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Posts from the ‘Classic’ Category

23
Jul

#Paris In July “Le Grand Meaulnes”

Author: Alain-Fournier (1886 – 1914)
Title: Le Grand Meaulnes
Published: 1913
Contents: 200 pages (3 parts)
Language: French
Trivia: Le Grand Meaulnes was shortlisted for Prix Goncourt 1913 but lost by 1 vote.
Trivia: Today the book is nr 9 on Le Monde’s list 100 best books of 20th C.
Trivia: …and the Prix Goncourt winner “Le peuple de la mer’ has been long forgotten!

Available in English  “The Lost Estate”

Introduction:

  1. Le Grand Meaulnes is the only novel by French author Alain-Fournier.
  2. Fifteen-year-old François Seurel narrates the story of
  3. his relationship with seventeen-year-old Augustin Meaulnes
  4. as Meaulnes searches for his lost love.
  5. Impulsive, reckless and heroic,
  6. Meaulnes embodies the romantic ideal,
  7. the search for the unobtainable, and
  8. the mysterious world between childhood and adulthood.

 

ANALYSIS:

1. Explain the title. In what way is it suitable to the story?
Augustin Meaulnes, called ‘Le Grand Meaulnes’ fascinates the students with his mysterious personality.

2. What is the predominant element in the story?
Setting: (estate) The setting is the central focus of the book . The village of Sologne and its school, the mysterious ‘domain’/chateau with the surrounding paths , ponds, slopes, reeds, marshes. The characters are running away from the village school (Augustin), running away from the ‘domaine’ (Frantz), running away from village where young Yvonne waits for her new husband (Augustin).

3. Who is the single main character about. whom the story centers?
Main character is Augstin Meaulnes.
There are friendships: Augustin/François and Augustin/Frantz
There are loves: Augustin/Yvonne – Frantz/Valentine – François/Yvonne

4. What sort of conflict confronts the leading character or characters?
a. External – Augustin discovers an ‘enchanted forest’ meets a ‘princess’ (Yvonne). They part abruptly.
b. Internal – Augustin moves from childhood to adulthood, but never stops looking for his vanished beloved.

5. How is the conflict resolved?
Frantz: finds his ‘amour absolu’ (Valentine)
Augustin: finds his ‘amour libertine’ (Valentine) and ‘amour idéal’ (Yvonne)
François: finds his ‘amour impossilble’ (Yvonne)

7. Who tells the story? What point of view is used?
François is the narrator of the book. His parents are the teachers at Sainte Agathe in Sologne.

8. Where does the primary action take place?
Village of Sologne, Vierzon, Vieux-Nancay

9. How much time does the story cover?
I estimate that the story takes place over 10 years. It begins when Augustin arrives as a boarder with the Seruel family in Sologne. It ends as Augustin returns from a long trip.jaar.

10. How does the story get started? What is the initial incident?
Augustin arrives at the school. His arrival is going to change François’s calm and lonely life.

11. Briefly describe the rising action:
Augustin loses his way during a walk, discovers a beautiful estate, pre-wedding party and the love of his life.

12. What is the high point, or climax, of the story?
The writer uses language to indicate that Meaulnes and the ‘bohémien’ finally trust each other: (pg 92)

“Puis cessant d’ employer ce <vous> insolite chez des écoliers de Sainte-Agathe.”
Stop using ‘vous’ …unusual for students

The writer uses a mini-climax at the end of each part to move the story along. Part 1 gunshot in the forest; Part 2 letter from Augustin to François. The main climax in on page 104-105.
The illusions and pantomime disappear. Frantz removes the scarf. We see the scare of his attempted suicide. The tone in the book swings from an enchanted world of youth to harsh word of adulthood. “…enlève son bandeau pour être reonnu de nous.”

