Most of the way through reading 'Blindness' my reaction could probably be succinctly described as awestruck. At first, it was because this novel was nMost of the way through reading 'Blindness' my reaction could probably be succinctly described as awestruck. At first, it was because this novel was nothing like I expected it to be. Then it was out of sheer horror. Make no mistake: this book contains the stuff of your worst nightmares. If anyone ever took it into their heads to adapt it for film, I doubt I could bring myself to watch it. And then, after I had adjusted somewhat to the savage world Saramago creates, I was bowled over by how sublime some of the scenes in this novel are (and credit to the translator who did such a great job).
Saramago takes the civilised world and turns it upside down and shakes it to see what falls out. Readers will find themselves immersed in a terrifying, Hobbesian distopia where the sacred and profane have been inverted. What makes 'Blindness' worth reading, though, is the author's portrayal of the minute, ordinary acts to reclaim human dignity in the midst of the fear and squalor. That and the fact that the protagonist, the doctor's wife, is probably one of literature's greatest unacknowledged heroines....more
I suspect this will be one of my favourites reads of the year, and I can't believe I let it sit on my shelf as long as I did.
I've loved William FaulknI suspect this will be one of my favourites reads of the year, and I can't believe I let it sit on my shelf as long as I did.
I've loved William Faulkner's writing ever since I first read The Sound and the Fury as a teen, and nothing about As I Lay Dying was disappointing. This is one of the genre defining instances of southern gothic writing: tense with familial dysfunction, eerie and at times macabre, and rich in the sounds and words of the Deep South. To be honest, when I read the description on the back of the binding, the story of an impoverished country family taking their mother's body for burial in Jefferson, Mississippi didn't strike me as especially interesting but the drama is consistent and I found it difficult to put down once I was gripped....more
The nicest thing about One Day in the Life is the indomitable optimism of the protagonist in the face of pretty much the worst conditions imaginable.The nicest thing about One Day in the Life is the indomitable optimism of the protagonist in the face of pretty much the worst conditions imaginable. There's not a lot of deep and meaningful theme development, but it still tells a good story and the protagonist is hard not to like. Also very informative- even though the book is just a 24hr glimpse into the gulag system, it's a very thorough chronicle....more
From most accounts that I've found, The Stranger/ The Outsider is considered Camus most important fiction work. I actually found I enjoyed The PlagueFrom most accounts that I've found, The Stranger/ The Outsider is considered Camus most important fiction work. I actually found I enjoyed The Plague much more than this one. I found it quite difficult to relate to the protagonist's total apathy. The novel certainly gives a great intellectual demonstration of the Absurd human condition, but I didn't manage to develop much emotional insight or sympathy for Meursault. The one aspect of Mersault that would have allowed me to like the character- his complete indifference to social norms and expectations- was ultimately also what made him seem callous and unsympathetic, a bit of an automaton really....more
Beloved is not easily accessible- the text makes you work to extract every bit of meaning and if you're not feeling up to that kind of heavy-going decBeloved is not easily accessible- the text makes you work to extract every bit of meaning and if you're not feeling up to that kind of heavy-going deconstruction, you're probably going to end up resenting it.
But that caveat noted, this is probably one of the most rewarding reads I've ever embarked on. I studied it as part of a university literature class that focused on post-colonial and revolutionary literature and I know most of my classmates really disliked it- but I loved it. I thought it was just magic.
Beloved is a Southern Gothic novel that tells the story of the outcast Sethe, a freed slave, attempting to reconstruct her life in the aftermath of slavery and a violent, disturbing personal tragedy. The story is told in a disjointed manner through the perspectives of a variety of characters surrounding the protagonist, including the eponymous ghost, Beloved herself. It mixes the supernatural, elements of voodoo culture and horror into a thoroughly researched history of slavery that starts in Africa and finishes in Ohio. The thread that pulls the reader through the story is an unknown sinister event lurking in Sethe's past, involving her deceased daughter, and the increasingly malevolent presence of the ghost haunting her house.
It's not difficult to see why some people find the disjointed, non-linear, stream-of-consciousness delivery of the story off-putting. But if you're patient with it you'll find a narrative that not only relays a history of slavery in America, but shows (rather than simply telling) how fractured and psychologically damaged its victims were. The delivery of the narrative is designed to reflect the collective state of mind of those whose voices tell the story. I think there's also an element of Morrison's trying to argue that the story of slavery is one of such horror and violence that it simply cannot be told in ordinary language, that it has it's own vocabulary- one that's different from the words used to describe the mundane.
I noticed another reviewer likened the narration to that of William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury- a comparison which is spot on. Toni Morrison wrote her masters thesis on Faulkner and the southern gothic genre, so it's not surprising that she's borrowed many of his techniques. Like Faulkner, Morrison also crafts impressionist, poetic prose, which I thought was a delight to read. As with Benjy Compson's mentally handicapped narration in The Sound and the Fury, the difficulty you experience as a reader in decoding Sethe's fractured narrative highlights the plight of the victims of slavery and the difficulty they had in making their voices heard.
There's so much to discover in this book, layers upon layers that can be unpacked. If you feel like you're struggling, don't try to analyse every single clause- read on and just try to absorb the over all gist of the words, because this is the kind of book where the meaning will crystallise as you progress. My last piece of advice when reading Beloved would be to pack a box of tissues- the events depicted in the book are not for the faint-hearted. They are both disturbing and very, very sad, as you would expect of any story that attempted to chronicle such an awful part of human history....more