Sunday, 10 December 2017

Book Review Déjà Vu: An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15929364-an-artist-of-the-floating-world

On the occasion of the Nobel Prize Award Ceremonies held today in Stockholm (and Oslo for the Peace Prize), I'm reblogging my review of the picturesque novel An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro. I originally posted it in July, i.e. less than three months before the British author born in Japan to Japanese parents was officially announced this year's recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature. It's the first time not that I read a book penned by a writer whom the Swedish Academy would later honour with this prestigious and remunerative prize, but that I reviewed such a one here on Edith's Miscellany.

»»» click here to read my review

Friday, 8 December 2017

Book Review: Splithead by Julya Rabinowich

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10796117-splitheadWhatever certain politicians may say about migration these days, there are only very few people who leave their country to settle down for good in another without a really good reason. Many put up with all kinds of hardship including mortal danger just to get away because even death and slavery seem better than what they have or can expect if they stay. No matter what drives them from home and where they arrive, the mere fact that they are strangers dooms them to a hard life on the margin of society unless they manage somehow to fit themselves in. The struggle to adapt to a new environment can be very painful and terrifying because it means to break with their past. This is the experience that the narrating protagonist of Splithead by Julya Rabinowich still haunts three decades after her parents moved with her seven-year-old self from Leningrad to Vienna in the late 1970s.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Poetry Revisited: Out in the Snow by Louise Chandler Moulton

Out in the Snow

(from Swallow-Flights: 1878)

The snow and the silence came down together,
Through the night so white and so still;
And young folks housed from the bitter weather,
Housed from the storm and the chill—

Heard in their dreams the sleigh-bells jingle,
Coasted the hill-sides under the moon,
Felt their cheeks with the keen air tingle,
Skimmed the ice with their steel-clad shoon.

They saw the snow when they rose in the morning,
Glittering ghosts of the vanished night,
Though the sun shone clear in the winter dawning,
And the day with a frosty pomp was bright.

Out in the clear, cold, winter weather—
Out in the winter air, like wine—
Kate with her dancing scarlet feather,
Bess with her peacock plumage fine,

Joe and Jack with their pealing laughter,
Frank and Tom with their gay hallo,
And half a score of roisterers after,
Out in the witching, wonderful snow,

Shivering graybeards shuffle and stumble,
Righting themselves with a frozen frown,
Grumbling at every snowy tumble;
But young folks know why the snow came down.

Louise Chandler Moulton (1835-1908)
American poet, story-writer and critic

Friday, 1 December 2017

Book Review: Grape Harvest by Miguel Torga

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13248808-grape-harvestMy first choice for this week’s review of a Portuguese classic had actually been O Delfim by bestselling author José Cardoso Pires, but after having finished this gorgeous masterpiece from 1968 I noticed with great dismay that it has never been translated into English! Because I take care to present here only books that are or have once been available in English, this meant that I had to switch hurriedly to another literary gem from Portugal. In the end, I picked Grape Harvest by Miguel Torga, a novel from 1945 set in the picturesque landscape of the wine-growing estates in the valley of the Douro River. Like every autumn, people of all ages from the poor mountain villages descend there to earn during two weeks a meagre though desperately needed extra gathering and pressing the grapes to fill the wine-casks of the owner of Cavadinha who is a tough and unsentimental businessman.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Poetry Revisited: Silence Sings by Thomas Sturge Moore

Silence Sings

(from The Vinedresser and Other Poems: 1899)

So faint, no ear is sure it hears,
So faint and far;
So vast that very near appears
My voice, both here and in each star
Unmeasured leagues do bridge between;
Like that which on a face is seen
Where secrets are;
Sweeping, like veils of lofty balm,
Tresses unbound
O'er desert sand, o'er ocean calm,
I am wherever is not sound;
And, goddess of the truthful face,
My beauty doth instil its grace
That joy abound.

Thomas Sturge Moore (1870-1944)
English poet, author and artist

Friday, 24 November 2017

Book Review: The Dragon Painter by Mary McNeil Fenollosa

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8456840-the-dragon-painter-illustrated-editionIn a strictly patriarchal society it can be bad luck bordering on disaster for a man to grow old without a male heir to continue the family tradition, especially when it’s a glorious one. The cultural pressure can be so strong that a man resorts to steps that by modern western standards are rather drastic and strange, if not downright loathsome. Divorce or even murder and following remarriage to father a son with another, younger and presumably more fertile woman like English King Henry VIII is one way, marrying off a daughter and adopting the son-in-law is another. The latter is what the ageing protagonist of The Dragon Painter by Mary McNeil Fenollosa does in Tōkyo of the early twentieth century, when a friend of the family sends a young man from the mountains to him whose exceptional talent and commitment make him worthy to carry on the name of the famous family of painters.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Poetry Revisited: Nebbie – Mist by Ada Negri

Nebbie

(da Fatalità: 1892)

Soffro. – Lontan lontano
Le nebbie sonnolete
Salgono dal tacente
Piano.

Alto gracciando, i corvi,
Fidati all’ali nere,
Traversan le brughiere
Torvi.

Dell’aere ai morsi crudi
Gli addolorati tronchi
Offron, pregando, i bronchi
Nudi.

Come ho freddo!... Son sola;
Pel grigio ciel sospinto
Un gemito d’estinto
Vola;

E mi ripete: Vieni,
È buia la vallata.
O triste, o disamata,
Vieni!...

Ada Negri (1870-1945)
poetessa e scrittrice italiana

Mist

(from Fate: 1892)

I suffer. – Far away
The mists in dreamy train
Rise from the silent plain
                       All gray.

The ravens black and high
The air with croakings fill,
Across the moorland still
                       They fly.

The trees their branches bare
Towards the clouds that drift
Imploringly uplift
                       In prayer.

I shiver! – I’m alone! –
Weighed down by the gray sky,
Floats in the twilight by
                       A moan,

Repeating to me: Come
And leave this gloomy vale,
Unloved one, sad and pale,
                       Oh come!

