Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction and Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel and post Colonial Asian Fiction, Yiddish Literature, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality historical novels are some of my Literary Interests





Friday, February 28, 2014

Meet Carmilla, Co-host for Irish Short Story Month

Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu- Meet the Hostess for Irish Short Story Month

Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu (1872, 104 pages)

Introducing Carmilla
Co-Host 
Irish Short Story Month
March 1 to April 1
"See you next week, I hope"-Carmilla


Carmilla, born in a novella of the same name by the premier 19th century writer of tales of the supernatural, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu,  will be co-host  for Irish Short Story Week.    Carmilla is a Gothic vampire story set in the dark forests of central Europe.    As I read it the plot seemed very familiar.   It was as if I had seen it in movies.   Then I realized that Joseph Le Fanu (1814 to 1873-Dublin) created the plot line of  "travelers in the darkest forests of central Europe break down in front of an old castle trouble ensues".    Carmilla is traveling in the coach  with her uncle, a mysterious deeply learned older man.   As soon as Carmilla, 18, meets a girl living in the castle, Laura, also 18, they at once are shocked to realize that 6 years ago they both had dreams about each other even though they had never met.   Each knows the other is "the girl from the dream". (Maybe this is over analyzing, but I think age of 12 was picked as it the approximate age many girls begin to menstruate.)

Long story short, Carmilla is really a very old countess who likes to suck the blood of young women in the night while clearly sexually fixating on them.   The story is told in a really atmospheric way.     The language is beautiful and in no way does it feel stale or like a dry old book. 

Carmilla lives on in movies, 100s of knock off books and can even be seen in the plot line of 21th century movies and TV shows.    She  has decided she wants to co-host Irish Short Story Week.   She begrudgingly accepts that blood sucking the guests is forbidden, unless requested

    Her job will be to make sure everyone feels welcome and is comfortably accommodated.  Of course who is to say she does not her own private agenda.    She is looking forward to  meeting Elizabeth Bowen and hopes to be invited to Bowen's thirty bedroom manors house in Ireland.   Maybe Bowen's American friends,  Eudora Welty or Carson McCullers will stop by.   Maybe even Virginia Woolf will stop over along with Henry Green or Katherine Mansfield.  I am quite sure we will have Russian and Subcotinent visitors.  





Mel u   

February 2014 Month End Review





February was basically a month of more of the same.

The top countries of visitation were, The USA, The Philippines, India, UK, and Canada. 

The most viewed posts continue to be short stories from the Philippines.


I did not finish that many books, partially as I am reading long works and reading more short stories.

The best work I read in Feb. was Within a Budding Grove, part two of In Search of Lost Time (Aka Remembrance of Lost Times) by Marcel Proust.   

I continued reading Yiddish literature, including a very worth reading novel, The Cantor's Son by Sholem Aleichem.


I completed part one of The Transylvania Trilogy, They Were Counted by Miklos Banffy, a must read for anyone seriously into Austro Hungarian literature.




The Reading Life had 95,919 hits for the month. I now have 3242 Twitter followers. 

I thank all my visitors, especially those who leave comments or e mail me.  


 "See you in March for Irish Short Story Month Year Four, I rule that event"  - Carmilla

"ISSM4 means my 11 month vacation is over" - Ruphrect

Mel u



   

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Irish Short Story Month Year 4. March 1 to April 1




I am happy to be able for the fourth year to devote March on The Reading Life to the Irish Short Story.
Last year there was wonderful participation from the Irish literary world and book bloggers. Later this week I will explain why I do this, this post is really an invitation to any interested person to participate.

Ways to Participate

If you are an Irish connected writer I would love for you to do, as have about 75 others, a Q and A session.   (This is also open to those who are primarily poets.)

If you did a q and a last year, you can still participate as there are new, hopefully better questions.

I am also desirous of publishing short stories by Irish writers.  I will include a copyright to you notice with the story and links to your web pages.  I know publishing on a book blog is a new idea, but I do have 100,000 or so hits a month so who knows who might read your story.  

Any and all can also do a guest post on a month related topic.  This will be pretty much wide open.

