Brain Gourmet

Multiple Choice

Multiple Choice - Alejandro Zambra, Megan McDowell I agree with those who label this little book as pretentious, but I guess I don’t mind pretentious as long the author:

a) Has something interesting to say
b) Says what he has to say in an interesting way
c) Is interested in transmitting something beyond what he is saying
d) Is not interested in how what is saying will come across
e) All of the above

I read this in one breath and will need a second read to exhale it now.
If the Russians were born drunk, and the French were born perverted, then the South Americans were born insane. And I love them for that, the way I love the French and the Russians – there is never a dull moment with them and they bore and drill into your mind to the point where you can no longer ignore the pain. Or the numbness.

An Unnecessary Woman

An Unnecessary Woman - Rabih Alameddine I expected this to be overwhelming and with a strong underlying message, but it was rather over the top and failed to get under my skin as I had hoped.

Земя за прицел: Изборът

Земя за прицел: Изборът - Свобода Бъчварова Осиротя книгата без стария Скарлатов... Тази част беше доста по-слаба от предходните две - предвидима, съшита с бели конци на места. И въпреки това я прочетох на един дъх.

Mr Gwyn

Mr Gwyn - Alessandro Baricco Nauseatingly pretentious in a painfully clichéd way.
Still, there was something endearing about it. It is hard to altogether dislike someone who tries so hard to be liked.

The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson [Illustrated]

The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson [Illustrated] - Emily Dickinson I read Emily Dickinson in translation back at school and remember thinking her poetry was plain.
Reading her now, I realise that the plain one was me.

This, to me, is poetry in its purest and therefore most powerful form.

It is melody, it is painting, it is wisdom. It floats high above and it goes deep within. Simply beautiful.

I especially loved the nature poems. They are invigoratingly alive and they made me want to go out and run barefoot, hug a tree, get stung by a bee and burnt by the sun. To just for a moment feel that the substance running in my veins is blood and not internet connection.

The Secret History

The Secret History - Donna Tartt This was not my cup of tea at all. Rather than a genuine tea brand it was a mix of several flavours (the pungent King flavour, the indulgent Fitzgerlad flavour, the blunt Franzen flavour, the rancid Rand flavour) and still it felt pretty tasteless. I am putting the cup down half empty, can’t stand to take another sip.

The Woman Who Wasn't There: The True Story of an Incredible Deception

The Woman Who Wasn't There: The True Story of an Incredible Deception - Robin Gaby Fisher, Angelo J Guglielmo I found that there was much more to this than a simple story of deception. It addresses so many other phenomena that we have given names and attributed qualities to and are unable to see as anything else than what we know.


In a world of internet and virtual communication, our perception of reality has been changing at a fast pace. But an invented reality that is incorporated into actual reality is a concept that leaves many of us aghast. It is called deception and we all know deception is bad, right?

Tania Head is a remarkable woman. One needs guts to invent a story and make it public for the world to see and scrutinize. One needs a pinch of madness as well.
Alicia Esteve (aka Tania Head) lied about being a 9/11 survivor, lied about losing a loved one, invented a love story with a man she never met and, most unbelievable of all, she lived this lie for years in front of myriad prying eyes. She became the poster-child of a significant even in world history and reveled in the attention. She would tell her story to anybody who would listen and she displayed symptoms of post-traumatic stress, bouts of depression and survival guilt.

Was she really that good of an actress?

She probably was. However, I can’t help but feel that the only way Tania Head could have sustained her lie was to live it. To believe it. I am fairly certain that after a time Alicia Esteve became Tania Head in her own mind. She did live through it all; she did have a great love that she lost; she did struggle with the consequences of everything that happened. In the end, she did help a lot of survivors through their pain. She fought relentlessly for their rights, as many of the survivors themselves testify. Or did she? Did this really happen? If there was no Tania Head, if Tania Head was the invention of a sick mind, how was she a part of the 9/11 survivors’ organisation, how did she become its president, how did she chaperone New York’s most prominent men around Ground Zero?

Did Tania Head exist or did she not? Where does invented reality end and where does actual reality start?

