Vesaas is a unique writer, but most closely recalled Adelbert Stifter's remarkable story Rock Crystal in his lyrical descriptions of nature, especiallVesaas is a unique writer, but most closely recalled Adelbert Stifter's remarkable story Rock Crystal in his lyrical descriptions of nature, especially of snow and ice. Vesaas goes deeper than Stifter, to the mysteries that circle above adolescence and the complexities of friendship. Vesaas is wonderful at telling little and showing a lot more, in the depth of the forest where the waterfall has formed a cathedral of ice. Unlike Stifter's Berg Krystal, this is not an easy ending, but is one of the best novels about how one deals with loss and grief and promises made to dear friends. "The sun had suddenly disappeared. There was a ravine with steep sides; the sun would perhaps reach into it later but now it was in ice-cold shadow. Unn looked down into an enchanted world of small pinnacles, gables, frosted domes, soft curves and confused tracery. All of it was ice, and the water spurted between, building it up continually. Branches of the waterfall had been diverted and rushed into new channels, creating new forms. Everything shone. The sun had not yet come, but it shone ice-blue and green of itself, and deathly cold. The waterfall plunged into the middle of it as if diving int a black cellar. Up on the edge of the rock the water spread out in stripes, the colour changing form black to green, from green to yellow and white, as the fall became wilder. An booming came from the cellar-hole where the water dashed itself into the white foam against the stones on the bottom. Huge puffs of mist rose into the air..."
The only other story which I find as compelling in its grasp of the mind of a young girl is Jules Supervielle's "The Child of the Open Sea"...more
This was the most perfect book I have read in a long, long time until I reached the end. The tone of Cole's voice, his honesty and integrity, the vantaThis was the most perfect book I have read in a long, long time until I reached the end. The tone of Cole's voice, his honesty and integrity, the vantage point of his view of the world, the subtle lyricism of his words, the generosity of spirit beneath the surface along with his critical eye towards the true injustices. it all added up to a tremendous first novel. Cole captured the rhythms of New York and the sites and sounds we all know there so well, neighborhood by neighborhood. He revealed his depth of international understanding during his protagonist's travels in Europe, his memories of Africa, his parents and their German and Nigerian background, his grandmother in Belgium. He covered vast historical territory, yet the book is anchored in the beat of the present, and as you grow to trust his voice, page by page, you realize you would gladly travel with him anywhere he would care to go. He has been compared to W. G. Sebald and it is an apt comparison, but Cole opens an insightful window into the 21st century where Sebald halted at the end of the 20th. The migration patterns of the world became like birds in Cole's talented hands that suddenly formed patterns we could decipher in the complicated air we live in. His erudition in so many subjects: art, literature, world history, art history, medicine, and his eye as a photographer cast a secondary spell in each scene. You can see how much I was enjoying reading it! I wrote all of the above before I reached the last chapter and though it does not void my feelings about the rest of the book, there is a startling revelation and that has left me feeling betrayed by the voice I had come to trust. And I've been disturbed about it ever since. Unlike the weak surprise of 'lack of atonement' in the last chapter of Atonement, the casual detachment about a cruelty disappoints me in the deepest reservoirs of character---not the characters of books, but the generosity of spirit that gives a person character. I look forward to Cole's first book, Every Day is for the Thief, to be reprinted---described as a Sebaldian combination of photos with his lyric narration. This book has my my qualified heartfelt and thoughtful recommendation minus the last chapter!...more
This is one of my favorite travel books by a woman, a young British girl who traveled to Hungary just before the turn of the last century. Traveling aThis is one of my favorite travel books by a woman, a young British girl who traveled to Hungary just before the turn of the last century. Traveling alone, she vividly describes the countryside of the Hungarian steppes, Transylvania's Carpathian mountains, the many wonderful homes in which she stayed and with a constant humanity and generosity of spirit. I enclose a favorite episode where, arriving late at night at a small town train station, she is taken by sleigh to a remote family estate in Transylvania after after leaving the hospitality of another a family in another town: "It was impossible to get away from their hospitable midst in les than ten days, so that it was nearly the end of October before I started off on my return journey to Szt. Mihály. I went by rail to Magyar Nádas, the nearest station, and the journey seemed never-ending. The trains on all the branch lines simply crawl along, stopping at every little poky station an unconscionable time. The good doctor’s wife had insisted on packing me a basket of what she called ‘Mundvorrath,’ and very acceptable it proved. Cold roast chicken, white rolls, hazel-nut cakes, some slices of sausage, a few pears, a handful of walnuts, grapes, and a small bottle of wine, covered by a dainty white serviette. Our farewells were of the most cordial nature, and full of gratitude on my part; but they all seemed to feel that it was I who had conferred a favor upon them. Quite a large party assembled to see me off, each bringing an offering of flowers, bonbons, candied fruits, or cakes of some kind, and waved handkerchiefs at me with tearful eyes till my train passed beyond the line of vision.