My fellow book bloggers are very welcome to post on an Irish related topic on their blog.  If you do this please let me know so I can publicize your blog. 

I am open to suggestions and joint ventures.

If you are a publisher and want your book included in this event, contact me.

I will be posting myself on a number of Irish short stories and some exciting collections.

 new writers are encouraged to participate.   If you want me to post one of your stories, please contact me.  

I will soon post a resources page.


the event staff!  More on them soon.




Monday, February 24, 2014

"The Jewish Regime" by Lamed Shapiro (1919, translated by Heather Valencia)


Yesterday the Chief Rabbi in the city of Kiev in the Ukraine advised the Jewish residents of the area to be prepared to have to leave their homes and flee the area to avoid directed mob violence against them.   Acts of Atrocity have been reported by the BBC and CNN.   I think somewhere Lamed Shapiro said "never again".

Lately I have been read short stories by Lamed Shapiro some of which center on the pogroms against Jews carried out in the area of Kiev, Shapiro's home until he emigrated to the USA. Short stories like "The Cross" and "The Kiss" take us inside pogroms and let us see the terrible violence against Jews.  In one sustained pogrom, over 200,000 people were killed.  The Cossacks were the arm of the government, the conservatives. 

"The Jewish Regime", sometimes translated as "The Jewish Government"  is a story that almost is a prophecy of what might happen again in the Kiev area.  As the story opens more and more violence by Gentiles is wrought on Jews.  Many Gentiles use it as an excuse to steal, some take delight in killing.  Then the Cossacks arrive and the Jews of Kiev are ordered to leave the city. Many are packed in railroad cars, thousands take to the road carrying what they can. Cossacks whip or use their sabers on stragglers.  It is unclear, of course, who gave the direct order to the Cossacks, that way the Tsarist authorities can always deny involvement.  

"The Jewish Regime" is very vivid description of the horrors of anti-Semitic violence in the Ukraine in the opening decades of the last century.

Let us hope no one ever needs to right a similar story about Kiev in this century.  



Mel u

Sunday, February 23, 2014

"Nazi Girl" by Alvaro Bisama (2010, 12 pages, translated by Lucas Lyndes)


 "Nazi Girl" by Alvaro Bisama,(1975, Valparaiso, Chile) author of Dead Stars, is a throughly intriguing story set in post Pinochet Chile about a woman whose parents idolized Adolph Hitler.   Of course any author from Chile who writes dark stories and especially one who focuses on Nazis and the terrible impact of the cruel dictatorial rule of Pinochet, is going to make readers think of Roberto Bolano.  Bisama, I think, accepts this and has in a way added a missing dimension from the work of Bolano. The corpus of Bolano is replete with women eager to allow themselves to be abused, sexually and otherwise, women who accept their transformation into fetish objects.  Some do it for money, some because of things in their past.  Each person is unique, each is just part of a pattern.   "Nazi Girl" helps us to understand why an intelligent educated woman came to let herself be used as a sex toy by a much older man who was a torturer for Pinochet.  (Pinochet ruled Chile from 1973 to 1981, estimates of torture victims is around 30,000 with 3000 executed.)

"Nazi Girl" is told in the first person by a thirty something woman who tries to explain how being raised by Hitler loving parents has brought her to an incredibly, near life destroying, humiliating moment of national fame in Chile.  In high school she was fat and had few friends. In college, to the infinite delight of her parents, who had supported Pinochet because he had an Aryan appearance, she decided to major in German.  German was the only college major, per the narrator, that was not full of communists.  She wrote what was seen as pro-Nazi words on the bath room walls.  Once out of college she got a teaching job and did some translating.  Her sexual experience was limited, she still saw herself as fat. I don't want to tell to much of the really interesting and intriguing plot of the story.  She does fall in love with the 64 year old principal of her school and things end up going terribly wrong for her.   

I liked "Nazi Girl" a lot.

This story can be read, in an elegant translation by Lucas Lyndes.

It is included in an anthology of contemporary cutting edge Latin American literature, The Portable Museum, Vol 1.  

