Thursday, 31 December 2015

Back to the Classics Challenge 2015 - The Summary January - 31 December 2015

In December 2014, Karen K. from Books and Chocolate called the Back to the Classics Challenge 2015, and when I came across it by mere chance about two months later, I didn’t need to think twice about signing up. Now it's time to take stock.

Follow the link to see my final list with direct links to the book reviews for all 12 categories twice over! 

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

2015 Women Challenge - The Summary

Women Challenge # 3: 1 January - 31 December 2015

hosted by Valentina of Peek-a-booK!

Although I joined in only in March, I still could contribute twenty-four reviews to this challenge. Four more reviews – all of them wintry – went online during the first two months of 2015. I did’t count them for the challenge, but for your information I’ve included the links in my list because they are all excellent reads and (with the exception of two) rather hidden gems of literature which not everybody will have heard of.

Follow the link to get to my complete list of 24+4 reviews!
2015 Women Challenge

Monday, 28 December 2015

Poetry Revisited: December’s Snow by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

December's Snow

(from Songs of the Road: 1911)

The bloom is on the May once more,
          The chestnut buds have burst anew;
But, darling, all our springs are o'er,
          'Tis winter still for me and you.
We plucked Life's blossoms long ago
What's left is but December's snow.

But winter has its joys as fair,
          The gentler joys, aloof, apart;
The snow may lie upon our hair
          But never, darling, in our heart.
Sweet were the springs of long ago
But sweeter still December's snow.

Yes, long ago, and yet to me
          It seems a thing of yesterday;
The shade beneath the willow tree,
          The word you looked but feared to say.
Ah! when I learned to love you so
What recked we of December's snow?

But swift the ruthless seasons sped
          And swifter still they speed away.
What though they bow the dainty head
          And fleck the raven hair with gray?
The boy and girl of long ago
Are laughing through the veil of snow.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Friday, 25 December 2015

Book Review: The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand a globalising world that urges the individual to adapt to ever more uniform standards, those who are different in any way are almost necessarily pushed into the role of the outsider, not to say the unwanted freak. Just as much as the different, the new and innovative is perceived as a potential danger. Therefore creators often have a difficult standing. Society favours thoughtless – brainless – “selfless” pawns who want whatever they get and like whatever is in fashion. The long novel The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand portrays a man whose creative force spurs him on against the current of the mediocre and praised mainstream. He knows who he is and what he wants. He doesn’t care what others think or do, even when he becomes the target of power-hungry begrudging schemers. He is simply indestructible, invulnerable, unstoppable.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Read the Nobels - My Interim Summary

... and an invitation to join.

Read the Nobels
A Perpetual Reading Challenge

In spring 2013, I browsed the internet for interesting books to read as every so often and came across...

Monday, 21 December 2015

Poetry Revisited: Holly and Mistletoe by Edith M. Thomas and Mistletoe

(from Children of Christmas: 1907)

Said the Holly to the Mistletoe:
     “Of this holy-tide what canst know,—
                    Thou a pagan—thou
                    Of the leafless bough?
My leaves are green, my scarlet berries shine
                    At thought of things divine!”

To the Holly spake the Mistletoe:
     “Matters not, my leafless boughs but show
                    Berries pale as pearl—
                    Ask yon boy and girl!
If human mirth and love be not some sign
                    Of share in things divine!”

Edith Matilda Thomas

Friday, 18 December 2015

Book Review: So You Don't Get Lost in the Neighbourhood by Patrick Modiano workings of the mind are mysterious and our memory isn’t always very reliable, especially about childhood. Some people recall their early years vividly and in great detail, while others seem to remember hardly anything. Moreover, the bits and pieces that have lasted in our minds for many years often turn out to be shockingly incomplete, blurred or even alienated past the recognition of others who were present too. Some memories are so painful that they are downright repressed: access denied until… This is the experience that an ageing novelist makes in So You Don't Get Lost in the Neighbourhood by Patrick Modiano, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature 2014. When a man steps into his life to return his lost address book, he rouses the ghosts of childhood asking after a person whose long outdated number is in it.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

New on Lagraziana's Kalliopeion: Kim by Rudyard Kipling Boy and a Red Lama on the Diamond Way:
Kim by Rudyard Kipling

Worldwide most reading lists for children contain at least one book written by Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature 1907 “in consideration of the power of observation, originality of imagination, virility of ideas and remarkable talent for narration which characterize the creations of this world-famous author”. Without doubt...

Monday, 14 December 2015

Poetry Revisited: Am Grischtdaag – At Christmas by Calvin Ziegler

Am Grischtdaag

(aus Drauss un Deheem: 1891/1936)

Sis Grischtdaag.
 Die ganz Welt iwwer
Frei die Leit sich sehr,
Un alles is harrlich, as wann der Daag
Vom Himmel gelosse waer.

