Finish date: 31 January 2023
Genre: historical fiction
Review: Le Zéro et l’infinie (Darkness at Noon) (ISBN: 9782253003410)
Good news: I can check off yet another book on Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels 20th C. I cannot agree with this choice of Darkness at Noon as an outstanding novel. There are better books from 20th C that easily could take its place on the list!
Bad news: Pages 144-183 were very difficult to read in French. It was a long discussions between old friends (Roubachof in prison- Ivanov prison warden) about the politics of The Party. Ivanov insists Roubachof sign a confession because he tried to split the Communist Party (CP)…and spends a long time trying to convince the Rubachof to do so.
Personal Writing: Straightforward style, absolutely credible characters…but not very likeable. The narrative switches back and forth between Roubachof’s current life as a political prisoner and his past life as one of the Communist Party elite. Roubachof is a former high-ranking Party official now in prison, charged with treason for betraying the cause.
Most impressive parts of the book were describing Roubachof’s imprisionment and the excruciating interrogations he went through. There was a lot of CP politics that honestly I had to skim a few pages. The book was written (1940) 23 after the CP was established in Russia (1917). I’m sure readers in 1940 were fascinated by the narrative. On pg 251 Gletkin (interrogator) says: “…nécessité pour Le Parti rester uni” unfortunately…CP lasted only 51 more years. In 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev removed the constitutional role of the Communist Party. Because of this it allowed non-communists to take power.
I discovered this book on Modern Library Best 100 Novel 20th C. It is rarely on anyone’s reading list…now I know why.
by Reuben Jonathan Miller (no photo)
Finish date: February 2023
Review: Halfway Home (ISBN: 9780316451482)
Good news: Ruben Miller, social scientist, records human behavior of prisoners and ex-prisoners as a result of the relationship between mental states and social situations. Miller also emphasised the “ridiculous” policies that states have enacted to prevent people (African-American) from rebuilding their lives. #Eye-opener
Personal: This was not an easy book to read….confronted me with what life is really like for the incarcerated. Raw, heartbreaking accounts of lives that have been rejected by society. It sent shivers down my spine. How does one survive when as Nina Simone sings in the gospel song Sinnerman: …the river boils, the sea bleeds and the rock refused to hide them.I must recommend reading this stunning book! Ruben Miller expresses empathy for the people he studied…but also revealed how close his own personal life is to “…being black, poor and living in the time of mass incarceration.” The author’s special gift is this “proximity” and his ability to navigate his writing for the public.
All I can say is…remember who you elect to local, state and federal positions….are they there to help or hinder? Finalist Los Angeles Book Prize 2022 – Reuben Jonathan Miller, “Halfway Home: Race, Punishment, and the Afterlife of Mass Incarceration”. Find it at the library….and educate yourself!
- Floaters – Martin Espada – (Nat Book Award 2021) poetry
- Darkness at Noon – A. Koestler (Modern Library) – REVIEW
- Hong Kong Et Macao – J. Kessel (NF) (French) (Hong Kong) – READING
- Les Fourberies de Scapin (play) – Molière
- Lire le théâtre vol 1 – Anne Ubersfeld (NF)
- My Fourth Time, We Drowned: Seeking Refuge Deadliest Migration Route – Sally Hayden (NF)
Black History Month (#BHM)…reading as many as I can!
- Do Not Disturb – M. Wrong (Rwanda) (NF)
- De Doorsons – Roline Redmond (Dutch book) – READ…review soon!
- Love Songs W.E. Du Bois – Honorée F. Jeffers – READING
- The Age of Phillis – H. F. Jeffers (poet’s life through poems) – READ…review soon!
- On Becoming an American Writer – J. McPherson (essays)
- The Sum of Us – Heather McGhee (NF)
- Punch Me Up to the Gods (memoir) – Brian Broome – READING
- Halfway Home – R.J. Miller (NF) – REVIEW – LA Times Prize 2022 finalist
- A Knock At Midnight – Brittany K. Barnett (NF)
Film List: Black History Month
- In this list I would like to highlight
- …some directors….currently making movies about racism .
