Friday, March 20, 2015

The Sorrows of Young Werther

Once in your lifetime, there would be a moment when everything seems smooth and feels right, that you know you are producing something bigger than anything you have done so far; The Sorrows of Young Werther might have been that of Goethe! In Chinese philosophy, there is a concept called Wu Wei, which literally means non-action or non-doing. The Chinese believes that there will be times when we don’t have to fight so hard to achieve something. All you have to do is to wait for that perfect moment to come, when you don’t have to work so hard, yet everything complies with your wish, then voila….your masterpiece! Goethe wrote Werther after being acquainted with a young man named Jerusalem, whose faith had similarity with his own. He finished the book in four weeks without making any preliminary plans or putting it down on notes before. And from the result (especially the ending) I could see how much Goethe has poured out his emotion into it. So intense and powerful was it, that I have lost my mood to read the rest of his writings for several days.

Werther is a young man with passionate temperament who was staying on a village. He wrote letters to his friend William, telling him all about what he has done and how his feeling was from day to day. These letters were woven into this epistolary novel. Most of the letters were about Werther’s infatuation with a peasant girl named Charlotte (he called her Lotte). They had a lot in common, and although Lotte didn’t return his feeling but engaged and married to another man, they became intimate friends. But Werther could not get rid of Lotte from his life; his love for her was too strong. The last letters he wrote to William showed how much his mental was disturbed. It affected his artistic mind too, that he was unable to paint, or even do, anything.

Werther should be a perfect reading for those who have interest in psychology; a bit similar with the troubled Philip in Of Human Bondage, though Philip’s sorrows were more complex, as the root of his problems did not come from passionate love, but from the lack of universal love. From Werther I learned to always have control and balance of our own life. Sometimes we need to follow our feelings, but at other time, when you do not feel happy, there must be something wrong in what you are doing. Your rational side must take over to make yourself balanced. The art of life is in the balancing our two poles to drive our lives to happiness.

Looking at the style, Goethe might be more suitable to Romanticism than Enlightenment. The melancholy atmosphere and his flowery sentences in Werther were very romantic. However, his regard over life (and particularly in suicides) gave him a little credit to be in the Enlightenment too, in his reasoning against traditional values praised in the Renaissance. In fact, Goethe was one of the proponents of the new movement called Sturm und Drang (=Storm and Drive) in German, which succeeded The Enlightenment, and prepared the coming of Romanticism. Its uniqueness was in the extreme emotional expression, which you can undoubtedly find in Werther.

Five stars for Goethe and his almost autobiographical story of the young Werther!


I read Signet Classics paperback

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Monday, March 16, 2015

Literary Movement Reading Challenge 2015: March Enlightenment Check-In

It’s the Ides of March! Usually it might bring your imagination to the Roman general: Julius Caesar; but this year it only means one thing: check-in time for March Enlightenment for our #LitMoveRC. To submit your reviews or posts on Enlightenment literature, you can go to the related page to find the linky, which will be open until April 15th. The Ides of March also means that the linky for February Renaissance has been closed.

Now I am a bit curious…

  • Enlightenment was the era of some great philosophers such as Descartes, Kant, Locke, Spinoza, Hume, Rousseau, etc. Have you read any works from these philosophers? What is/are your recommendation?
  • Or if you aren’t interested in them, what will you read for Enlightenment movement?

I haven’t read any of those philosophers, but have a slight interest in Descartes’ Discourse on Method. Maybe I’ll begin with him. But it will have to wait for two or more years…. Meanwhile, I have finished Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther for Enlightenment; it was amazing! Reading Goethe’s commentary on this book only convinced me of his genius. The second book I am reading now is Gulliver’s Travels.

What about you?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A Doll House

It’s been one and a half year since I met a play with a striking ending, which forced me to rewind what I’ve been reading in my head, and then…I saw it differently from my first read. That was my previous experience with The Cherry Orchard; and now the same thing happened again when I finished A Doll House.

All the scenes take place in the Helmers’ residence. Torvald Helmer is an ex lawyer who, after having struggled financially, is fortunate to have been promoted as the manager of a bank. Nora, his wife, is a woman with loose moral and indifference over practical things. Excited by his husband’s promotion, she starts squandering money buying expensive things, taking for granted their future big salary. Unknown to her husband, she borrowed money from a man named Krogstad, a scoundrel who work in the same bank where Torvald is going to be the manager, who is right now struggling to clear his reputation. He blackmails Nora to persuade Torvald to promote him, or he would unveil her forgery secret to her husband. It is slowly revealed that Nora is keeping much darker secret from her husband, than only borrowing and spending money.

