Monday, December 14, 2015

Fanda Classiclit: Plans for 2016

Considering my failure this year, I did not set any ambitious target for next year. All I wanted is reading any book I want to read, in any speed I could. So, this post is not going to be very long, as I have only two reading plans (and I limit myself to only these two—stop me if I was tempted to add anything else! LOL):




The only event I will be hosting next year, for fun only, no pressure.






I decided to participate in Adam’s event because I have been trying to read the Bible from cover to cover, but without any success. So, why not challenging myself this year? Thanks to Adam’s reading plan, I may be able to finally do it—hopefully!

Apart from these two, I will treat myself to pick any book I would like to read. It’s time to read just for fun and pleasure…

How about you…any particular plan for next year? Share me!


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Belle Époque Event 2016



I have been wanting to do this since early this year; maybe since my Zoladdiction event—which, by the way, I am not going to host for next year. I have been doing this fun reading of Emile Zola for three years, but right now I don’t think I have time & energy to host it. It’s not ended yet, maybe next year it will be back, but for right now I just like to have a quiet event, in which I can still read Zola!... ;)

Belle Époque is forty years of beautiful (or golden) era in France, started from the end of Franco-Prussian War (1871) to the outbreak of World War I (1914). It’s an era of optimism, prosperity, and flourishing of art, architecture, and entertainment—especially in Paris. It’s joie de vivre during French Third Republic. Post-impressionist artists like Monet, Gaugin, Matisse, Rodin, and Picasso belonged to Belle Époque era; so did naturalism authors like Zola, Maupassant, and Proust. It’s also the era of salon music and cabaret (Moulin Rouge!), and the building of Paris Metro and Eiffel Tower. Oh, and don’t forget the infamous Dreyfus Affair! In short, things that made me love Paris, began at the Belle Époque period. How can I not love it?

And now the event…. It’s really simple!
  • Read and post as many things from Belle Époque era, and as often as you can, during 2016.
  • You can read books from Belle Époque authors, or books about… whatever happened during or about the era. It can be fiction or non-fiction, just whatever you can find.
  • Or maybe you just want to decorate your blog by posting Belle Époque paintings? That’s fine too!
  • Just don’t forget to submit it to the linky in this post (will be up only on January 1st).
  • But first…. Sign up with the linky below!

In my part, I planned to do this:

Reading:
Emile Zola – Pot Bouille (1882)
Emile Zola – The Ladies’ Paradise (1883)
Guy de Maupassant – Bel-Ami (1885)
Emile Zola – The Dreyfus Affair: “J’Accuse” and Other Writings (1901)
Marcel Proust – Swann’s Way (1913)

Posting:
Works and some information of Belle Époque artists we rarely heard of. I plan to do this every month (one artist per month).


What are you waiting for? Let’s explore and have fun!....

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

I’m Back!

Yes, it’s been three months since my last post. I have been busy organizing a new Church community, and for some months didn’t have time to sit and pour my thoughts to this blog. I didn’t even read for few months! L But today is a national holiday in Indonesia (due to major election), and despite of it, I came purposely to the office to reorganize my reading life.

Unfortunately, I totally failed in ALL my reading challenge this year, and most of all, MY own Literary Movement Reading Challenge… LL But I am not completely disappointed at that, because I’ve been sacrifying my reading life for something much bigger and important in my life. I only feel sorry to you, my readers, especially #LitMoveRC participants, for my being quite a bad host this year. Kudos to you who are still on fire to keep reading and posting along the movements! One of you will surely be winning my prize after all this! J

Now I am going to reorganize everything, maybe wrapping up my challenges, thinking about next year plan, and maybe doing a book tag to awake my blogging spirit… But you might not see my proper reviews for a while, I just don’t have any energy (or mood) left to do it. Meanwhile, I’m going to pick any book I feel like reading, and don’t force myself to post a review.

See you around!


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Fortune of the Rougons by Émile Zola

Finally I can get to where the Rougon-Macquart series starts: The Fortune of the Rougons.  The Rougon-Macquart is Émile Zola’s monumental study on heredity effect on human. He illustrated it in twenty novels about two families during French Second Empire. It all begins with Adelaide Fouque, an eccentric woman with mental illness who lives in Plassans (fictional town). She has one legitimate son from her marriage with a hardworking peasant: Rougon; and one illegitimate son and one daughter from the lazy and alcoholic poacher: Macquart.

