2021-04-14

Ernest HEMINGWAY : To have and have not

Harry Morgan was hard - the classic Hemingway hero - rum-running and man-running from Cuba to the Florida Keys during the dismal days of the Depression. He ran risks, too, stray coastguard bullets and sudden double-crosses, but it was the only way he could keep his boat, keep his independence and keep his belly full...
 
 

Hemingway himself said this was his worst novel, he was probably right. It's the worst I've read, anyway. Here and there, you find traces of what made his books so memorable, but mostly I was bored and it took me some persistence to finish it. 
It was written in 1937, so yes, I wasn't surprised when it came to race and sex. I couldn't connect to any character and believed the story to be written by a drunk guy who only paid attention to fights, bars, drinks and the like.
Not for me.

2021-04-13

CC spin #26 (Classics Club spin)


What is the spin ?

This is a challenge by The Classics Club. It states : "At your blog, before next Sunday 18th April, 2021, create a post that lists twenty books of your choice that remain “to be read” on your Classics Club list. This is your Spin List. You have to read one of these twenty books by the end of the spin period.

On Sunday 18th, April, we’ll post a number from 1 through 20. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List by the 31st May, 2021. We’ll check in here on Monday the 31st May, 2021 to see who made it the whole way and finished their spin book !"

So here's my list :
 
01 Dandelion wine by Ray Bradbury
02 Outrageous fortune by Patricia Wentworth 
03 Gargantua by Rabelais
04 Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie 
05 Portrait of a lady by Henry James
06 East wind, west wind by Pearl Buck
07 Eugénie Grandet by Balzac
08 The city of bells by Elizabeth Goudge 
09 Death at the dolphin by Ngaio Marsh
10 The virgin and the gipsy by D.H. Lawrence
11 Polyeucte by Corneille
12 The woman in white by Wilkie Collins
13  Great expectations by Charles Dickens
14 The fall of the house of Usher by Edgar Poe
15 The tunnel by Dorothy Richardson 
16 The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
17 My cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier
18 La machine infernale by Jean Cocteau
19 Le lion by Joseph Kessel
20 Caligula by Albert Camus

The 2021 Japanese literature challenge : wrap-up

 

The Japanese literature challenge 2021

 

 

I'm sorry it took me some time to update, but I wasn't really feeling like it recently. Grey weather, rain, cold-ish temperatures, I just wanted to stay on the couch and do nothing all day, think about nothing. Bad idea, but hard to resist at the moment. I'm trying to put myself back out there !

This challenge was easy : you had to read books in Japanese, or translated from Japanese, from january through march 2021 and link them to the challenge. I already had 5 Japanese books on my shelves and reviewed them - then I bought some more, but I will only link those read until the end of March. Here are the reviews :
 
 


 

 

2021-04-12

BEAUMARCHAIS, Pierre-Augustin Caron de : Le barbier de Séville/Le mariage de Figaro - The barber of Seville/The marriage of Figaro

Eighteenth-century France produced only one truly international theater star, Beaumarchais, and only one name, Figaro, to combine with Don Quixote and D'Artagnan in the ranks of popular myth. But who was Figaro ? He was quickly appropriated by Mozart and Rossini who tamed the original impertinent, bustling servant for their own purposes. On the eve of the French Revolution Figaro was seen as a threat to the establishment and Louis XIV even banned The Marriage of Figaro.
Was the barber of Seville really a threat to aristocratic heads, or a bourgeois individualist like his creator ? The three plays in which he plots and schemes chronicle the slide of the ancien regime into revolution but they also chart the growth of Beaumarchais' humanitarianism. They are exuberant theatrical entertainments, masterpieces of skill, invention, and social satire which helped shape the direction of French theater for a hundred years. This lively new translation catches all the zest and energy of the most famous valet in French literature."
 

Les tribulations du valet Figaro et de son maître le comte Almaviva.
 
