Tag Archives: philosophy

My Book Year 2019

The year 2019 is almost over and it is time to look back at my reading and blogging experiences.

After a hiatus, I started again to blog more or less regularly and I hope this will be also the case for 2020.

As for my reading, I didn’t keep a diary to track down the books I read this year, but the number is approximately 130, so roughly two and a half books per week, of which around 60% were fiction, 40% non-fiction. Almost all books I read were “real” printed books, only one book was read electronically. I read books in four languages (German, English, French, Bulgarian).

Every book year brings interesting discoveries, pleasant surprises, some re-reads of books I enjoyed in the past, and a few disappointments. Here are my highlights of the last year:

The most beautiful book I read in 2019: Arnulf Conradi, Zen und die Kunst der Vogelbeobachtung (Zen and the Art of Birdwatching)

Best re-reads in 2019: Michel de Montaigne, Essais; Karl Philipp Moritz, Anton Reiser; Salomon Maimon, Lebensgeschichte (Autobiography)

Best novels I read in 2019: Marlen Haushofer, Die Wand (The Wall); Uwe Johnson, Jahrestage (Anniversaries); Jean Rhys, Sargasso Sea

Best poetry books I read in 2019: Thomas Brasch: Die nennen das Schrei (Collected Poems); Johannes Bobrowski, Gesammelte Gedichte (Collected Poems), Franz Hodjak, Siebenbürgische Sprechübung (Transylvanian Speaking Exercise); Yehuda Amichai, The Poetry of Yehuda Amichai; Anise Koltz, Sich der Stille hingeben (Surrender to the Silence); Mahmoud Darwish, Unfortunately It Was Paradise; Vladimir Sabourin, Останките на Троцки (Trotzky’s Remains); Rainer René Mueller, geschriebes, selbst mit stein

Best Graphic Novel I read in 2019: Art Spiegelman, Maus

Best SF novel I read in 2019: Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, The Doomed City

Best crime novel I read in 2019: Ingrid Noll, Halali

Best philosophy book I read in 2019: Ibn Tufail, The Improvement of Human Reason

Best non-fiction books I read in 2019: Charles King, The Moldovans; Charles King, Midnight at the Pera Palace; Timothy Snyder, The Road to Unfreedom; Adriano Sofri, Kafkas elektrische Straßenbahn (Kafkas Electric Streetcar); Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost; Lucy Inglis, Milk of Paradise; Adina Hoffman and Peter Cole, Sacred Trash; Sasha Abramsky, The House of Twenty Thousand Books

Best art book I read in 2019: Hans Belting, Der Blick hinter Duchamps Tür (The View behind Duchamp’s Door)

Best travel book I read in 2019: Johann Gottfried Seume, Spaziergang nach Syrakus (Walk to Syracuse)

Biggest book disappointment in 2019: Elena Ferrante, Neapolitan Novels

Favourite book cover in 2019: Ivo Rafailov’s cover for the Bulgarian edition of Marjana Gaponenko’s Who Is Martha? (this edition is upcoming in January 2020)

Most impressive translator’s work: Jennifer Croft’s translation of Flights by Olga Tokarczuk; Vladimir Sabourin’s translations in his Bulgarian poetry anthology Радост на Началото (The Joy of the Beginning)

Most embarrassing authors in 2019: Peter Handke; Christoph Hein; Zachary Karabashliev

Good as always: Vladimir Sorokin, The Blizzard; Clarice Lispector, Near to the Wild Heart; Ismail Kadare, The Traitor’s Niche; Jabbour Douaihy, Printed in Beirut; Georg Klein, Die Zukunft des Mars (The Future of the Mars); Phillipe Claudel, Le rapport de Brodeck (Brodeck), Kapka Kassabova, Border; Naguib Mahfouz, The Midaq Alley

Interesting Authors I discovered in 2019: Samanta Schweblin, Mouthful of Birds; Olga Tokarczuk, Flights; Isabel Fargo Cole, Die Grüne Grenze (The Green Border); Hartmut Lange, Das Haus in der Dorotheenstraße (The House in the Dorotheenstraße); Erich Hackl, Abschied von Sidonie (Farewell to Sidonia)

And which were your most remarkable books in 2019?

© Thomas Hübner and Mytwostotinki, 2014-9. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and Mytwostotinki with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Heiße Luft

Nachdem ich einen Blick in eine Ausgabe der Zeitschrift “Hohe Luft” (mit dem ansprechenden Untertitel: “Für alle, die Lust am Lesen und Denken haben”) geworfen habe, empfehle ich – im Hinblick auf Qualität und Schreibstil etlicher Artikel – eine kleine Anpassung des Titels der Zeitschrift.

“Heiße Luft” wäre zweifelsohne sehr viel passender…

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-6. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Котката на ШрьодингЕР – Schrödinger’s Cat

Our first book project is ready and is being published these days:


“Schrödinger’s cat, one of the most eccentric protagonists of quantum mechanics, philosophizes in a loud and lyrical manner over its schizophrenic state. Locked up in a box together with a deadly mechanism that can be triggered by the decay of a radioactive nucleus the cat is in a superposed, undecidable state: both dead and alive.

