The King of Oil

Esta entrada es bilingüe. Para ver la versión en castellano desplazarse por la pantalla hacia abajo.

I’m planning to order, after reading The Coffee Trader, The King of Oil: The Secret Life of Marc Rich by Daniel Ammann. St. Martin’s Griffin, November 2010. Pages 336. ISBN: 978-0-312-65068-1.

The blurb runs: Billionaire oil trader Marc Rich for the first time talks at length about his private life (including his expensive divorce from wife Denise); his invention of the spot oil market, which made his fortune and changed the world economy; his lucrative and unpublicized dealings with Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iran, Fidel Castro’s Cuba, war-ravaged Angola, and apartheid South Africa; his quiet cooperation with the Israeli and U.S. governments (even after he was indicted for tax fraud by Rudy Guiliani) and near-comical attempts by U.S. officials to kidnap him illegally.

This sure-to-make-headlines book is the first no-holds-barred biography of Rich, who was famously pardoned by Bill Clinton, and resurfaced in the news during the confirmation hearings of Attorney General Eric Holder. It sheds stunning new light on one of the most controversial international businessmen of all time.

Excerpt

Daniel Ammann is business editor of the highly regarded Swiss weekly Die Weltwoche. He was educated at Zurich University, UC Berkeley and Fondation Postuniversitaire Internationale in Paris. In 2007 he won the Georg von Holtzbrinck Prize for Business Journalism.

Check out the reviews HERE.

El Rey del Petróleo

Estoy pensando en comprar, después de leer El mercader de café, El Rey del Petróleo: La apasionante y polémica vida del fundador de Glencore, por Daniel Ammann. Planeta septiembre 2011. Traducido por Julia C. Gómez Sáez. Páginas 384. ISBN: 978-84-270-3787-8.

Sinopsis: ¿Qué se esconde detrás de la fundación Glencore, cuya salida a Bolsa ha acabado con su histórico hermetismo? ¿Qué es lo que motivó a Bill Clinton a conceder el indulto presidencial a Marc Rich en medio de un grave escándalo político? ¿Qué motivó al Rey don Juan Carlos, al Premio Nobel Camilo José Cela o al empresario Fernando Fernández Tapias a brindarle su más incondicional apoyo cuando estaba acorralado por la justicia estadounidense?¿Cuál es la estrecha relación que une a Rich con España?

Esta es la historia de un escándalo. La primera biografía sin tapujos del hombre que transformó el mercado de las materias primas. Un relato rodeado de intrigas y traición sobre una de las figuras más polémicas de todos los tiempos…

Daniel Ammann es el editor de la sección de finanzas del respetado semanario suizo Die Weltwoche. Estudió en la Universidad de Zúrich, en la Universidad de California Berkeley y en la Fondation Post universitaire Internationale de París. En 2007 ganó el premio Georg von Holtzbrinck de periodismo financiero.

Wild guesses on the 2012 CWA International Dagger

I won’t argue with Norman about his post HERE, but I also think it’s fun to make some wild guesses for next year CWA International Dagger and compare them with the final shortlist when it is published. Here is my list:

The Coffee Trader by David Liss

Esta entrada es bilingüe, desplazarse por la pantalla hacia abajo para ver la versión en castellano

Abacus, 2003. 388 pages. ISBN: 9780349115009.

The Coffee Trader is an historical novel set in Amsterdam during 1659. A Portuguese Jew named Miguel Lienzo, having lost a considerable amount of money on sugar trading, is living now on the charity of his younger brother David. Since childhood there has been a great rivalry between the two brothers, a rivalry that has increased over the time. Miguel is attracted to Hannah, his brother’s wife, who is now expecting their first child. Hannah, who was raised Catholic, was only informed of her Jewish origins on her wedding eve. Annetje, a Dutch housemaid and, eventually, Miguel’s mistress, holds a strong influence on Hannah as a result of an old confidence.

