I would like to wish all readers and whoever visits this website (it can’t be too many) a Happy Easter. It’s a nice sunny day here, I hope it is too wherever you are.

As a Easter message, I give you here Strindber’gs words from a book I recently edited and published:

“All the errors and mistakes which we have made should serve to instil into us a lively hatred of evil, and to impart to us fresh impulses to good; these we can take with us to the other side, where they can first bloom and bear fruit.

That is the true meaning of life, at which the obstinate and impenitent cavil in order to escape trouble.

Pray, but work; suffer, hut hope; keeping both the earth and the stars in view. Do not try and settle permanently, for it is a place of pilgrimage; not a home, but a halting-place. Seek truth, for it is to be found, but only in one place, with Him who Himself is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

(August Strindberg,The Blue Book“)

August Strindberg, by the way, also wrote a wonderful little play called “Easter”, it’s one of his least known works, but it’s very good. It’s one of his least gloomy plays, even with some humorous moments. You can find it at Gutenberg.

People who know me know that I have been very critical almost from the very start of the whole global reaction to “Covid” and the unprecedented use of authoritarian measures such as forced masks and “lockdowns”, among other measures which have proven to be not only useless, but harmless.

I am also very wary of this strange mass vaccination campaign with a new technology whose long-term effects we do not know, and ideas such as “vaccine passports” (to my mind, vaccinations should be optional and never forced, directly or indirectly).

Now, many people are hoping that as the pandemic eventually subsides, things will get back to “normal”. But will they? Hasn’t “normal” already changed by the imposition of such norms and such technology?

Let’s say the pandemic ends, everyone is happy, we don’t hear so much about “Covid” again. Great. But then, some other virus comes up, or perhaps it’s “global warming”, or “bio-terrorism”, or some other natural or artificial accident. Won’t governments and authorities immediately go into the same, or perhaps even worse, measures?

Once they have been deployed, things like constant surveillance, almost total digitalization of money, education and entertainment, imposition of “social distancing”, etc, won’t go away. Just like having to take off your shoes or not being able to bring a water bottle before boarding a plane have never gone away, even if there was only one (very suspicious) case of a “shoe bomber” and, as far as I know, no cases of “water bottle” bombers.

So, no, I don’t think we will go back to “normal”, we are already in “normal”, this is “normal” now. Whether you like it or not.

(For more about where this “new normal” can take us, read my short story “The Great Unvaxxed” published at the Off-Guardian.)

My short story “You don’t know what real loneliness feels like” was just published at the New English Review, April 2021 edition (they shortened the title to “Loneliness”, which I don’t like so much, but it’s OK). The story “The Great Unvaxxed” was also recently published in the Off-Guardian (March 29).

Both stories are part of the collection “The Sphere”, available at Amazon or at a cheaper price on our shop. It is a book with just a few short stories written during the ‘pandemic’ of 2020/2021.

I may be publishing other stories and articles in the near future, so keep a look for that. I will post the links here.

P. S. Also “Scenes from 2030” was published now at the Off-Guardian. That one is more humorous, check it out.

I have to admit I never liked Dr. Seuss’s books. I don’t know why, but neither the illustrations nor the poems were attractive to me either as a child or as an adult, and they were not part of my childhood in any case. I was reading other stuff, such as Tintin, Asterix and classic fairy tales.

That said, the current announcement that the company now representing Dr. Seuss’ work will no longer publish some of his books because they can be “offensive” for readers is a bit troubling. The modern mania of changing the past to accommodate to the present’s preconceived ideas, as if we were somehow more enlightened or wise than any people in the past, is a form of insanity; in that case, we should “cancel” almost all literature written before the 20th century.

The books “cancelled” are not the most well-known or Dr. Seuss’s biggest best-sellers, so perhaps the publishers just wanted to discontinue them anyway, and this was just a good excuse. It is a bit suspicious that, while the books are characterized as “offensive”, none of the news articles explain exactly why. I had to search for the actual text of the books, and even then, the only thing I could find was that one of those books mentions, once, the word “Chinaman”, which has fallen out of favor. In other books, it appears that the problem is the illustration of foreign cultures in stereotypical clothes, but again, nothing particularly very “offensive”, except to modern sensibilities.

