Monday, 28 August 2017

Poetry Revisited: Thoughts in a Library by Anne Lynch Botta

Thoughts in a Library

(from Poems: 1848)

Speak low—tread softly through these halls;
     Here genius lives enshrined,—
Here reign, in silent majesty,
     The monarchs of the mind.

A mighty spirit-host they come,
     From every age and clime;
Above the buried wrecks of years,
     They breast the tide of Time.

And in their presence-chamber here,
     They hold their regal state,
And round them throng a noble train,
     The gifted and the great.

Oh, child of Earth! when round thy path
     The storms of life arise,
And when thy brothers pass thee by,
     With stern, unloving eyes,—

Here shall the Poets chant for thee
     Their sweetest, loftiest lays;
And Prophets wait to guide thy steps
     In wisdom's pleasant ways.

Come, with these God-anointed kings,
     Be thou companion here;
And in the mighty realm of mind,
     Thou shalt go forth a peer!

Anne Lynch Botta (1815-1891)
American poet, writer, teacher and socialite

Friday, 25 August 2017

Book Review: 4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster we are is the result of many influences to which we have been exposed since the day we were born or, to be exact, since the moment we were conceived. The people we met, the choices we made, the good and evil that “came over us”, everything had a more or less noticeable impact on our character and on our “fate”. Family history too has a part in personal development because, if we like it or not, the past shaped our surroundings, notably the people around us. And even small occurences can turn out to be of paramount importance. In 4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster four versions of a Jewish boy called Ferguson step into life from the same starting point, but against the backdrop of recent American history their lives take very different courses because already after a short time their worlds are no longer the same and drift apart ever more.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Poetry Revisited: To the Garden the World by Walt Whitman

To the Garden the World

(from Leaves of Grass: 1855)

To the garden, the world, anew ascending,
Potent mates, daughters, sons, preluding,
The love, the life of their bodies, meaning and being,
Curious, here behold my resurrection, after slumber;
The revolving cycles, in their wide sweep, have brought me again,
Amorous, mature all beautiful to me all wondrous;
My limbs, and the quivering fire that ever plays through them, for reasons, most wondrous;
Existing, I peer and penetrate still,
Content with the present content with the past,
By my side, or back of me, Eve following,
Or in front, and I following her just the same.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
American poet, essayist, and journalist

Friday, 18 August 2017

Book Review: Roman Elegy by Sabine Gruber

The death of a person often unleashes a train of unexpected thoughts and memories, sometimes even events. Moreover, it can make us question our relations to other people, notably spouses and children, our meaning in life and our standpoints. Sometimes we gain new insights that make us change direction or take long overdue decisions. It’s a death in Rome that sets off the Roman Elegy by Sabine Gruber, an Italian writer in German language, and lays the seed for an unlikely romance. Through the typescript of a novel that the deceased wrote, she connects her youth friend not just with the widowed owner of a hotel in Rome where she worked for a short while in 1978, but also with the then young man who awakened her interest in the position of her boss in fascist and Nazi times. And in the background there’s always Stillbach, the Southern Tyrolean village where all three women grew up.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Back Reviews Reel: August 2014

Two classics and three contemporary novels are filed away in my review archive of August 2014, three of them originally written in French and contributions to the Books on France 2014 reading challenge. My first literary exploration of August was dedicated to a very touching love story from France in the 1980s, namely to Betty Blue by Philippe Djian. After this, I stayed in modern times and in the realm of everlasting love, but I left Europe and moved on to Tibet under Chinese reign reading Sky Burial. An Epic Love Story of Tibet by Xinran. My next book was The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth, an all-time highlight of Austrian literature that revived the final decades of the Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy through the eyes of three generations of the Trotta family. In the French-Belgian classic The Abyss by Marguerite Yourcenar two Flemish cousins are tossed about in the maelstrom of European history at the dawn of the Renaissance. And my final review was about A Palace in the Old Village by Tahar Ben Jelloun, a francophone novel surrounding a Moroccan immigrant in France and his attempt to lead his family back on the old ways.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Poetry Revisited: Traumesnähe – Dream Vicinity by Else Asenjeff