13. Discuss the falling action or close of the story.
François, Augustin and Frantz try to put the pieces of their ‘past youth and lost loves’ back together ‘…perhaps everything will be as in earlier times. Can the past return? Who knows! (Mais le passé peut-il renaítre? Qui sait!) (pg 159)

14. Does this story create any special mood?
Alain-Fournier creates through his atmospheric images a feeling of:
nostalgia: – tormented and cherished days ebb and flow against the rocks like waves, our adventures. (pg 11)
eeriness: – you hear the whistles and moans of the shipwrecked in the attic. (pg 164); “un vent noir et glacé soufflait dan le jardin mort” (pg 36)
enchantment: – I’m looking for something very mysterious. This passageway mentioned in books, the ancient hidden path, the one the exhausted prince was too tired to find. (pg111) (..famous quote from the book)

15. Is this story realistic or true to life?
We know that Alain-Fournier grew up far from the sea but had a life long desire to join the navy. The sea was his ideal and he used many nautical images in the book. Mysteriously he changed the little houses in the village of Sologne into ships, boats and sails. On page 57 the author describes men at the festive meal, freshly shaven who could have been ex-sailors. But he tells us they never sailed the seven seas…..only weathered rains and wind while making furrows in the fields and returning home in their carts. These are only a few nautical descriptions of the villages and people where the story takes place.

Yvonne de Quiévrecourt was born in 1885 in Paris.
In 1905 Alain Fournier was suddenly faced with the girl of his dreams.
This encounter changed Fournier’s life and provided the basis for Le Grand Meaulnes.

16. What is the structure of the book?
Part 1: (30%) Meaulnes’s arrival and departure in the village Solonge + strange adventure.
Part 2: (22%) Gypsy ‘Frantz’ – Meaulnes’s departure for Paris
Part 3: ( 37%) Wedding – Journal intime – lost happiness
The last chapter which reveals the intrigue, secret and its impact is only 3 pages!

17. What is the general theme of the story?
Adventure and discovery: Meaulnes and Yvonne after their wedding are ready to set out on an adventure. Like two passengers adrift in a boat (nautical image), in the winter wind, two lovers enclosed in happiness. (pg 170)
“Comme deux passagers dans un bateau à la dérive, ils sont dans le grand vent d’hivier, deux amants enfermés avec le bonheur.”

18. Did you identify with any of the characters?
François Seurel: Despite his unwavering loyalty to Augustin, his support of the abandoned Yvonne, his care of a nameless young child….he is left with nothing at the end. In ch1 we read of François’s sad and lonely days in the village. Augustin came and brightened his life. But after losing his best friend and the girl he had secretly fallen in love with (Yvonne) his days were again…sad and lonely.

19. Does this story contain any of the following elements?

Metaphor: sea, boats, sails, anchors, waves used to enhance the theme of an ‘adventure’.
The classroom is like a ship. (pg 23)
The village houses are boats anchored with their sails ready to be unfurled. (pg 142)
Symbol: Meaulnes is Robinson Crusoe on the brink of an adventure.
“Peut-être le gout des aventures plus fort que tout…” (pg 183)
The taste for adventure….stronger than everything.
Meaulnes reminds his young friend of Crusoe in the basket shop. (pg 22)
The title of ch 3 part 1 is a quote from Robinson Crusoe:
“Je fréquentais la boutique d’un cannier” .
Simile: Meaulnes is like a sailor keeping watch at night. (pg 36)
“comme ces marins qui n’ont pas pu se déhabituer defaire le quart…”
He is like a soldier on alert sleeping in his clothes. (pg 35)
“soldat au cantonnement d’ alerte”
All these actions increase the adventurous feeling of the book.

20. Does the story contain a single effect or impression for the reader?
Sadness: François is carrying Yvonne’s dead body. The only time he held her in his arms as the bridegroom he longed to be. “ Je baisse la tête sur la tête de celle que j’emporte, je respire fortement et ses cheveux blonds aspirés m’entrent dans la bouche, ces cheveux morts qui not un goût de terre.”
Translation:

I lowered my head onto the head of the one I was carrying,
I breathed deeply and inhaled her blond hairs into my mouth,
these dead hairs that have a taste of the earth.

Conclusion:

This book is more about rich images than tense action.
Because of author’s poetic style the words seem to float over the pages.
Weak point: part 2 the pantomime, band of roaming gypises….
This was diffcult to place in the narrative. I needed some help to understand why
Alain-Fournier included it. It is a mise-en-abyme, (frame story).
Pierrot struggling to grow up. (keeps falling and speaking in cries and hoots).
This parallels the struggle of the three main characters
…Francois, Augustin and Frantz – moving from youth to adulthood.
This is a very easy book to read, vocabulary is not difficult.
Strong point: I learned some beautiful words and wonderful expressions!
à la cornette! – a mock directed to a nun in reference to her headgear!

