Horacio Quiroga “The Exiles” – Guido Morselli “Dissipatio HG” – Christopher Priest “The Adjacent” – Yoko Ogawa “Revenge” – Roberto Calasso “The Ruin of Kasch” – Eugène Savitzkaya “In Life”

Thoughts on a few books:

The Exiles and Other Stories by Horacio Quiroga

In these stories, frontiersmen carve out a life in Argentina’s brutally hot Misiones jungle. Although they spend most of their hours hard at work, their mental life is consumed by the dull mid-afternoon hours when heat makes it impossible to do anything other than sit in the shade. Exhausted and bored, they’re tipped into madness by the humid hours of nothing.

Dissipatio HG by Guido Morselli

A man walks deep into a cave to kill himself. Hesitating at the edge of a deep underground lake, he thinks about the differences between Spanish and French brandy, then decides to go back outside. There, he finds that everyone in the world has disappeared into nothing.

The Adjacent by Christopher Priest

(Only read the following after you’ve finished reading The Adjacent.) Here’s what I think happens in this book: In three worlds, different version of the same man (Tibor/Tomasz/Tomak/Thom) is a decoy that Flo/Firentsa (and maybe Mel/Krys/Kirs?) hides behind while she secretly wins simultaneous wars, defeating a weapon that replaces existing things with nothing.

Revenge by Yoko Ogawa

In “Old Mrs. J,” one of the stories at the center of this book, a woman watches her landlord plant vegetables on a hill outside of her apartment. The landlord gives the woman some of these vegetables, misshapen carrots that look disturbingly like hands. When the police come to dig up the garden, they unearth the corpse of the landlord’s long-missing husband. But the husband’s body is missing one thing – its hands. The police search the entire garden for them but find nothing.

The Ruin of Kasch by Roberto Calasso

Calasso argues that the French clergyman and diplomat Charles Talleyrand is responsible for negotiating the transition from societies that were bound together by shared myth (the divinely ordained rule of kings) to societies that are bound together by the continual reconstruction of shared sets of values. The contemporary expression of this is through capitalism, where those who determine what society values get to keep the surplus of those values to themselves. Marx believed that surplus was wasteful, that it should be continually redistributed throughout society until it had been reduced to nothing.

In Life by Eugène Savitzkaya

Near the end of a book dedicated cooking, gardening, cleaning, and maintaining a home, Savitzkaya writes an apologia for rats: “Their capacity for love is inexhaustible. While we want them dead or nonexistent, they love and respect us for what we are – extravagant and carefree. They never want to leave our side.” In my home, rats work where I can’t find them. They can’t get inside my house. I only find them in my attic and my crawl space when they’re already dead. The only way I know they’re here is because of the scratching and tearing noises they make in the one place I can’t go – inside my walls. With Savizkaya, I agree on nothing.

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