The reader can judge by himself. You can find two of the no-longer-to-be published books in pdf form here: “If I ran the Zoo” and “And I think that I saw it in Mulberry Street“.

Martin Scorsese has just published an article about Fellini at Harper’s magazine, but which also discusses a bit the current sad state of cinema. Today, he says, everything has become merely indistinct “content”, and the magic of cinema and its artistic auteurs has been lost.


I tend to agree. When I was a teenager, I used to go to the now defunct street cinemas, or to specialized art cinemas, to watch films by Fellini, Truffaut, Renoir. Granted, in the 80s and 90s this was already a culture in extinction, much farther from the golden age of the 1960s and 1970s that Scorsese mentions, but there were still a few remains of that era.
Then the local cinemas were replaced by the multiplexes, which would show mostly super-hero movies or other blockbusters. Auteur or art cinema became an even smaller niche. And then cinema was replaced by television and streaming.

Going to the cinema is a social experience, closer to going to the theatre or to church; watching a film on television or VCR reduced this experience to a smaller screen and the familiar unit. People no longer paid so much attention to what was on the screen, it became a sort of mere background for other activities. Fellini was already very critical of television; he mentioned it in several interviews, and his “Ginger and Fred”, one of his last works, from the 80s, is a satirical view of the medium.

Today, of course, it’s even worse in some ways. Television was replaced by streaming, and the familiar unit was further reduced to an individual, watching it most likely on a cell phone screen. The reduction of the screen size and of the viewing public reflects the growing social atomization that took place in the last decades, culminating in the current “corona” lockdown where people are “social distancing” and locked in their own homes.

It was the final nail in the coffin of cinema as a social spectacle, and who knows if it will return? Even if the lockdown is lifted and people start going again to the cinemas, it is unlikely that the auteur era will return. This doesn’t mean that cinema as an art is dead, but its golden age seems long past.

It took me a while to start reading this book, or rather, this series of four books also called “the Neapolitan tetralogy”. I had heard about it the first time around 2009, of course, when it became a surprising best-seller all over the world. But I was a bit suspicious of it, maybe even a bit prejudiced. First, because it was a “best-seller”, and second because it was written by a woman. Not because I don’t like women writers in general, but because the themes that they tend to be more interested in (love, relationships, female psychology) tend to interest me less than other themes…

But I was, of course, wrong. The books are actually very well-written and engaging, what one would call “page-turners”. They might even a bit soap operish, but in a good way: lots of drama and surprising twists, and usually very easy to read.

One possible problem of the book, although I am not sure if it is necessarily a problem, is that the character of the friend, Lila or Lina, is (for me, at least) so much more interesting than that of the narrator and protagonist. But during a lot of the time the story focuses more on “Elena” and her mundane problems with her family, her lovers, her writing career, etc, while Lina sort of disappears into the background.

Also Elena, contrary to Lina, does not seem to be the type of character that is always particularly very perceptive about her own reality: she is convinced that she’s a “good mother” when she takes extremely dubious decisions, or is sure that her relationships are “going well” when the opposite is quite clear.

Of course, as the story progresses, one feels more and more (and especially in the last part) that Lina, more than just a character, works really more as a sort of “dark alter ego” of the author, or as a symbol related to the city of Naples, an unstoppable force that somehow embodies the energies of the city.

And Naples, or more specifically its poor periphery (an unnamed “rione” or neighbourhood) where the two friends grew up is perhaps the main “character” of the series. Even if the protagonist Elena also wanders through Pisa, Rome, Florence and other parts of the world, the focus is always in the “rione”, which Lina never leaves.