(See the English review below the French)

 
Je devais lire Le mariage de Figaro pour The classics club, puis je me suis rappelée que c'était la suite du Barbier de Séville, donc j'ai lu les deux - j'avais lu ces pièces à l'école, mes filles aussi. Comme elles se suivent, je les chronique d'un seul coup. Tant que j'y étais, j'ai regardé la première pièce sur Youtube (c'est tout de même mieux, le théâtre, quand on le regarde) puis écouté l'opéra de Mozart - les noces de Figaro.
Dans la première pièce datant de 1775, Figaro retrouve son ancien maître, le comte Almaviva, et l'aide à arracher la jeune Rosine des griffes de son tuteur, un homme plus âgé qui la garde sous clef afin de l'épouser. Dans la seconde, datant de 1784, Almaviva n'est plus si amoureux de Rosine et louche sur la promise de Figaro, Suzanne, qui n'a pas envie de se laisser faire, mais comment résister à un noble ? Dans la première pièce, Almaviva est agréable en jeune amoureux ; dans la seconde, il est détestable en époux volage et maître tyrannique. Dans les deux, Figaro est sympathique, accepte la vie avec philosophie, aide ses amis, est de bonne composition et envoie quelques piques bien senties à son maître sur les différences de classe.
Comme son héros, Beaumarchais est un roturier parti de rien et arrivé à la cour. Ces pièces ayant été écrites et présentées peu de temps avant la Révolution (1789), d'aucuns y ont vu des signes des événements à venir. A lire ces pièces après le passage de la censure, je comprends cette opinion et c'est pour cela qu'elles sont toujours enseignées de nos jours, parce que la rivalité amoureuse de Figaro et Almaviva dans le Barbier de Séville se double d'une rivalité sociale. Est-ce qu'il s'agit de prémices pour autant ? Je n'en suis pas certaine. 
Ces pièces sont typiques de la comédie avec les quiproquos, les vieux barbons jaloux, les personnages qui se cachent. Je les ai regardées avec beaucoup de plaisir, le théâtre me manque !
 
"Non, monsieur le comte, vous ne l'aurez pas... vous ne l'aurez pas. Parce que vous êtes un grand seigneur, vous vous croyez un grand génie !... noblesse, fortune, un rang, des places ; tout cela rend si fier ! Qu'avez-vous fait pour tant de biens ? vous vous êtes donné la peine de naître, et rien de plus."

"La Comtesse : Quoi ! Suzon, il voulait te séduire ?
Suzanne : Oh ! que non ! Monseigneur n'y met pas tant de façon avec sa servante : il voulait m'acheter."

"Le Comte : Les domestiques ici... sont plus longs à s'habiller que les maîtres !
Figaro : C'est qu'ils n'ont point de valets pour les y aider."


I had to read The marriage of Figaro for The classics club, then I remembered that it followed The barber of Seville, so I read both - I had read them in school, so did my daughters, so I had them. While I was at it, I watched the plays on Youtube (I prefer watching theatre to reading it) then listened to Mozart's opera - Le Nozze di Figaro.
In the first play, written in 1775, Figaro reunites with his old master, Count Almaviva, and helps him take Rosine away from the clutches of her old tutor, an older man who keeps her under lock and key in order to marry her. In the second play, first represented in 1784, Almaviva is not much in love with Rosine any more and eyes Figaro's fiancée, Suzanne, who doesn't want to give in, but how can she resist a nobleman ? In the first play, Almaviva is a lovely young lover ; in the second, he's hateful as a cheating husband and tyrannical master. In both, Figaro is lovable, accepts life with philosophy, helps his friends, is always nice and sends some barbs to his master about social differences.
Like his hero, Beaumarchais was a commoner who ended up in court. Those plays having been written and presented to the public little before the Revolution (1789), some saw the tell-tale signs of what was going to happen. If you read how the plays are after they have been censored, I understand this opinion and this is why they are still taught in French schools, because the rivality between Figaro and Almaviva is not only about love but also about class. Are these revolutionary signs nonetheles ? I'm not so sure.
Those plays are typical comedies with misunderstandings, jealous old men, characters who hide behind chairs. I watched them with much pleasure - it's been too long since I've seen a real play !
 
Sorry, I had trouble finding the same quotes in English :

“No, my lord Count, you shan't have her... you shall not have her ! Just because you are a great nobleman, you think you are a great genius — Nobility, fortune, rank, position ! How proud they make a man feel ! What have you done to deserve such advantages ? Put yourself to the trouble of being born — nothing more.