1
Jul

#Classic Max Havelaar

  •  Author: Eduard Douwes Dekker (Multatuli) (1820 – 1887)
  •  Genre: novel (satire)
  • Title: Max Havelaar ( Language: Dutch)
  • Published: 1860
  • Table of Contents: 20 chapters, 315
  • Timeline: 1842 ( Sumatra). 1856 (Lebak) 1860 (Amsterdam)
  • Setting: Dutch East Indies
  • Trivia: E. Douwes Dekker was one of Sigmund Freud’s favorite writers.
  • List of Challenges 2019
  • Monthly reading plan

 

Introduction:

  1. Eduard Douwes Dekker is better known by his pen name Multatuli.
  2. It is from latin ‘multa tuli’ meaning I have suffered much.
  3. This is a satire denouncing  the abuses
  4. …of  colonialism in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia).
  5. 1838 Douwes Dekker became a civil servant in Java.
  6. All the secrets of Dutch administration were known to him.
  7. Disgusted with the actions of the Dutch in Java,
  8. …he had begun to about the abuses.
  9. Threatened with dismissal from
  10. …his office for his openness of speech.
  11. Dekker resigned his appointment.
  12. He returned to the Netherlands and wrote this
  13. scathing criticism of Dutch colonialism.
  14. In 2002 the Society of Dutch Literature proclaimed
  15. ….Multatuli the most important Dutch writer of all time

 

Quickscan:

  • This is a  grim depiction of life in a European colony, namely Indonesia.
  • The description of web of hypocrisy of church-going Dutch.
  • …and the repression of the natives under their rule endure.
  • The Dutch derived benefits from others misery.
  • Max Havelaar was  beacon of hope.
  • He was in a position of unquestionable power, Assistant-Resident.
  • Havelaar struggled with the colonial government  leaders ….to no avail.

 

Theme:  exploitation;  colonialism

 

TitleDubble  title “Max Havelaar or Coffee Auctions Dutch Trade Company”

  1. I had to research this information
  2. …..it would never have caught my eye!
  3. Irony: the title tells  Mr. Droogstoppel that this book contains
  4. …information that  he would be interested in: coffee auctions.
  5. He agrees to  finance the  rewriting of a final draft and publication of the book
  6. But it appears that there is nothing in the book about coffee or the Dutch Trade Company!

 

  1. The author  misled Droogstoppel  and the reading public!
  2. In 1860 coffee and trade were in the news.
  3. Multatuli wanted to have his book read. (pg 57)
  4. “Mijn boek moet de wereld in!”
  5. He was probably the  first Dutch “whistleblower” !
  6. He used this  ‘clever piece of irony’
  7. …to capture the public’s  interest.
  8. Multatuli  TRICKED  the readers with a dubble title.
  9. He lured them to buy the book and
  10. revealed the abuses he thought must be made public.

 

Narrators:  3 characters

  • Droogstoppel:  coffee broker at Last & Co.
  • Stern:  assistant Last & Co.  ( = author  Multatuli)
  • Sjaalman: is thecharacter of Max Havelaar incognito in Amsterdam.

 

Structure: frame  story (stories-within-stories)

  1. Story:  Commentary in journals of Max Havelaar who abhors the exploitation of the  Dutch East Indies natives.
  2. Story:  Havelaar returns to Amsterdam with his exposé in rough draft and wants it to be published.
  3. Story: In the last chapter:
  • Multatuli, the author himself,  takes over the narrative.
  • Droogstoppel is written ‘out of the book’.
  • Multatuli writes what he wants to achieve.
  • He wants the readers to share his outrage.

 

Breaking the 4th wall

  • Multatuli speaks directly to the reader and ‘confronts’ him.
  • Speaking to the reader acknowledges that this is a book or a story.

 

Unreliable narrator

  • Mr. Droogstoppel  coffee broker  is characterized by exaggeration and bragging.
  • Multatuli satirizes the coffee merchant, Droogstoppel, by simply letting him speak!

 

Irony:  

  • The use of words to convey the opposite of their literal meaning.
  • Droogstoppel tells the reader ( pg 18)  that the Dutch are successful because:
  • …they  conduct business honorably and maintain exemplary Christian beliefs.
  • Irony: Mutatuli reveals that the Dutch say one thing in public and act differently in business!
  • Droogstoppel gossips about other business partner’s family. (pg 25)
  • Irony: But reminds us that he  would never knowingly slander anybody!

