Monday, 29 June 2015

Poetry Revisited: Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare

Sonnet 18

(from Shakespeare's Sonnets: 1609)

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
     So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
     So long lives this and this gives life to thee.

William Shakespeare

Friday, 26 June 2015

Book Review: Dear Life by Alice Munro
In my opinion it is a necessary characteristic of good fiction that it deals with life and explores human nature in its many facets instead of simply recounting a series of events. To look deep into the souls of their heroes and heroines some writers fill huge tomes, while others need just a few pages to show the emotional ups and downs of a protagonist struggling with the vicissitudes of life. The book that I chose for today’s review is a good example for a short story collection bursting with characters who feel so human and real that it wouldn’t be much of a surprise to meet them in flesh and blood someday although only a limited part of their self is actually revealed. The focus of Dear Life by Alice Munro is on moments in life that have a lasting impact for one reason or another.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Poetry Revisited: Midsummer Night, Not Dark, Not Light by Jean Ingelow

Midsummer Night, Not Dark, Not Light

(from the novel Fated to be Free: 1873)

Midsummer night, not dark, not light,
Dusk all the scented air,
I'll e'en go forth to one I love,
And learn how he doth fare.
O the ring, the ring, my dear, for me,
The ring was a world too fine,
I wish it had sunk in a forty-fathom sea,
Or ever thou mad'st it mine.

Soft falls the dew, stars tremble through,
Where lone he sits apart,
Would I might steal his grief away
To hide in mine own heart.
Would, would 'twere shut in yon blossom fair,
The sorrow that bows thy head,
Then--I would gather it, to thee unaware,
And break my heart in thy stead.

That charmed flower, far from thy bower,
I'd bear the long hours through,
Thou should'st forget, and my sad breast
The sorrows twain should rue.
O sad flower, O sad, sad ring to me.
The ring was a world too fine;
And would it had sunk in a forty-fathom sea,
Ere the morn that made it mine.

Jean Ingelow

Friday, 19 June 2015

Book Review: People in the Summer Night by Frans Eemil Sillanpää

Since times immemorial Midsummer has been an important date in the solar calendar with many traditions linked to it, especially in Scandinavia, but not only as proves the fact that William Shakespeare wrote a play entitled A Midsummer Night’s Dream. However, my literary rambles take me to the Finnish countryside this week. Due to luminous and warm nights summer there almost necessarily invites to stay up like the protagonists of the classical novel People in the Summer Night by Frans Eemil Sillanpää do for very different reasons. People give birth, people fall in love, people crave for sleep, people stroll around observing and musing, and people die in this novel of the Finnish Nobel laureate revolving around the human condition in all its diversity.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Japanese Literature Challenge 9

June 2015 - January 2016

Like past year Dolce Bellezza - for literary and translated fiction called the Japanese Literature Challenge 9 already in May, but this time I'm ready to join in from the beginning and contribute some interesting reads from the Land of the Rising Sun.

My TBR list uses to be exceedingly long, and what is more, I can never make up my mind which books to pick in the end for a review. However, here's the list of novels that I managed to review by the deadline of this challenge:
»»» please read also my (brief) post for the Japanese Literature Challenge 8. 

Monday, 15 June 2015

Poetry Revisited: Nuits de juin – June Nights by Victor Hugo

Nuits de juin

(de Les Rayons et les Ombres: 1840)

L'été, lorsque le jour a fui, de fleurs couverte
La plaine verse au loin un parfum enivrant ;
Les yeux fermés, l'oreille aux rumeurs entrouverte,
On ne dort qu'à demi d'un sommeil transparent.

Les astres sont plus purs, l'ombre paraît meilleure ;
Un vague demi-jour teint le dôme éternel ;
Et l'aube douce et pâle, en attendant son heure,
Semble toute la nuit errer au bas du ciel.

Victor Hugo

June Nights

(from Beams and Shadows: 1840)

In summer, when day has fled, covered with flowers
The plain pours out far away an intoxicating scent;
Eyes shut, ears half open to noises,
We only half sleep in a transparent slumber.