Although growing up together with their mother after the fathers died, Pierre Rougon—being the legitimate child—feels superior to Antoine and Ursule, the Macquarts. Pierre’s fortune comes from the combination of clever and cunning maneuvers, while Antoine is too lazy to earn his living. Throughout the story, the two stepbrothers keep competing each other. On the other hand, Ursule marries a quite respectful man called Mouret. Her son, Silvère, lives with his grandma Adelaide. Apart from the eternal hostility between Pierre and Antoine, Silvère’s pure love for Miette. Pierre’s sons also contribute to the story, mainly through the trio Eugene the Napoleon’s intelligent, Aristide the left journalist, and Pascal the doctor and scientist. I believe Pascal represents Zola himself, the naturalist who was fascinated with how hereditary flaws could be descended to generations through families.

But what balances the disgusting acts of the Rougons and the Macquarts, is Silvere and Miette’s naïve love and heroism. The others’ greed to steal what they can from the coup d’etat, is counterbalanced by the young couple’s patriotic, though rather blindly, love for their republic.

The Fortune turned out to be quite entertaining story—much better than what I’ve expected. Its naturalism theme is distinguished here, as Pascal’s observation of the people is really Darwinist. And most interestingly, this book laid the foundation for the whole Rougon-Macquart series.

Four stars for Zola!

~~~~~~~~

I read Oxford World’s Classic paperback

This book is counted for:



Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Literary Movement Reading Challenge 2015: August Naturalism Check-In



As if my present hectic activities have not been enough to rob my reading and blogging time, I have got bronchitis since last week that caused me to take two days sick leave! Well…maybe it’s my body giving me signal to slow a bit down. But the good news is, I had some relaxed moments during my rest to savour another Zola J for August Naturalism! There’ll always time for Zola!...

Anyway, #LitMoveRC is entering its eighth month. The linky for August Naturalism is already up, you can link up your posts until September 15th.

Now I am curious…

Which month or movement was your biggest fail?

For me, it’s last month’s Realism. I was excited to have another Henry James, The Golden Bowl, for this movement. However, before getting through the first 50 pages, I got so bored with it that I finally gave up and put it down after about page 90s. The dialogs were dense with hidden meanings in words and in gesture that puzzled me. So, I picked my second choice for Realism: Balzac’s Père Goriot, and I loved it so much! Pity, I didn’t have time to review it before the bronchitis overtook me.

Well, what about you? I hope you had it much better…

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Literary Movement Reading Challenge 2015: July Realism Check-In



We are now half way through the #LitMoveRC, yay! It’s been the toughest challenge I have been hosting so far, really! However, it’s really exciting to read from different era each month; it encourages me to enlarge my reading horizon. This month we are tackling Realism. One question for all of you:

Which one do you prefer, the complexity and epic turn in Romanticisms/Victorians, or the flat quiet plot in Realisms?

I like them both, but Victorian and Romanticism are always my favorites (Dickens, Dumas). They provide me the fullest satisfaction in reading. Realism, and later on Naturalism, often gives me a “pang” in the ending, but they teach me much about real life and real people. What about you?

Don’t forget… The linky for July Realism is now opened; you can submit your reviews/posts until August 15th.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Far from a Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

These two months have been hectic months for me, and I know I’m much behind my schedule in this (and other) challenge(s). Although I kept reading, I could not find time, focus, and energy to write any reviews. Today, as I find myself more relaxed, I force myself to write this. Hopefully I can catch up again for the rest of this semester. Now, Far from a Madding Crowd turned out to be my new favorite. I think I have picked the right book to begin with Hardy. I really enjoyed it, and now am ready to read his other books.

I loved Gabriel Oak (he is now one of my most favorite characters), and loved the rural country life presented by Hardy. Bathseba Everdeen is a combination of proud, vigor, and beauty. She is loved by three men—passionately by Sergeant Troy, possessively by Farmer Boldwood, and quietly by Shepherd Oak. When she inherited a farm from her uncle, Batsheba felt independent. She thought she could just rely on her passion, and the world would be as she wanted to be. Folly after folly, and only after reaping what she had sown, did she realize that there is no independence without responsibility.

While Batsheba represents female emancipation, Gabriel Oak represents hard work and perseverance; two perfect themes for a Victorian novel, combined with a slight touch of realism in Hardy’s writing. That makes Far from a Madding Crowd a wonderful reading!

Four and a half stars for Oak and Hardy!

