Author Topic: What are you currently reading?  (Read 974050 times)

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Offline Florestan

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #10040 on: July 17, 2020, 12:33:51 PM »
Proust is trying to show the banality and decadence of aristocracy.

Talk about clichés...  ;D
“Especially as far as I am concerned, romanticism is not the bloodless intellectual commitment to a program, but the expression of my most profound mind and soul.” --- Sergei Bortkiewicz (1877-1952)

Offline SimonNZ

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #10041 on: July 17, 2020, 02:57:20 PM »
In specific places he's showing the banality and decadence of aristocracy, but his overall attitude towards them is much more nuanced, is always pulling in two direction simultaneously, and he's genuinely sad at their decline and their being replaced by the unambiguous banality and decadence of the salon "nobility" (spoiler alert).

Offline aligreto

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #10042 on: July 19, 2020, 01:29:54 AM »
Huxley: Eyeless in Gaza





This is the tale of a particular circle of people told over a period of more than thirty years but within different time frame periods. The characters and their interweaving stories are all interesting. However, I have an issue with the structure of the novel. The plot is not linear, not chronological. It is a weighty tome of over six hundred pages and the constant flitting from one period to another I found a struggle to keep up with. Trying to remember who was who and the various interrelationships was a difficult enough task. This is unfortunate as it is essentially a good read.
It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and leave no doubt.

Offline Mandryka

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #10043 on: July 19, 2020, 01:54:37 AM »
Here's a well known example of Proust on aristocratic "decadence."

Swann, a gentleman, is a friend of the Duke and Duchesse de Guermantes. He is ill, and one day as they are getting ready to go into town for a dinner party, he tells them that he has just a couple of months to live. The Duchess, not knowing quite how to deal with the situation, responds by saying "you're joking!" and when he assures her it's no joke, she just says "let's meet up and talk about it over some dinner."

The Duke gets impatient, tells her to hurry up and stop nattering on about morbid things with Swann, or they'll be late or the dinner party, and that'll never do.

But this is the killer. She gets in the carriage and her husband notices that she's forgotten to change her shoes. She's wearing black shoes, not red. She dutifully gets the red ones, putting her costume at a greater priority than sharing a moment with her dying friend.

Quote
« Hé bien, en un mot la raison qui vous empêchera de venir en Italie ? questionna la duchesse en se levant pour prendre congé de nous.

- Mais, ma chère amie, c'est que je serai mort depuis plusieurs mois. D'après les médecins que j'ai consultés, à la fin de l'année le mal que j'ai, et qui peut du reste m'emporter tout de suite, ne me laissera pas en tous les cas plus de trois ou quatre mois à vivre, et encore c'est un grand maximum, répondit Swann en souriant, tandis que le valet de pied ouvrait la porte vitrée du vestibule pour laisser passer la duchesse.   

-  Qu'est-ce que vous me dites là ? » s'écria la duchesse en s'arrêtant une seconde dans sa marche vers la voiture et en levant ses beaux yeux bleus et mélancoliques, mais pleins d'incertitude. Placée pour la première fois de sa vie entre deux devoirs aussi différents que monter dans sa voiture pour aller dîner en ville, et témoigner de la pitié à un homme qui va mourir, elle ne voyait rien dans le code des convenances qui indiquât la jurisprudence à  suivre et, ne sachant auquel donner la préférence, elle crut devoir faire semblant de ne pas croire que la seconde alternative eût à se poser, de façon à obéir à la première qui demandait en ce moment moins d'efforts, et pensa que la meilleure manière de résoudre le conflit était de le nier. « Vous voulez plaisanter ?  dit-elle à Swann.   