It is published by a very exciting new house, Ox and Pigeon Publishing.  Based in Peru, they focus on transactions of the best innovative  Spanish language literature into English. For more information I suggest you visit their very interesting home page.




I also suggest anyone interested in the future of Latin American literature read Lyndes's article on the role of the E-book in transcending national borders.


There is a very good interview, in Spanish and English with Alvaro Bisama here.  



I hope to shortly post on his award winning novel Dead Stars, soon.

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Saturday, February 22, 2014

"The Spinoza of Market Street" by Isaac Singer (1963, 9 pages)




Isaac Singer won the Nobel Prize in 1978.  He was born in Poland in 1902, with his family due to the threat from the Growing power of the Nazis, he and his family immigrated to the United States in 1935.  He died in Florida in 1991.  He wrote largely in Yiddish.  I have previously posted on two of his short stories.  (You can find more information on him in these posts.)

Singer studied Spinoza in his youth, as did I.  "The Spinoza of Market Street" is a wonderful story of a man whose center in life is The Ethics of Spinoza.  For those who have not studied it, it is an intricate set of propositions and derivative theorems that are meant to explicate the meaning of the universe.  Scholars say it is derived partially from medieval Kabbalists and Platotists.  The Tractatus of Wittgenstein was influenced, at least in format by it.  The central character in this great story 30 years ago as a young student began to read The Ethics and never stopped.  He once had the intention of writing a commentary on Spinoza but now he just reads it over and over.  He carries it everywhere with him. 

I do not want to tell too much of the marvelous plot of this story (I will provide a link to it at the close of the post.)  I really liked the close of this Warsaw story.  

You can read this story here


My thanks to Billy O'Callaghan for bringing this story to my attention.  

You can read his Q and A here.  Billy knows the short story format, both as an artist and a reader.


Mel u



Friday, February 21, 2014

"In Italy" by Mavis Gallant (February 25, 1956 in The New Yorker, five pages)


There has been a great outcry of appreciation for the work and admiration for the life of Mavis Gallant (born Montreal August 11, 1922, died February 18, Paris) since her passing a few days ago in her beloved Paris.  She published 116 short stories in The New Yorker.  I have previously posted on her very first published short story, "Madeline's Birthday".   The New Yorker has very kindly made one of her short stories and selections from her diary available for all to read. 

"In Italy" in just five wonderful pages luminously brings to life decades of family dynamics.  There are four people directly or indirectly in the story.  One is a man in his fifties, Henry,at least who has married a woman about the age of his twenty five year old daughter.  In addition to the daughter we meet her husband.  As the story opens, brilliantly I felt, the older man makes in a jocular tone a shocking announcement

"“The joke of it is,” Henry kept saying, “the joke is that there’s nothing to leave, nothing at all. No money. Not in any direction. I used up most of the capital year ago. What’s left will nicely do my lifetime.”

Beaming, expectant, he waited for his wife to share the joke. Stella didn’t think it as funny as all that. It was a fine thing to be told, at this stage, that there was no money, that your innocent little child sleeping upstairs had nothing to look forward to but a lifetime of work. She had just been bathing the innocent child. Usually, her evening task consisted only of kissing it good night, for the Mannings were fortunate in their Italian servants, who were efficient, loyal, and cheap."


The power in this story is in seeing how the young wife and his daughter react to this news.  The wife was not a shameless gold digger but she is shocked to see her child will not receive an inheritance.  Her step daughter, her age, turns on her and both realize untoward things about themselves.  I don't want to tell to much about this story other than to say I loved it.  I really hope to read more and would like to read all of her stories.


You can read "In Italy" here


http://www.newyorker.com/archive/1956/02/25/1956_02_25_032_TNY_CARDS_000254275



Mel u

Thursday, February 20, 2014

"The Birds" by Daphne du Maurier (1952)


Since I began The Reading Life in July of 2009 I have read and posted on two novels by the tremendously popular English writer Daphne du Maurier (1907 to 1989), Rebecca and Jamaica Inn, both of which were made into movies by Alfred Hitchcock.   Yesterday St. Martin's Press very kindly gave me an edition of her short stories. I decided to read the tittle work "The Birds", which was the basis for one of Hitchcock's most famous movies.  It has been a long time since I have seen it but images from the movie came back to me as I read the story.  


