Cryptography, A Very Short Introduction. Fred Piper & Sean Murphy. Oxford Books, 2002.
Part of the Very Short Introduction series which introduces concise knowledge on various topics such as Intelligence, Literary Theory, Cosmology, and others, this book focuses on how the hiding of information – in Greek, “cryptos” means hidden and “graph” means writing – has been used, elaborated and studied in the past as well as in modern times. Starting with basic concepts, the book then presents historical algorithms like Caesar ciphers, Vigenere ciphers, and transposition ciphers and continues with “unbreakable” ciphers that can, for sure, be broken, and with modern ciphers such as stream ciphers and block ciphers. The last chapters describe practical use of cryptography in modern everyday life.
3,096 Days. Natascha Kampusch. Penguin, 2010.
On March 2, 1998, ten-year-old Natascha Kampusch was snatched off a street in Vienna by a stranger and bundled into a white van. Just an hour later she was lying on a cold cellar floor, rolled up in a blanket. When she emerged from captivity in 2006, having endured one of the longest abductions in recent history, her childhood was gone. Her captor committed suicide by throwing himself under a train on the day she broke free. In this book, Kampusch gives her own account of what happened during her difficult childhood, from the fateful morning of her kidnapping and the long imprisonment in a tiny dungeon, as well as the physical and mental abuse she suffered from her captor, Wolfgang Priklopil. 3,096 Days is a story about the triumph of human spirit, about how the young victim learned to manipulate her jailer and how, in the end, she managed to escape with her spirit intact. Kampusch, now in her 20s, lives in Vienna and is a student.
Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter. Mario Vargas Llosa. Faber and Faber, re-issued in 2002.
Mario Vargas Llosa, a Nobel laureate from Peru, has written a comic, imaginative, lively novel that has been praised by newspaper reviewers as witty and wise, and full of immense vitality and imagination. Mario, an 18-year-old law student and radio news editor, falls for his Aunt Julia, the 32-year-old divorced wife of his cousin, and their love story is interwoven with episodes from a series of radio soap operas written by his friend Pedro Camacho. Apart from the amusing content, the book also offers a remarkable feeling for the book’s original language that can be felt in the English translation as well.
Arabian Nights’ Entertainments. Edited with an introduction and notes by Robert L. Mack. Oxford World’s Classic, 1998.
The tales with which Scheherazade nightly postponed the murderous intent of the sultan have initiated a pattern of literary reference and influence which today remains as powerful and intense in English literary history as it was throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. This edition reproduces the earliest English translation of Antoine Galland’s Les mille et une nuits, originally published by the French Orientalist from 1704 to 1717. This remained for over a century the only English translation of the story cycle, influencing an incalculable number of writers, and no other edition offers the complete text supplemented by full textual apparatus. This edition is complete with the introduction, textual notes, a biography of Antoine Galland, bibliography, chronology of the appearance of Arabian Nights’ Entertainments in Europe, appendices and explanatory notes that all help readers interpret the stories and set them in their historical and literary context. Characters like Sinbad, Aladdin, Ali Baba, and Caliph Harun al-Rashid are all generally notorious or often cited in all artistic genres; in this book, they are revived and brought to consciousness with all their beauty, adventurous spirit, comicality, and enlightening and eye-opening moral lessons.
This column is a selection by The Slovak Spectator of English-language books recently released in Slovakia; it does not represent an endorsement of any of the books selected. The column is prepared in cooperation with the Oxford Bookshop Bratislava, located at Laurinská 9.
17. Jan 2011 at 0:00 | Compiled by Spectator staff