Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Back Reviews Reel: October 2014

My reviews of three years ago took me to very different destinations in time and space. I started my five-week tour of Asia and Europe in modern-day Japan with the novel of a young Austro-Japanese, namely I Called Him Necktie by Milena Michiko Flašar. On my return to Europe, I joined the narrator of One, No One, and One Hundred Thousand by Luigi Pirandello, the laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature 1934, in his confusing exploration of basic questions of philosophy. Then I moved on to rural France in the late nineteenth century with classical and almost forgotten Marie Claire by Marguerite Audoux, before following The Beautiful Mrs. Seidenman by Andrzej Szczypiorski who (fruitlessly) plays at cat and mouse with the Nazi rascals occupying Warsaw in spring 1943. And at last, I returned to Asia, but this time to the beautiful island of Java where The Tea Lords by Hella S. Haasse strive to make their fortune.

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https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20702599-i-called-him-necktie
The narrator of I Called Him Necktie by Milena Michiko Flašar is twenty-year-old Taguchi Hiro and he is one of thousands of "hikikomori" living in Japan. For two years he lived in self-chosen isolation at his parents’ house avoiding all social contact, but on a morning in February his desire to go out becomes stronger than his need for solitude. The sickening experience leads him to a quiet bench in the park from where he can observe vibrant life without being bothered to take part in it. He takes to sitting on the same bench every day and then the unexpected happens: a salary man in his mid-fifties with a red striped necktie settles down on the bench opposite. He too comes every day now, but neither of them is ready to talk… not yet.
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https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12117.One_None_and_One_Hundred_Thousand
Vitangelo Moscarda, called Gengè, is in his late twenties, sure of himself, happily married and financially independent, when a jokey remark of his wife suddenly plunges him into self-doubt. He sets out on a philosophical search for identity in which the Nobel-prize-honoured writer Luigi Pirandello makes him gradually realise that the one and only self doesn’t exist and that he really is One, No One, and One Hundred Thousand. Gengè becomes obsessed with the question that preoccupies virtually everybody at one time or another in life: who am I? And he tries to prove his conclusions behaving differently from usual. Before long family and friends, even inhabitants of the little Italian town with whom he isn’t personally acquainted, begin to wonder if he has gone crazy. Still he continues his experiment even when his wife leaves him.
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https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/14291632-marie-claire
The best-selling and award-winning memoir of 1910 titled Marie Claire evokes the childhood and adolescence of late-blooming writer Marguerite Audoux herself. In fictionalised form she recounts her years in a Roman Catholic orphanage that followed the death of her mother when she was five years old. The nuns don’t understand her sensitive and timid nature that makes her choose her few friends carefully, and in 1876, a vengeful mother superior sends her, the allegedly arrogant girl, out into the world to become a shepardess on a remote farm, but her kind and caring masters soon realise that she isn’t cut out for such a life and make her help around the house. Also the next masters of the farm keep her as a maid. She has a quiet and peaceful life until the seventeen-year-old brother of the mistress arrives…
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https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/170821.The_Beautiful_Mrs_Seidenman
Ever since German troops invaded Poland in September 1939 The Beautiful Mrs. Seidenman from Andrzej Szczypiorski’s novel has been living in Warsaw under false name. She is lucky because her fair looks don’t betray her Jewish descent and her forged papers are excellent, but there’s always a risk that she runs into an old acquaintance and in fact, this is what happens in spring 1943. Even worse, the man from her past is a Jewish informer of the Nazi regime and insists on taking her to the Gestapo Headquarters. It’s her scholarly neighbour of all people who instigates her rescue. Many in Warsaw are ready to help and risk their lives in the Resistance, there are others, though, who prefer to collaborate with the German occupants to save their skin or to take advantage of the situation.
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https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10383322-the-tea-lords
Rudolf Eduard Kerkhoven and his family are The Tea Lords whose colonialist endeavours in Dutch East India during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries renowned Dutch author Hella S. Haasse depicts in her documentary-historical novel. After his studies of Civil Engineering in the Netherlands he joins his parents on the island of Java to help them on their plantation, but he soon realises that his family neither needs nor wants him there. So he decides to get his own stretch of land and to show them all what he can achieve. It takes him many years of hard work, even sacrifice, to turn a run-down coffee plantation at the back of beyond into a thriving tea and quinine plantation, and yet, his family doesn’t treat him any better than when he first came to Java.
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