Thursday, April 17, 2014

Bois de Boulogne in Zola’s The Kill

This second novel of Zola’s Rougon-Macquart series turns out to be very picturesque; as if Zola wants to explore his painter-side by describing in micro-details almost every landscape and building interior. As Bois de Boulogne becomes one important aspect of the story—and he ‘paints’ them a lot—I dedicated this post to stretch my imagination about Bois de Boulogne, especially in 19th century. Of course, most of them might not express the exact details from the book, but at least they help our imagination.

After comparing the pictures and the passages, you might agree with me, that Zola’s description is much more beautiful than the pictures. He might not be a successful painter, but Zola is one of the greatest novelists who could ‘paint’ such beautiful, powerful, and touching prose.

The sun was setting in a grey October sky, streaked on the horizon with thin clouds. 

On the right, copses and low-cut trees with russet leaves and slender branches passed slowly by; at intervals, on the track reserved for riders, slim-waisted gentlemen galloped past, their steeds raising little clouds of fine dust behind them.” 

 “…in the avenue leading to the lake, the roads had been watered, the carriages rolled over the brown surface as over a carpet, amid a freshness, a rising fragrance of moist earth. 
[p. 257]

And as the lake came closer, the chairs on the side paths became more numerous, families sat with quiet, silent faces, watching the endless procession of wheels.”

Then, on reaching the open space in front of the lake, there was an effulgence; the slanting sun transformed the round sheet of water into a great mirror of polished silver.”


On approaching the waterfall, while the dimness of the copses was renewed on one side, the islands of the far end of the lake rose up against the blue sky, with their sunlit banks, the bold shadows of their pine trees, and the Chalêt at their feet, which looked like a child’s toy lost in a virgin forest. The whole park laughed and quivered in the sun.” 

“…in the presence of this broad daylight, of these sheets of sunshine, she thought of a fine dust of twilight she had seen falling one evening upon the yellow leaves.” 

She remained frozen when she evoked the image of that winter landscape, that congealed and dimmed lake on which they had skated; the sky was the colour of soot, and the snow had stitched white bands of lace on the trees, the wind blew fine sands into their faces.” 

She saw again the lawns soaked by the evening air, the darkened copses, the deserted pathways. The line of carriages drove then with a mournful sound past the empty chairs, while today the rumble of the wheels, the trot of the horses, sounded with the joyousness of a fanfare of trumpets.” 


It was almost night; twilight was spreading slowly like fine ash. The lake, seen from the front, in the pale light that still hovered over the water, became rounder, like a huge tin fish; on either sides, the plantations of evergreens, whose slim, straight stems seemed to rise up from its still surface, looked at this hour like purple colonnades, delineating with their even shapes the studied curves of the shore; and shrubs rose in the background, confused masses of foliage forming large black patches that closed off the horizon.” 


Behind these patches was the glow of the dying sunset, which set fire to only a small portion of the grey immensity. Above the still lake, the low copses, the strangely flat perspective, stretched the vast sky, infinite, deepened and widened. The great slice of sky hanging over this small piece of nature caused a thrill, an indefinable sadness...”


“…And from these palling heights fell so deep an autumnal melancholy, so sweet and heart-breaking a darkness, that the Bois, wound little by little in a shadowy shroud, lost its worldly graces, and widened out, full of the powerful charm that forests have. The wheels of the carriages, whose bright colours were fading in the twilight, sounded like the distant voices of leaves and running water. Everything was slowly dying away.”


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Don Quixote: Final Review

I have a mixed feeling about Don Quixote. On the one hand I quite enjoyed Cervantes’ wit and beautiful prose, but on the other I disliked the absurdities. I just could not force myself to believe there are people so contradictory like Don Quixote and Sancho Pança, who at a time were so wise, but at others so stupid. I know that Cervantes made it absurd on purpose, but that’s why I could never really like it.

Alonso Quixada was a gentleman who lived quietly in La Mancha. He was obsessed by books of chivalry in his personal library. The idea of knight-errantry poisoned his mind, that one day, in his thoroughly frenzied mind, he felt a strong impulse to become a knight and sought adventures in order to relieve the weak and oppressed from their sorrows. He followed every rule he had read from his books, and was suddenly transformed into a Don Quixote de la Mancha. He recruited a country farmer called Sancho Pança as his squire, and took a peasant woman to be his adored-lady—just because a knight in books used to have a squire, and a lady to whom he dedicated all his deeds. Mounting on his skinny horse—which he fancied as a stout one—he left La Mancha to seek adventures.

And indeed, a lot of adventures he got along the way. However, far from helping people, Don Quixote often ended up bringing trouble to others. It’s because he himself had fancied that those people were in trouble and needing his help—while in reality they didn’t. In the urge of having problems to solve, Don Quixote used to create them in his fantasies. In these fantasies, either people, or animals, or even things might become his worst enemies. One of his, probably, most memorable (and funniest) adventure is when he attacked some windmills which he imagined as giants! But you might wonder, if the adventures were mere fantasies, how did he react when they were failed? When things went wrong, Don Quixote blamed it on enchantment or works of a magician.

