the titles that impressed the public, the critics, but that didn’t get to be read during the best director section of the great ceremony. Despite that, Martin Scorsese always kept on directing movies and his movies were still very very good movies, movies that didn’t leave us indifferent until one day the title of one of his movies was read during the best director section: The Departed. But still, there is a but. After Titanic I swore I would not see again any movie in which Leonardo di Caprio appeared. It seemed to me a very bad actor. I don’t know why. Maybe because the movie was very bad, maybe because of all the advertising stuff he was involved in after Titanic, the sex symbol he turned into after dying in Titanic. I remember I was 15 when I saw Titanic and I remember that half of the girls in my city were like “Wow” every time they saw him on TV or whatever. Anyway, independently of the reasons, I refused to see any movie in which Di Caprio showed his face since then. I have seen Gangs of New York in the meantime in which Di Caprio appears and it was not bad, not bad at all, but still it did not convince me. So here comes the doubt: The Departed was the movie for which Scorsese finally got the Oscar. If his other movies were brilliant this one should be at least amazingly brilliant to get the Oscar, so I must see it. On the other hand, in The Departed Di Caprio shows his face almost during all the movie, and I’m talking about 2 hours and a half. Should I see the movie? I have asked myself this question in several occasions until we finally decided to give it a chance and see it. It couldn’t be bad. It actually proved to be more than amazingly brilliant in the end.

The Departed is a movie of endless action, a movie with a crazy rhythm that doesn’t let you even breath during the 2 hours and a half that it lasts. A movie that needs your total attention and that gets your total attention without you even noticing it (something we’ve got used to in Scorsese’s movies). A movie that surprises you with changes that no one would expect. A movie with very deep dialogs, with a quite strong vocabulary which is still not exaggerated, a movie with a very good soundtrack, very very appropriate music. Scorsese finally found perfection with this movie, but he did not find it alone. The cast was a very important ingredient of this success and without it the movie would not have been even half as good as it is: Jack Nicholson, Alec Baldwin, Matt Damon, Leonardo Di Caprio (who really really surprised me with his interpretation in this movie) they were all brilliant actors.

The Departed was the movie that taught me to never judge a movie I have not seen and always give a chance to a movie independently of the actors that appear in it, a lesson I have learned before with other movies but never applied. I promise I will apply it from now on.

Now I recommend you to go to the closest video club, or start a search in Emule or on your usual torrents page and get this movie. But take care: Demonoid is under maintenance. Good luck and enjoy the movie!

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Cirque Du Soleil, simply amazing

I have never been a fan of the circus. I remember I went once or twice in my life to a circus show and it dissapointed me a lot, I found it fake, I found it deceitful. I have heard of Cirque du Soleil in the past but I have never seen one of their shows as, as I said before, circus was not one of my interests. Last night I had nothing to watch on TV so I decided to see a circus show. It was Cirque de Soleil’s La Nouba, maybe one of their most impressive shows. I loved it, I loved it so much that now I just can’t wait for them to come to Barcelona to have the opportunity to see them.

In the meantime here you have one of the best moments of La Nouba show:

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Dailylit, your daily dose of literature

Nowadays we all tent to say (and think) that we have no time to read. I always have books that I’d love to read but they use to spend months on the waiting list because there’s always something that occupies all my time: work, school, etc. Now there is a solution: Dailylit!

Dailylit is a page which offers a small dose of literature daily directly to your e-mail. You can subscribe and receive your book at a certain hour, everyday or only on weekdays. You can read it when you use to take a small break when you are at work, or when you use to spend the 20 minutes in front of the PC when you get home. It doesn’t have a very big collection of books, most of them are old books with expired copyright, but still, very good books and they are adding new books every now and then.

I have started to read Dickens’ Hard Times, and I really enjoy it. When I use to take my coffee I receive my daily installment and I enjoy it while I relax a bit. I still have 129 installments to go, but we’re getting there.

Very recommended!


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Are you really multitasking?

We use to say that we are multitasking because we are able to do more than one activity at one time successfully. We can speak with a client by phone, write an e-mail and respond to colleague who is asking if we want coffee or not. But do we really do all these things at the same time and do we really concentrate on each one of these things? Cientists have different opinions and until they make up their minds and come to a conclusion we will not know if we can really be multitasking or not. I always considered myself able to do various tasks at the same time, but still, science might study this and discover if this is really possible and how can it be achieved.

For the moment I have found some very interesting videos which demonstrate that the most important skill that helps us realize more than one task at the same time, aka the short term visual memory, is limited. We can only concentrate on 4 things at the same time. False? See the videos on this page and see how long it takes to find the difference between the two pics in each video.

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The Divine Child by Pascal Bruckner

The Divine Child is a novel proposing a new point of view, a novel of choices. Pascal Bruckner offers us in this book an answer to the question “What if I could decide not to be born?”.