Ich hock allee in mei Zimmer
Un denk so iwwer die Zeit -
Wie der Geischt vun Grischt sich immer
Weider un weider ausbreid:

Un wie heit in yeder Famillye
Frehlich un gutes Mut
In die liewi aldi Heemet
Sich widder versammle dutt.

Ach widder deheem! Ach, Yammer! -
Net all! Deel sin yo heit
Zu weit vun uns ab zu kumme -
Fatt in de Ewichkeit.

Net all deheem! Verleicht awwer -
Unich behaap's kann sei -
Im Geischt sin mir all beisamme
Un griesse enanner uff's nei!

So sin mir vereenicht widder -
Loss die Zeit vergeb wiesie will;
Ich drink eich ein Gruss, ihr Brieder!
Verwas sitzt dir all so schtill?

Weit ab - iwwer Barig un Valley,
Un iwwer die Ewichkeit's Brick -
Vun eich Brieder all, wie Geischdeschall
Kummt mir Eier Gruss zerick.

(Charles) Calvin Ziegler

At Christmas

(from Outside and At Home: 1891/1936)

It's Christmas.
The whole world over
Everyone's filled with love,
And everything's joyful, as if the day
Was given from above.

I sit alone in my room
Thinking about the times -
How the spirit of Christ always
Wider and wider shines.

And how today all families
With much happiness embrace
As they gather once again
In the dear old home place.

All home again! Oh, not so! -
Not all! Some today in reality
Are far from us below -
Away in eternity!

Not all at home! Perhaps though -
And I insist I knew -
In the spirit we're all together
And greet each other anew.

So we are together again -
May the time go as it will,
I drink to you a toast, brothers!
Why do you all sit so still?

Far away - over valley and ridge,
And over the eternal bridge -
From you brothers, like a spiritual echo
Your greeting returns below.

Original Pennsylvania Dutch and English version retrieved from Poetry Soup

Friday, 11 December 2015

Book Review: Lake of Heaven by Ishimure Michiko life in overcrowded cities estranges society ever more from its roots, be they natural, cultural or spiritual. The consequence is that many people are discontent although they have everything they could wish and hope for. They suffer feeling empty, lost and out of place. Looking for a way to salvation, some become easy prey for self-appointed preachers who offer ready-made instructions for everybody leading to quick as well as lasting peace of mind. Others are luckier. Fate pushes them into a situation that allows them to get back in touch with their souls and to restore their natural bond with the world. In Lake of Heaven by Ishimure Michiko the protagonist travels to the place where his late grandfather grew up to scatter his ashes over the old family grave and finds a fading world still in harmony with nature and local culture.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

New on Lagraziana's Kalliopeion: Helen by Maria Edgeworth Novel – Almost – Like A Fairy Tale:
Helen by Maria Edgeworth

As an English-Irish woman writer Maria Edgeworth (1767-1849) was among the first to earn general recognition in the world of literature. Her novels were bestsellers at the time, but  her star began to fade as soon as Jane Austen...

Monday, 7 December 2015

Poetry Revisited: Winter Sleep by Elinor Wylie

Winter Sleep

(from Nets to Catch the Wind: 1921)

When against earth a wooden heel
Clicks as loud as stone on steel,
When stone turns flour instead of flakes,
And frost bakes clay as fire bakes,
When the hard-bitten fields at last
Crack like iron flawed in the cast,
When the world is wicked and cross and old,
I long to be quit of the cruel cold.

Little birds like bubbles of glass
Fly to other Americas,
Birds as bright as sparkles of wine
Fly in the nite to the Argentine,
Birds of azure and flame-birds go
To the tropical Gulf of Mexico:
They chase the sun, they follow the heat,
It is sweet in their bones, O sweet, sweet, sweet!
It's not with them that I'd love to be,
But under the roots of the balsam tree.

Just as the spiniest chestnut-burr
Is lined within with the finest fur,
So the stoney-walled, snow-roofed house
Of every squirrel and mole and mouse
Is lined with thistledown, sea-gull's feather,
Velvet mullein-leaf, heaped together
With balsam and juniper, dry and curled,
Sweeter than anything else in the world.

O what a warm and darksome nest
Where the wildest things are hidden to rest!
It's there that I'd love to lie and sleep,
Soft, soft, soft, and deep, deep, deep!

