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Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone

by Eduardo Galeano

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391741,111 (4.24)2
  1. 00
    Europeana: A Brief History of the Twentieth Century by Patrik Ouředník (bluepiano)
    bluepiano: Also tells of history's black spots in short passages & snippets. Ourednik though deals with 20th-century European history, is sometimes blackly humourous, and states facts calmly rather than fashioning moral bludgeons from them.
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Showing 5 of 5
Short anecdotes that illuminate a larger vision of what humankind is composed of. Nicely done. ( )
  DanielSTJ | Mar 10, 2019 |


MIRRORS: Stories of Almost Everyone - contemporary Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano's collection of hundreds and hundreds of finely constructed mini-tales, two or three on every page, with such titles as: Origin of Fire, Origin of Beauty, Origin of Sea Breezes, Resurrection of Vermeer, Resurrection of Arcimboldo, Mozart, Goya, Venus, Hokusai, Kipling, Nijinsky, Beethoven, Lenin, Invisible Men, Invisible Women, Palace Art in France, Origin of the Croissant, Darwin’s Questions, The Gold Rush and The Insanity of Freedom. Reading this book is like eating peanuts – once you start, it’s hard to stop; not to mention, once you’ve opened your heart and mind, you will want to open even wider.

By way of a sampling, here are several of my favorites, featuring Eduardo’s signature caustic wit and nods to the power of human magical imagination:

ORIGIN OF WRITING
When Iraq was not yet Iraq, it was the birthplace of the first written word.
The words look like bird tracks. Masterful hands drew them in clay with sharpened canes.
Fire annihilates and rescues, kills and gives life, as do the gods, as do we. Fire hardened the clay and preserved the words. Thanks to fire, the clay tablets still tell what they told thousands of years ago in that land of two rivers.
In our days, George W. Bush, perhaps believing that writing was invented in Texas, launched with joyful impunity a war to exterminate Iraq. There were thousands upon thousands of victims, and not all of them were flesh and blood. A great deal of memory was murdered too. Living history in the form of numerous clay tablets were stolen or destroyed by bombs.
One of the tablets said:
We are dust and nothing
All that we do is no more than wind.


PELE
Two British teams were battling out the championship match. The final whistle was not far off and they were still tied, when one player collided with another and fell, out cold.
A stretcher carried him off and the entire medical team went to work, but the man did not come to.
Minutes passed, centuries passed, and the coach was swallowing the clock, hands and all. He had already used up his substitutions. His boys, ten against eleven, were defending as best they could, which was not much.
The coach could see defeat coming, when suddenly the team doctor ran up and cried ecstatically:
“We did it!” He’s coming around!”
And in a low voice, added:
“But he doesn’t know who he is.”
The coach went over to the player, who was babbling incoherently as he tried to get to his feet, and in his ear informed him:
“You are Pelé.”
They won five-nil. Years ago in London, I heard this lie that told the truth.


VAN GOGH
Four uncles and a brother were art dealers, yet he managed to see but one painting in his enire life. Out of admiration or pity, the sister of a friend paid four hundred francs for a work in oils, The Red Vinyard, painted in Aries.

More than a century later, his works are on the financial pages of nevewspapers he never read.

The priciest paintings in galleries he never set foot in,

The most viewed in museums that ignored his existence,

And the most admired in academies that advised him to take up another trade.

Today Van Gogh decorates restaurants where no one would have served him.

The clinics of doctors who would have had him committed

And the offices of lawyers who would have locked him away.


KAFKA
As the drums of the first world butchery drew near, Franz Kafka wrote Metamorphosis. And not long after, the war under way he wrote The Trial.

They are two collective nightmares.

A man awakens as an enormous cockroach and cannot fathom why, and in the end he is sweept away by a broom.

Another man is arrested, charged, judged, and found guilty, and cannot fathom why, and in the end he is knifed by the executioner.

In a certain way those stories, those books, continued in the pages of the newspapers, which day after day told of the progress of the war machine.