The story of Tania Head is the story of everyone. If we look deep down, we might find that most of us have little invented realities that we live, secretly or openly, that give us guilty conscience or a purpose in life. Or even happy memories! For who is to say what reality really is?


The true intentions behind this deception will probably never be known. Not even by the deceiver herself. As with anything, I doubt that there is one single thing that made her do what she did. It started out as a lie and the ball kept rolling until there wasn’t any stopping it. Whatever the initial thought, it is unlikely to have much to do with the final outcome. Whether it was a way to kill time, to feel important, to gain sympathy, in the end it turned out to be a life story. Furthermore, it turned out to be a life-changing story. A story of survival, of stoicism, of heroism. The eternal story of good defeating evil…until, in a split second, it became the story of evil violating good.

After the truth has come out, the general feeling has been of shock and betrayal. But the question remains of what would have happened if it had never been discovered? Would Tania Head have become the villain she is portrayed as today or would she have been canonized as the ultimate survivor? Is she bad because she lied to everybody or is she good because she helped so many people throughout the most horrific time of their lives?

Where is the fine line between good and bad? Is there a line between them? Are they two different concepts at all?


September 11 has become an emblematic date in history. For all the suffering and unimaginable horror it brought about, this day now is an integral part of USA’s identity. It is often made reference to; it is still talked about; it is learned about in schools. It is a milestone of the past, the way many wars, disasters, dictatorships are.

And, as with any grand event, it became a tribune for all kinds of human emotions to be played out publicly. It created its heroes. It had its villains. It had its victims, both the dead and the living. It killed many lives, but gave purpose to many others.
It gave Alicia Esteve a reason to wake up in the morning.

In the wake of tragedy, many people thrive.

In a way, Tania Head was a collective image of all human faces that 9/11 represented. She was a victim of her own folly, a hero for some, the most devious villain. In her, like in everything, good and bad, true and false were inseparably intertwined – the same way she was with her fiancé who perished in the North Tower. Or so she claimed.

The Missing Head of Damasceno Monteiro

The Missing Head of Damasceno Monteiro - Antonio Tabucchi, J.C. Patrick Have you ever thought of someone you haven’t thought of for years and then, suddenly, heard from them in that same instant you thought of them?

This novel provided me with a similarly eerie experience. I have just finished reading Kafka’s The Trial last night, which made me ponder over a book by the same author that had made a very strong impression on me - In the Penal Colony. Still with these thoughts lingering in the back of my mind I was slowly savouring the ending of The Missing Head of Damasceno Monteiro, when… I was reading a book written 20 years ago by someone who is no more, but I was actually reading my thoughts from last night.

Have you ever felt a strong connection to someone who doesn’t exist?

Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family

Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family - Thomas Mann, John E. Woods, T.J. Reed For a long time I have been considering adding two new shelves - big-and-beautiful, governed by War and Peace and big-and-boredomful, governed by Middlemarch. Sadly, and to my great surprise, the Budenbrooks will have to reside on the latter shelf.

I saw many reviewers being astonished that such a novel could be written at such a young age, but to me it was so obviously the product of a young mind:

For one – it is restless – it wants to move on in a hurry. What annoyed me most about the narrative was that it constantly leaped months and years ahead in time, which created a sense of disconnect and emptiness. And despite that, the story felt long, light to read, but heavy in its monotony.

The characters’ actions were often illogical and inexplicable, at least to me. For example, young Toni’s decision after the summer she spent with Morten. We get a hint of what she might have been thinking, but it is against any law of adolescence and first love. They just don’t function this way and Mann at 26 should have already known that. Of course, times were different back then, but still I remain unconvinced.

The characters… I see them drawn, like in a comic book, with their words written inside bubbles surrounding their heads. Words that didn't come from the inside, words that floated in the air. I didn’t feel that these characters had an inside – they were well drawn outwardly, but their inner lives, torments, unspoken motivations, were absent from the book’s pages. Or maybe they were there, but I just failed to see them because they weren't written in a way I can relate to.

The Family’s decline was synonymous to its death. It came regularly, suddenly, without much tension build up or any aftershocks. It just came and went. This is too easy, Mann, far too easy. Death is much more than this and death is much less than this. It deserves more thought and more beautiful sentences.

