Amin Maalouf – The First Century After Beatrice

I have just finished reading Amin Maalouf’s “The First Century After Beatrice” and as it was one of those books you can’t just set aside after turning the last page and continue your daily routine, I thought of sharing with you how much I liked it.

Amin Maalouf for those who didn’t read for him before is a Lebanese writer, currently living in France. He worked in the field of Journalism which permitted him to travel to different places. Then he decided to concentrate on literature. He wrote some non fiction such as The Crusades Through Arab Eyes (VERY RECOMMENDED!!), and many fiction novels, such as Leo Africanus Samarkand,,,etc. Most of his novels can be considered Historical Fiction as he bases the main lines on actual events.

In The First Century After Beatrice, Amin Maalouf mixed between his indepth social analysis style and documentation, but instead of writing about the past, the narrator in this story is telling events in the future (the first decades of the 21st century). The main theme of the novel is the spread of a drug that gives the parents the possibility of choosing having a baby boy and not a girl. And because this is the dream of so many cultures through out history, this drug was spread worldwide, resulting in a disastrous imbalance in the demography ratio between male and female. And suddenly, all of the buried fears of going extinct and the hate towards one another exploded!!

Not a very pleasant future, hein!

For more info:
Amin Maalouf Blog: http://www.aminmaalouf.net/en/
Amazon review: http://www.amazon.co.uk/First-Century-After-Beatrice/dp/0349105995

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Trading the world!

“Ok, you can have France and Canada, but give me Luxembourg.”
“You’re kidding! You really want Luxembourg?”
“If it’s all right with you.”
“Well, give me Abyssinia for two Polands, and we could do a deal.”
“No, not Abyssinia. Take France and Canada for two Polands.”
“No way!”
“All right, then, give me back the India I gave you yesterday for Venezuela.”
“India? Here, it’s yours. What do I want with India anyway? To tell you the truth, I changed my mind about it last night.”
“Did you change your mind about Turkey too by any chance?”
“I sold Turkey already. Otherwise, I’d give it back to you.”
“In that case you don’t get the Germany I promied you yesterday. I’d rather tear it up.”
“Big deal. You think I care?”
We had been haggling for an hour, sitting in the middle of the street trading stamps. We were still arguing when Javer came by. He said, “Still carving up the world, I see.”

Chronicle in Stones – Ismail Kadare

Albanian Language

This language barrier is quite frustrating at times. Those fluent in Italian have a better chance in communication, because most of the people here know it as Italian TV was their secret entertainment channel in the old days of Enver Hoxha.

I try little by little learning Albania, but it’s kinda hard. My vocabulary so far is very limited. I only know how to say:

  • Thank you : Falemenderit
  • Good: Mire
  • Yes: Po
  • No: Jo
  • how much? : sa?
  • Pig: Derri (for restaurants)
  • Beef: vici

And some of the numbering: një, dy, tre, katër, pesë, gjashtë, shtatë, tetë, nëntë. Which is from 1 to 9.

Worth mentioning that they pronounce J as the Y in Year, so Jo is pronounced as Yo, this was confusing in the first few days, but now I got used to it somehow.

In Albania (part 2)

I hoped to write more extensively on my past 2 weeks here, but as I’m not yet settled, I’ll just talk about few things.

It’s summer time and it is so hot. Albanians are witnessing a change in their climate, I heard that in June they faced unexpectedly a 2 weeks of non stop raining and it was really cold, and now it is unexpectedly hot.

People generally go to the nearby coastal city (Durres), it’s only 40 km away and with the new highway, it takes less than an hour to go there.

Women are mostly very pretty, as they like to take care of themselves. They are mostly slim thanks to jogging around the lake and eating almost nothing compared to the Egyptians!  Summer dresses and short skirts are the official wear for women (young and old). It is cheerful seeing all these summer colours, but for me I’m not used to seeing this on the streets or at work places, especially I’m not used at all to the hot shorts that girls are so fond of. They wear it everywhere, even at the airport, the restaurants,,, etc!

On the other hand, I didn’t witness a single harrassment incident on the streets. There was only a one time when two guys in a car stopped in the middle of the street to check out a pretty girl crossing the road…

It’s amazing how the current generation was able to shift swiftly from the old communist era and the turbulent phase they passed through in the 1990’s! Oh they faced a lot, but that’s another post…