Friday, 27 February 2015

Book Review: Autumn and Winter Sonatas by Ramón del Valle-Inclán’s review is the last of My WINTER Books Special since the cold season is finally drawing towards its close. There were thirteen books on my short list and I read all of them. Some were a mere pleasure from the start, while it took me a while to get into others and to see their much praised literary qualities as was the case with the book that I’m reviewing today. Actually Autumn and Winter Sonatas by Ramón del Valle-Inclán is a volume of two novellas of a tetralogy often published together. The popular Spanish author wrote a sonata for each season of the year and brought them out separately in reverse order (starting with autumn) between 1902 and 1905, but combined in one volume they are The Memoirs of the Marquis of Bradomin describing the protagonist’s amorous adventures in the four seasons of life following the example of Giacomo Casanova.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Poetry Revisited: Winter's Beauty by William Henry Davies

Winter's Beauty

(From Foliage: 1913)

Is it not fine to walk in spring,
When leaves are born, and hear birds sing?
And when they lose their singing powers,
In summer, watch the bees at flowers?
Is it not fine, when summer's past,
To have the leaves, no longer fast,
Biting my heel where'er I go,
Or dancing lightly on my toe?
Now winter's here and rivers freeze;
As I walk out I see the trees,
Wherein the pretty squirrels sleep,
All standing in the snow so deep:
And every twig, however small,
Is blossomed white and beautiful.
Then welcome, winter, with thy power
To make this tree a big white flower;
To make this tree a lovely sight,
With fifty brown arms draped in white,
While thousands of small fingers show
In soft white gloves of purest snow.

William Henry Davies

Friday, 20 February 2015

Book Review: The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak
Not only tales, also history can have a certain fairy-tale touch, especially when the focus is on royal families and even more so when vision is blurred by several layers of important historical eras and the lenses of cultural background and prejudice. Russian Empress Catherine II. the Great certainly is a good example for a historical personality with a not particularly good reputation thanks to her sex life and her expansionist politics. Since her time much has been written about her, history books as well as novels. A work of fiction about Catherine the Great and life in her entourage is The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak which I’m reviewing today. The subtitle calls it a novel of Catherine the Great, but in reality it’s the story of an orphaned Polish girl at the Imperial Russian Court whose life is closely tied to that of the petty German princess rising to be the Empress of Russia.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Author's Portrait: Robert Musil
Robert Musil in 1900
Among Austrian writers of the early twentieth century there is one who is now often mentioned in one breath with the great modernists James Joyce and Marcel Proust although his fame never reached the same heights, least of all during his lifetime. Like them he is chiefly remembered today for the monumental novel which represents his life’s work and which only few have read in its entirety. The author, of course, is Robert Musil and the opus magnum in question is The Man Without Qualities which actually happens to be jus a fragment because the author died during work on the third volume. Here’s my portrait of this exceptional Austrian writer who was always grieved by not getting the attention that he deserved.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Poetry Revisited: Sonnet 27 by Anna Seward

Sonnet 27: See Wither'd Winter, Bending Low His Head

(from Original Sonnets on Various Subjects:
And Odes Paraphrased from Horace
: 1799)

See wither'd WINTER, bending low his head;
His ragged locks stiff with the hoary dew;
His eyes, like frozen lakes, of livid hue;
His train, a sable cloud, with murky red
Streak'd.--Ah! behold his nitrous breathings shed
Petrific death!--Lean, wailful Birds pursue,
On as he sweeps o'er the dun lonely moor,
Amid the battling blast of all the Winds,
That, while their sleet the climbing Sailor blinds,
Lash the white surges to the sounding shore.
So com'st thou, WINTER, finally to doom
The sinking year; and with thy ice-dropt sprays,
Cypress and yew, engarland her pale tomb,
Her vanish'd hopes, and aye-departed days.

Anna Seward

Friday, 13 February 2015

Book Review: Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin today’s review I stay in the rut that I entered past Friday with a collection of fairy-tale-like short stories from the early 1940s (»»» read my review of Winter’s Tales by Isak Dinesen) and that now takes me to a work of magical realism with epic dimensions first published forty years later in 1983. With its over 600 pages Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin must be called monumental, if not lengthy, compared to the concise tales of the Danish almost-laureate of the Nobel Prize which carry nearly the same title borrowed from William Shakespeare. Mark Helprin’s story of the foundling Peter Lake and the white stallion Athansor builds a magical bridge between New York at the beginning and at the end of the twentieth century as well as between the realms of the living and of the dead to restore ultimate justice.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Back to the Classics Challenge 2015

Back to the Classics Challenge 2015
1 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. I enjoy reading the classics and I love bringing literary gems back into the light from the unfathomable depths of oblivion. In fact, twentieth-century classics get much room here on my blog anyways and so it didn’t even cost me much extra time or effort to come up with reviews for the different categories of this challenge.

In the beginning I didn’t mean to cover all twelve categories because my review focus on Edith’s Miscellany is on adult fiction published from 1900 through today. This is because I seldom read nineteenth century classics or non-fiction, and as for children’s books and plays, they never make it on my TBR lists unless by mistake. However, in summer I changed my mind. My goal now was to contribute two books to every category, one originally written in English and one available in English translation (if I could, I read the original version, though)… and as you can see I did it!

Two thirds of the reviews of the classics below have appeared here between February and December. Those that didn’t fit into this blog I published on Lagraziana’s Kalliopeion.