Elinor Wylie

Friday, 4 December 2015

Book Review: The Angry Hills by Leon Uris is a dangerous trade, especially in times of – hot or cold – war, but not everybody deliberately chooses to enter it. Sometimes, above all in novels, outsiders get mixed up in intelligence work more or less by accident like Graham Greene’s Jim Wormold, the Englishman living in Cuba before Fidel Castro, who is recruited as a spy against his will (»»» read my review of Our Man in Havana) or the middle-aged American protagonist of The Angry Hills by Leon Uris who at first doesn’t even know that Greek resistance against Nazi Germany and British Secret Service have chosen him as unsuspicious and ignorant courier. What starts for the “bread-and-butter” writer Mike Morrison as an innocent business trip to Greece to transfer family money to the USA just in time before war will prevent it turns into a flight from invading German troops and Nazi spies hunting after a sealed envelope containing secret information.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

New on Lagraziana's Kalliopeion: Liliom by Molnár Ferenc

The Incorrigible Innocent Rogue:
Liliom by Molnár Ferenc

On Austrian stages including the famous Burgtheater in Vienna, Liliom by celebrated Hungarian playwright Molnár Ferenc (1878-1952; better known here as Franz Molnár) keeps being one of the most regularly performed plays from the early years of the twentieth century. First put on the stage of...

Monday, 30 November 2015

Poetry Revisited: Danger of Fire Arms by James McIntyre

Danger of Fire Arms

(from Poems of James McIntyre: 1889)

For to save life one great solver
Would be to prohibit the revolver,
Weapon of coward and of bully,
Who slaughter friends in their folly.

Let now no man or any boy,
With loaded arms ever toy,
Showing off their manly vigor,
Pointing to friend and pulling trigger.

And sending bullet through their brain,
And then exclaim in mournful strain,
When friends with grief they are goaded,
I did not know that it was loaded.

Fire arms oft' times do bring woes,
And they kill more friends than foes,
Hunting now o'er fertile fields,
'Tis seldom that it profit yields.

James McIntyre

Friday, 27 November 2015

Book Review: Désirée by Annemarie Selinko Life sometimes takes such amazing turns that, if they came into the mind of a writer, even the most daring among them might refrain from using them in a book because they seem just too far-fetched to make a realistic story. To a historical novel based on well-researched facts, however, they can give the magic touch of a fairy-tale come true as is the case with the book that I’m reviewing today. In the 1940s, an Austrian author of popular novels chose to base what was to be her last and most famous work on a true story from revolutionary France that ends on the Swedish throne. Désirée by Annemarie Selinko is the fictionalised account of the stunning fate of Désirée Clary that reminds of the story of Cinderella, but the silk merchant’s daughter from Marseille who was the first love of Napoleone Buonaparte and who eventually became Queen Desideria I of Sweden and Norway really existed.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Poetry Revisited: Autumn and Winter by Mrs. J. C. Yule

Autumn and Winter

(from Poems of the Heart and Home: 1881)


Beautiful Autumn is dead and gone -
                  Weep for her!
Calm, and gracious, and very fair,
With sunny robe and with shining hair,
And a tender light in her dreamy eye,
She came to earth but to smile and die -
                  Weep for her!

Nay, nay, I will not weep!
          She came with a smile,
          And tarried awhile,
     Quieting Nature to sleep; -
          Then went on her way
          O'er the hill-tops grey,
And yet - and yet, she is dead, you say!
Nay! - she brought us blessings, and left us cheer,
And alive and well shell return next year! -
                  Why should I weep?


Desolate Winter has come again –
                       Frown on him!
          He comes with a withering breath,
               With a gloomy scowl,
               With a shriek and a howl,
          Freezing Nature to death!
               He stamps on the hills,
               He fetters the rills,
     And every hollow with snow he fills!
     Frown on the monster grim and old,
     With snowy robes and with fingers cold,
                       And a gusty breath!

Nay, nay! I shall give him a smile! -
          For I know by the sleet,
           And the snow in the street,
     He has come to tarry awhile.
Ho, for the sleigh-bells merrily ringing!
Ho, for the skaters joyously singing -
Over the ice-fields gliding, swinging! -
So let the Winter-king whiten the plain!
Fetter the fountains and frost the pane,
               His greeting shall be -
               Not a frown from me,
          But a smile - a smile!

Mrs. J. C. Yule,  née Pamela Sarah Vining (1826-1897)
Canadian poet

Friday, 20 November 2015

Book Review: The Guest Cat by Hiraide Takashi
Cats are independent creatures displaying elegance and aplomb worthy of the remote kin of lions. They certainly know what they want and how to get it! However, not all people welcome such willfulness, even less in a pet. While many humans respond to the particular charms of cats serving them not just voluntarily but with great pleasure, others hate them for their aloofness and pride as Colette skilfully showed in her novella from 1933 (»»» read my review of The Cat). Cat lovers will confirm that their mere presence suffices to improve the atmosphere of a place. With a cat around home feels warmer, more comfortable, and even more alive just as the first-person narrator of The Guest Cat by Hiraide Takashi learns day after day when Chibi begins to drop by at his house on her daily rambles and eventually makes it her second home.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Poetry Revisited: The Gray Sisters by Madison Julius Cawein

The Gray Sisters

(from Minions of the Moon. A Little Book of Song and Story: 1913)