 

Humor:

  • There are some great examples of humor in Multatuli’s writing:
  • The repetition in Droogstoppel’s  emphatic dialogue
  • reminding the reader that he always speaks the truth
  • ” heus de zuivere waarheid” (pg 24)  and
  • conducts himself at all times with civility
  • fatsoen gaat voor mijn boven alles” ( pg 31).
  • In a bouncing carriage over a hobbley road  Multatuli brings the choppy conversation
  • before our eyes with one-word sentences.  You can just hear it!
  • I. Did. Not. Dare.To. Agree.
  • ” Ik. Durfde. Het. Haar. Niet. Toezeggen.” ! (pg 101)

 

Conclusion:

  1. Weak point:
  2. This book was complicated with its intricate narrative structure.
  3. There is no chronological order, many flashbacks and 3 narrators.
  4. Weak point:
  5. Many pages of out-of-date  style of dialogue which  makes the reading difficult.
  6. Strong point:
  7. The shock effect caused by the author  in chapter 20.
  8. This was his pulpit. It would be his  chance to send a message to the Dutch and the world.
  9. Multatuli refers to the barbaric division in American society on pg 103.
  10. He must have read Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852, H.B. Stowe) that exposed the abuse in USA.
  11. Multatuli shares Stowe’s social realism in his writing of Max Havelaar.

 

Last thoughts:

  1. I could relate to this book because
  2. of my knowledge of the ‘Dutch mentality’.
  3. I wonder if this book would appeal to
  4. a wider audience outside The Netherlands.
  5. I read the book in Dutch
  6. I liked the book but a recommendation to read it
  7. …..that’s a hard call.
  8. Dutch is the 7th most spoken language in Europe..
  9. The study of foreign languages
  10. …is simply the gift that keeps on giving.

 

 

2
Jun

#Play Waiting For Godot

 

Conclusion:

  1. Reading time: 1 hour 40 min
  2. Waiting for Godot  is theater of absurd.
  3. Beckett thought the audience
  4. …MUST feel what it is like to be in an ABSURD world.
  5.  Beckett used bizarre characters speak in what sometimes
  6. …appears to be illogical, banal, chit chat.
  7. One cannot read Godot for the story because there is no story
  8. Waiting for Godot does not tell a story
  9. It explores a situation….2 tramps..waiting for Godot.
  10. What are the abusrd characteristics?
  11. No plot, no recognizable characters, no beginnings no ends,
  12. …reflections of dreams and nightmares, incoherent babblings.

 

Last Thoughts:

  1. The only way to gain any insight is to
  2. read a summary before starting this play.
  3. I used this LINK at Free Online Dictionary website.
  4. This is an excellent summary.
  5. Waiting for Godot
  6. …left critics bewildered and is now a classic.
  7. Nr. 7 on List 50 Best Play in Past 100 yrs.
  8. I was absolutely dreading this play...
  9. Need #Heineken

 

 

 

 

8
Apr

#AWW 2019: Robin Dalton

 

Introduction:

  1. Aunts up the Cross is about Daltons’s childhood with her
  2. eccentric extended family in Sydney’s Kings Cross.
  3. Her father was an open-all-hours doctor, known affectionately as “the gun doc”.
  4. Dr Eakin,  Mrs. Eakin,  Nana….and the close relationship the author had
  5. …with Aunt Bertie and  Aunt Juliet.
  6. Robin Dalton  is now 99…and still going strong!
  7. I loved this quote I found…
  8. Being old is not a problem, and the future not really a consideration:
  9. “I haven’t got a future, I’m practically tottering off the edge …”

 

Conclusion:

  1. I haven’t laughed so much about a book in years!
  2. This is an absolute gem!
  3. Tears of laughter while reading the theatrics the Eakin’s supper table.
  4. Tony ‘the bookmaker’ McGill is seated next to Mrs. Eakin’s aged governess Sally.
  5. Suddenly Tony unabashedly makes Sally ‘an offer she can’t refuse’! (…read the book!)
  6. Robin Dalton’s father was a tease
  7. .….and the book if filled with his practical jokes!
  8. But nothing, no nothing can compare to
  9. …the laughter I enjoyed while reading
  10. ..how Mrs. Eakin killed the plumber and
  11. ..the best joke about a fish  I have heard in YEARS!
  12. All can be found in …chapter 3…and much more!
  13. No spoilers….just a enthusiastic recommendation
  14. Aunts Up the Cross!
  15. Light, funny memoir…perfect book
  16. to lazily sit in the garden with a G&T…and laugh!
  17. You can read it in a few hours, just 142 pages!
  18. #Hysterical!
3
Mar

#Classic: Essays by Montaigne

 

Introduction:

  1. Michel de Montaigne  explores the human condition
  2. …in a very personal and clever manner.
  3. His essays chart the course of 20 yr of self-investigation.
  4. He pretends to most of the vices.
  5. If there be any virtue in him, he says, it got in by stealth.

