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on 19 February 2010
A history of the world from creation until the present day in hundreds of fragmentary anecdotes and observations, usually written from the perspective of those who create history and live through it but are not usually heard. It is one of those books where you read it and annoy everyone around about you by recounting snippets from it. I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially when two thirds of the way through a story was told about an anonymous British football manager which I instantly recognised as a true tale about John Lambie the legendary Partick Thistle manager. If it has John Lambie quoted in it, then it truly is "stories of almost everyone."
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on 31 January 2011
This was a book chosen by a member of my book group - I probably wouldn't have read it otherwise. It is a book you can dip into - reading it in long stretches is fairly demanding. However it rewards the effort with stories and interpretations of history that give a corrective balance to how we remember the past. Some of these corrections are shaming and some exhilarating.For example, Galeano points out the role women have played in different periods which is not reflected in the received version of events. The style is at times epigrammatic and sentences stay in the mind. I'm glad I have read it.
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on 5 July 2016
Fascinating mini-histories, some so unusual, one wonders whether they're true or not. Often entertaining and sometimes bizarre and or incredible. Punchlines that take your breath away or make you shake your head in amazement. Easy to pick up and start anywhere, but difficult to put down.
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on 18 July 2011
This is one of the most striking books I have read for a long time. It consists of almost 600 snippets the author calls "stories" which range from the creation of man to the beginning of the 21st century and cover the globe.

The "stories" have strange titles like this: "Here Lay Paraguay", "Map Broken", "Origin of Language", "The Love of Loves", "Forbidden to be a Woman" and "Literary Origins of the Dog".

The author is Uruguayan and many of the "stories" relate to Latin American history and culture.

I find it rather surprising that someone from South America's smallest country should be so interested in the history of the whole of Latin America all the way from Mexico, across the Caribbean and right down to Patagonia.

Perhaps, he is trying to escape from the nationalism that is so prevalent, not only against neighboring countries but also against the nation with which most Latin Americans have a love-hate relationship, the United States.

At their best, these items are devastatingly insightful and gripping e.g. one called "The Ass":

"He gave warmth to new-born Jesus in the manger, and that's why he is in all the pictures, posing with his big ears besides the bed of straw.
On the back of an ass, Jesus escaped Herod's sword.
On the back of an ass, he wandered all his life.
On the back of an ass, he preached.
On the back of an ass, he entered Jerusalem
Perhaps the ass is not such an ass after all?"

At their worst, they are rather politically correct and there is some predictable Yankee-baiting. However, Galeano upholds the ideals of the American revolution.

Highly recommended.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 16 October 2010
There have been bigger and more in depth "histories" of the world but there can be few as much fun, as poetic or as genuinely illuminating as this one. Taking the form of numerous vignettes concerning various famous and not so famous people and events from history which are chosen to represent larger "truths" this is an easy read in that you can pick it up or put it down at will as each story is usually over in a paragraph or two, but like a good video game where you have to complete just one more level after another, in this case you will want to read just one more story, and then just one more and so on and so on until you'll find it's two in the morning. Starting with stories from pre-history and running through early legends into more "civilised" (and I use the word advisedly) times the story soon evolves into what I think is fair to say a rebuttal of much of the Eurocentric view of history, which is scathing about how religion and capitalism have affected humankind and offers many "alternative" views on famous historical events, hence the title "mirrors" I suppose. Much of the praise has to go to the translator as he has produced a magical lyricism which I can only assume is also present in the original Spanish.
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on 3 March 2011
I loved this book. The stories are fascinatingly offbeat and will pleasantly surprise. The global reach of the stories, with plenty coming from Latin American history - means that it is educational as well. As the stories are very short it makes an ideal book to leave around to pick up for a couple of minutes or so - & it makes you think. I found it very useful to entertain (and educate) my kids, with a quite different yet morally sound perspective on world events. It is sequenced roughly chronologically, so you can look for a period of history or go for "a lucky dip!" The stories are not footnoted, so it can not be trusted as an accurate history & is clearly polemical in places - but if taken for what it is, it will bring lots of mental stimulation.
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on 12 November 2013
2 1/2 stars.

I'm posting this on the slight chance that someone else with high expectations of Mirrors might be disappointed for the same reason that I was. . .

Galeano's approach, that of showing views--sometimes broad, sometimes narrowly focussed--of history in short titled segments in roughly chronological order is a good one, and it's in nearly every way a highly readable book. (His style isn't the lyrical one I'd half-expected--where others found prose poems I found serviceable prose.) It's likelier than not that anyone reading it will find something new to them, though possibly not a great deal: It would be an ideal book for someone who, as we say here, hasn't got a lot of history on him, especially if what knowledge of it he does have is limited to American and European history.

But the author's heavy-handedness made me leave off reading 100 pages in, though my 'heavy-handedness' might very well be your 'making things perfectly clear' or even 'passion'. Fairly soon in I began to feel annoyed by Galeano's tendency to make a point over and over again. I think the problem is not simply that within each sketch he can seem to belabour a point but that he groups sketches with a common theme together, which means there's no relief from his message. Yes, of course women, Muslims, non-Europeans, Jews, the poor and many more have been subjected to absolutely hideous and enragingly unjust treatment over the centuries and it's right that we should be reminded of this. If we're reminded many many times, though, and always in the same way the content of the reminder is weakened and, at least for me, the initial impact fades into irritation.

It was when the lack of subtlety in structure and presentation extended to the style that I finally decided to read no more, when I came upon this: 'Those [Muslim] sneaks still wear turbans to hide their horns, and long tunics to cover their tails and bat's wings . . . ' and then on the following page 'What do you mean Jesus was Jewish? And the twelve apostles and four evangelists too? Impossible'. Do you see why I find this heavy-handed? If you do, you've been warned; if you don't, by all means go for this book. In either case, you won't be disappointed.
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on 20 December 2011
I'm using clever here in a way that it ought to be used - clever: meaning witty, intelligent, astute and just, well, clever. This book takes you from the dawn of humanity to the present day and on the way challenges your assumptions about the course of history. It is a picture of humanity from the underside; a version of the world as if it were told by the black, female, Asian, gay and generally ignored portions of that story. Honestly, read this book and you will want to know more about a hundred different things. This book is the start of an adventure in learning about the world we live in.
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on 27 March 2015
Excellent writere, a man of our time, I recommend it.
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