Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Back Reviews Reel: April 2013

In April 2013 I reviewed four books that I chose according to the theme of the respective week. With the exception of the contemporary novel The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón that ended the posts exploring guilt and atonement, all reviewed books were famous classics, two of them written by Nobel laureates and one of them in the public domain. The first book on my schedule, however, was The Plague by Albert Camus (recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature of 1957) because the week was dedicated to the African continent. Then I turned to the era that brought forth what is commonly known as decadent movement today and reviewed the public domain novel The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton, the only female writer featured that month. On the following Friday I discussed the novella Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse (1946 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature) dealing – among others – with vocation as theme of the week. 

- - - - - story of The Plague covers approximately one year in the 1940s, starting in spring. Before jumping into matters a nameless narrator describes the city of Oran at the Mediterranean coast in great detail and declares his intention to chronicle the events that he witnessed there. The main character is Doctor Bernard Rieux who is present and doing his job from beginning to end. The first signs that something is awfully wrong in Oran are the rats appearing on the open streets and in the houses only to die there in agony.

- - - - - House of Mirth by Edith Wharton tells the story of the social descent of Lily Bart, a beautiful woman of twenty-nine years who belongs to a distinguished New Yorker family. When the chronicle begins, both her parents have been dead for years and Lily, who has no money of her own to support herself, is staying with her wealthy widowed aunt Mrs. Peniston because no suitor seems good enough to her. Approaching thirty her choice of suitable bachelors is already diminishing like her youth, and yet the idea of depending on a husband doesn’t particularly thrill her. She senses that a marriage of convenience will bore her and unconsciously lets slip good opportunities that present themselves. She even risks being compromised on several occasions when she is seen coming from the flat or house of married or unmarried male friends where she had been alone with them without anything happening really. In addition, she smokes, gambles high and runs into debt. When she turns towards her (married) friend Gus Trenor for financial help, her fate is sealed.

- - - - - Hesse's famous novella Siddhartha was published in German already in 1922, but the first English translation didn’t come out before 1951. The story is set in ancient India at the time when Buddha found enlightenment under the Bodhi tree and made his teachings. In fact, the novel’s title as well as its plot remind of the life of Buddha who was born as Siddhartha Gautama, Prince of Kapilvastu. Also Hermann Hesse’s protagonist Siddhartha starts into life as a privileged child although not of an Indian king, but of a Brahmin. Growing older he finds his life empty of meaning and leaves home to seek enlightenment. In his quest Siddhartha is accompanied by his childhood friend Govinda who idolizes him. During their travels as wandering and begging ascetics they meet the Buddha – called Gotama in the novel – and listen to his teachings.

- - - - -
The story of The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón revolves around Daniel Sempere and his search for traces of the writer Julián Carax is set in Barcelona. It starts in summer 1945. His father, the owner of a little bookshop, takes the ten-year-old to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a secret place in the old town to which only the initiated have access. There the boy is allowed to take one book from the shelves under the condition that he promises to be its guardian for the rest of his life. He picks a volume with a handsome binding that shows the name Julián Carax and the title The Shadow of the Wind inscribed on its cover. Of course, Daniel begins to read the book as soon as he is back at home in his room above the bookshop. The novel engrosses the boy and he spends the whole night reading it until the end. Then he searches for other books of the writer, but only encounters mystery because Julián Carax and his books seem to have disappeared without trace.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Dear anonymous spammers: Don't waste your time here! Your comments will be deleted at once without being read.