Two books, two women

September 21, 2009

Laura Diaz and Mari are two characters that could not be more further apart.

Carlos Fuentes (Mexico) and Haruki Murakami (Japan) are also two favourite writers of mine. Both readings were fascinating and yet, how different their main characters.

Diaz-After Dark

Laura Diaz is the passionate woman who fascinated me in Carlos Fuentes’ book : “The Years with Laura Diaz”.

Mari is a shy and rather reserved young person around whom Haruki Murakami  wrote an eerie novel, “After Dark”, a book  you cannot put down easily. In fact I read it in a few hours, almost in the story real time.

Laura Diaz lives mostly in Mexico  whereas Mari’s story is set in Tokyo.

“After Dark” is a story of encounters in the hours between midnight and 7 am on a particular night. “The Years with Laura Diaz” lead you all along the 20th century  and the main events that marked that period.

Tetsuya Takahashi is Mari’s encounter during that night. The men in Laura Diaz’ life bring her to various places in Mexico, North America and Europe.

The writing style of these two books is very different too. In Carlos Fuentes’ novel it is flamboyant and very descriptive,  South American writers excel in it.  In “After Dark”,  Haruki Murakami writes about reality or dreams with a more concise style and shorter sentences, always making you want to read further and see beyond the story itself.

Laura and Mari are women you get attached to until the last page.  I almost regretted closing these two books, wishing that the story would go on and on. Imagining another end. Laura, Mari will stay with you for a good while should you decide to read those novels.

Sparks of Central Asia

January 16, 2009

mosaique-asie-centrale-blog1

Mid-March in Moscow, the roads of the city were still bordered with heaps of wet and dirty snow, the sun had been scarce and timid for months,  the temperatures  still low. During a vacation, I felt like heading South for a while and spend a few days in Central Asia. I chose the Republic of Uzbekhistan for all I had read about Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva, the Silk Road, the famous astronomer Ulug Beg, Tamerlan’s loved wife, Bibi Khanum and more. Those ancient and brilliant civilisations that I had been dreaming of learning more about and seeing what the present cities looked like.

I think the Aeroflot flight took about 6-7 hours from Moscow to Samarkand. It was my first flight outside the Russian capital since I had arrived there in the late Fall. A great excitement ! As soon as the plane landed and the doors of the Tupolev were opened,  all passengers were welcomed by Spring.  We had left snow and a cold Winter in Moscow and found sunshine, flowerbeds, a sweet scent of roses in the parks,  along the roads leading to the center of Samarkand. What a joy ! I will never forget my first day in Central Asia. It looked definitely like another continent to me, one of colours (the  clothes Uzbeks were wearing as well as the blue mosaics covering many ancient buildings and medresse, islamic schools).  A world of scents I discovered going to the market, so many more vegetables and fruits than in Moscow at the same season ! I bought peaches, grapes, figs, even cherries if I remember well. I ate  spicy roasted lamb kebabs in small shops along the streets, I loved drinking glasses of a strong black tea in a “tchaikhanas” (houses where tea is served). I just enjoyed strolling around, trying to find my way in the narrow alleys leading to hidden palaces and antique ruins.  People were friendly and eager to meet foreigners at that time but talking to them was a bit difficult; my Russian knowledge was still poor, I did not know any word in uzbeki arabic. Sometimes I would find someone understanding a bit of English or German. But still I was welcomed anywhere I went and helped and guided as much as possible.

It has been a long time since my travel to Uzbekhistan,  politics and new ways of life brought changes there too, good or less so. The Uzbekh Republic no longer belongs to the Soviet Union, wars have been raging at its borders, time surely has left its marks on this ancient world like everywhere else. My memories of this journey (far too short) to the ancient Uzbekh cities remain  filled with admiration for all its historic figures, the architecture of its monuments that bears witness to a prestigious past. And last by not least, the warm welcome I received by the people I met.