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Posts from the ‘French Literature’ Category

The End of the Year Wrappings….

Another year goeth by and yet another year to make new beginnings with! What did we accomplish in these 12 months and what do we hope to accomplish in this new year?? I am not a resolution person and from experience I know that whatever I propose, God/Fate disposes completely differently, therefore it makes total sense to make no plans and go with the flow! Instead I look back on 2016 and think of all that was done and if I may say, I deserve a pat on my back; while I did not do a lot, I did do some stuff that atleast showed some traction on my self improvement trajectory –

  1. I ran a marathon – ok! only 5km, but hey I am 115 Kgs and managing 5km is a task!
  2. I took 3 major vacations and 3 minor getaways, including a 14 days road trip into deep Himalayas. A year in travels CANNOT get better than this!
  3. I got a short story published!! Yes, finally I got something printed! So its not a big journal and the work is not one of my best, but hey! I am now an officially published person!
  4. I made some wonderful new friend, friends who are akin to my soul sisters, who have encouraged me run to marathons, keep writing till I get published and in general become more rational in life!
  5. Most importantly, I read and read and read!

On that happy note, as is my norm, I share below, the 12 best reads of the year as is my norm, with wishes for an even better 2017 for all of us –

  1. To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf – I have been in perpetual terror of Woolf ever since I read Orlando when 15. However, Ali was hosting a Woolfalong and I was also participating in the Women’s Classical Literature Reading Event hosted by the Classic Club and this seemed as good a time to plunge in. And I am ever so glad I did; with it’s subtle narrative of following the thoughts of the protagonists and the sense of time passing and some of the most brilliant prose. I fell in love with the book, to say the very least!
  2. Miss Marjorie Banks by Margaret Oliphant – I had this book in my collection forever and now I sit back and wonder what the hell was I doing waiting for ages to finally get around to reading this one! Another one of Women’s Classic Literature Reading Event read, this wonderful narrative of the Victorian town of Carlingsford and Miss Bank’s effort to be a comfort to her father and the residing social priestess of her town is a hilarious and at the same time a gentle telling of things that were not quite right in the Victorian society! One of the best books I have ever read!
  3. Metamorphoses by Ovid – I would have NEVER EVER read this one if it was not for Cleo! Cleo with her enthusiasm and pep talk kept me going and I discovered a book that I had dreaded and ended up loving. This is an epic poem which is a compendium of all Greek and Roman legend has violence, greed, sacrifice, courage and every other element of human drama that come together to form a grand tour-de-force that simply sweeps you away!
  4. The Fortunes of the Rougons by Emile Zola – Another one of those books I did not want to read and ended by up loving it. This first book in a series comprising of 20 novels, traces the rise of the Rougan family from Plassans during the coup of 1851. Not a happy book, with hardly any redeemable characters, this book yet manages to share a story of humanity and deep insights into the human  heart! The only word I could use to describe it is profound!
  5. The Gypsy in the Parlour by Margery Sharp – This one was another one of those great finds thanks to Jane! The trials of the Sylvesters in their Victorian farm with new wives and wayward sons, seen through the eyes of a distant 12 year old cousin, is a retelling of an old tale of good versus bad with wonderful plot, characters that you wish were actually in existence and an end that kept you on the hook. Margery Sharp showed that with the right crafting of the plot, the old stories of human relationships will endure and even become page turners!
  6. The Rose and The Ring by William Makepeace Thackeray – A children’s tale that I picked up on a whim, while looking around for something different to read! Did I stumble on a gold mine or what!! Biting satire with hilarious dialogues with absolutely marvelous cast of Princes, Princess and amulets, this one was written originally as a fireside pantomime, and continues to be a complete enteratainer some 150 years on!
  7. The Dairy of Nobody by by George Grossmith and illustrations by Weedon Grossmith – If I have a find of the year, it is this book! Why in the world is this book not more popular is quite beyond me. This is hilarious, in fact uproarious narrative of Charles Pooter, who has just bought a new house and is adjusting to his life in suburban 1892 England, with some aid from his friends, his difficult son and his exasperated wife! if there was ever a laugh out loud book, this is the ONE!
  8. Up The Country by Emily Eden – My favorite non fiction read of the year! This wonderful travel journal, of Emily Eden kept while her brother was the Governor General of India, is a lovely description of an era of British Raj and of a time gone by. Free of prejudices, and with more insights, than her brother ever displayed, this book is a wondrous read into what the past really looked and felt like!
  9. Shadow of The Moon by MM Kaye – I know and I know! This is my all time favorite and I should not have included this and all that! But every time I read, this breathtaking saga of Winter de Balletros and Captain Alex Randall, in the backdrop of the Indian Mutiny of 1857, I am left breathless and mesmerized! Kaye who was born and for many years lived in India, poured her love for the land and her people in this masterful novels about tolerance, sacrifice and human courage! They really do write books like any more!
  10. The Home and the World by Rabindranath Tagore – My first ever hosted read-along, with the kind support of many of my friends in the Blogging world! The story of Nikhil, Bimala and Sandeep in the backdrop of Indian Indpendence Movement, tells a complex narrative about freedom, responsibility, choices and a woman’s true emancipation, at a time when India woman had in fact no place of their own!
  11. The Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson – I am NOT a science person, but this book, another one purchased on a whim,.is a wonderful, engaging and at times downright funny telling of , well everything! How this universe, earth and we, the living all came into existence. It makes you appreciate the wonder of the earth, read more about the Big Bang and sit back and wonder at the genius called Bill Bryson!
  12. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas – This is one of those re-readings that classify under “I know”. I know this is a classic, I know there is nothing better than this yarn of revenge and forgiveness and I personally find no better philosophy to live by than those enshrined in this book – “All human wisdom is contained in these two words, Wait and Hope.”

