Friday, 30 January 2015

Book Review: Midwinter by John Buchan a book title can be quite misleading like in the case of the novel which I’m reviewing today. As you know, the reading list for My WINTER Books Special has kept me busy for weeks now and for containing the word “winter” in the title Midwinter by John Buchan has been on it from the beginning. Although the historical novel is clearly set in the winter of 1745/46 (thus of the Jacobite rising), its title doesn’t refer to the time around winter solstice as might be expected. Much rather it’s the sobriquet of a mysterious character appearing ever again in the story and helping the protagonist Alastair Maclean who is a captain in the Scottish army and committed to the Jacobite cause with all his heart. Coming from France he is on his way through England to join Bonnie Prince Charlie with important news, but he moves on enemy territory and even supposed friends soon turn out to be foes.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Poetry Revisited: Sol de invierno – Winter Sun by Antonio Machado

Sol de invierno

(de Soledades. Galerías. Otros Poemas: 1907)

Es mediodía. Un parque.
Invierno. Blancas sendas;
simétricos montículos
y ramas esqueléticas.
    Bajo el invernadero,
naranjos en maceta,
y en su tonel, pintado
de verde, la palmera.
    Un viejecillo dice,
para su capa vieja:
«¡El sol, esta hermosura
de sol!...» Los niños juegan.
    El agua de la fuente
resbala, corre y sueña
lamiendo, casi muda,
la verdinosa piedra.

Antonio Machado

Winter Sun

(from Solitudes. Galleries. Other Poems: 1907)

It is noon. A park.
Winter. White paths;
symmetrical mounds
and skeletal branches.
In the greenhouse
orange trees in pots,
and in its barrel, painted
green, the palm tree.
An old man says,
to his old cape:
“The sun, this beauty
of the sun!...” Children play.
The water of the fountain
slides, runs and dreams
lapping, almost silent,
against the greenish stone.

Literal Translation:
Edith LaGraziana 2015

Friday, 23 January 2015

Book Review: Winter Quarters by Evelyn Grill three weeks into the new year it’s high time for Austrian literature again for a change. Considering that mine is a small country, her writers are amazingly numerous and prolific. Their books are also notably present on the German-language book market, but only shamefully few of them are ever translated into English which makes it difficult to come up with something interesting from my country for review on this blog. This time I dug out a short novel from the 1990s, namely Winter Quarters by Evelyn Grill. It’s the story of a woman in her forties who never had a chance to develop high self-esteem because she was always told that with her limp she was a born loser. She has long given up hope for love and marriage, when a construction worker proposes to her. Saying yes to the mere stranger is the beginning of her ordeal.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Author's Portrait: Marchesa Colombi nineteenth century was a hard time for women wishing to be taken seriously as writers. The Italian Maria Antonietta Torriani Torelli Viollier was one of those who succeeded although it wasn’t sung at her cradle either that one day she would be a noted and widely-read author. Like many of her female contemporaries she wrote under pseudonym, but instead of choosing a male one her sense of humour made her borrow the name of a character from the comedy La satira e Parini (1858; The Satire and Parini) by Paolo Ferrari, namely of the female part of a frivolous and vicious couple of small gentry. After first having used the name just for fun she became Marchesa Colombi for good in 1877. The life of the prolific and yet almost forgotten Italian writer deserves a closer look.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Poetry Revisited: Winter Dusk by Sara Teasdale

Winter Dusk

(from Flame and Shadow: 1920)

I watch the great clear twilight
Veiling the ice-bowed trees;
Their branches tinkle faintly
With crystal melodies.
The larches bend their silver
Over the hush of snow;
One star is lighted in the west,
Two in the zenith glow.
For a moment I have forgotten
Wars and women who mourn,
I think of the mother who bore me
And thank her that I was born.

Sara Teasdale

Friday, 16 January 2015

Book Review: The Winter War by Philip Teir seems a strange inconsistency of nature that winter is still advancing although days have been growing longer for almost a month already. Around me many people are feeling the effects of the cold and dark season now: they are gliding into winter depression. Some just get sad and listless while others turn irritable and start nagging. In The Winter War by Philip Teir the gloom of winter adds to the problems of a long-time married couple and life isn’t a bed of roses for the two grown-up daughters, either. The novel set in contemporary Finland and London shows how the family members cope with the continuous small challenges of life, each one according to his or her own nature.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Japanese Literature Challenge 8

It has been only now in January 2015 that I've come across the Japanese Literature Challenge 8 that Dolce Bellezza - for literary and translated fiction launched on the last day of May 2014. And this was by mere accident because I was looking for something completely different really. However, I joined it right away although the closing date is already near.

