Tag Archives: spain

El Iluminado by Ilan Stavans and Steve Sheinkin

El Iluminado by Ilan Stavans and Steve Sheinkin Title: El Iluminado
Author: Ilan Stavans and Steve Sheinkin
Publisher: Basic Books
ISBN: 9780465032570
Genre: Graphic novel
Pages: 208
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

“El Iluminado” reads like a Dan Brown thriller, which is good in many ways, because after all who doesn’t enjoy a good thriller, right? At the same time it is in graphic format – so that’s a double whammy right there for you.

This is the kind of book which is thought of quite rarely and now that it is out there, I recommend it to all and sundry.

What is the plot?

A man by the name of Rolando Perez falls to his death from a cliff outside Santa Fe, Mexico and this is where the story begins. How did he die? Was it suicide? Was he killed? What has this got to do with the Catholic Church and the Jews?

In all of this arrives Professor Stavans, who is just there to give a theological lecture on the history of Jews and talks about “crypto-Jews” of that area and how did they manage to come out to America from Europe. This of course is depicted as the “fictional” Stavans.

Without even knowing, Stavans is drawn into the mystery of Rolando’s death and to find some documents that could hold the key to it all. But that’s not it. In the midst of all this, there is another angle – of Luis de Carvajal also known as “El Iluminado” (the Enlightened One) – who was a sixteenth-century Spanish Catholic, who but obviously is a “crypto-Jew”.

So who are these “crypto-Jews”? Who are these mysterious people that keep popping up helping Stavans or not in his quest?

I thoroughly enjoyed this graphic novel. Stavans writes with great clarity and Sheinkin’s illustrations are simple and add to the story quite well. There are hints of it being real but largely this story is fictional. If you are fan of religions and want to know more about the displacement of the Jews and right from the sixteenth century or earlier than that, then this book is for you.

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Iluminado: A Graphic Novel

The Pilot and the Little Prince : The Life of Antoine De Saint-Exupery by Peter Sis

The Pilot and the Little Prince by Peter Sis Title: The Pilot and the Little Prince : The Life of Antoine De Saint-Exupery
Author: Peter Sis
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
ISBN: 9780374380694
Genre: Non-Fiction, Biography
Pages: 48
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

“The Little Prince” somehow makes it to some list or the other. It is also almost every reader’s most beloved classic. It is fondly remembered by both – the young and the old. What makes it so special? Why does the world recommend it to be read? The magic lies not only in its plot but also in the way it was written and illustrated by Antoine De Saint-Exupery. I did not know much about Saint-Exupery while reading “The Little Prince” or even after that, till I bumped into “The Pilot and the Little Prince” by Peter Sis online and knew that I had to own this book.

“The Pilot and the Little Prince” is about Antoine De Saint-Exupery, who was born in 1900, at the turn of the century when everything was new and progressing. Everything was developing. The world was in constant change mode and full of new inventions and technology, not to forget the most important invention of them all – airplanes.

The Pilot and the Little Prince - Image 1

Saint-Exupery always dreamed of flying, far and wide and beyond everything else. So much so that he learned how to fly against his mother’s wishes and decided that all he wanted to do was fly. So much so that he would even tie cloth to his bicycle in the hope of it flying someday.

The Pilot and the Little Prince - Image 2

The book is about a man’s discovery of who he wanted to be and what it sometimes takes to be who you want to be. “The Pilot and the Little Prince” juxtaposes the lives of both, Antoine and the little prince and how he got to writing this book.

What is also most surprising is that this was not his first book (contrary to popular belief) and also the fact that his other works are equally good if not more. What struck me most about the book is the way Peter Sis has encapsulated his life in forty-eight pages. Page after page, the reader is treated to the blue of the ocean, to the glow of the sky and also to the blood of the German’s assault on France in WWII, where Antoine was enlisted as a war pilot.

The Pilot and the Little Prince - Image 3

From his plane, he reflected on life and what lay before him. He thought of things magical and life that went beyond the ordinary. Antoine also read books on his plane. He just wanted to fly and write about his experiences and in 1943 of course his masterpiece, which we all know as “The Little Prince” was published.

On July 31, 1944 he took off for a flight to photograph enemy positions east of Lyon and never returned. That was the end of a writer, an aviator and a human being who only wanted to talk about what he saw and observed.

The Pilot and the Little Prince - Image 4

“The Pilot and the Little Prince” is a delightful book. It is brief, beautifully illustrated and yet takes a lot of time to read through and sink in the marvelous illustrations. This is a book meant for both children and adults. It is the kind of book that will warm your heart and yet leave you melancholic.

Here is a trailer of the musical produced by Andrew Lloyd Weber of “The Little Prince”:

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Buy The Pilot and the Little Prince : The Life of Antoine de Saint

Book Review: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The Shadow of the Wind Title: The Shadow of the Wind
Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Publisher: Penguin Books
ISBN: 978-0143034902
Genre: World Literature, Literary Fiction
Pages: 487
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I have always believed that a book finds you, if it wants you to read it. I think that happens to most of us – to the reader who waits patiently for the book to come along and take him or her on a ride that cannot be forgotten. Two people and very different people at that told me to read, “The Shadow of the Wind”. I always wanted to, but did not. I guess my time had to come on its own. I had to wait for the book and it has been a wait worth it like no other.

“The Shadow of the Wind” by Carlos Ruiz Zafon is everything you expect from a well-written book. The plot makes you turn the pages. The sentences and language make you fall in love with the writer’s thought process. The characters make you connect with them at all levels of human emotions and more than anything else, this book is about love for literature and reading, and not letting the written word die.