Ada Negri (1870-1945)
Italian poetess and writer

Authorized Traslation from the Italian
by A. M. von Blomberg.
Small, Maynard & Company, Boston 1904

Friday, 17 November 2017

Book Review: The Pigeon by Patrick Süskind

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2899.The_PigeonSometimes small events that must seem utterly trivial to everyone unconcerned can fundamentally shatter our peace of mind, above all when they break our routine and evoke without warning unpleasant associations that unleash imagination. Who has never been haunted for no good reason at all by horror scenarios of the future emerging from the depths of our souls in most vivid colours and in most frightening detail? In retrospect, we often laugh at ourselves for having allowed them to put us into a state of alarm, occasionally even panic. The protagonist of The Pigeon by Patrick Süskind almost goes crazy when he finds a solitary bird cooing in the corridor in front of the door to his bedsit on an ordinary Friday morning. The bird seems to him the portent of evil and he can’t help seeing through his mind’s eye how the fundaments of his pleasantly eventless and solitary existence crumble and give way to chaos.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Back Reviews Reel: November 2014

There were four Fridays in November 2014 and consequently the archive of the month is filled with four book reviews. For the Books on France 2014 reading challenge and The Great War in Literature special I picked Journey to the End of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Céline that became a famous classic although it’s a rather bitter satire. My next read was a collection containing The Garden Party and Other Stories by Katherine Mansfield first published in 1922. Then I presented an Austrian historical novel Brother of Sleep by Robert Schneider that was much acclaimed in the early 1990s. And my last review was of a contemporary novel from South Africa penned by one of the few female Nobel Prize laureates in Literature, namely None to Accompany Me by Nadine Gordimer.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Poetry Revisited: Gypsy Songs by Ben Jonson

Gypsy Songs

(from The Gypsies Metamorphosed: 1640)

I
The faery beam upon you,
The stars to glister on you;
A moon of light
In the noon of night,
Till the fire-drake hath o’ergone you!
The wheel of fortune guide you,
The boy with the bow beside you;
Run ay in the way
Till the bird of day,
And the luckier lot betide you!

II
To the old, long life and treasure!
To the young all health and pleasure!
To the fair, their face
With eternal grace
And the soul to be loved at leisure!
To the witty, all clear mirrors;
To the foolish, their dark errors;
To the loving sprite,
A secure delight;
To the jealous, his own false terrors!

Ben Jonson (1572-1637)
English playwright, poet, actor, and literary critic

Friday, 10 November 2017

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6952.Like_Water_for_ChocolateIn our modern western culture we – women and men alike – claim for ourselves the right to be the architects of our individual future… and happiness, but it’s a rather recent achievement even for us. During the greater part of history here too the lives of people were by and large determined by others, notably by fathers, feudal lords, priests, Kings or Queens, and by seldom questioned unwritten rules. Individual happiness mattered very little, romantic love was of no importance in marriage matters. In Mexico of the early twentieth century the protagonist of Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel is supposed to willingly uphold tradition that demands of her as the youngest daughter to put last her own longing for happiness in marriage and to take care of her mother until she dies. Love is stronger than tradition, though, and the girl’s passion for cooking accompanies her on her painful and long way to empowerment.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Poetry Revisited: The Dream by Lola Ridge

The Dream

(from Sun-Up and Other Poems: 1920)

I have a dream
to fill the golden sheath
of a remembered day…
(Air heavy and massed and blue
as the vapor of opium…
domes
fired in sulphurous mist…
sea
quiescent as a gray seal…
and the emerging sun
spurting up gold
over Sydney, smoke-pale, rising out of the bay…)
But the day is an up-turned cup
and its sun a junk of red iron
guttering in sluggish-green water–
where shall I pour my dream?

Lola Ridge (1873-1941)
Irish-American anarchist poet and
editor of avant-garde, feminist, and Marxist publications

Friday, 3 November 2017

Book Review: The Artamonov Business by Maxim Gorky

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1308899.The_Artamonov_Business
Click on the index cards
to enlarge them!
It‘s only natural (or it should be) that parents want the best for their children and that they try at least to open up for them as many opportunities for a better future as they can. Depending on the social and economic background, starting a business to provide for generations to come may seem a good idea, but a parent’s dream can all too easily turn into the child’s or grandchild’s nightmare if the nature, interests and ambitions of the founder don’t really correspond with those of the descendants or the business environment changes considerably. Set in Russia during the five decades before the Bolshevik revolution of November 1917, the classical family saga The Artamonov Business by Maxim Gorky shows three generations of factory owners as they rise to wealth producing linen and move step by step towards doom because the younger generation lacks entrepreneurial spirit and flexibility to adapt to the requirements of rapidly changing times.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Poetry Revisited: Change by F. J. Ochse

Change

(from Alexander Wilmot (ed.), South African Poetry: 1887)

Yes, all things change in this poor world of ours,—
The ocean’s waves, the sand upon its shores,
The rocks which bound it even slowly change.
Summer’s warm breath makes place for Winter’s cold.
Spring’s youthful freshness, beautiful and gay,
Is doomed to Autumn’s sadness, age, decay.
Life’s phases change: now happiness and joy;
Then misery and sorrow take their turn.
Now health and plenty, shared with loved ones near;
Then pain and sickness, poverty, despair,
For the poor, exiled, friendless wanderer.
Now in this field, with friends and blessings rich,
The labourer works content; then parting comes,
And to a new and unknown sphere he turns
His wandering steps, and hopes and prays and works.
Friends also sometimes change: the tender flower
Of friendship often withers in the blast
Of cruel, sinful scandal, cursed of God.
Others indifferent grow: pleased by new friends,
The old ones are neglected and forgot.
Yes, all things change in this poor world of ours—
God’s love alone remains unchangeable.
His love alone can keep us constant, true.
No blast can wither friendship’s tender flower
That blooms beneath His atmosphere of love.
Then let all things in this poor world of ours
Change and decay;—no matter, we have God.
His promises are sure, His blessings great;
His faithful guidance will be ever ours.
A place awaits us in His glorious Home,
Where we shall also be unchangeable.

Rev. Francis James Ochse (1856-1898)
South African minister

Friday, 27 October 2017

Book Review: My Heart by Else Lasker-Schüler

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32418490-my-heartA failed marriage usually isn’t a reason to rejoice, but it can well serve as an inspiration, if not as a driving force for whatever follows… and I don’t have in mind any of these ugly wars of the roses that we read about time and again in the yellow press! Especially artists, among them writers, often find the most wonderful ways to transform disappointment and sorrow, even hatred into something great and compelling. As a matter of fact, true art lives off strong emotions. The epistolary novel My Heart by Else Lasker-Schüler began as a series of open “Letters to Norway” published in the German avant-garde journal of her husband when their marriage was over. While he travelled around Norway with a friend, she went on with her life in Berlin seeing and gossipping with (and about) their Bohemian friends as ever, having several love affairs and struggling to make ends meet.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Poetry Revisited: Autumn and Sunset by Mary Ann H. T. Bigelow

Autumn and Sunset

(from The Kings and Queens of England and Other Poems: 1853)

Hail, sober Autumn! thee I love,
Thy healthful breeze and clear blue sky;
And more than flowers of Spring admire
Thy falling leaves of richer dye.

’Twas even thus when life was young,
I welcomed Autumn with delight;
Although I knew that with it came
The shorter day and lengthened night.

Let others pass October by,
Or dreary call its hours, or chill;
Let poets always sing of Spring,
My praise shall be of Autumn still.

And I have loved the setting sun,
E’en than his rising beams more dear;
’Tis fitting time for serious thought,
It is an hour for solemn prayer.

Before the evening closes in,
Or night’s dark curtains round us fall,
See how o’er tree, and spire, and hill,
That setting sun illumines all.

