Sunday, July 27, 2014

Travel Light by Naomi Mitchison

Title: Travel Light
Author: Naomi Mitchison
Orignal Publication Date: 1952
Publisher: --
Pages: 157
Genre/s: Fantasy, Children's Literature

Travel light my child, as the Wanderer travels light, and his love will be with you."(57)

Travel Light

Travel Light tells the story of Halla, a girl born to a King, who will also take the very same gift that was given, for he casts her out into the wilds before any words could be spoken. She is nursed by bears and raised by dragons. But the time of dragons has come to past and magic is waning, our dear Halla is destined to make a choice. Who will she be? Halla Bearsbairn? Halla Heroesbane? or Halla Godsgift?

But this is not what Travel Light is simply all about.

“Perhaps she did not die,” said Halla, “perhaps her nurse turned into a bear and carried her away into the forest. Perhaps she was brought up by bears and dragons. Perhaps it was better for her in the end than being a king’s child.”

“That was never the story,” said Modolf.

“Forget the story,” said Halla.

And indeed it was never the story, just as Travel Light is not a simple children's book. It is about 'traveling light' in a muddled and muddied world, defining your own destiny and in the process finding yourself.

Indeed the story moves with Halla's narrative. The episodic story moves between and beyond conventions and structures of the literary landscape. It seemingly starts out as a didactic fable with Halla’s bearish infancy. In this episode Mitchison grounded the work to Nordic Mythos with the occasional appearances of Valkyries and passing mentions of other Nordic legends. But this didactic fable violently veers off to a dragonish fire-proof adolescence, and with it, the very nature of the narrative. Aside from an amusing discussion of dragons’ distinctive hoarding nature, Mitchison delves into human nature and philosophy and moves from Scandinavian landscape of Paganism to the heart of Constantinople and of Christianity. It is important to note that the Nordic Mythos facet of the tale is never lost as the Valkyrie seems to keep appearing intermittently. As the tale which did not provide a clear span and flow of time (for it would seem that a hundred, thousand years even, have come to past) comes to a close, Halla is seen as a mythic figure herself and the nature of the narrative ends where it starts, Nordic mythology.

As one can see, so much is in work here. Mitchison talks about human nature, beliefs systems and religion, but never, as I felt, did she shove it up to me. I felt that she kept true to the one thing she wanted to impart, ‘Travel Light’ and do so by being good to all. It has no form and defies the traditional linear progressions but I still enjoyed its exceptional and unprecedented transition from a fable-like story to a socio-political examination of human belief and dynamics, again in a sense, by ‘travelling light’, by simplifying matters and driving at its core.

I highly recommend this book, and do so while weeping that it suffers in relative obscurity considering how good it is. Perhaps because it was publish in the era of Tolkien and Lewis? The shadows they have cast have inadvertently and yet effectively laid down a shroud of obscurity over works like this, which is interesting in light of Mitchison’s relation to Tolkien. She was a dear friend to Tolkien, was among the first to read the unpublished The Lord of the Rings, and when the said book suffered from poor reception compared to the then anticipated sale, Mitchison was asked to do blurbs for its marketing promotions.

Naomi Mitchison

Mitchison must have been an exciting and principled individual too! She traveled the world engaging in social activism mostly fighting for Indigenous Communities, to which end, she was adopted as adviser and mother of the Bakgatla Tribe in Botswana. She died in 1999 at the age of 101, if anything; Mitchison herself indeed, ‘traveled light’.

Travel light!

The Life of the Bee by Maurice Maeterlinck

Title: The Life of the Bee
Author: Maurice Maeterlinck
Original Publication Date: 1901
Publisher: --
Pages: 176
Genre/s: Non-Fiction

Will we all die if bees disappear?

An infograph on the contribution of Bees*

Thankfully, the scientifically accurate answer is NO.  That no however carries serious implications. Bees pollinate more than a third of human food and produce, which in an extinction scenario necessarily affects food security, that aside from the fact that you will struggle to exist in a world without honey.


The Life of the Bee is an entomological work by Nobel Laureate Maurice Maeterlinck first published in 1901. It has two versions, The Life of the Bee and The Children's Life of the Bee, the chief differences of which certain parts thought to be too violent and 'scandalous' for children were removed from the latter, like the killing of the male bee population.

To say that this is purely an entomological work would be a clear disjunction from its contents, for it is an examination of human relations as much as it is an entomological work on bees. Maeterlinck  systematically inserts his observations of human society and juxtaposes it to that of the bees, an aspect which I found sometimes to be a nuisance. I found myself looking for the next entomological part and moving on and skipping from the philosophizing. Blame it on the bees, they seem to be a lot more interesting.

The book has illustrations like this throughout.

As this was published in 1901, there are some notable gaps in knowledge which seemed interesting for providing snippets of what have been, to this inopportune lack of knowledge Maeterlink writes, "It is sad, but let our reason be content to add, so it must be."(55).

The prose is eloquently constructed, but can be considered an inappropriately overblown writing when used in an entomological work.

Like his words on their sting:

"..there is a sort of dreadful dryness, as though a flame of desert has scorched the wounded limb; and one asks  oneself whether these daughters of the sun may not have distilled a dazzling poison from their father's rays in order to defend the treasure they have gathered during his shining hours."(7)

On the description of the hive:

"And if the outlook at first appear rather gloomy, there still are signs of hope wherever the eye may turn. One might almost fancy oneself in one of the castles they tell of in fairy stories, where there are millions of tiny phials along the walls containing the souls of men about to be born. for here too, are lives that have not yet come to life." (56)

The Hive

Both quotations are also reflective of operative philosophies Maeterlinck has when writing. Again his identity as part of the symbolist movement left its mark, first, when he wrote on the 'spirit of the hive' as an abstract force by which bees are governed on certain aspects like their swarming, and second, when he engaged on his habit of anthropomorphizing elements of nature to social constructs, in this case, his Father Sun.

This is considered a classic piece in bee literature and I did end up learning a lot.
*Courtesy BBC Nature

I have reviewed another work by Maurice Maeterlinck:
The Inner Beauty (4 Stars)

This book forms part of my remarkably extensive reading list on Nobel Prize for Literature Laureates

You Get So Alone at Times That it Just Makes Sense by Charles Bukowski

Title: You Get So Alone at Times That it Just Makes Sense
Author: Charles Bukowski
Original Publication Date: September 1, 1986
Publisher: Black Sparrow Press
Pages: 320
Genre/s: Poetry

Charles Bukowski

While the Beat Generation was making its headway in literature with the likes of On the Road and Howl, Bukowski was, in most instances, dead drunk. In the post-World War II lit movement where the Beat Generation found its threshold, Bukowski was in engaged in what was to be a ten-year alcohol induced stupor predicated on his failure to  initially break in the literary world. He actually wrote in a time after the Beat Generation, and this perhaps have brought contentions of whether he is actually a Beatnik himself. If the Beat Generation talks about bohemian hedonism advancing a firm denial of conformity through experimentation with drugs, repudiation of social constructs of gender and sexuality, negation of societal materialism, and most importantly, the depiction of human condition and emotion in its truest and most explicit state, then, this collection pretty much speaks for itself and saying that he really is part of the generation is not an unfounded conclusion.

