Friday, May 20, 2011

Sumerki

Dmitrij Alexejewitsch gets a job translating an old Spanish text. He's immediately fascinated by the account of a journey of a group of soldiers and monks to confiscate Mayan books and idols. The more he reads, the more he is pulled into the world of Conquistadores, Maya and Inca rituals and mysteries. He also discovers that other people are interested in the text as well and will even kill to get it.

Sumerki is Dmitry Glukhovsky's third book and people who expect another Metro book will be disappointed. I never understood how readers can demand that their favourite author writes only one genre or the same story over and over, though. I like to discover new things and if I can do that by reading a book by one of my favourite authors, that's awesome.

The diary that Dmitrij Alexejewitsch translates has its roots in history, there really was an autodafe where the vast majority of Maya culture in form of books was destroyed. Diego de Landa, the man responsible for it later wrote a book on Maya culture that contains much of what we know about it today. He's a fascinating figure.

The book addresses the myth that the Maya have predicted the end of the world and the way catastrophes happen in the world (tsunamis, earthquakes) while Dmitrij sits at home and translates, the reader begins to suspect they may have had a point. I loved the description of the Maya ritual at the end of the every 56 year period, when the sun may or may not come up again. That's something that is very common in many myths worldwide and I think it's a fear all humans share(d) at some level. It sounds ridiculous to us today, but it's a powerful thought: do this and the sun will not come up tomorrow or there will be no more spring.

The further I read, the more it seemed like the past was connected to the world Dmitrij lives in and at one point of the story that I found absolutely chilling, it becomes perfectly clear that there is a connection.

It's a book with a very unusual theme and once again, it's thought-provoking and will make you wonder about many things after having read it. It's worth following up on the topics discussed or hinted at, I learned a lot about both Russian and Maya culture.
Sumerki means Twilight, by the way.

27th book for the Library Challenge

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