Friday, 15 February 2019

Book Review: The Wild Geese by Mori Ōgai, the world would be a rather hostile place to live in without the written and unwritten rules that determine more or less strictly our behaviour towards each other. Society is firmly based on these codes of conduct although only their most essential parts are universal like the canon laid down in maybe seven of the Ten Commandments in the Christian Bible. Other social norms are inseparably connected to a more or less confined cultural sphere. In the Japanese classic The Wild Geese by Mori Ōgai the paths of medical student Okada and a moneylender’s beautiful young concubine called Otama cross in Tōkyo in 1880, but the unwritten rules of society prevent them from becoming more than just a regular passer-by and the resident of a house who know each other only from sight. However, as time advances their glances and greetings begin to mean more than they outwardly express…

Monday, 11 February 2019

Poetry Revisited: As from Dreams Awaking by Caroline Sheridan Norton

As from Dreams Awaking

(from The Undying One and Other Poems: 1830)

AS when from dreams awaking
The dim forms float away
Whose visioned smiles were making
Our darkness bright as day;
We vainly strive, while weeping,
From their shining spirit track,
(Where they fled while we were sleeping,)
To call those dear ones back!

Like the stars, some power divides them
From a world of want and pain;
They are there, but daylight hides them,
And we look for them in vain.
For a while we dwell with sadness,
On the beauty of that dream,
Then turn, and hail with gladness
The light of morning’s beam.

So, when memory’s power is wringing
Our lonely hearts to tears,
Dim forms around us bringing
That brightened former years:
Fond looks and low words spoken,
Which those dreamy days could boast,
Rise; till the spell be broken,
We forget that they are lost!

But when the hour of darkness rolls
Like heavy night away;
And peace is stealing o’er our souls,
Like the dawn of summer day:
The dim sweet forms that used to bless,
Seem stealing from us too;
We loved them—but joy’s sunniness
Hath hid them from our view!

Oh could day beam eternally,
And Memory’s power cease,
This world, a world of light would be,
Our hearts were worlds of peace:
But dreams of joy return with night,
And dwell upon the past—
And every grief that clouds our light,
Reminds us of the last!

Caroline Sheridan Norton (1808-1877)
English social reformer and author

Monday, 4 February 2019

Poetry Revisited: Le temps perdu – Lost Time by Sully Prudhomme

Le temps perdu

(de Les Vaines Tendresses: 1875)

Si peu d’oeuvres pour tant de fatigue et d’ennui!
De stériles soucis notre journée est pleine:
Leur meute sans pitié nous chasse à perdre haleine,
Nous pousse, nous dévore, et l’heure utile a fui...

«Demain! J’irai demain voir ce pauvre chez lui,
«Demain je reprendrai ce livre ouvert à peine,
«Demain, je te dirai, mon âme, où je te mène,
«Demain je serai juste et fort... Pas aujourd’hui.»

Aujourd’hui, que de soins, de pas et de visites!
Oh! l’implacable essaim des devoirs parasites
Qui pullulent autour de nos tasses de thé!

Ainsi chôment le coeur, la pensée et le livre,
Et pendant qu’on se tue à différer de vivre,
Le vrai devoir dans l’ombre attend la volonté.

Sully Prudhomme (1839-1907),
vrai nom René François Armand Prudhomme
poète français et
lauréat du Prix Nobel de literature 1901

Lost Time

(from Vain Endearments: 1875)

So few works considering the strain and hassle!
Of sterile concerns our day is full:
Their pack hunts us pitylessly without losing breath,
pushes us, devores us, and the useful hour is gone…

“Tomorrow! Tomorrow I’ll visit this poor one at home,
“Tomorrow I’ll resume this book hardly opened,
“Tomorrow, I’ll tell you, my soul, where I take you,
“Tomorrow I’ll be just and strong… Not today.”

Today, how many cares, steps and visits!
Oh! The unremitting swarm of parasite duties
That multiply around our tea cups!

Thus rest the heart, the thought and the book,
And while killing oneself to postpone living,
The true duty in the shadow waits for the will.