In this collection, one will see that Bukowski is an honest man, a brutally honest man, whether that honesty is anchored on his drunkenness is something I have yet to read on. The topics are varied, from protitutes, antagonistic views on other writers, drinking, horse racing, hurling invectives, daily life observations, his cats, loneliness, and did I mention drinking?

beasts bounding through time

Van Gogh writing his brother for paints
Hemingway testing his shotgun
Celine going broke as a doctor of medicine
the impossibility of being human
Villon expelled from Paris for being a thief
Faulkner drunk in the gutters of his town
the impossibility of being human
Burroughs killing his wife with a gun
Mailer stabbing his
the impossibility of being human
Maupassant going mad in a rowboat
Dostoevsky lined up against a wall to be shot
Crane off the back of a boat into the propeller
the impossibility
Sylvia with her head in the oven like a baked potato
Harry Crosby leaping into that Black Sun
Lorca murdered in the road by the Spanish troops
the impossibility
Artaud sitting on a madhouse bench
Chatterton drinking rat poison
Shakespeare a plagiarist
Beethoven with a horn stuck into his head against deafness
the impossibility the impossibility
Nietzsche gone totally mad
the impossibility of being human
all too human
this breathing
in and out
out and in
these punks
these cowards
these champions
these mad dogs of glory
moving this little bit of light toward

As the title would suggest, loneliness abound the poems, but underneath it, just beyond the listless landscape that define most of our lives, lives a triumphant man who seem to have come into terms with loneliness itself not by finding meaning in others but by remaining firm and steadfast, unyielding, choosing to live in loneliness itself.

how is your heart?

...what  matters most is
how well you
walk through the

Indeed Bukowski, indeed!

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Rise and Fall of Great Powers by Tom Rachman

Title: The Rise and Fall of Great Powers
Author:  Tom Rachman
Original Publication Date: 2014
Publisher: Sceptre Books
Pages: 374
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction

“He allowed himself to be swayed by his conviction that human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.”
―Gabriel García Márquez

And indeed life has been this constant making and remaking of who we are, it is, the uncompromising search of meaning and truth. We all go out in the world, frantically searching for something, something we may feel only in vague stirrings, and sometimes, in our definite inevitable folly, something we don't know of. Whether we seek something that exist or something we have subconsciously created out of a desperate need to define ourselves has never been the question, for the search itself has always been the answer, hasn't it? And we never really come out of it do we? Then in some seemingly random manner which has always been forthcoming, we stand in retrospection, an inquisitive outside observer of our very own lives.


[book:The Rise & Fall of Great Powers|19104786] tells us of Tooly Zylberberg’s cathartic odyssey, a journey that spanned decades and crossed continents, a journey that did not only defy time and space, but masterfully that too of the traditional linear narrative form. The story is sequentially divided into three periods – 1988, 1999, and 2011 – corresponding to pivotal moments in Tooly’s life, moments that would define, and haunt her. Hand in hand with Tooly’s sojourns is the milieu of the decade including the technological advancements, political demographics and prevailing family dynamics.

To employ words in this case would, however definitely lead to failure, for the reader must be left to his/her own devices. One must know Tooly in a personal manner and not some insufficient words fraught with verbosity. So go, and read!

“Consistency in character is a form of tragedy.”(330)

Arguably some of the best characters live in this exquisitely written piece. I won’t mind loosing valuable time over a cup of coffee with any of the personas Rachman has brought to life. Their philosophies, their choices from life decisions to their dictions had me enamored. These exceptionally captivating characters left me in a daze, for their story is not of the everyday kind and yet I found myself in a corner sufficiently drunk in empathy. Rachman created universal and unusually personal characters that have necessarily, at the same time, relegated readers as outside observers and yet made them part of the narrative itself, for sublimely, one will come to realize that Tooly’s search is existent in every reader's life.

I enjoyed the candid humor;

“You don’t like sweet-and-sour, do you?”
“No,” he confirmed. “I want food that can make up its mind.”(57)

the crisp philosophically-charged conversations;

“I hate trivial beings.”
“I hate them also. But be careful; it is trivial beings that run the world.”(254)

and most of all, the universal (well it should be) love for books.

“People kept their books, she thought, not because they were likely to read them again but because these objects contained the past-the texture of being oneself at a particular place, at a particular time, each volume a piece of one's intellect, whether the work itself had been loved or despised or had induced a snooze on page forty.”

The prose is unique, lyrical and beautiful and conclusively ties this story in impeccability. The tone is always warm and tender.

Those who find difficulty in novels written in a nontraditional form may easily find this book’s delivery as fragmented and disjointed. My prayers go to you for such stifling preference or inopportune incapacity. The structure itself reflects Tooly’s ordeal, and in many instances, ours. We are battered with inconsistencies and unending questions, white lies and lies that have become truths, truths that have been lost in obscurity. But as Tooly unravels the cryptic nature of her life, we are reminded that people whom we call family are not defined by pieces of paper or definitive blood relations, they are those who stay, long after we have left.

My copy was provided by Random House Publishing via Netgalley.

The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

Title: The Girl with All the Gifts
Author: M.R. Carey (Mike Carey)
Original Publication Date: June 6, 2014
Publisher: Orbit
Pages: 460
Genre/s: Science-Fiction, Post-ApocalypseZombies

The Girl with All the Gifts is the book with all the treats.

The Girl with All the Gifts is Pandora's Box

Deciding what to have for supper was a subtle battle of attrition. The fact that Pasta won is a victory I could have lived with. Working within the defined limits of cooking, I prepared everything that was needed, left the Pasta boiling, and waited. Everything was going smoothly, almost asking, begging, that something go wrong, just as it does every time I walk into this alien dimension called kitchen. I should have stuck there, waited for the pasta to be firm, except that I went ahead and read this, and that's when everything started to go pleasantly wrong. The only conscious act I seem to remember aside from reading is flipping through the introduction. Before I knew it, I was 1/3s done, with it, an indefinable black mass. Alas, I have burned the victor beyond recognition, and necessarily induced a palatal fit of sadness. No worries. This is, after all, the book with all the treats, if anything, it will get me through the night. And it did, for if night is defined by nothing else but a natural state of rest during which our eyes are closed and one becomes unconscious, it was then a very foreign concept in that limited instance. I went to bed, but not to sleep. I stirred and turned a page, I changed positions and turned another. And then again, as if sucked by this ineluctable book-induced vacuum where time is but a word and urgency a concept, I turned the final page. I just finished reading The Girl with All the Gifts and it brutally severed me from my reading reverie. It was 4 A.M. I have not prepared my arguments for today's moot court practice which will surely lead to a mediocre if not a laughable performance, I did not slip out of my clothes which left me aching on undesirable regions, my eyes were unsuitably watery, my eyelids were falling as if tied down with concrete barriers, I was so lightheaded as if I myself was walking on air. I did not sleep at all. No worries. After all, I just read The Girl with All the Gifts. And it has made all the difference.

