Book Notes: Nation-building and Novels

Benito Perez Galdos is a 19th-century Spanish novelist who’s like Dickens or Balzac but better. And the reason you’ve never heard of him is Spain’s peculiar position vis-a-vis the “real” Europe. But please, please believe me: he is out of this world good.  

Galdos wrote a bunch of amazing (and very long) realist novels, and I read and loved them all. But aside from these novels, Galdos worked on an enormous life-long project of writing historical fiction. The project was called National Episodes, and it’s nation-building at its best. And to think that I had never had time to read any but the very first novel in the project.

There are 46 novels in the project, and the series begins with the battle of Trafalgar and then goes on to cover the entire 1st half of the 19th century, that is, precisely the time when nation-states were being consolidated. 

History is the most ideological of human sciences, and history textbooks are as fictional as any novel. Which is why it makes more sense to use Galdos’s novels to learn about Spain’s history than actual textbooks. 

The Court of Carlos IV is the second novel in the project. It’s not Galdos’s best writing but it’s still so good that I was reading maniacally, on every device in sight, unable to put the book down. The novel shows Spain on the eve of Napoleon’s invasion. It’s full of delightful 19th century gossip but the best part is watching the author manipulating history to suit his nation-building purposes. 

2 novels down, 44 more to go. I’m in paradise. 


Rich Bunnies Get a Consolation Prize

Hey, remember those two rich freaks at Yale who made a spectacle out of themselves wailing “You are hurting my fee-fees! You are fucking disgusting! I’m mortally wounded!” at a professor whose wife had written an email about Halloween costumes? 

This is the funniest news ever, so prepare yourselves. Yale responded by throwing the e-mail’s author off campus and giving the rich brats. . . an award! The award goes to two graduating seniors who, while maintaining high academic achievement, have provided exemplary leadership in enhancing race and/or ethnic relations at Yale College. 

Of course, if you don’t constantly praise every rich little bunny on that campus, the parents might get sore and not endow any more buildings but I wish the consolation prize given to these particular wounded darlings were at least worded differently. 

UBI in Catalonia

By the way, the parliament of Catalonia just passed a bill guaranteeing a UBI of about €600 a month to everybody, including illegal immigrants. 

Until now, Spain has had no far-right parties and no anti-immigrant sentiment. Clearly, Catalonia’s law-makers decided to change this.  


And by the way, all of these exclamations about how “nothing can be done, we will all be automated away, the liquid capital has won already” is nothing but a socially acceptable form of capitulating to capital, so to speak. I wish people just honestly said, “I’m doing well and everybody else should go screw themselves” instead. 

Garlic Scapes

Finally, I found something I haven’t been able to get a hold of for decades: garlic scapes. The young farmer at the farmer’s market who was selling them was stunned that I could identify them. They taste amazing in garden salads. I used to pick them at my first husband’s dacha back in Ukraine. I hated that darn place (although it was a beautiful huge house with a real fireplace and a big garden), and the garlic scapes were the only thing to reconcile me with being there.

A big bunch cost me a strange price of one dollar seventy six cents.

New Economy

That’s what the new economy should look like according to Zuckerberg and Co: 

You and I should work more and never retire to sponsor the existence of a disaffected underclass that will spend its life on Facebook and opiates paid for by your and my money. The underclass will be manipulated through Facebook and such to vote for people who will make this setup possible. 

Mind you, this doesn’t have to happen. We can set things up differently if that’s what we want. 

Zuckerberg Wants Public Funds

Zuckerberg supports UBI because it’s the best way for him to siphon off public funds into his own bank account. 

What will people on UBI do all day? Sit in Facebook and buy $3 bras and the rest of the crap off its ads. UBI is the best way to guarantee that taxpayers keep sponsoring the billionaires’ lifestyles.