- I started watching these movies in January…
- Film List: Black History Month
- In this list I would like to highlight
- …some directors….currently making movies about racism.
- Raoul Peck: I Am Not Your Negro (2016)
- Done – Ava DuVerbay: Selma (2015)
- – IMPRESSIVE
- Ava DuVerbay: When They See Us (2019) – mini series 4 episodes....
- Steve McQueen : 12 Years as a Slave (2013)
- Barry Jenkins: If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)
- Done – Barry Jenkins: Moonlight (2016)- GOOD
- Dee Rees: Mudbound (2017)
- Done – Jordan Peele: Get Out (2017)
- – Not a good movie…it wasn’t funny, wasn’t scary or wasn’t clever.
- Alan Parker: Mississippi Burning (1988)…(favourite movie)
- Chinonye Chukwu: Till (2022) not available on streaming yet
- Done – Peter Farrelly – Green Book (2018)
- – How did this film even get considered for an Oscar?…it was just oké.
- #DealMeIn @bibliophilopolis (no formal hosting…)
- I just add a comments about short story on Twitter.
- Rule: pack of playing cards = 52 short stories per year!
- Jay’s challenge was one on the first I ever entered….14 years ago!
- SHORT STORY:
- The Other Party – M. Klam 19.12.2022 The New Yorker – READ – excellent
- Notions of the Sacred – A. Savas 09.01.2023 The New Yorker – READ – excellent
- Hammer Attack – Han Ong 16.01.2023 The New Yorker – READ – good
- Wednesday’s Child – Yiyun Li 23.01.2023 The New Yorker – READ – too depressing…read about author and you will understand!
Art Deco Tuschinski Theatre in Amsterdam, 1918-20. Arch. Jaap Gidding.
- I’ve neglected my list of movies….
- …now I will try to watch as many as I can this month.
- The BAFTA Awards (British Oscars) will be my first target.
- Any film nominated or declared a winner that is
- …available on streaming I will try to watch.
- All Quiet on the Western Front
- WWI visual effects are shocking
- …..at one point I gasped…so realistic.
- But don’t forget this is what war looks like.
- You don’t see this side of the story on the evening news.
- Film NOT for the fainthearted….but try to see it anyway!!
- Felix Kammerer acting is award-winning to say the least.
- Movie was nominated for GoldenGlobes 2023 Best Foreign film.
- I think the GG committee probably didn’t dare give the prize to this
- …unforgettable film. It is indelibly impressed in my memory.
- Will it get an Oscar nod?….YES…9 nominations!
- 14 BAFTA nominations!! (19 Feb 2023 award show)
- Argentina 1985 – worth watching just to remind yourself what a fascist government can do!
- This is the winner of GoldenGlobes 2023 best foreign film.
- I don’t agree with this choice.
- It was Interesting but I expected more from this film…it lacked a certain “theatre”.
- The heart of the movie is the historic trial of the Argentine military junta
- …based on 709 cases of abuse.
- There is NO courtroom strutting by lawyers, not even a raised voice
- …just a series of witnesses giving statements.
- I missed acting like I have seen in other trial movies:
- Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee – A Few Good Men (Tom Cruise)
- Atticus Finch – To Kill a Mockingbird (Gregory Peck)
- No, not my choice for best foreign-film.
- Everything, Everywhere All at Once.
- I kept checking the time to see how much was left…not a good sign.
- Confusing plot, lots of shouting and cyberspace jumping!
- Michelle Yeoh is winner of GoldenGlobes 2023 Best Actress.
- 11 Oscar nominations….I don’t believe it. #Hype
- …I preferred Ms Yeoh in another movie:
- Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Oscar 2001 Best Foreign Film)
- ……now that was a great movie!
- “Everything….etc”…did not impress me at all.
- Try of find Croughing Tiger at your local library of buy the DVD.
- You won’t regret it.