~~~~~~~~
I read Penguin English Library paperback

This book is counted for:




Monday, June 15, 2015

Literary Movement Reading Challenge 2015: June Victorian Check-In



It’s a bright June afternoon…. I can hear Roxette’s voice in my head this afternoon, when I am writing this post. June has always been a promising month for me, but not this year…. I am so hectic on a project I am preparing, and tt has been taking a lot of my time and energy, that my reading target must be reduced this year.  However, the Literary Movement Reading Challenge must go on! I will still read for each movement, but only one book each.

How about you? Hope you are still having fun with this challenge… Meanwhile, June Victorian for #LitMoveRC begins today! The linky for June Victorian is now opened; you can submit your reviews/posts until July 15th. ==UPDATE== For some reasons I could not create the linky today; I don’t know why/what happened, but I’ll try again tomorrow.

Now, our monthly question:

Who is your most favorite Victorian author?

Mine is, of course, Charles Dickens. But sadly, I won’t be able to read any of his books this year. I’ve been meaning to pick Bleak House for Lit Move Challenge, but… besides its thickness, I don’t think I have the mood to read it right now.


Friday, June 5, 2015

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

The only reason I read Little Women was because high praises have been attributed to it by most of my fellow book-bloggers. My first encounter with Alcott was in Eight Cousins, which left me no impression at all. With Little Women, I had a slight expectation that it might have something more meaningful than Eight Cousins. Plus, I picked it because Alcott had influence in Transcendentalism, which I am tackling this month for Literary Movement Challenge. But after finishing it, well, I still can’t see why people praise it so much. It was really an enjoyable reading, and I think Alcott is a good writer, but that’s all to me. It left my mind as soon as I opened another book, and I even have to google it right now to write this review (I finished reading about a few weeks ago).

Maybe my favorite part of Little Women is the family bonding of the Marches. It is always great to be accepted and loved as we are, and to have a home where we are belonged to. The characters are memorable, but sometimes seem unreal. But unrealistic—angelic in this case—characters, like those of Dickens, are indeed memorable.

From the four sisters, I think Amy is the most natural one, for her age. Beth is too good to be true; she is more like an angel than a little child! Megan and Jo are typical contradiction in books’ characters; they even reminded me of Anne and George in Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five. It seems that girls are mostly divided into two categories. The feminine ones love pretty dresses, play with dolls, like to cook, and always think about getting a husband. While the tomboy ones like to be called with boy’s names, dislike dresses, and do boyish games. Amazingly their names are always similar to boy’s names… Georgina to George, Josephine to Jo. Plus these tomboy girls are usually hot-headed and stubborn. These childish stereotyping is sometimes annoying!

Apart from that, Little Women taught us to place virtues over vanity, which was the theme of Enlightenment literature. In every event of their lives, Mrs. March always reminded her family to keep praying and practicing Christian values. It’s good, but sometimes I think it’s a bit patronizing. I prefer books that don’t tell us to do something straight to the point, but hide ii between the lines. The finding of the hidden moral is often the most valuable point of the reading.