If he was so deluded, why didn’t his squire or others lead him to the truth? Sancho was quite a man of sense, but he was also deluded by illusion of power. He was so sure that one day Don Quixote would be a King, and would grant him island to govern. But other than that, Sancho was an amiable man. And maybe, besides his childish trust to his master, he was the most natural character of others, and has become my most favorite character in this book.

Now, along his adventures, Don Quixote met so many people. Interestingly, none of them seemed really appreciate Don Quixote’s main aim by entering knight-errantry profession, which was to help others. This was a noble dream, but people failed to see it as it was, and focused instead on the crazy ways he tried to achieve it. The curate, the barber, and the bachelor tried hard to bring him home and cure him. In their eyes, Don Quixote was a poor deluded old man who only humiliated himself by his knight-errantry. The Duke and Duchess were much worse; they put (too) much effort to create adventures for Don Quixote just to amuse themselves—it’s bullying, and I hate them for it! There were still many other characters, some were kind to Don Quixote and Sancho, but some were quite rude. But all of them saw the same thing from our knight: a mad man; either they pitied him or were annoyed by him.

So, that is how Cervantes saw the world in his era. The nobility and moral value had been decaying, and people only saw what appeared on the surface. The biggest irony in this story is how people regarded Don Quixote as a deluded man, while in fact it was they who were deluded. Strange and unreasonable as he was, Don Quixote was the only one who still strongly believed in nobility and the need of helping others; while the others—normal as they believed they were—could only see a strange old man, and failed to see his much deeper and important quality as a human being.

Only after I finished this book, did I see why Don Quixote has been a very important work in our literary world. Cervantes is indeed great in conveying his ideas through this entertaining satirical romance, which became the first complete novel ever published. Don Quixote is actually divided into two parts. In the first one Cervantes wrote it as if he presented us a history of a certain knight, written by a Moor called Benengali. Interestingly, in the second part, Cervantes took a more active role, by putting another author who has been writing the sequel of Don Quixote without his permission, and made Don Quixote met people who have read the false history of him. The meta-story style could also be found in part one; actually one of them: “The Impertinent Curiosity” is so engaging I even think I love it better than the original story! And this is very interesting, considering it was written some four centuries ago.

All in all, I realized that Don Quixote is a special and genius piece of literature, but somehow, I could not like it as I thought I would. I got bored many times, and used to skip few pages, before continuing. Maybe, if Cervantes didn’t put too many adventures, I would like it more. But in the end, three and a half stars are the best I could give for Don Quixote, one memorable story but too tedious for my liking.


I read Wordsworth Classics paperback

This book is counted as:

16th book for WEM Self-Project

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Zoladdiction 2014 - Master Post

The virus has come to infect us for the whole month: ZOLADDICTION! Are you ready to be exposed to Émile Zola’s books? See the announcement to find all about this event. In short, I am hosting this event to praise and spread the knowledge (and addiction) of Émile Zola’s works. To join us, you can simply sign up this event, read as much as Zola’s works as possible, post your thoughts, and share them in the linky below.

Any other posts about Zola works are welcomed too. If you feel itchy to do some shopping (of Zola books of course :D), you are more than welcomed to let us know, or to show off your new Zola collections. So, let’s read, let’s post, let’s shop, or let’s watch movies adaptation, all because we are in Zoladdiction! :)

Wrap Up

In the end of April (or within first week of May in the least), I encourage you to post a wrap-up of Zoladdiction:
  • Tell us what you have done with Zola during April.
  • Share your thoughts or feelings after you worked on with Zola for a month, do you begin to like him, have you been struggling with the books, or do you love him even more? Tell us everything!
  • What next? Do you have any future plan with Zola?

Of course you are free to say anything in your wrap up post, you are not obliged to answer all the questions, it’s just to give you ideas. You can put the link of your wrap up post in the linky below (I only prepare one linky for all posts).

Now, kick it off, guys…and let the Zoladdiction begin!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Don Quixote: Rhetoric Stage Reading

Do you sympathize with the characters? Which ones, and why?

Maybe the only one with whom I sympathize is Sancho Pança. I like him, a simple man, witty and humorous, loyal and….has abundant proverbs in his head to be poured upon us! I think for Don Quixote, to live a Christian life is just an idea; mere theory. When his quire was beaten (I forgot in which scene :D) Don Quixote ran away ‘till he was sure everything is safe for him to help Sancho. His action was not correlated with his principle. On the contrary, Sancho never hides the fact that he is a coward and hates physical battle, but in time of trouble, he left his precious Dapple and his own safety, and ran to save his master, who has caused him most of his ill-lucks. THAT is a true Christian!