The Naples that the story shows is a quite violent and sometimes very depressing environment. It is very different from what you may read or see in Eduardo de Filippo’s Neapolitan plays, for example. De Filippo also shows poverty, drama and occasionally violence, but he is almost always humorous and focuses more on the humanity of the characters, even when they are poor or desperate or make bad decisions. But Elena’s Neapolitans almost totally lack humor, and most characters, even when “friends”, have very harsh or complicated relationships with one another. There is not one family relationship or friendship in the book that seems to work even remotely well; everybody seem to be constantly fighting or trying to get their way with each other, or changing from friend to enemy on a whim; even Lina’s and Elena’s “friendship” is full of misunderstandings and aggressions.

Another observation: even though the book constantly mentions the “Neapolitan dialect”, it has very little of it. It mostly uses the standard Italian language for all of the dialogs (I’ve read the book in Italian; this wouldn’t apply to the translation), and maybe just a few local expressions (‘zoccola’ or slut is one that appears quite often). Now, if you’re even just a bit familiar with the Neapolitan dialect, you can see that it can be very colourful and characteristic, even if it can become impossible to understand, even for Italians (for an example, check the aforementioned plays by Eduardo De Fiippo, or the work of Neapolitan actor/director Massimo Troisi.) So while I understand why the author chose not to use it, sometimes it seems that it could give more life to the speech of at least some of the characters, who wouldn’t speak in formal Italian anyway. I don’t know; it’s a minor thing, and does not compromise the book.

I could go on, but I don’t want to give any spoilers. If you have the chance, read the book, it’s worth it. There is also a recent series based on it, but I didn’t watch it, and don’t plan to (I have my own image of the characters and I feel that the visuals chosen for the series might ruin it).

P. S. “Elena Ferrante” (not to be confused with “Elena Greco” which is the character of the book) is a pseudonym, and it is not clear who the real author is, as she has not come forward officially. Some say that she is actually the translator Anita Raja, which could or could not be true. Does it matter? Does it change the book in any way? I don’t think so. She has a new book now that just came out, not related to the tetralogy (“La vita bugiarda degli adulti”); I haven’t read it and not sure I will.

When you get to a certain age, which can vary according to the person’s temperament, you start to live more in the past than in the present, if only because you have more years of “past” behind you that you will likely have a “future” in front of you. Of course, being mostly a melancholic (see previous post about the temperaments), I tended even in my youth to focus more on the past than in the future (Pascal observed that humans rarely focus in the present, but either in the past or in the future).

But one thing that happens, I think to everyone, independently of their temperament, is the cementing of their musical taste, at least in what refers to pop music, and the preference for the music of the past, or more exactly of their youth.

For instance, nowadays I tend to listen mostly to classical music, but, if not, to rock/pop from the 60s, 70s and 80s. I know very little about, and have even less interest, in current pop music. The little I’ve heard of it seems awful, vulgar and stupid, but of course, I am not the target audience.

I hate rap and hip hop, which seems to be the most popular genre today, and I am not the greatest fan of electronic music either, with a few exceptions. Rock, for all practical purposes, seems to be basically dead. I mean, the era of the great rock bands finished in the 90s, really. If I think of the country where I grew up, Brazil, there were many great rock bands in the 80s and 90s (Legião Urbana, Ira!, Capital Inicial, Camisa de Vênus). A few of them, following the example of the geriatric Rolling Stones, are still active, but there are basically no new rock bands that are very popular. Most of what is popular are variants of synth pop or hip hop, usually extremely vulgar (i.e. what’s called “funk” in Rio).

Of course, even if there were great rock bands today, I probably wouldn’t listen to them, since Youtube and similar services basically allow anyone to find any song that they used to listen in their youth.

One of those songs, which I listened recently for the first time after decades, was a song by the Brazilian band Camisa de Vênus (which is a poetic name for condom – “Venus’s shirt” – but of course I didn’t know that when I was 13 and the song came out). It was popular in the 80s, and had a chorus like this: “Lena veja o que o tempo faz / com as pessoas que não querem perder o gás”, which could be translated literally as “Lena, see what time does / to those who don’t want to lose their gas”, but meaning really people who don’t want to lose their youth, but end up looking like pathetic middle-agers pretending to be still young and thinking that the things they enjoy and know are still cool, etc.