Madeleine Barthelemy decides to give a good education to their children before they get born. Starting with the first month of pregnancy she begins the geography lessons, music and also mathematics. In order to obtain better results she contacts Dr. Fontaine who refuses at the beginning, but he eventually makes Madeleine’s children the most important thing in his life, his only chance to make himself known around to world for his methods of prenatal education.

After the foetus achieved the skills of an university student they asked for newspapers, they needed to know what was happening around the world. They finally got a little bit dissapointed so that Louis decides to stay inside his mother’s belly, he decides not to get born. His sister, Céline decides to get out of her temporary home and unfortunatelly as she was going out she started to forget all that she had learned; when she finally got out she wasn’t even able to speak. That made Louis believe he made the right choice, so despite of the sufferings and anger of his mother he decided to stay in. How is the life inside your mother’s womb? How much can a little boy fool the nature and science and live inside his mother?

Interesting quotes:

Louis talking to his mother:

Madeleine: “Little boy, stop acting childish and get out with your sister.”

Louis: “How ridiculous! Asking a foetus to stop acting childish.”

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Sant Jordi post

La Diada de Sant Jordi is a Catalan holiday celebrated on April 23, something similar to Valentine’s Day. It is also known as el dia de la rosa (the Day of the Rose) or el dia del llibre (The Day of the Book). In this day lovers use to exchange gifts: the boys give roses to their girlfriends or wives, and the girls give a book to their lover. All the streets are full of roses and you can hardly find a woman without a rose in her hands. This is my first Sant Jordi here and I was quite impressed as in the last days I have seen catalan flags all over the place (in cake shops, in florist’s shops, etc). Actually the rose I have received has a small catalan flag on it (it’s hard to find one without it, I know B tried to).

It is expected to sell a quantity of 5,5 millions of roses today and around 500.000 books, half of the books that will be sold during the whole year.

It is nice to walk on the streets and see all the roses exposed to attract more buyers, see the boys and girls walking hand in hand, one with a rose and the other one with a book, see them kissing and wishing their love will be always like that, a sunny day like today.

Also, today all Spain celebrates the Day of the Book and for that here goes the poem I have chosen for this special day:

Soy, este.
El que tú imaginas.
Aquel que dibujas con cada párrafo que pasa.

Y cuando me lees,
soy tan tuyo
que hasta me inventas.

Y no termino en el punto.
Me cuelgo de algún rincón
del laberinto de tu ser,
y soy de ti un trozo.

Me llevarás hasta en la mortaja
y aún después; atado a tu alma
surcaremos el infinito,
desde ahora juntos… (Marzio Girola, Soy)

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The rise of the “misery memoirs”

When I was little I remember there were a lot of magazines in which people told their sufferings (My story, Real stories, etc.). You could see on three or four pages the story of a girl that was abussed when she was little: that made her feel better (it’s always good to share) and lots of people read that and felt sorry for her and maybe felt identified with the girl. But why is that? It is true that when you write about your traumatic experiences it is easier to deal with the past, but why do people read that? I remember going home by train and seeing all the women in the train reading this kind of magazines, and you can still see this only that now this is not only present in magazines, but also in books.

But, in Great Britain, where people are seen as very cold, how can these kind of books get to be written and get to be bestsellers? Actually in Britain there are 3 such books in the top 10 best-selling papebacks. The atitude in Britain is changing, people are not afraid anymore of telling those intimate things and it seems there are a lot of readers for this new genre. How is this possible? Brendan O’Neill explains it is this article.18

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The Heretic by Miguel Delibes

A while ago I found the book in a library. I wanted to read it as I have read some other book written by Delibes and I always enjoy his writings. This is his last book and the most extensive. The main character is Ciprian Salcedo and the plot is build around his life: from his birth (the same year Luther’s Church was formed) until his tragic death. It’s a great novel, very human, that through Cipriano tells us the historic truths of that period, the proceedings of the Inquisition, the secret meetings of the Protestants and their conversations.

Cipriano always tried to fill empty spaces in his life: when he was born his mother died and his father thought he was guilty for her death and for this reason he never showed any proof of love to his son. Because of this Cipriano put all his life and love in hands of his nurse, Minervina. When he lost Minervina and realized that all his attempts to find her were useless he was empty again, and as his wife, Teodomira, couldn’t fill his emptiness he joined the group of Protestants from Valladolid trying to find what he was looking for. The novel describes a Valladolid reluctant to all that was new or changed, where all that was different from the beliefs of that time was rejected and punished.

The end of the novel is sad, describing the tortures of a merciless Inquisition that killed in the name of God and Love. Cipriano’s death is similar to a religious death. Thanks to his uncle Ignacio, Minervina, the most important person in Cipriano’s life, could accompany him on the way to his death, which reminds us of Maria Magdalena and Jesus.

In spite of some thick passages the book is a great historical novel and at the same time the history of a life. A very recommended book.

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