- Indian Bollywood film with over the top” action
- …and breathtaking cinematography.
- Nominated Best Foreign Film #GoldenGlobes 2023.
- Personally…this is my first and last Bollywood film
- …but I must admit, I did learn some new dance moves!
- I am desperately on need of a palate cleanser after RRR!
- Nominated for Best Original Screenplay…
- The Menu with Ralph Fiennes.
- A young couple travels to a remote island to eat at an exclusive restaurant
- …where the chef has prepared a lavish menu, with some shocking surprises
- …it’s all part of the menu.
- I’m absolutely speechless.
Finish date: January 2022
Review: La panthère des neiges (ISBN: 9782072936494)
Good news: Book is very short…164 pg. The best parts of the book were pg 117, 143 and 164 when Tesson finally sighted “la panthère des neiges.” The author created a blah…blah narrative around those three apparitions. #WasteOfMyReadingTime.
Good news: By reading this book…I discovered the wonderful movie (to rent on AppleTV): Velvet Queen based on Tesson’s book and winner of César Awards, France 2022 for Best Documentary Film (Meilleur film documentaire). Tesson was invited on an adventure with wildlife photographer Vincent Munier on the Tibetan plateau in search of the snow panther. It is true…a picture says a thousand words and was a delight to watch. Unfortunately I cannot say that about the book!
Personal: Writing is dishwater gray. It is a series of short chapters in which quotations, aphorisms, maxims and philosophical reflections largely prevail over the narrative. Part 1 (pg 23-63) was a long list of animals (yaks, wolves, donkey, antelopes, goats, gazelles, foxes, sparrows, vultures crickets and an eagle…) and comments about the landscape/weather. Just an awful start for a book that is supposed to be an adventure! I read 24 pages and need a cup of coffee to stay awake and seriously considered DNF status. Where’s the damned leopard? IMHO the book is too philosophical and not in a good way. Tesson thinks if he refers to Greek myths, Jack London, Eugène Labiche, Jean Baudrillard and many more…. he is going to impress the reader. It just falls flat. BTW…how did Cardinal de Richelieu get in the steppes of Tibet? #Ridiculous
Conclusion: This was my first and LAST book by Sylvain Tesson!
by André Gide
Finish date: January 2022
Genre: novel (mentioning 55 characters!!)
Review: Les caves du Vatican (ISBN: 9782070360345)
Bad news: Reading at the pace of a of snail going backwards.
Good news: I finished it! It took me 10 days.
Part 1: (pg 20) update: Narrative: an atheist-turned-believer (Anthime) on the edge of insolvency. The book is literally slow as molasses in January! Gide prides himself on finding “le mot juste” and that means it will be some outlandish, outdated word no one has heard of! That sends me back to the dictionary. I feel after reading French for the last 4 weeks…every step forward…is followed by two steps backward! #Frustrating
Part 2: (pg 70) update: Narrative: illegitimate son (Lafcadio) finally discovers his father and half brother (M. Baraglinoul, Julius). Sunday, rain, whipping wind and no cookies in the house. How did I ever continue reading A. Gide with everything against me. Gide won the Nobel Prize and of course his vocabulary reflects that: many outdated words and literary expressions. Example: once again is “à nouveau”. Gide uses “derechef”. Never read that before, ever! Motto? #KeepPushing
Part 3: (pg 100) update: Narrative: Church extortion scandal involving an imprisoned Pope. Reading speed is increasing, thank goodness. Today a Abbé Salus approaches Comtessse Saint-Prix for money. He is a con-man peddling the story that the Pope has been kidnapped by the Free Masons. Now it took me 2 sentences to say that…it took A. Gide 12 pages!!
Part 4-5: (pg 250, the end) update: Narrative part 4: …all manner of wastrels, swindlers, aristocrats, adventurers, and pickpockets. Narrative part 5: …detective farce whereby the wrong man is apprehended, while the charmingly perverse Lafcadio goes free. Both parts were exhausting. I just kept reading and hoped at least to learn some new French words….even if I was not enraptured with the narrative. The book ends, quite literally, with a question mark…after 10 days of struggle with French words A. Gide leaves me with a question mark. #Desarçonnée = nonplussed…knocked out of my saddle.