-  Ce serait une plaisanterie d'un goût charmant, répondit ironiquement Swann. Je ne sais pas pourquoi je vous dis cela, je ne vous avais pas parlé de ma maladie jusqu'ici. Mais comme vous me l'avez demandé et que maintenant je peux mourir d'un jour à l'autre... Mais surtout je ne veux pas que vous vous retardiez, vous dînez en ville », ajouta-t-il parce qu'il savait que, pour les autres, leurs propres obligations mondaines priment la mort d'un ami, et qu'il se mettait à leur place, grâce à sa politesse. Mais celle de la duchesse lui permettait aussi d'apercevoir confusément que le dîner où elle allait devait moins compter pour Swann que sa propre mort. Aussi, tout en continuant son chemin vers la voiture, baissa-t-elle les épaules en disant : « Ne vous occupez pas de ce dîner. Il n'a aucune importance ! » Mais ces mots mirent de mauvaise humeur le duc qui s'écria : « Voyons, Oriane, ne restez pas à bavarder comme cela et à échanger vos jérémiades avec Swann, vous savez bien pourtant que Mme de Saint-­Euverte tient à ce qu'on se mette à table à huit heures tapant. Il faut savoir ce que vous voulez, voilà bien cinq minutes que vos chevaux attendent. Je vous demande pardon, Charles, dit-il en se tournant vers Swann, mais il est huit heures moins dix. Oriane est toujours en retard, il nous faut plus de cinq minutes pour aller chez la mère Saint-Euverte. »

Mme de Guermantes s'avança décidément vers la voiture et redit un dernier adieu à Swann. « Vous savez, nous reparlerons de cela, je ne crois pas un mot de ce que vous dites, mais il faut en parler ensemble. On vous aura bêtement effrayé, venez déjeuner, le jour que vous voudrez (pour Mme de Guermantes tout se résolvait toujours en déjeuners), vous me direz votre jour et votre heure », et relevant sa jupe rouge elle posa son pied sur le marchepied. Elle allait entrer en voiture, quand, voyant ce pied, le duc s'écria d'une voix   terrible : « Oriane, qu'est-ce que vous alliez faire, malheureuse. Vous avez gardé vos souliers noirs ! Avec une toilette rouge ! Remontez vite mettre vos souliers rouges, ou bien, dit-il au valet de pied, dites tout de suite à la femme de chambre de Mme la duchesse de descendre des souliers rouges. »
« Last Edit: July 19, 2020, 01:58:08 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline AlberichUndHagen

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #10044 on: July 19, 2020, 06:14:05 AM »
Also, is it just me or does Proust appear extremely misogynist, even for his time? It seems he complains infinitely more about female characters than men, even when in later books the narrator's narcissistical personality goes into extremes yet the fault is almost always the ladies? Although it is hard at times to distinguish what is meant as a narrator's opinion and what as author's (that is assuming the narrator isn't absolute 100 % Proust himself). It also seems a bit inconsistent how the narrator seems to know exactly what every character thinks and what his/her motives are, even though one of the overarching themes is that you really can't perfectly know everything about other people.
« Last Edit: July 19, 2020, 06:15:58 AM by AlberichUndHagen »

Offline SimonNZ

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #10045 on: July 19, 2020, 08:39:29 AM »
Huh. I always felt that the narrator's jealousy  and suspicion was presented as the narrator's own fault. I don't think of Proust as hating the women at all. Maybe Madame Verdurun...

Offline Mandryka

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #10046 on: July 19, 2020, 09:08:49 AM »
It seems he complains infinitely more about female characters than men,


The nastiest people are blokes -- Charles Morel and the Duc de Guermantes.

In a bit I've just read at the start of A cote de chez Swann, Marcel's jealousy of the time his mother is spending without him at a dinner party with her husband and Swann is presented as a sort of nervous illness, a nervous failing, something ( he comments with hindsight) that Swann would have fully understood. And again it's striking how this sows the seed for what will be a really major idea in the book, so early on (I'm on about page 40.) So yes, as Simon says, his gnawing suspicion is indeed presented as his own fault.