Three and a half stars for Little Women.

~~~~~~~~~~~

I read Puffin Classics paperback

This book is counted for:



Friday, May 15, 2015

Literary Movement Reading Challenge 2015: May Transcendentalism Check-In



I have a slight regret to leave the Romanticism behind. It has been very entertaining, really! For a month we were brought to escape the harsh reality of life and enter the romantic, though fictitious, world. But, alas! Everything has an end, and now we must return to the reality. May Transcendentalism for #LitMoveRC begin today! The linky for May Transcendentalism is now opened; you can submit your reviews/posts until June 15th.

If last month we are discussing most excited movement(s) to come, our question of the month is the opposite:

After May Transcendentalism, which movement that you are least anticipated? Why?

Mine is the November Beat Generation/Bloomsbury, simply because I am not convenient with the freedom theme. I am wondering whether I’m going to like it, and whether I have chosen the most suitable book (to my taste). We’ll see then…

Meanwhile, I have finished Alcott’s Little Women for Transcendentalism, and will soon move on to Thoreau’s Walden. Hopefully I can still make it on time!

How are you progressing so far?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Black Tulip by Alexandre Dumas

After my little disappointment with Ivanhoe, I must thank Alexandre Dumas, père, for once again brought me into the excitement of elaborate plot and romances, through The Black Tulip. Dumas’ novels always make me wonder whether this and that are historical events/characters, or just fiction; as he mixed both in such a genius way you won’t find the boundary.

At first I thought it would be the story of de Witts: Johan the Great Pensionary of Dutch (Prime Minister) and his brother Cornelis, who were lynched by the citizen because they opposed William of Orange. The attack was quite terrible; and it was more so because then I was not yet familiar with the dark history. But after that painful part, came the story of the tulip fancier and his envious neighbor. It was really entertaining, but at that time I didn’t get the connection with the political side, except that Cornelius van Baerle, the tulip fancier, was the godson of Cornelis de Witt. But, as usual with Dumas, the plot slowly intertwined beautifully and closed satisfyingly at the ending.

The Black Tulip combined the history of Dutch political environment and Tulip Mania during the Golden Age. The hero was a bourgeois Doctor with a passion on agricultural, but particularly in growing Tulip. As he was rich, Cornelius equipped his mansion with all possible resources to grow the finest tulips in town. His neighbor, Isaac Boxtel, was also a Tulip fancier but much poorer, who grew envious to Cornelius’ unlimited resources. Then came a grand competition held by the Tulip Society of Harleem, who offered a hundred thousand guilders prize for anyone who succeed in growing a black tulip without a spot of color, which has then never yet been found. But as Cornelius was in the final step of growing his black tulip—spied maliciously by Isaac Boxtel—came instruction from William of Orange to capture and put Cornelius in jail for helping the ‘traitors’ de Witt.

Did Cornelius put his ambition down, then, to grow the black tulip, as he was a convict? How could he manage to continue the labor? And don’t forget the envious Isaac Boxtel who planned to steal the black tulip and claim it as his own, to snatch the prize! Well, just trust Père Dumas; he would spice up the politics and flower fancying with high adventures and romances, that it would be difficult for you to not believing it as a true history. And as usual, everything would be put in its place satisfyingly for all, and mostly for us, readers.

Again, Monsieur Dumas has satisfied me beyond my expectation in this novel. Romanticism—with its unreasonable heroism—usually does not impress me much, but with Dumas, well… it’s just different. Four and a half stars for The Black Tulip!

~~~~~~~~~

I read e-book from Project Gutenberg

This book is counted for:




Thursday, May 7, 2015

Ivanhoe

Although the book was titled Ivanhoe, I didn’t think Wilfrid of Ivanhoe is the most distinguished hero in this historical fiction. He was wounded and inaction throughout most of the story, and we only saw his chivalrous battle in the tournament, and then rescuing Rebecca the Jewess. And I disliked his attitude towards Isaac of York and Rebecca, though he was kindhearted enough to help them. Maybe it’s an ordinary sentiment against Jewish people at that time, but if so, what made him deserve the title hero?

I would choose Rebecca instead, she was an extraordinary woman. What she did was beyond any men in this story could do. She was a woman; with every limited source women might have at that time. She was also a Jewish, the cursed and marginalized race. Nonetheless, she was full of love and forgiveness to all who hated her race. What she had to endure was so great; but she was so calm and resilient. I think Rebecca was more Christian than those Christians. She was broad-minded; and always acted for the whole humanity, beyond community, race, or nation.

I read Ivanhoe a month ago—and had just enough time to do a proper review today—so I don’t quite remember the whole plot. It was set in England after King Richard I returned from the Third Crusades, around 12th century. England was dominated by Norman nobility, and Cedric of Rotherwood was the remaining notable Saxon family; he was ambitious to conquer the Normans, his mortal enemy. So, when he knew that his ward, Wilfrid of Ivanhoe, served King Richard who was Norman, he banished his only son.  The story began when some travelers stayed the night under Cedric’s hospitality. There they were joined by a palmer and a Jewish (Isaac of York). And then on Scott wove their adventures and intrigues; adding some other characters into it, so that their faith intertwined with each other, resulting an enjoyable story with intricate plot—as is usual with Romantic novels.

The appearance of Robin Hood and his “merry men” spiced up a bit the story; while the Templar with their strict rules added interesting side to it. But still, I sensed something is missing; I don’t know what… It felt like connecting several facts and figures into a story than creating one from the scratch.

Anyway, Ivanhoe is still quite an enjoyable piece of Romantic lit, for it is full with combination of chivalric adventures and romances. Though in the end you would ask, like I did, what’s special about Wilfrid Ivanhoe? Can you tell me?

