Extremely well written, engaging story that hangs together nicely. Sort of annoying in that it puts certain characters on too high of a pedestal. DeroExtremely well written, engaging story that hangs together nicely. Sort of annoying in that it puts certain characters on too high of a pedestal. Deronda being one of them. But I gave it four stars because the character study of Gwendolyn is priceless....more
**spoiler alert** “Proud people breed sad sorrows for themselves.” ― Emily Brontë
Buddenbrooks traces the decline and ultimate decimation of a proud f**spoiler alert** “Proud people breed sad sorrows for themselves.” ― Emily Brontë
Buddenbrooks traces the decline and ultimate decimation of a proud family of merchants in Northern Germany. The story opens with precocious little Tony Buddenbrooks, learning the catechism on her grandfather's knee, and closes some 40 years later with Tony contemplating her life and concluding that life shatters faith. Over the course of 730 pages, we follow the Buddenbrooks as they rise and fall and rise again. But it is the painful, exhausting death throes of the matriarch of the family that foreshadows the painful, exhausting death throes of the family itself, culminating in the emotional musical swan song of Hanno, the final remaining male heir. The novel follows the ebb and flow of fortune and disaster over the course of generations, pressing the point that one cannot be certain of one's place in the universe. Nor is it wise to try to hold onto a legacy too tightly. Pride and love of family are virtues, yes, but they also can become destructive obsessions.
This is a well thought out novel, with wonderful prose. Mann knew what he was doing when he associated the color yellow with the Buddenbrooks, for yellow is not only the happy color of sunshine and prosperity, it is also the color of jaundice, fever, and sickness. Similarly striking is his careful use of the color blue, particularly in his descriptions of the bluish shadows around the eyes of Gerda, the mysterious pale beauty who marries the head of the family and lurks on the periphery of family gatherings like an angel of death.
This is also a story of the loss of faith--not just religious faith, but also the faith in oneself--and the self-fulfilling prophecies of doom that can arise from that loss. When the Buddenbrooks don't have faith anymore, then all that's left is pride. In fact, one of Tony's defining features is her haughtiness, even in the face of one social disaster after another. One of the most striking scenes is the death of Thomas, and Mann staged it magnificently. We've followed Thomas's deepening depression and growing obsession with keeping up appearances. He had become meticulous to a fault about his dress and personal hygiene. And then this:
"He turned halfway around, and then, raising his arms, he fell forward onto the wet pavement. "Since the street slopped steeply downhill, his head lay a good deal lower than his feet. He had fallen face-down, and a puddle of blood immediately began to form around his head. His hat rolled off down the street a little way. His fur coat was splattered with muck and slush. His outstretched hands in their white kid gloves had come to rest in a puddle. "There he lay, and he went on lying there until some people happened by and turned him over on his back."
That's stunning imagery, and it brought me back to an ancient proverb that applies to Thomas and Tony:
"Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall." - Proverbs 16:18
Is it possible to have an authentic experience of a foreign culture? Carpentier answers this question in the negative, and I am beginning to think heIs it possible to have an authentic experience of a foreign culture? Carpentier answers this question in the negative, and I am beginning to think he might be right. It's especially true of vacation sites these days, which increasingly resemble Disneyfied recreations of foreign cultures. But Carpentier suggests that even total immersion into a foreign culture doesn't make you a native -- you can't leave home even if you try.
This isn't a perfect book - the characters tend to be a little stiffly drawn and more romanticized than real, but the prose, while dense, is beautiful. The manner in which the author interweaves music, history, spirituality, and nature into the narrative is masterful....more
Rilke's extraordinary semi-autobiographical novel deals with masking our true selves and others in order to fit into the bewildering chaos of the worlRilke's extraordinary semi-autobiographical novel deals with masking our true selves and others in order to fit into the bewildering chaos of the world around us. The writer (Rilke or Brigge, take your pick) takes us through visions, memories, and impressions, and starkly contrasts these with the world as he now experiences it. The work is beautifully amorphous, and surprisingly funny:
"There is a being that is completely harmless if it passes before your eyes, you hardly notice it and immediately forget it again. But as soon as it gets into your hearing in some invisible fashion it develops there, it creeps out, as it were, and one has seen cases where it penetrated the brain and thrived devastatingly in that organ, like canine pneumococcus that enters through the nose. This being is the neighbor."
It's also surprisingly coherent, although it doesn't seem that way when you are knee deep in the writer's take on, for example, the story behind certain Danish or English historical figures, or the true driving forces behind the prodigal son's departure and eventual return. Loosely speaking, the novel passes from an intense scrutiny of self, including preoccupations with ghosts, costumes, death, fear, and isolation, to a discussion of the unrevealed psyches of men and women who are the stuff of legends, and ends on an exploration of the joys of unrequited love: To be loved is to perish; to love is to endure. I felt like I was reading the evolving journal of an anxious, perceptive soul - starting with self (as journalists are apt to do), and developing into a more abstract exploration of human nature and ideals.
What you take away from this book will tell you a lot about yourself. Kafka's minimalistic prose, disturbing plot, and surrealistic settings raise a hWhat you take away from this book will tell you a lot about yourself. Kafka's minimalistic prose, disturbing plot, and surrealistic settings raise a host of potential concepts and questions. It deserves its status as a classic...more
Creepy. That's the word that kept springing to mind throughout this book. The author uses a light hand when describing some pretty disturbing events,Creepy. That's the word that kept springing to mind throughout this book. The author uses a light hand when describing some pretty disturbing events, but his real mastery is one of implication. What isn't said but yet what is conveyed by the art of suggestion is what stays with you.
As I understand it, Buddhists believe that life has no inherent meaning; that our thoughts and feelings are transient; that suffering is the result ofAs I understand it, Buddhists believe that life has no inherent meaning; that our thoughts and feelings are transient; that suffering is the result of an unhealthy attachment to things and others; and that we shouldn't fear death. The antagonist in this classic novel is almost saintly in his devotion to these principles--yet he is reviled by the other characters in the book and readers alike as an inhuman, cold-blooded monster. The reason: not because of his adherence to his existentialist philosophy, but because of his sudden, momentary departure from it, when some inner demon rises to the surface and leads him to commit murder. It is the combination of this irrational act with his studied detachment from life that condemns him.
I read this years ago and was blown away by it. Thought I would add it to my bookshelves here even though it was a while ago that I read it because itI read this years ago and was blown away by it. Thought I would add it to my bookshelves here even though it was a while ago that I read it because it's just that good! Woolf is brilliant here....more