I think most potential post readers will know the basic plot of the story.  Birds all over England go wild and in a coordinated effort begin to attack and kill people.  Du Maurier's description of the great flows of seagulls and the horror of the attacks were really a wonder to read. 

I wondered what could we see the attack of the birds, which seems to be taking place all over the world as wireless broadcasts stop.  Is it nature's revenge for man's destruction of the natural world?  Is it a working out of terrors over the Nazi invasion of Germany that never happened?  The lead character says near the close of the story that he knows the Americans will solve the problem, they are the world's last hope.

I think this story would be excellent for discussion by classes of students 12 and up. 

There are five more stories in the collection and I look forward to reading them.



Mel u

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

"Sweat" by Zora Neal Hurston (1926, 8 pages)



Zora Hurston (1881 to 1960-Alabama, USA) was one of the leading writers of the  Harlem Renaissance.   Hurston had a very interesting life.     Born in relative poverty she attended   Howard University until she was offered a scholarship  to attend Barnard college, an elite women's college at which she was the only person of color in attendance at the time.    She graduated, along with her very famous co-student Margaret Mead, with a degree in anthropology.     Her anthropological focus was on  the customs and speech of African-Americans living in the rural south of the USA.    Hurston studied and wrote about people from small towns in the Alabama and Florida very much as her mentor and former professor, Ruth Benedict did in her famous studies of the customs of the people of Polynesia.    Hurston wrote and published a number of short stories and novels.    Her most famous work was her novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God. ( Halle Barry played the lead character in a recent movie based on this novel.    It is too bad Hurston who died in poverty did not live to see this movie made!)   

I have previously posted on several of Hurston's short stories and her marvelous novel, set in south Florida, Their Eyes Were Watching God.  I know from my blog stats there is a significant world wide interest in her short stories.   There has been controversary concerning her portrayal of African Americans, the men in her work come across really bad.  Done by a Caucasian author in 1926, I think they might seem racist.   Hurston was trained as an anthropologist and that is how she approached the people in her stories, mostly set in small towns in Florida in the 1920s.  

There are two main characters in "Sweat", a married couple in a small town not far from Orlando.  They have been married fifteen years.  Two months into the marriage, the man gave her his first beating and he has now beaten much of the love and spirit out of her.  She works as a washer woman, washing the clothes of white people.  Her husband spends all the money he makes on drinking and a long list of other women.  No mention is made of any children.  One day her husband tells her he does not want "the white folks" dirty laundry in his house.  His wife tells him it is this dirty laundry that bought the house and kept him fed for years.  In a rage, he stomps his muddy feet all over the laundry.  

I hope you will take the time to read this story, you can easily find it online.  I don't want to tell more of the story other than to say events turn very dramatic when her husband brings home a six foot rattle snake and keeps it in the house in a cage.

I greatly enjoyed this story. The dialect required me to slow down a bit.  I am not sure if it could be taught in American schools.  

Please share your experience with Hurston with us.



Mel u


They Were Counted by Miklos Banffy Part One of The Transylvania Trilogy (1934, translated by Patrick Thrusfield and Katalin Banffy-Jolen), 1999)



The Transylvania Trilogy by Count Miklos Banffy (1873 to 1950, Hungary) should be counted among the greatest literary works of the European tradition.  I find it hard to do an adequate blog post on it that will not seem like hyperbole.   At the start of the book the publisher includes quotations from reviews in major publications which compare the scope and power of Banffy's work to that of Tolstoy. My first reaction was, as yours should be also, skepticism but having completed part one of the trilogy, I see this as a very apt comparison.  It is as least as good as the works in the post Austro-Hungarian Empire tradition of great writers like Joseph Roth, Gregor Von Rozzi, and Stephan Zweig.  The scope of Banffy's work is greater than these writers and the cultural depth is on a par with Proust.  