The author, ghost with feverish eyes, shadow without a body wrote from the ultimate depths of anguish.

He published little, practically no one read him.

He departed in silence, as he had lived. On his deathbed, bed of pain, he only spoke to ask the doctor: “Kill me, or else you are a murderer.”


FATHER OF THE BOMB
The first bomb was tried out in the desert of New Mexico. The sky caught fire and Robert Oppenheimer, who led the tests, felt proud of a job well done.

But three months after the explosions at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Oppenheimer said to President Harry Truman: “I feel I have blood on my hands.”

And President Truman told Secretary of State Dean Acheson: “I don’t want to see that son of a bitch in this office ever again.”


And please don’t simply put Eduardo’s magic mirror down; add a mirror of your own. Here is mine, a response touching on the above themes:

HOW GROUNDHOGS PLAY CROQUET
A psychologist by the name of Brentworth proves the high level of intelligence in animals by teaching a quartet of groundhogs how to play croquet. When the four groundhogs are proficient enough to have a game on their own, Brentworth invites his colleagues to join him on his screened-in back porch to watch as the groundhogs play on the lawn in his backyard. Brentworth chose groundhogs because of the way they can hold their mallets when they sit up on their haunches.

Anyway, the groundhogs are having a good go at croquet, taking their proper turns, hitting their balls through the wickets in the proper sequence. The psychologists sit in a row and watch silently except for one man at the far end, who starts sobbing uncontrollably.

After a groundhogs hits his yellow ball through a wicket from a decided angle and a good twenty feed away, Brentworth shouts, “What a magnificent shot!”

The groundhogs play on. The sobs from the man at the end grow louder and his body heaves. “You all don’t know what this means,” he says between heaves.

After completing their game, as a sort of grand finale, the groundhogs hit all the croquet balls one by one so the balls knock against one another and form a neat row.

Until now, nobody has noticed that a different white letter is painted on each of the seven brightly colored wooden ball. The lineup of balls now spells a word for all to read: ‘CROQUET”.

“How clever, how very, very clever,“ one psychologist says.

The man on the end, who is still sobbing, says, “This is terrible! No one understands what this means!” Everyone turns to look at him and he buries his face in his hands as his sobs grow even louder.

( )
  Glenn_Russell | Nov 13, 2018 |


MIRRORS: Stories of Almost Everyone - contemporary Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano's collection of hundreds and hundreds of finely constructed mini-tales, two or three on every page, with such titles as: Origin of Fire, Origin of Beauty, Origin of Sea Breezes, Resurrection of Vermeer, Resurrection of Arcimboldo, Mozart, Goya, Venus, Hokusai, Kipling, Nijinsky, Beethoven, Lenin, Invisible Men, Invisible Women, Palace Art in France, Origin of the Croissant, Darwin’s Questions, The Gold Rush and The Insanity of Freedom. Reading this book is like eating peanuts – once you start, it’s hard to stop; not to mention, once you’ve opened your heart and mind, you will want to open even wider.

By way of a sampling, here are several of my favorites, featuring Eduardo’s signature caustic wit and nods to the power of human magical imagination:

ORIGIN OF WRITING
When Iraq was not yet Iraq, it was the birthplace of the first written word.
The words look like bird tracks. Masterful hands drew them in clay with sharpened canes.
Fire annihilates and rescues, kills and gives life, as do the gods, as do we. Fire hardened the clay and preserved the words. Thanks to fire, the clay tablets still tell what they told thousands of years ago in that land of two rivers.
In our days, George W. Bush, perhaps believing that writing was invented in Texas, launched with joyful impunity a war to exterminate Iraq. There were thousands upon thousands of victims, and not all of them were flesh and blood. A great deal of memory was murdered too. Living history in the form of numerous clay tablets were stolen or destroyed by bombs.
One of the tablets said:
We are dust and nothing
All that we do is no more than wind.


