E. M. Forster says it perfectly, "Music, though it does not employ human beings, though it is governed by intricate laws, nevertheless dA masterpiece.
E. M. Forster says it perfectly, "Music, though it does not employ human beings, though it is governed by intricate laws, nevertheless does offer in its final expression a type of beauty which fiction might achieve in its own way. Expansion. That is the idea the novelist must cling to. Not completion. Not rounding off but opening out. When the symphony is over we feel that the notes and tunes composing it have been liberated, they have found in the rhythm of the whole their individual freedom. Cannot the novel be like that? Is not there something of it in War and Peace?"
Irene Nemirovsky brilliantly captures this "expansion", which after reading Forster's words, is--in my opinion--a critical, if not THE critical element in every classic, lasting piece of literature. It leaves the reader with fullness, but with questions. It pushes the reader to look further into the text, further into him or herself, further into society. A classic, lasting piece of literature does not end with the last page. It isn't a book that one can simply finish and put back on the shelf, grateful for the hours of entertainment it provided. A classic, lasting piece of literature moves the reader. Like music it affects the reader. It probes and asks difficult questions, and leaves many unanswered. It is beautiful in both its complexity and in its realness (no matter how surreal and fantastic the plot may be).
Nemirovsky writes Suite Francaise, a story about the German occupation in France, as she lives it (in her notes, in the appendices, she constantly states that she does not know how the novel will end or how the plot will turn, because such fictional events depend entirely on what is actually going on around her). Yet, she writes with an incredible perspective as if she is writing the novel generations removed from the events of her time. The story itself--irrespective of how understanding the details of Nemirovsky's tragic life adds fullness and poignancy to the novel--can stand alone in its greatness. It captures the details of society; our complexities and our simplicities. It questions our motives, our biases, our greatest strengths and our greatest weaknesses. It captures pride and humility, love and hatred. However, it demonstrates that nothing is black and white. Every character, it seems, is dynamic. Every character, even those that on the surface seem to be the most detestable, connects with an honest reader's conscience. The novel captures thoughts that we have felt, or feared, or tried to repress, or tried to exalt. It is beautiful and moving.
Nemirovsky depicts the class system masterfully. She depicts not just a character's actions, but the character's motives
The Appendices are hauntingly beautiful (could they even rival the fiction itself?). They are segments of Nemirovsky's plans for the book. The words contained in the appendices capture in their honesty even more the frailties and realities of the human experience. Nemirovsky consistently writes that she must keep the book focused on the trivialities of life, not on the history. History will pass, she seems to say, but the trivialities are what people will relate with in ten years, in one hundred years. She expresses her views of politics and of the unanswered questions of her times, but recognizes the limitations of her personal situation and of the writer and novelist she admires and wants to be:
"By unifying, always simplifying the book (in its entirety) must result in a struggle between individual destiny and collective destiny. Must not take sides. My option: England's style of government by the middle classes, unfortunately impossible, at least wishes to be revived, for in the ends its essence is immutable; but it definitely will not happen until after I die: therefore left with two types of socialism. Neither of them appeals to me but 'there are the facts!' One of them rejects me, therefore . . . the other . . . But that is out of the question. As a writer, I must state the problem correctly."
Just days before Nemirovsky was deported to Auschwitz she wrote what she wanted to ultimately convey with the book:
"To sum up: struggle between personal destiny and collective destiny. To finish, stress Lucile and Jean-Marie's love and stress eternal life. The German's musical masterpiece. There must also be a reminder of Philippe. Which all in all would correspond to my deepest conviction. What lives on: 1. Our humble day-to-day lives; 2. Art; 3. God."
Overall, this book--the story itself, as well as Nemirovsky's notes--was everything good fiction should be. Beautifully written, incredibly thought-provoking, entertaining, and self-challenging. I loved it!...more
Though I'm admittedly no classics fan or scholar, I actually was surprised at how much I enjoyed this play. "The Eumenides" is the third book from "ThThough I'm admittedly no classics fan or scholar, I actually was surprised at how much I enjoyed this play. "The Eumenides" is the third book from "The Oresteia," a trilogy of Greek tragedies written by Aeschylus about the end of the curse of the House of Atreus. Apparently, the play was originally performed in Athens (which is not surprising considering the prominence of Athena in the play) at the Dionysia festival.
The plot of the play is quite simple and straight forward: Orestes has killed his mother (who was having an affair with Aegisthus) to avenge his father. Cytemnestra's (his mother) ghost awakens the furies to track Orestes and make him pay for killing her. The furies focus on an almost Mosaic-type law--an eye-for-an-eye--and therefore believe that for justice to be served Orestes must die. However, Orestes has summoned help from Apollo (a young god), who has directed him to Athena, the Goddess of wisdom, to give him pardon from his crime. Athena appears as an unbiased judge (she does not know Orestes), but to fairly judge the trial, Athena summons twelve citizens (ironically...well not at this time in history...they are all male) to act as a jury. When the jury comes out with a tie, Athena votes in favor of Orestes (partly because, as a motherless God, she does not value women and mothers as much as she does men). To appease the furies, Athena honors them as "Venerable Ones." They will now be honored by the citizens of Athens and ensure the city's prosperity. At this point, Athena also explains that in the instance of a tied jury, the defendant will go free.
