**spoiler alert** If you haven’t read Arthurian legends in full and do not wish to know the details beforehand, please be warned that this review is f**spoiler alert** If you haven’t read Arthurian legends in full and do not wish to know the details beforehand, please be warned that this review is full of ‘spoilers’. I suggest you read older sources like Malory's first to understand all of the jokes in this book first.
I finally read White’s The Once and Future King in full. It felt like reaching a height I had set my eyes upon since more than 20 years ago, and it left me in a watery-eyed elation. I still remember the day I found a copy of simplified version of the Arthurian legends in my dad’s drawer – he had used the book when he learnt English. Ever since then, the legends have always been a part of my life, although I’m not the kind of an obsessed person who can recall everything about the object that she greatly loves every time. I always need to consult my sources and my notes here and there.
Anyway, returning to the book. I have read the first part of TOAFK - The Sword in the Stone (TSITS) - several years ago, and I have watched the Disney’s version when I was a kid. Although when looking back again at the animation, armed with the knowledge of the original text, I dread the way the Disney team had made Kay regress to his notorious stereotypical self of being an evil, big bad bully of a brother. I still love Merlin, his song, and Archimedes, anyway.
TSITS is a feeling-good read, with all the charms and the magic and the funny bits, but the latter parts (or should I call them books?) - The Queen of Air and Darkness, The Ill-Made Knight, and The Candle in the Wind were oftentimes brutal and off-handedly cold blooded in being realistic – a reality that is sprinkled everywhere with magic, where unicorns and dragons are talked of so casually as if they’re real. In fact, White made his story as if it’s history, stating that it was the Plantagenets and the Capets that were imaginary. Deliberate anachronism makes TOAFK a delightful read, while the Arthurian ‘internal jokes’ will make those who know chuckle amusedly. The last part of the book was especially contemplatively dark.
What makes TOAFK so special is the way White gives depth – gives flesh to the characters. I have mentioned above about his Kay. The day I read how Kay cried because he felt like he’s been unjustly treated by Merlyn was the day I knew I’d love this Kay forever – despite his well-known mischief. I love White’s Arthur so much. I think he managed to trace the development of Arthur’s character well, beginning with his early education with Merlyn and ending with old, plain Arthur looking back on everything that he’d done and what turned out of them.
And I even think I understand his Lancelot. I don’t know when I started disliking Lancelot. Oftentimes I look at him with contempt. But White explained, analysed Lancelot’s character growth – a young boy who trained so hard to be Arthur’s best knight, who felt jealousy towards the young queen who he thought had robbed Arthur’s love from him – but ending up being the lady’s (not so) secret lover while still thinking that he’s done no treachery to the King. At the end I still dislike the figure called ‘Sir Lancelot’, but I have seen another side of him. The same thing goes to Guenevere. The portrait of the lady was so strong, so compelling, you can’t help but admire her even a bit. She’s not just the damsel in distress who tore nations and friends, although still some of her words and actions in TOAFK made me feel like tearing my hair out of my head in disbelief.
And Elaine, the lady who bore Lancelot his son Galahad, was given even more importance than ever, more sympathetic characterization. She’s no longer a mere weak lady who just pleaded for Lancelot’s love and then committed suicide. You can even forgive her for the tricks she did to Lancelot to win his heart.
I also love the way White portrayed the Orkney brothers, my favourite bunch of knights of all. At first I was wondering what was the importance of the sadistic slaying of unicorns done by the four older brothers in The Queen of Air and Darkness, but it became apparent in the latter parts. Gawaine is still adorable, speaking with his Scottish accent and living with his mistrust of ‘the Southron’ cowards. And Gareth, ah, fair and beautiful blue-eyed Gareth! So lovely, so tragic! I almost cried when Gawaine remembered his little brother, how his hair was almost white when he was small... Tragic also was Mordred, the victim of her mother’s dark affection, the boy who was not supposed to be born, and who was meant to die as soon as he saw the world, but survived and wrought his wrath. Yet I cannot hate him.
And of King Pellinore and his kin! The king, the comic relief, the nice soul that makes us laugh with his silliness. It’s just too sad there’s not much to say about the lovable Aglovale in the last book except for his death. And Percivale, dearest Percy, which we were told, was as gentle and kind-hearted a person as his father had been – I knew you’d be granted the sight of the Holy Grail and that was the end of your life, and White gave me more reason to mourn for you even more although you’ve never really appeared in the book, only in the conversations held by other people.