So when my earthly race is run,
When called to bid this world adieu,
Like yonder cloudless orb I see,
May my sun set in glory too.

October 8, 1852.

Mary Ann Hubbard Townsend Bigelow (c. 1791-1870)
American poet

Friday, 20 October 2017

Book Review: Darkness Visible by William Golding

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17907288-darkness-visibleFairy tales like The Beauty and the Beast should have prepared us for the fact that in life appearance often deceives. And yet, we all tend to neglect this ancient wisdom judging the world and especially people by what we see or otherwise perceive instead of taking a good look under the surface. Thus we can be deeply shocked at recognising that something beautiful is fundamentally evil and stunned at finding good in the ugly. Unfortunately, it isn’t always so easy to distinguish the one from the other because there are many shades between the light of Heaven and the dark of Hell. The hell of Darkness Visible by William Golding is a very human one. Starting in the inferno of World War II the novel tells the story of disfigured Matty with a mystical vocation in life and the beautiful twins Sophy and Toni who turn to crime or terrorism respectively.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Back Reviews Reel: October 2014

My reviews of three years ago took me to very different destinations in time and space. I started my five-week tour of Asia and Europe in modern-day Japan with the novel of a young Austro-Japanese, namely I Called Him Necktie by Milena Michiko Flašar. On my return to Europe, I joined the narrator of One, No One, and One Hundred Thousand by Luigi Pirandello, the laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature 1934, in his confusing exploration of basic questions of philosophy. Then I moved on to rural France in the late nineteenth century with classical and almost forgotten Marie Claire by Marguerite Audoux, before following The Beautiful Mrs. Seidenman by Andrzej Szczypiorski who (fruitlessly) plays at cat and mouse with the Nazi rascals occupying Warsaw in spring 1943. And at last, I returned to Asia, but this time to the beautiful island of Java where The Tea Lords by Hella S. Haasse strive to make their fortune.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Poetry Revisited: October by Ellis Parker Butler

October

(from New England Magazine: 1895)

The forest holds high carnival to-day,
And every hill-side glows with gold and fire;
Ivy and sumac dress in colors gay,
And oak and maple mask in bright attire.

The hoarded wealth of sober autumn days
In lavish mood for motley garb is spent,
And nature for the while at folly plays,
Knowing the morrow brings a snowy Lent.

Ellis Parker Butler (1869-1937)
American banker, writer, humorist, essayist and speaker

Friday, 13 October 2017

Book Review: Woman on the Other Shore by Kakuta Mitsuyo

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1401908.Woman_on_the_Other_ShoreToday it’s pretty common to hear and read about bullying at school or at the work place, but the sad truth is that it can happen everywhere, at every time and to everybody. As human beings we are highly social creatures with the more or less urgent desire to interact with other people and to take the best possible position in group hierarchy. Despite our efforts we always run the risk to find ourselves suddenly excluded, cruelly exposed or even violently chased… and often for strange, if not trivial reasons based on real or imagined differences. One of the protagonists of Woman on the Other Shore by Kakuta Mitsuyo is a timid stay-at-home mother who resumes work because she wants to give her little daughter a chance to learn social skills and make friends with other children her age, while the other is her employer who seems to care little about what others think of her.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Poetry Revisited: Autumn Leaves by Juliana Horatia Ewing

Autumn Leaves

(from Verses for Children and Songs for Music: 1895)

The Spring’s bright tints no more are seen,
And Summer’s ample robe of green
Is russet-gold and brown;
When flowers fall to every breeze
And, shed reluctant from the trees,
The leaves drop down.

A sadness steals about the heart,
—And is it thus from youth we part,
And life’s redundant prime?
Must friends like flowers fade away,
And life like Nature know decay,
And bow to time?

And yet such sadness meets rebuke,
From every copse in every nook
Where Autumn’s colours glow;
How bright the sky! How full the sheaves!
What mellow glories gild the leaves
Before they go.

Then let us sing the jocund praise,
In this bright air, of these bright days,
When years our friendships crown;
The love that’s loveliest when ’tis old—
When tender tints have turned to gold
And leaves drop down.

Juliana Horatia Ewing (1841-1885)
English writer of children’s literature

Friday, 6 October 2017

Book Review: Lust for Life by Irving Stone

Most artists know passion as the essential driving force of their creative work and recognise it as a precondition for their advancement and eventually success. It can grow so powerful, though, that it becomes an all-consuming, often uncontrollable obsession bordering on lunacy and even closest friends or family react with incomprehension or fear. A strong fit of working passion may bring to light a great masterpiece or result in the complete breakdown of the artist. Sometimes neither. Sometimes both. The classical “bio-history” Lust for Life by Irving Stone shows the painter Vincent Van Gogh as he changes from a not quite ordinary young man from Brabant who seeks his true vocation in life to the fanatical painter who finds his own way. Whatever he does, he does it with all his body and soul risking physical as well as mental health and not wasting a doubt on whether his efforts are worthwhile or not.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Poetry Revisited: Tankens duva – The Dove of Thought by Verner von Heidenstam

Tankens duva

(från Nya dikter: 1915)

Tankens duva ensam dröjer
långt i stormens moln och höjer
flykten över höstlig sjö.
Jorden brinner, hjärtat brinner.
Sök, min duva, ack du finner
ändå aldrig glömskans ö.

Varför skrämmer dig minuten,
stackars duva, med sin brand?
Somna, somna på min hand.
Snart du ligger tyst och skjuten.

Verner von Heidenstam (1859-1940)
Svensk poet, romanförfattare och
laureat av Nobelpriset i litteratur 1916

The Dove of Thought

from New Poems: 1915)

Lone the dove of thought goes lagging
Through the storm, with pinions dragging
O'er an autumn lake the while.
Earth’s aflame, the heart’s a-fever.
Seek, my dove, – alas! thou never
Comest to Oblivion's isle.

Hapless dove, shall one brief minute.
Flaming, fright thee to a swoon?
Sleep thou on my hand. Full soon.
Hushed and hurt, thou’lt lie within it.

Verner von Heidenstam (1859-1940)
Swedish poet, novelist and
laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1916

Translation: Charles Wharton Stork in
Sweden’s laurete: Selected Poems of
Verner on Heidenstam
(1919)


Friday, 29 September 2017

Book Review: The Door in the Grimming by Paula Grogger

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2525859.The_Door_in_the_GrimmingBefore the industrial revolution small communities in the mountains lived quite isolated from the rest of the world, but in the past two hundred years modern technology, most recently the internet, has constantly brought them closer to the big centres of civilisation. Today they have real time access to all kinds of news and services. In the early nineteenth century the inhabitants of Öblarn portrayed in The Door in the Grimming by Paula Grogger knew that Napoleon was at war with Austria, they had no way of finding out, though, where the French troops actually stood. When fate has it that they come to the remote town in the mountains, wild and rebellious Matthew, the seventeen-year-old eldest son of Constantia, wants to drive them out and gathers like-minded around him. Of course, the fighters are defeated and Matthew flees leaving behind his grieving mother, his younger brothers and fourteen-year-old Regina who has a crush on him.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Poetry Revisited: Unity by Violet Jacob

Unity

(from More Songs of Angus and Others: 1918)

I dreamed that life and time and space were one,
         And the pure trance of dawn;
         The increase drawn
From all the journeys of the travelling sun,
And the long mysteries of sound and sight,
         The whispering rains,
And far, calm waters set in lonely plains,
         And cry of birds at night.

