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:

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? ;)