 

Conclusion:

  1. I enjoyed the most personal essays:
  2. Book I
  3. This selection of essays is ‘the hook’.
  4. They are personal and frank.
  5. Unfortunately there are also many essay in
  6. book II and III  …. I consider ‘duds’.

Saddnes
Idleness
Liars
Fear
Happiness not be judged until after our death
Pedantry
Educating children
Friendship
Moderation
Solitude
Sleep
Prayers
Age

Book II

  1. …including 140 pages entitled “Apology for Raymond Sebond’
  2. The “Apology for Raymond Sebond” is
  3. three times as long as any other essay that Montaigne wrote
  4. The essay has been seen as an attack on authoritrian religion and
  5. a covert threat to Christian faith.
  6. It was a slog to listen to….and
  7. I just started to do some household chores
  8. …and let the words go in one ear and out the other!
  9. This essay sticks out like a sour thumb
  10. If you encounter this essay and feel as I did
  11. …just skip it!

 

Drunkenness
Conscience
Practice
Affection of fathers for children
Books
Cruelty
Glory
Thumbs
Cowardice
Anger
On resemblence of children to fathers

 

Book III (…there were only 3 essays I liked)
Repentance
Physiognomy
Experience

 

Last thoughts

  1. Montaigne is the frankest and honestest of all writers.
  2. He does have opinions that still ring true today.
  3. Strong point: Montaigne writes about themes that charm the
  4. reader ( see my list of favorites).
  5. We relate to them.
  6. Strong point: Montaigne’s style is not dry….but daring
  7. …filled with depth and witty observations.
  8. Weak point: don’t approach these essays expecting
  9. that they are an easy read (21st C standard)…they are not!
  10. The book was published 1580 and
  11. …written to one sex only.
  12. A certain nakedness of statement was permitted
  13. …which our manners of a literature addressed
  14. …equally to both sexes, do not allow.
  15. Montaigne could have used the advice of one of his
  16. favorite authors:
  17. “The eloquence that diverts us  to itself harms its content.” (Seneca)
  18. #SomeEssaysBoring
25
Feb

#Classic: Hamlet

 

Quickscan:

  1. Lovers:  Ophelia and Hamlet
  2. Focus: revenge – the obsession to avenge can drive one mad
  3. Family issue: Uncle kills Hamlet’s father and marries his mother (yikes!)
  4. Plot twist: ghost of King Hamlet wants revenge. Triggers entire play!
  5. Hook: Ghost in Act 1…all acts end with cliffhangers!!
  6. Genre:  Revenge play
  7. Pivotal acts:  Act 3 and Act 5
  8. Soliloquies:  7 spoken by Hamlet
  9. Tragic flaw Hamlet: overthinks everything! “To be or not to be…” (Act 3, 1)
  10. Villian: Claudius manipulative, ruthless
  11. Ophelia: weak character compared to Desdamona!
  12. Minor character who plays major role: Laertes
  13. Symbol: poison (weapon, manipulation and madness)
  14. Motif: spying (eavesdropping) to seek truth)
  15. Spies: Hamlet, Horatio, Reynaldo, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, Polonius, King Claudius
  16. Victims: Queen, King, Ophelia, Hamlet, Laertes
  17. Shakespeare’s statement: “What a piece of work is man!” (Act 2, 2)
  18. Setting:  Elsinore Castle, Danish coast, graveyard
  19. Major themesrevenge, madness. death. appearance vs reality
  20. Minor themesambition, corruption
  21. …”Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”  (Act 1, 4)
  22. Body count: 9
  23. King Hamlet (before play starts)
  24. Queen Gertrude
  25. King Claudius
  26. Polonius
  27. Rosencrantz
  28. Guildenstern
  29. Ophelia
  30. Laertes
  31. Hamlet
  32. The only main character left
  33. …standing at the end is Horatio,
  34. …who is usually seen sitting on the ground,
  35. …cradling Hamlet’s corpse.
  36. So technically, he’s not standing.
    1 drowning
    2 beheadings
    1 simple stabbing
    2 simple poisonings and
    3 aggravated stabbings (poisoned blade/some poison)
  37. Now that’s what I call a tragedy!