I dreamed that these and love and death were one,
         And all eternity,
         The life to be
Therewith entwined, throughout the ages spun;
And so with Grief, my playmate; him I knew
         One with the rest, –
One with the mounting day, the east and west –
         Lord, is it true?
Lord, do I dream? Methinks a key unlocks
Some dungeon door, in thrall of blackened towers,
On ecstasies, half hid, like chill white flowers
         Blown in the secret places of the rocks.

Violet Jacob (1863-1946)
Scottish novelist and poet

Friday, 22 September 2017

Book Review: Kinshu. Autumn Brocade by Miyamoto Teru

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/389262.Kinshu
The separation of a couple can be a painful and traumatic experience for both partners, especially when it’s the result of sudden events or discoveries that make it impossible or unbearable to stay together. In such cases emotions often explode and burn out in a war of the roses, but not always. Sometimes they just simmer below the surface for a long time because the partners avoided facing each other as well as their problems and thus never really closed this chapter of their lives. Ten years have passed since Aki and Yasuaki, the protagonists exchanging letters in Kinshu. Autumn Brocade by Miyamoto Teru, divorced. A chance encounter on a gondola going up Mount Zaō on a day in November evokes memories and two months later Aki finally musters up the courage to ask her ex-husband how it came that back then he was found half-dead beside the body of a dead geisha. 

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Back Reviews Reel: September 2014

The novels that I reviewed this month three years ago cover the period from the late nineteenth century through today and took me to very diverse regions of the planet. I started my bookish explorations of time and space with the contemporary novel Portrait in Sepia by Isabel Allende that tells as much the history of a family as of Chile at the turn of the past century. Then I moved on to Kyoto, Japan, in the early 1960s devouring the modern classic The Old Capital by Kawabata Yasunari, the laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature 1968. Jacob's Room by Virginia Woolf, on the other hand, evokes just a few years after the end of the Great War of 1914 to 1918 the life of a promising young man who died for his country leaving behind just a few things that tell of his existence. And finally, I made my way to France, to a small ship in the Arctic ice off the Canadian coast and back to France hunting first precious Inuit art and then a sly thief and fraudster in the contemporary French novel  I'm Off by Jean Echenoz.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Poetry Revisited: Nature by Jones Very

Nature

(from Essays and Poems: 1839)

The bubbling brook doth leap when I come by,
Because my feet find measure with its call;
The birds know when the friend they love is nigh,
For I am known to them, both great and small.
The flower that on the lonely hillside grows
Expects me there when spring its bloom has given;
And many a tree and bush my wanderings knows,
And e'en the clouds and silent stars of heaven;
For he who with his Maker walks aright,
Shall be their lord as Adam was before;
His ear shall catch each sound with new delight,
Each object wear the dress that then it wore;
And he, as when erect in soul he stood,
Hear from his Father's lips that all is good.

Jones Very (1813-1880)
American poet, essayist, clergyman, and mystic

Friday, 15 September 2017

Book Review: Twice Born by Margaret Mazzantini

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/14506465-twice-born
Passionate love can make people do really strange things and so can the desperate longing for parenthood. Those feeling either of the two or even both may sometimes find it hard to withstand the temptation to disregard reason or even imminent danger. The urge to do whatever can help to be with the loved one or to get the yearned for child can be overwhelming. The narrating protagonist of Twice Born by Margaret Mazzantini has experienced the power of both obsessions. She travels to Sarajevo with her sixteen-year-old son who was born not in Rome where he grew up like his mother, but in the sieged city in the early 1990s. It was in Sarajevo that she first met the love of her life, an Italian photographer, who was to become her husband and it was there that she lost him again about a decade later just when she held a baby in her arms at last.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

New on Lagraziana's Kalliopeion: The Adventure of the Black Lady by Aphra Behn

A Young Woman’s Flight:
The Adventure of the Black Lady by Aphra Behn

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7391218-the-adventure-of-the-black-lady-and-the-lucky-mistakeThe English prose novel as we know it today is an amazingly recent invention. Its rise began only in the seventeenth century thanks to writers like Daniel Defoe (c.1660-1731), Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)… and Aphra Behn (1640-1689) whose work was rediscovered only in the early twentieth century (»»» read my author’s portrait). Although in her time Aphra Behn was first of all a renowned playwright, she also wrote several novels in her later years. By modern standards, however, these novels are hardly more than novelettes or even short stories. One of these little known prose works from the pen of the first Englishwoman who was able make her living as a writer is The Adventure of the Black Lady first published in 1684. It’s the story of a young woman called Bellamora who has come from Hampshire to Covent Garden in the hope to find refuge and help with a cousin of hers.

Read more » (external link to Lagraziana's Kalliopeion)

* * * * * 

This review is a contribution to
(images linked to my reading lists):

Monday, 11 September 2017

Poetry Revisited: Pause by Ursula Bethell

Pause

(from From a Garden in the Antipodes: 1929)

When I am very earnestly digging
I lift my head sometimes, and look at the mountains,
And muse upon them, muscles relaxing

I think how freely the wild grasses flower there,
How grandly the storm-shaped trees are massed in their gorges,
And the rain-worn rocks strewn in magnificent heaps,

Pioneer plants on those uplands find their own footings
No vigorous growth, there, is an evil weed:
All weathers are salutary.

It is only a little while since this hillside
Lay untrammelled likewise,
Unceasingly swept by transmarine winds.

In a very little while, it may be,
When our impulsive limbs and our superior skulls
Have to the soil restored several ounces of fertiliser,

The Mother of all will take charge again,
And soon wipe away with her elements
Our small fond human enclosures.

Ursula Bethell (1874-1945)
New Zealand poet

Friday, 8 September 2017

Book Review: This is the Hour by Lion Feuchtwanger

Click on the index card to enlarge it!
There were many historical periods, when having your own mind and views could considerably complicate or even endanger the life of yourself as well as of your family and friends, especially if you were an artist longing to express yourself in all regards and unwilling to make compromises. Certainly, among artists too there always were those who out of conviction, opportunism or just cowardice supported even the most oppressive and cruel regime. Others, however, – and usually the greatest – risked much for their art testing given limits and subtly criticising power. One of the latter was the Spanish romantic painter Francisco de Goya. This is the Hour by Lion Feuchtwanger follows his fictionalised path to understanding and to a new way of painting in the years around 1800, when he lived his infatuation for the Duchess of Alba and rose to be first court painter of King Charles IV. despite disregarding accepted rules as well as challenging the Holy Inquisition.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Poetry Revisited: Magpies by Louis Esson

Magpies

(from Bells and Bees: 1910)

I hear the cry of the magpies joyously gushing
          Over the morning,
The carolling slogan of magpies, like a rill rushing,
          And sorrow scorning.

