Friday, 2 December 2016

Book Review: The Hive by Camilo José Cela

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/71550.The_Hive
2016 review of a book written
by an author whose family name starts with the letter
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

It’s a characteristic of the big city that there’s a constant hustle and bustle in all the central places. Around every corner seems to wait big adventure… or maybe just the daily struggle for a petty livelihood that is the inexorable fate of the masses crammed together in its less fashionable quarters. However hard the times, day in day out without fail people go about their business – because they have to – and fill the city if not with cheer then at least with life. Overall, their existence may appear ordinary and dull, but it suffices to break it down to the individual level to discover the unique, sometimes surprising and often moving stories that make it up. The Hive by Camilo José Cela, the Spanish recipient of the 1989 Nobel Prize in Literature, shows the much-tried people of Madrid striving to return to something like normality after the Spanish Civil War.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Poetry Revisited: The Thrush by Edward Thomas

The Thrush

(from Last Poems: 1918)

When Winter’s ahead,
What can you read in November
That you read in April
When Winter’s dead?

I hear the thrush, and I see
Him alone at the end of the lane
Near the bare poplar's tip,
Singing continuously.

Is it more that you know
Than that, even as in April,
So in November,
Winter is gone that must go?

Or is all your lore
Not to call November November,
And April April,
And Winter Winter – no more?

But I know the months all,
And their sweet names, April,
May and June and October,
As you call and call

I must remember
What died into April
And consider what will be born
Of a fair November;

And April I love for what
It was born of, and November
For what it will die in,
What they are and what they are not,

While you love what is kind,
What you can sing in
And love and forget in
All that’s ahead and behind.

Edward Thomas (1878-1917)
British poet, essayist, and novelist

Friday, 25 November 2016

Book Review: The Fig Tree by Françoise Xénakis

Click on the index card to enlarge it!
2016 review of a book written
by an author whose family name starts with the letter
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

The character of a person is never static because it continuously adapts to outside influences and (sometimes uncommon) emotional reactions to them. Such changes of attitude and behaviour use to be gradual and therefore often remain unnoticed by oneself and the immediate surroundings even when they are quite fundamental. Harsh living conditions like during an economic crisis, under a terror regime or in a war can accelerate the process and thus turn closest friends or even lovers into complete strangers if they are separated for a while. This is the experience that the two nameless protagonists of The Fig Tree by Françoise Xénakis make. They were a happy couple full of love for each other, but a highly bureaucratic terror regime tore them from each other and kept them apart for three years. During this time he went through the unspeakable horrors of a brutally run forced labour camp and she had to cope with the humiliating routines of red tape.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Poetry Revisited: Thanksgiving by Kate Seymour MacLean

Thanksgiving

(from Advent Days and Poems of Remembrance: 1902)

The Autumn hills are golden at the top,
     And rounded as a poet's silver rhyme;
The mellow days are ruby ripe, that drop
     One after one into the lap of time.

Dead leaves are reddening in the woodland copse,
     And forest boughs a fading glory wear;
No breath of wind stirs in their hazy tops,
     Silence and peace are brooding everywhere.

The long day of the year is almost done,
     And nature in the sunset musing stands,
Gray-robed, and violet-hooded like a nun,
     Looking abroad o'er yellow harvest lands:

O'er tents of orchard boughs, and purple vines
     With scarlet flecked, flung like broad banners out
Along the field paths where slow-pacing lines
     Of meek-eyed kine obey the herdboy's shout;

Where the tired ploughman his dun oxen turns,
     Unyoked, afield, mid dewy grass to stray,
While over all the village church spire burns–
     A shaft of flame in the last beams of day.

Empty and folded are her busy hands;
     Her corn and wine and oil are safely stored,
As in the twilight of the year she stands,
     And with her gladness seems to thank the Lord.

Thus let us rest awhile from toil and care,
     In the sweet sabbath of this autumn calm,
And lift our hearts to heaven in grateful prayer,
     And sing with nature our thanksgiving psalm.

Kate Seymour MacLean (1829-1916)
US-born Canadian poet and teacher

Friday, 18 November 2016

Book Review: The Woman Who Walked Into Doors by Roddy Doyle

2016 review of a book written
by an author whose family name starts with the letter
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Domestic abuse is a sad reality and even in modern western society it’s probably much commoner than we are ready to believe. Today it may be less of a taboo to talk about it than it used to be in former times, but still many victims keep suffering in their own homes without losing a word about their ordeal even to closest friends or family. For someone who has never been in the situation it’s really hard to understand why anyone would put up with being verbally or physically attacked on a regular basis, maybe even daily and sometimes so violently that being killed is an actual possibility. Quite obviously, it’s a very complex matter psychologically. The Irish novel The Woman Who Walked Into Doors by Roddy Doyle shows the mixed feelings that Paula Spencer has about her husband who early on in their marriage began to beat her up ferociously and who drove her into alcoholism.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Back Reviews Reel: November 2013

Since there were five Fridays in November 2013, I had the rare pleasure to present five gorgeous reads on my blog. All of them I carefully chose for Rose City Reader’s European Reading Challenge 2013 (»»» see my wrap-up post of January 2014 that includes the complete list of books reviewed for it) as well as in consideration of the melancholy mood of this season of commemoration. None of the books is a murder mystery, and yet, my way through the month was paved with a surprisingly great number of dead people! Three novels – two contemporary and a classical one – focus on the terror regimes in Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union, notably during World War II, and on the aftermaths or repercussions respectively of the period in people’s lives. The other two are a classical English satire and a contemporary Finnish book, which defies being labelled as novel or short prose collection, dealing among others with questions of old age and impending death.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Poetry Revisited: November. A Sonnet by William Cullen Bryant

November. A Sonnet

(from Poems: 1854)

Yet one smile more, departing, distant sun!
One mellow smile through the soft vapoury air,
Ere, o'er the frozen earth, the loud winds run,
Or snows are sifted o'er the meadows bare.
One smile on the brown hills and naked trees,
And the dark rocks whose summer wreaths are cast,
And the blue gentian flower, that, in the breeze,
Nods lonely, of her beauteous race the last.
Yet a few sunny days, in which the bee
Shall murmur by the hedge that skirts the way,
The cricket chirp upon the russet lea,
And man delight to linger in thy ray.
Yet one rich smile, and we will try to bear
The piercing winter frost, and winds, and darkened air.

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