Monday 30 March 2015

Poetry Revisited: À Aurore – To Aurore by George Sand

À Aurore

(de Contes d’une grand-mère, vol. 1: 1873)

La nature est tout ce qu’on voit,
Tout ce qu’on veut, tout ce qu’on aime.
Tout ce qu’on sait, tout ce qu’on croit,
Tout ce que l’on sent en soi-même.

Elle est belle pour qui la voit,
Elle est bonne à celui qui l’aime,
Elle est juste quand on y croit
Et qu’on la respecte en soi-même.

Regarde le ciel, il te voit,
Embrasse la terre, elle t’aime.
La vérité c’est ce qu’on croit
En la nature c’est toi-même.

George Sand

To Aurore

(from A Grandmother’s Tales, vol. 1: 1873)

Nature is all we see,
All we want, all we love.
All we know, all we believe in,
All we feel within ourself.

It is beautiful for whom sees it,
It is kind for whom loves it,
It is just when we believe in it,
And when we respect it within ourself.

Look at the sky, it sees you,
Embrace Earth, it loves you.
Truth is what we believe in
In nature, it is thyself.

Translation as published by
Deza Nguembock of EH LAB
(Education et Handicap)
in her Power Point Presentation
Awareness Campeign January 2012

Friday 27 March 2015

Book Review: The Forty Days of Musa Dagh by Franz Werfel hundred years ago, in 1915, the Young Turk government, that had seized power in the Ottoman Empire in 1908, took advantage of the chaos of World War I to get rid of the Armenian population living in Eastern Anatolia. Thanks to the foot marches of several days with hardly any provisions the deportation to concentration camps in the Mesopotamian desert meant almost certain death from exhaustion and hunger – provided that people weren’t killed on the way by scoundrels seething of hatred and greed or even by their guards. However, six Armenian villages in the Syrian Hatay Province revolted against expulsion seeking refuge on Musa Dagh (Mount Moses), a natural fortress at the Gulf of Alexandrette, and a major work of Austrian literature, namely The Forty Days of Musa Dagh by Franz Werfel which I’m reviewing today, gives fictional testimony of the events until the last-minute rescue of 4,200 men, women and children by French and British warships.

Monday 23 March 2015

Poetry Revisited: Freedom by Ralph Waldo Emerson


(from May-Day and Other Poems: 1867)

Once I wished I might rehearse
Freedom's paean in my verse,
That the slave who caught the strain
Should throb until he snapped his chain,
But the Spirit said, ‘Not so;
Speak it not, or speak it low;
Name not lightly to be said,
Gift too precious to be prayed,
Passion not to be expressed
But by heaving of the breast:
Yet, – wouldst thou the mountain find
Where this deity is shrined,
Who gives to seas and sunset skies
Their unspent beauty of surprise,
And, when it lists him, waken can
Brute or savage into man;
Or, if in thy heart he shine,
Blends the starry fates with thine,
Draws angels nigh to dwell with thee,
And makes thy thoughts archangels be;
Freedom's secret wilt thou know? –
Counsel not with flesh and blood;
Loiter not for cloak or food;
Right thou feelest, rush to do.’

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday 20 March 2015

Book Review: The Good Terrorist by Doris Lessing
In the European Union we are living an era of relative peace and security which makes us easily forget that ever again in human history conservative as well as revolutionary powers (be they stately, religious or ideological) tried to eradicate “dangerous” ideas and ways of life by force and with childish obstinacy. Irony of fate has it that they all disappeared sooner or later leaving little more than ugly spots on collective memory and consciousness. Nonetheless also those who believe terror a proper means of politics are human beings and The Good Terrorist by Doris Lessing, which I’m reviewing today, shows what might go on in the mind of one who wants to force the perfect world of her own dreams on society because others don’t seem to have the courage to fight for it.

Wednesday 18 March 2015

Author's Portrait: Amalie Skram
Amalie Skram (1846-1905)
 Source: Wikimedia Commons
scan from Samlede Værker
[Collected Works]
by Amalie Skram
Past Sunday, on 15 March 2015, was the 110th anniversary of the death of Amalie Skram, one of the foremost women writers and feminists that Norway saw in the nineteenth century. Her books were subject to much controversy in her time because they openly branded the often lamentable living conditions of women in patriarchal Norwegian society. Many of her works are still in print in Norway and the neighbouring countries, but outside Skandinavia Amalie Skram is little known today although – to my great surprise – at least five of her novels and the correspondence with her second husband Erik Skram are available in not too old English translations.

Monday 16 March 2015

Poetry Revisited: In the Land of Dreams by Mary Hannay Foott

In the Land of Dreams

(from Where the Pelican Builds and Other Poems: 1885)

A bridle-path in the tangled mallee,
With blossoms unnamed and unknown bespread,
And two who ride through its leafy alley,
But never the sound of a horse’s tread.

And one by one whilst the foremost rider
Puts back the boughs which have grown apace,
/> And side by side where the track is wider,
Together they come to the olden place.

To the leaf-dyed pool whence the mallards flattered,
Or ever the horses had paused to drink;
Where the word was said and the vow was uttered
That brighten for ever its weedy brink.

And Memory closes her sad recital,
In Fate’s cold eyes there are kindly gleams,
While for one brief moment of blest requital,
The parted have met, in the Land of Dreams.

