Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Back Reviews Reel: June 2014

In June 2014 I went a little astray reading-wise. The two contempory works as well as the two classics that I reviewed belong to genres that I don’t usually read. I started with a comic novel from the U.K. that is largely set in Germany, namely Portuguese Irregular Verbs by Alexander McCall Smith. Then I crossed the Channel to France and plunged into chick-lit for a change, but The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles by Katherine Pancol turned out a little less shallow (and boring) than I had feared. From Paris I moved on to South America and some classical horror fiction from the pen of a writer admired by Jorge Luis Borges and Gabriel García Márquez made available for English-language readers as The Decapitated Chicken and Other Stories by Horacio Quiroga. And finally I returned to my own country Austria for the dystopian classic The Wall by Marlen Haushofer.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Poetry Revisited: An Australian Rose by Harriet Anne Martin

An Australian Rose

(from Lala Fisher [ed.], By Creek and Gully. Stories and Sketches Mostly of Bush Life:
Told in Prose and Rhyme by Australian Writers in England
: 1899)

Patchett Martin

To R. M. P.

To her of gracious gifts, whose graceful pen
Becomes a fairy wand in her frail hand
Flashing the sunlight of her Austral land
   On the slim maidens and brown-bearded men
   Who live their lives for us at her command
   I said — “I always think of you as when,
   Like one entranced in an enchanted glen,
You stood one night amidst a madcap band.

With red lips parted, and a roseleaf flush
   Painting the pearly pallor of your face,
   Mute, motionless, in an expectant hush,
   Your dreamy eyes like stars shone into space.”
   Softly she answer’d with a shadowy blush—
“My soul first stirred to life in that fair place.”

Harriet Anne Martin (c. 1837-1908)
Australian poet and writer

Friday, 16 June 2017

Book Review: I Am a Cat by Natsume Sōseki

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/62772.I_Am_a_CatLooked upon from an outsider’s point of view much of human behaviour must seem rather strange, if not ridiculous and without purpose. And if this is true of what we do, how much more absurd must appear what we say! On certain occasions we even become aware of it ourselves. Who hasn’t ever been to a party feeling obliged to make small talk with even the dullest people? Boredom can drive us to embark on all kinds of more or less suiting pastimes. The arts, for instance, have always been very fashionable among the well-educated and better-off, while the world of academia may prefer highbrow debates on nothing at all to get a chance to show off. In the satirical classic I Am a Cat by Natsume Sōseki a highly sophisticated Tōkyo cat living in the household of a self-centred English teacher follows his master’s and his friends’ awkward artistic attempts and grotesque discussions.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

New on Lagraziana's Kalliopeion: The Famished Road by Ben Okri

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17334045-the-famished-road

A Child’s View of Africa in the 1960s:
The Famished Road by Ben Okri 

It was in autumn 2016 when one of those e-mails offering the free copy of a book for review that I regularly receive unasked for and that I use to delete without even reading attracted my attention. The last hardly ever happens, but for some reason that I can’t remember I had a closer look at the message concerning The Famished Road by Ben Okri. The story sounded interesting and just right for me, especially because it was the new edition of a novel first published twenty-five years ago in 1991, thus not an entirely new work. Without giving it a second thought, I signed on to Netgalley and downloaded the book. Now, months later, I finally found the time to read this award-winning novel from the pen of an African writer now living in London, U.K., that deals with the political turmoil and confusion following the independence of an African country, probably Nigeria, from a boy’s magical-realistic point of view. 

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

Monday, 12 June 2017

Poetry Revisited: The Literary Lady by Richard Brinsley Sheridan

The Literary Lady

(from W. H. Wills [ed.]: Poets' Wit and Humour: 1860)

What motley cares Corilla's mind perplex,
Whom maids and metaphors conspire to vex!
In studious dishabille behold her sit,
A lettered gossip and a household wit;
At once invoking, though for different views,
Her gods, her cook, her milliner and muse.
Round her strewed room a frippery chaos lies,
A checkered wreck of notable and wise,
Bills, books, caps, couplets, combs, a varied mass,
Oppress the toilet and obscure the glass;
Unfinished here an epigram is laid,
And there a mantua-maker's bill unpaid.
There new-born plays foretaste the town's applause,
There dormant patterns pine for future gauze.
A moral essay now is all her care,
A satire next, and then a bill of fare.
A scene she now projects, and now a dish;
Here Act the First, and here, Remove with Fish.
Now, while this eye in a fine frenzy rolls,
That soberly casts up a bill for coals;
Black pins and daggers in one leaf she sticks,
And tears, and threads, and bowls, and thimbles mix.

Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816)
Irish satirist, a playwright and poet

Friday, 9 June 2017

Book Review: The Greater Hope by Ilse Aichinger

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35383772-the-greater-hopeThere are heaps of fiction works dealing with World War Two and the holocaust, but most of them have been written long after the unspeakable horrors and by authors who could look at the period from a safe distance, be it geographically or historically. It’s little wonder that only few eye witnesses, notably survivors felt up to letting their own dreadful experience flow into their fiction. It would have been too painful and in addition it was unlikely to make a living of such books. The Greater Hope by Austrian writer Ilse Aichinger is one of a small number of postwar novels evoking the sufferings of the war years. The protagonist is an eleven-year-old Viennese girl whose Jewish mother emigrates to the USA to escape from the Nazi regime. Her Aryan father, an army officer, rejects her and so she has to face all the incomprehensible prohibitions and dangers of the time in the care of her persecuted grandmother.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Poetry Revisited: The Lotus by Toru Dutt

The Lotus

(from Ancient Ballads and Legends of Hindustan: 1882)

Love came to Flora asking for a flower
          That would of flowers be undisputed queen,
          The lily and the rose, long, long had been
Rivals for that high honor. Bards of power
Had sung their claims. “The rose can never tower
          Like the pale lily with her Juno mien“—
          “But is the lily lovelier?“ Thus between
Flower-factions rang the strife in Psyche's bower.
“Give me a flower delicious as the rose
          And stately as the lily in her pride“—
“But of what color?“—„Rose-red,“ Love first chose,
          Then prayed—“No, lily-white—or, both provide;“
          And Flora gave the lotus, “rose-red“ dyed,
And “lily-white“—the queenliest flower that blows.

Toru Dutt (1856-1877)
Indian poet in English and French