JLS (jlsjlsjls) wrote,


It wasn't just that he had killed a man and scarred a woman's face. It wasn't a matter of remorse or of some ache that could be relieved by going into a church and kneeling down in front of a priest, in the unlikely event that Diego Alatriste would enter a chuch other than to seek refuge there, with the law at his heels. He had killed many people during his forty-five years of life and knew that he would kill many more before the time came when he would have to pay for all his misdemeanors. No, the problem was of quite a different order, and the wine had helped him first to digest it and then to vomit it up. It was the chilling certainty that every step he took in life, every sword thrust to left or right, every scrap of money earned, every drop of blood that spattered his clothes, all formed a kind of damp mist, a smell that clung to his skin like the smell of fire or a war. The smell of life, of the passing years with no turning back, of the uncertain, hesitant, crazy, or resolute steps he took, each one of which determined the steps that would follow and that did not allow for any change in direction. It was the smell of resignation and impotence before a certain and irrevocable destiny. Some men tried to disguise the smell with fantastical perfumes or to ignore it by averting their gaze, while others steadfastly breathed it in, facing it head on, aware that every game, even life and death, had its rules.

Yes, today was spent finally reading my copy of Arturo Pérez-Reverte's Pirates of the Levant, volume six in the English translations of his Alatriste series ... every bit as powerful as the previous volumes, with a wealth of insights into seventeenth-century Spanish history, society, politics, attitudes, and philosophies. This time the setting is the Mediterranean, the Spanish presence in North Africa, alliance with Italy, and the ongoing conflict against the Islamic Empire, fought in open galleys on both sides. If you're not familiar with the landmarks, ports, and islands of the southern and eastern Mediterranean in that era, it's worthwhile having a map or atlas handy to follow the action (I was good on the north African locations thanks to previous reading about the Barbary corsairs but needed to check a couple of positions on the Turkish coast).

For those who haven't read the Alatriste tales yet, the volumes are:

1. Captain Alatriste
2. Purity of Blood
3. The Sun Over Breda
4. The King's Gold
5. The Cavalier in the Yellow Doublet
6. Pirates of the Levant

P.S. Just checked Pérez-Reverte's official website and it looks like the translations are caught up to the original Spanish editions ... there are only six Alatriste books listed there! (I was figuring/hoping at least one more, but there isn't. Yet)
Tags: reading

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