What is that which walks by night
In flying tatters of leaves and weeds,
When the clouds rush by like daemon steeds,
And the moon is a jack-o'-lantern light
Low in the pool's dark reeds?
What is that, like a soul who sinned?
Is it a witch? or the Autumn wind?
What is that which sits and glowers
Under the trees by the forest pool?
With a cloak of moss whence the raindrops drule,
Chilling the air with a sense of showers
And touch of the cold toadstool:
What is that, with its breath of gloom?
Is it a witch? or the Fall perfume?
What is that in a mantle of gray,
With rags, like water, that wreathe and wind?
That gropes the forest, as if to find
A path, long-lost, on its midnight way,
Shadowy, old and blind:
What is that, so white and whist?
Is it a witch? or the Autumn mist?
You may have met them; you may have heard;
As I have heard them; as I have met:
The three gray sisters of wind and wet
Each With a spell or a cryptic word
Working her magic yet:
The three gray sisters, the witches old,
Daughters of Autumn, who haunt the wold.

Madison Julius Cawein

Friday, 13 November 2015

Book Review: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison many tried to establish objective criteria for beauty, the wisdom that “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder” could never be defeated. Nonetheless, it would be too easy to leave it at beauty being a matter of personal taste because from the moment we are born we are exposed to the opinion of others and we can’t help internalising their standards. In Europe the ideal of a beautiful body often tends to be Nordic, i.e. since Roman times or even longer, fair skin, blond hair and blue eyes have a particular appeal to beholders. European discoverers and settlers carried this idea of human beauty into the New World and so the African American protagonist of The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison learnt early to despise herself for her looks. She prays to God for blue eyes that will make her beautiful and happy, but of course, that’s not how it works. 

Monday, 9 November 2015

Poetry Revisited: A Dream by Emily Lawless

A Dream

(from With the Wild Geese: 1902)

Last night in dreams I seemed to slowly wend
Along a coast like this, all seared and bare,
And met you there, my old, my long-time friend,
And breathed old fragrance lingering in the air.

For near a rock I found a curragh tied,
And, entering, floated down along the bay,
And now and then an idle oar I plied,
Then touched another headland, seared and grey.

There, in a cave, part open to the light,
I found you sitting, smiling, on the strand,
And all my heart sprang upwards at the sight,
And out I leaped, and gaily waved my hand.
“Old friend, what joy to find you here,” I said;
Then all at once remembered you were dead.

Emily Lawless

Friday, 6 November 2015

Book Review: The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh Catholics this month started with two days dedicated to the commemoration of the dead, namely All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. Not just during times of mourning, but also on Memorial Days, a special place to remember those who left for good can be a great consolation. Thus the habit of most civilisations to build cemeteries that, following regional, cultural and religious traditions, can be very different. They can be humble sites of recollection as well as pompous testimonials of wealth and glory both of those departed and of those bereaved. Americans in particular seem to like to “celebrate” the recently deceased in grand style and this gives morticians an important role in the funeral rites. The satirical novella The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh sets a love story against the backdrop of burials and cremations in two park-like cemeteries in Hollywood, one for humans and one for their pets.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Poetry Revisited: All Souls’ Day by Eugene Lee-Hamilton

All Souls’ Day

(from Sonnets of the Wingless Hours: 1894)


All Souls' Day's wintry light is on the wane;
The Tuscan furrows darken deeper brown;
And still the sower, ever up and down,
Is hard at work, broad-scattering his grain,

As, since dim times, again and yet again
(Beginning with old nations scarcely known,
Pelasgi and Etruscans) he has thrown
His seed upon this old Italic plain.

And what became of all those shadowy dead
Who sowed their wheat, built Cyclopean walls,
And left their lives unwritten on man's scrolls?

Just what became of what they sowed for bread –
Of grain that breeds fresh grain that falls and falls:
Earth had their bones; and who shall find their souls?


What heavens that grow, what hells that still expand,
Would hold the close-packed souls of all who found
Earth's bread or sweet or bitter, and were bound
In sheaves of shadow by the silent hand?

The close-packed souls of every time and land;
Millions of millions mingled with the ground;
Of all the mounded mummy-dust all round,
Who, back on earth, would fight for room to stand,

Nor find a square foot each? ... But dusk has grown;
The fields are empty; day is dying fast;
And, save one figure, all is grey and lone –

The figure of the sower who has cast
Wheat for the quick where countless dead have sown,
And passes ghost-like on his way at last.