The story of how The Transylvania Trilogy came to be written and then finally translated into English by the great scholar Patrick Thrusfield in collaboration with Bannfy's granddaughter, Katalin Banffy-Jolen is itself fascinating and is explained beautifully in the introduction and preface. The work fully deserves to be called "among the greatest rediscovered European masterworks of the twentieth century".  It was a best seller in Hungary in the 1930s but lost all readership, and many of its potential readers, in WW Two.   



They Were Counted is a very richly detailed book long enough to be generous with the book's readers and characters.  The trilogy is set from 1904 to 1914 in what was then Transylvania.  (The translators 
down play the use of the name The Transylvania Trilogy to avoid potential readers thinking it is about vampires.)  The principal characters are all old Nobel lineage Hungarian families.  The trilogy can be seen as a brilliant portrayal of a society in a decadent close.  It gives us a grand look at the life of Hungarian aristocrats.  Banffy centers the narrative on two cousins.  Life in elite military regiments, angling for rich brides and toadying up to wealthy old relatives are important activities.  Of course there is a star crossed romance with a married woman.  I was surprised by how sexually explicit parts of the book were. Gambling and the code of honor plays a big role in the lives of the young men.   Banffy does a very good job of letting us see into the mindset of the gambler and his role in Hungarian society.

Bannfy clearly loved Transylvania and we can see that in his many lyrical descriptions of the beauty of the country.  I gained a lot of knowledge of Hungarian politics and the economics of the society from this book.  There are great descriptions of banquets, social events and there is an Upstairs, Down Stairs flavor as Bannfy deals with the servants.  There is a simply amazing segment concerning a maid turned out of the great house when it is discovered she is pregnant.  They Were Counted is full of wonderful set pieces and small details.  I loved the segment where a society lady goes to a money lender to use her pearls to obtain a loan to pay the gambling debt of her lover.  It was so brilliant that I gasped aloud as I read it. 

The trilogy is over 1500 pages.  I have already started book two.  This is epic historical fiction on a grand scale fully the equal of a book covering similar people and much the same time period in England, Ford Madox Ford's Parade's End.    One society triumphed and the other collapsed. 




The book can also be seen as a study in the European dandy, a figure I am coming to see as of great cultural import in the period.

The Transylvania Trilogy needs to be on the too be read list of anyone into European fiction.  It will take a while to read but upon completion I will be hoping to reread it in 2016 at the latest.

Miklos Banffy


Family Castle.


,

The trilogy, which was actually out of print even in Hungarian until 1980, was published by Arcadia Books, Britain's leading publisher of works in translation.  They Were Counted won the Weidenfeld Prize for translation, presented by Umberto Eco.  























 











 






















 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

"The Chair" by Lamed Shapiro (1934, translated by Rueben Barcovithch)





Nicola Sacco (April 22, 1891 – August 23, 1927) and Bartolomeo Vanzetti(June 11, 1888 – August 23, 1927) were Italian-born anarchists who were convicted of murdering two men during the robbery of a shoe factory in Massachusetts,  United States in 1920.  They were electrocuted.  There was and still is a lot of controversy surrounding their executions.  They became iconic figures to those on the left wing of American politics who felt they were falsely convicted due to their political beliefs.  Joan Baez recorded a song about them.  


"The Ballad of Sacco and Vanzetti" by Joan Baez

Father, yes, I am a prisoner
Fear not to relay my crime
The crime is loving the forsaken
Only silence is shame

And now I'll tell you what's against us
An art that's lived for centuries
Go through the years and you will find
What's blackened all of history

Against us is the law
With its immensity of strength and power
Against us is the law
Police know how to make a man
A guilty or an innocent

Against us is the power of police
The shameless lies that men have told
Will ever more be paid in gold
Against us is the power of the gold
Against us is racial hatred
And the simple fact that we are poor

My father dear, I am a prisoner
Don't be ashamed to tell my crime
The crime of love and brotherhood
And only silence is shame

With me I have my love, my innocence
The workers and the poor
For all of this I'm safe and strong
And hope is mine