I know I restrict myself to 12 books alone, but this has been a very very interesting year, and I wanted to make an honorable and critical mention about Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Here was a book and an author I was not ready touch with a barge pole, until Stefanie came along with her wonderful review. Now we all know, I trust Stefanie, so I picked it up and ended up receiving some very practical advise, about being a creative person, about persisting in your craft and about capturing the moment, without wondering about when/what/where will the rewards coming in! This is perhaps the first self-helpish book that really helped, saw me pick up the pen and write more and genrally recommend it to all other creative folks!

That just about sums of my 2016 adventure!

Thank You for being part of this bloggish journey, thank you for your diligent and thoughtful comments/likes and advise. I am better reader/writer, because you all decided to help me out! Here’s wishing you all a fabulous and brilliant 2017!

In Memoriam, [Ring out, wild bells]

by Lord Alfred Tennyson

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be

The Bookish Time Travel Tag

As is usual in my case, I had planned to post a blog about something totally and completely different and instead I am posting this! It’s the festival season in India and I have been quite late in catching up with all the blogs but I finally did catch up and I found myself wondering what I would have answered on a particular post; and lo! Behold, Jane had actually tagged me, hoping I would do a similar post! Now Jane is one of those friends of mine who has introduced me to a number of unknown authors and we share a lot of similar bookish tastes, including a love for Victorian-Edwardian Literature and Golden Age of British Crime. Therefore, when she thinks I will enjoy writing a post, you can be rest assured I will be! Thus, without much further ado, I present to you, The Bookish Time Travel Tag! Originally created, by The Library Lizard, I was introduced to it naturally by Jane’s Post!

  1. What is your favorite historical setting for a book?

This is a very difficult one since there are several periods of History that I love