Eugene Lee-Hamilton

Friday, 30 October 2015

Book Review: A Tale of False Fortunes by Enchi Fumiko History is a matter of point of view. Despite dates and facts serving as cornerstones to reconstruct past events, our knowledge of times gone by is inevitably biased since it is always filtered by the historians who write it down according to their own backgrounds and interests. We never get a complete picture, we never know all sides to what happened. Thus especially the female dimension of history has been widely neglected, not to say passed over in silence for many centuries although there are traces of it to be found if thoroughly looked for. Historical fiction of merit and quality can help to bring back to light forgotten or misjudged women of the past. One such work is A Tale of False Fortunes by Enchi Fumiko that evokes the tragic events surrounding Fujiwara Teishi, the  first consort of Emperor Ichijō, who lived in Japan in the late tenth century.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

New on Lagraziana's Kalliopeion: A Year of Revolutions by Fanny Lewald

Chronicles of Raised and Crushed Hopes:
A Year of Revolutions by Fanny Lewald

Undeniably, the year 1848 was one of unrest in Europe. Starting in France – once more – the spirit of revolution spread like a blaze over virtually the entire continent. The then famous and today largely forgotten German writer Fanny Lewald (1811-1889) witnessed...

Monday, 26 October 2015

Poetry Revisited: October by Jean Blewitt


(from The Cornflower and Other Poems: 1906)

Who is it says May is the crown of the year?
Who is it says June is the gladdest?
Who is it says Autumn is withered and sere,
The gloomiest season and saddest?

You shut to your doors as I come with my train,
And heed not the challenge I'm flinging,
The ruddy leaf washed by the fresh falling rain,
The scarlet vine creeping and clinging!

Come out where I'm holding my court like a queen,
With canopy rare stretching over;
Come out where I revel in amber and green,
And soon I may call you my lover!

Come out to the hillside, come out to the vale,
Come out ere your mood turns to blaming,
Come out where my gold is, my red gold and pale,
Come out where my banners are flaming!

Come out where the bare furrows stretch in the glow,
Come out where the stubble fields glisten,
Where the wind it blows high, and the wind it blows low,
And the lean grasses dance as they listen!

Jean Blewitt

Friday, 23 October 2015

Book Review: Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel García Márquez
Love is a very powerful emotion that can overwhelm even the strongest and most disciplined character, especially when it comes by surprise and for the first time. Love always feels like magic, but sometimes it appears to the outsider as if a potent spell has been cast on the lovers or only one of them. When the passion is so strong that it becomes harmful and destructive to the people concerned, it isn’t a long way to think that a demon must be at work. This is what happens in the historical novel Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel García Márquez set in a time when and a place where superstition was common. It tells a story of first love under particularly unfavourable circumstances and between a most unlikely couple, namely between a scarcely adolescent girl alleged of being possessed by demons and her already middle-aged exorcist in an eighteenth-century sea town somewhere in South America.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Poetry Revisited: An Autumn Landscape by Archibald Lampman

An Autumn Landscape

(from Lyrics of Earth: 1895)

No wind there is that either pipes or moans;
The fields are cold and still; the sky
Is covered with a blue-gray sheet
Of motionless cloud; and at my feet
The river, curling softly by,
Whispers and dimples round its quiet gray stones.

Along the chill green slope that dips and heaves
The road runs rough and silent, lined
With plum-trees, misty and blue-gray,
And poplars pallid as the day,
In masses spectral, undefined,
Pale greenish stems half hid in dry gray leaves.

And on beside the river's sober edge
A long fresh field lies black. Beyond,
Low thickets gray and reddish stand,
Stroked white with birch; and near at hand,
Over a little steel-smooth pond,
Hang multitudes of thin and withering sedge.

Across a waste and solitary rise
A ploughman urges his dull team,
A stooped gray figure with prone brow
That plunges bending to the plough
With strong, uneven steps. The stream
Rings and re-echoes with his furious cries.

Sometimes the lowing of a cow, long-drawn,
Comes from far off; and crows in strings
Pass on the upper silences.
A flock of small gray goldfinches,
Flown down with silvery twitterings,
Rustle among the birch-cones and are gone.

This day the season seems like one that heeds,
With fixèd ear and lifted hand,
All moods that yet are known on earth,
All motions that have faintest birth,
If haply she may understand
The utmost inward sense of all her deeds.

Archibald Lampman

Friday, 16 October 2015

Book Review: The Briefcase by Kawakami Hiromi love doesn’t take account of age, nor does it always strike the couple concerned like lightning as many romantic (and other) novels make believe. Often it develops almost unnoticed and between unlikely partners brought together not by a sudden flame of love, but because fate has it that they meet regularly over a long period of time. However thrilling it may be to plunge into a tale of all-consuming passion, I find it much more interesting to follow the emotions of two people who gradually take a strong liking to each other until they realise at last that they want to be with each other always. For this week’s review I picked a Japanese novel that tells such a slow-paced love story. In The Briefcase by Kawakami Hiromi a middle-aged woman “drifts” in love with her former high school teacher who is already in his seventies.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Poetry Revisited: Torre de Névoa – Tower of Mist by Florbela Espanca

Torre de Névoa

(de Livro de Mágoas: 1919)

Subi ao alto, à minha Torre esguia,
Feita de fumo, névoas e luar,
E pus-me, comovida, a conversar
Com os poetas mortos, todo o dia.

