Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Back Reviews Reel: September 2016

With the reviews of five books, three classics and two contemporary works, I filled my blog this month three years ago. I started my tour in Barcelona of the 1930s with the coming-of-age of a recently married girl In Diamond Square by Mercè Rodoreda. Then Black Rain by Ibuse Masuji took me to Hiroshima to see what the Atomic bomb did to the city and its people after 6 August 1945. Afterwards, I travelled to Europe to join an Austrian girl of the 1970s who can’t bear her comfortable life as stay-at-home wife in Why Is There Salt In the Sea? by Austrian writer Brigitte Schwaiger and to observe the changes that the Muslim Brotherhood introduces in France of the 2020s as Submission by Michel Houellebecq imagines them. And finally, I returned to Japan between 1928 and the 1950s with the committed primary teacher of Twenty-four Eyes by Tsuboi Sakae.

Monday, 16 September 2019

Poetry Revisited: Alter Ego by Æ

Alter Ego

(from The Nuts of Knowledge: 1903)

All the morn a spirit gay
Breathes within my heart a rhyme,
'Tis but hide and seek we play
In and out the courts of Time.

Fairy lover, when my feet
Through the tangled woodland go,
'Tis thy sunny fingers fleet
Fleck the fire dews to and fro.

In the moonlight grows a smile
Mid its rays of dusty pearl—
'Tis but hide and seek the while,
As some frolic boy and girl.

When I fade into the deep
Some mysterious radiance showers
From the jewel-heart of sleep
Through the veil of darkened hours.

Where the ring of twilight gleams
Round the sanctuary wrought,
Whispers haunt me—in my dreams
We are one yet know it not.

Some for beauty follow long
Flying traces; some there be
Seek thee only for a song:
I to lose myself in thee.

Æ (1867-1935), real name George William Russell
Irish writer, editor, critic, poet, painter and nationalist

Friday, 13 September 2019

Book Review: Fear and His Servant by Mirjana Novaković
Sometimes there are rumours about extraordinary, even mysterious events that give us the creeps no matter how erudite and rational we happen to be because – if only for an instant – they make us speculate what would be if it were true. Authors even like to toy with such musings in books and films. Take for instance zombies, revenants and vampires. For us today they may be delightfully scary creatures because they belong to the realm of superstition and ancient religions, but for our ancestors it was a real threat to be haunted by one of these undead or even worse to become one of them instead of passing on into eternal life after death. In the modern Serbian novel Fear and His Servant by Mirjana Novaković the Devil himself travels to Belgrade out of fear that the vampires whispered about all around may be real and presage his impending end.

Monday, 9 September 2019

Poetry Revisited: In an Apple Tree by Kate Greenaway

In an Apple Tree

(from Marigold Garden: 1885)

In September, when the apples were red,
To Belinda I said,
“Would you like to go away
To Heaven, or stay
Here in this orchard full of trees
All your life?” And she said, “If you please
I'll stay here where I know,
And the flowers grow.”

Kate Greenaway (1846-1901)
English Victorian artist and writer

Friday, 6 September 2019

Bookish Déjà-Vu: Lyric Novella by Annemarie Schwarzenbach

When love takes on the nature of obsession, it can do a lot of harm. In a way that strongly reminds of a drug, it can cloud even the sharpest mind and make the affected act like a fool and do really stupid things against her or his better judgement. Even worse if the target of obsession is somebody cold, calculating and manipulative who only thinks of her or his own advantage and doesn’t mind sacrificing others for her or his own sake. Lucky are those who wake up in time and find the strength to escape the harmful influence of such obsessive love like the first-person narrator of my Swiss bookish déjà-vu, namely Lyric Novella by Annemarie Schwarzenbach. In Berlin of the 1930s, the law student from a well-to-do family falls for a charismatic cabaret singer although everybody around warns him against her and begins to neglect his studies….
Read my review »

Monday, 2 September 2019

Poetry Revisited: Harvest by John Charles McNeill


(from Songs, Merry and Sad: 1906)

Cows in the stall and sheep in the fold;
Clouds in the west, deep crimson and gold;
          A heron's far flight to a roost somewhere;
          The twitter of killdees keen in the air;
The noise of a wagon that jolts through the gloam
          On the last load home.

There are lights in the windows; a blue spire of smoke
Climbs from the grange grove of elm and oak.
          The smell of the Earth, where the night pours to her
          Its dewy libation, is sweeter than myrrh,
And an incense to Toil is the smell of the loam
          On the last load home.

John Charles McNeill (1874-1907)
Amercan poet

Friday, 30 August 2019

Book Review: To Bury Our Fathers by Sergio Ramírez

It’s people who make history by way of passing on knowledge about the more or less heroic deeds of individuals and groups to later generations not just through different memorabilia, but also as stories that over time may even turn into legends. Above all, turbulent times that are exceptional with regard to what people have to go through and bear with – be they wars or revolutions, be they periods of voluntary or forced migration, just to give a few examples – are a hotbed for such stories. And wherever people come together it’s likely to hear the one or other of them like in To Bury Our Fathers by Sergio Ramírez, a Nicaraguan novel from the 1970s that evokes from different perspectives the country’s (or actually the whole region’s) tragic that is history marked by terror regimes and armed resistence with or without the meddling of the USA and the USSR.