Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Back Reviews Reel: March 2014

Looking back, I realise that among my four reviews of March 2014 three were quite on the Nobel side. I started into the month with a socialist classic from 1920 that is said to be the finest work of the writer Concha Espina from Northern Spain, namely her novel titled The Metal of the Dead. In fact, she never received the Nobel Prize in Literature, but she was nominated several times and she was a runner-up for it at least twice. Contrary to her, the contemporary French author of Desert, i.e. Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, actually won the prestigious prize in 2008 which was a late success considering that the impressive novel that I presented here had established him as a writer already decades earlier. In 2004 the Swedish Academy also awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature to my compatriot, Austrian writer and above all playwright Elfriede Jelinek, earning unexpected polemics for the decision. In her career she published a few novels too and I picked an early one, Women as Lovers, for review. Only the last novel that I featured in March 2014, A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute, is from the pen of an author who was never even considered for the Nobel Prize.
- - - - - her almost forgotten classic The Metal of the Dead Cantabrian writer Concha Espina tells the story of the seaman Gabriel Sánchez from Cantabria. Finding his vessel gone in the morning after a night of too much drink ashore with a friend, he winds up in Andalusia and decides to exchange the sea for the mines. With the help of an old miner and unionist he quickly finds work in the mining district of Rio Tinto, but the job is hard, dangerous and badly paid. When Aurora, Gabriel’s girlfriend and soulmate from Cantabria, arrives in Rio Tinto with their little daughter, the atmosphere is explosive. It’s 1917 and encouraged by the October Revolution in Russia, the miners finally stand up against the British mining company responsible for their appalling working and living conditions. And in fact, it doesn’t take long until they call a general strike.

»»» Read my long review
- - - - - powerful poetic images of Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio’s much acclaimed novel Desert evoke the Sahara that the Tuareg teenager Nour and the poor orphan girl Lalla Hawa love desperately. Their stories take place over sixty years apart in 1909/10 and in the late 1970s, but however much the world changes the spirit of the desert stays the same. Nour is part of the Muslim troops of men, women, children and livestock struggling northwards through the desert to chase the Infidels, i.e. the French colonial forces from their beloved Maghreb convinced that Allah is on their side. Lalla Hawa is his descendant from some shanty Moroccan or West Saharan town at the Atlantic coast where the dunes of the desert end. She joins her aunt in Marseille after having audaciously upset plans for an arranged marriage and passes her days yearning for the desert.

»»» Read my long review
- - - - - in the early 1970s, Women as Lovers by Elfriede Jelinek surrounds the teenagers Brigitte and Paula who have grown up in very humble circumstances in Vienna and in a small village in the Austrian countryside respectively. Small wonder that they dream of escaping their lower-class lives and both are convinced that finding Mr. Right is the only way to make it come true. While city-bred Brigitte puts reason above love in her choice and does everything in her power to catch the promising young apprentice electrician Heinz, country-girl Paula follows her heart and manipulates the handsome, though stupid wood worker Erich into marrying her sure that she can make him achieve more in life. However, reality can’t keep up with the dream and eventually they both find themselves trapped in lives far from the expected bed of roses.

»»» Read my long review
- - - - - during World War II and the Australian outback in the years immediately following it, are the colourful scene of the classical novel A Town Like Alice that Nevil Shute wove around a young Englishwoman called Jean Paget. When she learns that her late uncle left her his estate in trust, she gives up her job and travels to the Malayan village where she and other women plus several children lived until 1945 as Japanese prisoners-of-war among the native population. She wants to thank the Malayan women for their hospitality that saved their lives and build a much-needed well. While there, she learns that the Australian prisoner-of-war and driver of the Japanese who ever again helped them in secret hasn’t died after being tortured for stealing a couple of hens. She sets out to find him in the dry heart of the red continent and to start a new life.

»»» Read my long review


  1. I have read Desert by Le Clezio and was quite impressed. My review: A friend and I just read another Nobel author, Patrick White, and are meeting tomorrow to discuss it: The Tree of Man.

    1. Yes, J-M G Le Clézio is one of the authors who really deserved being honoured with the Nobel Prize in Literature for their literary achievements. With Patrick White in 1973 the Swedish Academy made a good choice too. I reviewed The Tree of Man past year. I hope that you and your friend liked it as much as I did.


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