I studied this play, albeit briefly, in my Law and Literature class (as a side-note, this is definitely a play that should be in a canonized set of legal literature). There, we focused on several legal elements of the work, namely that the trilogy is the shift from the practice of personal vendetta to a system of litigation. Also, in "The Eumenides," which is an ideological myth (explains the origin of certain principals, traditions, etc.) the idea of the jury is created and the most important Grecian court house is named (Ereopogas Court).
One theme that I found particularly interesting in this play is the interplay between ancient law verses new law (tradition vs. progression). Another is the idea of justice verses mercy. Although I hesitate to make too many Christian connections in a work of Ancient Greece, some of them seem too apparent to avoid. Here, it is ironic that the only way the old law of strict justice can be broken is through an act of mercy--and that act of mercy is achieved by a young God. Another intriguing theme, especially when viewed through the lens of the law, is the triumph of civilization over tribalism.
Although I'm not planning on jumping right back into the "Illiad" or anything, I really enjoyed this play. It was a good switch from what I'm used to reading.
Know, that a throne there is that may not pass away, And one that sitteth on it-even Fear, Searching with steadfast eyes man's inner soul: Wisdom is child of pain, and born with many a tear;
Therefore, O citizens, I bid ye bow In awe to this command, Let no man live, Uncurbed by law nor curbed by tyranny; Nor banish ye the monarchy of Awe Beyond the walls; untouched by fear divine, No man doth justice in the world of men. Therefore in purity and holy dread Stand and revere; so shall ye have and hold A saving bulwark of the state and land, Such as no man hath ever elsewhere known, Nor in far Scythia, nor in Pelops' realm. Thus I ordain it now, a council-court Pure and unsullied by the lust of gain, Sacred and swift to vengeance, wakeful ever To champion men who sleep, the country's guard. Thus have I spoken, thus to mine own clan Commended it for ever. Ye who judge, Arise, take each his vote, mete out the right, Your oath revering. Lo, my word is said....more
I'll be honest, this was a tough read. I'm not a huge fan of biography-type books that are laden with details and seem to follow a very slow chronologI'll be honest, this was a tough read. I'm not a huge fan of biography-type books that are laden with details and seem to follow a very slow chronology of a person's life. However, this book was fascinating! It is considered very close to actual fact because Irving Stone had access to all Michelangelo's letters, etc. I would encourage anyone to read it before traveling in Italy. I read it right before my trip and it revolutionized my experiences in the cities I visited and with the works that I encountered. This is a must read!...more
I'm not sure what I expected when I began reading this book, but it was much different from whatever that expectation was. This is an intriguing cominI'm not sure what I expected when I began reading this book, but it was much different from whatever that expectation was. This is an intriguing coming-of-age story (that I would never recommend for adolescent readers however, because of some of its graphic material) about Maya Angelou's childhood and adolescence as a young black girl. Its beautifully written and the naive narrative is both believable and enchanting, and in my opinion is one of the book's best qualities. The book is a compilation of several different events of Angelou's life, each presenting different dynamics about Angelou, and also about race, religion, tradition, family-ties, education vs. knowledge, innocence, and maturity. The book was subtle, yet captivating. I don't know if I would categorize it with my favorite books, but it was quite good and I'm happy that I read it....more
Although I've seen countless adaptations of A Christmas Carol, I have sadly never read the book until this year. It's delightful! I found no surprisesAlthough I've seen countless adaptations of A Christmas Carol, I have sadly never read the book until this year. It's delightful! I found no surprises in the story-line, but I was happy to read such a familiar tale in its original Dickons-style. The book is both witty and thoughtful, and I found myself more touched by its message than ever before. I have now officially made the goal to read A Christmas Carol as my own annual Christmas tradition (it's short enough to be one). Although the message of this book seems somewhat trite and didactic, it really is one that is important and is one that should be remembered all year long. Even on a more superficial level, this book has made me want to go prepare a Christmas feast and dance and sing with my family--for that alone the book has been a success!
The other short stories included in this book were very Dickons-esque. They were similar in theme to A Christmas Carol, but all had small nuances and different additions. One that I had never even heard of before is What Christmas Is As We Get Older. It was amazing! Before getting into a narrative, like the other short-stories, Dickons writes of the importance of Christmas and how we should not be overwhelmed with pains of the past, but rather, that we should embrace the hopes and dreams of our youth and think of Christmas as a time to begin to strive for all that we have and continue to hope for in life. This story is short, but extremely thought-provoking--something that I think everyone should read and consider each Christmas season. Of the stories I read, A Christmas Carol is still probably my favorite; however, each little Christmas story encouraged me to think of Christmas, and society-at-large a different way. Again, each is somewhat didactic, but if you read them expecting a blatant societal message, you'll be happy at the little gems of wisdom you take away....more