“I quickly laugh at everything for fear of having to cry.” 

 “I grant men the land, the government, the wealth, all the chances. I accept that you have to hold all the cards, since that's the only way you know how to play; but I refuse to swallow your disrespect.”

 


2021-03-31

Martha WELLS : Home : habitat, range, niche, territory - The Murderbot diaries #4.5

This is a short story which follows Exit strategy, from the point of view of Doctor Mensah.

 
 
Who wouldn't love Dr Mensah ? I don't love her as much as the Murderbot but still, she's a wonderful human being. Her world is something terrible that ours might well be turning into quicker than we would wish it, but she stands for human values... and for half bots/half humans to be recognized as sentient. She's also having a hard time recovering from her recent experiences.
 
This story is told from her point of view this time, which allows us to see the Murderbot from the outside, which is good. We learn that there is a possibility for SecUnits to have a change of status, but what will really happen ?... I'll see that next month, reading Network effect, the next novel in the series. Fortunately, the end of this month isn't far so I won't have to wait too long !

"She knows SecUnit is not so much taunting her with its abilities as refusing to pretend to be anything other than it is."

 




2021-03-30

Martha WELLS : Compulsory - The Murderbot diaries #0.5

“My risk-assessment module predicts a 53 percent chance of a human-on-human massacre before the end of the contract.”
A short story published in Wired.com magazine on December 17, 2018.
(you have to register to read it but the access is free)
 
 
"It’s not like I haven’t thought about killing the humans since I hacked my governor module. But then I started exploring the company servers and discovered hundreds of hours of downloadable entertainment media, and I figured, what’s the hurry ? I can always kill the humans after the next series ends." 
 
This is the first sentence in the history of the Murderbot series - isn't it a great beginning ?
It's not a novella, it's a really short story and yes, I gave it 5 stars because :
 
1) Why not ?
2) I can 
3) because it's a very good start that makes you want to read more - which I did 4) because even if I'm the only person in the world who gave 5 stars to a short sci-fi story, who cares ?
 
Read it and, like me, get hooked !

PS : Even if you have already read the novellas (as I have) and novels, you can read this.
 

2021-03-29

KAWAGUCHI Toshikazu : Before the coffee gets cold

In a small back alley in Tokyo, there is a café which has been serving carefully brewed coffee for more than one hundred years. But this coffee shop offers its customers a unique experience : the chance to travel back in time.
In Before the Coffee Gets Cold, we meet four visitors, each of whom is hoping to make use of the café’s time-travelling offer, in order to : confront the man who left them, receive a letter from their husband whose memory has been taken by early onset Alzheimer's, to see their sister one last time, and to meet the daughter they never got the chance to know.
But the journey into the past does not come without risks : customers must sit in a particular seat, they cannot leave the café, and finally, they must return to the present before the coffee gets cold...
 
 

I wonder why there is a cat on the cover. Cat lovers, be aware : there is no cat inside this novel ! And after this very important  information that you couldn't have lived without, let's move on to the review...

What first struck me in this short novel was the setting, like a play : in a single room (the café), with a limited cast of characters, little stories rhythmed by the clanging of the door bell. Once I reached the end of the book, I saw that the author is a playwright - that explains a lot.
 
Yet it doesn't mean that it's not worth reading, oh no ! Maybe some will find the style simplistic, but I found it sober : it goes straight to the essential, so does the plot. The characters who want to travel through time also have the same urgency to deliver or receive an important message in a very little amount of time - before the coffee gets cold. You don't linger ! But the simplicity is deceptive, I think this story, or these stories, were very well planned and organized. Four chapters, four stories, lots of rules that discourage people from queueing up in the street outside the café and keep the characters to a minimum. I was in tears reading the second chapter (reminded me of my mother) so I advise you to keep at least a handkerchief close by. But it's not a sad novel, it's beautiful and very human.

I found it hard to put down, I really enjoyed reading it... so I bought the next, Tales from the café, that I will read very soon. I hope the story of the ghost is inside, I'm dying to know how she got here !