July’s People by Nadine Gordimer

 

Opening Quote: The old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum there arises a great diversity of morbid symptons – Antonio Gramsci ‘Prison Notebooks’

Opening:

You like to have some cup of tea?-
July bent at the doorway and began that day for them as his kind has always done for their kind.

My first Nadine Gordimer and it has been lounging around the shelves for quite a while. Won’t I just kick myself if her ouevre happens to be the best thing since sliced bread. Anyhow, it fits in with both TBR busting and personal seasonal quest.

Page 2:

 [..]before air-conditioning, everyone praised the natural insulation of thatch against heat.

Page 10 – From wiki: Schistosomiasis (also known as bilharzia, bilharziosis or snail fever) is a parasitic disease caused by several species of trematodes (platyhelminth infection, or “flukes”), a parasitic worm of the genus Schistosoma. Snails serve as the intermediary agent between mammalian hosts. Individuals within developing countries who cannot afford proper water and sanitation facilities are often exposed to contaminated water containing the infected snails.

3* – just! won’t be seeking out further Gordimer. Awkward reading, a chore.

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The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann

 

Description: In this dizzyingly rich novel of ideas, Mann uses a sanatorium in the Swiss Alps–a community devoted exclusively to sickness–as a microcosm for Europe, which in the years before 1914 was already exhibiting the first symptoms of its own terminal irrationality. The Magic Mountain is a monumental work of erudition and irony, sexual tension and intellectual ferment, a book that pulses with life in the midst of death.

Total Duration: 2:18:04

Olwen Wymark’s BBC R4 dramatisation, first broadcast 2001:

Paul Schofield (narrator)
Robert Whitelock (Hans Castorp)
Clive Merrison (Settembrini)
Sian Thomas (Clavdia)
Simon Ludders (Joachim)
John Hartley (Dr Behrens)
Norman Rodway (Peeperkorn)
Rhodri Hugh (Naphta)
Richard Elfyn (Dr Krokowski)
Christine Pritchard (Frau Stohr)
Directed by Alison Hindell, with music by Colin Sell

Schatzalp Davos

Not sure what I thought this story was going to be like, however I have come away satisfied. Mann makes the reader perform emotional somersaults, at times this is stanley-blade morose then quickly the mood changes to satire. I really did not like the blizzard scene.

In the bigger picture, this is another way to view the mentality in Europe circa 1914 – how weird! The music.

Overall, from this superb BBC production, I come away with three Hans Castor(p)s

Death and the King’s Horseman: A Play by Wole Soyinka

bookshelves: nobel-laureate, play-dramatisation, radio-3, published-1975, afr-nigeria, lifestyles-deathstyles, lit-richer, summer-2014, tragedy, colonial-overlords

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Laura
Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from July 12 to 14, 2014

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0495nrm

Description: In celebration of Wole Soyinka’s 80th birthday, a drama based on a real event in 1940s Nigeria. A colonial district officer intervenes to prevent a local man committing ritual suicide

Death And The King’s Horseman is considered to be Professor Soyinka’s greatest play. In awarding Soyinka the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986, the Swedish Academy drew special attention to Death and the King’s Horseman as evidence of his talent for combining Yoruban and European culture into a unique kind of poetic drama.
Composer and Musical director, Juwon Ogungbe.

Fab production this, what with all the choruses, poetic prose, and the mention of buttocks cannot help but endear. Yet take away all the flippery and one is left with a very sad sacrificial tale that is not on its own is it! Sati in India is a parallel – then the Viking warriors were oft joined by their very much alive wives, not to mention Chinese and Egyptians.

From wiki: In the play, the result for the community is catastrophic, as the breaking of the ritual means the disruption of the cosmic order of the universe and thus the well-being and future of the collectivity is in doubt. The community blames Elesin as much as Pilkings, accusing him of being too attached to the earth to fulfill his spiritual obligations. Events lead to tragedy when Elesin’s son, Olunde, who has returned to Nigeria from studying medicine in Europe, takes on the responsibility of his father and commits ritual suicide in his place so as to restore the honour of his family and the order of the universe. Consequently, Elesin kills himself, condemning his soul to a degraded existence in the next world. In addition, the dialogue of the native suggests that this may have been insufficient and that the world is now “adrift in the void”.

Another Nigerian playwright, Duro Ladipo, had already written a play in the Yoruba language based on this incident, called Oba waja (The King is Dead)

Love In The Time Of Cholera by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

bookshelves: nobel-laureate, tbr-busting-2014, colombia, summer-2014, published-1985, translation

Read from June 30 to July 02, 2014


Translated from the Spanish by Edith Grossman, 1988

Read by Armando Durán. 15:41hrs

Description: From the Nobel Prize-winning author of One Hundred Years of Solitude comes a masterly evocation of an unrequited passion so strong that it binds two people’s lives together for more than half a century.

In their youth, Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza fall passionately in love. When Fermina eventually chooses to marry a wealthy, well-born doctor, Florentino is devastated, but he is a romantic. As he rises in his business career, he whiles away the years in 622 affairs – yet he reserves his heart for Fermina. Her husband dies at last, and Florentino purposefully attends the funeral. Fifty years, nine months, and four days after he first declared his love for Fermina, he does so again.