I don’t think I had this problem, because I wasn’t cool even when I was young… Nor did I care to, very much. Youth is fickle and superficial. Nelson Rodrigues, a famous Brazilian journalist and writer, once was asked what was the best advice he could give to the young, and he said: “Get old .” And that’s what they all did.

* * *

The photographs below (the photographs of photographs) were taken at a shop window in Altenburg, Germany, a few weeks ago. I don’t now what’s the context of the pictures, but I found interesting the juxtaposition of the images of the group of ladies dressed all the same way with aprons (workers in a factory?) with the vintage erotic photograph. The pictures seem to be from the beginning of the 20th century and of course all those people are long dead now.

It was said that certain primitive tribes of the Pacific didn’t like their photographs taken because they believed that “photographs can capture your soul”. Maybe they were right about that… There is something eery about mirror-like images that freeze your aspect in time and can last even beyond your earthly life. But of course, in those initial times of photography (early 20th century), taking a picture was a special event, you didn’t take one every day or every hour to post online as we do now. But what to think of the thousands of images that each of us now will leave for posterity, or at least to the limbo of the digital realm in the “Cloud”…?

I am writing a longer article for publication elsewhere about the “four temperaments”, but for now, this brief introduction will have to do.

The classic theory, coming from the Greeks, was that there were four basic personal temperaments: choleric, sanguine, melancholic and phlegmatic. They were related to the “four humors”: blood, yellow bile, black bile, phlegm.

While the biological aspect of the four humours has lost relevancy, I don’t think that the “four temperaments” did. In fact, recent personality theories are pretty much in agreement with the basic division, except that they are more complicated and call them something else (INTP, INJP, etc), or “The Big Five” personality types.

I don’t know, the old system seems much more intuitive. Also, four makes numerically and symbolically more sense than five or other larger numbers — and it makes it much easier to organize them in a square matrix, such as this one.

The Sanguine personality type is described primarily as being highly talkative, enthusiastic, active, social, and a bit superficial. Quick and shallow excitability – they always look for something new and keep changing their point of view).

The Choleric tend to be more extroverted, independent, decisive, goal-oriented, and ambitious, but also violent, vengeful, and short-tempered. Quick, but long-lasting excitability. They react rapidly and with energy to stimulus.

The Melancholic are introverted, analytical and detail-oriented. Deep thinkers and feelers, creative, but also reserved, indecisive, fearful and often anxious. Slow and deep excitability. They don’t react immediately, but impressions last long and can mark them deeply.

The Phlegmatic individuals tend to be relaxed, peaceful, quiet, and easy-going; they like mostly to eat and sleep and are not anxious at all, but also not so extroverted or filled with lofty ideals. Slow and shallow excitability. They forget things easily and don’t get worked up by most stuff.

A good and more detailed description of each type can be found here. For those too lazy or too phlegmatic to look into it, Wikipedia has the basic info.

According to the classification, I would obviously be a melancholic (although the system allows for a combination of types, so I could have elements of others, too). Melancholics are associated with autumn, with the Earth element, with the color blue (or black), with cold and dry qualities, with introversion and emotional instability, and with “black bile” (the bodily humor). Tendency to insomnia, dark dreams, pessimism, rheumatism. Also generally thin — body type is ectomorph. (More about the health aspects here).

It doesn’t seem to be possible to change your temperament, although you can train or educate yourself to reduce its most negative aspects.

I will shortly publish a longer article about all this, probably in our own magazine that is coming up.

English is not my native language. I write, or at least try to write in it because I’ve been living in anglo countries for many years, and because it has become a sort of universal language these days. But I never seem to master it completely, its mysterious core somehow always evades me; and I think the reason is that its logic and cadence are so different from what seems more natural to me.

I grew up speaking Spanish and Portuguese. Later I learned Italian and French (although my French could still improve). Latin or romance languages feel more musical, more normal. I like to read in Italian especially, perhaps it would be my favourite language, with French second.