 

Trend:   Theme: illusion vs reality

  1. In Midsummer Night’s Dream, Othello and Hamlet
  2. ….Shakespeare uses this theme to drive the plot.
  3. I will be looking at other plays by WS to see if he repeats this theme.
  4. Midsummer Night’s Dream: play-in-play (illusion)….is also used in Hamlet
  5. Othello: it appears Desdemona is having an affair ( lost handkerchief)…she is not.
  6. Hamlet: it appears Hamlet is in a legitimate duel…he is not, sword is poison tipped
  7. Hamlet: Claudius appears to be praying on his knees…he is not.
  8. Hamlet: Claudius must appear to be guiltless in death of Hamlet…he is not.
  9. Hamlet: Killing Hamlet must appear to be an accident….it is not, it is premeditated

 

Last thoughts:

  1. I have been avoiding this play for years
  2. …too difficult, complex plot.
  3. Finally I can strike this play off my Bucket List!
  4. I ordered the Kenneth Branagh’s film  Hamlet (1996)
  5. It is the only version that includes the complete text
  6. …nominated for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
  7. …and is 4 hours long.
  8. #GetOutThePopcorn
16
Feb

#Classic: Beowulf

 

Quickscan

  1. Plot:  Beowulf  relates the adventures of its Scandinavian hero,
  2. at the same time presenting a detailed description of
  3. the life and mood of the age during which it was written.
  4. Epic in a nutshell:
  5. Monster kills human – Grendel kills Danes in Herot
  6. Human kills monster – Beowulf kills Grendel
  7. Monster kills human – Grendel’s mother kills Esher
  8. Human kills monster – Beowulf kills Grendel’s mother
  9. Human and Monster  – kill each other
  10. Motif: quest for personal glory
  11. Major Theme: Good vs Evil…slaying of monsters and dragon
  12. Minor theme: Beowulf’s friendships… with King Hrothgar and Wiglaf (warrior)
  13. Question: Why so swords have names? Heruntling, Nagling

 

Conclusion:

  1. I found the translation
  2. …by Seamus Heaney breathtaking!
  3. Strong point: crystalline alliteration!
  4. line 209:
  5. “…the warrior boarded the boat as captain,
  6. a canny pilot along coast and currents.
  7. Strong point: Heaney taps into his vivid vocabulary
  8. …and his writing  is designed to draw the reader
  9. effortlessly from page to page through
  10. …this Medieval classic epic poem!
  11. I was not prepared for such an enjoyable read!
  12. But I must advise any reader to gather the
  13. basic story lines by reading a summary (wikipedia)
  14. before reading the poem.
  15. IMO..the story is simple and  not the best
  16. part of the poem.
  17. It is Heaney’s choice of words ...his translation
  18. …that brings Beowulf  life!

 

Last thoughts:

  1. If you are interested in studying Medieval Literature
  2. …Beowulf is a #MustRead
  3. If not…it STILL is a must read!.
  4. Tip: there is a great family tree illustration in this book!
  5. You can’t read this poem without it!
  6. In the film Annie Hall, Diane Keaton confesses to Woody Allen
  7. her interest in attending some college classes.
  8. Allen is supportive, and has this bit of advice:
  9. “Just don’t take any course where you have to read Beowulf.
  10. I had to laugh when I read that!
  11. I don’t agree with Woody Allen…..
  12. #Classic  for all to enjoy!
9
Feb

#Classic: The Mill on the Floss

 

Finished: 09.02.2019
Genre: novel
Rating: C
#AudioBook  19 hr  – narrator Eileen Atkins

 

Conclusion:

