Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Back Reviews Reel: October 2013

This month three years ago, the last review for My Mediterranean Reading Summer 2013 (»»» read my summary post) went online. It was dedicated to the contemporary Greek novel Swell by Ioanna Karystiani surrounding an old salt who refuses to retire from his post as captain to return to his family after over ten years at sea. I followed up with two classics. The first was a satirical farce dating from 1914 and referring to a true swindle about a false pope happened more than twenty years earlier, namely Lafcadio’s Adventures by André Gide, the French laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature 1947. Also the novel A World of Love by Elizabeth Bowen is a classic, but a modern one from the mid-1950s dealing with the unexpected repercussions that the reappeared letters of a dead man have in the lives of three women. My final review of October 2013, was of the Austrian success novel The Wedding in Auschwitz by Erich Hackl that brings a true love story from the Spanish Civil War and World War II to the attention of the public.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Poetry Revisited: Ballade of the Optimist by Andrew Lang

Ballade of the Optimist

(from New Collected Rhymes: 1905)

Heed not the folk who sing or say
In sonnet sad or sermon chill,
“Alas, alack, and well-a-day,
This round world’s but a bitter pill.”
Poor porcupines of fretful quill!
Sometimes we quarrel with our lot:
We, too, are sad and careful; still
We’d rather be alive than not.

What though we wish the cats at play
Would some one else’s garden till;
Though Sophonisba drop the tray
And all our worshipped Worcester spill,
Though neighbours “practise” loud and shrill,
Though May be cold and June be hot,
Though April freeze and August grill,
We’d rather be alive than not.

And, sometimes on a summer’s day
To self and every mortal ill
We give the slip, we steal away,
To walk beside some sedgy rill:
The darkening years, the cares that kill,
A little while are well forgot;
When deep in broom upon the hill,
We’d rather be alive than not.

Pistol, with oaths didst thou fulfil
The task thy braggart tongue begot,
We eat our leek with better will,
We’d rather be alive than not.

Andrew Lang (1844-1912)
Scottish poet, novelist, literary critic, and anthropologist

Friday, 14 October 2016

Book Review: On Black Sisters' Street by Chika Unigwe

2016 review of a book written
by an author whose family name starts with the letter

From afar Europe seems to many a continent of marvels where everybody can live in peace and enjoy all the amenities of modern life without having to struggle day after day. Those who come here quickly realise that reality is quite different from what they were told. Even the well-educated often find themselves at the bottom of society all of a sudden. For women this may mean prostitution. This year I already presented two forgotten German-language classics from the first decade of the twentieth century focusing on prostitutes in Germany and Austria (»»» read my reviews of The Diary of a Lost Girl by Margarete Böhme and The Red House by Else Jerusalem). The bestselling Belgian novel On Black Sisters’ Street by Chika Unigwe tells the stories of four young Nigerian women who hoped to escape a life without perspective in Lagos accepting the offer of a sly Nigerian to get them to Antwerp, Belgium, and ended as sex workers.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

New on Lagraziana's Kalliopeion: Ravel. A Novel by Jean Echenoz Decomposition of a Musical Brain:
Ravel. A Novel by Jean Echenoz

There are melodies so unique that it’s enough to hear their first notes to know what is coming. Without doubt the Boléro by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) is such a memorable piece of music. Although it’s a classical orchestra tune and not actually new – it premiered as a ballet in November 1928 –, virtually everybody knows it at least partly; most people will even remember the name of its French composer notwithstanding that they may never have heard any other work of his. After all, Ravel was celebrated already during his lifetime and his fame hasn’t faded since his tragic death following the desperate attempt to stop or even reverse his mental decline with brain surgery. But what kind of a man was Maurice Ravel apart from his compositions? In his short critically acclaimed biographical novel Ravel, which first appeared early in 2006, the French author Jean Echenoz evokes the last decade in the life of the musical genius starting with his 1928 grand tour of America.

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

Monday, 10 October 2016

Poetry Revisited: The Fall of the Leaf by Rosanna Eleanor Leprohon

The Fall of the Leaf

(from The Poetical Works of Mrs. Leprohon: 1881)

Earnest and sad the solemn tale
     That the sighing winds give back,
Scatt'ring the leaves with mournful wail
     O'er the forest's faded track;
Gay summer birds have left us now
     For a warmer, brighter clime,
Where no leaden sky or leafless bough
     Tell of change and winter-time.

Reapers have gathered golden store
     Of maize and ripened grain,
And they'll seek the lonely fields no more
     Till the springtide comes again.
But around the homestead's blazing hearth
     Will they find sweet rest from toil,
And many an hour of harmless mirth
     While the snow-storm piles the soil.

Then, why should we grieve for summer skies–
     For its shady trees - its flowers,
Or the thousand light and pleasant ties
     That endeared the sunny hours?
A few short months of snow and storm,
     Of winter's chilling reign,
And summer, with smiles and glances warm,
     Will gladden our earth again.

Rosanna Eleanor Leprohon (1832-1879)
English-Canadian writer and poet

Friday, 7 October 2016

Book Review: The Dark Flower by John Galsworthy

2016 review of a book written
by an author whose family name starts with the letter

Just like the body ages and changes with time, emotions don’t stay the same during a whole life. Therefore the experience of love can be very different depending on how old we are when it comes over us, be it like a coup de foudre or only gradually. However much we like the idea of eternal love, we have come to distinguish between three, four or even more seasons of love with good reason. The protagonist of The Dark Flower by John Galsworthy, the Nobel Prize laureate in literature of 1932, is a sculptor and unlike the average Englishman of his time who has learnt to appear calm and poised under all circumstances, he is full of emotions that he finds difficult to control and hide. Three times in the course of nearly thirty years he is swept away by passionate love to women who are forbidden to him because of the bonds of their or his own marriage

Monday, 3 October 2016

Poetry Revisited: Autumn: A Dirge by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Autumn: A Dirge

(from Posthumous Poems: 1824)

The warm sun is failing, the bleak wind is wailing,
The bare boughs are sighing, the pale flowers are dying,
And the Year
On the earth her death-bed, in a shroud of leaves dead,
Is lying.
Come, Months, come away,
From November to May,
In your saddest array;
Follow the bier
Of the dead cold Year,
And like dim shadows watch by her sepulchre.

The chill rain is falling, the nipped worm is crawling,
The rivers are swelling, the thunder is knelling
For the Year;
The blithe swallows are flown, and the lizards each gone
To his dwelling;
Come, Months, come away;
Put on white, black, and gray;
Let your light sisters play -
Ye, follow the bier
Of the dead cold Year,
And make her grave green with tear on tear.

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)
English Romantic poet