A Doll House is a story of typical family in 19th century, when women were treated as household accessories, or in this play was symbolized as the husband’s doll, instead of an equal partner with the husband, where a wife should have been. After being treated like a doll by her father, Nora finds herself trapped in the same situation now with her husband. But Nora would have never realized anything wrong had not she been blackmailed by Krogstad, that her marriage is in the verge of destruction. Maybe Ibsen wanted to open the eyes of the society about this, although later he rejected the idea that this play was about feminism.

It is intriguing that this play’s title is originally translated to A Doll’s House. But some scholars call it simply A Doll House—an apostrophe that changes the context. The second version refers to Nora as a victim—which she is. She is never a wife; she is just the doll which Torvald keeps in the house, which he can play at his pleasure. So the ideal home of Helmers is actually a doll house. But with the apostrophe, it seems that Nora, the doll, is the owner of the house—which she is not. So maybe the simple version suits more what Ibsen wanted to say.

I have mixed feelings during and after reading this play. I’m so impatient with women like Nora—I can’t even decide whether she is simply naïve, stupid, or morally corrupted. Could it possible for a grown up woman to think she can do anything in the name of love, never feels guilty, and unless someone tells her, will never realize the risk? She is certainly not stupid, as she can act cunningly cleverly by forging her father’s signature to have the money in time. So, I believe it’s her moral. *spoiler alert* Her final action of leaving her family to “discover herself” only justifies my idea that Nora lacks of conscience; she only lives for herself. I can understand if she did it to prove to Torvald that she is not the beautiful doll he can keep and adore as accessories. But, again, she never thinks of the consequences, especially with her three children. How selfish it is to leave one’s children to improve oneself!*spoiler ends*

Although Nora should have been the protagonist here, I couldn’t help sympathizing with Torvald. I think he really loves Nora, and thinks spoiling her is the best way to show his feelings. Torvald is molded by the society, and he just acts like everybody else, without ever thinking that there is something wrong. Why, even his wife doesn’t think it wrong before the incident. So, I can imagine how shocked he is by Nora sudden decision.

Five stars for A Doll House; and I’d certainly read more from Ibsen.


I read Signet Classics paperback

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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Zoladdiction 2015 - Announcement

Haloa Zoladdicts! I’m pleased to announce that…the annual event of Zoladdiction is back! I am happy to host this event again for the third time. If you missed it last years, Zoladdiction is an event of reading books from the French Naturalist: Émile Zola, to celebrate his birth-month on April. From our (some of his hardcore readers..) experiences, reading Zola has a kind of addiction effect. After reading one of his books, you would feel exhausted; like your emotion has been overturned. You would say, it’s enough, no more Zola! But after the shock has gone, you’d quietly find yourself craving for another Zola. So, to facilitate the Zoladdicts, I am going to host….

How to join?

  • You must have a blog or Goodreads account to post your reviews.
  • Register yourself in the comment box below. Let us know what book you’ll read for this event (not obligatory, I’m just curious…).
  • Help me spreading the Zoladdiction virus, either by putting the Zoladdiction button on your sidebar, or by discussing the event on Twitter using hashtag #Zoladdiction2015.
  • Start reading Zola’s works or works about Zola when your calendar turns to April 1:)
  • In addition to reading the books, you are also welcomed to post anything concerning Zola during this event.
  • The master post would be up on April 1st with a linky where you can put all your posts.
  • There’s no level or deadline, you can satisfy (or start, if you’re a new fan of Zola) your Zoladdiction by reading as many books as you like the whole month!
  • I encourage you to post a brief wrap up in the end of Zoladdiction (the linky will be closed only in May 10th), and let us know how you feel/think after delving into Zola works for a month. I’m just curious how you all manage with Zola….

But that’s not all! This year there’s another excitement in Zoladdiction!

“Germinal” Read Along

To spice up this event, I’m going to host a read along of my most favorite novel of all time: GERMINAL during the Zoladdiction. For me personally, this will be my second reread. But be it your first read or reread (and Germinal is one of those books that deserve many rereads!), you are more than welcomed to join me.