One day, Miguel receives a proposal from an intriguing Dutch widow called Geertruid Damhuis, to invest in a new commodity; coffee. She has the money to fund the investment, but she lacks his trading skills. Miguel, in order to solve his financial troubles, is willing to challenge the policy of the Ma’amad, the ruling body of the Sephardi community, which doesn’t allow partnership with gentiles, at the risk of being expelled from the community. Thus he will face his old enemy, Solomon Parido, a wealthy merchant, a parnass –a member of the Ma’amad, and a friend to his brother. Simultaneously Miguel is trying to avoid the threats of a Dutchman, Joachim Waagenaar who, believing he has been cheated by Miguel, demands to recover his losses.

Among the wide range of characters that populate this story we also find the usurer Alonzo Alferonda, a converso whose family escaped the Inquisition with the help provided by a ten-year-old Miguel Lienzo. Alferonda is now a personal enemy of Solomon Parido that expelled him from the Sephardi community. Together with a Jewish trader called Isiah Nunes and Hendrink, a Dutchman at Geertuid’s service.

“A man of business lies all the time. He lies to put trades to his advantage or to construct circumstances just so. A man may lie to make his position look better it is, or weaker than it is, depending on his goals, None of these are the same as lying in a way that may harm another man. These lies are merely the rules of business….”

Only the scheme designed by Miguel Lienzo to make a killing in the coffee market is highly unlikely and the description is rather poor. I still wonder how he could have benefit from a drop in prices with such a combination of cash, puts and futures, not to mention how he managed to bring the price down. I also think it’s exaggerated to show that speed on the flow of information through various Commodity Exchanges or trading centres in those days. But having said that I’ve certainly enjoyed the plot. The tension and mystery is well established throughout the book, with quite a number of surprising twists and turns, nothing is what it seems. It is also worth to notice the excellent recreation of the Dutch Golden Age and the research done as evidenced by the reading list that accompanies the text. The effort has paid off and I’ll certainly recommend this book in spite of its flaws.

El mercader de café de David Liss

El mercader de café es una novela histórica ambientada en Amsterdam en 1659. Un Judio portugués llamado Miguel Lienzo, después de haber perdido una cantidad considerable de dinero en el mercado de azúcar, está viviendo de la caridad de su hermano menor, David. Desde la infancia ha existido una gran rivalidad entre los dos hermanos, una rivalidad que se ha incrementado con el tiempo. Miguel se siente atraído por Hannah, la esposa de su hermano, que ahora está esperando su primer hijo. Hannah, que se educó como católica, sólo fue informada de sus orígenes judíos en la víspera de su boda. Annetje, la criada holandesa y amante de Miguel, ejerce una poderosa influencia sobre Hannah como resultado de una vieja confidencia.

Un día, Miguel recibe la propuesta de una intrigante viuda holandesa llamada Geertruid Damhuis, de invertir en un nuevo producto; café. Ella tiene los fondos para financiar la inversión, pero carece de aptitudes como comerciante. Miguel, con el fin de resolver sus problemas financieros, está dispuesto a desafiar la política del Ma’amad, el órgano de gobierno de la comunidad sefardí, que no permite la asociación con los gentiles, aún a riesgo de ser expulsado de la comunidad judía. Por este motivo se enfrentará a su antiguo enemigo, Solomon Parido, un rico comerciante, un parnass -miembro del Ma’amad, y un amigo de su hermano. Al mismo tiempo Miguel intentará eludir las amenazas del holandés Joachim Waagenaar, quien creyendose engañado por Miguel, le exige recuperar sus pérdidas.

Entre la amplia gama de personajes que pueblan esta historia nos encontramos también con el usurero Alonzo Alferonda, un converso cuya familia escapó de la Inquisición gracias a la ayuda proporcionada por Miguel Lienzo cuando sólo contaba con diez años de edad. Alferonda es ahora un enemigo personal de Solomón Parido que lo expulsó de la comunidad sefardí. Junto con un comerciante judío llamado Isiah Nunes y con Hendrink, un holandés al servicio de Geertruid.

