Matsés Traditional Medicine Encyclopedia

It’s a 500 page encyclopedia of the knowledge of five shamans on the uses of local plants in treating ailments. This is a brilliant project, but there’s one kink that bugs me

The Encyclopedia is written only in Matsés. It is by and for the Matsés and no translations will be made into Spanish or English. No scientific names are included nor photographs of flowers or other easily identifiable characteristics of the plants to outsiders.

This is extremely logical, as pharmaceutical companies will sweep in and rip them off immediately. They’ll likely have someone learn Matsés just to glean hints of what to explore and exploit from a pirated copy of the encyclopedia. Currently, I don’t see that the work is copyrighted in any way. Copyright is one of those things that is abused horribly, but if anyone deserves the protection of copyright law, it’s an indigenous culture with unique knowledge that could be of great benefit to mankind. It’s the first thing that popped into my head when I read that passage. It’s also currently the top comment on the article on the site. Hopefully this will be addressed, because this encyclopedia is obviously a great work.

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recovery of the Nanteos cup

Hell, I didn’t even know it was missing. Apparently one of 200 (!) possible candidates for the Holy Grail in Europe, the Nanteos Cup was stolen in July 2014 and has been returned only now.

It’s only been around as a Holy Grail since 1905. Its most noted owner George Powell seems to have been quite the small-time bullshitter. The Nanteos wiki article is worth reading just for his character.

Via The Daily Grail.

Detective Sergeant Andrew Bennett, West Mercial Police

We want The Sorias, and we want it now…

Please read this post from the wonderful site The Untranslated on a book that sounds too wild to be a real thing. Apparently, the longest Argentinian novel, it sounds (in the review/synopsis/cri de cœur linked above) like an insane masterpiece. It… well, go read the post on The Untranslated. I won’t even try to summarize. Suffice it to say that I wish the longest book in my country’s literature were “the inheritor of the cultural codes left by François Rabelais, Dante Alighieri, Jonathan Swift, the Marquis de Sade, Hieronymus Bosch, Pieter Bruegel the Elder and Francisco Goya.”

The Sorias is a novel of excess in all respects, and any attempt to convey its richness within a simple review is doomed to failure. If, at this point, you think that I’ve been trying to reveal all the plot elements and all the major themes of this book, you couldn’t be further from truth. I haven’t even scratched the surface. Perhaps a five-hundred page monograph could claim to perform such a feat, but definitely not this review, which, although dwarfing all my previous posts, cannot do the justice to Laiseca’s creation. What I intended to do by this confused and amateurish write-up is to push this book a few inches forward on its journey towards the wider readership. It is my firm conviction that sooner or later, The Sorias will get the attention it deserves: it will be translated into other languages, it will be widely discussed, Internet communities dedicated to its hermeneutics will spring up. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing that so many readers have yet to discover this strange novel which is like nothing else, that so many readers will find out that there are books which are still capable of arousing in them a sense of wonder.

I hereby add my tiny voice to those calling for a translation. Restless Books? Ricardo Piglia said “The Sorias is the best novel that has been written in Argentina since The Seven Madmen”. There’s your cover blurb. And speaking of The Seven Madmen (one of my favorites) and Arlt, when are we getting a translation of its sequel, Los Lanzallamas? Restless? Dalkey? You published Severo Sarduy, Terra Nostra, Paradiso, Palinuro of Mexico, and Ríos’s Larva— I know you aren’t afraid of big difficult crazy books written in spanish.

Lest you think (as I did) that all this was too good to be true and was some sort of hoax, ecce homo:


Columbia University Press’ Russian Library project

Columbia University Press will be publishing dozens of new translations of Russian literature.

Jennifer Crewe, the director of Columbia University Press, said that the book list should include a “smattering of classics” that needed new translations, as well as post-Soviet and current Russian literature. With time still needed to select the first series of titles and translate them, the soonest they would be published is 2017.

Read Russia organized the event. Ten books published a year? Groovy.

Update: aha. Literary Saloon points out something odd.




NPR has a magnificent story on how some girls sang a wondrous song about a singer, “a faun, half-man and half-antelope” for a field recording. He is Chemirocha, AKA Jimmie Rodgers. The music of the Kipsigi people alone is beautiful, but to think that they remembered and mythologized recordings of Jimmie Rodgers and incorporated it into their own traditions is wonderful.

There’s a more in-depth documentary, showing how the field recordings from 65 were brought back to the Kipsigi people.

the Christian marriage is an invention of the Dark Ages

Someone on Twitter who I already lost track of pointed to this 2012 article in NYRB  blog. It boils down to this.

Joseph Martos, puts it: “Before the eleventh century there was no such thing as a Christian wedding ceremony in the Latin church, and throughout the Middle Ages there was no single church ritual for solemnizing marriage between Christians.”

Because obviously, God was very active in the 11th Century and made His intent very clear. He just forgot to mention it until then. Everybody remembers that important clarification.