It’s so easy….
  • Just confirm your participation in the comment box below.
  • Would appreciate if you’d spread the words about this, either in post or just by putting the banner on your sidebar (so that others might join it too!)
  • Start reading Germinal on 1st April (or any date you like).
  • Germinal is the kind of book that, when you have plunged yourself into it, you would be drawn throughout the story, and could only kick it out once you finish it. So, it will be useless to create discussion or things like that between chapters. In the end, it’s just about how hard it has ‘blown your head’…. LOL! Just joking… (but you shall see after you finish it the first time :P). But if you’d like to express your thoughts or just to check others’ progress, we can discuss it on Twitter using hashtag #GerminalRA. Don’t forget to mention @Fanda_A.
  • We would post our reviews at the same day of April 30th, 2015. I would provide a linky for you to submit it below the master post (will be published on April 10th).

So, how Zoladdicted are you? Are you ready to join and proof it? ;)

Friday, February 27, 2015


Frankly speaking, I was a bit disappointed with Macbeth. It turned out not as intense as I have expected. I have read somewhere that Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s shortest tragedies, and maybe it is true, as the scenes seemed to be passing quickly before leaving deeper impression upon me. I have once seen some illustrations of the three witches; but in the play, they didn’t seem grim at all. The eerie atmosphere felt after Macbeth killed Duncan, and later on when Lady Macbeth was sleepwalking with candle in her hand. Maybe this play in particular would be much better when performed on stage, than read as a book.

Macbeth is a Scottish general, and after having won a battle, the Emperor Duncan praises him for his bravery. When he is chatting with his colleague Banquo, they meet three witches whom greet them with prophecies. Macbeth would become Thane of Cawdor (he is at present Thane of Glamis), and then a King; while Banquo is prophesied to beget a line of Kings though he himself will not. Almost right away someone tells Macbeth that he is now Thane of Cawdor after the previous one died. Macbeth instantly believes the prophecies to be true, and begins to build ambition for becoming a King.

When the King visits Macbeth’ castle, Lady Macbeth encourages the reluctant Macbeth to murder King Duncan. He did it although got disturbed after the deeds. As he is Kings nearest relative, Macbeth is soon crowned as King of Scotland. But he never rests assured about his throne as he still remembers what the three witches has prophesied about Banquo; so he sent murderers to kill him. Disturbed with guilt, Macbeth seeks assurance from the three witches; whom tells him that no one born of a woman will kill him but to be careful with Macduff—a lord. So when Macduff wants to take revenge for his family’s murder, Macbeth keeps calm as ‘none of woman born shall harm Macbeth. But is it possible for a human being to be invincible? Or is Macbeth deluding himself?

My favorite part from this play is Macbeth’s soliloquy after hearing the news of Lady Macbeth’s death: “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow…”. It is perhaps the only one that really touched me. I can feel how desperate Macbeth is when losing his strong supporting wife while he must be prepared for the grand battle. I almost even felt sorry for him. Here are the full lines:

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

It makes you thinking….do our days of life really signify nothing? Perhaps it doesn’t if you lead a wrong way to live. Just like Macbeth…

I must admire Shakespeare’s great influence in Renaissance literature. His did give a new structure and style to plays, remodeling the old Greek’s and making plays flow more fluently and dynamically. And his role in elevating English language is not to be questioned. But sometimes his lines can be vulgar, which reduce my admiration to him.

Three and a half stars for Macbeth.

 I read ebook from Feedbooks dot com

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Doctor Faustus

If Shakespeare had died at the age Marlowe died, there would have been no question that Marlowe was the leading figure in English Renaissance drama”—I found this on the back of my copy of Marlowe’s The Plays. I have only read Doctor Faustus, so I could not fairly justify, but comparing Faustus with Shakespeare’s other non historical tragedies I have read so far, I must admit that (for me) Marlowe is in the lead.

I always feel Shakespeare’s humour was a bit tacky, while Marlowe’s was more elegant. Marlowe’s tragedy (again, I only read Faustus) is full of reflection, while Shakespeare’s are more dynamic. For people who like only to watch drama for amusement, Shakespeare’s would be more pleasant to watch. Marlowe’s is a bit darker and tends to make us think deeper. Maybe Marlowe’s are more suitable for reading.