13th June, 1882

Mary Hannay Foott

Friday 13 March 2015

Book Review: Running Through Beijing by Xu Zechen
Economic crisis or not, for few of us life is a bed of roses. Every day means a more or less hard fight for survival, especially when you are forced to seize any opportunity to earn a living, however unattractive or disreputable it may be, like the protagonist of the Chinese novel that I’m reviewing today. Often it seems easier to get along as a petty criminal than to find a decent and honest job that still allows you to make ends meet. In Running Through Beijing by Xu Zechen a young man from the country soon makes this experience and becomes part of the thriving underworld of Beijing trafficking first faked papers and then pirated DVDs. Along the way he gets involved with beautiful Xiaorong and Quibao who both came to Beijing dreaming of a better life like himself.

Monday 9 March 2015

Poetry Revisited: Youth by Sir Henry Newbolt


(from Poems. New and Old: 1912)

His song of dawn outsoars the joyful bird,
Swift on the weary road his footfall comes;
The dusty air that by his stride is stirred
Beats with a buoyant march of fairy drums.
"Awake, O Earth! thine ancient slumber break;
To the new day, O slumbrous Earth, awake!"

Yet long ago that merry march began,
His feet are older than the path they tread;
His music is the morning-song of man,
His stride the stride of all the valiant dead;
His youngest hopes are memories, and his eyes
Deep with the old, old dream that never dies.

Sir Henry John Newbolt

Friday 6 March 2015

Book Review: Arturo's Island by Elsa Morante have always enjoyed writing memoirs, be they true or fictitious. Luck would have it that after the first and last part of the fictitious Memoirs of the Marquis of Bradomin by Ramón del Valle-Inclán, of which I reviewed a combined English edition titled Autumn and Winter Sonatas a week ago, I picked another book containing an invented man’s look back on his past. This time, however, they are memoirs of a childhood and confusions of first love which makes Arturo’s Island by Elsa Morante a coming-of-age novel. The story set on a small island off the coast of Naples, Italy, revolves around teenage Arturo, his scarcely older step-mother Nunziatella and his mostly absent father who keeps everybody including his son at a distance.

Wednesday 4 March 2015

2015 Women Challenge

Women Challenge # 3
1 January - 31 December 2015

Browsing the internet and book-related sites in particular, I came across the Women Challenge # 3 the other day. The reading challenge is hosted by Valentina of Peek-a-booK!, a bilingual book blog in Italian and English. Since it’s important to me to spread the word of women authors, classical as well as contemporary, I signed up for it although for me it wasn’t much of a challenge really. As my regular readers will know, I always alternate male and female writers anyways. However, it was great fun and the challenge brought some new names of authors to my attention.

It goes without saying that from the beginning I aimed at Level 4: WONDER WOMAN - read 20+ books written by a woman author. 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.

So here’s my list with the review links:
* * * * *
  1. Elsa Morante: Arturo’s Island (1957), original Italian title: L'isola di Arturo
  2. Doris Lessing: The Good Terrorist (1985)
  3. Sylvia Townsend Warner: Mr. Fortune's Maggot (1927)
  4. Anita Desai: Clear Light of Day (1980)
  5. Annemarie Schwarzenbach: Lyric Novella (1933), original German title: Lyrische Novelle
  6. Elia Barceló: Heart of Tango (2007), original Spanish title: Corazón de Tango
  7. Veza Canetti: Yellow Street. A Novel in Five Scenes (1934/1990), original German title: Die gelbe Straße
  8. Cora Sandel: Alberta and Jacob (1926), original Norwegian title: Alberte og Jakob
  9. Alice Munro: Dear Life (2012)
  10. Gabrielle Roy: The Tin Flute (1945), original French title: Bonheur d'occasion
  11. Anna Kim: Anatomy of a Night (2012), original German title: Anatomie einer Nacht
  12. Margaret Irwin: The Galliard (1941) 
  13. Cindy Dyson: And She Was (2005) 
  14. Kanani Hurley: Ancient Guardians. The Hawaiian Legend of Sharktooth and Hawkeye (2015)
    »»» read my book notice on LaGraziana's Kalliopeion
  15. Uno Chiyo: Confessions of Love (1935), original Japanese title: 色ざんげ 
  16. Juli Zeh: The Method (2009), original German title: Corpus delicti. Ein Prozess
  17. Enid Bagnold: The Happy Foreigner (1920)
  18. Kawakami Hiromi: The Briefcase (2001), also published as Strange Weather in Tokyo, original Japanese title: センセイの鞄
  19. Enchi Fumiko: A Tale of False Fortunes (1965), original Japanese title: なまみこ物語
  20. Toni Morrison: The Bluest Eye (1970)
  21. Annemarie Selinko: Désirée (1951), original German title: Désirée
  22. Maria Edgeworth: Helen (1834) »»» read my book notice on Lagraziana's Kalliopeion
  23. Ishimure Michiko: Lake of Heaven (1997), original Japanese title: 天湖
  24. Ayn Rand: The Fountainhead (1943)

Monday 2 March 2015

Poetry Revisited: Beware by Dora Sigerson Shorter


(from The Fairy Changeling and Other Poems: 1897)

I closed my hands upon a moth
And when I drew my palms apart,
Instead of dusty, broken wings
I found a bleeding human heart.

I crushed my foot upon a worm
That had my garden for its goal,
But when I drew my foot aside
I found a dying human soul.

Dora Sigerson Shorter