Certainly not what I expected, although I am not sure what my expectations were. Anyway, La Douleur is a compendium of half a dozen short stories abouCertainly not what I expected, although I am not sure what my expectations were. Anyway, La Douleur is a compendium of half a dozen short stories about the months before and after the end of World War II. From what I know, it is part autobiography and part fiction, but that's not the point of the novel. It is very interesting to see how Paris was at that time, how war and the aftermath transformed people, how the pain of what they had been through transformed them. Duras has a very... let's say I was surprised that her writing was not at all ornate but quite simple and direct (contrary to a lot of French writers, not that I think one is better than the other). To sum up, it was an interesting book, but it didn't stir any particular feeling in me. ...more
This is a very unconventional book that is extremely well written, it reads like poetry. The topic is a bit truculent, there are certainly some surpriThis is a very unconventional book that is extremely well written, it reads like poetry. The topic is a bit truculent, there are certainly some surprises, but, above all, I think it is a must from Spanish literature (and, unfortunately, not very well known!)...more
Ah, I had high expectations for this one, but no. The story starts with the affair between Stephen and Isabelle, which is kind of... physical. They raAh, I had high expectations for this one, but no. The story starts with the affair between Stephen and Isabelle, which is kind of... physical. They ran away, then she gets pregnant (doesn't tell anything to poor Stephen who left his job and has now become unskilled labour) and then she feels a pang of guilt (catholic upbringing has much to do with it I fear) and goes back to her abusive husband. And then the war starts. I liked the war part way better, it is very realistic no doubt, and the last part was really dramatic. Anyway, nothing beats All Quiet on the Western Front in terms of WWI-set novels. ...more
Reading this book brought back memories from when I read Memoirs of Hadrian., by the same author. Being both novels biographies of sorts, the writingReading this book brought back memories from when I read Memoirs of Hadrian., by the same author. Being both novels biographies of sorts, the writing style is similar: precious, elegant, intricate, just as you would expect a cultured frenchmen to talk. However, whereas Memoirs is narrated by Hadrian himself, this novel has POVs, all using the third person. Finally, although both apparently tell the story of a man, what the book really is about is an era, being the Roman Empire or the Renaissance. The main character is a man named Zenon, whose life remains quite a mystery for a good part of the novel. He is an alchemist, a doctor, a philosopher. He is, above all, someone who seeks knowledge and that has a moral code that clashes with what prevailed in 16th century Holland.
I did not think much of the characters, what was interesting were the conversations between Zenon and some other character, or the chapters devoted to a character that does not seem to be very connected to the plot. In such occasions you can delight in quite extensive philosophical discussions on religion, the idea of God, as people from that time thought about it. I also learned about all the socio-political and religious conflicts that took place in Holland and Germany during that time (Munster, the Peasant's Revolt, the Reform, etc) and what it meant then.
However, some parts of the novel were rather slow and well... Boring. But overall I enjoyed the novel, Yourcenar writes wonderfully well....more
I'm not very fond of comedy fiction but I must admit I had a lot of fun reading this one. Although the back-and-forth pregnancy and the absurd/messy sI'm not very fond of comedy fiction but I must admit I had a lot of fun reading this one. Although the back-and-forth pregnancy and the absurd/messy situations when two characters seem to be unable to understand each other were a bit tiring (and repetitive)....more
What a strange book... it took me a while to get into the story, basically because I'm in the middle of my finals and I don't have much time to read aWhat a strange book... it took me a while to get into the story, basically because I'm in the middle of my finals and I don't have much time to read and, consequently, a read a bit in a hurry. And this is definitely not the way to read this book. The main character, Gallip, one day comes back home and realises his wife, Ruya, has left him. He believes she has run away with Celal, his step-brother and a famous columnist, and that they are hiding somewhere in Istanbul. So he starts looking for them and, in the process, he starts discovering who he is and who he wants to be. It is so beautifully written. And yet. During most of the book I had no clue where the story was leading, I did not see the purpose of anything. So, instead of getting a bit upset because of the lack of direction of the plot, I decided to sit down, relax, and enjoy the writing. It was the correct decision. After finishing the novel I think I know what the direction was, but there are still a lot of questions in the air (which I think is intentional). I really enjoyed this book, I liked it much better than Silent House....more
First time in 2014 I've read a book worthy of 5 stars. It's a brilliant book, I'm still overwhelmed by this book. It's so intense, so powerful and draFirst time in 2014 I've read a book worthy of 5 stars. It's a brilliant book, I'm still overwhelmed by this book. It's so intense, so powerful and dramatic (not melodramatic), that I simply wasn't able to concentrate on anything while I still had some pages left to read. It's been six years since the last time I read All Quiet on the Western Front, which still remains one of my favourite books, and only a couple of months ago I started to wonder whether Erich Maria Remarque had written any more books. And he had! So, the natural place to start with was with the so-called sequel to his most famous novel. It starts in the last months of the war, in April 1918, but quickly moves to peacetime. Actually, you actually get to know more how life was in the trenches through the character's memories than during those 40 odd pages at the beginning. However, they