Three and a half stars for Ivanhoe.

~~~~~~~~~

I read Wordsworth Classics paperback

This book is counted for:




Thursday, April 30, 2015

Germinal: My Second Reading

It is almost three years ago when I first read Germinal, and instantly fell in love with the book—and much more with the author! This year I have decided to give it a second read; to see if I will still find it as great as my first reading. The interesting thing of rereading is that you know what you’re going to get throughout the book, and especially in the end, you know how the story would go. In the case of Zola books, you might not feel the “blow” as intensely as when you read it for the first time. That is what I got from my Germinal second reading.

I also found out that when the blow was softened, the second read allowed me to feel more of the emotion of each character, and to relate to them better than before. Moreover, I could see now why Germinal has become Zola’s masterpiece. From eight of his novels—seven from The Rougon Macquart series—I have read so far, Germinal is the most beautiful in term of writing. It is more flowing; not as intense as Zola’s other books, and Zola did not put his focus entirely on the working class, but also on the bourgeoisie. It put more emphasizes on how the society needed to change; because both sides were slowly crumbling. If the system remained unchanged, the Voreaux tragedy will crush everything in it; just like a giant beast who swallowed them up greedily—as Zola put it. The tragic incident between old Bonnemort and the daughter of Voreux’ stock holder highlighted the faulted system. It happened naturally, it’s nobody’s fault it seemed, but the old corrupted system.

One thing that perhaps distinguished Germinal from its siblings in The Rougon-Macquart series is the hopeful ending; it really effaced the dark tragedy of the Voreux, as if to say that the miners’ sacrifices will not be useless after all; that there is always new and brighter hope which is germinating from the debris of a revolution.

Zola is always good at painting irony in his novels. He described events so perfectly detailed that you would get the irony without further explanations. When the strike was on going, the manager and the stock holder (the bourgeois) were having a luncheon. While the miners were starving and risked their lives by doing the strike to ask for justice, their masters’ concern was at whether the pâtissier’s delivery boy could deliver the vol-au-vent crusts on time for lunch, despite of the strike. The bitter irony lays in the ending of chapter six-part five; it was the scene after the strike was over, when the sun had set, and everything was calm again:

“…The plain was drowning beneath the thick night; there were only the black furnaces and the coke ovens ablaze against the tragic sky. Heavily, the gallop of the gendarmes approached; they landed up in an indistinguishable somber mass. And behind them, entrusted to their care, the Marchiennes pâtissier’s vehicle arrived at last, a little covered cart out of which jumped a small drudge of a boy, who quietly went about unpacking the vol-au-vent crusts.”

What an ending!—and Zola was great in closing each of the chapters in exactly that beautiful-bitter-ironic way. Some are more beautiful than others, but my favorite remains still in the very ending:



Now the April sun, in the open sky, was shining in its glory, warming the earth as it went into labour. From its fertile flanks life was leaping forth, buds were bursting into green leaves, and the fields were quivering with the growth of the grass. On every side seeds were swelling, stretching out, cracking the plain, filled by the need of heat and light. An overflow of sap flowed with whispering voices, the sound of the germs expanded in a great kiss. Again and again, more and more distinctly, as though they had come right up to the soil, the comrades were hammering. In the fiery rays of the sun, on this youthful morning, the country was pregnant with this rumbling. Men were springing forth, a black avenging army, germinating slowly in the furrows, growing up for the harvests of the next century, and their germination would soon overturn the earth. 

Again—what an ending!

On my previous post I have written about my first impression on (second reading of) Germinal; particularly about Étienne. Well, I think, apart from his personal inherited weakness and indecisiveness, Étienne is a kind man. I liked him for his ability to move forward from past faults, for his kindness towards others; in particular Catherine and the Maheus, and for his principles.

My favorite passage is the one concerning Bataille, the old horse. The way Zola portrayed its agony is brilliant! I think I shed tears for the horse more than for the Maheus’! Zola’s words can be very touching too at times. And reading this passage, only now that I realized that what Bataille felt actually reflected the agony of the miners. And that came in this poetic passage:

“…He galloped on and on, bending his head, drawing up his feet, racing these narrow tubes in the earth, filled with his great body. Road succeeded to road, and the junctions opened into forks, without any hesitation on his part. Where was he going? Back, perhaps, towards the vision of his youth, to the mill where he had been born on the bank of the Scarpe, to the confused recollection of the sun burning in the air like a great lamp. He desired to live, his beast’s memory awoke; the longing to breathe once more the air of the plains drove him straight onwards to the discovery of the hole, the exit beneath the warm sun, into the light.”

It was the agony of a creature who had been used from his early days; who never knew other existence besides what he was submissively forced to take; but one day a longing for a better existence would stir deep in his heart; which made him galloping furiously into the light. It made one reflect a lot, didn’t it?

Now, I have been praising this book over and over again, here, as well as in other comments/thoughts, and I don’t think there would be enough words to describe how I love Germinal! I love the beautiful narration, love the vivid description of the mines (Zola took much efforts in doing observation in this), and love the hopeful atmosphere. In short, I love everything about this book! If you aren’t yet convinced to read it by now, try at least!



