Friday, 24 March 2017

Book Review: The Roots of Heaven by Romain Gary

In many parts of the world eco-activists are sniggered at or much worse because people feel that they have more pressing problems than protecting their environment – worries about potable water, enough food or a decent home for instance. Others carelessly exploit, pollute and destroy our only natural habitat not out of necessity, but out of greed for money or even out of sheer human arrogance that they willingly justify quoting religious, philosophical or scientific sources in their favour. Machiavelli sends his compliments! In the end, it’s only a tiny step from disrespect for nature to disregard for our fellow human beings and their fundamental needs or rights. On the surface the winner novel of the French Prix Goncourt 1956, The Roots of Heaven by Romain Gary, seems to deal only with the stubborn fight of one man for the protection of elephants in Africa while in reality it addresses central human ideals, above all freedom.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Poetry Revisited: Frühlingsgruß – Spring Greeting by Johann Nepomuk Vogl

Frühlingsgruß

(aus Lyrische Blätter: 1835)

Frühling, Frühling, sei willkommen,
Sei willkommen uns aufs neu’,
Nun du wieder heimgekommen
Mit der alten Lieb’ und Treu’.

Schwing’ jetzt deine grünen Fahnen
Freudig wieder durch die Luft,
Dass dich die Getreuen ahnen,
Die noch schlummern in der Gruft.

Sende jetzt nach allen Winden
Deine muntern Sänger aus,
Heiß es Allen jetzt verkünden:
Dass du wieder sei’st zu Haus.

Gib die Botschaft allen Wellen,
Heiß’ es flüstern Strom und Fluss,
Und den Wolken gib, den hellen
An die Ferne deinen Gruß.

Dass sich jedes, dir zum Ruhme
Jetzt erfreu’, in Lust und Scherz,
Nenn’ es Baum sich oder Blume,
Vogel oder Menschenherz.

Johann Nepomuk Vogl (1802-1866)
österreichischer Schriftsteller,
Lyriker und Publizist

Spring Greeting

(from Lyric Leaves: 1835)

Spring, spring, be welcome,
Be welcome to us again,
Now you have come home again
With the old love and faithfulness.

Now swing your green flags
Joyfully again through the air,
That the faithful may divine you,
Who are still slumbering in the crypt.

Now send to all winds
Your gay singers,
Let it be announced to all now:
That you're home again.

Give the message to all waves,
Let it whisper stream and river,
And give the clouds, the bright
Your greeting to the distance.

That each, to your glory
Now rejoices , in pleasure and jest,
May you call it tree or flower,
Bird or human heart.

Johann Nepomuk Vogl (1802-1866)
Austrian writer,
lyricist and publicist

Literal translation: Edith Lagraziana 2017

Friday, 17 March 2017

Book Review: The Country Road by Regina Ullmann

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22405662-the-country-roadFor few people life is a bed of roses and even if it appears to be just that in one moment, in the very next moment it can turn to be the complete opposite. It depends on our attitude if we accept the challenge and keep our eyes open for the good and the beautiful surrounding us or if we give way to despair and drown in depression when we realise that nothing in our existence is permanent except change. Set against the backdrop of rural Switzerland and in one case Styria (a province of Austria) in the early twentieth century, the almost forgotten Swiss writer Regina Ullmann shows in her volume of short stories titled The Country Road people who have got to know the ugly side of life all too well and who despite all haven’t lost their ability to see the beauty of the world that makes their being not just bearable but even worthwhile.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Back Reviews Reel: March 2014

Looking back, I realise that among my four reviews of March 2014 three were quite on the Nobel side. I started into the month with a socialist classic from 1920 that is said to be the finest work of the writer Concha Espina from Northern Spain, namely her novel titled The Metal of the Dead. In fact, she never received the Nobel Prize in Literature, but she was nominated several times and she was a runner-up for it at least twice. Contrary to her, the contemporary French author of Desert, i.e. Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, actually won the prestigious prize in 2008 which was a late success considering that the impressive novel that I presented here had established him as a writer already decades earlier. In 2004 the Swedish Academy also awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature to my compatriot, Austrian writer and above all playwright Elfriede Jelinek, earning unexpected polemics for the decision. In her career she published a few novels too and I picked an early one, Women as Lovers, for review. Only the last novel that I featured in March 2014, A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute, is from the pen of an author who was never even considered for the Nobel Prize.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Poetry Revisited: White Sunshine by Lesbia Harford

LXXIII
White Sunshine

(from The Poems of Lesbia Harford: 1941)

The sun’s my fire
Golden, from a magnificence of blue
Should be its hue.

But woolly clouds
Like boarding-house old ladies, come and sit
In front of it.

White sunshine, then,
That has the frosty glimmer of white hair,
Freezes the air.

They must forget,
So self-absorbed are they, so very old
That I'll be cold.

Lesbia Harford (1891-1927)
Australian poet, novelist and political activist

Friday, 10 March 2017

Book Review: The Pope’s Daughter by Dario Fo

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23399038-the-pope-s-daughterIt’s a known fact that places of power are and have always been hotbeds of gossip, intrigue and crime. As capital of the Papal State and seat of her glamorous Court, the Holy See in Renaissance Rome wasn’t an exception as Martin Luther learnt during his visit there in 1510/11. The idealistic German monk must still have heard people gossipping about the Borgia family and its unscrupulous head Pope Alexander VI. who had died less than a decade earlier. Instead of a paragon of virtue Alexander VI. was a family man with great plans for himself as well as for his children. And his ambitions knew no limits. The historical novel The Pope’s Daughter by Dario Fo, the famous Italian playwright and recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature 1997, traces the life of highly intelligent, well-educated and beautiful Lucrezia Borgia who served her father and brother as pawn in their endless game of power.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

New on Lagraziana's Kalliopeion: The Novels of Ōe Kenzaburō by Yasuko Claremont

An Author’s Fictionalised Experiences:
The Novels of Ōe Kenzaburō by Yasuko Claremont


All his life Gustave Flaubert claimed that only the story counted and that its author should disappear without trace behind it, but however passionately a writer may assure that her or his work has nothing whatsoever to do with her or his life, such complete objectivity is an illusion. It’s impossible to achieve because nobody’s soul is an empty slate. Every word that a person jots down, be it on the spur of the moment or after long thought, be it in fiction or non-fiction, inevitably mirrors past experiences, education and views. To truly understand a literary work it can therefore be helpful to know the biography of its author, notably when the writings are complex or full of symbolism. In her critical study The Novels of Ōe Kenzaburō Yasuko Claremont from the University of Sydney analyses the literary oeuvre that the recipient of the 1994 Nobel Prize in literature produced between 1957 through 2006 and links it with important events in the Japanese author’s private life beginning in his childhood. 

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