Sully Prudhomme (1839-1907)
real name René François Armand Prudhomme
French poet and
laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature 1901
Literal translation: Edith LaGraziana 2018

Friday, 1 February 2019

Book Review: The Republic of Dreams by Nélida Piñon times immemorial people have been dreaming and telling stories. Ancient myths and legends are part of the cultural heritage that shapes our view of the world and helps us to cope with life. But as we grow older the longing to live our own adventures and to weave our own legends grows. Determined “to make the Americas” thirteen-year-old Madruga, the central character of The Republic of Dreams by Nélida Piñon, left his native Galicia and arrived in Brazil in 1913. By the early 1980s, he is head of a numerous family and of a profitable group of companies, but almost lost his beloved grandfather’s ancient Galician legends. When his wife announces that death is coming for her, he and all the people who are integral part of their lives look back on the memorable events, joys and tragedies of seventy years thus start a new – Brazilian – legend. 

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

*New* Decade Challenge 2019 @ GOODREADS Bookcrossers: The List

Click on the image to go straight
to the *New* Decade Challenge post
in the GOODREADS Bookcrossers group

1 January – 31 December 2019

A Literary Voyage Through Twelve Decades
in Ten Plunges and Two Extra Deep Dives 

The Two Extra Deep Dives

Victor Català: Solitude (1905), original Catalan title: Solitud
Mori Ōgai: The Wild Geese (1911-13), original Japanese title:

The Ten Plunges

Clara Viebig: The Golden Hills (1927), original German title: Die goldenen Berge
Samuel Beckett: Murphy (1938)
Natalie Sarraute: Portrait of a Man Unknown (1948), original French title: Portrait d'un inconnu
Per Olov Enquist: The Magnetist's Fifth Winter (1954), original Swedish title: Magnetisörens femte vinter
Pak Kyongni: The Curse of Kim's Daughters (1962), original Korean title: 김약국의 딸들
Francisco Umbral: A Mortal Spring (1975), original Spanish title: Mortal y rosa
Nélida Piñon: The Republic of Dreams (1984), original Brazilian-Portuguese title: A República dos Sonhos
Gao Xingjian: One Man's Bible (1999), original Chinese title: 一個人的聖經
Domnica Radulescu: Train to Trieste (2008), original Romanian title: Trenul de Trieste
Umberto Eco: The Prague Cemetary (2011), original Italian title: Il cimitero di Praga

Monday, 28 January 2019

Poetry Revisited: The Garden in Winter by Lucy Maud Montgomery

The Garden in Winter

(from The Watchman & Other Poems: 1916)

Frosty-white and cold it lies
Underneath the fretful skies;
Snowflakes flutter where the red
Banners of the poppies spread,
And the drifts are wide and deep
Where the lilies fell asleep.

But the sunsets o'er it throw
Flame-like splendor, lucent glow,
And the moonshine makes it gleam
Like a wonderland of dream,
And the sharp winds all the day
Pipe and whistle shrilly gay.

Safe beneath the snowdrifts lie
Rainbow buds of by-and-by;
In the long, sweet days of spring
Music of bluebells shall ring,
And its faintly golden cup
Many a primrose will hold up.

Though the winds are keen and chill
Roses' hearts are beating still,
And the garden tranquilly
Dreams of happy hours to be­
In the summer days of blue
All its dreamings will come true.

Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874-1942)
Canadian author

Friday, 25 January 2019

Bookish Déjà-Vu: The Greater Hope by Ilse Aichinger

The racist frenzy of the Nazis that drove them to commit the most barbaric deeds in order to “protect” the actually only imagined purity of the Aryan bloodline of the German people didn’t spare the children. The smaller they were, the less they understood why they were banned from schools and playgrounds or why their friends shunned them all of a sudden. What is more, they certainly sensed the growing fear of the adults around them, not least because they were urgently warned against overstepping any of the new discriminating rules and they quickly learnt that it didn’t even need a transgression to experience violence. Family members vanished from their lives thanks to deportation or – like in the case of the only half-Jewish protagonist of the Austrian post-war classic The Greater Hope by Ilse Aichinger that I feature as a bookish déjà vu – to the flight to a safe haven.

Read my review »