 (aus Die neue Scheherezade: 1913)

Nur unser Traum ist nah
Und fern ist uns die unserem Auge
Nahgerückte Welt.
Was nicht Gedanken,
Was Blut selbst lautlos-rauschend
Tiefdringlich uns erzählt
Ist da—
Nur was wie schmerzgesenkte Lider,
Der Dinge deutliche Aufdringlichkeit
Uns ferne hält—
Ist unsre wahre Welt…

Else Asenjeff (1867-1941)
österreichische Schriftstellerin

Dream Vicinity

(from The New Scheherezade: 1913)

Only our dream is close
And far away is our eye
Close-up world.
What not thoughts,
What blood itself silently-rushing
Deeply telling us
Is there—
Just what pain-relieved eyelids,
Things are clearly pushy
Far from us—
Is our true world ...

Else Asenjeff (1867-1941)
Austrian writer
Literal translation: Edith LaGraziana 2017

Friday, 11 August 2017

Book Review: The Real Story of Ah-Q and Other Tales of China by Lu Xun is a vast country with an ancient culture, and yet, only few books from the pens (or rather brushes) of Chinese writers have made it into Western bookshops. This is little wonder considering that China has been a Communist country since 1949 and only after the death of Mao Zedong intellectual life slowly reawakened. There are some contemporary authors who have gained international attention, notably the laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature 2012 Mo Yan. Among modern classical writers of the twentieth century Eileen Chang may be the best remembered (»»» read my review of Red Rose, White Rose), while others like Lin Yutang or Xiao Hong are quite forgotten today. Notwithstanding that a new English translation has been brought out in 2009, also The Real Story of Ah-Q and Other Tales of China by Lu Xun have remained secret gems of Chinese literature evoking the 1920s and ancient myths.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

New on Lagraziana's Kalliopeion: Status Syndrome by Michael Marmot

Health and Social Gradient:
Status Syndrome by Michael Marmot

It’s a generally known fact that poverty makes sick, but in our modern Western world people usually don’t fight for mere survival every day and poverty doesn’t equal penury any longer. In Austria, for instance, the net of social security is so densely-knit that everybody can get health care – unless for one reason or another, a person prefers to go underground and therefore doesn’t appear in the system. Nonetheless, data show that those with by comparison fewer material resources, less high education and lower standing have poorer health than those who are better off in these aspects. In his book The Status Syndrome. How Your Place on the Social Gradient Directly Affects Your Health first published in 2004 epidemiologist and public health expert Michael Marmot summarises the results of over thirty years of research and draws his conclusions with regard to what is needed to close the health gap.

Read more » (external link to Lagraziana’s Kalliopeion)

Monday, 7 August 2017

Poetry Revisited: Summer Night by Alfred Tennyson

Summer Night

(from The Princess. A Medley: 1847)

Now sleeps the crimson petal, now the white;
Nor waves the cypress in the palace walk;
Nor winks the gold fin in the porphyry font:
The firefly wakens: waken thou with me.

Now droops the milk-white peacock like a ghost,
And like a ghost she glimmers on to me.

Now lies the Earth all Danaë to the stars,
And all thy heart lies open unto me.

Now slides the silent meteor on, and leaves
A shining furrow, as thy thoughts in me.

Now folds the lily all her sweetness up,
And slips into the bosom of the lake:
So fold thyself, my dearest, thou, and slip
Into my bosom and be lost in me.

Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892)
English poet

Friday, 4 August 2017

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson For some people it’s hard to find their place in society or even in a family because they actually are different or either they themselves or others believe that they are. It suffices a small particularity to make them outsiders who have to deal with distrust and, in the worst case, unforgiving hatred in their surroundings. Often social exclusion is a two-sided process that builds up on mutual prejudices and misunderstandings. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson surrounds Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood and her older sister Constance who have been leading a very secluded life on a big estate with their ailing uncle ever since their closest family was poisoned six years earlier. People in the nearby village hate them and Merricat hates the villagers. When an estranged cousin arrives unexpectedly and tries to take advantage of the two women, Merricat does everything in her power to drive him away. The consequences are disastrous.