The Whales Know A Journey through Mexican California: by Pino Cacucci, translated by Katherine Gregor

For years, few days before my husband's birthday, I used to go to the Travel Section at our local bookstore to look for the perfect book that would capture his imagination. Those were not the kind of books which I would normally choose for myself, but somehow I was always able to find the right book for him.

 Earlier this week, as I was reading through The Whales Know A Journey through Mexican California, by the Italian writer Pino Cacucci (and beautifuly translated by our own Red Room blogger Katherine Gregor), I realized that this was the perfect book for Tzvi my late  husband. Even the name of the publisher was highly appropriate, “Armchair Traveller:”  Tzvi was an avid reader who loved to sit at home and learn about other people’s  journeys and adventures from books.

 The Whales Know is a collection of 20 short charming and erudite essays that combine descriptions of Cacucci's travels through Mexican California with intellectual insights. The essays are rich with allusions and thought-provoking references.

 Sometimes translations tend to be somewhat heavy and cumbersome, as the translator is eager to be as true to the source as possible, and in the process forgets that ultimately the book would be judged by its accessibility and appeal.  However, thanks to the sensitivity and talent of Katherine Gregor, The Whales Know in the English translation has a poetic and natural flow.

  Books about travelling are great reading material all year around, but  this book is especially appropriate to take on vacation. Reading an essay or two a day gives plenty of food for the imagination for the rest of the time. Another unique quality of the collection is that the reader could open the book on almost any page and is sure to find an illuminating passage: for example: from essay number 19 “Frontera:”

 “The border has shaped me from my very childhood and continues to teach me even now I am past fifty. . .The border, no matter how much wire netting and how many trenches are built, always ends up uniting rather than separating those who live in its shadow. “(p. 126) 

  As an Israeli, the issue of borders is relevant and close to my heart. On the Mexican border Cacucci  meets the Mexican author Gabriel Trujillo Munoz  and quotes his writing on this subject (this time Cacucciis himself is in the role of the translator).

 I took The Whales Know with me on my Passover vacation to the Ramon Crater in the Desert Mountain and was very happy with this choice. Since it is a small book, I was able to carry it long while walking on the edge of the crater. Every so often I would sit down read  an essay and then resume the walk. I couldn’t think of a better, or more stimulating, companion. This time I found the right book for me.


Here is the link, and the details of the book:

 The Whales Know

  A Journey Through Mexican California

  By Pino Cacucci

  At 2,000 km, Baja California in modern-day Mexico is one of the longest peninsulas in the world, and certainly one of the most geographically diverse. Following in the footsteps of John Steinbeck, Pino Cacucci travels through endless expanses of desert, salt mountains and rows of cacti with thorns so sharp they can impale thirsty birds. He meets local characters ranging from greedy privateers to Jesuit missionaries - and a cameo from The Doors' Jim Morrison. Yet the cast of characters includes animals as well as people - sixty years ago Mexic became the first country to create a safe haven for whales, and even today these mysteriously intelligent animals play alongside the fishing boats in harmony with humans. Written with humility, humour and heart, The Whales Know is an insight into an ecosystem under threat.

 Pino Cacucci was born in Chiavari, Italy. He is the author of over 20 works of fiction and non-ficto and has won over 16 awards for his writing since 1988.

 Translated by Katherine Gregor


2350 Hits

New Home Fresh Start

From red to green, looking forward to a fresh start.

As declared, what was left behind the red door remains.

From this point on will be a new beginning.


Green is good!

It signifies prosperity and growth.

I’ll make new friends.


Just as I know I will make new connections starting over.

Lessons learned, we keep on moving forward.

Optimism is key making no comparisons with red.


My journey while at the red room has taught me many things.

Now it’s time to let it all go and make room for surprises.

I am happy to have found a new home at the green room!

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Umbrella Stands and Green Room

A friend once told me that her parents had an umbrella stand. So I understood that her parents had an Umbrella Stand in a shopping mall and imagined them spending their days selling umbrellas to customers. When I heard later that her father was the owner of a Ford dealership I was confused. It took me a while to decipher the real meaning of an umbrella stand.

Those types of errors happen to children and to foreigners, so when I saw that the name chosen to our new writers' site was "Green Room" I remembered the time when my daughter’s violin teacher, the concertmaster, invited us to the Green Room after a concert. My daughter and I were disappointed when we didn't find a  sunny green room full of plants and flowers.

Even in my own language, Hebrew, I cannot take for granted that I always understand what people mean.  But confusions and misunderstandings can be the stuff that dreams are made of and the beginning of a quest to find out.

I wish us lots of luck  with  the new Green Room and expect this place to be a haven of creative energy, good-will and dreams.


Good luck 

P.S. About confusion and translation, an excellent episode of This American Life : Lost in Translation

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In the Green Room


As a performer in a previous epoch, I have been in many a green room. In the theater, the Green Room is where you wait before the performance. The green room was a place for art, and for fellowship. I was primarily an amateur, performing for love not just of theater, but of the community I found there: devoted, smart, friendly, funny, talented people, many of whom became friends for life.



When I stopped performing and turned to the more solitary work of writing, I kept the friends but lost the community. I have missed it. There have been echoes of it elsewhere. But I hope that this new Green Room will do more than echo. It will resound.



Now. Time to go on.


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Latest Comments

Stephen Evans Spark Plugs and Synonyms
10 December 2017
The book of John was certainly the most poetic of the gospels. :-)
Rosy Cole Spark Plugs and Synonyms
10 December 2017
Steve, in your inimitable way :-) you have come an unconventional route to the all-time, universal T...
Stephen Evans Spark Plugs and Synonyms
09 December 2017
I have just started reading Umberto Eco's Kant and the Platypus (great title ) and this basic proble...
Rosy Cole Spark Plugs and Synonyms
08 December 2017
John Betjeman likened poetry to journalism more than to poetic prose. It's a helpful comparison to b...
Stephen Evans Spark Plugs and Synonyms
07 December 2017
Neology is an under-rated science.

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