And yes, it's that GOOD.

disclaimer: possible science-fiction bias in play

caveat: proper review forthcoming, perhaps after a good dinner and some sufficient sleep.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Inner Beauty by Maurice Maeterlinck

Title: The Inner Beauty
Author:  Maurice Maeterlinck
Original Publication Date: 1910
Pages: 39
Genre/s: Classics, Philosophy

Nothing in the whole world is so athirst for beauty as the soul, nor is there anything to which beauty clings so readily. (5)

This has been a particularly hard piece to read, and by a necessary consequence, to write a review of. Maurice Maeterlicnk is, before anything else, a Nobel laureate (1911) who earned the coveted award for his plays which form a substantial part of the Symbolism Movement. Adherents believed that absolute truths could only be described indirectly, which necessitates a style of writing punctuated by metaphorical and suggestive prose. This is now our caveat by which we seek to assuage any difficulty in tackling this work.

The work is divided in three parts, Inner Beauty, Invisible Goodness, and Silence. This is a spiritual and ruminative work in all its aspects.

"Beauty is the only language of our soul: none other is known to it."(10)

Beauty is of course acts that we could generally and objectively categorize as good in man. Maeterlinck states that every man, even the unhappiest and the most destitute have at the depths of their being, this beauty that he speaks of. This necessarily lays down the premise that men by nature are good, or, in Maeterlinck's words, are naturally beautiful beings, who need only to acquire the habit of dipping into that nature, into that soul, and the greatest act by which we enliven this beauty is by loving.

Is it not in love that are found the purest elements of beauty that we can offer to the soul?(19)

To him, to love means losing every bit of 'ugliness' in our souls. It is the state by which we come closest to God. But to be good, to be able to love with real ardent affection, we must first go through suffering, a harrowing by which we are molded to become better and end up in tune with our soul, our inner beauty. "Grief is love's first food, and every love that has not been fed on a little pure suffering must die like the babe that one had tried to nourish on the nourishment of a man." (20)

And there would always remain between us truth which had not spoken, which we had not even thought of speaking... and only in silence could we perceive it.

And he counsels the reader to search for this intermittent pockets of silences in life which holds the 'real' secrets and calls them 'secret silences'.

One has to forgive my limited and modest uptake of Maeterlinck's philosophy as contained in this work. Admittedly, this is only one way to look and deconstruct this highly suggestive and metaphorical work. It bears mentioning that nowhere was beauty explicitly defined within the work except from derivable contextual references, and even then it was questionable and equivocal. The work, however clearly references  to spirituality and to God, to a human soul, but not religion. The chapter on Invisible Goodness clearly refers back to the Soul and its nature of goodness and nobility. The silence he refers to is also curious as he does not clarify as to whether he refers to spiritual silences or a physical world of a noiseless condition. Indeed he says that:

There is no silence more docile than the silence of love, and indeed it is the only one that we may claim for ourselves alone. The other great silences, those of death, grief or destiny, do not belong to us. They come towards their own hour, following in the track of events, and those whom they do not meet need not reproach themselves. But we can all go forth and meet the silence of love.

But then again he writes,

If I tell someone that I love him - as I may have told a hundred others - my words will convey nothing to him, but the silence that will ensue will make it clear.

This book forms part of my remarkably extensive reading list on Nobel Prize for Literature Laureates

This review, along with my other reviews, has been cross-posted at imbookedindefinitely

South of the Border, West of the Sun by Haruki Murakami

Title: South of the Border, West of the Sun
Author: Haruki Murakami
Original Publication Date: 1992
Pages: 190
Genres: Fiction, Magical Realism, Contemporary Fiction

In denying a foothold to any portentous propensity of being needlessly repetitive, but more so in the interest of brevity, I opted to start forthcoming reviews, of which there seem to be many as this Murakami fever I have uncannily contracted has sternly refused abatement, with the Murakami Bingo! Murakami may have a definitive 'murakami' style but it still operates within a framework with formulaic themes and recurring plot devices.


So here we go!
Mysterious Woman? Operative truth!
Unexpected Phone Call? Check!
Old Jazz Record? Check!
Urban Ennui? Check!
Running? Check!
Weird Sex? Check!

So the Murakami in [South of the Border, West of the Sun is more of the Murakami of Norwegian Wood than his surrealist magical-realism books like Kafka on the Shore and Dance Dance Dance. It is however the usual Murakami of losing and longing, of searching and failing. This piece puts us in Hajime's shoes from his childhood to his middle years. To put it bluntly, this is a story of mid-life crises and marital infidelities. Murakami has written a real universal character that we occasionally find ourselves communing with in more ways than we personally acknowledge. We all go out in the world, frantically searching for something, something we only feel in vague stirrings, and sometimes, in our definite inevitable folly, something we don't know of. Whether we seek something that exist or something we have subconsciously created out of a desperate need to define ourselves has never been the question, for the search itself has always been the answer, hasn't it? That is why, strangely enough, even though I have yet to attain numerically sound midlife crises, get married and have children, I found myself sympathizing if not empathizing with Hajime.

“All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you: the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was. If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer.” (Ernest Hemingway)

The good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was,  all belonged to me, all became mine. Thank you, Murakami, for yet another wonderful sojourn!

I have reviewed other books by Haruki Murakami
Dance Dance Dance (3 Stars)
Kafka on the Shore (4 Stars)
Norwegian Wood (2 Stars)
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle(2 Stars)

This review, along with my other reviews, has been cross-posted at imbookedindefinitely

Love and Misadventure by Lang Leav

Title: Love and Misadventure
Author: Lang Leav
Original Publication Date: April 26, 2013
Pages: 176
Genres: Poetry, Romance

Lang Leav should have stuck with being an exhibiting artist and left poetry to the poets, and maybe, just maybe, I might just have appreciated her bobble-head inspired works, like this:

That stung! Just like reading her poems.

Or then again, maybe not. Sorry, not so sorry.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Memoirs by Pablo Neruda

Title: Memoirs
Author: Pablo Neruda
Original Publication Date: 1974
Pages: 378
Genre/s: Non-Fiction, Memoirs

"Perhaps I didn't live just in myself, perhaps I lived the lives of others…My life is a life put together from all those lives: the lives of the poet." (1)

Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda,  born Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto, was a Nobel Prize for Literature laureate (1971), a poet whose verses breathe life themselves, whose life, was poetry itself.  Gabriel Garcia Marquez fearlessly called him the  "the greatest poet of the 20th century in any language." Che Guevara in his diaries revered Neruda as his favorite writer, and carried only two books with him till his death, one of which was Neruda’s Cantos General (the reason of which will be readily apparent later on). He was not just a poet; he was THE poet of the people, of the oppressed, the unheard, and the forgotten.