The book is about the search of a boy, Daniel Sempere for the truth about the fate of Julian Carax, the author of a mystery novel (also named The Shadow of the Wind). Daniel adopts the book when his father, a bibliophile and a bookseller takes him to the metaphorical (or real) Cemetery of Forgotten Books and it is there that he owns the book and gets embroiled in its author’s life. He sets out to search for more books written by him and to know what happened to him. In all of this, he learns of someone who is named after one of Carax’s characters and has set out to burn every single copy of Carax’s books and will not stop at anything. Daniel gets involved with him as well and the story thickens. It is one tale after another, intertwined and encompassing the length and breadth of great storytelling, till the reader with bated breath reaches the end of the book.

The book is about Barcelona’s deepest and darkest secret that is about to be revealed, which of course the reader has to discover for himself or herself.

Zafon’s characters are haunting and well thought after. He is the master of mood setting. Every page speaks of scenes with mists, clouds, evenings, darkness, the pale lamplight, thunder, rain and Zafon brilliantly so makes the reader a part of his atmosphere and setting, so much so that I actually thought I was living all of it in Barcelona (where the story is set). Zafon speaks of books like living beings, which I also think they are and he makes them real for the readers in his book.

To a very large extent, the book is extraordinary because of the way the author is treating every word – with great caution and love. When this happens in a book, it is but natural that the reader will also read every word with great love and joy.

With reference to the setting, which is Barcelona before the Spanish Civil War, Zafon talks of politics and life with great passion and almost wants the reader to know how important the setting is to the story. Books about books have always fascinated me and this was also one of those reads. It is very difficult to classify “The Shadow of the Wind” in one genre and yet to a large extent I think the book belongs to Literary Fiction as it covers almost every aspect of life and living. There is courage, intrigue, love, fairy tale quality, Goth, redemption, politics, love, hate, passion and almost every other emotion and characteristic that you can think of in the book. The quality of writing, the old school setting, the power of storytelling, the characters and the plot, all come together and speak of books and reading and the love for them. I could go on and on about this book and the writing, but you know what I mean when I say: Read this book soon or let it find you the way it found me.

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Book Review: The Threads of the Heart by Carole Martinez

The Threads of the Heart by Carole Martinez Title: The Threads of the Heart
Author: Carole Martinez
Publisher: Europa Editions
ISBN: 978-1609450878
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 400
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I used to think that there would be no one who would write like Marquez. No one who would be able to create the same magic and weave words that remain stuck in memory and stories that do not get erased, stories that you do not want to forget, long after you have read them. And then to soak the book in entirely, with every word and sentence almost resonating is not easy for an author. The readers more so can act on a whim and drop a book if they want to. The writer on the other hand continues to write. Back to the Marquez track; I have just finished reading, “The Threads of the Heart” by Carole Martinez and this has been the only book in a very long time that has reminded me of Marquez’s writing like no other. A cracker of a read and at the same time, way too emotional and wondrous.

“The Threads of the Heart” is a story of women in a family. The men are almost non-existent or are around as props. Carole Martinez sets her book in Spain and takes it all the way to Africa. That is another thing that struck me and kept me glued to the book. The book centers on Frasquita, who the people of her village believe has healing powers. They think of her to be a sorceress even. She possesses a gift, handed down in her family to generations of women – that of creating gowns and garments that almost seem to have a life of their own. They are capable of anything when worn and sometimes when not. That is Frasquita’s magic. As usual, she is envied for her gift. She and her children are banished from the village. She undertakes a journey to Africa on foot and that is when her life begins.

The writing as I said, reminded me of Marquez and other Latin American writers or writers who write of distant lands and magic thrown in for good measure. What got me going with this book was but of course the way it was written and at the same time, the way the characters were shaped and the plot that moved in various directions. The minor characters had their own charm however Frasquita took my breath away, every time she appeared in the pages. She is an adulteress, she believes in free love and above all she believes that love and magic can heal anything and wants a better life for her family. The story is narrated by her youngest daughter and I loved the third person perspective. The first half is full of magic, the second half is full of issues (or at least that is what came across to me).

The book was originally written in French and translated to English by Howard Curtis. I do not know how the book is in French – the way it is written and the way it reaches out to the readers; however its translation (considering I have only read that) is super. Over all, I loved the read. It was different, magical and truly stupendous.

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Book Review: Tomorrow Pamplona by Jan van Mersbergen

For a great foreign language  book to be known that well and widely acclaimed, is always dependent on the translator. Great translators do half the job of making the book great and that I say from experience. For me it is always important that the translator knows what he/she is doing with the book and Laura Watkinson knew what she was doing when she translated Tomorrow Pamplona, written beautifully by Jan van Mersbergen. I would love to thank the publisher – Meike Ziervogel for publishing this brilliant small piece of work.

Now to the book: Tomorrow Pamplona is a book about almost everything and more – it is about love, family, betrayal, and all this on a road to self-discovery. On the path to knowing what it means to be human and what does one do at the crossroads of one’s life? So the book is about a road-trip – a strange trip at that, which takes place between a professional boxer and a family man. Both want to escape their routine existence. Both want a better life, according to them. And in that elusiveness of the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, they discover themselves and what they really want to be.

Why is the book titled Tomorrow Pamplona? Because both of them are going to the Pamplona Bull Run, with the nagging thought that they have to eventually get back home. That is the situation with most of us – the drab and dull lives that we lead. Tomorrow Pamplona is written with a lot of heart and soul and that is why readers all over can relate to the book and what it says. For me, Tomorrow Pampona was one of those books that make you want to reassess your life – the do’s and the do nots. The want and the yearning to escape and may be that is why the book will hit a note and resonate in our hearts and minds long after the book is done with.