Magpies, fill up my heart with the joy of exultant things
          Fresh notes adorning!
Breath of the morning primeval your melody brings
          To thrill my morning.

Louis Esson (1878-1943)
Australian poet, journalist, critic and playwright

Friday, 1 September 2017

Book Review: The River Ki by Ariyoshi Sawako

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/577399.The_River_KiAll around the world the twentieth century has been a time of important, not to say radical social changes. In the Far East, notably in China and Japan, the transition from the old way of life to a modern society was rapid as well as fundamental because the adaptation to the needs of global economy went hand in hand with the Westernisation of culture. Not everybody welcomed the development, not everybody was able or willing to adopt new ideas. Although Hana, the protagonist of The River Ki by Ariyoshi Sawako, received higher education in Wakayama-City, she adopts the traditional role of a Japanese wife when she enters the marriage arranged for her by her beloved grandmother. Her daughter Fumio, however, is a rebel and virtually from the day of her birth revolts against everything that smells of tradition and of old times. Fumio too gets married and has a daughter who is unlike her.

Monday, 28 August 2017

Poetry Revisited: Thoughts in a Library by Anne Lynch Botta

Thoughts in a Library

(from Poems: 1848)

Speak low—tread softly through these halls;
     Here genius lives enshrined,—
Here reign, in silent majesty,
     The monarchs of the mind.

A mighty spirit-host they come,
     From every age and clime;
Above the buried wrecks of years,
     They breast the tide of Time.

And in their presence-chamber here,
     They hold their regal state,
And round them throng a noble train,
     The gifted and the great.

Oh, child of Earth! when round thy path
     The storms of life arise,
And when thy brothers pass thee by,
     With stern, unloving eyes,—

Here shall the Poets chant for thee
     Their sweetest, loftiest lays;
And Prophets wait to guide thy steps
     In wisdom's pleasant ways.

Come, with these God-anointed kings,
     Be thou companion here;
And in the mighty realm of mind,
     Thou shalt go forth a peer!

Anne Lynch Botta (1815-1891)
American poet, writer, teacher and socialite

Friday, 25 August 2017

Book Review: 4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34128180-4-3-2-1Who we are is the result of many influences to which we have been exposed since the day we were born or, to be exact, since the moment we were conceived. The people we met, the choices we made, the good and evil that “came over us”, everything had a more or less noticeable impact on our character and on our “fate”. Family history too has a part in personal development because, if we like it or not, the past shaped our surroundings, notably the people around us. And even small occurences can turn out to be of paramount importance. In 4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster four versions of a Jewish boy called Ferguson step into life from the same starting point, but against the backdrop of recent American history their lives take very different courses because already after a short time their worlds are no longer the same and drift apart ever more.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Poetry Revisited: To the Garden the World by Walt Whitman

To the Garden the World

(from Leaves of Grass: 1855)

To the garden, the world, anew ascending,
Potent mates, daughters, sons, preluding,
The love, the life of their bodies, meaning and being,
Curious, here behold my resurrection, after slumber;
The revolving cycles, in their wide sweep, have brought me again,
Amorous, mature all beautiful to me all wondrous;
My limbs, and the quivering fire that ever plays through them, for reasons, most wondrous;
Existing, I peer and penetrate still,
Content with the present content with the past,
By my side, or back of me, Eve following,
Or in front, and I following her just the same.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
American poet, essayist, and journalist

Friday, 18 August 2017

Book Review: Roman Elegy by Sabine Gruber

The death of a person often unleashes a train of unexpected thoughts and memories, sometimes even events. Moreover, it can make us question our relations to other people, notably spouses and children, our meaning in life and our standpoints. Sometimes we gain new insights that make us change direction or take long overdue decisions. It’s a death in Rome that sets off the Roman Elegy by Sabine Gruber, an Italian writer in German language, and lays the seed for an unlikely romance. Through the typescript of a novel that the deceased wrote, she connects her youth friend not just with the widowed owner of a hotel in Rome where she worked for a short while in 1978, but also with the then young man who awakened her interest in the position of her boss in fascist and Nazi times. And in the background there’s always Stillbach, the Southern Tyrolean village where all three women grew up.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Back Reviews Reel: August 2014

Two classics and three contemporary novels are filed away in my review archive of August 2014, three of them originally written in French and contributions to the Books on France 2014 reading challenge. My first literary exploration of August was dedicated to a very touching love story from France in the 1980s, namely to Betty Blue by Philippe Djian. After this, I stayed in modern times and in the realm of everlasting love, but I left Europe and moved on to Tibet under Chinese reign reading Sky Burial. An Epic Love Story of Tibet by Xinran. My next book was The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth, an all-time highlight of Austrian literature that revived the final decades of the Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy through the eyes of three generations of the Trotta family. In the French-Belgian classic The Abyss by Marguerite Yourcenar two Flemish cousins are tossed about in the maelstrom of European history at the dawn of the Renaissance. And my final review was about A Palace in the Old Village by Tahar Ben Jelloun, a francophone novel surrounding a Moroccan immigrant in France and his attempt to lead his family back on the old ways.


Monday, 14 August 2017

Poetry Revisited: Traumesnähe – Dream Vicinity by Else Asenjeff

Traumesnähe

 (aus Die neue Scheherezade: 1913)

Nur unser Traum ist nah
Und fern ist uns die unserem Auge
Nahgerückte Welt.
Was nicht Gedanken,
Was Blut selbst lautlos-rauschend
Tiefdringlich uns erzählt
Ist da—
Nur was wie schmerzgesenkte Lider,
Der Dinge deutliche Aufdringlichkeit
Uns ferne hält—
Ist unsre wahre Welt…

Else Asenjeff (1867-1941)
österreichische Schriftstellerin

Dream Vicinity

(from The New Scheherezade: 1913)

Only our dream is close
And far away is our eye
Close-up world.
What not thoughts,
What blood itself silently-rushing
Deeply telling us
Is there—
Just what pain-relieved eyelids,
Things are clearly pushy
Far from us—
Is our true world ...

