Monday, 26 September 2016

Poetry Revisited: Flowers In The Dark by Sarah Orne Jewett

Flowers in the Dark

(from Verses: 1916)

Late in the evening, when the room had grown
Too hot and tiresome with its flaring light
And noise of voices, I stole out alone
Into the darkness of the summer night.
Down the long garden-walk I slowly went;
A little wind was stirring in the trees;
I only saw the whitest of the flowers,
And I was sorry that the earlier hours
Of that fair evening had been so ill spent,
Because, I said, I am content with these
Dear friends of mine who only speak to me
With their delicious fragrance, and who tell
To me their gracious welcome silently.
The leaves that touch my hand with dew are wet;
I find the tall white lilies I love well.
I linger as I pass the mignonette,
And what surprise could dearer be than this:
To find my sweet rose waiting with a kiss!

Sarah Orne Jewett (1849-1909)
American novelist, short story writer and poet

Friday, 23 September 2016

Book Review: Submission by Michel Houellebecq

2016 review of a book written
by an author whose family name starts with the letter

With refugees from Muslim countries streaming to Europe without end and too often without permission too, we’re living turbulent times that put politics and even democracy altogether to a hard test. Moreover, recurring terrorist attacks kindle increasingly negative feelings towards our Muslim neighbours, be they foreigners or citizens. Calls of the extreme right not to allow in any more foreigners (and even to throw out those who are here already) are growing louder every day and the number of people sharing their opinion is likewise growing as prove the results of their parties in elections virtually everywhere around. However, the times of ethnically homogeneous nations – if they ever existed at all! – are long over. Muslims are part of European society and begin to take responsibility on a political level too. With a professor of French literature as a protagonist, the 2015 novel Submission by Michel Houellebecq shows where the development could lead by 2022.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Back Reviews Reel: September 2013

My September stops on the literary journey around the Mediterranean Sea that I undertook during the summer of 2013 were Croatia, France, Syria, Italy, and a yacht cruising half of the world. To be truthfully, the French Riviera is only a secondary scene of the classic The Courilof Affair by Irène Némirovsky because it’s where the protagonist lives in exile and writes down his memories of a bomb attack in which he was involved in Tsarist Russia almost twenty years earlier. Also The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna is a novel working up a violent past, although the recent one of the genocidal war in Bosnia and Herzegovina plus adjacent areas in Croatia. The Calligrapher's Secret by Rafik Schami, on the other hand, is a story about forbidden love and the dangerous urge for modernisation in the Syrian capital Damaskus of the 1940s and 1950s from the pen of a Syrian author writing mainly in the language of the country where he has been living since the early 1970s, i.e. in German. The second classic on my review list of September three years past surrounds a Frenchman who breaks up with his fiancée during a holiday in Italy and joins the crew of a yacht in search of the mysterious man from the title of The Sailor from Gibraltar by Marguerite Duras.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Poetry Revisited: I Rose From Dreamless Hours by James Elroy Flecker

I Rose from Dreamless Hours

(from Forty-Two Poems: 1911)

I rose from dreamless hours and sought the morn
That beat upon my window : from the sill
I watched sweet lands, where Autumn light newborn
Swayed through the trees and lingered on the hill.
If things so lovely are, why labour still
To dream of something more than this I see ?
Do I remember tales of Galilee,
I who have slain my faith and freed my will ?
Let me forget dead faith, dead mystery,
Dead thoughts of things I cannot comprehend.
Enough the light mysterious in the tree,
Enough the friendship of my chosen friend.

James Elroy Flecker (1884-1915)
English poet, novelist and playwright

Friday, 16 September 2016

Book Review: Why Is There Salt In the Sea? by Brigitte Schwaiger

Click on the index card to enlarge it!
2016 review of a book written
by an author whose family name starts with the letter

For centuries girls have been brought up in innocent and joyful anticipation of marriage and motherhood, but not seldom the expected bliss turned out to be a doom that made them long for death, the own or the husband’s, to put an end to pretending, enduring, and suffering. In our modern days girls know more about the reality of married life and their future no longer depends on finding good husbands to provide for them. They have a true choice, while most young women born shortly after World War II were still expected to follow the examples of their mothers instead of the just emerging new female role model that required great will-power and a thick skin. Having grown up in a small Austrian town of the 1960s, the petty bourgeois protagonist of Why Is There Salt in the Sea? by Brigitte Schwaiger chooses the conventional and easy way into marriage... to find that she can’t bear it.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

New on Lagraziana's Kalliopeion: Patterns of Culture by Ruth Benedict The Variety of Standards of Human Behaviour:
Patterns of Culture by Ruth Benedict

Confronted with other cultures or just life-styles we all tend to be rather judgemental classifying the one as primitive, the other as aggressive, yet another (usually our own) as civilised, and so forth. Moreover, we use to think in the categories of good and evil like we who were born into an environment marked by Christian-European customs and values have been taught from early childhood. However, what seems perfectly normal behaviour to us may look completely absurd or even immoral in the eyes of a person socialised in a different culture... and vice versa. For many centuries Westerners – almost as a rule – looked down on other cultures. Not even scientists exploring all corners of the world were free of this arrogance. It is thanks to anthropologists like Ruth Benedict (1887-1948) and her likes that today we seek a wider and less biased picture. In her 1934 book Patterns of Culture she brought the then relatively new approach to the attention of the public.

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

Monday, 12 September 2016

Poetry Revisited: The Indian by Elizabeth Kirkham Mathews

The Indian

(from Poems: 1802)

Alone, unfriended, on a foreign shore,
Behold an hapless, melancholy maid,
Begging her scanty fare from door to door,
With piteous voice, and humbly bended head.
Alas! her native tongue is known to few:
Her manners and her garb excite suprise;
The vulgar stare to see her bid adieu;
Her tattered garments fix their curious eyes.
Cease, cease your laugh, ye thoughtless vain;
Why sneer at yon poor Indian’s pain?
’Tis nature’s artless voice that speaks:
Behold the tear bedew her cheeks!
Imploring actions, bursting sighs,
Reveal enough to British eyes.

Elizabeth Kirkham Mathews (1772-1802)
British poet, novelist, and schoolteacher