Victor Hugo’s Jean Valjean’s name is almost a tautology. Valjean is everyman: the anonymous, the ignored, the unknown other-amid The Tautology of Names
Victor Hugo’s Jean Valjean’s name is almost a tautology. Valjean is everyman: the anonymous, the ignored, the unknown other-amidst-us, like Nabokov’s criminal hero in his novel Despair: Hermann Hermann, or, approximately, Mr Man Mr Man.
What of Humbert Humbert?
Wikipedia tells me: Humbert is a Germanic given name, from hun “warrior”.
It can be extended to ‘beautiful warrior’…? (Or ‘bright’ warrior as in Al-bert, etc)
So Hum-bert Hum-bert is the doubled tautological barbarian warrior bringing end of days to the nauseating world of the normal? Or is he the quintessential warrior against all values? Is he the barbarian at the gates of civilization? Is he that barbarian warrior finally past Europe, now decadent and beautiful, and about to devour and corrupt young beautiful America (the one interpretative political equation for the novel’s symbolism of young-and-old)? What is he? The very opposite of the everyman in any case? The bright scar and not the normal graze. The publicly prosecuted, the un-ignorable, the known Other....more
Another review has been put up here. That one is equally bad and confused, you might as well just skim this:
Still dazed by the stupor of melancholy anAnother review has been put up here. That one is equally bad and confused, you might as well just skim this:
Still dazed by the stupor of melancholy and perversion that Humbert Humbert has exposed my poor brain to. Still trying to make sense of the monster/poet/victim and of Lolita, the symbol of our age. Who exploited whom, who were the villains and who were to be punished, these thoughts are still swirling in my head; desperately trying to ascribe meaning beyond the mere acts of the novel, to read into the disparities between nature and actions. A see-saw of poetry and debauchery. I also wonder how much I missed out on due to my handicap of not knowing french.
The primary effect of this beauty and poetry is that we keep geting charmed by this old-world, aristocratic protagonist who can talk in such a poetic way and then he gently turns around and reminds us of what he is contemplating doing to that young girl and we draw back in revulsion again, only to be ensnared in his honeyed prose a few lines later. And so it goes, tiring you out and enchanting you.
So, a review will come as soon as I can reconcile the beauty of the novel with its deep, dark underbelly and some meaning that is not merely moral emerges.
That might take many readings and I am not sure that is something I am willing to put myself through. But a review, however small, helps clarify the book in my head and, for that I will try.
Another thing I want to make sense of is this - Nabokov’s account of the old newspaper story that inspired him to start a work such as Lolita presented in the novel’s afterword "On a Book Entitled Lolita" - The story was about “an ape in the Jardin des Plantes, who after months of coaxing by the scientists, produced the first drawing ever charcoaled by an animal: the sketch showed the bars of the poor creature’s cage." - Isn't that just surreal? The connection with Humbert is right there at the edge of my imagination, in his own prison maybe and maybe in the prison that was his life's lust. I don't now, but what pleasure to ponder.
One thing I can confidently say even with my shock at the rest of the novel is that the opening paragraph is perhaps the most beautiful and alluring one I have ever read - It draws you into this perverse universe where every dark secret thought is open to scrutiny like some succubi, a beautiful mermaid or Lamia who lures you only to crucify you. The mind thrills and the eyes laze over the paragraph and you are aglow in the ecstasy the rest of the book seems to promise, thinking of the beauty that is waiting for you in those pages, the plays of language, the thrill of appreciating such wonder and you are happy that this book, Lolita, that you have heard so much about is going to be a delight. But of course, the book is just like a nymph as described in it, it tantalizes with ethereal beauty only to expose our world to the harsh reality of man's nature - at least I think so. The book is the real Lolita not any character in it....more
Paradise: Too bright and too noisy. Not my choice for a good retirement spot. I have decided to settle for the Earthly Paradise atop Purgatory, with itParadise: Too bright and too noisy. Not my choice for a good retirement spot. I have decided to settle for the Earthly Paradise atop Purgatory, with its meadows, light music and pleasant breeze. Seems like the best long term investment at the end of this cosmic tour....more
Tunnel through. Stretch the line to the limits of the possible. It will be hard, and it will be a torment, but that is the writing life.
It’s easy, afTunnel through. Stretch the line to the limits of the possible. It will be hard, and it will be a torment, but that is the writing life.
It’s easy, after all, not to be a writer. Most people aren’t writers, and very little harm comes to them. —Julian Barnes, Flaubert’s Parrot
The writing life is tough and you will often hate it, but choose it if no other life will make sense.
A day spent reading/writing, cooped up in this silent struggle, while life passes you by might not be considered by many as a good day, but a life spent reading and writing - that will be a good life. ...more
More fun than the cliff notes. Good Illustrations. Useful to read ahead a few cantos here, so that the reader can focus on the poem itself instead ofMore fun than the cliff notes. Good Illustrations. Useful to read ahead a few cantos here, so that the reader can focus on the poem itself instead of worrying about teasing out the meaning. Recommended.
The valuable notes provided with translations are generally limited (due to lack of space) to brief presentationRaffa’s Pitch
The Pitch goes like this:
The valuable notes provided with translations are generally limited (due to lack of space) to brief presentations of background information and concise explanations of difficult passages.
