Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Surprise, Surprise! A Nobel Bard

Paul Gaughin (1848-1903),
via Wikimedia Commons

Le Joueur de Guitare,
Portrait de Francisco Durrio
c. 1900,
oil on canvas 90 × 72 cm
private collection, London
Since I’m participating in Guiltless Reading’s Read the Nobels 2016 challenge (by the way, why don’t you sign up? There’s still time for some Nobel reads this year! I’m sure that among 113 laureates you’ll find at least one to your taste. Just check my list here) and republishing regularly my Nobel reviews on the Read the Nobels blog, I was particularly anxious to know who would receive this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature. On 13 October 2016 the spokeswoman of the Swedish Academy finally appeared before the press and startled the world with the announcement that the prestigious award will go to the American singer and songwriter Bob Dylan. Admittedly, he is known to have stood outsider chances already for some time, but who would have bet on him to actually win – ever? After all, music and literature are separate arts, aren’t they? Not as separate as it may seem at first sight.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Poetry Revisited: Herbststimmung – Autumn Mood by Marie Eugenie Delle Grazie


(aus Gedichte: 1882)

Ein endlos grauer Regentag...
Die letzten Blätter fallen –
Wie traumverloren hör’ ich Schlag
Um Schlag der Uhr verhallen.

Wem jemals Lieb‘ und Lenz gestrahlt,
Mag nun Erinn’rung trösten,
Die Zaub’rin, die so heiter malt
Mit kargen Farbenresten.

Und ob sein Herz auch früh verlor,
Was es an Glück besessen,
Man lernt durch einen Thränenflor
Die Wonnen doppelt messen!

Doch wen betrogen alle beid’,
Der fühlt in solchen Stunden
Noch herber sein unwürdig‘ Leid,
Noch heißer seine Wunden…

Marie Eugenie Delle Grazie (1864-1931)
österreichische Schriftstellerin,
Dramatikerin und Dichterin

Autumn Mood

(from Poems: 1882)

An endless grey rainy day...
The last leaves fall –
As if lost in a dream I hear stroke
For stroke of the clock die away.

On whom ever love and spring have shone,
May now Memory comfort,
The enchantress, who paints so gaily
With sparse remnants of colours.

And may his heart have early lost,
What it possessed of happiness,
One learns through an abundance of tears
To measure twice the delights!

But whom all both deceived,
He feels in such hours
Still more bitterly his unworthy pain,
Even hotter his wounds...

Marie Eugenie Delle Grazie (1864-1931)
Austrian writer, dramatist and poet

Literal translation: Edith LaGraziana 2016

Friday, 21 October 2016

Book Review: Montauk by Max Frisch

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

At one point or another in life most people look back on their past to take stock of what they did (or failed to do) or went through and of how they feel about people who were at their side during short or long periods of time. This can be a rather painful process of re-evaluation, notably when dreams remained unfulfilled and when entire chapters of the biography have never been properly closed. Some people will rail against their fate. Some will make peace with what has been and therefore can’t be changed. And others may find that they should write their memoirs, if they are born writers or not. In the autobiographical novel Montauk by Max Frisch the renowned Swiss author in his early sixties relates his short affair with a young American who takes care of him during his book-signing tour around the continent and whose presence evokes many memories.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Back Reviews Reel: October 2013

This month three years ago, the last review for My Mediterranean Reading Summer 2013 (»»» read my summary post) went online. It was dedicated to the contemporary Greek novel Swell by Ioanna Karystiani surrounding an old salt who refuses to retire from his post as captain to return to his family after over ten years at sea. I followed up with two classics. The first was a satirical farce dating from 1914 and referring to a true swindle about a false pope happened more than twenty years earlier, namely Lafcadio’s Adventures by André Gide, the French laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature 1947. Also the novel A World of Love by Elizabeth Bowen is a classic, but a modern one from the mid-1950s dealing with the unexpected repercussions that the reappeared letters of a dead man have in the lives of three women. My final review of October 2013, was of the Austrian success novel The Wedding in Auschwitz by Erich Hackl that brings a true love story from the Spanish Civil War and World War II to the attention of the public.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Poetry Revisited: Ballade of the Optimist by Andrew Lang

Ballade of the Optimist

(from New Collected Rhymes: 1905)

Heed not the folk who sing or say
In sonnet sad or sermon chill,
“Alas, alack, and well-a-day,
This round world’s but a bitter pill.”
Poor porcupines of fretful quill!
Sometimes we quarrel with our lot:
We, too, are sad and careful; still
We’d rather be alive than not.

What though we wish the cats at play
Would some one else’s garden till;
Though Sophonisba drop the tray
And all our worshipped Worcester spill,
Though neighbours “practise” loud and shrill,
Though May be cold and June be hot,
Though April freeze and August grill,
We’d rather be alive than not.

And, sometimes on a summer’s day
To self and every mortal ill
We give the slip, we steal away,
To walk beside some sedgy rill:
The darkening years, the cares that kill,
A little while are well forgot;
When deep in broom upon the hill,
We’d rather be alive than not.

Pistol, with oaths didst thou fulfil
The task thy braggart tongue begot,
We eat our leek with better will,
We’d rather be alive than not.

Andrew Lang (1844-1912)
Scottish poet, novelist, literary critic, and anthropologist

Friday, 14 October 2016

Book Review: On Black Sisters' Street by Chika Unigwe

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

From afar Europe seems to many a continent of marvels where everybody can live in peace and enjoy all the amenities of modern life without having to struggle day after day. Those who come here quickly realise that reality is quite different from what they were told. Even the well-educated often find themselves at the bottom of society all of a sudden. For women this may mean prostitution. This year I already presented two forgotten German-language classics from the first decade of the twentieth century focusing on prostitutes in Germany and Austria (»»» read my reviews of The Diary of a Lost Girl by Margarete Böhme and The Red House by Else Jerusalem). The bestselling Belgian novel On Black Sisters’ Street by Chika Unigwe tells the stories of four young Nigerian women who hoped to escape a life without perspective in Lagos accepting the offer of a sly Nigerian to get them to Antwerp, Belgium, and ended as sex workers.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

New on Lagraziana's Kalliopeion: Ravel. A Novel by Jean Echenoz Decomposition of a Musical Brain:
Ravel. A Novel by Jean Echenoz

There are melodies so unique that it’s enough to hear their first notes to know what is coming. Without doubt the Boléro by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) is such a memorable piece of music. Although it’s a classical orchestra tune and not actually new – it premiered as a ballet in November 1928 –, virtually everybody knows it at least partly; most people will even remember the name of its French composer notwithstanding that they may never have heard any other work of his. After all, Ravel was celebrated already during his lifetime and his fame hasn’t faded since his tragic death following the desperate attempt to stop or even reverse his mental decline with brain surgery. But what kind of a man was Maurice Ravel apart from his compositions? In his short critically acclaimed biographical novel Ravel, which first appeared early in 2006, the French author Jean Echenoz evokes the last decade in the life of the musical genius starting with his 1928 grand tour of America.

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