I was going to say I’m not going to complain my vacation is coming to an end, but I just did 😉 A bit over two weeks away from work, most of it spent on our Sicilian escapade, a small miracle in the Covid-infected world, and maybe an act of selfishness, but we really needed a break, and obviously we obeyed all the special rules.
Eastern Sicily – as we only had time to see this part of the island – is beautiful, and full of history. Beauty and power of nature was represented by Etna, an active volcano that overshadows entire neighbouring area, and occasionally threatens its inhabitants. We were not in danger, but still impressed by the roaring sounds and the puffs of steam.
History is present there, in multiple, rich layers. I wanted to see the traces antiquity the most, and Syracuse satisfied that need beautifully. The city of Archimedes kept a few pearls from the Greek and Roman periods. So did Taormina, a tourist destination since 19th century, when it was frequented by Goethe, Wilde, Nietzsche and Wagner, among others. There’s a beach, and a beautiful city on the hills over the beach, and another beautiful town on the mountain over the hills. And this year it wasn’t as crowded as it is supposed to usually be 🙂 I was very impressed by the medieval churches and fortifications, the artefacts of the Norman Kingdom (Italo-Vikings!!). What surprised me, was I quite enjoyed the baroque, especially seen from outside, when we were walking along the narrow streets of the Sicilian towns. Some of the churches were rather boring inside, just as most of Polish small-town baroque, but some were exceptional. I love the entire old centre of Noto, even if I had to see around noon on a very sunny day.
Still, some of my favourite moments were those spent on the beach, where I mostly read. I dipped my toes a bit, but mostly concentrated on books. That’s how I survive seaside, since primary school.
I always take some big books, not to risk reading through all the supplies before trip’s end. This time it was Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead, Sandy Mitchell’s For the Empire, and finally, and this I will have to finish in Cracow – Neal Stephenson and his wonderful Anathem. My fiance had one book with her, and it was a very good choice (my recommendation 😉 ) for Sicily – Il Gattopardo, a masterpiece about the difficult beginnings of this island in the united Italy, and about change in society in general.
I was really impressed by Mailer, one of WWII classics I somehow missed before. Written in his early twenties, fresh from the army and the Pacific campaign, but one of the mature, modern war novels that I both enjoyed, and was moved by. I read Thin, Red Line long ago, too long ago to properly compare, but I was obviously reminded of James Jones’ depiction of an island campaign.
Heh, and now I learned there’s a third Jones WWII book, Whistle, that I never read. I liked From Here to Eternity even more than Thin, Red Line, so I definitely need to read this (I bought it before I finished writing this… I’m still addicted).
Reading For the Empire means I had my first encounter with Commissar Ciaphas Cain. A very entertaining one! We are thinking about a Warhammer two-shot, so I won’t say more, but it was the best of what a franchise novel could be – well written with something special to make it distinct and fun – the main protagonist himself. I will be going back to this series!
Anathem is just wonderful. Ola’s review is great, and does the novel justice. I’m halfway through, but I can already say it will join several of my “top” lists. A reversed world, with scientific monasteries… all the more and less subtle references… and even quite likeable protagonist 🙂
Conclusion: more vacations, more books.