The stars are purer, the shade seems pleasanter;
A hazy half-day colours the eternal dome;
And the sweet pale dawn awaiting her hour
Seems to wander all night at the bottom of the sky.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Book Review: Alberta and Jacob by Cora Sandel
Summer days are long in the North, but unfortunately where there is light there is shadow too. The more reviving and cheerful the warm season may be close to the Arctic Circle the more dazing and depressing the cold and dark winters can be. For the teenage protagonist of Alberta and Jacob by Cora Sandel the pleasures of summer are few and too quickly past to make her forget the chill and the dimness of winter which use to weigh heavily on her soul. However, it’s not just the inclement climate in one of the northernmost towns of Norway that makes Alberta feel miserable. The always tense atmosphere at home, constant pecuniary troubles and the necessity to keep up the appearance of a happy bourgeois family in a small town add to her increasing desperation that separates her from her family and society altogether. 

Monday, 8 June 2015

Poetry Revisited: June by Amy Levy


(from A London Plane Tree and Other Verses: 1899)

Last June I saw your face three times;
Three times I touched your hand;
Now, as before, May month is o'er,
And June is in the land.

O many Junes shall come and go,
Flow'r-footed o'er the mead;
O many Junes for me, to whom
Is length of days decreed.

There shall be sunlight, scent of rose;
Warm mist of summer rain;
Only this change--I shall not look
Upon your face again.

Amy Levy

Friday, 5 June 2015

Book Review: Eight White Nights by André Aciman
With regard to places where the sun sets late and rises early in June, July and August, the USA aren’t exactly the country coming to my mind first although there are of course Alaska and the chain of Aleutian islands that link the north-western part of the American continent to Asia. However, being located on the fortieth parallel (thus further south than Madrid, Rome or Istanbul for instance) the City of New York certainly can’t be called particularly northern and yet it’s just there where I start My Reading Summer of Nordic White Nights. Unlike its literary model – Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s short story White Nights from 1848 – the novel Eight White Nights by André Aciman is set in contemporary New York white with snow. It recounts the beginning of an unusual love story between the nameless narrator and a woman called Clara.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Special: My Reading Summer of Nordic White Nights

About a year ago or two I came across an interesting blog called Notes of the North which featured a perpetual Nordic Reading Challenge with books from Scandinavian countries. I bookmarked the site, but unfortunately it seems that Zee abandoned the blog since it’s no longer online and the books in her Nordic Literature Review Database are no longer available, either. I think that it’s a pity and so I decided to make a summer special presenting books from the North.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Poetry Revisited: Two Months by Rudyard Kipling

Two Months

(Verse No. 198A in the Civil and Military Gazette of 14 September 1886)


No hope, no change! The clouds have shut us in,
And through the cloud the sullen Sun strikes down
Full on the bosom of the tortured Town,
Till Night falls heavy as remembered sin
That will not suffer sleep or thought of ease,
And, hour on hour, the dry-eyed Moon in spite
Glares through the haze and mocks with watery light
The torment of the uncomplaining trees.

Far off, the Thunder bellows her despair
To echoing Earth, thrice parched. The lightnings fly
In vain. No help the heaped-up clouds afford,
But wearier weight of burdened, burning air.

What truce with Dawn? Look, from the aching sky,
Day stalks, a tyrant with a flaming sword!


At dawn there was a murmur in the trees,
A ripple on the tank, and in the air
Presage of coming coolness -- everywhere
A voice of prophecy upon the breeze.

Up leapt the Sun and smote the dust to gold,
And strove to parch anew the heedless land,
All impotently, as a King grown old
Wars for the Empire crumbling 'neath his hand.

One after one the lotos-petals fell,
Beneath the onslaught of the rebel year,
In mutiny against a furious sky;
And far-off Winter whispered: -- "It is well!
"Hot Summer dies. Behold your help is near,
"For when men's need is sorest, then come I."

Rudyard Kipling