There is a reason why love letters have never entirely gone out of fashion. For some they are the epitome of romance because unlike the spoken word they are lasting and can be re-read at any time. Moreover, it’s often easier to express feelings in a letter. Everybody knows that to write one takes more time than to burst out some clumsy words, time to think about the right expression and tone. And then it has the advantage that the recipient doesn’t need to be at hand. The lyrical Letters to Felician by the late Austrian writer Ingeborg Bachmann show a passionate young woman in love who is full of longing for her absent beloved. But she also strives to find her way in life without knowing where it can lead her and if she will ever be able to achieve anything with the ghosts of the Nazi past haunting her.
Friday, 17 February 2017
Wednesday, 15 February 2017
Three years ago my bookish travels took me to four most enchanting and enjoyable reading destinations in Europe, East Asia and the Carribean. My first stop was in Paris, France, where I visited The Cat whom the famous writer Colette made part of an unexpected love triangle and the wedge between a young couple. Then I moved on to Lisbon, Portugal, with the en-NOBEL-ed author José Saramago to see what the proofreader Raimundo Benvindo Silva makes of The History of the Siege of Lisbon and the entry of the supervisor Maria Sara into his life. Right from Lisbon I embarked for Tōkyo, Japan, to plunge into the fascinating world of numbers that The Housekeeper and the Professor and her little son discover under the deft guidance of author Ogawa Yōko. And finally I made my way from Japan across the Pacific Ocean through the Panama Canal to pre-Castro Havana, Cuba, to meet Our Man in Havana and to be drawn into Graham Greene’s satirical representation of spying in the early years of the Cold War.
Monday, 13 February 2017
Valentines(from Candle Flame: 1926)
Now little maid—with a Valentine;
Most blythesome be and gay;
For Valentines come not—come not—
On every working day;
And though they may, perchance on some
Like cherry-blossoms fall.
Believe me, Sweet—there oft are those
Who don't get one at all!
So if you got a lacy one
With a swinging paper door,
And a precious verse behind it—
(That's what Valentines are for),
If a darling little cupid
With roses on his head,
Was aiming at a lonely heart,
Most violently red—
Burn joss sticks! Oh, burn joss sticks—
To the god of Happy Fate,
For the postman does not enter
At everybody's gate;
And though on some, the Valentines
Like cherry-blossoms fall—
Believe me, there are often those
Who don't get one at all!
Virna Sheard (1865-1943)
Canadian poet and novelist
Friday, 10 February 2017
Black Box by Amos Oz, an epistolary novel about a couple whose marriage ended in a vicious divorce and left not only themselves but also their son filled with hatred and resentment for years on end. Only when the woman in her despair about the son who has grown into an uncontrollable teenager writes a letter to her ex-husband to ask for help, they finally get a chance to sort things out and make peace.
Wednesday, 8 February 2017
During much of European history men shaped the world of things and thought as they believed right and passed over women in silence, if they didn’t hold them in contempt. Highly revered Fathers of the Christian Church like Saint Augustine of Hippo Regius further institutionalised this contempt of women… and of earthly pleasures altogether as shows his autobiography titled Confessiones. In this theological key text he admits that before his conversion to Christianity in 385 he was a man who tasted life to the full. For over ten years he lived with a concubine (probably law forbade a formal marriage) and had a son with her, but in retrospect he regrets this sinful and immoral relationship because it kept him from true love of God. In Vita Brevis. A Letter to Saint Augustine (also translated into English as The Same Flower) the Norwegian writer, philosopher and theologian Jostein Gaarder gave this abandoned woman a voice.
Read more » (external link to Lagraziana's Kalliopeion)
Monday, 6 February 2017
(from Critical and Miscellaneous Essays, Volume I: 1838)
What is Hope? A smiling rainbow
Children follow through the wet;
’Tis not here, still yonder, yonder:
Never urchin found it yet.
What is Life? A thawing iceboard
On a sea with sunny shore;—
Gay we sail; it melts beneath us;
We are sunk, and seen no more.
What is Man? A foolish baby,
Vainly strives, and fights, and frets;
Demanding all, deserving nothing;—
One small grave is what he gets.
Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)
Scottish philosopher, satirical writer, essayist, historian and teacher
Friday, 3 February 2017
There can be no doubt that relations between men and women are a favourite topic of writers. Literature offers everything from the vicissitudes of romantic love over the turmoils of an unstable marriage to the wars ending an unfortunate relationship. Love triangles are a rather common ingredient in many novels, but since we all tend to prefer books from our own culture – which is clearly Judeo-Christian in Europe – we seldom read about polygamous marriages except maybe in a historical novel set somewhere in the Orient. So we know little about how a woman feels who is one wife among others. The epistolary novel So Long a Letter by Mariama Bâ from Senegal surrounds a Muslim widow mourning her husband to whom she has been happily married for twenty-five years until desire had the better of him and he took a teenage second wife. In a letter to a friend abroad she tells her story.