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Offline SimonNZ

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #10047 on: July 19, 2020, 03:24:08 PM »
That far too frequently quoted bit about the cake near the start also has a parallel in the final volume. But I don't think Proust had the whole structure mapped out at the time of writing book one (or rather: he had a structure, but massively and continually changed it as the work progressed and expanded). He had recurring preoccupations which he examined from various angles which gives an appearance to some facets of the book to deeper structures and intention which in a lot of cases might have been more improvisational and retro-fitted with callbacks to earlier moments.


TD: currently reading:



very Bill Bryson-y, which is fine by me
« Last Edit: July 19, 2020, 03:45:53 PM by SimonNZ »

Offline Mandryka

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #10048 on: July 20, 2020, 05:57:06 AM »
That far too frequently quoted bit about the cake near the start also has a parallel in the final volume. But I don't think Proust had the whole structure mapped out at the time of writing book one (or rather: he had a structure, but massively and continually changed it as the work progressed and expanded). He had recurring preoccupations which he examined from various angles which gives an appearance to some facets of the book to deeper structures and intention which in a lot of cases might have been more improvisational and retro-fitted with callbacks to earlier moments.





I just read the madeleine incident for the first time since the 1980s. What’s remarkable about it is that it leads so smoothly into the second part of the book, it’s a good segue. It also is well written, I mean, it made me put the book down, make a cup of tea and eat a bit of cake.
« Last Edit: July 20, 2020, 06:01:00 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Brian

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #10049 on: July 20, 2020, 12:40:06 PM »
Finished War and Peace on Saturday. 18 days! The first half was substantially better than the second, and after the narrative climax at Borodino, there are probably 100 pages of material that are excess to the book's needs.

What's remarkable is that the first 700 pages have no fat whatsoever. They're all plot and all remarkable - insightful but gossipy, operatic but subtle, exciting but restrained. Like Powell & Pressburger in film ("Colonel Blimp"), Tolstoy has a surprising way of backing away at moments you'd expect to be climaxes - he tells stories like the duel sequence with sparse, minimalist detail, almost like a cross between Austen and Hemingway. His way with storytelling is continually surprising. There's also the remarkable late chapter which ends with an offhand, "oh yeah, also they freed Pierre."

I want to know more about how W&P was received at the time, because it is so bizarre to our sensibility now that Tolstoy includes rants, arguments, and citations on the practice of history at the time and the state of Napoleonic scholarship. Just as a random example, you wouldn't expect, say, James McBride to suddenly stop his novel and have a 15 page section of his own views on African American Studies departments at universities.

It is amusing to see the vivid characterization given to people like Dolokhov, Natasha, even Prince Vasily or old man Bolkonsky, contrasted with the utter contempt with which Tolstoy writes real historic figures like Napoleon, whose appearances are laughable.

Tolstoy's own views are so much his own fixation that, after Andrey dies, he nearly abandons the epic plot. Rather than tying together loose ends a la Dickens, Tolstoy seems not to care. People like Kuragin, Dolokhov, and Boris just straight up disappear. Hélène's fall is reported from offstage but not shown. Pierre's own transformation is narrated with detachment. Sonya and Denisov inexplicably do not get married. The book just kind of...ends. Given the epic grandeur of everything through Borodino, the chamber-music finale is quite strange.

It made me think of the ending of Middlemarch, which, besides not being followed by 40 pages of dense argument, manages to flawlessly encapsulate the story's message and its narrative drive at the same time.

I've been telling people two things about W&P. First, it is structured like those sales pitches where you get a free dinner, but you have to listen to a guy explain his get rich quick scheme. You think you're reading for the plot, which really is outstanding for 800 pages or so, but Tolstoy has a totally different agenda.

Second, I'll try to read it again in 15 years or so to see how it grows with age.

Offline aligreto

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #10050 on: July 22, 2020, 12:16:51 AM »
Golding: The Paper Men





This is an interesting study of a man spiraling out of control into self destruction through total selfishness. It is an engaging story that is very well told.
It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and leave no doubt.

