Monday, 29 January 2018

Poetry Revisited: Truth Unveiling by Jessie Mackay

Truth Unveiling

(from Land of the Morning: 1909)

And weepest thou, discrowned man,
Who strove upon the moonless way?—
Whose torch, that led the early van,
The Sun of Truth has quenched in day?

Weep not. The world's aeonian youth
Owes yet to thee, who cleft the night.
The loftier error is a truth
To them that walked without the light.

Jessie Mackay (1864-1938)
New Zealand poet

Friday, 26 January 2018

Bookish Déjà-Vu: The Conductor by Sarah Quigley

Hitler’s racial politics aimed at the extermination of the Jewish population at least in Germany as well as in her annexed and affiliated countries, but not only the holocaust cost millions of innocent lives. Also Hitler’s expansion politics towards the East permeated the continent with blood. Apart from soldiers killed in action, civilians too had to pay the price for Hitler’s megalomania. As from early winter 1941 the citizens of Leningrad were under German siege, among them the conductor of the Leningrad Radio Orchestra Karl Elias Illyyich Eliasberg and many of his musicians. Carried on by the iron will of their conductor the half-starved men and women rehearsed Dmitri Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony written in Leningrad at the beginning of the siege. The Conductor by New Zealand writer Sarah Quigley, that I’m re-blogging today as a bookish déjà-vu, evokes the difficult months before the concert broadcast live in summer 1942. 
Read my review »

Monday, 22 January 2018

Poetry Revisited: No Songs in Winter by Thomas Bailey Aldrich

No Songs in Winter

(from The Sisters’ Tragedy,
with Other Poems, Lyrical and Dramatic
: 1890)

The robin and the oriole,
The linnet and the wren—
When shall I see their fairyships,
And hear their songs again?

The wind among the poplar trees,
At midnight, makes its moan;
The slim red cardinal flowers are dead,
And all sweet things are flown!

A great white face looks down from heaven,
The great white face of Snow;
I cannot sing or morn or even,
The demon haunts me so!

It strikes me dumb, it freezes me,
I sing a broken strain—
Wait till the robins and the wrens
And the linnets come again!

Thomas Bailey Aldrich (1836-1907)
American writer, poet, critic, and editor

Friday, 19 January 2018

Book Review: The Pianist by Władysław Szpilman doubt, the vast majority of Eastern European Jews who died during World War II and weren’t shot or otherwise killed on the spot wretchedly lost their lives in the overcrowded ghettos or in the concentration camps spattered across the Third Reich. Today it’s common knowledge that the latter were designed as extermination camps of industrial dimensions or as forced labour camps where the younger and stronger were selected to slowly starve to death while (often pointlessly) slaving away “for the benefit of the German people”. But some escaped this horrible fate getting the unexpected chance to go underground like The Pianist Władysław Szpilman whom unknown hands dragged from his family boarding the train to Treblinka (and certain death) and who, after some more months of forced labour, managed to go into hiding in Warsaw to write down his and his family’s story after the war.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Back Reviews Reel: January 2015

The middle month of my WINTER Books Special of three years ago took me first to Long Island in the USA with The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck, the last and a bit neglected novel of the 1962 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature. From there I embarked on a round-trip of Europe. My first stop was in a small English village that served as scene for the forgotten Welsh classic Winter Sonata by Dorothy Edwards. Then I visited a married couple in modern-day Finland who got carried away in The Winter War by Philip Teir. In a small Austrian town of the early 1990s I found the protagonist of Winter Quarters by Evelyn Grill at the mercy of a violent husband. And eventually I returned to the British Isles, more precisely to the borderlands and Scotland, in the mid-eighteenth century to meet Midwinter by John Buchan.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Poetry Revisited: Bright Thoughts for a Dark Day by Mrs. J. C. Yule

Bright Thoughts for a Dark Day

(from Poems of the Heart and Home: 1881)

Will the shadows be lifted to-morrow?—
     Will the sunshine come ever again?—
Will the clouds, that are weeping in sorrow,
     Their glorious beauty regain?
Will the forest stand forth in its greenness?—
     The meadows smile sweet as before?—
And the sky, in its placid sereneness,
     Bend lovingly o’er us once more?

Will the birds sing again as we heard them,
     Ere the tempest their gentle notes hushed?—
Will the breeze float again in its freedom,
     Where lately its melody gushed?
Will the beautiful angel of sunset
     Drape the heavens in crimson and gold,
As the day-king serenely retireth,
     ’Mid grandeur and glory untold?

Yea; the clouds will be lifted to-morrow,
     From valley, and hill-top, and plain;
And sunshine, and gladness, and beauty
     Will visit the landscape again;—
The forest, the field, and the river
     Will bask in the joy-giving ray;
And the angel of sunset, as ever,
     Will smile o’er the farewell of day.

For the longest day hastes to its ending,—
     The darkest night speeds to the day;—
O’er thickest clouds, ever, the sunbeam
     Shines on with unfaltering ray;—
Though thou walk amid shadows, thy Father
     Makes His word and his promises thine;
And, whatever the storms that may gather,
     At length thro’ the gloom He will shine!