This book is not for the fainthearted….you must REALLY want to read in French!
Trivia: André Gide won the Nobel Prize 1947.
Trivia: André Gide is judged as greatest French writer of the 20th C.
In 1914 when this was released under its original French title “Les Caves du Vatican”
….it must have offended all the right people.
Roman Catholic Church placed his works on the Index of Forbidden Books in 1952
- Nordic Finds Challenge hosted by @AnnaBookBel
- Hashtag: #NordicFINDS23
Film list: Sweden
Fanny and Alexander: No 8 best arthouse film of all time – Winner of 4 Oscars !
Academy Awards, USA 1984
- If you like the novels by Dickens you’ll love this epic film (3 hr).
- Be ready to dive into t he powerful and eventful lives of just one familiy.
- The small and big affairs that affect them.
- It is not a “merry” Christmas movie to watch… life is difficut
- …but Bergman still manages to give us a happy ending!
- The story takes place during a span of two years from 1907 to 1909.
- Alexander is supposed to be 10 years old.
- Bergman (director) was influenced by the novel David Copperfield…
- …especially by Mr Murdstone David’s wicked step father
- who married David’s mother when he was away.
- He is a cruel and sadistic bully regularly beats David for no reason
- …just as Bishop at all and he controls the family.
- This is exactly what happens to Alexander’s mother Emile
- …when she agrees to marry the harsh
- Bishop Vergérus….what a classic Dickensian villain!
|Best Art Direction-Set Decoration
|Best Costume Design
|Best Foreign Language Film
|Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
Film list: Sweden
My Life as a Dog (1985)
Academy Awards, USA 1988
- Don’t get me started on this movie…
- I love the “coming of age” theme as this young
- boy is sent to live with his uncle for the summer while
- his mother regains health after a serious illness.
- The boy creates a unique, funny and loving bond with his grandfather
- …so funny. Of course the boy develops a crush on a young
- woman, an artist, in the village.
- Love it….have watched it several times.
|Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium
Film list: Denmark
Academy Awards, USA 1988
|Best Foreign Language Film
- Absolute favourite of mine…I must have watched it 30 x…really!
- Every December when I get the urge to do some serious cooking
- I pop this DVD into the laptop and enjoy!
- Babette’s Feast as the 1987 Danish film.
- A French housekeeper with a mysterious past brings
- quiet revolution in the form of one exquisite French festive meal
- to a circle of starkly pious villagers in late 19th century Denmark.
- Touching story…that I never get tired of…based on a book by K. Blixen
- You will find Babette’s Feast in Anecdotes of Destiny …her last collection of stories.
BAFTA Awards 1989
BAFTA Film Award
|Best Film not in the English Language
BAFTA Film Award
|Best Screenplay – Adapted
Author: M. Duras (1914 – 1996)
Title: Moderato Cantabile
Contents: 8 chapters, 117 pages (novella)
Language: French. – ENGLISH translation available ISBN: 9781847490520
Trivia: M. Duras is a penname for Marguerite Donnadieu.
Trivia: Duras’s adult life was also marked by personal challenges, including a recurring struggle with alcoholism.
1. Explain the title of the book. In what way is it suitable to the story?
Moderato Cantabile is a musical term. Moderato means being within reasonable limits and Cantabile means songlike. Unfortunately for Ann Desbaresdes alcohol amplified her song and moved her actions beyond reasonable limits.
2. What is the predominant element in the story?
Character – Ann is in a constant state of boredom and despair.
3. Who is the single main character about. whom the story centers?
Mme. Anne Desbaresdes (haute-bourgeoisie)
M. Chauvin (ouvrier, blue collar worker)
4. What sort of conflict confronts the leading character?
a. External – Ann is bored with her life and is looking for and adventure.
b. Internal – In her mind Ann is a ‘double’ in the ‘crime passionnel’. She takes the place of the murder victim.