~~~~~~~~~

I read Wordsworth Classics paperback

This book is counted for:





Friday, April 24, 2015

Witness for the Prosecution

I am an Agatha Christie’s fan since in high school, but this was my first time of reading her play. Now I must admire Christie more than before, as she turned out to be as good a playwright as she was a crime-novelist.

This play is about Leonard Vole, a young man who was charged for murdering an old woman. The scene moved alternately from Sir Wilfrid’s chamber—the defense counsel, to the Center Criminal Court—better known as The Old Bailey. Emily French, a rich old woman, was fond of Leonard for having helped her in a little incident—after which she was very grateful. One night Leonard visited her; and not long after he went home, Emily was found dead with a blow on her head. Leonard was afraid that the police might think he was the murderer, so he asked Mr. Mayhew—his solicitor—for advice. They came to Sir Wilfrid’s office, and during their discussion, the police came to arrest Leonard. And so Sir Wilfrid came to be Leonard’s defense counsel.

Apart from the rather awkward opening scene, I liked this play. As usual, Christie could peel her characters layer by layer to their (almost) real hearts and minds; but still keep the biggest twisting surprise at the end. She wrote it very detailed too; it would be easy to perform it, as she described each little detail of the scene, down to exact location of the furniture. She also described the characters’ movement, for instance: not only “on the desk”, but also “on the down right corner of the desk”. Without watching it on stage, you could easily use your imagination to “perform” it in your own head. And if you read it carefully, some scenes are a bit funny, which will make you grinning amidst the gloomy atmosphere of the brutal murder.

Four and a half stars for Witness for Prosecution; a quite enjoyable modern drama from Dame Agatha Christie.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

I read Harper Collins paperback

This book is counted as:


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Literary Movement Reading Challenge 2015: April Romanticism Check-In



We have come to the first quarter of #LitMoveRC, April Romanticism! This month has been a hectic month for me, for I am also hosting Zoladdiction 2015. So far I have finished Ivanhoe; and still planned to read Dumas’ The Black Tulip if I can finish my Zola reading and Agatha Christie’s play. Oh…that is why you should not host more than one challenge at a time! *self note*

Anyway, here is a question for you…

We still have eight or nine more movements until December; which one is the most exciting for you? Why?

For me, it’s Naturalism in August, because I’ll be reading two of my most favorite classics authors: Émile Zola and Edith Wharton. But Victorian comes closer behind, when I’d be reading still another favorite: Charles Dickens!

What about you?

The linky for April Romanticism is now opened; you can submit your reviews/posts until May 15th.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Classics Salon (1): My First Impression of “Germinal”



The Classics Salon is another weekly meme, hosted by Mangoes and Cherry Blossoms, to discuss or blog about current classics that we are reading. This post should be published on Friday, however I was so hectic around Easter, that I missed it until today. OK, I’m four days late, but it’s better late than never, isn’t it? Plus it is a good idea to boost my blogging mood.

The question for the first Salon is:

What are your first impressions of the current classic you are reading?

I am now reading Zola’s Germinal for Zoladdiction 2015. It is my second read, but my first one was three years ago, so it feels like I’m reading a fresh novel but already knew how it would end, and some of the characters were quite familiar.

Starting a novel for the second (or more) time is a unique experience, specifically when it is your most favorite book, on which you have high expectations of a great reading. I feel the same way with Germinal, but I promised myself to take more time in this reread to devour things I have probably missed on my first read. So, since the beginning I have been paying more attention to the main character, Étienne Lantier. I have praised him after my first read; and even made him my most favorite book boy friend for Book Kaleidoscope 2012. My first impression on him was an adorable and brave young man (I quite forgot why I loved him!).

