Friday, 18 January 2019

Book Review: Mr. Sammler's Planet by Saul Bellow
The experience of the holocaust marked forever the lives of the survivors, no matter how much they would have liked it to be differently. Many of them will have pushed aside all thoughts of the past because they couldn’t bear the pain any more and they had to concentrate on building a future from virtually nothing. And yet, the indescribable suffering that they had seen and endured must have lingered on in their souls adding subconscious overtones to their actions, thoughts and ways of life. This is also the genesis of Mr. Sammler’s Planet as brought to literary life by Saul Bellow, the 1976 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature. In the summer of 1969, Artur Sammler is a holocaust survivor well in his seventies who lives in New York City and indulges in intellectual musings on the increasingly vulgar and brutal comedy of modern life that surrounds him.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Back Reviews Reel: January 2016

The reviews of three classics and two contemporary works rang in 2016. On New Year’s Day I presented the classical Italian satire The Man Who Searched for Love by Pitigrilli surrounding a judge who gives up his job and becomes a clown. After this I set out to fill A Double Alphabet of Writers for Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks. The 1988 Canadian novel Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood about a renowned painter whose visit to the city where she grew up evokes unpleasant childhood memories started the female alphabet followed by The Diary of a Lost Girl by Margarete Böhme, a forgotten German classic that tells the story of an unmarried teenager of the fin-de-siècle who gets pregnant. For the retrograde male alphabet I reviewed Softcore by Tirdad Zolghadr, a novel from 2007 set in Tehran, and the Japanese historical fiction classic The Heiké Story by Yoshikawa Eiji.

Monday, 14 January 2019

Poetry Revisited: Falling Snow by Amy Lowell

Falling Snow

(from Pictures of the Floating World: 1919)

The snow whispers around me
And my wooden clogs
Leave holes behind me in the snow.
But no one will pass this way
Seeking my footsteps,
And when the temple bell rings again
They will be covered and gone.

Amy Lowell (1874-1925)
American poet of the imagist school
from Brookline Massachusetts

Friday, 11 January 2019

Bookish Déjà-Vu: The Night in Lisbon by Erich Maria Remarque

During the years of Hitler’s Third Reich, many saw their only realistic chance to survive Nazi terror and later war in vanishing from the scene, if possible without leaving a trace. Life on the run, however, wasn’t a bed of roses. No place remained safe for more than a while, not even other countries because it didn’t take long before German troops began to overrun their borders and to occupy their territories. In addition, it became increasingly difficult, sometimes virtually impossible to get enough to eat and drink without attracting unwanted attention from Nazi supporters and other mean spirits. Despite all, some managed to reach one of the few places that still promised salvation in the 1940s. The protagonists of The Night in Lisbon by Erich Maria Remarque, which I chose as bookish déjà-vu, made their way to the last open European port, but fate follows its course without mercy.
Read my review »

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

The Good Rule Reading Challenge: The List

Click on the image to go straight
to the challenge on Becky’s Book Reviews

1 January – 31 December 2019

My Literary Balance of Books First Released

             Before 1970

As From 1970               

  1. Marga Minco: Bitter Herbs. A Little Chronicle (1957); original Dutch title: Het bittere Kruid. Een kleine Kroniek
  1. Rachid al-Daif: Dear Mr. Kawabata (1995), original Arabic title: عزيزي السيد كواباتا
  2. Saul Bellow: Mr. Sammler’s Planet (1970)

Monday, 7 January 2019

Poetry Revisited: Snow at Morning by Thomas MacDonagh

Snow at Morning

(from An Macaomh Vol. I, No. 2: Christmas 1909)

As with fitful tune,
All a heart-born air,
Note by note doth fall
The far vision fair
From the Source of all
On the dreaming soul,
Fall to vanish soon.

From the darkening dome,
Starlight every one
Brightening down its way,
Each a little swan
From a cygnet grey,
Wave on wave doth sail,
Whitening into foam.

Late unloosed by God
From their cage aloft
Somewhere near the sky
Snow flakes flutter soft,
Flutter, fall, and die
On the pavement mute,
On the fields untrod.

Thomas MacDonagh (1878-1916)
Irish poet, playwright, educationalist,
political activist, and revolutionary leader

Friday, 4 January 2019

Book Review: Bitter Herbs by Marga Minco horrors that alleged “enemies of the Third Reich”, most of all those with Jewish ancestors, had to endure under Nazi reign were so appalling that at the time many simply couldn’t believe rumours about them. When eye witnesses and hard facts of systematic atrocities turned up eventually – as they use to, in general –, the world was dumbfounded and reluctant to take them at face value. In a modern European country like Germany people couldn’t be so barbarous as that, could they? Therefore even when their countries were annexed or occupied, many Jews lulled themselves into a false sense of security until it was too late for escape. The narrator of Bitter Herbs by Marga Minco observes the growing concern of her apparently calm family, notably her parents, as race laws are gradually implemented in the German-occupied Netherlands and deportation to the Polish concentration camps becomes a daily threat.