5. How is the conflict resolved?
This intense platonic affair with Ann as an object of desire abruptly ends.
6. How does the author handle characterization?
a. Combination: Ann’s conversations and behavior provide the signals to help us understand her state of mind. Ironically the ‘non-dits’ in the book when she says ‘nothing’ tell us even more!
7. Who tells the story? What point of view is used?
a.Third person omniscient
8. Where does the primary action take place?
The story takes place in a seaside village that remains nameless.
9. What is the timeline?
10. How does the story get started? What is the initial incident?
Mme. Desbaresdes follows her weekly routine taking her son to piano lessons.
11. Briefly describe the rising action of the story.
Ann sees the victim of a ‘crime passionnel’ dead in a café. Later she meets Chauvin in the same café. They spend many hours drinking together. Ann insists that Chauvin (also witness to the killing) repeat his version the story. Why does a man kill the one he loves?
12. What is the high point, or climax, of the story?
Chauvin ends the platonic affair.
13. Discuss the falling action or close of the story.
Anne and Chauvin meet and exchange words during their last rendez-vous….powerful ending.
14. Does this story create any special mood?
Danger and risks: Ann becomes attracted to this ‘working class man ’ but knows she is taking many risks. Alcohol blurs these barriers and she dares to get closer to M. Chauvin even though she knows little about him.
15. Is this story realistic or true to life?
Yes. If you read the biography of Marguerite Duras you will understand her connection to alcohol. It brought her ‘outside herself ‘ as it did for Anne Desbaresdes. Duras wrote about a female alcoholic…from her own experience.
16. Are the events presented in flashback or in chronological order? (structure)
The relationship between Anne and Chauvin parallels the murdered woman and her killer/lover. The story remains in the present but in Anne/Chauvin’s conversation the murder is repeated. The desire that destroyed them is relived.
17. What is the general theme of the story?
Some people spend their like looking for happiness…others want only desire…but social position limits one’s life, desires and love. The thematic message is:
18. Did you identify with any of the characters?
Ann represents people who feel restricted within a social class.They are trapped in their lives and search for imagined… temporary escape from the dull grayness of it all.
19. Does this story contain any of the following elements?
Symbol: house on the Boulevard de la Mer, which itself represents the social divide between the working- and middle-classes
Symbol: alcohol, wine in France not simply the drink of the elite. Anne uses wine as a means of crossing the social barriers.
Symbol: troènes (green hedge) – in chapter 4 represent the demons that Anne is fighting. Anne slips into a drunken delirium and the ‘troénes’ are always surrounding her house, crying, crying. She has to shut the window to stop hearing them. (pg 63-66)
Symbol: magnolia flower represents her self worth – Ann wears this flower. The more she becomes involved with Chauvin…..the more the flower wilts. (pg 108)
20. Does the story contain a single effect or impression on me?
Gestures tell us Anne is going over the edge “ses mains recommencèrent à trembler”. The alcohol is losing its effect on her. Despite the wine she keeps slipping further into fear, emotion and the ‘allusion à son existence.” Chauvin speaks to her. She hears nothing. She replies: “Morte” she smiles joyfully. When I read this I didn’t understand what Anne meant. After reading the ending….I understood her mindset.
21. Name one major personality trait of the leading character.
Dependancy on alcohol: Anne is living on borrowed happiness.
Duras is a master of ‘gestures’ that reveal the isolated side of Ann.
Ann does not sip her wine slowly while conversing with the gentleman
…..she drinks her wine in one gulp.
Strong point: Anne’s state of mind when she enters the café (hands trembling) and the the ‘smile of deliverance’ on her face after her first drink.
Duras describes Anne’s face after her 7th glass of wine: “son visage chavirait sous l’effet du vin”.
Her face capsized.
