It was May 10 and it was cold outside and I was inside, at a downtown bar/restaurant awaiting the arrival of the distinguished Latin American writer Eduardo Galeano, which latest book is titled "Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History."

I flipped the book open, found "May 10" and read this:

The poet Roque Dalton wielded a defiant wit, he never learned to shut up or take orders, and he laughed and loved fearlessly.

On the evening of this day in the year 1975, his fellow guerrillas in El Salvador shot him dead while he slept.

Criminals: rebels who kill to punish disagreement are no less criminal than generals who kill to perpetuate injustice.

That is it. Only 63 words, a bit of "human history" compressed, one of the 365 "chapters" in this compelling, enlightening, tragic, hopeful, and hypnotic book: history in poetic snapshots.

None is longer than a page and many of them are shorter than is May 10.

Here is January 29:

Today in 1860 Anton Chekhov was born.

He wrote as if he were saying nothing.

And he said everything.

When he walked into the bar/restaurant and settled onto a stool without removing his hat or his jacket, Galeano said, "It is cold outside."

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Earlier in the day, Galeano had given a talk at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and his Chicago stay was to include events at the National Museum of Mexican Art and the Chicago History Museum.

"I have been to Chicago many times before," he said.

He talked about the five times he was interviewed on the radio by the late Studs Terkel, a fellow soldier in the ongoing battles for human rights and social justice. They both also shared the philosophy that most on the planet suffer from a "collective amnesia" that does not enable us to see and learn from mistakes of the past.

Galeano was born on Sept. 3, and the entry in his book for that date provides the year:

A year after the invasion of Poland, Hitler had gobbled up half of Europe and was still on his headlong rampage. Austria, Czechoslovakia, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium and France had already fallen or were about to fall, and the nightly bombings of London and other British cities were under way.

In its edition for today in 1940, the Spanish daily ABC reported that 'one hundred and sixteen enemy planes' had been shot down, making no attempt to hide its satisfaction at 'the great success of the Reich's attacks.'

On the front page Generalissimo Francisco Franco smiled triumphantly. Gratitude was one of his virtues.