In this paradoxical and hopeless situation the cat begins to analyze itself at various levels. It realizes, for example, that its state of indecision and in-between-ness also bears terrific advantages: it frees from the responsibility to necessarily make a decision. To be – not to be, either – or, male – female, one cat – other cat, nothing but binary codes! Meow! The cat uses this unique opportunity to indulge in rhetorical games by mixing gender, political, cultural, linguistic and racial identity-related differences.

As fleet-footed and playful as a cat, the illustrations made by Victor Muhtarov, Tita and their son Sava lead us through the cat’s pamphlet full of profound black humor.”

Един от най-ексцентричните персонажи на квантовата механика, котката на Шрьодингер*, размишлява на глас, лирично, над шизофреничното си състояние. Затворено от Шрьодингер в кутия с летален механизъм съдържащ атомно ядро в период на полуразпад и отрова, котето, поради липса на алтернативи, е изпълнено с мазохистична любов към безпощадния си създател. То знае, че е част от мисловен експеримент, в който съдбата му е свързана със състоянието на полуразпадналото се атомно ядро. Докато кутията е затворена и наблюдателят не вижда развитието на събитията в нея то е ни живо – ни умряло.
Парадоксалната ситуация на котето, (което само по себе си е само една парадоксална мисъл на един учен) го подтиква към самоанализ на много различни нива. Оказва се, че състоянието на междинност и неопределеност има своите предимства. Отпада отговорността да се вземат решения, отваря се пространство за реторични игри и смесвания на полови, културни, политически, езикови и расови различия в идентичността. Вътрешните конфликти се появяват отново едва при случайната конфронтация с външни наблюдатели изискващи от котето да заеме конкретна позиция. Но диалозите с тях също така му помагат да достигне до новo, съществено прозрение: усещането за право на личен избор и мнение е илюзорно. Всичко зависи от състоянието на атомното ядро в механизма. При тези обстоятелства котето е просто един киборг, сливащ биологични и механични компоненти в една система. Спасение или изход за него може да има само ако системата се отвори.
*Котката на Шрьодингер е мисловен експеримент от квантовата механика, представен от Ервин Шрьодингер през 1935 г., с цел да покаже, че пренасянето на понятия от квантовата механика в макросистемите, например обекти с размерите на котка, създава неочаквани проблеми. Според класическата физика, подлежаща основно на законите на Нютон, един обект от макроскопичния свят може да се намира само в едно от множество възможни състояния, а не в няколко състояния едновременно. В квантовата механика, за разлика от класическата физика, една частица може да се намира в няколко състояния едновременно.

(from the book’s FB page)

Котката на ШрьодингЕР – субатомен памфлет в реално време / Schrödinger’s Cat – a subatomic pamphlet in real time

Автор / Аuthor : Милена Г. Николова / Milena G. Nikolova
Илюстрации / Illustrations: Виктор Мухтаров, Тита Койчева, Сава Мухтаров / Victor Muhtarov, Tita Koicheva, Sava Muhtarov
Издател / Publisher: Ризома / Rhizome, София / Sofia

ISBN 978-619-90544-0-6

Information about the book launching event will follow. 

My special thanks to Milena, Victor, Tita, Sava, our editor Kris Enchev and of course to my co-publisher Elitsa Osenska to whom I am deeply indebted.

Translation rights, more information and a pdf file of the English translation are available on request.

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-6. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


How should we act?

What is the worst crime? Are we always obliged to help others? Why is punishment sometimes necessary? What is the sense of life?

These and some other questions are the subject of a small book on ethics, written by the philosopher Ernst Tugendhat and the two experienced teachers and writers Celso López, and Ana Maria Vicuña. The book was originally written in 1995 for an ethics course in Chile, and it has a similar target as the books of Matthew Lipman for school children of thirteen to fifteen years.

Manuel, Camila and some of their friends go to school like almost all their peers all over the world. And they come along many situations, either personally in school, family or in the circle of friends, or by reports in the media, that touch ethical questions and lead to discussions among them, but also with their parents, teachers, or the trusted kind school librarian Senor Ibarra. The form of the dialogue, embedded in a small story, makes it an easy and entertaining read and makes it also more easy to follow the lines of argumentation. This open form also encourages the reader not to be content with the presented arguments, but to rethink the discussed question and find her/his own opinion and answers on it.

One of the best introductions to ethics for young people that I know of. Highly recommended for translation into English (the book is available in Spanish and German).  


