Friday, 29 January 2016

Book Review: The Heike Story by Yoshikawa Eiji review of a book written
by an author whose family name starts with the letter

We all tend to think of the past as “good old times” and easily forget that our ancestors often had much harder and more dangerous lives than we have today. The proof: leafing through any history book we find a succession of bloody wars, terrible pandemics, natural disasters and migration waves. Some historical events and their heroes became the subjects of legends like the story of the rise and fall of the Heike clan in twelfth-century Japan passed on from generation to generation in scattered poems that were assembled only two hundred years later. The Heike Story by Yoshikawa Eiji retells in modern – fictionalised – style the ancient tale of war and peace surrounding the warrior Heita Kiyomori who led the poor clan of the Heike through wars and court intrigues to wealth, power and glory provoking the anger and envy of the rival Genji clan that he almost erased.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Japanese Literature Challenge 9 - The Summary

June 2015 - January 2016

January is drawing towards its close and the Japanese Literature Challenge 9 hosted by Dolce Bellezza - for literary and translated fiction in which I participated is coming to an end too. High time to make my summary! 

When I joined the challenge in June, I put eight books on my TBR list – one for each month. Four of them were classics and four contemporary works first released after 1970. Moreover, I took my usual care to have as many female as male authors on my list. And I seized the opportunity to review a book by a Japanese winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, namely Ōe Kenzaburō, for the perpetual Read the Nobels challenge.

Some of the books were really difficult to find. In fact, I was forced to exchange a few of my planned reads for others because I couldn't get hold of a translation into a language that I know. So I had to renounce to read and review The River Ki or The Doctor's Wife by Ariyoshi Sawako, for instance. I also discarded An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro because the author has passed almost his entire life in the United Kingdom and is so rooted in his country of residence that he writes in English instead of Japanese.

Nonetheless, I read eight books for the ninth edition of the challenge and reviewed them all. The last one is the monumental novel The Heike Story by Yoshikawa Eiji that I finished just recently. The review is going online on Friday.

To see the complete list of my reviews
please go to my post for the Japanese Literature Challenge 9.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Poetry Revisited: The Quiet Snow by Raymond Knister

The Quiet Snow

(from Collected Poems of Raymond Knister: 1949)

The quiet snow
Will splotch
Each in the row of cedars
With a fine
And patient hand;
Numb the harshness,
Tangle of that swamp.
It does not say, The sun
Does these things another way.

Even on hats of walkers,
The air of noise
And street-car ledges
It does not know
There should be hurry.

Raymond Knister (1899-1932)
Canadian novelist, short-story writer, and poet

Friday, 22 January 2016

Book Review: The Diary of a Lost Girl by Margarete Böhme review of a book written
by an author whose family name starts with the letter

As time progresses, society and with it literature undergo considerable changes. Even books that have once been called daring or even scandalous, easily fall into oblivion when later generations can no longer appreciate their merits for one reason or another. It suffices that plot and language cease to fit in as happened with the best-selling novel The Diary of a Lost Girl by Margarete Böhme, for instance. The timeless topic of the book was clearly at odds with Nazi thinking that idealised German womanhood and virtue because it tells the revealing as well as touching story of a teenage girl who knows nothing of the sexual relations between men and women and who is ruined for life because a business assistant living in the same household takes advantage of her innocence to sexually abuse her. Society looks mercilessly down on the fallen girl and doesn’t give her a chance to resume an honorable existence.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Poetry Revisited: The Winter Wind by Louisa Lawson

The Winter Wind

(from The Lonely Crossing and Other Poems: 1905)

The winter wind! e wh-e-e, e wh-e-e!
It bites and smites and chases me,
And pelts with boughs and shrieks with glee,
This winter wind so fierce and free;
Till wide-eyed stars so white and wee
Peer through the scud all fearsomely.

The love-warm rose no longer now
Clings fondly round fair nature's brow;
But in its place the chill winds roam
Through locks as white as frozen foam.
The winter wind so fierce and free
Has wrought this change. Ah me! Ah me!

Her dress that once was green and bright
Is stiffened sheer and bleached to white.
And where did rose and lily be
Are flecks of frosty filagree.
His breath is death, his voice is dree,
This winter wind so fierce and free.