Contei-lhes os meus sonhos, a alegria
Dos versos que são meus, do meu sonhar,
E todos os poetas, a chorar,
Responderam-me então: “Que fantasia,

Criança doida e crente! Nós também
Tivemos ilusões, como ninguém,
E tudo nos fugiu, tudo morreu!...”

Calaram-se os poetas, tristemente...
E é desde então que eu choro amargamente
Na minha Torre esguia junto ao Céu!...

Florbela Espanca

Tower of Mist

(from The Book of Sorrows: 1919)

I climbed up high, to my slender tower,
Made of smoke, mists and moonlight,
And, moved, I set about conversing
With the dead poets all day long.

I told them my dreams, the joy
Of the verses that are mine, of my dreaming,
And all poets, crying,
Answered me then, “What fantasy,

Crazy and believing child! We too
Had illusions, like nobody,
And everything fled us, everything died!...”

The poets became silent, sadly…
And it is since then that I cry bitterly
In my slender tower close to Heaven!...

Literal translation by
Edith LaGraziana 2015

Friday, 9 October 2015

Book Review: Little Apple by Leo Perutz to an old and often quoted saying “Revenge is sweet”, but in reality it’s more likely that it’ll leave a rather bitter, not to say foul aftertaste. Moreover, the wish to restore justice taking revenge for endured suffering, damage or loss very easily becomes blind obsession that will inevitably end in disappointment after having caused pain or even ruin along the way. This is what the young protagonist of the short novel Little Apple by Prague-born Austrian writer Leo Perutz hasn’t yet learnt when he returns to his family in Vienna in autumn 1918. He survived the battlefields of World War I and two years in a Siberian prisoners-of-war camp, he isn’t able to close the chapter for good, though, because he vowed to take revenge for the humiliation, torment and terror that he and his comrades suffered from a sadistic camp commandant. Before long he sets out on a dangerous hunt through half of Europe.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Poetry Revisited: Autumn Days by Will Carleton

Autumn Days

(from Farm Ballads: 1873)

Yellow, mellow, ripened days,
Sheltered in a golden coating;
O'er the dreamy, listless haze,
White and dainty cloudlets floating
Winking at the blushing trees,
And the sombre, furrowed fallow;
Smiling at the airy ease
Of the southward flying swallow.
Sweet and smiling are thy ways,
Beauteous, golden, Autumn days!
Shivering, quivering, tearful days,
Fretfully and sadly weeping;
Dreading still, with anxious gaze,
Icy fetters round thee creeping;
O'er the cheerless, withered plain,
Woefully and hoarsely calling;
Pelting hail and drenching rain,
On thy scanty vestments falling.
Sad and mournful are thy ways,
Grieving, wailing, Autumn days!

Will Carleton

Friday, 2 October 2015

Book Review: The Happy Foreigner by Enid Bagnold scene of war is a scaring and depressing place. Often no house remains intact, no field safely arable and it seems impossible that the old hustle and bustle of life can ever return. These days we see it in Syria and other regions less present in the media, but not so long ago great parts of Europe were in ruins. Certain areas of France and Belgium were destroyed twice within less than half a century! Today many of the battlefields – what a harmless sounding word compared to German “Schlachtfeld” that has slaughter in it! – are well-kept places of remembrance, while they were nothing but craters and rubble right after World War I and II. The English novel The Happy Foreigner by Enid Bagnold evokes the atmosphere of winter 1918/19, the first of peace after four years of carnage, through the eyes of a young woman driver in the service of the French army.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Poetry Revisited: A Remembrance of Autumn by Adelaide Anne Procter

A Remembrance of Autumn

(from Legends and Lyrics, Second Series: 1861)

Nothing stirs the sunny silence,–
Save the drowsy humming of the bees
Round the rich ripe peaches on the wall,
And the south-wind sighing in the trees,
And the dead leaves rustling as they fall:
While the swallows, one by one, are gathering,
All impatient to be on the wing,
And to wander from us, seeking
Their beloved Spring!

Cloudless rise the azure heavens!
Only vaporous wreaths of snowy white
Nestle in the gray hill's rugged side;
And the golden woods are bathed in light,
Dying, if they must, with kingly pride:
While the swallows, in the blue air wheeling,
Circle now an eager, fluttering band,
Ready to depart and leave us
For a brighter land!

But a voice is sounding sadly,
Telling of a glory that has been;
Of a day that faded all too fast:–
See afar through the blue air serene,
Where the swallows wing their way at last,
And our hearts perchance as sadly wandering.
Vainly seeking for a long-lost day,
While we watch the far-off swallows,
Flee with them away!

