This is it: this will be my final book for the year, and #26 for my reviews. And I have saved the most difficult book for last
I’m not going to lie, it took my close to 4 months to make my way through Historia de las moscas y de los mosquitos: y su influencia en el devenir de la humanidad This is honestly because the books was well above my skill level. However, many of the books that were at my skill level at the time were aimed at children and were often a bit dull, which really didn’t give me much motivation to seek them out. (I only have so much free time and I and I am loath to spend it doing things I find tedious)
So why this particular book? I saw a copy of it at the museum store at the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau and thought the subject matter —insects and the history of science—was right up my alley. So I made of note of it and decided to look for the translation when I got home
That turned out to be pretty silly on my behalf; I had no reason to assume that there actually was a translation. So my only option was to push the doubts away and just have a crack at the one version available.
I originally borrowed a copy from the library at Guinardó, but I had it out so long that they threatened to knife me in the back if I didn’t give it back (I actually do not have a good record with the Barcelona library system.) So that left me with no choice but to actually purchase my own copy if I wanted to finish it. The upside? Wth my own copy, I am free to dog-ear and pencil in notes and translations until my heart’s content.
The book is split into two parts: one concering the flies, the other the mosquitos. As Sistach makes clear very early on, flies share a long history with humanity, evidenced by their frequent appearences in mythology and literature where they’re usually seen as agents of wickedness or ill fortune. These associations were drawn due to their roles in spreading disease and lingering around refuse and decay. While typhoid, dysentry and cholera are detailed on quite extensivly, the perculularities of the tsetse fly and Trypanosomiasis are so engrossing that they end up with a whole subject dedicated to them.
But it is the mosquitoes that get the lion’s share of the attention here. Decribed as ‘el criminal más encontrado’, the mosquito is a vector of two very serious illnesses that have had a huge impact on human populations: maleria and yellow fever. You really cannot play down the effects these two diseases have had on the parts of the world where they are known to be endemic.
What is interesting is how these mosquito borne diseases shaped historic events, from the colonisation of Africa to conflicts in the Pacific during World War Two. However two of my favorite chapters came near the end of the book and they both focus on yellow fever. The first focuses on the ourbreak that struck Barcelona with deestating consequences in 1821; while the second details how the disease crippled the French effort to build the Panama Canal, and what the Americans ended up doing differently.
I didn’t really have much knowlege of either event before reading the book, and as both of these events predate the invention and application of synthetic pesticides, I personally found reading about how such events were handled quite fascinating.
Overall, this was a very interesting read, despite me sometimes having to look up mutiple words in a paragraph (Sometimes, multiple times.) The language used was not so elaborate that I got bogged down completely, which was a relief as well.
Sistach states near the end of the book that “Undoubtably these great deaths throughout history have systemically altered the will of man when it comes to carrying out any action” and it cannot be doubted that the buzzies and the itchies have left their mark.
So this is it, I’m done, and I will be clocking off reviews until maybe mid Jan!