Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Back Reviews Reel: February 2013

If you have a look into my blog archive of February 2013, you’ll find there four reviews. Two are of classics from the pen of Austrian writers or to be precise of very renowned Austrians since Viktor E. Frankl was really a psychiatrist telling his own – true – survival story from the holocaust, not an innovator of literature like Arthur Schnitzler. The remaining two reviews are of contemporary novels, one by the established Italian writer Erri de Luca and the other by a new American author called Michelle Cohen Corasanti.

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http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1859643299/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1634&creative=6738&creativeASIN=1859643299&linkCode=as2&tag=editsmisc00-21In January 2013, I entered to win a GOODREADS giveaway for the first time… and I won the book right away! To my great surprise and delight, The Almond Tree by Michelle Cohen Corasanti turned out to be a much better read than I had expected and since it fitted in well with my reviews posted by then, I decided to recommend it here on my blog. 

The title of the book sounds lovely and makes believe the same about the story told in it, but this assumption proves completely wrong already in the very first chapter. In fact, the story has more in common with Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables than with any of the romances on best selling lists. The novel set in Israel and Palestine deals with suppression and cruelty, with fear and hatred, with prejudice and ignorance. And it gives hope showing that there are ways out of the vicious circle of violence.

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http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1846042844/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1634&creative=6738&creativeASIN=1846042844&linkCode=as2&tag=editsmisc00-21My next book chosen for review was in a similar line, but Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl is a memoir from the concentration camps of Nazi Germany, not fiction. I first read what the psychiatrist experienced as a prisoner and slave labourer just before the new millennium, at a time when I was in a crisis and searching for meaning myself. I seldom reread books, but this one I read three or four times because its message is so encouraging and so inspiring.

The story of Viktor E. Frankl’s time – and suffering – in concentration camps is told from the professional point of view of the psychiatrist. As he would have done in a research paper, he analysed the situation and identified three psychological stages that every inmate of the concentration camps went through and that Frankl could discern on the basis of observation of his fellow camp inmates as well as of his own experience.

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http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B003GY0KI4/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1634&creative=6738&creativeASIN=B003GY0KI4&linkCode=as2&tag=editsmisc00-21Also the third book that I reviewed here in February 2013 dealt with the experience of terror and violence in a dictatorship, more precisely in a military junta in Argentina and only in a plotline set in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The story of Three Horses by Erri de Luca is told in a way that skilfully blurs present, past and future much as the human mind does. Thus it’s an experimental novel, but one that is easy to read and to understand.

At the beginning of the short novel the unnamed narrator, a reclusive middle-aged gardener with a love for used books, sits in a tavern somewhere in Southern Italy where he meets Laila, a young and enigmatic prostitute who reminds him of his late wife. The encounter triggers a whole series of flashbacks to the time when the narrator had been living in Argentina ruled by the terror regime of Jorge Videla and his successors.

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http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/190896832X/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1634&creative=6738&creativeASIN=190896832X&linkCode=as2&tag=editsmisc00-21Only with my fourth and last review I changed my subject and turned my attention to an innovative psychological novella set in the “good old days” of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, i.e. on a day in September 1896. Fräulein Else by Arthur Schnitzler is a first-person stream of consciousness narrative that was first published in 1924 and received immediate public acclaim.

The adolescent woman Else is staying at a noble hotel with her well-to-do aunt and cousin, but her sheltered world is about to tumble down. Her lawyer father is a gambler and embezzled money. Now Else is asked to approach the rich art dealer Dorsday to lend money to save her father from prison and humiliation. Alas he asks something in return that Else is reluctant to give: he wants her to take off her clothes and pose naked in front of him that night. The request plunges the young and inexperienced Else into a deep inner tumult.

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