Friday, 31 July 2015

Book Review: A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami after many years an old friend turns up from nowhere all of a sudden, be it in person or through an object or words reviving the memory of him or her, it can be a joyful, an unpleasant or even a disturbing experience. This is because such an unexpected reapparition usually evokes a past long done with, maybe almost forgotten or not voluntarily remembered. Sometimes it also gives rise to speculations about what the friend has been up to during all those years out of sight and about the reasons why s/he emerges just now. In A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami a letter from a friend of his youth known by the sobriquet “Rat” and the photo of a sheep herd on a mountain pasture send the nameless narrator off into a big adventure on a mysterious farm in Northern Hokkaidō.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Book Review: Anatomy of a Night by Anna Kim
Greenland is the biggest island of our planet and of utmost importance for world climate due to her thick though alarmingly thinning inland ice. However, being a remote and sparsely populated place, the island, that – just in so far as Europe is concerned – was discovered and colonised by the Vikings in the tenth century, is seldom heard of except in the context of global warming. Also in literature Greenland and her indigenous people have never been particularly present although there are some novels, notably historical ones, set in this rather inhospitable region. A recent book about eleven desperate and lonesome people in Eastern Greenland of today is Anatomy of a Night by the promising young Austrian writer Anna Kim. During the course of only one night in August each one late summer night gives in to the life-long desire to put an end to their suffering once and for all.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Poetry Revisited: When Wincester Races by Jane Austen

When Wincester Races

(15 July 1817)

When Winchester races first took their beginning
It is said the good people forgot their old Saint
Not applying at all for the leave of Saint Swithin
And that William of Wykeham's approval was faint.

The races however were fixed and determined
The company came and the Weather was charming
The Lords and the Ladies were satine'd and ermined
And nobody saw any future alarming.—

But when the old Saint was informed of these doings
He made but one Spring from his Shrine to the Roof
Of the Palace which now lies so sadly in ruins
And then he addressed them all standing aloof.

‘Oh! subjects rebellious! Oh Venta depraved
When once we are buried you think we are gone
But behold me immortal! By vice you're enslaved
You have sinned and must suffer, ten farther he said.

These races and revels and dissolute measures
With which you're debasing a neighboring Plain
Let them stand—You shall meet with your curse in your pleasures
Set off for your course, I'll pursue with my rain.

Ye cannot but know my command o'er July
Henceforward I'll triumph in shewing my powers
Shift your race as you will it shall never be dry
The curse upon Venta is July in showers— ‘.

Jane Austen

Friday, 17 July 2015

Book Review: Iceland's Bell by Halldór Laxness
Justice seems to be a natural and clear concept, but as we all know it’s not easily achieved – in spite or because of many as well as complex laws and the people who enforce them. Especially poor people are often helpless victims of unfair treatment or even arbitrariness although the situation has a lot improved since the era of Enlightenment. In the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, however, class-distinctions still made a big difference in court and elsewhere. The central figure of Iceland’s Bell by Halldór Laxness is a perfect example for a man who – like his whole nation – becomes the plaything of the powerful because he is poor and uncultured. But he is a sly as well as lucky guy who in the turmoil of Scandinavian history struggles for justice helped by an inexperienced girl in love with a scholar who only cares for old books and the scholar himself.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Poetry Revisited: 21 - Why Did He Choose by Rabindranath Tagore

Poem #21: Why Did He Choose

(from The Gardener: 1915)

Why did he choose to come to my door, the wandering youth, when
   the day dawned?
As I come in and out I pass by him every time, and my eyes are
   caught by his face.
I know not if I should speak to him or keep silent. Why did he
   choose to come to my door?

The cloudy nights in July are dark; the sky is soft blue in the
   autumn; the spring days are restless with the south wind.
He weaves his songs with fresh tunes every time.
I turn from my work and my eyes fill with the mist. Why did he
   choose to come to my door?

Rabindranath Tagore

Friday, 10 July 2015

Book Review: The Tin Flute by Gabrielle Roy
The craving for happiness is human and universal, but the ways thought right to achieve it are at least as many as there are people on this planet. Especially in hard times – like the Great Depression of the 1930s when millions worldwide were without jobs and struggled day after day to somehow make ends meet – happiness is often equated with having money to buy things. Thus under harsh economic conditions even the outbreak of a war can appear like a blessing because it opens new opportunities to make a living. Regarding World War II this certainly was the case as forcefully shows the French-Canadian novel The Tin Flute by Gabrielle Roy. In the working-class district Saint-Henri in Montréal many join the army to escape the poverty and futility of their jobless existence, while others profit from the economic upswing at home. Either way the bargain is for happiness. 

Monday, 6 July 2015

Poetry Revisited: Moonlight, Summer Moonlight by Emily Brontë

Moonlight, Summer Moonlight

(dated 13 May 1840; first published posthumously in
The Complete Poems of Emily Brontë in Two Volumes: 1908)

'tis moonlight, summer moonlight,
All soft and still and fair;
The solemn hour of midnight
Breathes sweet thoughts everywhere,

But most where trees are sending
Their breezy boughs on high,
Or stooping low are lending
A shelter from the sky.

And there in those wild bowers
A lovely form is laid;
Green grass and dew-steeped flowers
Wave gently round her head.

Emily Brontë

Friday, 3 July 2015

Book Review: The Discovery of Slowness by Sten Nadolny
July has just begun and as always at this time of the year the readings for the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize, i.e. the 39th Days of German-Language Literature, are well under way in Klagenfurt, Austria, despite last year’s rumours that the province of Carinthia considered withdrawing from the event as sponsor of the main prize which would inevitably have meant its end. Strained public budgets aren’t a recent phenomenon, though, as shows – among many other works of literature – the much acclaimed novelised biography The Discovery of Slowness by Sten Nadolny, the winner of the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize 1980. The story traces the life of nineteenth-century explorer Sir John Franklin whose dream it was to discover and chart the legendary Northwest Passage and who died during the third expedition to the Canadian Arctic under his command at the age of 61.