Danteworlds takes a different approach. The project grew out of a desire to meet two basic challenges facing college students who read and discuss the Divine Comedy, in most cases for the first time, in the Dante course Raffa teaches one or more times each year: first, to become adequately familiar with the multitude of characters, creatures, events, and ideas—drawn from ancient to medieval sources—that figure prominently in the poem; second, to become adept at recalling who and what appear where by creating and retaining a mental map of Dante’s postmortem worlds.
Danteworlds therefore provides entries on major figures and issues arranged so as to help you connect your textual journey through the poem with Dante’s physical journey through the realms of the afterlife. This arrangement allows you to proceed geographically as well as textually, not only canto by canto but also—as Dante and his guides do—region by region through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise.
Sounds like a good deal? Yeah. And makes good sense too.
That is how good Hollander’s footnotes were. However, if you are reading for School, Danteworlds is probably more useful. So again, my vote is for the Hollander translation, if you are looking for a good place to start with Dante. ...more
Discusses in some detail the geo-politics of the South-China sea and tries to show the world that is brewing in that cauldron - one where an assertiveDiscusses in some detail the geo-politics of the South-China sea and tries to show the world that is brewing in that cauldron - one where an assertive China will draw the U.S and its neighbors into conflict. This has echoes of Huntington in that a culturally assertive China is intent on creating a world of concentric circles of power, whereas the U.S overtly subscribes to a balance of power world order. These modes of thinking about global power does not sit well with each other and neither country can accept each other's system, leading to inevitable conflict, unless one falls off the economic ladder. According to Kaplan, it seems that China will win this tussle in the East, simply due to its Geographic location.
The book is not as good as Kaplan's previous works. Firstly, it needed a good editor - certain key ideas like how the South China sea is to China what the Caribbean was to the U.S is repeated so often using the exact same lines, that it seems like Kaplan's notes were converted to chapters without real organizational or editorial oversight. The book feels lazy for the most part and new ideas are introduced early and repeated often, without much supporting arguments.
However the book is a still a good introduction to the strange mix of ingredients that go to make the potent and volatile brew cooking here. ...more
One can see how this would easily be a fun exercise, trying to explain some complicated “things” using only the limited set of the “ten hundred” or soOne can see how this would easily be a fun exercise, trying to explain some complicated “things” using only the limited set of the “ten hundred” or so most commonly used words in the language. This, along with the xkcd-honed drawing skills, can convert what would otherwise have been quite a nondescript mini-encyclopedia into a quaint and publishable book. Munroe’s cult following, wit, and knack for packaging a book beautifully, makes it a bestseller (?).
But as far as reading it is concerned, the novelty wears off around the 4th or 5th “thing”. There on out, we might find ourselves having to reverse translate the strange gibberish of too-easy words. Can’t really see who this book is meant to help. It is not the words that make a book easy or difficult to read, is one thing Munroe manages to demonstrate. The same book without the gimmick might have been genuinely helpful to some college students at least… ...more
Dawkins fanboy tries to dress up an ideological book as a scientific one. Tries to show that Darwin's theory of evolution is just a byproduct or a speDawkins fanboy tries to dress up an ideological book as a scientific one. Tries to show that Darwin's theory of evolution is just a byproduct or a specific version of the general theory of evolution proposed by Adam Smith about the emergent order that will prevail bottom-up in any free society of selfish actors. In the process ends up unwittingly using just another"skyhook" - that of benevolent evolution - throughout, by arguing endlessly that all the good things happened bottom-up and all the bad things happened top-down.
Except that, as per the core argument, all top-down things also must have been products of evolution. If Everything Evolves, all things good or bad, bottom-up or top-down evolved too. Hence the concept of evolution cannot in itself justify just let everything play out - including economics, institutions and even climate change, for that matter. There is really no guarantee things will always play out well if 'bottom-up' - just look at the latest elections!
Just "Let Everything Be" can't be the ultimate policy outlook unless Ridley truly believes The Invisible Hand to be the Hand of God directing everything as if by providence towards the good of mankind. And if that is not so and Evolution indeed is blind, then perhaps the occasional nudges in the right direction may work too?
As with most left vs right debates, the book only enforces for me the fact that pure free market is not the solution, nor is a command economy - evolution can take us to either side and we need to intervene to keep the balance, and that continuous self-correction is part of our social evolution too, as is the occasional over-correction. No Skyhooks needed, we just need to be less in thrall of 'Men of System'.
There, I have used enough pointed references for one review. Now enjoy the historic day.
A nice and simple, perhaps simplistic, translation. Rooted firmly in Shakaracharya's commentary but failing to convey the depth and power of the actuaA nice and simple, perhaps simplistic, translation. Rooted firmly in Shakaracharya's commentary but failing to convey the depth and power of the actual Upanishads. Just good enough to wet your feet before the swim. Ideally should not be the first read - shortcuts are not good here.
The raw verses are presented with barely any commentary, let alone on the interpretations, but even on the translation itself. I bet the new reader would be quite suspicious halfway into the book whether this easy stuff is really the much hyped Upanishads.
Best presented verse:
The sacred syllable is the bow, the Self is the arrow, Brahman is declared the target. Undistracted, one should pierce it, and like the arrow, become united with it.