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.