Primera Vida: A Child of the Forest "Perhaps love and nature were, very early on, the source of my poems." (19)

Temuco Chile, who wouldn't fall in love with that?

Neruda aptly starts his Memoirs by writing where it all began, in the then frontier lands of Temuco, Chile, emblazoned by nature’s ardor.   Nature made me euphoric (7), Neruda writes and indeed, nature did become an indispensable aspect throughout his poems as the reader would conspicuously experience throughout his works.  He characterized his childhood with modesty and austerity when referring to their economic and fiscal means, and yet one cannot help but feel that he was nothing but rich beyond measure as he reminisced his childhood with picturesque landscapes, forest adventures, and long walks defined by an indescribable affinity with nature.   I have come out of that landscape, that mud, that silence, to roam, to go singing through the world (7).  And sing he did.

Segunda Vida: A Barred Poet, Militant Student, and Gabriela Mistral’s Touch.

A later photo showing Neruda with Mistral, they were both diplomats

As expected, Neruda’s father did not welcome the fact that his son wanted to become a poet amidst their challenging living conditions. The encouragement he failed to find in his father, Neruda found abounding with Gabriela Mistral(later to be a fellow Nobel Laureate (1945)), who introduced him to Russian classics. Neruda was undaunted, he continued to take poetry as a profession and went to a university at Santiago, Chile. While in the university he got acquainted with hunger and intermittent homelessness, his poems were all that kept him defiantly warm and firm.

Tercera Vida: A Diplomatic Affair"I learned what true loneliness was, in those days and years” (49).

Neruda visits the USSR

Neruda opted to accept an appointment as a consul after leaving the university and was first assigned in Rangoon, that further lead him to Colombo, Batavia, Singapore, Paris, and Mexico to name a few, the memoirs would suggest that Neruda welcomed the appointment, but other accounts tells that it was dire financial need that compelled him to accept the said appointment.  Whichever the case was, his consulship had a very profound effect on him, meeting a vast number of notable personas, chief of this was Loneliness. Solitude, in this case, was not a formula for building up a writing mood but something as hard as a prison wall; you could smash your head against the wall and nobody came, no matter how you screamed or wept. (92)

Unlike most poets, loneliness was a revolting concept in literary endeavors to someone like Neruda who celebrated love and life. And to combat this loneliness he wrote, “I went so deep into the soul and the life of the people" …i fell and lost my heart to a native girl (90). He sought to immerse himself with the land and the people wherever he was based, this aside from meeting personalities like Nehru, Miguel Asturias (awarded the Nobel in 1967), Picasso, Joliot-Curie, Federico Lorca, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara (later on). "The poet cannot be afraid of the people. Life seemed to be handing me a warning and teaching me a lesson I would never forget: the lesson of hidden honor, of fraternity we know nothing about, of beauty that blossoms in the dark."(89) Indeed this philosophy modeled by this consulship will lead him to directly take part in defending the Spanish Republic through propagandas and more essentially, his poems (an aspect which will be fully utilized in Chile’s very own struggles).

Cuarta Vida:  The People’s Poet, A Senator, and a Communist on the Run "…politics became part of my poetry and my life. In my poems I could not shut the door to the street, just as I could not shut the door to love, life, joy, or sadness in my young poet's heart."(55)

Neruda embracing Allende, also from the Left Wing, whom he supported for the Presidency

With his direct participation in the Spanish Civil war, he was removed from his post and returned to Chile. He entered the political scene and was elected a Senator in 1945, and later officially joined the Chilean Communist Party. The President elect of the same term hailed from the same Communist party but turned on against the Party and he banned the PArty altogether in 1948, with Neruda being removed in office, he surreptitiously escaped Chile and lived in exile for the next three years. Throughout those unwelcoming times, Neruda’s greatest weapon was his poems. “At hundreds of rallies, in places remote from one another, I heard the same request: to read my poems. They were often asked for by title.” (170)

His ardent feeling towards the people and his poetry at this point cannot be denied, and it was riveting.

“I have lived for my poetry and my poetry has nourished everything I have striven for. And if I have received many awards, awards fleeting as butterflies, fragile as pollen, I have attained a greater prize, one that some people may deride but not many can attain… That is my reward, not the books and the poems that have been translated, or the books written to explicate or to dissect my words. My reward is the momentous occasion when, from the depths of the Lora coal mine, a man came up out of the tunnel into the full sunlight on the fiery nitrate field, as if rising out of hell, his face disfigured by his terrible work, his eyes inflamed by the dust, and stretching his rough hand out to me, a hand whose calluses and lines trace the map of the pampas, he said to me, his eyes shining: "I have known you for a long time, my brother." That is the laurel crown for my poetry, that opening in the bleak pampa from which a worker emerges who has been told often by the wind and the night and the stars of Chile: "You're not alone; there's a poet whose thoughts are with you in your suffering." (179)

Neruda returned to Chile in the next presidential elections, abandoning his nomination to run for the Presidency and instead supported Allende’s run, who will later win.

Quinta Vida: A Lover’s Life "Perhaps love and nature were, very early on, the source of my poems." (19)

Neruda with Mathilde

Love completes the vital elements that comprise Neruda’s impeccably conceived poems. And of course, to write poetry as good as he did, inspiration must have come by the lot. Neruda had the penchant for overlapping love affairs characterized by sudden departures and intermittent unconventional sexual encounters. an encounter even, In my modest opinion, clearly bordered rape by any standards already. The incident concerned a househelp of the lowest caste. Neruda wrote, “One morning, I decided to go all the way. I got a strong grip on her wrist and stared into her eyes. There was no language I could talk with her. Unsmiling, she let herself be led away and was soon naked in my bed. Her waist, so very slim, her full hips, the brimming cups of her breasts made her like one of the thou¬sand-year-old sculptures from the south of India. It was the com¬ing together of a man and a statue. She kept her eyes wide open all the while, completely unresponsive. She was right to despise me. The experience was never repeated. (99) Neruda had three wives and each have been the subject of a set or collection of poems. Matilde Urrutia, however was the inspiration for the 100 Love Sonnets.

Neruda died twelve days after Allende was killed (1973) by Pinochet’s attack of the presidential palace. As it stands, Neruda’s cause of death was by prostate cancer, although later claims emerged that he was poisoned for his Pro-Allende stances enough to call for an exhumation of the body, the same act is claimed to have been ordered by the Pinochet Regime. The body was exhumed in 2013 (the Neruda Foundation fought against exhuming the body) and test results revealed in November 2013 negated any existence of chemical compounds. The great poet succumbed to cancer.