White paid homage to Malory here and there. Sometimes he didn’t bother explaining anything that had been elaborated in great details by Malory (for instance, who unhorsed who in a tournament, whom in turn was unhorsed by who...). He even just advised us to read Malory for such details. He used different methods to tell the tales from different angles, including conversations of people about things that have happened. Somehow, this method works. We know about Percy this way. But the most amazing feat this method succeeded in was in bringing about the figure of Galahad. Just like Percy, he never did really appear in the book, except as a baby. But we learnt about him from the other knights who talked to Arthur about the Holy Grail quest – about how such a stuck-up, self-righteous, unmannered person he was, so inhuman – but then Lancelot summed up the explanation in a very simple question: Why should an angel be a human? Thus the strong presence of Galahad, oft-said the character that mirrors Jesus, was felt without he himself being really there.
Some questions still hang in the back of my mind, though. I have never felt comfortable with the way some writers, or at least their characters, treat Guenevere and ladies like Morgause differently. It is clear that Guenevere has cheated her husband, two-timing him for years and years, yet most people still did not think bad of her. She’s still their chaste queen, and even Lancelot dared to lie in front of the King, that they had done nothing wrong of the romantic sort. But it was wrong for strong-willed Morgause, portrayed as a witch like her sisters, to take lovers as she willed. Or was it that the Queen and the Commander did not think what they did was wrong? Was it the question of Guinevere’s for Lancelot (and for Arthur) was pure love, while Morgause’s for anyone was not? White was just following the pattern set by the former (Medieval?) writers, and it was not for him to do fairer to the female characters than he’d already done. Many more recent interpretations were more sympathetic to the ladies.
And this is just my guess, but World War II, maybe both World Wars, shadowed this book. Not only a new take of the Arthurian legends, this book is also a contemplation of the human nature and the great wars, of the question about whether it’s right to defend Right against Might using Might. Tears blurred my eyes as I read Gawaine’s last letter to Lancelot, and when Arthur thought deeply about what his deeds had come to. It was the most emotionally gripping version of Arthurian legends I’ve come across. ...more
What I think about this book is... this is clearly 'film material'. Yes... I can see when it's made into a horror flick... My God, yes. There's this pWhat I think about this book is... this is clearly 'film material'. Yes... I can see when it's made into a horror flick... My God, yes. There's this part of the book that really made me afraid. Thank God it was New Year's Eve when I read this book - there were a lot of people on the streets so I didn't feel so alone in the dark.
I'm not really satisfied without the translation, but it still gave me the chill anyway. What I still don't quite get is why they put the explanation that this book was originally published as a young adult novel in Spain... ...more
The book Selimut Debu (Blanket of Dust) is written in Indonesian, but the following review is written in English with the hope that more people can leThe book Selimut Debu (Blanket of Dust) is written in Indonesian, but the following review is written in English with the hope that more people can learn about this book.
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Some of the annoyance you get during traveling comes from your travel buddies – I have had to grit my teeth when one complained for the absence of ‘hotel slippers’ (when she’s not even in a hotel) while another said “What kind of a hotel is this?” when he found out that the hotel did not provide free-flow mineral water in rooms. Many of us proclaim we love traveling, but fall to criticizing and complaining as quickly as we buy our plane tickets nowadays. We can’t even imagine the kind of ‘traveling’, or like probably Maggie Tiojakin would prefer more, ‘exploring’, like Agustinus Wibowo has done (and is still doing) in Central Asia.
Agustinus, a non-Muslim Indonesian, dared to penetrate into the remotest corners of countries like Afghanistan (the focus of this book), which to most people in the world have become synonymous with ‘Muslim extremists’. How can a foreigner, moreover someone who’s not a Muslim, survive Afghanistan that is not just Kabul or Bamiyan? (Even going to Kabul would already be extremely going too far for most of us!)
Surviving in Afghanistan for Agustinus didn’t mean staying behind the safe walls of luxurious hotels, enjoying a life that most Afghans have never tasted. He took to the road, traveling, sleeping, and eating like ordinary Afghans do, sometimes with not much money left in his pocket. He went through ordeal after ordeal—crossing icy rivers with the risk of drowning and other difficult terrains, walking alone for hours with an empty stomach on the mountains, eating unhygienic foods, sleeping in samovar with cruel flies, facing bomb and gun threats—all that, he reminds us, is probably ‘only’ one-in-a-lifetime experience for those who are brave enough to try, but a day-to-day reality for most Afghans. This should kick some sense into us.
The rewards are amazing, though: not only Agustinus was able to see and experience the fantastic cultural and natural heritage that Afghanistan has to offer and are long untouched by the world outside; he also met so many nice people along the way, who helped him without hoping for any return, who were willing to share what little they had with a guest. To find human kindness in a place like Afghanistan must have been the greatest prize of all.
The result of Agustinus’ detailed, vivid, fascinating writing is an earnest, rare account of the present Afghanistan – a nation torn by war with foreign forces and among themselves, but exactly the place where humanity still lives amongst the dust that’s everywhere. (When Indonesians call their motherland ‘tanah-air’, ‘soil-and-water’, Afghans call theirs ‘khaak’, ‘dust’.)