Louisa Lawson (1848-1920)
Australian poet, writer, publisher, suffragist, and feminist

Friday, 15 January 2016

Book Review: Softcore by Tirdad Zolghadr review of a book written
by an author whose family name starts with the letter

The international art scene is a world by itself that few of us know from personal experience and yet most of us think of it as carefree, debauched, crazy. Artists seldom do something to refute the impression. In fact, they are more likely to confirm it because it’s one of the unspoken rules of the game that getting public attention of any kind is good publicity. This doesn’t mean, though, that it’s the artists themselves who are the main players. The narrating protagonist of the satirical novel Softcore by Tirdad Zolghadr, for instance, isn’t an artist, but a young man who knows important people in the international art scene. With their backing he sets out to open a place to showcase modern art in Tehran, Iran. Alas, he is someone who takes things easy and likes to indulge in all kinds of pleasures, legal or illegal.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Read the Nobels 2016 - My List

click on the image to go to the
challenge announcement
on Guiltless Reading

My Reads of 2016
Written by Laureates of the Nobel Prize in Literature

- completed books including links to my reviews -

1929Thomas Mann: Royal Highness (1909), original German title: Königliche Hoheit
1932John Galsworthy: The Dark Flower (1913)
1973Patrick White: The Tree of Man (1955)
1978Isaac Bashevis Singer: Satan in Goray (1933), original Yiddish title: Der sotn in Goray
1989José Camilo Cela: The Hive (1951), original Spanish title: La Colmena
1990Octavio Paz: The Monkey Grammarian (1974), original Spanish title: El mono gramático

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Women Challenge # 4 - My 2016 List
click on the image to go to the
challenge announcement
on peek-a-booK!

An Alphabet of Women Writers

- completed and forthcoming reviews -

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

52 Books in 52 Weeks - My 2016 List
click on the image to go to the
challenge announcement
on Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks


A Double Alphabet of Writers

- completed and forthcoming reviews -

Monday, 11 January 2016

Poetry Revisited: A January Night by Thomas Hardy

A January Night

(1879; first published in Moments of Vision: 1917)

The rain smites more and more,
The east wind snarls and sneezes;
Through the joints of the quivering door
The water wheezes.

The tip of each ivy-shoot
Writhes on its neighbour's face;
There is some hid dread afoot
That we cannot trace.

Is it the spirit astray
Of the man at the house below
Whose coffin they took in to-day?
We do not know.

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)
English novelist and poet

Friday, 8 January 2016

Book Review: Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood review of a book written
by an author whose family name starts with the letter

Many of us tend to think of childhood as the happiest time in life because we associate anxieties and worries with the adult world. Unfortunately, reality doesn’t care about age and not all children enjoy a sheltered and carefree existence. It’s not necessarily adults who make a child’s life the perfect hell. Children can be really cruel among themselves. While boys may do bodily harm to others to show their supremacy, girls often prefer more subtle ways of terror that can undermine the victim’s self-esteem even more lastingly. As a child in primary school the protagonist of Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood has been bullied by three girls whom she considered her best friends, but she was lucky. She was able to free herself just when her inexplicable dependence took a dangerous turn. Moreover, she became a painter who could get over the dreadful experience in her creative work.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

2016 Reading Challenges & Specials

or: A Double Alphabet of Writers Including Nobel Prize Laureates

Right on New Year’s Day I plunged into the book blogging year with the review of the humorous classic The Man Who Searched for Love by Italian writer Pitigrilli that has never been reprinted in English translation since 1932 and thus made it into my small Out-of-Print selection. It was the first of altogether fifty-three books on my review schedule of 2016… and it’s hors concours so-to-speak because it was too early or  unsuitable to dedicate it to one of the three annual reading challenges to which I decided to sign on this year or to the one that is still running.

First of all, I’m challenging myself. This year I want to make my way up and down the entire English alphabet, but I don’t care about titles. My starting point are the initial letters of the family names of writers from around the world – women and men, forgotten and famous, classic and contemporary. goes without saying that some of them will be winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature, too, and that a duplicate of my reviews of their books will sooner or later appear on Read the Nobels, the site of the perpetual challenge open since 2007, or readathon if you prefer, where everybody who signed up like me can re-post any suitable review (with a reference to where it was originally published).

»»» see my post for Read the Nobels with the complete list of winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature and the links to my own book reviews here on Edith's Miscellany and on Lagraziana's Kalliopeion

In addition, I joined the annual event Read the Nobels 2016 hosted by Aloi aka the Guiltless Reader on both her blogs Guiltless Reading and Read the Nobels. It runs from 1 January through 31 December 2016 and it’s a usual challenge inviting participants to post links to their reviews of books written by winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature. covers the widest range thinkable of genres because not only novelists and short-fiction writers received the prestigious award, but also journalists like the 2015 laureate from Belarus, Svetlana Alexandrovna Alexievich, and poets, playwrights, philosophers, historians, even politicians,… Once more, I expect to dig out some true gems in the treasure trove of Nobel reads, more precisely six or seven of them so in the end I'll be a Nobel keener at least.