PELE
Two British teams were battling out the championship match. The final whistle was not far off and they were still tied, when one player collided with another and fell, out cold.
A stretcher carried him off and the entire medical team went to work, but the man did not come to.
Minutes passed, centuries passed, and the coach was swallowing the clock, hands and all. He had already used up his substitutions. His boys, ten against eleven, were defending as best they could, which was not much.
The coach could see defeat coming, when suddenly the team doctor ran up and cried ecstatically:
“We did it!” He’s coming around!”
And in a low voice, added:
“But he doesn’t know who he is.”
The coach went over to the player, who was babbling incoherently as he tried to get to his feet, and in his ear informed him:
“You are Pelé.”
They won five-nil. Years ago in London, I heard this lie that told the truth.


VAN GOGH
Four uncles and a brother were art dealers, yet he managed to see but one painting in his enire life. Out of admiration or pity, the sister of a friend paid four hundred francs for a work in oils, The Red Vinyard, painted in Aries.

More than a century later, his works are on the financial pages of nevewspapers he never read.

The priciest paintings in galleries he never set foot in,

The most viewed in museums that ignored his existence,

And the most admired in academies that advised him to take up another trade.

Today Van Gogh decorates restaurants where no one would have served him.

The clinics of doctors who would have had him committed

And the offices of lawyers who would have locked him away.


KAFKA
As the drums of the first world butchery drew near, Franz Kafka wrote Metamorphosis. And not long after, the war under way he wrote The Trial.

They are two collective nightmares.

A man awakens as an enormous cockroach and cannot fathom why, and in the end he is sweept away by a broom.

Another man is arrested, charged, judged, and found guilty, and cannot fathom why, and in the end he is knifed by the executioner.

In a certain way those stories, those books, continued in the pages of the newspapers, which day after day told of the progress of the war machine.

The author, ghost with feverish eyes, shadow without a body wrote from the ultimate depths of anguish.

He published little, practically no one read him.

He departed in silence, as he had lived. On his deathbed, bed of pain, he only spoke to ask the doctor: “Kill me, or else you are a murderer.”


FATHER OF THE BOMB
The first bomb was tried out in the desert of New Mexico. The sky caught fire and Robert Oppenheimer, who led the tests, felt proud of a job well done.

But three months after the explosions at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Oppenheimer said to President Harry Truman: “I feel I have blood on my hands.”

And President Truman told Secretary of State Dean Acheson: “I don’t want to see that son of a bitch in this office ever again.”


And please don’t simply put Eduardo’s magic mirror down; add a mirror of your own. Here is mine, a response touching on the above themes:

HOW GROUNDHOGS PLAY CROQUET
A psychologist by the name of Brentworth proves the high level of intelligence in animals by teaching a quartet of groundhogs how to play croquet. When the four groundhogs are proficient enough to have a game on their own, Brentworth invites his colleagues to join him on his screened-in back porch to watch as the groundhogs play on the lawn in his backyard. Brentworth chose groundhogs because of the way they can hold their mallets when they sit up on their haunches.

Anyway, the groundhogs are having a good go at croquet, taking their proper turns, hitting their balls through the wickets in the proper sequence. The psychologists sit in a row and watch silently except for one man at the far end, who starts sobbing uncontrollably.

After a groundhogs hits his yellow ball through a wicket from a decided angle and a good twenty feed away, Brentworth shouts, “What a magnificent shot!”

The groundhogs play on. The sobs from the man at the end grow louder and his body heaves. “You all don’t know what this means,” he says between heaves.

After completing their game, as a sort of grand finale, the groundhogs hit all the croquet balls one by one so the balls knock against one another and form a neat row.

Until now, nobody has noticed that a different white letter is painted on each of the seven brightly colored wooden ball. The lineup of balls now spells a word for all to read: ‘CROQUET”.

“How clever, how very, very clever,“ one psychologist says.

The man on the end, who is still sobbing, says, “This is terrible! No one understands what this means!” Everyone turns to look at him and he buries his face in his hands as his sobs grow even louder.