  • The Gupta Dynasty (C.300 AD) in India – This is really going back in time but this was a defining moment in South Asian history – a time of great literature and arts. Kalidas wrote Abhijanashakuntalam and Meghduta. It was also an era in which one of the best commercial comedies and my personal favorite of Sanskrit was penned Mṛcchakaika by Sudraka.
  • King David’s Jerusalem – Don’t ask me for reasons, just that I have a double degree in Middle Eastern Politics and Israel has always fascinated me!
  • Elizabethan England – Amid the squalor and the dirt and the delicate balance of peace between Catholic and Protestants and discovery of new lands, there was brilliant works being penned by Shakespeare, Marlow and jaw breakers like Spenser’s The Faerie Queene (a book I struggleth with!)
  • Regency England, specifically the country side – I am devoted to Jane Austen and I love her portrayals of the rural country lives, divorced from the over the top Regency London and therefore the simple English countryside and plots around the manor born, is and will always remain my favorite!
  • Victorian England – How can I pass up an era of Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Elizabeth Gaskell, William Thackeray, Anthony Trollope, George Gissing, Lewis Carol, Robert Louis Stevenson, Author Conon Doyle, Elizabeth Barret Browning, Robert Browning, Christian Rosseti, Oscar Wilde, to name just a few! I think you get my drift!
  • Late British Raj in India (c. 1870s to 1940s) Also known as Bengal Renssiance, this period saw incredible development in making India a modern nation state and more especially in bringing women out of the “purdah”. The women started to get degrees in Literature, Science and medicine and began to take their rightful place in the world. Not all transition was easy nor was it completely smooth, but it was an epoch making time of Indian history. Some of the best of the Indian literature was penned during this era including Michael Madhusudan Dutta’s Meghnadh Bodh Kabyo (The Slaying of Meghnadh), Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay’s Durgeshnandini, Rassundari Devi authored the first full-fledged autobiography in modern Bengali literature and was one of the first female authors of modern India to do so. Most importantly, this was the era of Rabindranth Tagore as he wrote masterpieces after masterpeices including Geetanjali, The Home and The World, Gora etc.
  • The Bloombury London – I do not like most of authors and their views of this set, however I cannot deny that this era and this intellectual movement, was changing the way we view modern literature and economics etc. It also included in its group the very humane John Mynard Keynes and the very sensitive E.M. Forster as well as other laudable like Virginia Wolfe, Lytton Strachey, Vita-Sackville West etc.
  • The World Wars – Simply to better understand what madness drives men to kill their fellow brothers and how small misunderstandings lead to deaths of hundreds and thousands all across the world!

Now that, this is done, I promise to be more concise with my other answers!!

  1. What writer/s would you like to travel back in time to meet?

Again there are so many of them, but in keeping with my promise, I am limiting myself to three only –

  • I would love to meet Jane Austen and share a cup of tea with her as the country society meets and greets each other and hear her gentle satire and words of wisdom as one individual meets the other.
  • Rabindranth Tagore and travel with him through the streets of 1890s Calcutta and visit all those places which are now iconic but then just a places for the intellectuals to meet and discuss how to work better with the British Masters!
  • M.Kaye and walk with her through the streets of my city of Delhi in 1920s as we explore the old Delhi and Meherauli ruins, especially the latter before it became the current up market residential area. I would also love to visit the then summer capital of British India with her, Shimla and have lunch at the celebrated Wildflower Hall and visit the Governer’s House and do all the things the British did then , before it came back into fashion thanks to The Indian Summer!
  1. What book/s would you travel back in time and give to your younger self?

I have to hang my head in shame and say “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis when I was may be a 10-12 year old. I would have also loved to have read Margaret Kennedy in my 20s rather than waiting all these years. I also really wish I had started reading Emilie Zola a couple of years earlier, instead of waiting for so long to take up his books!

  1. What book/s would you travel forward in time and give to your older self?

This one is a tough one simply because I keep thinking, and I have every intention of re-reading all most all the books I have loved through the years. But if I have to pick one and since I cannot pick one, I would say it has to be a toss-up between The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling and The Discworld Series by Sir Terry Pratchet. I think both of these two incredibly talented authors manage to remind us of what is truly important, with a gritty plot and humor!

  1. What is your favourite futuristic setting from a book? E.g. Panem from The Hunger Game

I will have to skip this one! I am more of past/history person than a futuristic one!