Else Asenjeff (1867-1941)
Austrian writer
Literal translation: Edith LaGraziana 2017

Friday, 11 August 2017

Book Review: The Real Story of Ah-Q and Other Tales of China by Lu Xun

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7312194-the-real-story-of-ah-q-and-other-tales-of-chinaChina is a vast country with an ancient culture, and yet, only few books from the pens (or rather brushes) of Chinese writers have made it into Western bookshops. This is little wonder considering that China has been a Communist country since 1949 and only after the death of Mao Zedong intellectual life slowly reawakened. There are some contemporary authors who have gained international attention, notably the laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature 2012 Mo Yan. Among modern classical writers of the twentieth century Eileen Chang may be the best remembered (»»» read my review of Red Rose, White Rose), while others like Lin Yutang or Xiao Hong are quite forgotten today. Notwithstanding that a new English translation has been brought out in 2009, also The Real Story of Ah-Q and Other Tales of China by Lu Xun have remained secret gems of Chinese literature evoking the 1920s and ancient myths.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

New on Lagraziana's Kalliopeion: Status Syndrome by Michael Marmot

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29387839-status-syndrome

Health and Social Gradient:
Status Syndrome by Michael Marmot


It’s a generally known fact that poverty makes sick, but in our modern Western world people usually don’t fight for mere survival every day and poverty doesn’t equal penury any longer. In Austria, for instance, the net of social security is so densely-knit that everybody can get health care – unless for one reason or another, a person prefers to go underground and therefore doesn’t appear in the system. Nonetheless, data show that those with by comparison fewer material resources, less high education and lower standing have poorer health than those who are better off in these aspects. In his book The Status Syndrome. How Your Place on the Social Gradient Directly Affects Your Health first published in 2004 epidemiologist and public health expert Michael Marmot summarises the results of over thirty years of research and draws his conclusions with regard to what is needed to close the health gap.

Read more » (external link to Lagraziana’s Kalliopeion)

Monday, 7 August 2017

Poetry Revisited: Summer Night by Alfred Tennyson

Summer Night

(from The Princess. A Medley: 1847)

Now sleeps the crimson petal, now the white;
Nor waves the cypress in the palace walk;
Nor winks the gold fin in the porphyry font:
The firefly wakens: waken thou with me.

Now droops the milk-white peacock like a ghost,
And like a ghost she glimmers on to me.

Now lies the Earth all Danaë to the stars,
And all thy heart lies open unto me.

Now slides the silent meteor on, and leaves
A shining furrow, as thy thoughts in me.

Now folds the lily all her sweetness up,
And slips into the bosom of the lake:
So fold thyself, my dearest, thou, and slip
Into my bosom and be lost in me.

Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892)
English poet

Friday, 4 August 2017

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26852229-we-have-always-lived-in-the-castle For some people it’s hard to find their place in society or even in a family because they actually are different or either they themselves or others believe that they are. It suffices a small particularity to make them outsiders who have to deal with distrust and, in the worst case, unforgiving hatred in their surroundings. Often social exclusion is a two-sided process that builds up on mutual prejudices and misunderstandings. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson surrounds Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood and her older sister Constance who have been leading a very secluded life on a big estate with their ailing uncle ever since their closest family was poisoned six years earlier. People in the nearby village hate them and Merricat hates the villagers. When an estranged cousin arrives unexpectedly and tries to take advantage of the two women, Merricat does everything in her power to drive him away. The consequences are disastrous.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Poetry Revisited: Time and We by Zitella Cocke

Time and We

(from A Doric Read: 1895)

Improve the moments while you may.
For Time is flying, mortals say;
               But Time saith nay.
‘T is we, alas! who come and go,
               And Time doth stay;
For Time doth like a river flow.
Yet in its secret depths below,
               Sweet fountains play,
And youth perpetual bestow,
               While swift away
Our frail barks drift to weal or woe.

Zitella Cocke (1840-1929)
American poet, translator and educator

Friday, 28 July 2017

Book Review: An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15929364-an-artist-of-the-floating-world Very popular subjects of the famous Japanese colour woodblock prints from the seventeenth century on are scenes from ephemeral life in the pleasure districts which accounts for their being called ukiyo-e (浮世絵), i.e. “pictures of the floating world”. But life is in constant flow elsewhere too: πάντα ῥεῖ. In turbulent times, the flow even seems to accelerate and turn into a maelstrom that threatens to crush whatever or whoever gets caught in the strong current. In 1948, once famous painter Masuji Ono from An Artist of the Floating World by Japanese-English writer Kazuo Ishiguro finds himself stranded in a world where his art work has become an unwanted reminder of totalitarian ideals that led the Japanese Empire into disaster and where his daughter is no suitable match for any decent man because of his shameful part in the terror before and during the war. As he looks back, time passes, wounds heal and bitterness fades.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Poetry Revisited: Summer Wind by William Cullen Bryant

Summer Wind

(from Poems: 1840)

It is a sultry day; the sun has drunk
The dew that lay upon the morning grass;
There is no rustling in the lofty elm
That canopies my dwelling, and its shade
Scarce cools me. All is silent, save the faint
And interrupted murmur of the bee,
Settling on the sick flowers, and then again
Instantly on the wing. The plants around
Feel the too potent fervours: the tall maize
Rolls up its long green leaves; the clover droops
Its tender foliage, and declines its blooms.
But far in the fierce sunshine tower the hills,
With all their growth of woods, silent and stern,
As if the scorching heat and dazzling light
Were but an element they loved. Bright clouds,
Motionless pillars of the brazen heaven,
Their bases on the mountains, their white tops
Shining in the far ether, fire the air
With a reflected radiance, and make turn
The gazer's eye away. For me, I lie
Languidly in the shade, where the thick turf,
Yet virgin from the kisses of the sun,
Retains some freshness, and I woo the wind
That still delays its coming. Why so slow,
Gentle and voluble spirit of the air?
Oh, come and breathe upon the fainting earth
Coolness and life. Is it that in his caves
He hears me? See, on yonder woody ridge,
The pine is bending his proud top, and now
Among the nearer groves, chestnut and oak
Are tossing their green boughs about. He comes!
Lo, where the grassy meadow runs in waves!
The deep distressful silence of the scene
Breaks up with mingling of unnumbered sounds
And universal motion. He is come,
Shaking a shower of blossoms from the shrubs,
And bearing on their fragrance; and he brings
Music of birds, and rustling of young boughs,
And sound of swaying branches, and the voice
Of distant waterfalls. All the green herbs
Are stirring in his breath; a thousand flowers,
By the road-side and the borders of the brook,
Nod gayly to each other; glossy leaves
Are twinkling in the sun, as if the dew
Were on them yet, and silver waters break
Into small waves and sparkle as he comes.