All in all, the impression I was left with is that this novel was the child of a young mind dreaming big, but not having neither the patience, nor the experience to execute with authority. I caught myself thinking a few times that I couldn’t believe this was the same author who wrote Death in Venice. The two books seem so different in style, quality of writing and knowledge of the human condition. Just as Zola, Mann had come a long way as a writer. I am grateful that Budenbrooks wasn’t my first book by him, because it might very well have been the last.

Moral of the story – bright young minds should stick to what they know best – philosophy (:-)), and should leave family sagas to those who have lived through philosophy, through family and through decline.

The White Hotel



Take 30% sex
Take 20% Holocaust
Take 20% Freud
Take 10% death
Take 10% violence
Take 10% epistolarity

Spices: Add erotic poetry to spice up the meal and classical music to boost the price.

Be careful not to stir the ingredients together, each flavor should stand out on its own.

! Please be sure not to include any good writing, plot or an underlying message, as they will make the meal heavy and indigestible.

Happy reating!

Flying Creatures of Fra Angelico

Flying Creatures of Fra Angelico - Antonio Tabucchi, Tim Parks Tabucchi, where have you been all my life?! I feel like I want to read all your books in a day, to cover my walls with posters of you and to write a cheesy poem declaring my undying love for you.
I am a girl of twelve again, only this time my heart is too old for feelings this strong, so my wallet will have to bear the pain - I just ordered all your paperbacks in Italian. Love hurts.

Sostiene Pereira (Universale economica) (Italian Edition)

Sostiene Pereira (Universale economica) (Italian Edition) - Antonio Tabucchi I don’t know what it is about Tabucchi, but no other man writer has ever cast such a spell on me.

His books are like air – light yet essential to life, and with many layers of varying density, textures and altitudes. He transports me not just mentally, but in a way also physically, to magical worlds. He makes me feel aware of being alive and makes me doubt that there is any such thing as being alive.

He fills me with trepidation because I don’t know what I will do once I have read all his books.

On Chesil Beach

On Chesil Beach - Ian McEwan If I can paraphrase the first sentence from the description – A novel of remarkable shallowness and pretence from one of the most over-hyped writers of our time.

What Belongs to You

What Belongs to You - Garth Greenwell Poetry in prose. One of the most haunting, sensual and tender novels I have read. This is obviously no fiction, and thank god for that. Life is painfully beautiful when put into words by someone who knows how to use them.

Selected Poems

Selected Poems - Paul Éluard, Gilbert Bowen Beauty created for the happy
Beauty you run a great risk

Those hands crossed on your knees
Are an assassin’s implements

This mouth singing aloud
Serves as a beggar’s bowl

And this cup of pure milk
Becomes the breast of a whore.

In Other Words

In Other Words - Jhumpa Lahiri Me and Italian language go way back. In fact, ours has become a long-lasting relationship even though I have often neglected him along the way – English has always been of greater use, and then I met German who I had to get close to. Not to forget Bulgarian who was there from the start.

I have love stories with all of the above mentioned languages. And these are some colourful and passionate stories. I could sit down and put them to paper.

But I am not called Jhumpa Lahiri.
Nobody would care. My stories are unique to me and Lahiri’s story is unique to her, but I feel like she is a bit behind on things. People all over the world, mostly those whose mother tongue is not English, have been learning and connecting with languages for a long time. I am sure most of us can relate to her story, but I don’t see the point of it being published. For someone who writes about love for language, the language she uses is repetitive and clichéd. It is self-indulgent and vain. In the end, it is simply pointless.
It was a smart move on the author’s part to choose to write this in Italian – a language that, unlike English, allows you to talk about yourself without overusing the omnipresent ‘I’ word. Still, this book is ultimately all about the ‘I’ and not about the language.

In Other Words will probably be a good read for anyone interested in Jhumpa Lahiri.
For anyone interested in a non-fictional account of the magic of language, someone like Wittgenstein is the author to go to.

Currently reading

Fortunata and Jacinta: Two Stories of Married Women
Benito Pérez Galdós