  1. This book has been on my TBR since 2010!
  2. I have finally read this auto-biographical classic by G. Eliot.
  3. Spanning over a period of 10 years,
  4. The Mill on the Floss follows the coming of age of the
  5. …beautiful and idealistic Maggie
  6. …as she experiences family tragedy, forbidden love and
  7. the wrath of the English patriarchy.
  8. The 1+2 books were a (too) long exposition of
  9. family and childhood Maggie and brother Tom.
  10. Eliot in part 1 wants to expose the differences between brother and sister.
  11. TOM: “I’d do just the same again.” That was his usual mode of viewing his past actions.
  12. MAGGIE: Maggie was always wishing she had done something different.
  13. TOM: “Yes, you’re silly; but I never do forget things, I don’t.” (holds grudges like his father)
  14. MAGGIE: “I’d forgive you, if you forgot anything–I wouldn’t mind what you did–I’d forgive you…”
  15. TOM: …instinctive discernment of what would turn to his advantage or disadvantage
  16. MAGGIE: rushed to her deeds with passionate impulse.
  17. Theme: forgiveness is the thread throughout the  book
  18. Book 3 – 5 reveals adult loves and friendships
  19. Part 6 – must be one of the longest ‘break-up’s in literature!
  20. Part 7 – the river is the symbol of life and death.
  21. I was impressed by Eliot’s writing but needed
  22. a combination of audio listen and download Gutenberg.org book
  23. ….to keep me reading through long, long (preachy) speeches by Maggie.
  24. #Classic but you have to be committed to finish it!
2
Feb

#Classic: Heart of Darkness

 

Introduction:

  1. Despite my restraint (book embargo) I still bought
  2. 5 classic books in January.
  3. I was disappointed….not having enough self-control.
  4. The plan for February is to read as many classics as
  5. I can….on my IPOD!
  6. There are 20 audio classics just waiting for me.
  7. The Heart of Darkness has been on TBR since 2017.

 

Quickscan:

  1. Love triangles:  none
  2. Women: Kurtz’ fiancée in Brussels and native mistress in Congo
  3. Major characters: Marlow and Kurtz 
  4. Minor character: “The Russian” (…very irritating Russian accent on audio book)
  5. Genre: Gothic horror novella
  6. Plot twists: no twists or turns only the the idea of
  7. ‘what is going to happen’ kept me reading
  8. POV: unnamed narrator (1st pers) tells the reader about
  9. Marlow telling his story also as 1st person narrator (frame POV)
  10. Title: The Heart of Darkness: interiour workings of the mind
  11. Symbol: journey up Congo River =  sin
  12. Symbol: journey down Congo River = redemption
  13. Structure: 3 parts
  14. present day London/Belgium
  15. journey from Congo Central station –> to Kurtz up the Congo River
  16. return to Europe and a meeting with Kurtz’ fiancée
  17. Message: obsession that drives its victim (Kurtz) beyond the limits of humanity
  18. Message: the darkness of the human heart…man’s capacity for evil.
  19. Setting: London –> Belgium –> Congo –> Belgium
  20. Major theme: madness, moral corruption
  21. Minor themes: racism, violence
  22. Body count: 2 (Kurtz and helmsman)
  23. Conrad’s statement: cynical, critical take on European Imperialism

 

Conclusion:

  1. This was NOT my favorite Conrad novel/novella.
  2. I had to force myself to sit down an listen to this audio book.
  3. Part 1 started with lyrical descriptions of moon, sea, mist, light
  4. that  initially hooked me to keep reading.
  5. Unfortunately these were the only beautiful descriptions in the book IMO.
  6. Part 2: chaotic description of a steamship struggling to creep up river.
  7. Part 3: climax:  Marlow and Krutz finally meet.
  8. Conrad did me a favor and described his book for me
  9. with his comments about Kurtz’ pamphlet:
  10. vibrating with eloquence…but too high strung”.
  11. This book is Conrad’s way of asking ourselves
  12. …if we would have the courage like Kurtz to peer over
  13. …the edge of the abyss:  “The horror, the horror”.

 

Last thoughts:

  1. Conrad captured something about the way power
  2. operated across continents and race.
  3. I would highly recommend the award winning
  4. book Congo by David Reybourck. (2014)
  5. It is a gripping epic imperialistic policy of the Belgians in Congo.
  6. . . . more exciting than the novel The Heart of Darkness!

 

Favorite quote:

Part 1:
Watching the coast…is like thinking about an enigma
There it is before you smiling, frowning, inviting,
grand, mean, insipid or savage and always mute with an air of whisper
‘Come and find out.’

1
Feb

#Classic: The Twelve Caesars (Suetonius)

 

Quickscan:      List of Roman Emperors

 

Notes:

  1. This is not a book that I would choose to snuggle up with
  2. on a cold winter day. Thus I decided to listen to the audio book.
  3. I could keep doing my chores….etc and still absorb the
  4. tidbits of history that I did not know!
  5. 50 % of the book is about the first 3 Caesars:
  6. Julius, Augustus, Tiberius  chapters 1-18
  7. Audio book 40 chapters (20 min per chapter)
  8. Roman emperor was a risky job:  only 3 died of natural causes
  9. …the rest were assassinated or committed suicide!