Ernst Tugendhat, Celso López, Ana María Vicuña: El libro de Manuel y Camila, Editorial Gedisa 2001; Wie sollen wir handeln?, Philipp Reclam, 2000 

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Last Days of Immanuel Kant

Thomas De Quincey who wrote arguably the best English prose of the 19th century is known nowadays mainly for his “Confessions of an English Opium-Eater”. But this author that had so manifold interests was writing also about philosophy, history, archaeology, theology, and economics, authored an essay  “On Murder considered as one of the Fine Arts” and a series of articles “Gallery of the German Prose Classics”, in which he presented among others Jean Paul for the first time to an English-speaking public. Another skillful article of this series is on “The Last Days of Immanuel Kant”. This essay was republished in Italy and Germany a few years ago in a nice little volume together with an instructive preface by Giorgio Manganelli and other material. (I read it in the German version, by Matthes & Seitz publishers)

De Quincey who was very interested in German literature and philosophy, started about 20 years after Kant’s death to collect all surviving reports and information related to Kant’s last phase of life. At that time, Kant’s philosophy was not yet very well known outside the German-speaking countries, since he had published almost everything he wrote in German, a language that had until then no tradition as a language of science and that was therefore not very well known in academic circles outside the German-speaking countries. (Leibniz had still published exclusively in Latin or French)

The Kant we meet in De Quincey’s essay – and that is based mainly on the work “Kant in seinen letzten Lebensjahren” (Kant in the last years of his life) of Kant’s pupil and administrator of his household during the last years of his life, Ehrengott Andreas Wasianski – is at the beginning a man at the height of its intellectual abilities and health, a man whose meticulously regulated everyday routine was legendary already at his time, but also a man that liked to socialize at his lunch table with other men from diverse backgrounds.

Kant, who skipped all meals except lunch also invited young people to his table and was thanks to the diverse and ever-changing participants of these meals a man who was always very well-informed about any sphere of life that was interesting to him – and he was a person with a very wide range of interests and a great curiosity. The lunch was taken in a rather informal manner that kept everyone at ease and all participants helped themselves to refill their wine glasses on their own as frequently as they wished. (Women were not admitted at these occasions.) De Quincey’s Kant is a charming and witty host who knows always how to refuel an interesting debate and keep the relaxed but always focused discussions going.

We get to know Kant as a very modest person that secretly took a great interest in the fate of his former students and who used a big part of his income to help poor relatives or other people in need. Altogether we meet a very kind and attractive personality here. But also someone that shows us in some moments that the permanent working on philosophical theories and the publication and revision of his own works and the works of others took a toll on him. Some of Kant’s actions show us that he was not free of some “tics” that were maybe still harmless, but already bordering the pathological. Kant kept himself very busy to invent an extremely complicated device that would keep his socks in place without having a negative impact on his blood circulation and he could only work properly when he was sitting in his study and could see the tip of a nearby tower. When after some years, some trees in a neighbor’s garden had grown so much that Kant had difficulties to see the tower, he was suffering a major crisis and writer’s block – that ended swiftly after his friendly neighbor agreed to cut the tree tops that had such a negative impact on Professor Kant’s creativity.

During the last years in the life of the philosopher, symptoms of physical and mental decline are getting evident, first in a hidden form, then more and more open. Wasianski, since years part of Kant’s household, is the first to remark it: his master is telling the same stories several times on the same day without remembering the fact that he already told them before, his short-term memory is getting worse and worse and the notes he starts to make for these cases, he is losing regularly. The philosopher who is slowly drifting toward dementia is aware of this process and it is very touching to see the slow extinction of this great mind. His arguing with the servants – so untypical for him, but a result of his growing inability to make himself understood properly – his declining interest in the lunch conversations, finally his inability to read or to write his own name – there is not a single painful symptom that De Quincey (and his source Wasianski) spares the reader. We readers of the 21th century may be grateful for the fact that Kant was not bothered very much by his contemporaries and mostly left alone in his suffering. In our times, knowing almost no privacy anymore, we can be almost sure that sensationalist reports about his health and state of mind would be reported in the voyeuristic media on a daily basis, if he would be our contemporary. A kind fate saved Kant (despite Wasianski) at least from these experiences.

The last pages of the essay have something agonizing: every time the reader thinks (and hopes it for Kant’s sake) that it is all over now, a further deterioration is happening, until the poor man can finally die. His wish, voiced in one of his last clear moments before the end, to be kissed one last time by his sister and the loyal Wasianski, is touching even for the cool Englishman De Quincey (who makes it very clear in his meandering annotations that he usually finds the over-exaggerated display of feelings he remarks frequently among Germans as being not appropriate and a sign of weakness – Kant, the descendant of a Scotsman was more to De Quincey’s liking also because he usually abstained from such “French” habits).

Leaving the fact aside that it is always a great pleasure to read the prose of such a master as De Quincey, we learn in this essay a lot about the man Kant (not so much about his philosophy), things that are usually not very well known. But beside from that this essay is particularly moving because we all know that one way or the other we will not evade from the topic ‘dementia’ during our own lifetime – either because we might suffer it ourselves in the future or because someone close to us is spending the last part of his or her journey to the end of night with this diagnosis. That even a great mind like Kant was no exception to this is deeply disturbing but in a strange way also comforting. We cannot run away from our own fate, we can just use the bit of time we have in the best possible way. In this respect Kant set a good example for all of us.

Die letzten Tage des Immanuel Kant

Thomas de Quincey: The Last Days of Immanuel Kant – Die letzten Tage des Immanuel Kant
Aus dem Englischen übersetzt und herausgegeben von Cornelia Langendorf. Mit Beiträgen von Fleur Jaeggy, Giorgio Manganelli und Albert Caraco, Matthes & Seitz

Other interesting reviews:
Justin Erik Halldor Smith


© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.