“Un hombre de negocios miente todo el tiempo. Miente con objeto de tener ventaja en un negocio o para construir las circunstancias que le proporcionen esa ventaja. Un hombre puede mentir para hacer ver que su posición es mejor, o más débil de lo que es, en función de sus objetivos. Nada de esto es lo mismo que mentir de forma que se pueda perjudicar a otro hombre. Estas mentiras son simplemente las reglas del negocio …. ” (mi traducción).

Sólo el esquema diseñado por Miguel Lienzo para enriquecerse en el mercado del café es muy poco probable y su descripción es bastante pobre. Todavía me pregunto cómo pudo beneficiarse de una caída de los precios con esa combinación de efectivo, puts y futuros, por no hablar de cómo consiguió hacer caer el precio. También creo exagerado esa velocidad en el flujo de la información a través de las diferentes bolsas en aquellos tiempos. Pero dicho esto ciertamente he disfrutado de la trama. La tensión y el misterio está bien establecidos en todo el libro, y hay un buen número de giros sorprendentes, nada es lo que parece. También vale la pena destacar la excelente recreación del Siglo de Oro holandés y la investigación realizada como lo demuestra la lista de lecturas que acompaña al texto. El esfuerzo ha merecido la pena y sin duda voy a recomendar este libro a pesar de sus defectos.

Crime Fiction on a Euro Pass – Prague (Czech Republic)

Crime Fiction on a Euro Pass is a community meme hosted by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise. The idea behind is that participants write a post linked to the country of the week. This week’s country is the Czech Republic. You can visit HERE the contribution of other fellow participants.

BMG 010Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, is its most valuable historical city reserve. In 1992 the historical core of the city covering 866 hectares was listed in the UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage Register. Prague represents a unique collection of historical monuments dominated by the Prague Castle which towers high above the city. It is a display of all artistic styles and movements. The historical core of the city is situated on both banks of the Vltava river and consists of 6 parts – formerly independent urban units unified in the 18th century. They are as follows: Stare Mesto (Old Town), Josefov (the preserved part of the former Jewish Town – today a part of the Old Town), Nove Mesto (New Town), Mala Strana (Lesser Town), Hradcany and Vysehrad. Naturally, most of the historical monuments, museums and galleries are concentrated right there. For additional information click HERE. BMG 284

Pavel Kohout (born July 20, 1928, Prague) is a Czech and Austrian novelist, playwright, and poet. He was a member of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, a Prague Spring exponent and dissident in 1970s until he was expelled to Austria. He was a founding member of the Charter 77 movement. His novels include White Book (an absurdist picture of life under Communism), I Am Snowing (a post-Communism story about the opening of the Communist-era secret police informer files, the effect of that opening on the informers BMG 393and their victims, and thus about the corrosive effect of the Communist regime), The Widow Killer (a detective story set in World War II Nazi-occupied Prague), and The Hangwoman (a black-humour story about executioners). (source: Wikipedia).

I’m currently reading The Widow Killer.

The blurb runs: In the downward spiral of the Third Reich’s final days, a sadistic serial killer is stalking the streets of Prague. The unlikely pair of Jan Morava, a rookie Czech police detective, and Erwin Buback, a Gestapo agent questioning his own loyalty to the Nazi’s, set out to stop the murderer. Weaving a delicate tale of human struggle underneath the surface of a thrilling murder story, Kohout has created a memorable work of fiction.

Opening sentence: When the doorbell rang just after the siren, Elisabeth, baroness of Pomerania, was sure the caretaker had come to escort her down to the shelter; she donned the black fur coat she had just hung up, picked up her small emergency suitcase, unhooked the door chain, and realized that she had just let her murderer in.   

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The pictures are mine (September, 2009).