Selimut Debu gives us an insight to Afghan culture and the way the people think – what are important for them, what they think is right or wrong, what they love and what they hate. And just like Afghans are not just one homogeneous group of people, their values and opinions too varied. Agustinus too had opinions of his own, but he did not judge, although he was clear in showing his disapproval of organizations that claimed to be helping and rebuilding Afghanistan, when what they did was taking advantages for themselves and forcing Afghans to accept foreign ways that might not be suitable for them.
Agustinus experienced, empathized, and tried to understand. He didn’t just come, make pictures, and leave again. He breathed Afghanistan and we’re lucky that he’s a damn fine writer that can share what he learnt with us. To me, he lifted the burqa that veiled not only the Afghan women, but the whole country in my ignorance. I hope this book will soon be available in other languages – more people need to read what Agustinus had found in his journey.
His second book, about his time in some Central Asian countries, is going to be published soon. I just can’t wait. ...more
Saya membeli buku ini dengan pengharapan besar. Oleh karena sedang merencanakan perjalanan ke Jepang, telah beberapa buku panduan terbitan luar negeriSaya membeli buku ini dengan pengharapan besar. Oleh karena sedang merencanakan perjalanan ke Jepang, telah beberapa buku panduan terbitan luar negeri yang saya beli. Saya merogoh kocek demi Lost in Japan karena ingin menemukan informasi mengenai Jepang yang spesifik diperlukan orang Indonesia (beragama Islam) yang mungkin tak tercantum di buku luar negeri, misalnya info tempat makan yang ‘nyambung’ dengan lidah kita, tempat yang bisa dipakai shalat di perjalanan, dan lain sebagainya.
Buku ini pun dijual dengan embel-embel menarik: ditulis oleh sepasang ‘traveler’ (istilah yang akhir-akhir ini jadi ngetop di Indonesia) dengan kombinasi unik. Gimmick baru, setelah ada ‘traveler telanjang’, ‘traveler murah’, dan lain-lain. (Ngomong-ngomong, sebetulnya mereka tidak bepergian berdua. Tapi bertiga.) Yang satu berpengalaman traveling, tapi awam dunia tulis-menulis. Yang satu sebaliknya, awam traveling tapi berpengalaman dunia tulis-menulis. Namun kesan yang paling lekat di benak saya setelah membaca buku ini justru ‘awam dunia tulis-menulis’ – plus editorship yang amat lemah.
Dari awal, saya langsung main lompat halaman saja. Ucapan terima kasih sampai 6 halaman, sampai orang-orang yang tidak ada hubungan langsung dengan perjalanan dan penulisan diterimakasihi, buat apa? Yah, mungkin kalau ada harapan nama saya tercantum di dalamnya, saya akan tekun membaca baris demi baris, siap-siap protes kalau nama saya tidak ada. Tapi ya karena tidak, lewatkan saja. Jadi ingat dosen saya yang nyap-nyap sewaktu penulisan skripsi: “Ucapan terima kasih 2 halaman juga sudah kebanyakan! Nggak usah semua orang yang kamu kenal dimasukin! ARIAL 12 SPASI SATU SETENGAH!” (Mungkin Anda akan menyanggah, “Lha ini kan bukan skripsi?” Ya, memang bukan, tapi intinya, 6 halaman itu buat saya hanya melelahkan mata. Padahal saya doyan baca tulisan terima kasih, termasuk yang hurufnya kecil-kecil di sampul album musik. Ucapan terima kasih itu membuat kita bisa menelusuri koneksi orang.)
Okelah. Langsung ke isi buku kalau begitu.
Saya langsung pusing melihat emoticon bertebaran. Belum lagi tulisan seperti ‘hadooooowwwh’ dan ‘wkwkwkwkwk’. Memang harus ya, ditulis seperti itu? Kalau ini blog teman saya, bukan sebuah buku jadi, sih tidak masalah. Saya bisa menjawab dengan sama serunya, “WAOOOW! LO BENERAN NIH LAGI DI NAGOYA? KYAAA KYAAA gila!! Asyik asyiiik!!! OLEH-OLEH YA!” Sayang ini bukan blog. Saya hanya bisa terpana pening. Informasi yang saya cari terkubur di antara gaya penulisan seperti ini.
Salah ya, jadi orang awam? Tidak. Tidak salah. Sewaktu pertama keluar negeri saya juga noraknya minta ampun. Departure/arrival card itu makhluk apa saja saya tidak tahu, dan saya malah sok tahu. Malunya minta ampun sewaktu diterangkan oleh orang lain. Nah, kisah-kisah pengalaman pertama, gegar budaya, dan semacamnya itu bisa menarik dan lucu kalau dituturkan dengan menarik. Namun salah-salah, seperti dalam Lost in Japan, malah bisa memunculkan pemikiran jahat “Yaaah, norak amat.”