( )
  GlennRussell | Feb 16, 2017 |
ILLUSTRATIONS; INDEX OF NAMES; CONTENTS IN BACK OF BOOK
  saintmarysaccden | Nov 6, 2013 |
When Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez gave U.S. President Obama a copy of Eduardo Galeano’s 1971 book Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent, thousands of Americans bought the book, pushing it to the number two slot on Amazon.

Although Galeano’s trilogy, Memory of Fire, was published in English (and a couple dozen other languages), he has enjoyed only a cult following in the U.S. Memory of Fire will hopefully now receive a wider readership, perhaps carrying with it some of the other great but ignored writers of Latin America.

At once grand in scope but full of close-up details of the most personal kind, Memory of Fire traces the history of Latin America — the continent, its people, gods, plants and animals — from its origins to the present day. Galeano eschews the grand narrative tradition with its fascistic master tropes in favor of the strategic vignette, which opens for both writer and reader contemplative freedom in a vast landscape of possibility. For my money, Galeano’s approach is the honest one, and his latest book, Mirrors, proves why.

Although contained within a single volume, Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone is even grander and just as intimate as Memory of Fire. In just over 600 miniatures, Galeano tells the history of the world. (In an interview, Galeano said he was emboldened to attempt the project by an old tune which says that the world can’t be all that big if it fits into only five letters.) Like many Latin American historians but like shamefully few U.S. historians, Galeano is concerned not with the winners but with the makers and underdogs of history. We think we know who built the pyramids – slaves – but who built the Taj Mahal and the White House? Why do Christians claim such a unique and exemplary history when their holy book is clearly the story of a genocidal god who murdered his fellow gods and goddesses in order to take his place as the sole deity? More, why then is there such a striking parallel between the stories of Adam and Eve and the much more ancient Egyptian story of Osiris and Isis?

So perhaps Galeano isn’t exclusively interested in the story of the underdog as he is in the way our cultural overlords erase the history that makes them appear anything less than pure and godly. Where in the history of science, for instance, are the theorems of the Arab scientists Mu-ayyad al-Din al-‘Uri and Nasir Al-Din Tusi without which Copernicus, three centuries later, could never have “invented” astronomy?

Galeano said that he would like “to speak a language capable of uniting all literary genres, in which form merges with content and thus manages to unite past and present…. I wanted to write a book without borders… and that is why from the very outset, writing Mirrors was an adventure in freedom.”

For readers, too, Mirrors is an adventure in freedom: intoxicating, inspiring, liberating. No doubt, it is not for everyone; the narrow-minded and the pig-headed will be offended by Galeano’s penchant for upsetting apple carts and poking holes in all the sacred peccadilloes that hold up the walls of their little-enough-for-comfort worlds. Ah, well, so it goes.

For you, though, who seek wings and air sweet enough to fly through, grab a copy of Mirrors. Start anywhere, and read until your eyes, full of tears, and your heart full of yearning, force you to put the book down and pick up a pen with which to kiss the page yourself.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book. © Brian Charles Clark, 2009 ( )
2 vote funkendub | Oct 4, 2010 |
Showing 5 of 5
As in his previous books, he succeeds in capturing the bottomless horror of the state’s capacity to inflict pain on the individual, offering as effective an act of political dissent as exists anywhere in contemporary literature.
 
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MIRRORS is a history of the human adventure distilled into potent timeless stories barely longer than aphorisms. Galeano boils down epic volumes to their poetic essence in his most ambitious project since Memory of Fire, the landmark recreation of 500 years in the Americas. In Mirrors, his perspective widens to 5,000 years of history and the breadth of the entire world, retold as a series of breathtakingly immediate human stories. Recalling the lives of artists, writers, god from the Garden of Eden to the black slaves who built the White House, Mirrors is a magical mosaic of our humanity. The book inverts world histories written by victors -- against horror, against defeat, against oblivion -- recounting in an inimitably impish and mystical way, the songs and stories of humanity that have been forgotten: the voices of the all those invisible.
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The unofficial history of the world seen--and mirrored to us--through the eyes and voices of history's unseen, unheard, and forgotten, over 5000 years of history.

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