Rebellion, revolution don't need dollars
They need this instead
Imagination, suffering, light and love
And care for every human being

You never steal, you never kill
You are a part of hope and life
The revolution goes from man to man
And heart to heart
And I sense when I look at the stars
That we are children of life, death is small







"The Flight" takes place right after the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti.  It begins in a cafeteria in Boston, a place where all sorts of strongly left oriented men of all sorts spent their time.  Many identified themselves as communists or socialists.  As Yiddish socialists and communists began to feel at home in America, they became involved with left wing zealots from many different countries.  We see this in the cast of characters in the cafeteria.  One of the more interesting characters is Jake, an African American.  His dream that he is being executed in the electric chair by the governor of Massachusetts was disturbingly real.  Shapiro made me feel I was there in the cafeteria.   

I am finding strong similarities in the work of Saadat Hasan Manto and Lamed Shapiro.  I will try to talk about this more as I read on in their short stories.




Mel u

"The Flight" by Kerala Das (1962, Nine Pages)



Flight" is the second story by Kerala Das which I have read.  Prior to this I read and posted on her "Sweet Milk", which, as does "Flight", focuses on a marriage.  (My post on "Sweet Milk" contains a link to the story.)

"Flight" is a very interesting story, told from the point of view of the wife, of a marriage between a very well known and successful sculptures and her older, now nearly paralyzed with illness husband.  The woman moves the family, no children are mentioned, to a rural a bit rundown house.  She now has to be the primary breadwinner in the family and her work becomes very much in demand.  In her heart she is glad her husband is paralyses as she hated his continual demand for sex.  She also enjoyed being the dominant partner.  There are interesting thoughts expressed about the dynamics of power within a marriage.  She hires a beautiful seventeen year old woman to pose for her work.  It seems, as her husband observers, that she is sucking the life blood out of the model as she sculpts her.  As the story closes, she walks in on her seemingly paralyzed husband and the model locked in a passionate embrace.   


Kerala Das (1934 to 2009-Punnayurklam, Malabar District, India) was born  into a sucessful and prominent family.   Her mother was a famous poet, her father was  involved in the marketing of Rolls Royces and Bentleys in all of India.    Her native language was Malayalam, spoken by about 35 million people in southern India.   She also wrote in English but her short stories, which will be her lasting legacy, were in Malayalam.    She also had a weekly newspaper column for many years in which she discussed issues relating to the lives and rights of women.   She wrote about,  at the time,  near forbidden topics such as the sexuality of women.   She was socially and politically active.   At one time she was director of the forestry commission for the Malabar district.  She ran for Parliament and lost.  In 1989 she converted from Hinduisms to Islam.   She changed her name to "Kamala  Suraiyya


Friday, February 14, 2014

"Khushiya" by Saadat Hasan Mamto (1949, 15 pages)


In his very interesting afterward to a forthcoming collection of short stories by Saadat  Hasan Manto (1912 to 1955) Matt Reeck credits Manto as the first author to focus on the dark side of Bombay (now known as Mumbai) in his stories about thugs, prostitutes, slum dwellers, Bollywood writers, and the rural immigrants who made up eighty percent of the populace of Bombay in 1948.  He also wrote extensively on the catastrophic results of the partition of the Indian subcontinent into two countries.  Novels about the reality behind the glitter of modern India mega-cities have won or been short listed for the Booker Prize.  His work reminds me of the great Yiddish language writer Lamed Shapiro who wrote stories of the pogroms against Eastern European Jews.  It is almost as if Manto broke the ice and a great out flow of pain resulted in literature of great depth.  On a side note, in my post on Manto's short story "Mozelle" I was in a quandary as to why Manto choice to make the central figure in the story a Jewish woman.  From Reeck I learned that there were extensive Jewish communities in the Bombay area since 1600.

One side effect of the migration of poverty stricken people to Bombay, the majority of immigrants were men, was a great expansion in the number of prostitutes.  Whole areas of the city were given over to prostitutes and many women did it as a side line.  For various complicated reasons, prostitutes were often from the Dalit (Untouchable) castes and their pimps and gangster overlords were from higher castes.  There is no sense of condemnation in Manto's story.  He is just portraying life.  