By the time our dilatory engine pulled heavily into Magyar-Nádas it was already eleven o’clock at night, and before it crawled lazily on its way I was tucked safely into the sleigh sent to meet me, presenting the appearance of a bundle of fur rugs crowned by a red wool shawl. The thermometer stood below zero, and it snowed hard and fast. How soft and white those falling feather flakes were! What a world of whiteness and mystery we were passing through! Not a sound except the jingle of the bells on the horses’ necks and the crisp crunch, crunch! of the frozen snow under the rapid runners of the sleigh, that flew so swiftly and smoothly along. How delightful it was! I had a feeling that the world was empty and wide, yet filled with a delicious joy that thrilled me through and through. Empty of everything, except one solitary, flying sleigh, enveloped in circling clouds of soft, silent, snowy spirits that seemed nestling tenderly around me on every side. A mad longing that my steeds would rush into space and carry me onwards for ever and ever, in an eternal environment of fast-falling snow took possession of me, and I almost wept when we drew up at the hall door of the sleeping Kastely, and the maid Pepi came running out exclaimning: “Küss die Hand, gnädiges Fräulein. Was für ein schreckliches Wetter! Das arme grädige Fräulein muss ja ganze gefroren sein.” She was right. Our drive had lasted an hour and a halve and I was nearly frozen, though this little fact had not dawned upon me until she mentioned it."
H. Ellen Browning – A Girl’s Wanderings in Hungary - 1897
Published in 1902. Belloc, like Patrick Leigh Fermor and a few other daring souls, decided to walk across Europe and his journey to Rome over the AlpsPublished in 1902. Belloc, like Patrick Leigh Fermor and a few other daring souls, decided to walk across Europe and his journey to Rome over the Alps is amazing. His account of hiking up a misty mountain near Interlaken and, when the clouds parted, realized that the path had ended and he was on a precipice just about to step out over a drop of thousands of feet into the lake below, is stunning. He vividly describes the mountains, vistas and his fellow travelers make this one of my favorite travel books....more
My favorite travel book of all time. Patrick Leigh Fermor walked across Europe in the 1930s with just a backpack and this eloquent account of what heMy favorite travel book of all time. Patrick Leigh Fermor walked across Europe in the 1930s with just a backpack and this eloquent account of what he found along the way is something I read again and again. His descriptions of Hungary and especially of Transylvania are utterly compelling and you wish you had a time machine to join him then. A fine excerpt: All through the afternoon the hills had been growing in height and now they rolled into the distance behind a steep and solitary hemisphere clad to the summit with vineyards. We turned into the tall gates at the foot of it and a long sweep of grass brought us to a Palladian façade just as night was falling. Two herons rose as we approached; the shadows were full of the scent of lilac. Beyond the french windows, a coifed and barefoot maid with spill was lighting lamps down a long room, and, with each new pool of light, Biedermeier furniture took shape and chairs and sofas where only a few strands of the original fabric still lingered; there were faded plum-coloured curtains and a grand piano laden with framed photographs and old family albums with brass clasps; antlers branched, a stuffed lynx pricked its ears, ancestors with swords and furred tunics dimly postured. A white stove soared between bookcases, bear-skins spread underfoot: and, as at Kövecsespuszta, a sideboard carried an array of silver cigarette-cases with the arms and monograms of friends who had bestowed them for standing godfather or being best man at a wedding or second in a duel. There was a polished shellcase from some Silesian battle, a congeries of thimble-sized goblets, a scimitar with turquoise-encrusted scabbard, folded newspapers—Az Ujság and Pesti Hirlap sent from Budapest, and the Wiener Salonblatt, an Austrian Tatler full of pictures of shooting parties, equestrian events and smart balls far away, posted from Vienna. Among the silver frames was a daguerrotype of the Empress Elizabeth—Queen, rather, in this lost province of the former Kingdom—another of the Regent dressed as admiral of a vanished