Well, here I go. This is a huge, sprawling novel. Morton in his introduction makes no bones about its flaws - its sentimentality, its bathos, its some...moreWell, here I go. This is a huge, sprawling novel. Morton in his introduction makes no bones about its flaws - its sentimentality, its bathos, its sometimes puerile* digressions, the fact that Hugo is no philosopher but thinks himself one. It seems to me that the anticipated flaws of uncontrolled, badly structured, lazily expressed writing may be forgivable, and also provide an insight into the nature of romanticism which in myriad forms pervades our contemporary culture. I'll take doses of Wallace Stevens along the way to stay centred.
Page 84 and loving it. * As to the puerile, Hugo comments upon Myriel's occasionally childish sayings: "Puerile they may be, but these sublime puerilities were peculiar to Saint Francis d'Assisi and Marcus Aurelius." Since the novel is interesting for its place in modernism, and since the writer so clearly has language itself as a subject of content, and since the sharing by Myriel of the language and culture of his people so that he is thus able to communicate, make common, this is no small point. In religious context, Myriel's Christ0like use of near parables based on agricultural imagery, fictionalised if he sees fit, also complicates the dismissal of some of Hugo's style in Morton's introduction. It is surely no feat to be sneered at to be able to reach a reader or listener at precisely their own level: it is a rare gift.
Stupendous. Walvin's method is simple and ingenious. He examines the lives of a slave trader, a slave owner and a slave in detail, and inductively pla...moreStupendous. Walvin's method is simple and ingenious. He examines the lives of a slave trader, a slave owner and a slave in detail, and inductively places them in the wider historical context. I have just completed the first section on the obnoxious John Newton who was a slaver captain, a brutal thug with thumb screws and whips, who thought nothing of the discrepancy between his penchant for neurotic theological nonsense and the vileness of his own part in the wicked trade. Later, he became a famous clergyman, a fierce Calvinist courted by politicians and the rich, and the poet William Cowper, and he it was who wrote that ugly sentimental song Amazing Grace). In a grotesque twist of Calvinist logic he seemed to think that because he had been a sinner therefore God's grace rescued him so his sinning was a way to repentance and glory. He became a spokesperson for the protracted abolitionist movement, a wise political move to further demonstrate his godliness. Of course, the abstract rhetoric against the trade was safely removed from the actual horrors of what lay beneath decks. His type are with us today of course, and will justify everything in the name of the lord. (less)
I like it so far. It is written in short chapters. The history is from classical sources, orthodox, and a space is given for reflection in each sectio...moreI like it so far. It is written in short chapters. The history is from classical sources, orthodox, and a space is given for reflection in each section. Ramadan writes well, and his expressive form carries the sense (I mean sense in the sense of sense, bodily incorporation) of what I find has often been expressed in a castrated form, such as, for instance, the idea of submission.(less)
I see I only gave it three stars! Well it was 35 years ago I read it first, and I'm back and loving it. May be a while before I get to review it, thou...moreI see I only gave it three stars! Well it was 35 years ago I read it first, and I'm back and loving it. May be a while before I get to review it, though. "A man is the sum of his misfortunes". Hmm.
Oh no. I have left it too long, weeks. Have to abandon it, can't get back into it. Not in the mood. Etc. Wretch that I am! Anyway, it is the sort of book that needs several reads, I think, and I have given it one and a half so hope that will be sufficient to get started properly 'soon'....(less)
Reading again, after many years in the wilderness of cultural studies bitterness, that home for frustrated and hateful spoilt brats all over the rich...moreReading again, after many years in the wilderness of cultural studies bitterness, that home for frustrated and hateful spoilt brats all over the rich world. Undergraduates are taught to sneer at this book (of course, on the basis of a two or three page extract), in the beginning of their indoctrination into despising of the literary. There is, it is true, much to object to, but the light irony of its writing is delight and powerful of itslf: the issues it deals with frighteningly familiar themes of today. I imagine even hardened sneerers will get their usual angry pleasure from reading it in the way that 'pleasure' is consumed in those former polytechnic domes that let in no sweetness and light. (less)