Some of my favourite novels

I wish I had a good book to read, one that makes me stop checking the news, where nothing new is happening anyway (it turns out it is actually pretty boring to watch exponential curves flatten and it is even more boring to wait for a big scientific breakthrough.)

Here are some of my favourite contemporary novels. I wish I could read one of them for the first time! If you haven’t read them yet, you’re lucky.

Richard Ford, Canada

Such a sad, beautiful story which has felt true to me from start to end. There was, to me, nothing artificial, nothing constructed in it, like I have rarely experienced in a novel. I loved it from the first sentence, “First, let me tell you about the robbery our parents committed.”

Rachel Cusk, Outline

This is absolute genius. We get to know the mysterious protagonist only through the stories other people she meets tell her. And we know that something of her is expressed in all of these stories, like in dreams. Luckily, it is part of a trilogy, so if you love it you have even more to read (which I have sadly already done).

Kazuo Ishiguro, The Unconsoled

This is the book I had been waiting for all my life without knowing. This is how we humans are, constantly prioritizing the wrong things, constantly confused and easily manipulated. Also, the book follows dream logic and is as revealing as only dreams can be. I loved it so much.

Siri Hustvedt, What we Loved

A powerful and dark story that touched me deeply, and I haven’t forgotten, about 9 years since I read it.

Tim Parks, Dreams of Rivers and Seas

One of my favourite book titles and also one of my favourite books. What I love about Tim Parks is that is novels always seem incomplete and open, restless and questioning, and there is something mysterious about them as well. This one is, at least in my memory, about a man who lost his father and starts to question his own life as well.

Delphine de Vigan, Based on a True Story

I don’t really know why I loved this book so much. This is a dark thriller about a writer. In some ways, the book is giving a very intelligent and also funny comment about the trend of writing things that “really happened” (Knausgard etc.). I enjoyed it very much.

Lionel Shriver, Let’s talk about Kevin

I admire Lionel Shriver so much. She has an dark sense of humour, writes excellent dialogues and is an amazing observer or the most difficult aspects of our lives. I read nearly all of her books, this was the first of them and a really powerful reading experience.

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COVID-19 tests not being used

Many countries struggle with insufficient testing capabilities. Meanwhile, in Switzerland, hospitals and labs say that they could be doing many more tests with their newly bought machinery but are not allowed to. Because the government does not want to loosen the restrictive testing criteria back from the time when we did not have enough tests.

This is mind-boggling.

I can’t believe that there isn’t a big outcry in the Swiss media because of this.
A friend of my sister has had pneumonia for weeks and it is strongly suspected he has COVID-19, yet is not being tested, because he is otherwise young and healthy and does not meet testing criteria. He is trying to isolate from his family with 3 young children in their flat while the mother is going insane with work. Why are they not allowed to test him? I understand they do not want to test every hypochondriac with a sore throat, but at least they should be testing everyone with a non-bacterial pneumonia.

These things just make me uneasy. From the start I had the impression that the government was withholding information and I think they still do. Either they have a reason to believe that it is useful to keep these tests for later (because they expect a second, higher spike in cases?), or they are trying to hide something, or they are just incompetent, I don’t know.

I don’t necessarily believe that our government is more incompetent or lying to us more than other governments, but one of the creepiest things about this whole pandemics is this feeling of being manipulated. I remember well the government official that told us that this is “just like the flu” at the end of February or beginning of March, and I am sure this was a deliberate lie to keep us from doing things like hoarding or avoiding restaurants and thus damaging the economy.


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Base jumping and COVID-19

One of the things that is quite tiring about this whole crisis is how many lies and dumb conspiracy theories are repeated anywhere you look. Especially annoying are the people who still claim that this disease is not that dangerous. Yes, the initial death rates are overestimates because of asymptomatic and mild cases.
But even if they correct for this (and there are several independent methods used for this, like by looking at mutations of the virus etc.), current estimates are still around 0.5%-1% (including asymptomatic and mild cases!).
What many people do not seem to get is that a probability of dying of 0.5% is very high compared to the risks we normally accept in life. Only base jumpers are fine with risks like that.
Also, a probability of ending up in intensive care for weeks of 10% is very high too. People maybe don’t realize how brutal intensive care is. And it is even worse if the people caring for you in this situation are scared, overworked and trying not to get infected by you.
How is it possible that even intelligent people have not understood that yet? It seems clear that the lockdown will be partially lifted, reinstated, new methods (like masks, tracking etc. ) will be tried in the coming months. And all will be forever accompanied by a chorus of idiots claiming that the disease is not that bad. Especially if the governments make good decisions and not that many people die, they will always claim that we should have done less or nothing.
So annoying. And it also explains why we can’t act against climate change before major catastrophes happen; because then all the idiots who think it was a hoax all along will claim they were right and try to undo the changes we made.


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You are not living in a dystopia

Annoying article of the day complaining earnestly that dystopian TV series and books didn’t prepare us for the current crisis, which the author in all seriousness claims is “the apocalypse.”

This is as intelligent as complaining that reading hundreds of crime stories did not prepare you for the experience of getting robbed, or watching Greys Anatomy did not prepare you for the experience of being a patient in a hospital.

How naive can one possibly be?

Also, the current crisis is not the apocalypse.

Much of what is happening now can be solved, if politicians and other leaders decide to solve it. By pumping massive amounts of money into the economy, by investing as much as humanly possible into research for all sorts of possible solutions to halt the spread and finally stamp out this illness.

Even if some politicians still hesitate, they will all realize that this is the only way, sooner or later.

Meanwhile, much of life actually goes on. Babies are still born, people die of many other causes, factories are open, much of international trade is still happening, most countries have functional governments and people still have the time and energy to complain about dystopian TV series, of all things.

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Pandemic Internet Poetry (PIP)

This is internet poetry, strictly following the rules outlined by elkement (check out the wonderful poem that she created this way!). I also really enjoyed the somewhat strange websites that I ended up at the end the journey with both poems (and couldn’t get out of, since there were no external links! One was by the UK government, and the other seemed to be a psychology preprint server.)

Exponential Growth

Use maths in the real world

it may make sense to wait

which gives us two more chords.

3/4 blue 1/4 part brown.


Wall of thanks.

What is the perspective of your dreams?

We used mosquitos.

The home of terrible maps.


Years of their life sleeping:

Embrace that urge.

The role of subscale scores.

An altered state


Clocking the mind

the book should be

sought to replicate

under pressure.



The pandemic of the crown


The true figure

infects the lungs.


Touching your eyes,

fatigue or tiredness.


Two people are banned —

fine because of the coldness.


Allow games to go ahead.

Carry the greatest burden.


Unduly lenient sentence

When someone dies.





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