Memang kedua penulis masih muda, meski sepertinya tidak sampai sepuluh tahun di bawah saya. (Mereka sepertinya tidak sempat mencicipi pai apel yang dijual McD’s Indonesia waktu saya sekolah menengah dulu, sehingga dengan bangga mempromosikan pai apel McD’s Jepang.) Bukan alasan tidak menulis dengan baik dan rapi kan? Ah, bukan, saya bukan seorang pedantik (ada yang pernah bilang saya pedantik, dan saya harus buka kamus dulu untuk tahu artinya…). Saya nggak masalah orang menulis pakai bahasa sehari-hari, ‘nggak’ bukannya ‘tidak’, misalnya. Bagi saya itu menarik, karena banyak yang bisa dipelajari dari ragam bahasa atau dialek yang digunakan penulis. Tapi sekali lagi, bahasa sehari-hari bukan artinya penulisan buruk, kan?
Terlepas dari segala ketidaknyamanan yang membuat membaca buku ini kurang enak (baiklah, mungkin ini memang karena penulis kurang berpengalaman, dan sayangnya tidak dapat bimbingan cukup atau malah diberi keleluasaan kelewat lapang), saya angkat topi untuk kedua gadis yang dengan berani bersusah-payah merencanakan dan menempuh perjalanan ke negeri orang yang jauh, dan berupaya menuliskan pengalaman mereka untuk orang-orang yang ingin mengikuti jejak mereka. Semoga lain waktu bisa lebih baik. ...more
Nicolle has access to Muslim sources: that's what makes his account of the First Crusade (and the other campaigns involving clash between the West/ByzNicolle has access to Muslim sources: that's what makes his account of the First Crusade (and the other campaigns involving clash between the West/Byzantines/Muslims) unbiased and somehow more lively....more
After twisting Norse and Greek mythology, now it's time for throwing some Shakespearean work into the mix! Another enchanting fantasy novel by DWJ - aAfter twisting Norse and Greek mythology, now it's time for throwing some Shakespearean work into the mix! Another enchanting fantasy novel by DWJ - although I'd say I still love Deep Secret more. (I bring up Deep Secret because, just like Enchanted Glass - and many of her books - the main character is an adult, but the book is readable by all).
And for those who enjoy Shakespeare - this book may bring a smile to your lips now and then....more
Ooooh, I love this one! The start might be a bit of a turn-off - to my sister at least, hahaha - but as the story goes further, it absorbs me more andOoooh, I love this one! The start might be a bit of a turn-off - to my sister at least, hahaha - but as the story goes further, it absorbs me more and more. Wynne-Jones always amazes me with her ideas, and this one's also very unique. I'm still thinking of how to translate 'farm' like in 'Dillian farms law & order'. 'Dillian mengangon hukum dan ketertiban'? XD
My favourite characters are Torquil, Hathaway, and Quentin. I also love the whole Sykes family! This is an amazing fantasy story that tells about, among many others but I think one of the most important things, how a family stays together. There are rows, there are anger and sadness - Wynne-Jones does not shy away from them - but there are solutions and reconciliation (oh... except for maybe... nevermind, I'll be spoiling).
Another great work from DWJ. The main character was a ghost, who found herself floating unseen one day without really remembering who she was. She wasAnother great work from DWJ. The main character was a ghost, who found herself floating unseen one day without really remembering who she was. She was sure that she's one of the Melford sisters, but which? The more she tried to find out, the more mysteries came her way. And was she really who she thought she was?
This story is, like many other stories by DWJ, also about family: of four 'horrible sisters' who are neglected by their parents, who were too busy taking care of hordes of boys in their school. The father figure, notably, was known as 'Himself' - is that not enough hint to show how authoritarian he was? - although of course, we know that he's a Mr Melford. As the ghost tried to regain her memories, she also had time to observe and learn more about her 'horrible' family - a thing she hadn't been able to do while she's still alive.
She must also fight now: when she realised that all that was happening to her had something to do with the sister's made-up worshipping of a mysterious goddess called Monigan. In a Sredni Vashtar-way, this detail made The Time of the Ghost also a chilling read....more
One of Diana Wynne Jones' best. I have to admit although I had my suspicion when I read the book, DWJ succeeded in keeping me guessing. And when it alOne of Diana Wynne Jones' best. I have to admit although I had my suspicion when I read the book, DWJ succeeded in keeping me guessing. And when it all came to light at the end, I just couldn't help but go WOW YEAH!!...more