 

Julius Caesar  (reigned 5 years)

  1. He wore laurel crowns as often as possible.
  2. The wreath suited Caesar especially well with
  3. the green leaves hiding his balding head.
  4. It was good to be reminded that Servilia (b.104 BC, d. 42 BC)
  5. was just a wicked as Livia was
  6. during her relationship with Augustus Caesar.
  7. Livia remains in my memory in TV series I, Claudius.
  8. Servilla came be seen in TV series Rome.
  9. The series I, Claudius NEVER showed
  10. …the audience the sadistic cruelty of Tiberius!
  11. You have to read about it to believe it!

 

Augustus Caesar (reigned 40 years)

  1. Father: Gaius Otavius (politician) but he died when AC was 4 years old.
  2. Adopted father: Julius Caesar.
  3. Wives: each of these marriages lasted 2 yr Clodia, Scribonia
  4. Livia was here to stay.
  5. She was a shrewd woman,  23 yr marriage, no children, 1 miscarriage.
  6. Augustus also divided city regions and districts,
  7. …appointed nightly watch against fires (sort of fire brigade).
  8. Calendar: Augustus was  born in September named 8th month August
  9. because in this month he received his first council ship.
  10. Lists: These pages about Augustus Caesar is a long list of achievements:
  11. circus games, gladiators, laws, allocating corn
  12. exhibiting curiosities: rhino, tiger and extremely long snake!
  13. Lists: of omens Augustus Caesar believed to foreshadow trouble (2 crows attack an eagle!)
  14. As soon as Livia comes on the scene
  15. ….the narrative becomes more interesting.
  16. After watching the TV series I, Claudius
  17. I could apply a face (actor, actress) to many names!
  18. Julia: Daughter is banished for 5 years for her lewd behavior.
  19. Strong point: personal habits were described
  20. …negligent in dress, took afternoon naps with his shoes always on!
  21. Augustus  slept in the same chamber on Palatine Hill for 40 years.
  22. His private room where he was NOT to be
  23. disturbed (top floor Palatine Hill home) called “Syracuse”.

 

Tiberius pg 104 (reigned 22 years)

  1. He was emperor Augustus Caesar’s successor.
  2. Augustus  adopted Tiberius (his mother was Livia AC’s 2nd wife)
  3. Tiberius was a reluctant emperor!
  4. Livia (mother) demanded equal share of power.
  5. Mother and son parted on bad terms.
  6. When she died Tiberius annulled her will and did not grieve his loss!
  7. Daughter-in-law Agrippina the Elder
  8. claimed Tiberius had her husband Germanicus murdered.
  9. Germanicus was Tiberius’ nephew AND adopted son.
  10. Tiberius banished her to the island of Pandateria.
  11. …and ordered a centurion to beat out one of her eyes!
  12. Tiberius was not finished yet….
  13. He starved his 2 (adoptive) grandsons to death.
  14. Tiberius was sadist…deriving pleasure from cruelty.
  15. In one day 20 people (men, women and boys) were killed flung down
  16. the Gemonian Stairs (steps located in the ancient city of Rome)
  17. …and then dragged into the Tiber River.
  18. He put a centurion to death for stealing a peacock out of his orchard!
  19. #Ouch

 

 

Conclusion:

  1. I took notes about the first 3 Caesars.
  2. You can discover the other rulers yourself!
  3. This was an excellent overview of these emperors
  4. The book solidified my understanding of the
  5. Julio-Claudian (27 BC-68 AD)
  6. Flavian dynasties (68-96 AD)
  7. Audio book narrator:  Charles Griffin (excellent).
  8. The writing is clear, simple and easy to understand.
  9. Strong point:
  10. Insights into the social and political order of the times
  11. …and the psychology of these powerful yet flawed individuals.
  12. I loved the music played between chapters….imperial!

 

Last thoughts:

  1. Roman emperors are not known as being compassionate
  2. …but Emperor Vespasian was the exception!
  3. If you like historial fiction perhaps you would like Lindsey Davis’
  4. The Course of Honour.
  5. The love story of Vespasian and his mistress
  6. …the freed slave woman Antonia Caenis.
  7. This book recreates Ancient Rome’s most turbulent period.