Khushiya is a pimp.  However, he personally at age twenty eight had had it seems no sexual contact with women.  Religious and caste taboos kept him from touching the prostitutes.  In fact before the day of the story, he last saw a naked woman when he accidentally got a glimpse of a woman in the shower at age ten. Today he decides to go check on one of his charges.  He does not think she is home so he walks into her apartment.  To his shock, she is all but naked.  He is grossly insulted when she makes no effort to cover herself, as if her were a cat, not a man.  He takes an extreme step to prove his manhood, nothing violent but actually I liked how it ended a lot and thought Khushiya had for sure resurrected his manhood.

For sure Manto's stories are very powerful, the best can stand with the greatest of short stories.

There are fifteen stories collected in Bombay Stories (I was given this book by Viking International and offer my thanks.)  For sure I will read them all.  

Please share your experience with Manto with us. (There is background information on him in my prior posts on his stories)

Mel u



Thursday, February 13, 2014

"The Woman at the Bus Stop" by Mohan Rakesh (मोहन राकेश) 1965 -first published in The Hindu Times



Mohan Rakesh (1925 to 1972) was one of the pioneers of the Nai Kahani literary movement of the Hindi literature in the 1950s.   He was born in Armistar, India.  Much of his work deals with the consequences of the partition of Indian and Pakistan.   He was educated at the University of Punjab.

"The Woman at the Bus Stop" is a very interesting story that takes us into the dynamics of a marriage.  The husband is a bus driver.  We meet his wife as she is waiting, as she does every day, to give her husband his lunch at one of his route stops.  Only today there was a family crisis that made her late and she missed him at the stop.  She fears he will be mad, he has a temper.  Her fourteen year old sister lives with them and her husband, somewhat begrudgingly, supports her. The village strong man with a bad reputation regarding women, tried to lure the girl into his house.  The woman debates with herself should she tell her husband, she fears he may try to kill the other man.  When her husband does show up, she has waited hours for him, he tells her she is a fool to wait and he can get food somewhere else if she is not a good wife to him.   It turns out most of his food spilled out on the ground. As he leaves on his route, after ringing down verbal abuse on her, he softens a bit and asks her if she wants him to bring her anything from town.  

This story was translated from Hindi by M. Jain.






Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Collecting Shakespeare - The Story of Henry and Emily Folger by Stephen H. Grant (forthcoming 2014)


Stephen H. Grant in Collecting Shakespeare -  The Story of Henry and Emily Folger has done all lovers of the reading life and especially of Shakespeare a great service.  The theoretical theme of my blog is to explore literary and historic treatments of people who lead reading centered lives.  Grant's delightful book tells the story of Henry Folger (1857 to 1930) and his wife Emily Folger (1858 to 1936) and lets us see how their joint 
love of Shakespeare, they met shortly after they graduated from Amherst and Vassar, led to a seemingly wonderful marriage and ultimately to the world's greatest collection of books, manuscripts, and treasures related to Shakespeare and his age.  (Here in Manila, my college student daughters have been assigned Folger Library Editions of his plays.)

The book is not just just about the marriage of the Folgers or their developing collection of Shakespeare.  It gives us an insight into college education of men and women in New England around 1879 or so. We can see their relationship begin, they never had any children, and how a mutual love of Shakespeare deepened their bond.  A love of reading and a love of books share common grounds and many love both but they are not at all the same thing.   

Henry Folger worked for Standard Oil for forty years and was President of Standard Oil of New York for many years.  He used the fortune he made there to build up the collection.  Grant shows us how the rare book trade worked in the days of the Folgers.  In one very telling incident John D. Rockefeller heard that Folger had paid $100,000 for a book. He confronted Folger with this and he says he hopes word will not get out about this foolish purchase and Folger prevaricated and told him no it was only $10,000!  Now that book is worth millions of dollars.

Grant tells us how the world famous Folger Library came to be and how it has developed  over the years into the world's foremost library devoted to Shakespeare. It now has over 275,000 books and 60,000 manuscripts plus numerous other treasures.  Scholars come from all over the world to read there, many on fellowships.  It is located in Washington, D.C. and administered by Amherst College.    