Originally entitled  I Confess I Have Lived, Memoirs was first published in 1974, under the editorial ambit of Mathilde Urrutia. Memoirs, is essentially a poem in prose by the manner Neruda wrote this. His lyrical style was unrelenting. Take for example this excerpt on one instance when an earthquake hit,

“…Sometimes it all begins with a vague stirring, and those who are sleeping wake up. Sleeping fitfully, the soul reaches down to pro¬found roots, to their very depth under the earth. It has always wanted to know it. And knows it now. And then, during the great tremor, there is nowhere to run, because the gods have gone away, the vainglorious churches have been ground up into heaps of rubble.(59)”

Or this reaction upon seeing the sea the first time,

“The first time I stood before the sea, I was overwhelmed. The great ocean unleashed its fury there between two big hills, Huilque and Maule. It wasn't just the immense snow-crested swells, rising many meters above our heads, but the loud pounding of a gigantic heart, the heartbeat of the universe.(25)”

This is the general tone by which Memoirs was written so those who relish and live by Neruda’s verses are never truly alienated in this prosaic work.

The entries intermittently jump through pivotal years, but not one chapter failed to contain people and individuals that helped, changed and loved Neruda however monumental or minuscule that was, and so as it goes, he mentions unpublished poets, forgotten names and acquaintances to people who rocked the very foundations of life. Humorous instances are also contained in this work, how he reacted to the alleged awarding of the Nobel, to his pet mongoose, to a hysterically paranoid woman, and the reason why he choose the pen name Neruda. Along with this, Neruda nonchalantly tells of his sexual encounters, of which, of course, there were numerous. If you opened the spoiler above, you will understand my reservation to this seminal Author exist, perhaps, in that instance only.

After reading his Memoirs, what came across is that Neruda is a poet through and through. It’s interesting to read that whatever he was subjected to, in whatever kind of instance or predicament he found himself in, the poet never left. He tells us of the various literary stimuli that lead to a specific work. To Neruda, his poems were not only both his sword and shield, it too was his soul.

“The poet who is not a realist is dead. And the poet who is only a realist is also dead. The poet who is only irrational will only be understood by himself and his beloved, and this is very sad. The poet who is all reason will even be understood by jackasses, and this is also terribly sad. There are no hard and fast rules, there are no ingredients prescribed by God or the Devil, but these two very important gentlemen wage a steady battle in the realm of poetry, and in this battle first one wins and then the other, but poetry itself cannot be defeated.(265)”

*Neruda is said to have written only in green ink, probably a color closest to the forest, other yet say that this was his personal symbol for desire and hope

I have reviewed other works by Pablo Neruda:
The Book of Questions (4 Stars)
Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair (3 Stars)

This book forms part of my remarkably extensive reading list on Nobel Prize for Literature Laureates

Dance Dance Dance (The Rat Series #4) by Haruki Murakami

Title: Dance Dance Dance (The Rat Series #4)
Author: Haruki Murakami
Original Publication Date: 1988
Pages: 323
Genre/s: Fiction, Magical Realism

“Dance," said the Sheep Man. "Yougottadance. Aslongasthemusicplays. Yougotta dance. Don'teventhinkwhy. Starttothink, onyourfeet, yourfeetstop, wegetstuck. Wegetstuck, you'restuck. Sodon'tpayanymind, nomatterhowdumb. Yougottakeepthestep. Yougottalimberup. Yougottaloosenwhat-youbolteddown. Yougottauseallyougot. Weknowyou're tired, tiredandscared. Happenstoeveryone, okay? Justdon'tletyourfeetstop.” (179)

A Rendition of The Sheep Man

What did you expect? A normal talking conventional character? Of course not. There’s nothing like that here, or anywhere in Murakami’s work it would seem.

“I often dream about the Dolphin Hotel."(6)

Dance Dance Dance follows a nameless narrator haunted by recurring dreams of a hotel, The Dolphin Hotel, he was brought to by a high-end call girl. Whether it is the hotel or the call girl that keeps bringing him back, he cannot recall, nor seem to totally forget. He decided, after a life of indecisiveness, to finally return to the Hotel, only to find the place to have been lost to a capitalist investment of the same nature and the same name. He struggles to establish connections in the world, he wanted, as he was advised to ‘dance’, and in these mishaps, to look for a lost love, he was accompanied by stoic-faced laconic-responsed thirteen-year old girl gifted with limited clairvoyance and meets an old high-school acquaintance.

I was almost irretrievably tempted to write this review in the Sheep Man’s language above, one without the proper spaces between words, but after trying  it on the first few sentences, I found that it is even harder to control actions that border reflex and the subconscious, like that of tapping the space bar.

“You're probably right. As you say, I've lost and I'm lost and I'm confused. I'm not anchored to anything.”(87)

The idea that the unnamed narrator is drawn to the Dolphin Hotel made me shiver first, for an uncanny reason I quickly associated this with that of The Shining’s Outlook Hotel. The terror and fear which characterized my reading experience with it is exchanged by curiosity and interest in this piece however. Stripping this books plethora of surrealistic aspects, we are left with a bare handed tale of a lost man who has nothing but lost connections. And that is not mere tautology for Murakami’s work’s always concern an individual who is lost or has lost something leading us to narratives which are always unique, lyrical, and impeccably fluid. These narratives, which are always open to unfathomable elucidations of the metaphors and allusions they offer don’t always provide a closure, in fact they hardly ever do, don’t they?

"The human mind dwells deep in darkness. Only the person himself knows the real reason, and maybe not even then." (359)

The impeccable lyrical prose would, however, seem to me to be, mere icing on the cake. What compelled me to read another Murakami within a week of finishing Kafka on the Shore was how tangible, how alive, he has brought his characters to life in surrealistic world. They are alive in their search for meanings, in their struggle to make human connections in an unforgiving world, they were the struggles of the everyday individual, they were mine too.

Murakami’s style is deftly his own. Me may be in a fickle love-hate relationship considering your other works, but just as you have written, there are certain individuals who exclusively bring you to euphoric places, and in a literary perspective you do fit the bill as one of those authors. Through your words, I am transported into this unique wonderful surreal world and still remain, human, very human indeed.

And added bonus is that whenever I finish your work, I get to play this bingo! Now, where does Dance Dance Dance, figure into this.


I have reviewed other books by Haruki Murakami
Kafka on the Shore (4 Stars)
Norwegian Wood (2 Stars)
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle(2 Stars)

This review, along with my other reviews, has been cross-posted at imbookedindefinitely

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

Title: Kafka on the Shore
Author: Haruki Murakami
Original Publication Date: 467
Pages: 2002
Genres: Fiction, Magical Realism


Legit crazy.

But compelling riveting crazy.