Offline AlberichUndHagen

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #10051 on: July 24, 2020, 06:58:23 AM »

Offline kitsune

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #10052 on: July 25, 2020, 03:37:50 AM »


Really engaging terraforming saga -- goes deep into the various politics of the colonists, the ethics of even trying to terraform in the first place, the dangers of corporatism/global capitalism, and the really neat speculative technology of the near future (the year 2026; it was written in 1993).

Offline AlberichUndHagen

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #10053 on: July 25, 2020, 08:36:10 AM »
there was a long discussion with St Loup about military strategy

Ironically, that was one of my favorite parts in Guermantes Way. I don't know why but it felt really interesting and St Loup is one of my favorite characters. Finished Guermantes way today. Soon will possibly begin Anna Karenina (although considering how my family matters seem to be going increasingly downhill, don't know if I am able to finish it, which would mark the second time I abandon reading this book, for same-ish reasons).

I will probably take at least a short break from Proust since while he is very rewarding writer, he also exhausts me a bit.

Offline aligreto

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #10054 on: July 26, 2020, 02:54:58 AM »
Gogol: Dead Souls





This is, in essence, a look at Russia at a particular point in time. It is an interesting socio-economic commentary as it paints a very interesting picture, particularly of the class structure of the time. However, I found it to be a difficult read. The style is weighty and ponderous, with paragraphs sometimes extending to nearly two pages, and the linguistic style is archaic.
My main grievance with it, however, is that, in Part II, it is incomplete with the text being abandoned at random points throughout and the manuscript itself comes abruptly to an [inconclusive] end in mid sentence due to Gogol himself apparently destroying the document. I was not aware of this prior to reading it  :-[
It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and leave no doubt.

Offline Brian

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #10055 on: July 26, 2020, 04:20:35 AM »
Who translated that edition of Dead Souls? I ask because I remember it being a pleasure, even fun to read.

Offline aligreto

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #10056 on: July 26, 2020, 05:32:17 AM »
Who translated that edition of Dead Souls? I ask because I remember it being a pleasure, even fun to read.

That very thought did cross my mind but I did not mention it because, unbelievably, there is no actual credit for the translation.
Do not get me wrong; I did find the content amusing but the actual reading of it was a chore.
It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and leave no doubt.

Offline Jo498

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #10057 on: July 26, 2020, 06:38:57 AM »
It's been ages that I read "Dead Souls" and I was not as fond of it as of some other Russian 19th century books and the main plot element (the making up/blowing up of villages for some kind of fraud) is utterly strange for us nowadays but I don't remember it to be so disjointed. It is a fragment in a sense, though, I believe. As far as I recall it ends with some vision/simile of Russia as a troika or sth. like that? or is this another book and I am confused.
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Offline Florestan

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #10058 on: July 26, 2020, 08:03:44 AM »
Who translated that edition of Dead Souls? I ask because I remember it being a pleasure, even fun to read.

+ 1.
“Especially as far as I am concerned, romanticism is not the bloodless intellectual commitment to a program, but the expression of my most profound mind and soul.” --- Sergei Bortkiewicz (1877-1952)

Offline AlberichUndHagen

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #10059 on: July 28, 2020, 07:39:22 AM »
Started reading Anna Karenina today. 50 pages in already, let's see if I'm gonna beat Brian's reading pace with War and Peace with this book.  :) Most likely not and as long as Karenina is, it is still nothing compared to War and Peace which is one of the longest novels there is. And considering War and Peace is one of the few books I voluntarily quit reading would probably have an effect of slowing things down. Karenina, however, took me in instantly. I know there is still a long way to go but the beginning is very promising. I liked the sections that I read the first time too but not this much. I catched many of the nuances which is not the usual case with me when I'm reading Russian literature. In Dostoevsky there is so much happening between the lines what with many mindgames the characters have on each other yet don't say out loud. However, with Dostoevsky I usually notice the extent of them only much later. Here in Tolstoy it seemed much clearer. Maybe I'm simply having a better day.
« Last Edit: July 28, 2020, 07:41:45 AM by AlberichUndHagen »