This book really is a very interesting fact rich work from which I learned a lot.  I think all public libraries should make this a priority purchase.  

Collecting Shakespeare - The Story of Henry and Emily Folger  by Stephen H. Grant is the very epitome of a reading life book.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR - from his web page

 

 

Son of a book publisher, I was born in Boston with New England roots from both parents. After attending Noble & Greenough School and graduating from Amherst College, I earned a doctorate in Education from the University of Massachusetts. As a teenager, I took an avid interest in things foreign. My first experiences abroad were as exchange student in Germany with the American Field Service, earning a Middlebury College master’s degree in French at the Sorbonne in Paris, and teaching as Peace Corps Volunteer in Ivory Coast, West Africa.

Familiarity living in the developing world, enjoyment in learning languages, and interest in foreign cultures and peoples led me to obtain a job as a Foreign Service officer with the U.S. Agency for International Development. Long-term assignments in the field of education included Ivory Coast and Guinea, Egypt, Indonesia, and El Salvador.

Shifting largely from a diplomatic career to a writing life, I serve as Senior Fellow at the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training in Arlington, Virginia, where I help retired diplomats prepare their manuscripts for publication.

Forthcoming with the Johns Hopkins University Press is "COLLECTING SHAKESPEARE: The Story of Henry and Emily Folger." The couple founded the Folger Shakespeare Library on Capitol Hill in 1932. Publication of the dual biography is scheduled for March 2014, prior to the the celebration the following month of the 450th anniversary of the Bard's birth.


Mel u


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Saturday, February 8, 2014

"Zlatka" by Maja Hrgovic (2012) Project 196 - Croatia

                                                           Croatia




Project 196, my attempt to read and post on a short story from each of the 196 countries of the world, will run up until November 15, 2016.  So far I have covered 36 countries.  It may not be possible to complete this.  In covering South America, I was unable to find online in Englsh short stories by authors from Suriname and Paraquay. I will check periodically for newly published works and am open to referrals.   I have decided to do a tour of countries on the Adriatic Sea, inspired by Ruffington Bousweau's classic (1937) travel book, Adriatic Agonies. 

Croatia has been a place of turmoil and sectarian violence for a long time.  Like the last story I posted on for Project 196, set in contemporary Montenegro, "Zlatka" is another story centering around a character's attempt to deal with the urban decay brought on by long years of unrest, poverty, and war. "Zlatka" is set in the capital of Croatia, Zagreb.  In a captivating very sensuous open sequence the female narrator is in a salon getting her hair washed  by Zlatka, a very attractive woman.  Later that night the narrator goes to a nightclub she often frequents. The walk to get their through a poetically rendered urban miasma of blight is really brilliant.  The nightclub is a place to get drunk amidst the techno-blast.  She by coincidence runs into the woman who earlier in the day did her hair.  They become lovers in an exquisitely rendered scene.  The presence of Zlatka's daughter is a marvelous touch that adds great poignancy and reality to the story.  There are great mysteries left untold in this marvelous story.  

"Zlatka" is about escaping pain and loneliness in sensation, about growing up in an urban nightmare world.   

I read this story in Best European Fiction 2012.

Maja Hrgović

Maja Hrgović

MAJA HRGOVIĆ was born in Split, Croatia, in 1980. She studied theatre and women's studies. Since 2003 she has worked as a journalist in the culture section of the Novi List Daily, and from 2005 to 2008 she was a member of the editorial board at Zarez, a Journal of Cultural and Social Affairs, where she publishes literary reviews.

In 2009 she was awarded first prize for journalistic excellence by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN). Her work has also been published in magazines and news portals such as Nulačetvorka,CunterviewKulturpunktOp.aGrazia, andLibela. She regularly writes for the portalZamirzine, focusing on women's rights and their treatment in the media. Her first collection of short stories Pobjeđuje onaj kojem je manje stalo was published in 2010.

I have located one of her short stories online and will soon read it.