I guess it is only with Murakami that the reader will experience a philosophically charge Hegel quoting prostitute, a spectral discount-giving pimp, pragmatic talking cats, a retelling of the oedipal Greek tragedy through a schizophrenic reincarnated personality, an unfathomable leech-filled-rain commanding simpleton, all bizarrely intended to constitute an introspective metaphorically peppered coming of age story, keeping you at a sublime reverie the entire time, if not devouring its pages, the voracity of which the world has never seen.

Everything I liked about this books concerns the style.

He doesn't provide much detail but gives you irrefragable operative truths in his written work, the rational closure-seeking mind may not find a welcome place here.

The prose is lyrical and the transitions are fluid. But for all its beauty and fluidity, the reader does not know where he is being drawn, you have faint gleamings of the story but that is all you are afforded.

The other aspect I loved was the narration. The omniscient narrator suddenly changes tone by directly addressing the reader.

" say, i forgive you. And audibly, the frozen part of your heart crumbles (398)"

A technique used by Italo Calvino in If on a winter's night a traveler and masterfully by Saramago in some of his prose. In both instances, the effect was that the reader was made part of the narrative, it was as if it removed objective barriers between that of the reader and the story. The same riveting interactive effect made me care more about Kafka, it made me connect more with the story.

Any reservation I have towards this book concerns the weird crazy sexual encounters Murakami wrote.


Legit crazy.

But compelling riveting crazy.

I have reviewed other books by Haruki Murakami
Dance Dance Dance (3 Stars)
Norwegian Wood (2 Stars)
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle(2 Stars)

Friday, June 13, 2014

Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life by Jon Lee Anderson

Title: Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life
Author: Jon Lee Anderson
Original Publication Date: March 1997
Pages: 832

“Shoot, coward, you are only going to kill a man.”
     -Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara’s last words* (Anderson, 1991:735)


Those words make me shudder. And one will wonder, who this man is, that in his irrepressible idealism enlivened in clandestine activities and political conspiracies, dare deprive death of his satisfaction, for indeed decades later, Comandante Che, is now heroically revered.

Born Ernesto Guevara de la Serna, Che Guevara, was, unlike the ideology he died for, born in an affluent family of landed Argentinean elites, albeit a family on a sole route certain to lead them to modest living later on.  Ernestito, as he was fondly called, was born with asthma, and throughout his life, this will limit and define him.

At 7, barred by his recurring and debilitating asthma attacks from engaging in strenuous activities reinforced by a concrete mother-son relationship, Ernesto developed a love for literature. He was, in most instances in his life, a voracious reader.

The Young Che groomed in an elite society

At 16, “Everything began with literature for him” (89). At this age he has quoted Freud and Nietzsche in his journal. He read Jack London, Bertrand Russell, Faulkner, Kafka, Camus, and Sartre. Most often, he said, Neruda was his favorite.


At 25, While in Medical School, Ernesto has traveled a sizeable part of South America first through his bicycle later outfitted with a motor and later with a motorbike. The travels are of monumental importance, in this austere travels characterized by the occasional begging of food and hitch-hiking rides, Che met the people of South America and for the first time saw the world through their forgotten faces and unheard voices. Indeed he writes, “The person who wrote these notes died upon stepping once again onto Argentine soil. The person who edits and polishes them, me, is no longer. At least, I am not the person I was before. The vagabonding through ‘America’ has changed me more than I thought.” (167)

Che with his faithful bicycle he used for travelling

At 27, He meets Fidel and Raul Castro, who will later on invite him in, to which he giddily joined, the July 26 Movement for the liberation of Cuba from Batista. This critical step launches Ernesto away from his paradoxical behavior of complete apathy and radical declamations that characterized his earlier years. “I will be with the people, and i know it because I see it etched in the night that I, the eclectic dissector of doctrines and psychoanalyst of dogmas, howling like one possessed, will assault the barricades or trenches, will bathe my weapon in blood and, mad with fury, will slit the throat of any enemy who falls into my hands." (201)

At 32, The July 26 Movement finds daylight, Batista flees the country, and a newly established revolutionary government with Fidel Castro as the head pronounced Che Guevara as a Cuban Citizen by birth. Che helps implement land reforms and literacy improvement projects in the liberated Cuba.

Che with Castro

At 36, He left his ministerial position, commander’s rank, and family to spark off new revolutions.

At 39, Che Guevara was caught in Bolivia, while tied down and kept as a prisoner, he was shot to death, his hands were cut-off, and buried in an unmarked mass grave. The remains were exhumed and later found through a confession of a retired Bolivian General who came clean to this book’s author.

Jon Lee Anderson made a splendid job writing this biography. He was an international investigative reporter, war correspondent and staff writer for The New Yorker. His fastidiousness and training as an investigative writer was thoroughly employed in an outstanding manner. This is a well researched work grounded on extensive and exclusive primary sources that were given to Anderson when he approached Che Guevara’s widow, Aleida March, a distinction other written biographies lack that inevitably strips them of some semblance of true portrayal of Che’s life if not sheer outright veracity that led to biographies that have often resulted to sanctimonious and romanticized accounts.

Anderson’s narrative is fluid and light. He presents the social milieu operative in Che’s environment and in so doing, the reader is made to understand how this helped shape the man. Anderson intermittently interjects his intuitive comments on the narrative which are always rational if not factual. What I have come to appreciate the most was Anderson’s tone in writing which was, if not totally objective, was not defined by a ‘western’ bias in the least.

This is a great piece of work not only because of Anderson’s capacity and technical aspects in writing but more so in what it has substantially achieved. He was able to peel layers and layers of laudatory accounts and legends on this icon and revealed the man within.

Did I enjoy reading this biography? Definitely, yes!

Did I come to know Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara? Yes!

Will I recommend this? This is the book one must read to know Che Guevara.

*Accounts vary on this, and the incident itself has attained an exalted position, sometimes mythologized. Other accounts point that this is Che’s  last written word as contained in his Bolivian diary.

The Book of Questions by Pablo Neruda

Title: The Book of Questions
Author: Pablo Neruda
Original Publication Date: 1974
Pages: 96

You don’t want to answer me.
But the questions do not die.
-(Neruda, 1924)

The Book of Questions is a collection of 316 questions that compose the 74 poems. 316 questions which no rational answers exists, says the introductory part of my copy. No rational answers may exist for these questions, but the rational mind will strive beyond conventions to grasp its meanings. If you will ruminate on this 74 poems, one will find that some answers do exist, albeit spiritual and mercurial answers validated by allusive affinities.

Neruda’s recurring style, his use of nature, and things from nature are indispensable aspects of his, but the only correspondence one will find between the poems is that they are questions, for various thematic characteristics are at play here.

There are some poems one must simply take in visually and revel in the imagery they invoke discarding their literariness.

If all rivers are sweet
where does the sea get its salt?
(Poem V)

For whom do the pistils of the sun burn in the shadow of the eclipse?
How many bees are there in a day?
(Poem XXI)

Some are consummately surrealistic.

