“Tune your television to any channel it doesn’t receive and about 1 percent of the dancing static you see is accounted for by this ancient remnant of the Big Bang. The next time you complain that there is nothing on, remember that you can always watch the birth of the universe.”
~Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything
“In Bryson’s biggest book, he confronts his greatest challenge: to understand—and, if possible, answer—the oldest, biggest questions we have posed about the universe and ourselves. Taking as territory everything from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization, Bryson seeks to understand how we got from there being nothing at all to there being us.
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‘It was easy to fall into Karabas, as easy as falling down a hole, but it was hard, to put it bluntly, to get out again.’
~Oleg Pavlov, Captain of the Steppe
“In the beginning of this short novel, Captain Khabarov, commander of Sixth Company in Karabas, Kazakhstan, embarks on a seemingly straightforward mission: he will order his men to plant, rather than eat, their meager potato rations.
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“I thought about the terrible uselessness of suffering. Love leaves behind its creation-the next generation coming into the world; the continuation of humanity. But suffering? Such a great part of human experience, the most difficult and painful, passes leaving no trace. If one were to collect the energy of suffering emitted by the millions of people here [Magadan, Russia] and transform it into the power of creation, one could turn our planet into a flowering garden. But what would remain?”
~Ryszard Kapuściński, Imperium
“Now, in Imperium, Kapuściński gives us a work of equal emotional force and evocative power: a personal, brilliantly detailed exploration of the almost unfathomably complex Soviet empire in our time.
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“…but since I realised that peace and freedom were unattainable on earth, my spirit aspired aloft, and everything that my chosen path required ceased to conflict with my conscience, because my conscience was calling me out into space, and was not much interested in what was happening on earth.”
~Victor Pelevin, Omon Ra
“Victor Pelevin’s novel Omon Ra has been widely praised for its poetry and its wickedness, a novel in line with the great works of Gogol and Bulgakov: ‘full of the ridiculous and the sublime,’ says The Observer [London].
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“He opened the book at random, or so he believed, but a book is like a sandy path which keeps the indent of footsteps.”
~Graham Greene, The Human Factor
“Maurice Castle is a high-level operative in the British secret service during the Cold War. He is deeply in love with his African wife, who escaped apartheid South Africa with the help of his communist friend. Despite his misgivings, Castle decides to act as a double agent, passing information to the Soviets to help his in-laws in South Africa.
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