Faustus is a learned man (he’s a Doctor anyway), and after having learned various sciences, he is not yet satisfied. So he learns necromancy and magic, with which he believes he could have limited power over the universe. He is guided by one of Lucifer’s servants, Mephistophilis, who promises him his unlimited service if he agrees to serve Lucifer. Despite of warnings from his own conscience and the good angel, Faustus blood-signs an agreement with Lucifer to swap his soul with power, knowledge, and pleasure.

Doctor Faustus is a reminder for us all how human fall to sin. Greediness is perhaps the seed of all sins; it is when man wants more than what he deserves to get. Faustus is provided for learning every science he wants, but it’s not enough for him. At this point the devil can easily buy him. But the fall of men to sin is usual story; the true tragedy lies in Faustus’ stubbornness in repentance, though God has offered His mercy.

There are two version of Doctor Faustus exists, the A-text (published in 1604) and B-text (1616), and it’s still on debate, which one (or both?) was really written by Marlowe. I decided to read both; so I started with the whole of A-text first; then continued on B-text but skip the same parts, only focusing on the alternate. I must say in the end that the B-text is slightly better. I loved particularly the ending in B-text, when the scholars found Faustus’ body ‘all torn asunder by the hand of death!’ . Maybe the A-text is more dramatic because, I imagine, were it performed on stage, Faustus’ last anguish shriek when he was brought by Mephistophilis would be heard as a hollow echo when everybody exited, before the chorus closed the play by announcing the horrific tragedy: ‘Cut is the branch that might have grown full straight’. But the scholars’ scene in the B-text allows us to feel the horror more intensely, although I think it would be too eerie to be performed on stage. But the best addition of the B-text is perhaps Scene 6 Act 4; the comical scenes of Robin and Dick, and Faustus and the horse-seller. It’s not as slapstick as Shakespeare’s, but it helped reducing a bit the dark atmosphere; funny but witty.

Interestingly, Marlowe put a historical figure in the play: Pope Adrian VI, who is dealing with his rival, Pope Bruno, whom was more favored by the Emperor. Only later did I learn that Pope Bruno was fictional character. I still did not understand why the Pope should be put here, other than became a ‘toy’ whom Faustus could chaff and play using his new power of magic (a symbol of how low Faustus has sinned, that he dared ridiculing a Pope?) . Or was Marlowe mocking or criticizing the political power of Catholic Church then?

Anyway, Doctor Faustus is a great tragedy from one of Renaissance greatest dramatists: Christophe Marlowe. The spirit of learning new things which colored the Renaissance era reflected in Faustus’ passion in knowledge. He has studied philosophies like many his contemporaries, but also economy, physic, law, and theology—which he finally put aside as they weren’t as tantalizing as necromancy. Play-wise, there was still trace of Greek plays in Doctor Faustus, i.e. the chorus at the start and the end. Besides that, Marlowe’s style was more freely flowing than Greek. His chaffing on Pope Adrian and the Church officials was perhaps reflecting how Renaissance era began to shake off the dominant power of the Church in Medieval era.

Five stars for Doctor Faustus, or originally The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus.


I read the Wordsworth Classics paperback edition

This book is counted as:

Monday, February 16, 2015

Literary Movement Reading Challenge 2015: February Renaissance Check-In

Here we are in the shortest month of the year: February. Hopefully it does not discourage you to dig into Renaissance literature for our #LitMoveRC. Today is the last chance for you to submit your reviews of January Medieval, then we can move on right away to February Renaissance. The linky has been up here, you can link up your reviews or posts on renaissance literature until March 15th.

Renaissance is the new era of poems and dramatic plays. Which one do you generally prefer, poems or plays? Shakespeare or Marlowe?  And which renaissance lit will  you/are you reading?

It has been my habit since 2012 to read something by or about Dickens every February, as it’s his birth-month. This year I picked The Last Dickens by Matthew Pearl, a historical fiction about Dickens’ unfinished book: The Mystery of Edwin Drood. It is very special, because Pearl included many historical facts about Dickens and the literary circumstances during that time, including the appearances of Dickens himself, which is so lively! Anyway, I have spent the first ten days of February to savour it; and now it’s time to dive into the dark soul of Doctor Faustus! It’s my first reading of Marlowe, and so far I love him, maybe a bit over Uncle Willy… ;) After this I’m going to read Macbeth, and only then can I properly justify them.

How about you?