What happens to swallows who are late for school?
Is it true they scatter
transparent letters across the sky?
(Poem VII)

Others would seem to be derived from pure sadness.

Do tears yet spilled
wait in small lakes?

Or are they invisible rivers
that run towards sadness?
(Poem LX)

Some are allusions and undeniably metaphors for diurnal activities.

Why does agriculture laugh at the pale tears of the sky?
(Poem XXX)

Some unequivocally express Neruda’s political beliefs.

And to position sad Nixon
with his buttocks over the brazier?
Roasting him on low
with North American napalm?
(Poem XV)

What forced labor does Hitler do in hell?
Does he paint walls or cadavers? Does he sniff the fumes of the dead?
Do they feed him the ashes of so many burnt children?
Or, since his death, have they given him blood to drink from a funnel?
Or do they hammer into his mouth the pulled gold teeth?
(Poem LXX)

And a handful refers to his personal thoughts on the reception of his poetry by the posterity.

What will they say about my poetry who never touched my blood?
(Poem X)

Some too were infused with wit.

And why did cheese decide
to perform heroic deeds in France?
(Poem XX)

The book of questions may just have something for everyone.

Other work by Pablo Neruda:
Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair (3 Stars

This book forms part of my remarkably extensive reading list on Nobel Prize for Literature Laureates

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

Title: Attachments
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Original Publication Date: April 14, 2011
Pages: 336

A sweet and funny read with all the awkwardness of the situation beaming at the reader.

Rowell provides witty characters with just the right amount of quirkiness enough to make the reader identify, if not love them. The pop culture references, especially the sci-fi ones are delightful, and doesn't seem to be forced and out of context.

The setting and the character dilemmas of the story would provide a good rapport especially to late-bloomers.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Life and Death and Other Legends and Stories by Henryk Sienkiewicz

Title: Life and Death and Other Legends and Stories
Author: Henryk Sienkiewicz
Original Publication Date:2003
Pages: 42

Short and sweet, like life and death!

Life and Death and Other Legends and Stories is a compilation of short stories and musings of Henryk Sienkiewicz (pronounced SYEN-KYE-VITCH)*.

Life and Death: A Hindu Legend.
An allegory on how Brahma divided the world between the Plain of Life and the Plain of Death, respectively leaving its governance to Vishnu and Siva. There is wonderful philosophy at play here when Sienkiewicz crafted this story especially when he forwards that death is the proverbial rest our souls long for and that we need only to see beyond the veil of fear and pain. A veil which opens up to the Plain of Death.
Is He the Dearest One?
Tells us of motherly love for a fallen son.
A Legend of the Sea.
Recounts the voyage of the ship, Purple, and its prideful and indolent crew, who through pride and conceit loss the very thing they treasure.
The Cranes.
Talks about the travels Sienkiewicz went through and his dilemma of homesickness that lead him to compose a certain work entitled "Charcoal Sketches".
The Judgement of Peter and Paul on Olympus.
Is an allegory which presents St. Peter and St. Paul's judgement on Greek gods residing in Olympus. I personally enjoyed this one.

This is one of Sienkiewicz' minor works. He is well known for his historical epic With Fire and Sword.

This book forms part of my remarkably extensive reading list on Nobel Prize for Literature Laureates

Chess Story by Stefan Zweig

Title: Chess Story
Author: Stefan Zweig
Original Publication Date: 1941
Pages: 84

I never won a single chess match against my father. He was kind like that, subtly teaching a victory unearned is a success undeserved. No truer words could have been said nor as easily forgotten, for after all those years, whether by natural imprint of innumerable defeats that leaves a sad ennui on the human  soul or by my inherent lackadaisical treatment of this royal game of chess, with its defined sixty-four squares faithfully clinging to white and black, black and white, bored me, until now.

Enlivened by an immaculate narration, this powerful novella brought me to the deepest recesses of the mind, through a ruthless frightful void where terror pure and uncompromising breathe, where black and white means a lot more than a chequered board, a struggle of the human mind in timeless nothingness, to find one self, or, to lose it. Zweig too breathe life to chess, black and white, white and black, the infinite permutations contained in this fixed 64 squares with 32 pieces. To say that Zweig and this novella has challenge my own conceptions of the human psyche is a gross understatement. They have rocked me to my core!

Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda

Title: Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair
Author: Pablo Neruda
Original Publication Date: 1924
Pages: 70

Neruda does not play with the intangible. He does not waste words with the abstract. One simply needs to read and take in the pure and stark versification of the sensualities of life, both in love and lust.

Neruda’s distinct style in poetry is easily distinguishable.

First, his work is intuitive of the austere beauty of nature and his Chilean roots. The verses are reflective of the uncompromising beauty of the environment that he has witnessed in his formative years. The poems allude to the vastness of the pines, the heart of summer, sweet blue hyacinths, still ponds, barren lands, and white bees.

“I will bring you happy flowers from the mountains, 
dark hazels, and rustic basket of kisses.”
(74, Poem XIV)

Second, Neruda also leads us to enjoy the sweetness existing in realm of the senses. He fearlessly incorporates love and lust in his verses.

“My somber heart searches for you, nevertheless,

And I love your joyful body, your slender and flowing voice.”
 (75, Poem XIX)

“Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.”
(77, Poem XX)

But to read and consume these two aspects of his poetry in a compartmentalized manner would be an affront to why Gabriel Garcia Marquez called Neruda “the greatest poet of the 20th century in any language."* Neruda combines the sensual experience of the individual with the beauty of the natural and the reader is treated to a union unlike any other.

“Body of a woman, white hills, white thighs

You look like a world, lying in surrender.
My rough peasant’s body digs in you
and makes the son leap from the depth of the earth.”
(3 Poem I)

“I go so far a to think that you own the universe.
I will bring you happy flowers from the mountains,
dark hazels, and rustic basket of kisses.
I want
to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.”
(74, Poem XIV)

* The fragrance of guava: Conversations with Gabriel García Márquez.

I did not give a short introduction on Neruda reserving most of my comments later on for a review on his memoirs.

My copy is bilingual, a Spanish-English translation by W.S. Wermin, which definitely polished my rusting Spanish speaking skills.

The same copy is infused with Pablo Picasso’s works like this,

You get the idea that it seeks to perhaps contribute to the general them of the book, but I have no sound knowledge if this was sanctioned or approved by Neruda in its first translated printing in 1969, five years before he died, or whether the same pictures accompanied the first print in Chile in 1924, or if it appeared only in this copy published by Penguin Books.

This book forms part of my remarkably extensive reading list on Nobel Prize for Literature Laureates

The Red Lily by Anatole France

Title: The Red Lily
Author: Anatole France
Original Publication Date: 1894
Pages: 276

"I need love"

"I need love"
says the title of the first chapter. So basic a need that will define this book's essence.

