Friday, 29 September 2017

Book Review: The Door in the Grimming by Paula Grogger the industrial revolution small communities in the mountains lived quite isolated from the rest of the world, but in the past two hundred years modern technology, most recently the internet, has constantly brought them closer to the big centres of civilisation. Today they have real time access to all kinds of news and services. In the early nineteenth century the inhabitants of Öblarn portrayed in The Door in the Grimming by Paula Grogger knew that Napoleon was at war with Austria, they had no way of finding out, though, where the French troops actually stood. When fate has it that they come to the remote town in the mountains, wild and rebellious Matthew, the seventeen-year-old eldest son of Constantia, wants to drive them out and gathers like-minded around him. Of course, the fighters are defeated and Matthew flees leaving behind his grieving mother, his younger brothers and fourteen-year-old Regina who has a crush on him.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Poetry Revisited: Unity by Violet Jacob


(from More Songs of Angus and Others: 1918)

I dreamed that life and time and space were one,
         And the pure trance of dawn;
         The increase drawn
From all the journeys of the travelling sun,
And the long mysteries of sound and sight,
         The whispering rains,
And far, calm waters set in lonely plains,
         And cry of birds at night.

I dreamed that these and love and death were one,
         And all eternity,
         The life to be
Therewith entwined, throughout the ages spun;
And so with Grief, my playmate; him I knew
         One with the rest, –
One with the mounting day, the east and west –
         Lord, is it true?
Lord, do I dream? Methinks a key unlocks
Some dungeon door, in thrall of blackened towers,
On ecstasies, half hid, like chill white flowers
         Blown in the secret places of the rocks.

Violet Jacob (1863-1946)
Scottish novelist and poet

Friday, 22 September 2017

Book Review: Kinshu. Autumn Brocade by Miyamoto Teru
The separation of a couple can be a painful and traumatic experience for both partners, especially when it’s the result of sudden events or discoveries that make it impossible or unbearable to stay together. In such cases emotions often explode and burn out in a war of the roses, but not always. Sometimes they just simmer below the surface for a long time because the partners avoided facing each other as well as their problems and thus never really closed this chapter of their lives. Ten years have passed since Aki and Yasuaki, the protagonists exchanging letters in Kinshu. Autumn Brocade by Miyamoto Teru, divorced. A chance encounter on a gondola going up Mount Zaō on a day in November evokes memories and two months later Aki finally musters up the courage to ask her ex-husband how it came that back then he was found half-dead beside the body of a dead geisha. 

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Back Reviews Reel: September 2014

The novels that I reviewed this month three years ago cover the period from the late nineteenth century through today and took me to very diverse regions of the planet. I started my bookish explorations of time and space with the contemporary novel Portrait in Sepia by Isabel Allende that tells as much the history of a family as of Chile at the turn of the past century. Then I moved on to Kyoto, Japan, in the early 1960s devouring the modern classic The Old Capital by Kawabata Yasunari, the laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature 1968. Jacob's Room by Virginia Woolf, on the other hand, evokes just a few years after the end of the Great War of 1914 to 1918 the life of a promising young man who died for his country leaving behind just a few things that tell of his existence. And finally, I made my way to France, to a small ship in the Arctic ice off the Canadian coast and back to France hunting first precious Inuit art and then a sly thief and fraudster in the contemporary French novel  I'm Off by Jean Echenoz.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Poetry Revisited: Nature by Jones Very


(from Essays and Poems: 1839)

The bubbling brook doth leap when I come by,
Because my feet find measure with its call;
The birds know when the friend they love is nigh,
For I am known to them, both great and small.
The flower that on the lonely hillside grows
Expects me there when spring its bloom has given;
And many a tree and bush my wanderings knows,
And e'en the clouds and silent stars of heaven;
For he who with his Maker walks aright,
Shall be their lord as Adam was before;
His ear shall catch each sound with new delight,
Each object wear the dress that then it wore;
And he, as when erect in soul he stood,
Hear from his Father's lips that all is good.