Adelaide Anne Procter

Friday, 25 September 2015

Book Review: The Changeling by Ōe Kenzaburō unexpected and sudden loss of a person close to us usually leaves us in a state of shock and disbelief, even more so when the cause of death happens to be suicide. In some cases friends and family might (just might) have had a chance to see it coming if they had paid more attention, while in other cases the reasons remain unexplained and mysterious, sometimes forever. In their grief many bereaved will start to ponder about what went wrong and what they could have done to prevent the fatal step. To come to terms with the void after his close friend and brother-in-law jumped off the roof of his office building in Tōkyō without a warning, the protagonist of The Changeling by Ōe Kenzaburō takes to conversing with him on the Other Side with the help of a stack of old-fashioned cassette tapes that the deceased recorded for him until shortly before his suicide.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Poetry Revisited: The Southern Refugee by George Moses Horton

The Southern Refugee

(from Naked Genius: 1865)

What sudden ill the world await,
From my dear residence I roam;
I must deplore the bitter fate,
To straggle from my native home.

The verdant willow droops her head,
And seems to bid a fare thee well;
The flowers with tears their fragrance shed,
Alas! their parting tale to tell.

’Tis like the loss of Paradise,
Or Eden’s garden left in gloom,
Where grief affords us no device;
Such is thy lot, my native home.

I never, never shall forget
My sad departure far away,
Until the sun of life is set,
And leaves behind no beam of day.

How can I from my seat remove
And leave my ever devoted home,
And the dear garden which I love,
The beauty of my native home?

Alas! sequestered, set aside,
It is a mournful tale to tell;
’Tis like a lone deserted bride
That bade her bridegroom fare thee well.

I trust I soon shall dry the tear
And leave forever hence to roam,
Far from a residence so dear,
The place of beauty – my native home.

George Moses Horton

Friday, 18 September 2015

Book Review: The Method by Juli Zeh stories these days often evoke a world reminding of a fictitious dystopia although the facts behind them are terribly real. Bloody wars are raging, refugees are being treated worse than wild beasts or lepers, states are tightening control over individuals making ever-stricter laws for the sake of public security. Are we fooling ourselves when we call our society free and imbued with the spirit of universal human rights? And where is humanity going? Many novels show us nightmarish scenarios of the future as it might become if we aren’t on our guard. A more recent one of them is The Method by Juli Zeh set in a world where the state keeps individual health under surveillance and prohibits as well as punishes every potentially harmful behaviour on the pretext of protecting the population from illness and pain. The protagonist feels the full rigour of the system when she lets herself go and begins to question the METHOD.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Poetry Revisited: September by Helen Hunt Jackson


(from Poems: 1892)

The golden-rod is yellow;
The corn is turning brown;
The trees in apple orchards
With fruit are bending down.
The gentian’s bluest fringes
Are curling in the sun;
In dusty pods the milkweed
Its hidden silk has spun.
The sedges flaunt their harvest,
In every meadow nook;
And asters by the brook-side
Make asters in the brook.
From dewy lanes at morning
the grapes’ sweet odors rise;
At noon the roads all flutter
With yellow butterflies.
By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer’s best of weather,
And autumn’s best of cheer.
But none of all this beauty
Which floods the earth and air
Is unto me the secret
Which makes September fair.
‘T is a thing which I remember;
To name it thrills me yet:
One day of one September
I never can forget.

Helen Hunt Jackson

Friday, 11 September 2015

Book Review: Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote are books that everybody has at least heard of and that keep attracting readers throughout years, decades and in some cases even centuries, in short books that are timeless classics of literature. Undeniably, the slim volume that I picked for today’s review is such a classic or to be precise a modern classic since it first appeared only in 1958. I admit that Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote may owe part of its lasting notoriety and popularity to the fact that it was adapted for the screen as early as in 1961 starring Audrey Hepburn. For the rest, the novella is a brilliant portrait of a young woman who left behind a modest life somewhere at the back of beyond in order to enter well-to-do society of New York City and to get her share of glamour and happiness.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Poetry Revisited: XXXIX by A. E. Housman


(from Last Poems: 1922)

When summer's end is nighing
  And skies at evening cloud,
I muse on change and fortune
  And all the feats I vowed
  When I was young and proud.

The weathercock at sunset
  Would lose the slanted ray,
And I would climb the beacon
  That looked to Wales away
  And saw the last of day.

From hill and cloud and heaven
  The hues of evening died;
Night welled through lane and hollow
  And hushed the countryside,
  But I had youth and pride.

And I with earth and nightfall
  In converse high would stand,
Late, till the west was ashen
  And darkness hard at hand,
  And the eye lost the land.

The year might age, and cloudy
  The lessening day might close,
But air of other summers
  Breathed from beyond the snows,
  And I had hope of those.

They came and were and are not
  And come no more anew;
And all the years and seasons
  That ever can ensue
  Must now be worse and few.

So here's an end of roaming
  On eves when autumn nighs:
The ear too fondly listens
  For summer's parting sighs,
  And then the heart replies.