During the past six months I reviewed only two Japanese novels and as fate would have it they are both classics from the pen of the 1968 Nobel laureate Kawabata Yasunari.
In addition, I reviewed a contemporary novel set in Japan, in Tōkyō to be precise, that a young Austro-Japanese author wrote in German, namely 
  • Milena Michiko Flašar: Ich nannte ihn Krawatte (2012), translated into English as I Called Him Necktie

Monday, 12 January 2015

Poetry Revisited: Winter Song by Robert Bloomfield

Winter Song

(from Rural Tales: 1802)

Dear Boy, throw that Icicle down,
And sweep this deep Snow from the door:
Old Winter comes on with a frown;
A terrible frown for the poor.
In a Season so rude and forlorn
How can age, how can infancy bear
The silent neglect and the scorn
Of those who have plenty to spare?

Fresh broach'd is my Cask of old Ale,
Well-tim'd now the frost is set in;
Here's Job come to tell us a tale,
We'll make him at home to a pin.
While my Wife and I bask o'er the fire,
The roll of the Seasons will prove,
That Time may diminish desire,
But cannot extinguish true love.

O the pleasures of neighbourly chat,
If you can but keep scandal away,
To learn what the world has been at,
And what the great Orators say;
Though the Wind through the crevices sing,
And Hail down the chimney rebound,
I'm happier than many a king
While the Bellows blow Bass to the sound.

Abundance was never my lot:
But out of the trifle that's given,
That no curse may alight on my Cot,
I'll distribute the bounty of Heaven:
The fool and the slave gather wealth;
But if I add nought to my store,
Yet while I keep conscience in health,
I've a Mine that will never grow poor.

Robert Bloomfield

Friday, 9 January 2015

Book Review: Winter Sonata by Dorothy Edwards as fiction often serves composers as a source of inspiration music stimulates the imagination of many authors. Several works of literature owe their titles to music pieces that had an important part in their creation, be it bringing the idea of the story or arousing the desire to pay them homage. Sometimes writers with expertise in music even venture at transposing musical form into fiction. For today’s review I chose one such work that was written following the rules of composition, namely Winter Sonata by Dorothy Edwards. In it the almost forgotten Welsh writer tells the unspectacular story of a young man who moves to a remote village for the winter hoping to stand a better chance there than in town to keep the illnesses of the cold season at bay.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Awaiting Resurrection After 70 years
Photo courtesy
Once again a new year has begun and on its first day the writings of several authors have entered into the public domain. In Austria like in most (not all!!!) of Europe copyright protection expires seventy years after the writer’s death which is more than enough time for a name or book title to be completely forgotten by the public. Thanks to the continuing, even growing demand for free digitised books as well as to the efforts of committed readers and expert communities some hidden gems are rediscovered by and by… and resurrected to new, often first-time fame.

So whose works can we expect to find soon on Project Gutenberg, and the websites of other digital libraries dedicated to making public domain literature accessible for free?

Monday, 5 January 2015

Poetry Revisited: Winter Flowers by Fannie Isabelle Sherrick

Winter Flowers

(from Love or Fame: 1880)

The summer queen has many flowers
To deck her sunny hair,
And trailing grasses, pure and sweet,
To scent the heavy air;
And upward through the misty sky
There is a glory too,
Of floating clouds and rifts of gold
And depths of smiling blue.

Yet winter, too, can boast a wealth
Of flowers pure and white;
A kingly crown of frosted gems--
A wreath of sparkling light;
So bright and beautiful, indeed,
It were a wondrous sight
To see a world of fragile flowers
Sprung up within a night.

And sometimes there are cast'es, too,
Of glittering ice and snow
Piled high upon our window-panes
'Neath curtains hanging low;
And they are like the castles fair
Our day-dreams build for aye;
A frozen mist that one warm breath
May quickly drive away.

And yet, how beautiful they are,
These flowers of our breath;
That bloom when not a leaf is left
To mourn the summer's death.
And oh! how wondrous are the things
That God has given the earth;
The day that brings to one a death
Smiles on another's birth.

Fannie Isabelle Sherrick

Friday, 2 January 2015

Book Review: The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck my Christmas digression into light Irish literature, I return to my usual set of deep and thought-provoking reads already with this week’s review. More precisely I picked a Nobel read for My WINTER Books Special, the only one that I could find, namely The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck. The members of the committee of the Swedish Academy mentioned especially this last novel of the American author when they awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature to him in 1962. It’s the story of a good and honest man who finds his morals corrupted by the requirements and habits of post-war America where virtually everything seems permitted to achieve financial wealth and social status.