»»» see my Read the Nobels 2016 list of completed and planned reviews. weekly reviews here, it’s an obvious choice to sign up for Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks at last. The challenge beginning on 1 January and ending on 31 December 2016 has its own blog and is hosted by Robin of My Two Blessings – like every year, as it seems. There are also some tempting mini-challenges on the site, but for the time being, I content myself with committing myself to Reading Through the Alphabet since it perfectly matches my reading plans for this year that I have already explained above.

»»» see my 2016 Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks list of completed and forthcoming reviews. same goes for the Women Challenge # 4 of Valentina from peek-a-booK!, a bilingual book blog in Italian and English. As regular readers will know, I always alternate female and male authors on this blog. The challenge is on from 1 January to 31 December 2016. Last year I joined only in March and couldn’t contribute the full list, but this year I’m in from the start. Thus by the end of the year there will be 26 more reviews of books written by women on this blog, i.e. I’ll again reach Level 4: WONDER WOMAN – read 20+ books written by a woman author and that without making an extra effort.

»»» see my 2016 Women Challenge # 4 list of completed and forthcoming reviews. There’s still a month to go with the Japanese Literature Challenge 9 hosted by Dolce Bellezza - for literary and translated fiction and one last book is on my review schedule for it. Seven others already went online in 2015.

»»» see my post of the Japanese Literature Challenge 9 with the complete review list.
As for my personal blog specials, I continue The Great War in Literature although I must admit that I’ve been neglecting it quite a lot during the past couple of months and there aren’t many suitable books on my TBR list of 2016, either.

»»» see my The Great War in Literature post with the book list.

I’d say that my Challenges & Specials projects will keep me quite busy. I hope that you’ll accompany me on my literary adventures. To a year of many gripping reviews!

Monday, 4 January 2016

Poetry Revisited: Frühlingsahnung – Presentiment of Spring by Betty Paoli


(aus Neue Gedichte: 1850)

Wenn des Winters starrer Traum
Berg und Flur mit Schnee bedecket,
Jeder dürre Zweig am Baum
Jammernd sich gen Himmel strecket:

Kannst du da begreifen, sag'
Wie nach wen'gen Mondesneigen
Der jetzt frosterstarrte Hag
Einen Blüthenflor wird zeigen?

Doch du weißt, der lichte Trost
Naht auf unsichtbaren Wegen
Und im rauhen Winterfrost
Lächelst du dem Lenz entgegen.

Und so kann, so kann auch ich
Nicht begreifen und nicht fassen,
Wie in meiner Seele sich
Noch ein Glück wird ziehen lassen.

Doch ich weiß: zur Wonne geht,
Wer da wallt auf Dornenbahnen,
Und durch meinen Winter weht
Ein tief selig Frühlingsahnen!

Betty Paoli (1814-1894)

Pseudonym von Barbara Elisabeth Glück,
österreichische Lyrikerin, Essayistin,
Novellistin und Übersetzerin

Presentiment of Spring

(from New Poems: 1850)

When winter’s stiff dream
Covers with snow mountain and field,
Every skinny branch on the tree
Stretches whining to the sky:

Say, can you conceive
How after few settings of the moon
The now frost chilled grove
Will display abundant bloom?

But you know, the light comfort
Is coming nearer on invisible paths
And in the biting winter frost
You smile at approaching spring.

And thus I can, thus I too can
Neither understand nor seize,
How into my soul
Still happiness will be drawn.

But I know: towards bliss goes,
Who wanders on thorny tracks,
And through my winter drifts
A deep happy presentiment of spring!

Betty Paoli (1814-1894)
literally translated by Edith LaGraziana 2016

pseudonym of Barbara Elisabeth Glück,
Austrian poet, essayist,
novelettist and translator

Friday, 1 January 2016

Book Review: The Man Who Searched for Love by Pitigrilli

Click on the index card to enlarge it!
Let’s be truthful, who of us doesn’t sometimes think of the world as a big circus and of people as clowns in it? It suffices to read the headlines of a newspaper or to turn on the TV news to come to this conclusion, doesn’t it? It’s rare, however, that an author takes up the idea in a novel not just metaphorically, but also in the literal sense. Such a novel is The Man Who Searched for Love by Pitigrilli, a humoristic Italian classic from 1929 about a disillusioned judge from Paris who exchanges the courtroom for the circus ring to be a clown in robe and who eventually returns to the law becoming Justice of the Peace at the back of beyond. And along the way he tries to find out what true love actually is living with a philosophical circus-rider.