Mrs. J. C. Yule, née Pamelia Sarah Vining (1826-1897)
Canadian poet

Friday, 12 January 2018

Bookish Déjà-Vu: If Not Now, When? by Primo Levi

As Nazi troops advanced eastward following Hitler’s megalomaniacal order to conquer living space for Aryan or really German citizens, they virtually depopulated entire villages along their marching routes chasing men, women and children from their homes, deporting them to ghettos and concentration camps or, even worse, massacring them on the spot without pity. Above all – though not only – the Jewish population suffered under the terror of the altogether cynical regime. But German reign over Poland was far from peaceful, even less welcome! Just like the French the Poles offered resistance from the start and as Germany continued her expansion politics invading even the Soviet Union the fight became fiercer and better organised. Partisan bands formed and among the fighters were also Russian Jews like the protagonist of Primo Levi’s novel If Not Now, When? that I reviewed in July 2016 and that I’m re-blogging today as a Bookish Déjà-Vu.

Read my review »

Monday, 8 January 2018

Poetry Revisited: Das lesende Kind – The Reading Child by Friedrich Adler

Das lesende Kind

(aus Wilhelm Arendt (Hg):
Moderne Dichtercharaktere: 1885)

Auf den Schooß das Buch gebreitet,
Scheinst du nichts um dich zu missen,
Starrst hinein, indeß beflissen
Ueber's Blatt der Finger gleitet.

In das Meer der Zeichen leitet
Dich kein Können noch und Wissen,
Unbeschränkt, in schwanken Rissen
Sich dein junges Sinnen weitet.

Süßes Dämmern! Traumumwoben
Schläft das Denken noch im Neste,
Nur das Fühlen schwebt nach oben.

Ach, des Lebens trübe Reste
Bleiben, wenn der Flor gehoben—
Das Geheimniß ist das Beste.

Friedrich Adler (1857-1938)
Österreichischer Jurist, Übersetzter
und Schriftsteller böhmischer Herkunft

The Reading Child

(from Wilhelm Arendt (ed.):
Modern Poetic Characters: 1885)

The book spread on the lap,
You do not seem to miss anything,
stare into it, but anxious
Over the sheet the fingers glide.

Into the sea of characters leads
You no skill nor knowledge,
Unrestricted, in tense cracks
Your young senses are expanding.

Sweet dawn! Mystified by dream
The thinking is still sleeping in the nest,
Only feeling floats up.

Oh, life‘s cloudy remains
Stay when the veil is lifted—
The secret is the best.

Friedrich Adler (1857-1938)
Austrian jurist, translator and
writer of Bohemian origin
Literal translation: Edith Lagraziana 2018

Friday, 5 January 2018

Book Review: The Auschwitz Violin by Maria Àngels Anglada regards books, I’m starting into the year 2018 on a rather sad note. This is because I dedicate this whole month to the horrors of the holocaust and World War II in Eastern Europe as they come to life through the very different stories of four survivors, ones real, others more or less fictionalised, if not fictitious. Three of the four books on my blogging schedule of January have protagonists who devoted their lives to music. The novel that I picked for my first review of the year evokes the literally life-saving craftsmanship of a young Jewish violin maker in a small subcamp of Auschwitz. When the camp commander finds out that Daniel is a luthier, he orders him to make The Auschwitz Violin following a bet with the sadistic camp doctor. Not knowing that his life is even more at stake than usual, Daniel plunges into the work he loves.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

2018 Reading Challenges & Specials

And here we are in January again! As from now I’m slowing down my pace a little presenting new books here on Edith’s Miscellany only every other week and thus reducing my reads by half. Still, you may look forward to twenty-six reviews of – hopefully – marvellous books written by famous as well as forgotten authors, half male and half female as usual. For obvious reasons, I’m out of the Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks that Robin of My Two Blessings hosts on an extra blog also in 2018, but I’m going to participate in others instead… and no less interesting ones as you will see.

Like past year I’m making only this collective sign-up post instead of individual ones for each of the annual challenges running from 1 January through 31 December 2018, but as usual separate lists to follow my progress will go online by and by. And I add an update of my – actually or at least theoretically – ongoing reading challenges and book specials.

Monday, 1 January 2018

Poetry Revisited: The Child and the Year by Celia Thaxter

The Child and the Year

(from St. Nicolas, Volume 12 #3, January 1885)

Said the child to the youthful year:
“What hast thou in store for me,
O giver of beautiful gifts! what cheer,
What joy dost thou bring with thee?”

“My seasons four shall bring
Their treasures: the winter’s snows,
The autumn’s store, and the flowers of spring,
And the summer’s perfect rose.

“All these and more shall be thine,
Dear child—but the last and best
Thyself must earn by a strife divine,
If thou wouldst be truly blest.”

Celia Thaxter (1835-1894)
American author and poet