William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878)
American romantic poet, journalist,
and long-time editor of the New York Evening Post 

Friday, 21 July 2017

Book Review: The Giraffe's Neck by Judith Schalansky

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25525321-the-giraffe-s-neckAlready the ancient Greeks knew that everything is in flow or as Heraclitus of Ephesus put it: πάντα ῥεῖ. In bad times this may be a great consolation, in good times it’s more often a terrible threat. Consequently, only few people unreservedly welcome even big change as a challenge that makes life interesting. Most people are less favourable, some downright adverse to all kinds of alteration because in general it goes hand in hand with uncertainty and it requires an effort to adapt to new circumstances. Not everybody is up to such challenge. For more than half a century the East German biology teacher in The Giraffe’s Neck by Judith Schalansky did her best to lead a dutiful and inconspicuous life, i.e. to survive in the Darwinian sense, but after the German reunification this is no longer enough. Her ways are called antiquated and she is criticised for her lack of sympathy for her students.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Poetry Revisited: Life’s Gifts by Olive Schreiner

Life’s Gifts

(from Dreams: 1890)

I saw a woman sleeping. In her sleep she dreamt Life stood before her, and held in each hand a gift—in the one Love, in the other Freedom. And she said to the woman, “Choose!”

And the woman waited long: and she said, “Freedom!”

And Life said, “Thou hast well chosen. If thou hadst said, ‘Love,’ I would have given thee that thou didst ask for; and I would have gone from thee, and returned to thee no more. Now, the day will come when I shall return. In that day I shall bear both gifts in one hand.”

I heard the woman laugh in her sleep.

London.

Olive Schreiner (1855-1920)
South African author, poet and political campaigner

Friday, 14 July 2017

The Green Pope by Miguel Ángel Asturias

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/145717.The_Green_PopeIt’s not a particularly secret wisdom that those who have wealth are likely to have power too. After all, it’s money that makes the world go round… at least a materialistic world like ours. Little wonder that our society produces considerable numbers of men and women whose primary goal in life is to gain money and ever more money. In The Green Pope by Miguel Ángel Asturias, Guatemalan winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature 1967 “for his vivid literary achievement, deep-rooted in the national traits and traditions of Indian peoples of Latin-America”, a young American who cares for nothing but wealth and power starts a banana plantation in Guatemala mercilessly ruining, driving out or even killing small local farmers and opponents on his rise. Neither the suicide of his fiancé, the death of his wife in childbirth or the pregnancy of his unmarried daughter make him reconsider his priorities.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Lagraziana's Kalliopeion: Death in Spring by Mercè Rodoreda

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24796161-death-in-springA Suffocating Village:
Death in Spring by Mercè Rodoreda

Less than a year ago I reviewed a novel by Catalan author Mercè Rodoreda (1908-1983) who is much celebrated in her country but virtually unknown elsewhere. I was so impressed by the book that I felt like reading also others of her works and from the two novels published posthumously, both of them unfinished, I eventually picked the one available in English translation, namely Death in Spring or in the original Catalan La mort i la primavera, i.e. Death and Spring. At first the title seems a bit strange, if not contradictory because it links death with nature’s rebirth after winter, but given that the novel flows over with powerful as well as poetical symbols and metaphors of life and death it’s quite appropriate. It’s a complex and well-constructed story about society that reminds me a lot of the works of Franz Kafka although it’s different in style.

Read more » (external link to Lagraziana's Kalliopeion)

related reviews on Edith's Miscellany:
»»» In Diamond Square by Mercè Rodoreda

Monday, 10 July 2017

Poetry Revisited: Quite by Chance by Frederick Langbridge

Quite by Chance

(from Poets at Play. A Hand-Book of Humorous Recitations: 1888)

She flung the parlour window wide
          One eve of mid-July,
     And he, as fate would have it tide,
          That moment sauntered by.
     His eyes were blue and hers were brown,
          With drooping fringe of jet;
     And he looked up as she looked down,
          And so their glances met.
               Things as strange, I dare to say,
               Happen somewhere every day.


A mile beyond the straggling street,
          A quiet pathway goes;
     And lovers here are wont to meet,
          As all the country knows.
     Now she one night at half-past eight
          Had sought that lonely lane,
     When he came up, by will of fate,
          And so they met again.
               Things as strange, I dare to say,
               Happen somewhere every day.


The parish church, so old and gray,
          Is quite a sight to see;
     And he was there at ten one day,
          And so, it chanced, was she.
     And while they stood, with cheeks aflame,
          And neighbours liked the fun,
     In stole and hood the parson came,
          And made the couple one.
               Things as strange, I dare to say,
               Happen somewhere every day.


Frederick Langbridge (1849-1922)
English clergyman and author

Friday, 7 July 2017

Book Review: To Arms! by Marcelle Tinayre

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35541905-to-arms-la-veill-e-des-armes-an-impression-of-the-spirit-of-franceWar is a terrible curse, but a man-made one that its advocates and profiteers always tried to sell as necessary to protect or restore the country’s safety, strength, honour, identity, or whatever else society sees at risk. More than once wars spread to other countries because of alliances made in times of peace. World War One is only one of the most notorious examples. When Emperor Francis Joseph I. of Austria-Hungary declared war to Serbia on 28 July 1914 it was the beginning of a chain reaction turning huge parts of Europe (and the world) into ghastly battlefields for over four years. As early as in summer 1915, the novel To Arms! by Marcelle Tinayre thematised the anxiety that a dissimilar group of Parisians lived in the last hours before France was drawn into the war and first soldiers left their families to move into their barracks.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Poetry Revisited: A Summer’s Day by Dora Sigerson

A Summer’s Day

(from Verses: 1893)

Well, love, so be it as you say,
Just the hours of a summer's day,
And no sighing for what comes after,
Whether it be tears or laughter.

Take my hand, and we go together
Into love's land of golden weather.
You to be king and I for queen;
Right royally to reign, I ween.

Cool amber wine in cups of gold
Bring maids, in rosy fingers' hold,
Lip-pledged, but, you'll say ere your drinking,
My kiss were sweeter to your thinking.

And youths shall rob the spring for me
Of all the perfumed flowers that be;
I'll seek your eyes, and they refusing,
I'll answer only at your choosing.

So, love, your hand, and we away,
Just the hours of a summer's day,
And no weeping for what comes after—
If it be tears, we've had our laughter.

Dora Sigerson, later Dora Sigerson Shorter (1866-1918)
Irish poet and sculptor

Friday, 30 June 2017

Book Review: Indigo by Clemens J. Setz

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23219061-indigoAlthough we often – usually when we feel misunderstood or hurt – complain about the lack of empathy in people today, it isn’t a quality that our technology-based and highly competitive modern society particularly favours. Much rather egotism and a thick skin seem to be characteristics that someone wishing for success in this world vitally needs to cultivate. Most of us learn early that it’s better to reduce sensitiveness and to avoid getting emotionally involved in the fates of others, especially when what they go through is none of our business. Thus we allow abuse and exclusion. The Helianau Institute from Indigo by Clemens J. Setz is a boarding school for children who were born with a strange disorder: they make every human being near them sick. The overly sensitive new Maths teacher Clemens Setz feels for the children who are condemned to grow up always staying at a big physical distance to others.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Poetry Revisited: Les Chats – The Cats by Charles Baudelaire

Les Chats

(de Les Fleurs du mal: 1857)

Les amoureux fervents et les savants austères
Aiment également, dans leur mûre saison,
Les chats puissants et doux, orgueil de la maison,
Qui comme eux sont frileux et comme eux sédentaires.