A. E. Housman

Friday, 4 September 2015

Book Review: Confessions of Love by Uno Chiyo I joined the Japanese Literature Challenge 9 in June, I thought that it's time to review another book for it. I set my mind on a Japanese classic written by a woman and found that it isn’t easy to lay hands on one in translation. I tried to get a novel by Ariyoshi Sawako, but the Japanese publisher liquidated its English-language branch and the remaining stock seems to be sold out. Electronic versions of her books exist although I suspect that most of the files available are illegal copies if not part of schemes to spread malware. So I turned my attention towards another important female Japanese writer and I dug up Confessions of Love by Uno Chiyo. This bestselling novel from 1935 revolves around the amorous adventures of a painter passionately in love with a young girl whose upper-class family tries to keep them apart.

Monday, 31 August 2015

Poetry Revisited: The End of the Summer by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

The End of the Summer

(from Poems of Sentiment: 1909)

The birds laugh loud and long together
When Fashion's followers speed away
At the first cool breath of autumn weather.
Why, this is the time, cry the birds, to stay!
When the deep calm sea and the deep sky over
Both look their passion through sun-kissed space,
As a blue-eyed maid and her blue-eyed lover
Might each gaze into the other's face.

Oh! this is the time when careful spying
Discovers the secrets Nature knows.
You find when the butterflies plan for flying
(Before the thrush or the blackbird goes),
You see some day by the water's edges
A brilliant border of red and black;
And then off over the hills and hedges
It flutters away on the summer's track.

The shy little sumacs, in lonely places,
Bowed all summer with dust and heat,
Like clean-clad children with rain-washed faces,
Are dressed in scarlet from head to feet.
And never a flower had the boastful summer,
In all the blossoms that decked her sod,
So royal hued as that later comer
The purple chum of the goldenrod.

Some chill grey dawn you note with grieving
That the King of Autumn is on his way.
You see, with a sorrowful, slow believing,
How the wanton woods have gone astray.
They wear the stain of bold caresses,
Of riotous revels with old King Frost;
They dazzle all eyes with their gorgeous dresses,
Nor care that their green young leaves are lost.

A wet wind blows from the East one morning,
The wood's gay garments looked draggled out.
You hear a sound, and your heart takes warning -
The birds are planning their winter route.
They wheel and settle and scold and wrangle,
Their tempers are ruffled, their voices loud;
Then whirr -and away in a feathered tangle,
To fade in the south like a passing cloud.


A songless wood stripped bare of glory -
A sodden moor that is black and brown;
The year has finished its last love-story:
Oh! let us away to the gay bright town.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Friday, 28 August 2015

Book Review: Italian Shoes by Henning Mankell mornings and early dusk are an unmistakable sign that autumn is approaching once again. For me this means that it’s time to close My Reading Summer of Nordic White Nights after thirteen weeks of hopping criss-cross around the Arctic Circle. My last destination is Scandinavia, more precisely Sweden. The country has gained some notoriety as a hotbed for excellent mystery writers and also the author of the book that I’m reviewing today probably wouldn’t be as famous as he is, hadn’t he produced a series of popular crime novels starring Inspector Kurt Wallander. Italian Shoes by Henning Mankell, however, belongs to a different genre of fiction although like a thriller it largely revolves around death and ghosts of the past. It’s the story of a former surgeon whose secluded life is turned upside down when an old love turns up after almost forty years and asks him to keep a promise while it’s still time.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Poetry Revisited: Auch der andere, der bist du – The Other, Too, Is You by Peter Rosegger

Auch der andere, der bist du

(aus Mein Lied: 1911)

Was die Erde mir geliehen,
Fordert sie schon jetzt zurück.
Naht sich, mir vom Leib zu ziehen
Sanft entwindend Stück für Stück.

Um so mehr, als ich gelitten,
Um so schöner ward die Welt.
Seltsam, dass, was ich erstritten,
Sachte aus der Hand mir fällt.

Um so leichter, als ich werde,
Um so schwerer trag' ich mich.
Kannst du mich, du feuchte Erde,
Nicht entbehren? frag' ich dich.

"Nein, ich kann dich nicht entbehren,
Muss aus dir ein' andern bauen,
Muss aus dir ein' andern nähren,
Soll sich auch die Welt anschauen.

Doch getröste dich in Ruh'.
Auch der andre, der bist du."

Peter Rosegger

The Other, Too, Is You

(from My Song: 1911)

What once Earth to me presented
She's already asking back;
Comes to take what she had granted,
Grasping tender speck by speck.

Strange: the more of hurts I carried
The more beauty showed the land;
What I fought for, gains of merit,
Softly falling from my hand.

And the lighter I am getting,
The more heavily I walk:
'Can't you, from your moistened setting,
Spare me, Earth? I beg you, talk!'

'No, I cannot spare you, Brother,
Need you for the other one;
Out of you I'll feed the other:
Let him also see the sun.

But relax and do not rue:
For the Other, too 'tis You!'

unknown translator