  1. What is your favourite book that is set in a different time period(can be historical or futuristic)?

Oh!! How in the world can I keep this answer short?????!!!! Let me try

  • The Far Pavillions and The Shadow of the Moon by MM Kaye
  • The Book Thief by Mark Zukas
  • The Conquer Series by Conn Iggulden
  • The War of Roses Series by Conn Iggulden
  • The Source by James Mitchner
  • London by Edward Rutherford
  • New Forest by Edward Rutherford
  • The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Finnigan
  • The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Mila 18 by Leon Uris
  1. Spoiler Time: Do you ever skip ahead to the end of a book just to see what happens?

No! Nix! Never!!

  1. If you had a Time Turner, where would you go and what would you do?

There is sooooooo much to cover, I would not know where to start and where to end – I would naturally do all the things I mentioned in #Q2.

  • I would also love to visit Rueil and see Edward Manet paint the House in Rueil and The Garden Path in Rueil.
  • I would lIke to follow Sir Author Conon Doyle across the busy Victorian London as he helped clear the injustices against George Edalji and Oscar Slator.
  • I would for sure want to take a voyage to Middle East with Mark Twain as he wrote The Innocents Aboard and visit Yuguslavia, poised on the edge of World War II with Barbra West as she wrote her seminal Black lamb and the Grey Falcon.
  • And of course, I would want to walk the streets of Calcutta and Delhi with Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay and Ahmed Ali respectively, as the last vestiges of a great Hindu-Muslim syncretic culture practically disappeared forever into the horizon!
  1. Favorite book (if you have one) that includes time travel or takes place in multiple time periods?
  • The Source by James Michener that cover the birth of Israel from 9831 BCE to 1963
  • London by Edward Rutherford that tells the story of the development of the city of London from the nascent beginning in 54 BCE to the current commercial hub of 2007
  1. What book/series do you wish you could go back and read again for the first time?

The Conquer Series by Conn Igulden

1500 words and I am finally done!

I do not wish to obligate anyone to do this and I know we all have very busy lives, but there are some people whose posts and thoughts I would love to read and add more on to my TBR  Stefanie @ https://somanybooksblog.com/

Cleo @ http://cleoclassical.blogspot.in/

Brona @ http://bronasbooks.blogspot.in/

Lauren @ https://wheretheresinktherespaper.wordpress.com/

Ruth @ http://greatbookstudy.blogspot.in/

This was a wonderful post and it brought back a lot of memories of books that I would love to revisit. Naturally, I also added quite a few from Jane’s post to my TBR, but that’s what bookish blogs are about! J

The Republic, The Province & The Family

I am not overly fond of French Literature. In fact I am not fond of French literature at all. I had a lot of problems completing Flaubert and I am still kind of ambiguous about Hugo. But if I could make the mistake of trying Daphne Du Maurier so many times, I had to be fair to French literature as well and give it another shot. A good place to start seemed the 12 Months Classics Challenge and its February’s theme – A classic you’ve always dreaded reading; after all if not now, then when? So I bravely plunged forward to try French Literature again and this time in the shape of Emile Zola’s The Fortune of the Rougons.