Amis de la science et de la volupté
Ils cherchent le silence et l'horreur des ténèbres;
L'Erèbe les eût pris pour ses coursiers funèbres,
S'ils pouvaient au servage incliner leur fierté.

Ils prennent en songeant les nobles attitudes
Des grands sphinx allongés au fond des solitudes,
Qui semblent s'endormir dans un rêve sans fin;

Leurs reins féconds sont pleins d'étincelles magiques,
Et des parcelles d'or, ainsi qu'un sable fin,
Etoilent vaguement leurs prunelles mystiques.

Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867)
poète français

The Cats

(from The Flowers of Evil: 1857)

The lover and the stern philosopher
Both love, in their ripe time, the confident
Soft cats, the house's chiefest ornament,
Who like themselves are cold and seldom stir.

Of knowledge and of pleasure amorous,
Silence they seek and Darkness' fell domain;
Had not their proud souls scorned to brook his rein,
They would have made grim steeds for Erebus.

Pensive they rest in noble attitudes
Like great stretched sphinxes in vast solitudes
Which seem to sleep wrapt in an endless dream;

Their fruitful loins are full of sparks divine,
And gleams of gold within their pupils shine
As 'twere within the shadow of a stream.

Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867)
French poet
translation: Jack Collings Squire in Poems and Baudelaire Flowers (1909)

Friday, 23 June 2017

Book Review: A Love Letter From a Stray Moon by Jay Griffiths

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31291492-a-love-letter-from-a-stray-moonHuman soul is amazing. Ever again it happens that instead of being crushed by a terrible experience a person draws great force from it and even succeeds in transcending it into a powerful incentive to stop just dreaming the impossible dream and to actually reach for the stars at last. Often only the closest family gets a chance to witness such personal growth born from suffering because seen from outside nothing has changed, but sometimes it’s the birth of a completely altered person who decides to make a fresh start into a new direction. It was a horrible bus accident at the age of eighteen that upset Frida Kahlo’s life and made her turn her attention to painting as a way of expressing herself. In A Love Letter from a Stray Moon by Jay Griffiths the celebrated Mexican painter writes a poetical review of her turbulent and painful life from beyond her grave.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Back Reviews Reel: June 2014

In June 2014 I went a little astray reading-wise. The two contempory works as well as the two classics that I reviewed belong to genres that I don’t usually read. I started with a comic novel from the U.K. that is largely set in Germany, namely Portuguese Irregular Verbs by Alexander McCall Smith. Then I crossed the Channel to France and plunged into chick-lit for a change, but The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles by Katherine Pancol turned out a little less shallow (and boring) than I had feared. From Paris I moved on to South America and some classical horror fiction from the pen of a writer admired by Jorge Luis Borges and Gabriel García Márquez made available for English-language readers as The Decapitated Chicken and Other Stories by Horacio Quiroga. And finally I returned to my own country Austria for the dystopian classic The Wall by Marlen Haushofer.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Poetry Revisited: An Australian Rose by Harriet Anne Martin

An Australian Rose

(from Lala Fisher [ed.], By Creek and Gully. Stories and Sketches Mostly of Bush Life:
Told in Prose and Rhyme by Australian Writers in England
: 1899)

Patchett Martin

To R. M. P.

To her of gracious gifts, whose graceful pen
Becomes a fairy wand in her frail hand
Flashing the sunlight of her Austral land
   On the slim maidens and brown-bearded men
   Who live their lives for us at her command
   I said — “I always think of you as when,
   Like one entranced in an enchanted glen,
You stood one night amidst a madcap band.

With red lips parted, and a roseleaf flush
   Painting the pearly pallor of your face,
   Mute, motionless, in an expectant hush,
   Your dreamy eyes like stars shone into space.”
   Softly she answer’d with a shadowy blush—
“My soul first stirred to life in that fair place.”

Harriet Anne Martin (c. 1837-1908)
Australian poet and writer

Friday, 16 June 2017

Book Review: I Am a Cat by Natsume Sōseki

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/62772.I_Am_a_CatLooked upon from an outsider’s point of view much of human behaviour must seem rather strange, if not ridiculous and without purpose. And if this is true of what we do, how much more absurd must appear what we say! On certain occasions we even become aware of it ourselves. Who hasn’t ever been to a party feeling obliged to make small talk with even the dullest people? Boredom can drive us to embark on all kinds of more or less suiting pastimes. The arts, for instance, have always been very fashionable among the well-educated and better-off, while the world of academia may prefer highbrow debates on nothing at all to get a chance to show off. In the satirical classic I Am a Cat by Natsume Sōseki a highly sophisticated Tōkyo cat living in the household of a self-centred English teacher follows his master’s and his friends’ awkward artistic attempts and grotesque discussions.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

New on Lagraziana's Kalliopeion: The Famished Road by Ben Okri

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17334045-the-famished-road

A Child’s View of Africa in the 1960s:
The Famished Road by Ben Okri 

It was in autumn 2016 when one of those e-mails offering the free copy of a book for review that I regularly receive unasked for and that I use to delete without even reading attracted my attention. The last hardly ever happens, but for some reason that I can’t remember I had a closer look at the message concerning The Famished Road by Ben Okri. The story sounded interesting and just right for me, especially because it was the new edition of a novel first published twenty-five years ago in 1991, thus not an entirely new work. Without giving it a second thought, I signed on to Netgalley and downloaded the book. Now, months later, I finally found the time to read this award-winning novel from the pen of an African writer now living in London, U.K., that deals with the political turmoil and confusion following the independence of an African country, probably Nigeria, from a boy’s magical-realistic point of view. 

Read more » (external link to Lagraziana's Kalliopeion)

Monday, 12 June 2017

Poetry Revisited: The Literary Lady by Richard Brinsley Sheridan

The Literary Lady

(from W. H. Wills [ed.]: Poets' Wit and Humour: 1860)

What motley cares Corilla's mind perplex,
Whom maids and metaphors conspire to vex!
In studious dishabille behold her sit,
A lettered gossip and a household wit;
At once invoking, though for different views,
Her gods, her cook, her milliner and muse.
Round her strewed room a frippery chaos lies,
A checkered wreck of notable and wise,
Bills, books, caps, couplets, combs, a varied mass,
Oppress the toilet and obscure the glass;
Unfinished here an epigram is laid,
And there a mantua-maker's bill unpaid.
There new-born plays foretaste the town's applause,
There dormant patterns pine for future gauze.
A moral essay now is all her care,
A satire next, and then a bill of fare.
A scene she now projects, and now a dish;
Here Act the First, and here, Remove with Fish.
Now, while this eye in a fine frenzy rolls,
That soberly casts up a bill for coals;
Black pins and daggers in one leaf she sticks,
And tears, and threads, and bowls, and thimbles mix.

Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816)
Irish satirist, a playwright and poet