With humorous sagacity and consummate craft, Gabriel García Márquez traces an exceptional half-century of unrequited love. Though it seems never to be conveniently contained, love flows through the novel in many wonderful guises – joyful, melancholy, enriching, and ever surprising.

  

Love hurts if it is the real thing, ask any pining teenage girl and she’s tell you as much. Márquez tells us there is no difference between unrequited love and cholera symptoms; he does so beautifully and amusingly.

However, the little vignettes that make up the whole show us that love, over time, is not all it is cracked up to be: under the surface there is passive anger, and is that just a soupçon of sniping sarcasm I spy?

As with the others I have encountered by this author, the literary device of fore-shadowing (carrots) is used fully and often; right here is what keeps him from being a 5* writer for me. Other than this aspect I loved the ride and now seek the film. Highly recommended; four french speaking parrots.

4* One Hundred Years of Solitude
4* Love In The Time Of Cholera
4* Chronicle of a Death Foretold
TR The General in His Labyrinth
3* The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World

The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

bookshelves: autumn-2012, slavic, nonfiction, ouch, nobel-laureate, fraudio, epic-proportions, autobiography-memoir, boo-scary, bullies, execution, gangsters, holocaust-genocide, lifestyles-deathstyles, philosophy, politics, published-1958, racism, recreational-homicide, true-grime

Read from September 08 to October 28, 2012


blurb – The Gulag Archipelago is Solzhenitsyn’s attempt to compile a literary-historical record of the vast system of prisons and labour camps that came into being shortly after the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia in 1917 and that underwent an enormous expansion during the rule of Stalin from 1924 to 1953. Various sections of the three volumes describe the arrest, interrogation, conviction, transportation, and imprisonment of the Gulag’s victims by Soviet authorities over four decades. The work mingles historical exposition and Solzhenitsyn’s own autobiographical accounts with the voluminous personal testimony of other inmates that he collected and committed to memory during his imprisonment.Upon publication of the first volume of The Gulag Archipelago, Solzhenitsyn was immediately attacked in the Soviet press. Despite the intense interest in his fate that was shown in the West, he was arrested and charged with treason on February 12, 1974, and was exiled from the Soviet Union the following day.

Map of the Gulags

Image: An abandoned guard tower in one of hundreds of gulags (prison camps) across the Soviet Union, remains as a symbol of profound human suffering. First instituted by Lenin to imprison priests, political opponents, and common criminals, Stalin was then responsible for sending 12-15 million people to these camps. The prisoners were used as forced labor to work on massive industrial projects. As more laborers were needed for bigger projects and those falling behind schedule, Stalin justified the arrests of more people to be sent to the gulags. Millions were executed in these camps or perished as they labored on massive modernization schemes. It is said of the Siberian railroad project that the work was never done, nothing was achieved and it went nowhere. (credit: Jonathan Lewis)

Gruelling yet important; shocks one to the very core. Some books are best left unrated.

The Adventures of Augie March

bookshelves: jewish, one-penny-wonder, paper-read, spring-2014, published-1953, nobel-laureate, picaresque, north-americas, tbr-busting-2014, chicago

Read from April 17, 2013 to March 17, 2014

 

From the description: With this teeming book Bellow returned a Dickensian richness to the American novel. As he makes his way to a full brimming consciousness of himself, Augie careens through numberless occupations and countless mentors and exemplars, all the while enchanting us with the slapdash American music of his voice.

Introduction by Christopher Hitchens.

Dedication: To My Father

Opening: I am an American, Chicago born – Chicago, that sombre city – and go at things as I have taught myself, free-style, and will make the record in my own way: first to knock, first admitted; sometimes an innocent knock, sometimes not so innocent.

Reading season? March of course!

Episodic adventures of a boy growing up and trying on all modes of life to see if they suit. The writing is fantastic with sharp and witty observations; the characters are so real they jump out of the page and practically demand to sit down at your table and have a cup of tea.

But I can’t say that I enjoyed it overly much.

Four Quartets

bookshelves: radio-4, published-1943, winter-20132014, poetry, nobel-laureate, philosophy, religion

Read from January 16 to 19, 2014

 

Sat 18/1/2014 R4

Jeremy Irons reads TS Eliot’s four linked meditations.

BBC description: Four Quartets is the culminating achievement of T.S. Eliot’s career as a poet. While containing some of the most musical and unforgettable passages in twentieth-century poetry, its four parts, ‘Burnt Norton’, ‘East Coker’, ‘The Dry Salvages’ and ‘Little Gidding’, present a rigorous meditation on the spiritual, philosophical and personal themes which preoccupied the author. It was the way in which a private voice was heard to speak for the concerns of an entire generation, in the midst of war and doubt, that confirmed it as an enduring masterpiece.

With an introduction by Michael Symmons Roberts, Lord David Alton and Gail McDonald.

It is all very Proustian:

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.

Found it a wonderful experience to read as I listened, and you can listen too. Without this I would have read salvages the wrong way: Eliot wrote it to be pronounced ‘salve-ages’, which is incredibly neat and in context.

Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
the world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.

4* Four Quartets
3* The Waste Land
5* Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats
3* Murder in the Cathedral