English has some advantages. One of them is the extremely large vocabulary, shorter words and a relatively easy grammar (compared to, say, German or slavic languages). But other aspects of it, such as spelling and pronunciation, make much less sense. But I think the main difference is in the little things. Like the lack of diminutives: in Spanish you would say “casita”, in Italian “casetta”, in English you’d have to say “little house”. It’s just not the same thing.

Of course it has other advantages and its own kind of beauty and a certain flexibility that you won’t find in romance languages. I think the real problem, for me, is

There is a theory that language, and in particular the language of our childhood, determine or at least shape our thoughts. There is a certain truth to it, as ideas come also from the means to express them, or, rather, they are interdependent: you need words to express ideas, and you need concepts or ideas to form words. According to what is called the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, our experience of the world is based on the structure of the language we habitually use. According to Whorf, the formulation of ideas and thoughts is not a rational independent process but is determined by the particular grammar and vocabulary of the language in which these ideas are expressed. The world is organized and made sense of through language.

I don’t know; maybe there’s something to it, n’est ce pas? ¿No lo crees? E se non è vero, è bene trovato.

There is a lot of discussion about vaccines these days, particularly because fo the “corona” phenomenon. Personally, while I am not an “anti-vaxxer”, I tend to dislike taking vaccines, taking medicines, going to the doctor, etc. I suppose that, instead of being hypochondriac, I am actually a little bit iatrophobic. So I tend to avoid all kind of medical procedures if I can. But of course even I can accept that medicine and in particular modern medicine can be very useful sometimes…

Now there is a big discussion about possible side effects of vaccines, especially in light of the “corona” phenomenon. Of course, since a vaccine is basically an attenuated virus, it can cause side effects, at least in a minority of the population. Also, many vaccines contain thimerosal as a preservative, which is an organic compound that includes mercury, which, as we all know, can not be discharged by the body and is usually not very healthy. And the link between vaccination and a recent increase in autism has not been, as far as I know, completely debunked.

But the more worrying recent phenomenon is the push, famously by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, but also by others, of the “RNA vaccines“. While they do not “alter your DNA” as some argue (although DNA vaccines might), they work in a different way from normal vaccines, making your own organism produce a pathogen. Now, this may not be as scary as it sounds, but its experimental and radical concept seems a bit dangerous, and given that they have not even been tested in large scale in humans, the idea of using one to treat millions of people for “COVID” causes certain concern.

Of course, I should say that I am in general a bit skeptical of the whole “corona” phenomenon, and particularly of the sometimes excessively authoritarian lockdown measures that have destroyed many economies and livelihoods, as well as completely atomized even more social life, not always with an apparent need (I mean, I understand that certain measures needed to be taken by the authorities, but I am not sure if this global lockdown for so long and with such huge effects was worth its worse consequences; also there were so many conflicting regulations, from using to not using masks, and some silly ones, such as telling people to use masks outdoors, or inside your car, as many still do, which seems a bit pointless.) But that’s another story, for another day…

But since this is basically a blog about literature, I would like to conclude by mentioning a few (fiction) books that deal with this issue. The classic “War of the Worlds”, by H. G. Wells, can perhaps be seen as a propaganda for vaccination or immunization (as the powerful and technologically superior Martians are eventually killed by Earth pathogens to which they have no defence).

“The Decameron” also famously takes place during the plague in Italy, and Daniel Defoe’s “A Journal of the Plague Year”, which is nor a real journal but a novel, is also interesting. More recently, “Blindness” by José Saramago and “Anna” by Niccolò Ammaniti, are modern takes on very specific pandemics. The movie “La Jetée“, by Chris Marker, is a classic science fiction short about pandemics worth watching (it inspired the more well-known, but less interesting, “Twelve Monkeys”).

But specifically about vaccines, I don’t remember anything right now except H. P. Lovecraft’s “Herbert West, Reanimator“, which doesn’t seem to have a particularly benevolent view of doctors, medicine and such…

Evil Doctor trying out new RNA vaccine on his female victim.