Strong point: Chauvin uses alcohol to manipulate the relationship with Anne. He has raised her hopes of love….only to have it all come crashing down upon her. His behavior is mental abuse in its most subtle form.
Weak point: I had difficult following Duras’s writing style. Anne’s thoughts become blurred in a drunken haze.
Last thoughts: This is not an easy book to read…you have to stick with it.
There is very little action and the story revolves around a woman in crisis.
I had to struggle through a a few strange drunken fantasies that did not make sense
(pg 64 streaming consciousness that Anne reaches after her 5th drink).
What I did enjoy was the vivd and depressing description of a woman struggling with alcohol.
She dramatically represented the character’s by speech, actions and gestures.
Lynvig lighthouse Denmark coastline
by Dorthe Nors
Review: A Line in the World: A Year on the North Sea Coast (ISBN: 9781911668190)
Quick scan Dorthe Nors takes the reader along the coastline along the west coast of Denmark at Skagen in the northern tip of Denmark and runs to the Dutch city of Den Helder.
Good news: Writing: This is a book that reads so fluently… and yet is written in literary language and packed with complicated themes. The theme that impressed me the most was: “You carry the place where you come from inside you, but you can never go back to it…you have become a stranger.”
Good news: I used Google images. I want to know where the author is (Børglum Abbey, Lynvig lighthouse, Ringkøbing Fjord). In the beginning of the book there was a strong sense of place. Best chapters: Wadden Sea Suite – Loved learning about the Danish island Fanø and In My Distress – thrilling account of ships, sailors, storms and shipwrecks.
Bad news: 33% read and the book starts to collapse like a cold shuffle. Chapters about a large Skarra cliff…there’s not much you can say about that…and a chapter about visiting 4 churches. I hope this snooze fest is temporary.
Update: Unfortunately the snooze continues. Anecdotes about a hippie camps surfers living in vans and the unfortunate death of a toddler in the forest do not enrich my vision of the landscape.
Personal: Having read the book…I checked some items Ms Nors wrote about in Wikipedia. Many parts of the book felt like “historical fiction” …filling in the gaps with people’s emotions and conversations: example The Burchardi Flood of 1634. Ms Nors has the tendency to lapse into anecdotal narrative. This left me skimming a few pages. (ho…hum)
In short, the book title promised an interesting walk along the Danish coastline…
…but did not deliver.. No, this was not the nature book I was looking for. Perhaps others like it…I did not. If you want a engrossing “walk” I suggest Walking the Nile by Levinson Wood.
by Levison Wood (no photo)
...now that was an adventure I’ve never forgotten!
Finish date: 09 January 2023
Genre: Autobiographie (124 pg)
Review: Une mort très douce (ISBN: 9782070361373)
Good news: I was hesitant to read anything by S. de Beauvoir…not sure I could grasp her French and ideas. This book was a excellent introduction to her writing and I will try to read her biography this year. She was an amazing intellectual. In this short autobiography De Beauvoir looks back on a precise moment in her life: the last days of her mother.
Good news: As the final farewell approaches does it produce a late drive towards love and reconciliation? Can the arm’s length adult relationship with “sa mere” change? Yes, the book ends on a bittersweet moment…mother and daughter are finally united in the shadow of death. Pg 90 “…une ancienne tendresse resssuscitait”
Personal: Short book but is taking more reading time then I expected because I read every word…no skimming this book!
De Beauvoir raises some very existential questions in the last few chapters. Was this suspended sentence (“ce sursis”) of suffering…really worth the extra 30 days of life?
During the 1960s France was still ruled by an iron hand gloved in red velvet (Catholic Church) a “reseau de fer sous le velours de main douce.” (E. Zola, Rome) Doctors made NO concessions in cases of euthanasia or abortion “…ne transige pas: la drogue et l’avortement.” (pg 93). This book is an emotional fire hose about death, grief but especially about being loved.
The writing is pitch-perfect striking exactly the right tone. S. de Beauvoir makes the case…
is it not better to die with dignity?