fleet, and a third of Archduke Otto in the pelts and the plumes of a Hungarian magnate. Red, green and blue, the squat volumes of the Almanach de Gotha were ready to pounce. A glittering folio volume, sumptuously bound in green leather, almost covered a small table and its name, Az ember tragediája, was embossed in gold: The Tragedy of Man, by Imre Madács. It is a long nineteenth-century dramatic poem of philosophic and contemplative temper, and no Hungarian house, even the least bookish—like English houses with the velllum-bound Omar Khayyám illustrated by Edmund Dulac—seemed complete without it. Finally, a rack in the corner was filled with long Turkish pipes. This catalogue of detail composes an archetype of which every other country-house I saw in Transylvania seemed to be a variation. At the other end, beyond the double doors of a room which was half-study and half-gunroom, more antlers proliferated; figures moved in the lamplight and the voices of guests sounded, as I hastened upstairs to wash and get some of the dust off before meeting them… Next morning revealed the front of a late eighteenth-century building. Between the wings, four wide-spaced Tuscan columns advanced and ascended both floors to form a splendid loggia. White louvred shutters continued the line of windows on either side, each leaf touching its neighbour on the façade when they were open while indoors the light poured across the floors; closed, with their slats ajar when the sun became too hot, they striped the wide polished beams underfoot with bars of light and dark,. There was a wheel with a handle which cranked out an enormous slant of white awning and, looking out, one might have been on the deck of a schooner painted by Tissot with tree-tops for waves. Beyond, the vine-clad hemispherical hill of Mokra soared like a volcanic island against snowy heaps of cloud and a pale sky. The smells of lilac, box and lavender drifted in, goldfinches moved about the branches, and now and then house-martins from the nests clustering along the pediment strayed indoors and flew in desperate circles or swept clean through the house and out the other side.
Patrick Leigh Fermor BETWEEN THE WOODS AND THE WATER, 1934
Walser is a masterful writer, echoing Kafka and Buchner, and died on a pathway in the Alps after some years of madness, found by two children and theiWalser is a masterful writer, echoing Kafka and Buchner, and died on a pathway in the Alps after some years of madness, found by two children and their dog. His story always touches me and his story __Kleist in Thun___ describes a historical event where Kleist rented a small cottage on the edge of Lake Thun in the Swiss Alps, and set about writing. Similar in phrasing and tone to Georg Buchner's Lenz, and echoing the re-telling of a writer's struggle in the face of the alpine sublime, the wrestle with self-expression and spiritual/physical yearnings. If you find this story interesting, Lenz will captivate you, and if the story of Kleist intrigues you, then Christa Wolf's No Place On Earth, which imagines a long conversation between Kleist and the poet Gunderrode, is a wonderful next read. One of my favorite writers, favorite stories....more
Every photograph is a home I would like to visit, and somehow learn from each person the things that have meant the most to them. It is a glimpse of EEvery photograph is a home I would like to visit, and somehow learn from each person the things that have meant the most to them. It is a glimpse of Europe that is rapidly disappearing and where the fragrance of cooked cabbage hangs lightly in the room....more
Three short novellas, each told with a quiet, masterful voice. An Obscure Man tells of the life of a 17th century Dutchman, with a compelling attentioThree short novellas, each told with a quiet, masterful voice. An Obscure Man tells of the life of a 17th century Dutchman, with a compelling attention to detail and a perfect counterpart to Marta Morazzoni's Girl In A Turban....more
My favorite of de Beauvoir's books: the story of 5 women friends, with each chapter telling the same situation from each woman's point of view. A liteMy favorite of de Beauvoir's books: the story of 5 women friends, with each chapter telling the same situation from each woman's point of view. A literary trick popular at the time, but in this case one of de Beauvoir's most insightful take on contemporary French life at mid-last century....more