I didn’t read much this year because with the war and my father’s death I haven’t been myself. That is, I read more than ever but it was mostly rereading old mysteries by Elizabeth George, Ruth Rendell, and Robert Galbraith. I read maybe 30 of those altogether, and they are all fun but that’s old news.
Of the new books, the following have won my very personal prize of the best reads of the year:
This will remain, once and forever, the year of Rafael Chirbes’s Diaries. I know there are fans of Cultural Amnesia on this blog, and Diaries are like that but to the power of 10,000. No, really. I know it’s hard to believe. It’s hard to believe for me, too, but yes, Diaries are that good.
I have encountered some outstanding books in English, too. They range from the strong realism of Stephen Markley’s Ohio to the exquisite postmodernism of Jennifer Egan’s The CandyHouse.
Also, in English, I am very glad to have found out the unjustly forgotten British authors JG Farrell (The Siege of Krishnapur) and Elizabeth Taylor (Angel and Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont).
Going back to Spanish, my favorite writers Horacio Castellanos Moya, Sara Mesa and Isaac Rosa have really impressed me with, respectively, El hombre amansado, Un amor, and Feliz final. These are all very anti-neoliberal and hugely enjoyable novels.
This year I also ventured into French (in translation) and loved Anéantir by Michel Houellebecq.
Since I’ve lost my reading rhythm, I have accumulated a reading list from here to Tuscaloosa, Alabama. This means I will be bringing some great new finds here soon. There are good things to look forward to in the coming year.
Somebody stole my Netflix account. The bastard changed my credit card to his immediately, so I have no idea why he’d want my account in the first place. But that’s what happened. He locked me out and I couldn’t regain access. All I could do was cancel it completely and start a new one.
As a result, Netflix no longer has my history of viewing. It recommends the saddest, sorriest crap to me, such as a movie (or a documentary or a series, whatever) about Megan Markle and Prince Harry. Poor N who also uses my account has no idea who these individuals even are, and I’d like to keep him innocent if their existence. Yet there they are, constantly thrust into our faces.
A large variety of shows about lonely, embittered middle-aged women is now being recommended to me. I never knew this was such a popular genre. As the mother of a first-grader, I’m living the life of somebody much younger, so the struggles of the women who are lonely and unneeded do not resonate.
No, this is not a bombed out building in Ukraine. This is an apartment building in the peaceful Russian city of Chelyabinsk where 40 families are living currently. Yes, they are living in the building while it’s in this state. They haven’t had any heating since 1987. Google Chelyabinsk to see what the temperatures are like in winter and understand what this actually means.
Here’s a video of the residents standing in front of the building:
В доме живёт 40 семей. Челябинцы просят губернатора расселить их из аварийного общежития — но пока им предлагают только коммуналки. В повреждении радиатора же чиновники обвиняют самих жителей
Note that they are all nicely dressed and sober. These are middle-class people with jobs and kids. You can find declassé elements living in bizarre conditions everywhere but these are not the declassé. These are normies. Taxpayers, which they mention specifically in the video.
I could post such stories all day and never run out of material. Not the mentally ill homeless, the gangsters, or the addicts (which abound) but normie moms like me living in these conditions. These are people with TVs and social media accounts who know that there are places where regular folks don’t live this way. They also have a conscience of having a glorious history and a highly spiritual, superior culture that saved the world from Nazism and enriched it with great literature, music, and philosophy. It’s normal for human beings to look for an explanation, a story that would explain this mismatch between what they know about themselves and what their reality tells them they are.
Remember the video I posted recently with the bus in the Russian city of Norilsk? Contrast it with the subway station in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv in wartime. If you saw these images in the US, Canada, UK, South Africa or wherever you are, these people have seen them, too. Ukraine was just like that, with those miserable, crumbling barracks and horrible buses. And then it stopped being like that.
It’s got to be absolutely maddening. The neighbor you always knew was just like you but kind of inferior and somewhat dumb suddenly living better – how absolutely unbearable. There are two ways out of this conundrum. You can either accept that something is wrong with you or – and this is always the easier way – you accept that there’s something wrong with the neighbor. Some huge, cosmic injustice might be taking place. And wouldn’t it make sense to go to war to battle this cosmic wrong, especially if what you have to come back to is this building?