What does the setting of the book tell you about the way human beings are shaped?

  • In his frenzy, Don Quixote is carrying noble ideals to save the oppressed, but most of the people he meets cannot see it, they only see his absurd appearance and madness, and take him only as a madman. We are often deluded by appearances and our own ideas, and forget to delve deeper.
  • Idea could perhaps be the most powerful tool to shape our civilization. It can bring us to the truth or deludes us to the false; only grab it literally without finding the truth would be very dangerous, for ourselves and for others.

Did the writer’s times affect him?

Very much! Because Cervantes wrote is mostly from his own experience, which showed us Spain in the early 17th century era. Cervantes joined the Spanish army, and it is believed to be the source of his knight-errantry and chivalric idealism.

What exactly is the writer telling you?

I think Cervantes wanted to portray the decreasing idealism of knight-errantry principles he was facing at his era. Morality has been decreasing in the tumult of new era, and people have failed to keep the true Christian values.

In what sense is the book true?

Modernism, in any era or century, brings also moral corruption to a society as a side effect. And it is depicted in this satirical romance as well.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Don Quixote: Logic Stage Reading


Is this novel a “fable” or a “chronicle”?

Don Quixote is a complex work, it can be said to contain both fable and chronicle. Alonso Quixada lived in a real world, as well as his niece and housekeeper, the curate, the barber and Samson Carrasco the bachelor. So it seems to be a chronicle. However, in his transformation into the mad Knight Don Quixote, all his adventures with his Squire Sancho Pança and all other characters (during his madness), the story is switched into fable. So, I think Don Quixote is a fable which Cervantes ‘forced’ us to believe as a chronicle.

What does Don Quixote want? What is standing in his way? And what strategy does he pursue in order to overcome his block?

Don Quixote possesses real Christian quality, as he has an obsession to free the oppressed from their sorrows and troubles by entering the profession of knight-errantry, after having read (too) many books about it. He deludes himself to do what the books said, forces real objects to fit his fantasy, and therefore often meets failures and dangers. But, fails in finding reasonable cause, he takes them as being enchanted by magicians, and therefore he keeps fighting earnestly to fulfill his obsession.

Who is telling you this story?

I think it was told from the third-person objective, that is Cervantes’. He wrote Don Quixote as if it was a biography of the Knight.

What styles does the writer employ?

Complex—using complicated sentence (being written in 17th century)—and quite ornamental. Cervantes included a lot of verses and proverbs—thanks to Sancho—besides his great narrative style to describe the extravagant adventures.

Beginnings and endings

The book begins with introduction to Alonso Quixada’s quiet life in a rural village in La Mancha. But immediately after that his knight-errantry books poisoned him to his delusion. It reveals men’s helplessness against the power of ideas. The ending is a resolution; where Don Quixote is finally woken up from his madness and dies peacefully after confessing that men should not read books which have tendency to delude them. In it Cervantes wanted us to understand that we have choices, but also the power to make a good one.


Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Classics Club’s March Meme: Favorite Classic Literary Period

The Classics Club has picked a very interesting question for its March meme:

What is your favorite “classic” literary period and why?

I could readily and easily answer this one, because by far, when it comes to classic, my most favorite literary period has always been…


As for the reason….I don’t really know why, but Victorian writing style just fits me very well. Two of my most favorite classics authors are from this period: Emile Zola and Charles Dickens. Maybe it is because I love English as a language—though I’m not a native speaker—and Victorian English feels so beautiful for me, and Victorian arts and culture so fascinate me. I have tried many other classics from other periods too, so far Victorian is my most favorite, and Post-Modernism is my biggest fail.

What about you? What is your most favorite classic literary period? Do you love Victorian too?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

My Birthday & Reading Dickens Giveaway Winners!

Thanks to all of you who have participated in my Birthday Celebration, either in Reading Dickens Event and/or My Birthday Giveaway. Now it’s time to announce the lucky winner.

Although I didn’t pick any Dickens work this year, still I was entertained by the real facts about his life and personal characters after reading Claire Tomalin’s The Invisible Woman. It gave me clear sight of the real social condition in Victorian era, as well as what kind of person Charles Dickens was.

There were seven more reviews on Dickens books and book about Dickens, you can check them here. From the seven posts, I picked one number randomly, and the lucky one is…..


Congratulations to Ruth! I would contact you via email soonest possible.

Thank you too for participating in My Birthday Giveaway, and welcome to my new followers! From all you entries, I have randomly picked one, which belongs to….

Ekaterina @InMyBookBlog

Congrats Ekaterina! Just wait for my email very soon!

For now, goodbye February! It’s been a nice and exciting month, but I still have another exciting month to come….. Zoladdiction 2014 in April. Care to join too? Sign yourself up!