Now that I am following him, I realized that Étienne is an indecisive man. He couldn’t decide whether he supposed to ask for job upon arrival at the Voreux, jobless and penniless as he was. He has a crush for Catherine; he is jealous of Chaval, yet always keeps a distance from Catherine (out of shyness?). Apart from the indecisiveness, so far I am pleased with Étienne, he is a hard-worker and polite. Although he inherited the intolerance to drinks from his drunkard parents, he could refrain himself well enough.

Other than that, Germinal is mostly regarded as Zola’s masterpiece. Now I see more clearly why; it is the way he wove his sentences. Each chapter is always ended so beautifully and satisfyingly, that you’d be torn between staying where you were and devouring it, or continuing to the next as you were excited of what will happen next. I remember that the ending was great, but now let me enjoy each sentence with its own little greatness. Oh….I think I’m going to fall in love more deeply with Germinal after this!

Have you read Germinal? What do you think of it?


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Zoladdiction 2015 & “Germinal” Read Along



It’s the 1st of April, and—it’s not April fool!—The Zoladdiction 2015 is up today!

See the announcement to find all about this event. In short, I am hosting Zoladdiction every April 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 (or books about Zola) as possible, post your thoughts, and share them in the linky (opened in April 10th). 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 books. So, let’s read, let’s post, let’s shop, or let’s watch movies adaptation, all because we are in Zoladdiction! :)

Note:
  • I encourage you to post a brief wrap up in the end of Zoladdiction (the linky will be closed in May 10th), and let us know how do you feel/think after delving into Zola works for a month. I’m just curious how you all manage with Zola….
  • The linky for reviews and wrap up post will be up below this post, in April 10th.



In this year’s event, I would also host:



GERMINAL Read Along


  • You can read it during April, on your own pace.
  • Please post your reviews at the same day of April 30th, 2015, on the linky (will be provided) below.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~


LINKY FOR REVIEWS: (other than "Germinal")


LINKY FOR "GERMINAL" READ ALONG:

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Gulliver’s Travels


Okay, so I was wrong—Gulliver’s Travels turned out NOT ONLY about Liliput! And it is certainly not a children’s book, although the Liliput part is often adapted into children’s tales. It is written as a travel journal of a navy surgeon called Lemuel Gulliver. He joined several ships, but bad luck forced him to be stranded on strange lands. Liliput was only his first part of adventure, where he found himself in a land inhabited by a race of tiny people: Liliput. He finally could get home but not long after, involved in another sailing ship. He was abandoned by his companions, and soon found himself in the midst of a gigantic race of Brobdingnab. Gulliver’s next adventure was in a floating nation of Laputa, after his ship was being attacked by pirates. But the most inspiring journey, both for Gulliver and for his readers), might be that in the country of the Houyhnhnms—a race of talking horses.

As Gulliver has often mentioned throughout the book, his journal was not intended to amuse readers with fascinated adventures, but rather to introduce them of other civilizations so that we can learn to be a better race. I think Swift wrote it to satirize the political situation and humanity values at that time. The way Gulliver was stranded among, first, tiny people; then gigantic race, showed how superiority and inferiority stand among us—it’s not about who we are, but with whom we live. When Gulliver was in Liliput, he urinated on their castle on pretext of extinguishing the fire, without much remorse. But when he was in Brobdingnab, Gulliver became much more sensitive and was easily offended by (what the Brobdingnab people thought as) some trifles.

Gulliver’s changes of mood between adventures showed how we are strongly influenced by the society. When he was at Liliput, he boasted about his native country, England, and thought the Liliputians as unscrupulous. But when he was with the Houyhnhnms, he began to think of his fellows as disgusting. It also showed that humans are molded by habits; the longer you take it, the longer you can shake it. I didn’t take particular notes, but I think Gulliver’s stay in Houyhnhnms was longer than his others’, and so it was hard for him to get used to live in his old civilization.

Although Swift presented us a lot of fascinated adventures in strange lands, it is not easy to enjoy this book. Maybe because it was intended to be a journal, with flat and monotonous sentences, and with many statistics and scientific methods; which fittingly placed Gulliver’s Travels in Enlightenment lit category.

Three stars for Gulliver’s Travels.

~~~~~~~~~~

I read Penguin English Library paperback

This book is counted as:





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 over 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 for 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

This book is counted as:





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

This book is counted as: