Rage by Zygmunt Miloszewski. Polish thriller about a prosecutor who has moved from Warsaw to the provincial town of Olsztyn investigating a bizarre murder.
Got this a while ago as one of Amazon's free monthly Prime promotions. Wish they'd mentioned it was the third and final volume in a trilogy: though you don't need to have read anything previously to follow things, it would have been nice to follow in order.
Very good book, with grotesque but plausible characters, an interesting plot, lots of good murdery details, and an unfamiliar backdrop. Plot does get a bit implausible, which might not be so noticeable if it hadn't started out on the gritty side. Gets a bit self-consciously philosophical at times, which I liked but some might think pretentious. Has a bit of fairly witty satire. "Even you people must sometimes have to breathe in something other than curtain dust and the smell of British vomit" one of the provincials tells the protagonist.
I'll definitely be looking out for others by this author.
Doesn't exactly inspire you to visit Poland though: "On average, uglier than any other country in Europe".
What I'm Reading
SPQR by Mary Beard. History of Rome from its founding to around 200AD. Beard also did a TV series "Mary Beard's Ultimate Rome" which explores some of its ideas in less depth.
Read this book via an android app called "3M" advertised in the local library as letting you borrow books electronically. Works reasonably well, though the UI is a bit clunkier than Kindle or Kobo, and the colours of the images have been bizarrely changed almost like colour negatives, as well as being tiny.
It's not easy for a book with such a broad scope to give new angles and new information, but Beard manages it. She starts off with the origin stories of Romulus and Remus, the rape of the Sabine women, and the migration of Aeneas; and what it tells us about the Romans that they accepted these as their origin myths.
Right from the start, the Romans seem to have been more accepting of outsiders than other cities in the ancient world. Their mythology has Romulus accepting in criminals and vagabonds to populate his new city, then kidnapping foreign women to provide them wives. Their early history has them incorporating the residents of the Estruscan city of Veii as citizens, and after the Social War giving the Italians who rebelled Roman citizenship as well. Mary Beard sees this as a trend that culminated in 212 when the Emperor Caracalla gave all free men in the Roman Empire citizenship.
Beard makes a good case that it's this habit of incorporating former enemies into Rome that was the key to their expansion. Throughout its rise Rome was surrounded by Hellenistic city states with highly sophisticated militaries and economies. But their rivals were never willing to let former enemies share in wealth and privilege and so were not able to expand the same way. Rome was therefore able to raise more manpower for its armies than anyone else.
In extending citizenship to people who had no direct territorial connections with the city of Rome, they broke the link, which most people in the classical world took for granted, between citizenship and a single city. In a systematic way that was then unparalleled, they made it possible not just to become Roman but also to be a citizen of two places at once: one's home town and Rome. And in creating new Latin colonies all over the world, they redefined the word "Latin" so that it was no longer an ethnic identity but a political status unrelated to race or geography. This set the stage for a model of citizenship and "belonging" that had enormous significance for Roman ideas of government, political rights, ethnicity and "nationhood". This model was shortly extended overseas and eventually underpinned the Roman Empire.(Some people tend to have a false image propagated from the superb propaganda of Julius Caesar's commentaries of Rome has being surrounded by barbarians with a greatly inferior armies that they were able to effortlessly overpower. That's not really characteristic of Rome's actual rise to power. The Roman legions were more like the Red Army than the US Marine Corps, feared for their enormous numbers and willingness to fight long wars of attrition and take huge casualties).
Around this theme Mary Beard builds a solid history. She provides lots of little details from minor figures, and also thoughtfully provides various different interpretations. Generally you know you're not reading an accurate history of the ancient world if it doesn't mention a few contradictory interpretations of the same evidence.
She is also good at pointing out Romans' own mythmaking. Cato the Elder for instance criticised his generation for adopting the degenerate Greek habit of sitting rather than standing at the theatre, but actual evidence is that the Romans always sat too. "Cato's version of old-fashioned, no-nonsem se Roman values was as much an invention of his own day as a defence of long-standing Roman tradition."
Roman historians tended to project back the present day into their past, believing that institutions had been founded in their current form in the distant past. That gives a false impression of a static society rather than one that was constantly adapting to change.
Overall, a great history, well worth reading however much or little you know about the subject.
Took the toddler up to see my parents and brother for a few days. My sister also brought up her four boys (1,3,10ish,13). Was great to have a bit of a reunion. Gets a bit manic and crowded with that many in the house though.
Managed to get half a day just to rest while I parked him at nursery, but had to clean and take junk to the dump too. Pretty much as exhausted as when I left, but hopefully differently-exhausted enough to start cranking code again.
Socioeconomics. The bitter, political fight to create a new macroeconomics. Free-market ideology: a reply to some replies. The War on Cash. We need to challenge the myth that the rich are specially-talented wealth creators. Study: black people simply saying they’re multiracial makes others think they’re better-looking. Immigration and the "left behind".
Local. "Lager" tagger sentenced.
Politics. #NotAllMen should make zero sense to a responsible firearm user. The Twin Insurgency: plutocrats and criminals. How badly is Jeremy Corbyn doing? The "lunatic" incident showed us the real Owen Smith.
Sci/Tech. Otto Lilienthal's ultimate sacrifice - what really brought down the Glider King. U.S. government agency sues publisher, charging it with deceiving researchers. Is the Ballmer Peak real? The Dinosaurs of Crystal Palace: Among the Most Accurate Renditions of Prehistoric Life Ever Made. Microsoft Excel blamed for gene study errors. Lonnie Johnson: The father of the Super Soaker.
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