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Book Review: From Byung-Chul Han to Rodrigo Fernández

He bought the piano without knowing how to play. Today he begins each day playing an aria from Goldberg Variations by Bach. It is already a ritual or a form of prayer, says philosopher Byung-Chul Han. Born in Seoul 64 years ago, he has lived in Berlin since he was 22 and is one of the most influential current thinkers, a great critic of the society of tiredness or survival. “I think and write through music,” he says. And he does it surrounded by flowers: he has been gardening for years. In 2023, Han gave three lectures in Portugal and Germany that are collected in this book. In them he reflects on music, eros and hope, also on freedom and the sacred dimension of the world. An admirer of German romanticism, he believes like Holderlin that the world, as a creation, “is sacredly beautiful.” With the practice of gardening, he has become more devout, more religious. And in a way, he says, he is “more of a priest than a philosopher.” “I love magic, secrets, enchantments,” he declares. “The philosopher is a magician, an enchanter.”

Critic of the digital world, the author warns that we look less and less into each other’s eyes due to smartphones. And to lose your gaze is to lose the other. For Han, AI is not capable of thinking, because “it is only possible to think with the body. With emotion, with feeling. It is only possible to think with mortality.” And even with his pessimism towards the world, he advocates hope. And at this point he draws a distinction with optimism and the psychology of positivism, which avoids the negativity of life. The cult of positivity, he claims, isolates us and erodes empathy, “because people stop caring about the suffering of others.”

“Only through hope will we recover a life that is more than mere survival. Only hope expands the horizon of what makes sense, what revives life again, gives it wings, inspires it. Only hope gives us a future,” she says.

Hope resists and rises from adversity: “Hope is only possible broken, like deep happiness.”

He does a mental count: they had six apples left, a handful of lentils, some blackberries, a box of tea, nuts, rice and five packets of soup. Cami and her younger sister rest on the side of the road. “I always thought it was going to be faster,” Mari says. “What?” her sister asks. “This, the end.” Cami asks, “Would you have preferred the lit sky and a block of fire on the horizon?” And the sister responds: “I’m afraid of dying slowly, Cami. That it happens suddenly is what we fearful people long for.” The world is devastated by climate change and the two sisters escape to the south, but they will be threatened and will have to test their courage, aim and stomach. Bandurria It is one of the stories that make up Stuck, the first book by Rodrigo Fernández. In the story that gives the volume its title, a young man who works in an office travels to the beach and finds a strange secret community of men, women and animals that, thanks to magic pills, grow to gigantic dimensions. In black water, meanwhile, a girl comes to work at the Possessed Well in Felicilandia: her task is to scare the couples who walk through a shadowy cave. But Leticia, the protagonist, begins to become obsessed, reads spiritualism books, decides to sleep in the Well and ends up transformed into the authentic image of a zombie. Fears, nightmares, adventures and absurdity: the stories in the book form a playful and inventive imaginary. Written with fresh language, sprinkled with self-confidence and humor, the volume presents a fantastic world, sometimes sad and often endearing.

Born in Tokyo, Japan, in 1935, Eiko Kadono is one of the most popular and distinguished authors of children’s literature in that country. Hans Christian Andersen Award winner, her experience of war imbues her work with a profound pacifism. In this story, Hiro feels her life shaken by her little sister. She is she, she just turned one year old, she still doesn’t walk, but she is crawling and she approaches her and says: “Hiooo.” “She tries to name you,” says the mother, who takes the baby in her arms. Hiro would also like to be carried, but she is already too big. In a way, she has lost her parents’ attention because of her sister. Even after a bad day at school, Hiro wanted her mom’s attention, but she was comforting her little girl. “It’s all that girl’s fault,” she says, angry. So she hatches a plan: she runs to her crib and draws on it a tiger with its jaw open. “Ferocious tiger, with long whiskers and sharp teeth, swallow it in one bite!” she says. That night, when mom is sleeping, the tiger wakes up and wants to devour the little girl. Frightened, Hiro will do everything possible to save her, and she will find the solution for her in a special spell. The book has fabulous illustrations by Koji Suzuki, in strong colors and psychedelic atmospheres. A beautiful edition of the Liebre stamp.

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