Jones Very (1813-1880)
American poet, essayist, clergyman, and mystic

Friday, 15 September 2017

Book Review: Twice Born by Margaret Mazzantini
Passionate love can make people do really strange things and so can the desperate longing for parenthood. Those feeling either of the two or even both may sometimes find it hard to withstand the temptation to disregard reason or even imminent danger. The urge to do whatever can help to be with the loved one or to get the yearned for child can be overwhelming. The narrating protagonist of Twice Born by Margaret Mazzantini has experienced the power of both obsessions. She travels to Sarajevo with her sixteen-year-old son who was born not in Rome where he grew up like his mother, but in the sieged city in the early 1990s. It was in Sarajevo that she first met the love of her life, an Italian photographer, who was to become her husband and it was there that she lost him again about a decade later just when she held a baby in her arms at last.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

New on Lagraziana's Kalliopeion: The Adventure of the Black Lady by Aphra Behn

A Young Woman’s Flight:
The Adventure of the Black Lady by Aphra Behn English prose novel as we know it today is an amazingly recent invention. Its rise began only in the seventeenth century thanks to writers like Daniel Defoe (c.1660-1731), Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)… and Aphra Behn (1640-1689) whose work was rediscovered only in the early twentieth century (»»» read my author’s portrait). Although in her time Aphra Behn was first of all a renowned playwright, she also wrote several novels in her later years. By modern standards, however, these novels are hardly more than novelettes or even short stories. One of these little known prose works from the pen of the first Englishwoman who was able make her living as a writer is The Adventure of the Black Lady first published in 1684. It’s the story of a young woman called Bellamora who has come from Hampshire to Covent Garden in the hope to find refuge and help with a cousin of hers.

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

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Monday, 11 September 2017

Poetry Revisited: Pause by Ursula Bethell


(from From a Garden in the Antipodes: 1929)

When I am very earnestly digging
I lift my head sometimes, and look at the mountains,
And muse upon them, muscles relaxing

I think how freely the wild grasses flower there,
How grandly the storm-shaped trees are massed in their gorges,
And the rain-worn rocks strewn in magnificent heaps,

Pioneer plants on those uplands find their own footings
No vigorous growth, there, is an evil weed:
All weathers are salutary.

It is only a little while since this hillside
Lay untrammelled likewise,
Unceasingly swept by transmarine winds.

In a very little while, it may be,
When our impulsive limbs and our superior skulls
Have to the soil restored several ounces of fertiliser,

The Mother of all will take charge again,
And soon wipe away with her elements
Our small fond human enclosures.

Ursula Bethell (1874-1945)
New Zealand poet

Friday, 8 September 2017

Book Review: This is the Hour by Lion Feuchtwanger

Click on the index card to enlarge it!
There were many historical periods, when having your own mind and views could considerably complicate or even endanger the life of yourself as well as of your family and friends, especially if you were an artist longing to express yourself in all regards and unwilling to make compromises. Certainly, among artists too there always were those who out of conviction, opportunism or just cowardice supported even the most oppressive and cruel regime. Others, however, – and usually the greatest – risked much for their art testing given limits and subtly criticising power. One of the latter was the Spanish romantic painter Francisco de Goya. This is the Hour by Lion Feuchtwanger follows his fictionalised path to understanding and to a new way of painting in the years around 1800, when he lived his infatuation for the Duchess of Alba and rose to be first court painter of King Charles IV. despite disregarding accepted rules as well as challenging the Holy Inquisition.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Poetry Revisited: Magpies by Louis Esson


(from Bells and Bees: 1910)

I hear the cry of the magpies joyously gushing
          Over the morning,
The carolling slogan of magpies, like a rill rushing,
          And sorrow scorning.

Magpies, fill up my heart with the joy of exultant things
          Fresh notes adorning!
Breath of the morning primeval your melody brings
          To thrill my morning.

Louis Esson (1878-1943)
Australian poet, journalist, critic and playwright

Friday, 1 September 2017

Book Review: The River Ki by Ariyoshi Sawako around the world the twentieth century has been a time of important, not to say radical social changes. In the Far East, notably in China and Japan, the transition from the old way of life to a modern society was rapid as well as fundamental because the adaptation to the needs of global economy went hand in hand with the Westernisation of culture. Not everybody welcomed the development, not everybody was able or willing to adopt new ideas. Although Hana, the protagonist of The River Ki by Ariyoshi Sawako, received higher education in Wakayama-City, she adopts the traditional role of a Japanese wife when she enters the marriage arranged for her by her beloved grandmother. Her daughter Fumio, however, is a rebel and virtually from the day of her birth revolts against everything that smells of tradition and of old times. Fumio too gets married and has a daughter who is unlike her.