Someone will remember us I say even in another time
Even the fragments are beautiful and haunting. Excellent use of epithets. Take, for examFragment 147:
Someone will remember us I say even in another time
Even the fragments are beautiful and haunting. Excellent use of epithets. Take, for example 'sweetvoiced', or 'sweetbitter unmanageable creature', or 'goldsandaled dawn'. What poet was this, that even the tattered pieces mark her as one of the best ever?...more
A dense and wandering story about the fictional pharaoh Rameses XIII and his inability to manage the affairs of state. He is a capable military commanA dense and wandering story about the fictional pharaoh Rameses XIII and his inability to manage the affairs of state. He is a capable military commander, but is increasingly unable to manage the economy, and he fails to communicate with all other factions, ranging from the clergy to his wives. There's something obviously interesting here, but it's hampered by the clunky and probably wrong translation. There are some phrases here so unusual that Curtin likely translated some idioms literally.
What is it with 2015 and genuinely interesting authors winning awards this year? Svetlana Alexievich earned her Nobel, and Marlon James claimed his MaWhat is it with 2015 and genuinely interesting authors winning awards this year? Svetlana Alexievich earned her Nobel, and Marlon James claimed his Man Booker.
So what can I say about A Brief History of Seven Killings that isn't already in other reviews or the back blurb? This is above all a book with multiple voices, one which skips fluently from Jamaican patois to African-American vernacular c. 1980-1990 and a few Middle Americans trying to grapple with the former two. I was amused to see all the instances of code-switching between Jamaicans and New Yorkers. It's a great touch, to see how well James controls his use of language. Language becomes a tool of identity, something to shape and shed in an attempt to change one's personal identity, to leave behind the distinctive traces of the past.
The book, as you'd guess for a book set in drug wars, assassination attempts, and Caribbean slums, is violent. It is affecting. It's easy enough to make violence pornographic and overdo it, but James still makes it shocking, in detail and psychology. He takes a sly dig at exploitative journalism here too.
It's excellent stuff. Far be it from me to determine what 1970s Jamaica was 'really' like, but this is a convincing story of a place in the past I've never been to before. I look forward to reading more from the author....more
This is a case of a novel of ideas with the best (or worst) possible timing. The very day it was published in French was the day of the Charlie HebdoThis is a case of a novel of ideas with the best (or worst) possible timing. The very day it was published in French was the day of the Charlie Hebdo shootings; a few short weeks after the English translation came out, Paris was attacked again.
Our protagonist, whose name I've already forgotten, is a professor of 19th century literature and an gormless slob who eats microwave food and hires prostitutes to lick his balls. He, like many Houellebecq protagonists, moves through life with a depressed indifference. That is, until the 2022 elections and the fictitious Muslim Brotherhood Party edges out the Front National.
He is the 'main character', but his life is shaped by Muhammad Ben Abbes, who is the Nietzschean 'Übermensch' to our protagonists' 'Last Man'. He is charismatic, sharply intelligent, and the sort of man who makes other men surrender to him willingly. In this curious way, he is the strong leadership which the far right craves, with the exception that he leads a Muslim revitalization of Europe instead of a Christian one. Unemployment and crime plummet, political squabbles perish, Europe rises to challenge and equal the United States, and the nation is a unified, organic whole. With the exception of the new underclass, women. But our protagonist doesn't really care about them.
Houellebecq's dystopia is apparently not the one where the fictitious Muslim Brotherhood takes over; it's the one with an anemic market liberalism which makes any takeover possible, or preferable. You almost get the sense that Houellebecq would approve of any new regime (even if you consider the Margaret Atwood-esque fate of all the women). His deep pessimism parallels his professional subject, Huysmans - a move from decadent overindulgence to the comfort of belief. Whether that belief is sincerely held is another matter.
Houllebecq's study does not cover sharia law or fundamentalism or any of the caricatures of Muslims which haunt the media or political debate. It is a study of collaboration horizontale with a new regime. This is the sort of person who would willingly abandon their old France, leaving behind 'nothing to mourn' for the prospect of material gain. This is apparently the sort of person who would favor any extremism, any man who would covet arranged marriages and obedient slave-wives because any social movement for women is threatening. They are not so poor that they'd be on the edge of survival, but just well off enough to have time to be frustrated and miserable.
An interesting idea, but I wonder if people will discuss it for all the wrong reasons. ...more