Sunday, July 15, 2007

the last book I read

The Anatomist by Federico Andahazi.

Here's one to recommend to your grandmother. Physician Mateo Colombo discovers the clitoris, scandalises mediaeval Italy and is banged up in prison for heresy and Satanism.

It's based on a true story, in the sense that Mateo Colombo was a real person, who did some genuinely groundbreaking work in the area of blood circulation, work later built upon by our very own William Harvey. It is also true that he published a work called De Re Anatomica which included mention of "the seat of pleasure" in women, but the claim that this is "the discovery of the clitoris" is somewhat dubious to say the least.

None of which really matters, as this is a work of fiction after all. And a generally pretty entertaining one, though also fairly light and insubstantial. It received a lot of publicity when it was published in Argentina in 1997 as it was awarded a major prize which was then rescinded at the request of the prize sponsor on the grounds that the author was a "Communist porn artist". You can't pay for that sort of advertising, especially when your themes are sex, science and the suppression of knowledge.

That's part of the problem, though - the suppression of knowledge (particularly sexual) and the repression of women in the 16th century are pretty easy targets, and the Mateo Colombo presented here is a strange and enigmatic figure whose motivations are never entirely clear, beyond of course experimenting with the effects of drugs by getting fellated by prostitutes after smearing his penis with belladonna. Then again who hasn't done that? Anyway, it's an entertaining read whose subject matter and the furore surrounding its publication suggest a profundity and significance that probably isn't really justified. Unless of course you're a religious fundamentalist, in which case you'll almost certainly have some sort of aneurysm. Enjoy!

On a more serious note, I say: stimulate her clematis. You can't go wrong!


The Black Rabbit said...

I am hardly reknowned for my enjoyment of literature, but thought I'd let you know that I've read 5, yes FIVE, books recently - something I haven't done since my Willard Price days, I suppose.
They're not exactly the sort of highbrow stuff you read bate, but hey ho.
I'm sure you will have heard of them - they're the "Jack Reacher" novels by Lee Child.
I admit, they probably are classed as trashy, second-rate thrillers, the sort of book you'd pick up at an airport in a hurry, a bit like Jack Higgins' novels.
That said, I like them, and they've got me reading fiction again, rather than my usual staple diet of reference books, field-guides and the sports pages of the independent...

However, it's The Open at Carnoustie this week, televised for virtually twelve hours a day from thursday to sunday, so bang goes all reading this week!

Your latest book does look quite interesting. Nice cover too!

electrichalibut said...

Yeah, good for alarming old ladies on the bus with. Not that I need a book to do that.

And, yeah, The Open. I trust some extensive analysis will be available at number 26....

The Black Rabbit said...

Mais Oui, mon ami.
I've got a whole lot to say already, about Van de Velde, 1999 and all that, Paul Lawrie, Tom Lehman, the set-up this year, and of course my thoughts on all the major (hur hur) runners and riders this year.
Its been teed up beautifully (hur hur) this year though, with Monsieur Havret winning on the Bonny banks yesterday, and the french in fine fettle. (Apart from VdV that is).
Complete preview available on "TwentySix" sometime Wednesday morning.
Then I lock myself in the sitting room all week. I'm working nights, so I'll see how many days/nights I can go without sleep...