And here's my final list with direct links to the book reviews for all 12 categories twice over:
  1. 19th Century Classic: »»» José Maria de Eça de Queiroz: Cousin Bazilio (1878) – book notice on Lagraziana's Kalliopeion
    »»» Maria Edgeworth: Helen (1934) – book notice on Lagraziana's Kalliopeion
  2. 20th Century Classic: »»» Cora Sandel: Alberta and Jabob (1926)
    »»» Leon Uris: The Angry Hills (1955)
  3. Classic by a Woman: »»» Isak Dinesen (aka as Karen Blixen): Winter’s Tales (1942)
    »»» Margaret Irwin: The Galliard (1941)
  4. Classic in Translation: from the Arabic »»» Naguib Mahfouz: Midaq Alley (1947)
    from the Japanese
    »»» Uno Chiyo: Confessions of Love (1935)
  5. Very Long Classic: »»» Franz Werfel: The Forty Days of Musa Dagh (1933) – 965 pages of actual text in the German edition, certainly less than 900 pages in English translation
    Ayn Rand: The Fountainhead (1943) – 681 pages of actual text according to my count
  6. Classic Novella: »»» Annemarie Schwarzenbach: Lyric Novella (1933)
    Evelyn Waugh: The Loved One (1948)
  7. Classic With a Name in the Title: »»» Elsa Morante: Arturo's Island (1957)
    Truman Capote: Breakfast at Tiffany's (1958)
  8. Humorous or Satirical Classic: »»» Anatole France: Penguin Island (1908)
    Sylvia Townsend Warner: Mr. Fortune's Maggot (1927)
  9. Forgotten Classic: »»» Ramón del Valle-Inclán: Autumn and Winter Sonatas (1902/1905)
    Enid Bagnold: The Happy Foreigner (1920)
  10. Non-fiction Classic: »»» Fanny Lewald: A Year of Revolutions. Fanny Lewald's Recollections of 1848 (1850) – book notice on Lagraziana's Kalliopeion
    Bertrand Russell: The Problems of Philosophy (1912) – book notice on Lagraziana's Kalliopeion
  11. Children's Classic: »»» Astrid Lindgren: Mio's Kingdom (1954) – book notice on Lagraziana's Kalliopeion
    Rudyard Kipling: Kim (1901) – book notice on Lagraziana's Kalliopeion
  12. Classic Play: »»» Molnár Ferenc: Liliom (1909) – book notice on Lagraziana's Kalliopeion »»» Samuel Beckett: Endgame (1956) – book notice on Lagraziana's Kalliopeion

Monday, 9 February 2015

Poetry Revisited: The Winter Nosegay by William Cowper

The Winter Nosegay


What Nature, alas! has denied
To the delicate growth of our isle,
Art has in a measure supplied,
And winter is deck’d with a smile.
See, Mary, what beauties I bring
From the shelter of that sunny shed,
Where the flowers have the charms of the spring,
Though abroad they are frozen and dead.

‘Tis a bower of Arcadian sweets,
Where Flora is still in her prime,
A fortress to which she retreats
From the cruel assaults of the clime.
While earth wears a mantle of snow,
These pinks are as fresh and as gay
As the fairest and sweetest that blow
On the beautiful bosom of May.

See how they have safely survived
The frowns of a sky so severe;
Such Mary’s true love, that has lived
Through many a turbulent year.
The charms of the late-blowing rose
Seem graced with a livelier hue;
And the winter of sorrow best shows
The truth of a friend such as you.

William Cowper

Friday, 6 February 2015

Book Review: Winter’s Tales by Isak Dinesen (aka Karen Blixen) award of a literary prize usually implies that others who would deserve it just as much or even more get nothing. It goes without saying that among the unlucky losers of the Nobel Prize in Literature there have been several women writers, too. Eliza Orzeszkowa (»»» read my portrait of her) and Concha Espina (»»» read my review of The Metal of the Dead) were two of them and for today’s review I chose a short story collection of another almost-laureate of the Nobel Prize, namely Winter’s Tales by Isak Dinesen aka Karen Blixen. Having been nominated for it several times and on the shortlist of 1961 (together with Graham Greene, John Steinbeck and the winner Ivo Andrić), the Danish author might have outdone John Steinbeck in 1962, hadn’t she died in September, thus before the official announcements in October.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Poetry Revisited: A Winter Song by Jean Ingelow

A Winter Song

(from The Monitions of the Unseen, and Poems of Love and Childhood: 1871)

Came the dread Archer up yonder lawn -
Night is the time for the old to die -
But woe for an arrow that smote the fawn,
When the hind that was sick unscathed went by.

Father lay moaning, "Her fault was sore
(Night is the time when the old must die),
Yet, ah to bless her, my child, once more,
For heart is failing: the end is nigh."

"Daughter, my daughter, my girl," I cried
(Night is the time for the old to die),
"Woe for the wish if till morn ye bide" -
Dark was the welkin and wild the sky.

Heavily plunged from the roof the snow -
(Night is the time when the old will die),
She answered, "My mother, 'tis well, I go."
Sparkled the north star, the wrack flew high.

First at his head, and last at his feet
(Night is the time when the old should die),
Kneeling I watched till his soul did fleet,
None else that loved him, none else were nigh.

I wept in the night as the desolate weep
(Night is the time for the old to die),
Cometh my daughter? the drifts are deep,
Across the cold hollows how white they lie.

I sought her afar through the spectral trees
(Night is the time when the old must die),
The fells were all muffled, the floods did freeze,
And a wrathful moon hung red in the sky.

By night I found her where pent waves steal
(Night is the time when the old should die),
But she lay stiff by the locked mill-wheel,
And the old stars lived in their homes on high.

Jean Ingelow