are also interesting because they will serve as a contrast in the interaction between a group of six or seven soldiers who were only 18 when they became soldiers, and now they have to come back to civilian life. At the beginning, even if Ernst is the narrator, we don’t know much about him. Most of the story is about what happens to his comrades, to the company of men he is with, they are a community. But this stops when they come back from the war and need to adapt to their civilian lives. They lose touch and they become different people, so that even they cannot understand each other. It's a beautiful book, beautifully written (something that already fascinated me from his first novel), and it's a pity that this translation is not very good (or that's my feeling). But it's very tough to read sometimes, the accounts of what happened in the war, or the despair of some former soldiers, who see that they are no longer fit for "normal" life, they cannot adapt to society, that war has killed them in some other cruel way. It is also a very interesting portrait of German society after the war and it gives an intuition of what happened later. Anyway, great book, the best I've read this year so far. It's not required to have read All Quiet on the Western Front to understand it! ...more
Huge book that takes place during the 1920s in Paris. The main character, Aurélien, is pretty much drawn to fall in love with Bérénice - a young marriHuge book that takes place during the 1920s in Paris. The main character, Aurélien, is pretty much drawn to fall in love with Bérénice - a young married women who has come to Paris for a visit - by a scheming so-called friend, Edmond Barbentane. More than half of the book is about how fate seems to be against the couple and, despite the intensity of their feelings, they are never together. In fact, Bérénice lives for three months with a meek artist and then goes back to her husband. They are both marked and devastated by their meeting and their unfulfilled love affair. The book also tries to describe the ambience in Paris' elite society (Aurélien does not work, he is a rentier) as well as in the artistic sphere. There were a lot of short stories during the book (you cannot fill 700 pages with the plot) which I guess were aimed to portray what Paris was like back then, but for me it was mostly boring. The characters were interesting. Edmond, for instance, reminded me of an early XXth century Chuck Bass, he dreads boredom and he'll do anything - from having a mistress to manipulate his friends and wife - to be entertained. It is difficult to understand what's Aurélien's purpose in life, but little by little (and especially at the end, in his last confrontation with Bérénice) you come to understand his character. He is rather conservative, actually. And then... Bérénice is quite mysterious, I'll never really understood why she ran away with that poor little poet. But I did like the idea of someone wanting the "absolu" (or "absolute") not only in the sense of perfection but also, in a way, of raw purity; of wanting to achieve this "absolute" in love, or let it go entirely and, under no circumstance, let it be tarnished by mundane things....more
4.5/5 Quoting the narrator "This is the saddest story". Drama. Drama everywhere. Not melodrama, but the sober, yet heart-breaking, drama of the normal4.5/5 Quoting the narrator "This is the saddest story". Drama. Drama everywhere. Not melodrama, but the sober, yet heart-breaking, drama of the normal, unromantic, lives of Leonora, Edward, Florence, and John (the narrator). I really liked the way John told the story. It was completely chaotic, coming back and forth, retelling the same events but from different perspectives. As the story unravels – whether it is the "truth" or not isn't clear, John himself doesn't want to venture that far – you get completely different angles from the main characters and at some point you really don't know what to think of them or who is to blame in this tragedy. For me it was not only a book about the complexity of human relationships (in particular, marriages at the beginning of the 20th century) but also about the impact of one's environment in one's personality. Throughout the novel John refers several times to either the religion, the nationality, or the "education" (meaning whether she or he "knew about life" or not, you get the gist) of the character. Being English or American marked a different, being Catholic or Protestant meant a completely different understanding about what life was supposed to be, and the complete darkness in which girls (and some boys) are kept until the day of their marriage (and even further) was key to explain the disastrous consequences of the Ashburnham's and the Dowell's marriage. Great, great book, I liked it way better than Parade's End. (and it's shorter!!!)...more
The first part was almost magical and I quite enjoyed it, my family also having a country house, so it was easy for me to relate to those childhood meThe first part was almost magical and I quite enjoyed it, my family also having a country house, so it was easy for me to relate to those childhood memories. And also, it is magnificently written. Granted, the sentences are extremely long and it takes a while to get used to it, but once you've done it, it is quite lovely. I wish I could say the same about the rest of the book. I was especially annoyed by the second part. Although I did like the progression of Swann's love/obsession for Odette and his parallel rise and fall from Paris' illustrious society (the Verdurin couple is quite something, how I hate them, but how real they sound!!!), it was not without a great deal of pain and struggling. The plot was dragged way too long to my taste and at some point I really couldn't bear another page of Swann whining about Odette not giving a damn about him anymore (and then, of course, marriage is the obvious solution that comes to mind, right????). I liked the ending, but the horrible 250+ pages before were an ordeal to me. I don't think I'll be reading anything more from Monsieur Proust, for quite a while I had dismissed the idea of reading this series, but I found that I had to try, at least, having been educated in a French Lycée.
P.S. I had been waiting to finish this book to listen to the Vinteuil Sonata and now I discover it doesn't exist?? Why Proust, why???...more