Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Back Reviews Reel: October 2013

This month three years ago, the last review for My Mediterranean Reading Summer 2013 (»»» read my summary post) went online. It was dedicated to the contemporary Greek novel Swell by Ioanna Karystiani surrounding an old salt who refuses to retire from his post as captain to return to his family after over ten years at sea. I followed up with two classics. The first was a satirical farce dating from 1914 and referring to a true swindle about a false pope happened more than twenty years earlier, namely Lafcadio’s Adventures by André Gide, the French laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature 1947. Also the novel A World of Love by Elizabeth Bowen is a classic, but a modern one from the mid-1950s dealing with the unexpected repercussions that the reappeared letters of a dead man have in the lives of three women. My final review of October 2013, was of the Austrian success novel The Wedding in Auschwitz by Erich Hackl that brings a true love story from the Spanish Civil War and World War II to the attention of the public.

- - - - - seventy-five-year-old captain Mitsos Avgustis as modern Ulysses travelling the seven seas on an old vessel while his wife Flora and his lover Litsa keep waiting back home in Greece for his return after more than ten years at sea like Penelope did, Swell is a kind of an Odyssey, but one almost without adventures. Everybody except the captain himself thinks that it’s time for him to retire and to enjoy what remains of his life. So one day Flora travels to Kobe to persuade her husband to come back home to Greece with her and she makes a revelation that gives his actions and his stubbornness an unexpected dimension. It needs a new crew member and an almost disaster in the middle of the Indian Ocean to make him rethink his attitude towards family and life on land.
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- - - - - 1947 Nobel Prize laureate in Literature gave his satirical farce Lafcadio’s Adventures (also published in English as The Vatican Cellars or The Vatican Swindle) a central plot based on true events from the late nineteenth century. The story thus surrounds a big swindle pretending that the Freemasons secretly imprisoned Pope Leo XIII in the (non-existent) Vatican cellars and replaced him by a false pope. Devout and naïve Amédée Fleurissoire immediately sets out to rescue the Pope although he is all but an adventurous man. It’s hardly a surprise that he quickly gets into such trouble that makes him the chance victim of a “motiveless murder”. His death has unexpected aftermaths for everybody involved in the swindle and in the attempted rescue.
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- - - - - her 1955 novel A World of Love the Anglo-Irish author evokes the atmosphere of a decayed rural manor in County Cork, Ireland, to tell the story of Antonia Montefort, Lilia Danby and her twenty-one-year old daughter Jane. A packet of old love letters that Jane finds by accident in the attic confronts the women with the past embodied by Guy Montefort, the former owner of the manor who was killed in action during World War I. All of a sudden, the house is filled with Guy’s ghostly presence and the people at Montefort are sucked into an emotional whirl of memories, disappointment and revived grief. Even Jane is under the dead man’s spell although feeling her own bright future waiting around the corner she doesn’t give the past much thought.
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- - - - - story told in The Wedding in Auschwitz is a literary adaptation of real events, namely of the wedding of Margarita “Marga” Ferrer Rey and Rudolf “Rudi” Friemel that took place at the registry office of Auschwitz on 18 March 1944 at 11 a.m. He is an Austrian socialist who fought as a volunteer against General Franco in the Spanish Civil War. She is a young Spanish antifascist who fell in love with him and who had to flee from Spain when Franco’s troops marched into Barcelona. Via France she made her way to Vienna where his family lives and she puts all her force into making their wedding possible because they have a son. Bit by bit their biographies come to life through the testimonies of a dozen of people who have at one time or another been part of their lives.
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  1. I have read (and loved) A World of Love. The others also sound very good.

    1. In fact, they are all very good. If asked, Swell is the one I liked best of the four.


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