La Poderosa’s Final Tour

Ernesto “Che” Guevara

Ernesto “Che” Guevara

Due to a premonition, Alberto didn’t want to drive [the motorcycle nicknamed “La Poderosa,” “The Mighty One”], so I sat up front though we only did a few kilometers before stopping to fix the failing gearbox. A little further on, as we rounded a tight curve at a good speed, the screw came off the back brake, a cow’s head appeared around the bend, then many, many more of them, and I threw on the hand brake which, soldered ineptly, also broke. For some moments I saw nothing more than the blurred shape of cattle flying past us on each side, while poor Poderosa gathered speed down the steep hill. By an absolute miracle we managed to graze only the leg of the last cow, but in the distance a river was screaming toward us with terrifying efficacy. I veered on to the side of the road and in the blink of an eye the bike mounted the two-meter bank, embedding us between two rocks, but we were unhurt.

…. [W]e were put up by some Germans who treated us very well. During the night I had a bad case of the runs and, being ashamed to leave a souvenir in the pot under my bed, I climbed out on to the window ledge and gave up all my pain to the night and blackness beyond. The next morning I looked out to see the effect and saw that two meters below lay a big sheet of tin where they were sun-drying their peaches; the added spectacle was impressive. We beat it fast.—Ernesto “Che” Guevara, The Motorcycle Diaries

Januarius

Janus, the Roman God of Beginnings and Transitions

Janus, the Roman God of Beginnings and Transitions

For many years now, I have had a habit during the month of January of reading only those books written by authors I have never read before. Here are some of the discoveries I have made in past years:

2001 – Kazuo Ishiguro, An Artist of the Floating World
2002 – Lieut Col F M Bailey, Mission to Tashkent
2003 – Orhan Pamuk, My Name Is Red
2004 – William Hazlitt, Essays
2005 – Michael Cunningham, The Hours
2006 – Victor Segalen, René Leys
2007 – Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore
2008 – Simon Sebag Montefiore, In the Court of the Red Tsar
2009 – Mischa Glenny. The Balkans: Nationalism, War, and the Great Powers 1804-1999
2010 – Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird (I didn’t want to be the only person in America who hadn’t read this book)
2011 – Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet
2012 – W G Sebald, Vertigo
2013 – Vasily Grossman, Life and Fate

Now these books may not mean much to you, but for an adventurer in reading such as myself, they were real milestones. Beginning in 2008, you might see an Eastern European element creeping in. That’s because, as I age, I see myself more and more as an Eastern European.

My Januarius is almost over for 2013, though I still have 2-3 more books to read this month. We’ll see how far I get.