"I need love"
says Mdm. Therese, and inevitably a love that cannot be found in the arms of his husband leads to adultery and fornication, not just in an isolated occurrence. This is a recurring aspect of France's in his novels, characters which seemed to be designed with the canonical belief to engage in adultery. France's own life inevitably trickles in these instances as he too was known for this kind of passionate indecencies.

"I need love"
says the art. For France's talks about the myriad facets of arts, of passion, of styles, of inspiration for passion for art, of the differences in style, of art itself.

"I need love"
says France's impeccable prose, to that, love need not be asked twice!

Other works by Anatole France:
The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard(4 Stars)
Revolt of the Angels(4 Stars)
Penguin Island (3 Stars)

This book forms part of my remarkably extensive reading list on Nobel Prize for Literature Awardees

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Crescent Moon by Rabindranath Tagore

Title: The Crescent Moon
Author: Rabindranath Tagore
Original Publication Date: 1913
Pages: 124

Of the seemingly governing heavenly bodies that grace our diurnal lives, it is, in innumerable instances, the Moon that stands as the epitome of womanhood, and by necessary operation, motherhood. Father Sun and Mother Moon and Children Stars, so it would go. The raison d’etre for such association is conspicuous. The moonlight always seemed so intuitive, warm, subtle and welcoming, as warm as a mother’s embrace, as welcome as a mother’s love.

The crescent moon, which follows a new moon, would suggest new beginnings. But in the cyclic fabric of the Lunar phases, everything may, inevitably, stand for beginnings and endings.

This is what The Crescent Moon contains, poems and rhapsodies about motherhood and their children in varying degrees of this supreme bond. Verses talk about a baby’s heavenly birth, a child’s charming precociousness, a mother’s concern, and the inevitable bittersweet sadness over the emotional transition of a child growing up, the beginnings and endings of the mother and child relationship. This explores the beauty of the child’s world and the boundless nature of a mother’s love. These are the pervasive themes in this book.

“I wish I could travel by the road that crosses baby's mind, and out beyond all bounds;

Where messengers run errands for no cause between the kingdoms of kings of no history;

Where Reason makes kites of her laws and flies them, and Truth sets Fact free from its fetters.” (18)

The 4 star rating should suffice to validate that beyond Gitanjali, Tagore’s sublime touch and masterful grace is still present.

This is my most favored among the lot.


"WHERE have I come from, where did you pick me up?" the baby asked its mother.

She answered half crying, half laughing, and clasping the baby to her breast,-- "You were hidden in my heart as its desire, my darling.

You were in the dolls of my childhood's games; and when with clay I made the image of my god every morning, I made and unmade you then.

You were enshrined with our household deity, in his worship I worshipped you.

In all my hopes and my loves, in my life, in the life of my mother you have lived.

In the lap of the deathless Spirit who rules our home you have been nursed for ages.

When in girlhood my heart was opening its petals, you hovered as a fragrance about it.

Your tender softness bloomed in my youthful limbs, like a glow in the sky before the sunrise.

Heaven's first darling, twin-born with the morning light, you have floated down the stream of the world's life, and at last you have stranded on my heart.

As I gaze on your face, mystery overwhelms me; you who belong to all have become mine.

“For fear of losing you I hold you tight to my breast. What magic has snared the world's treasure in these slender arms of mine?”

Other works by Rabindranath Tagore:
The Gardener (4 Stars)
Gitanjali (4 Stars)
Nationalism (3 Stars)

This book forms part of my remarkably extensive reading list on Nobel Prize for Literature Laureates

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein

Title: Stranger in a Strange Land
Author:  Robert Heinlein
Original Publication Date: 1961
Pages: 528 (Abridged); 756 (Original)

“Nine times out of ten, if a girl gets raped, it’s at least partly her own fault.” (511)

Perhaps this is the single most quoted statement from this work, and also the statement by which Heinlein is critiqued and berated, the same statement by which this philosophically charged work is sullied by 1-star ratings. Whether by inadvertent straying into a faulty conception and erroneous application of intentional fallacy or the failure to recognize that Heinlein sought this work to stand as historicization of the prevailing attitudes at the time of writing juxtaposed with those of the future, as represented by the Man from Mars, the loss of substance predicated upon such mistakes are saddening.

Most reviews needlessly nitpick this book by implacably quoting sexist remarks offered to us by a cantankerous Jubal, who symbolized the attitude of a bigoted past, but that is missing the big picture, and missing the very idea this book seeks to impart. That is the point, to present homophobic, sexist, resistant-to-change personas that stand for the past, because in the end, we see that Jubal, is opened up to a new philosophy, divested of all improprieties and finds himself realigning his beliefs, a belief which is open to change.

By doing so, Heinlein, through Jubal and the Man from Mars, asks the reader, by extension, to reexamine beliefs and conventions. To disregard this by literally focusing on the sexism is to lose the quintessential aspect of the book.

See beyond the literal. Challenge the conventions.

A Happy Boy by Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson

Title: A Happy Boy
Author: Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson
Original Publication Date: 1857
Pages: 112

“That poverty hemmed him in on every side, he felt, but for that reason his whole mind was bent on breaking through it.”(43)

A Happy Boy, the second Peasant tale of Bjørnson that I have read, the third (1860) in writing of his four Peasant Tales , the first being Synnøve Solbakken, (1857) followed by Arne (1858). Sadly, it would seem that the first two do not exist except in the original Norwegian texts and completion of his Peasant Tales dictates reading it in the original, nothing less.

A Happy Boy, tells us of Oyvind, the son of a houseman, who happens to meet the love of his life in Marit, the granddaughter of a gard (farm) owner. By their stations in life, the inevitable schism arises. This quandary is solely predicated in Oyvind’s lowly station in life. “I will tell you why I have been so happy before: It was because I did not really love anyone; from the day we love someone we cease to be happy.”(34) Our happy boy is not so happy after all. Oyvind struggles to break free from the familial shackles that fate has imposed, and we are taken through his rise from being the son of a houseman to the pride of the town.

This story is a lot sweeter and simpler than The Fisher Girl| (3 Stars). Again, Bjørnson plays the same card in the Fisher Girl with love as the mechanism by which the story is set in motion. The same peasant struggles and desire within the story exist.

What is more prevalent however is how Bjørnson incorporated the Norwegian faith in the story, more than he did in the The Fisher Girl. This led me to read up on a little bit of Norwegian religious history and find that Norway has always been labeled as a Christian country and that at numerous times in history, Norway sent more missionaries per capita than any other country. What is more interesting is that this Christianity is not under the Holy See but is an entirely new animal. The Church of Norway it is called, with the King of Norway as it head, and professes a Lutheran belief. Interesting isn't it, a union of the church and the state that, it would seem, hasn't screwed the people over. This is probably why the depiction in one scene of the story was like this.


Other work by Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson:
The Fisher Girl (3 Stars)

This book forms part of my remarkably extensive reading list on Nobel Prize for Literature Laureates