The forefather of dystopian fiction, the Russian We (confusingly called My in its original language) starts of in a utopian society. Someone in the paThe forefather of dystopian fiction, the Russian We (confusingly called My in its original language) starts of in a utopian society. Someone in the past has discovered the mathematical equations for happiness and the city is run on a strict schedule. Your name is a number. You eat at the same time as everyone else, go to work at the same time, and sleep at the same time. And repeat each day.
The walls are made of glass, there is no need for privacy and secretes when everyone lives by the same rules. Yet they can’t quite beat every primitive instinct from man, they have curtains which they can draw at a prescribed time, to partake in pastimes that may not be wholly approved of. Or time when they can have sex with whoever they have a pink slip agreement with. Love no longer exists and sex is a formal arrangement.
Or that’s what everyone believes. Of course, we know the kind of thing that happens, D503 meets a strange women. He intends to report her for irregular behaviour, but events get in the way and he misses the deadline. His thoughts start to become erratic, he reports himself as ill, but all the time being drawn into a plot to change the equilibrium.
I can see perhaps why Nineteen Eighty-Four became the better known book. I enjoyed reading We for its influence of dystopian fiction today, but sometimes D503’s narrative is a little hard to follow. He becomes delirious in him writings, as he starts to lose grip on his carefully calculated reality.
We was banned in the Soviet Union for its criticism of communism and Yevgeny Zamyatin was arrested and exiled. Its legacy can be seen in pretty much every dystopian novel written today, from enclosed cities to regulation of relationships, from surveillance to designated roles within society. And, of course, the idea that the government controls your every movement....more
So, The Great Gatsby. It's set in a superficial Long Island community and is narrated by Nick who is somewhat an outsider in a smaller, less glamourouSo, The Great Gatsby. It's set in a superficial Long Island community and is narrated by Nick who is somewhat an outsider in a smaller, less glamourous house next door to Mr Gatsby. He seems to do lunches and goes on excursions with his cousin and her friends and not a lot else. When Gatsby invites him to a party, he begins to understand why he's there but never really gets to know his mysterious neighbour.
If you were familiar with the sorts of people inhabiting the northern coast of Long Island in the twenties, you might find this an accurate social commentary but they just came across as vacuous, boring people who didn't seem all that affected by tragedy. Whilst the second half of the book was an improvement, it was lacking emotion. In the end, it's a boy meets girl, loses girl, finds girl again, barrier now in the way of happiness, do they, don't they story but without the fun emotional roller-coaster ride you'd get from some good chick-lit.
I found the language a little odd and in places forced. Maybe that's just what the trend was at the time but it didn't endear me to the prose:
"She was a slender, small-breasted girl, with an erect carriage which she accentuated by throwing her body backward at the shoulders like a young cadet."
There are however some undeniably good quotes, most of which have annoyingly been pre-highlighted in my Kindle edition, but you have to wade through a lot of pomposity to get to them. I can imagine at the time of publication it was an entertaining read but I'm not sure I'd add it to a list of time enduring classics....more
El Matadero is reputed to be one of the most studied texts in Spanish speaking South America. It's a fairly short story, only 32 pages once translatedEl Matadero is reputed to be one of the most studied texts in Spanish speaking South America. It's a fairly short story, only 32 pages once translated and details the events of a day at a Matadero, one the public slaughterhouses common in 19th century Argentina. The story paints a vivid picture of the culture at the time and the manic pace within the Matadero as well as having a political aspect.
The real gem of this book is the accompanying appendixes and glossary which really hit home the reality of that political message. I haven't really had much exposure to Argentinian history and didn't know much more about the country than gauchos and a passion for football and polo. Like many countries, they have travelled a rocky path to get to where they are now, including a civil war between Unitarians and Federalists and a dictator running the country; Juan Manuel de Rosa. This book can describe the history much more eloquently than me, but the story of The Slaughteryard favours the Unitarians, something that would have got Echeverria into deep water if it had been discovered.
The Accounts by Other Travellers includes passages from various travellers within the country between 1818 and 1863, including Charles Darwin. These accounts all describe the Mataderos from an outsider's point of view.
I would really recommend it to anyone studying Spanish as a second language as it also contains the original text as well as a selection of poems. How often do you get both in one edition?
Took me forever to read but I think that's because my mind is on other things. The passages where people are speaking with an accent were hard to undeTook me forever to read but I think that's because my mind is on other things. The passages where people are speaking with an accent were hard to understand but overall a wonderful classic. Definitely worth a read if you like modern vampire fiction....more