Set during the eve of the 1851 coup, that created the Second Empire under Napoleon III, the novel explores the rise of the Rougan family from Plassans. The novel opens with the description of Plassans and the secret meeting of 17 year old Silvere and his 13 year old sweetheart, Mitte. They meet in old graveyard, before Silvere sets off to join the Republican forces, but inspired by the Republican’s march, Miette also sets off with them. The novel then moves back in time to introduce the reader to Adelaide Fouque, a rich, scatterbrained and simple hearted woman, who is left orphaned after the death of her parents during the French Revolution. She marries a common peasant Rougon and has a son through him, Pierre Rougon. Soon after the birth of the son Rougon dies and Adelaide takes up with a lowly smuggler and an alcoholic Macquart. She has two more illegitimate children – a boy Antoine and a girl, Ursula. As the three children grow up in a haphazard wild manner, Pierre soon begins to resent his step brother and sister as well as his weak minded mother. By connivance and contrivance, he gets rid of all three, Antoine Macquart is forced into army conscription, Ursula marries and moves away, and finally poor Adelaide starts living alone in Macquart’s cottage after the smuggler is killed. Pierre then gets complete hold of his mother’s property and sells it off and marries the daughter of an down and out oil merchant, Felicité Puech in an effort to rise beyond his peasant background and become the bourgeois. Despite initial success, Pierre and Felicite, who is an equally socially ambitious woman, never really rise much and struggle to make their livelihood. However, they send their sons to expensive schools and university, in the hope that they would make great success of their lives. Eugène the eldest becomes a lawyer but does not set himself up as a success, Pascal, the second son becomes a kind scholarly doctor and naturalist who is happy to treat the poor and explore nature and study it and the youngest and Felicite’s favorite son  Aristide also becomes a lawyer but only dreams of success and does no constructive work. As Pierre and Felicite retire and move into a small apartment, their disappointment in failing to make it big is palpable  but there is no relief in near sight, until Eugène leaves for Paris, two years before the Coup and from there on directs the actions of his father and mother in Plassans that should set them up for success. In the meanwhile, the novel comes back to the present with Miette and Silvere continuing their march with the Republicans. By now the readers are aware, that Silvere is actually the youngest son of Ursula and her husband Mouret. After the death of his parents, Silvere is brought by Adelaide, now called Aunt Dide and is apprenticed as a wheelwright and was introduced to Republican politics by his uncle, Antoine, the latter now back from Army and bitter against his half brother Pierre who he claims has cheated Antoine of his inheritance. As the the clash of the Republicans with the government comes to its, climax, the yellow drawing room of Pierre and Felicite becomes the center of politics in Plassan as the chief patrons of the the town rally behind President Napoleon. Guided by the directions of their son Eugene, Pierre and Felicite plan one of the biggest gambles of their lives for the riches they had always dreamt off and as they near their goal, no sacrifice and no price to high t for the final triumph!

All my fellow readers had assured me that I would love the book. When I read the blurp, I was not sure, I generally like happy things and this book did not seem happy! As I reached the end, I realized that my initial assessment was correct, this was not a happy book, in fact there were some moments of downright heart break, but I loved the book! Absolutely and completely! There are hardly any likeable characters in the book, except Dr. Pascal and Silvere and Meitte, but you cannot take your attention away from them. Exceptionally well drawn and  distinctively different, you can see all them in your mind, down to their stoop and dirty waistcoat. The protagonists are all selfish social climbers, but somehow they are all distinct from one another – Pierre has some native shrewdness, while Antonie is just stupid. Felicite is cunning and shows some streaks of conscience and honesty, but they are drowned in her need to make a material success of her life. You feel sad for poor, foolish Aunt Dide and then are uplifted by the strong convictions of Silvere. The characters are as real as they can get and set up one of the best cases of art imitating life! Zola follows a dual narrative style, starting from the present and taking you back to past and then bringing you back in the present. There are vivid descriptions of the Provinces, the land as well its people and while you do meander somewhat aimlessly at times, it all comes together beautifully in the end! There is much romanticism as well as  a strong streak of condemnation of everything that is narrow-minded, provincial and bourgeois. There are several interesting themes in the book including, the effect of nerves that leads to weak minded, lascivious behavior; the effect of haphazard reading in impairing the complete development of mind and good understanding as well need for good moral conduct being the cornerstone of a good character, rather than material success. The language is beautiful and Zola wrote with sensitivity and deep insights into the human heart, that leaves you awe struck. The ending paragraph displays all of this, the quintessential Zola brilliance, that makes you feel, that you have just undergone an emotional catharsis –

“But the strip of pink satin fastened to Pierre’s button-hole was not the only red spot in that triumph of the Rougons. A shoe, with a blood-stained heel, still lay forgotten under the bedstead in the adjoining room. The taper burning at Monsieur Peirotte’s bedside, over the way, gleamed too with the lurid redness of a gaping wound amidst the dark night. And yonder, far away, in the depths of the Aire Saint-Mittre, a pool of blood was congealing upon a tombstone”

Profound, moving and I cannot help but keep saying heart breaking! One of my best reads of not only the year, but like forever!

 

 

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