An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro

Originally reviewed by Edith LaGraziana
on Edith's Miscellany 

Very popular subjects of the famous Japanese colour woodblock prints from the seventeenth century on are scenes from ephemeral life in the pleasure districts which accounts for their being called ukiyo-e (浮世絵), i.e. “pictures of the floating world”. But life is in constant flow elsewhere too: πάντα ῥεῖ. In turbulent times, the flow even seems to accelerate and turn into a maelstrom that threatens to crush whatever or whoever gets caught in the strong current. In 1948, once famous painter Masuji Ono from An Artist of the Floating World by Japanese-English writer Kazuo Ishiguro finds himself stranded in a world where his art work has become an unwanted reminder of totalitarian ideals that led the Japanese Empire into disaster and where his daughter is no suitable match for any decent man because of his shameful part in the terror before and during the war. As he looks back, time passes, wounds heal and bitterness fades.

The Pope's Daughter by Dario Fo
Originally reviewed by Edith LaGraziana
on Edith's Miscellany

It’s a known fact that places of power are and have always been hotbeds of gossip, intrigue and crime. As capital of the Papal State and seat of her glamorous Court, the Holy See in Renaissance Rome wasn’t an exception as Martin Luther learnt during his visit there in 1510/11. The idealistic German monk must still have heard people gossipping about the Borgia family and its unscrupulous head Pope Alexander VI. who had died less than a decade earlier. Instead of a paragon of virtue Alexander VI. was a family man with great plans for himself as well as for his children. And his ambitions knew no limits. The historical novel The Pope’s Daughter by Dario Fo, the famous Italian playwright and recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature 1997, traces the life of highly intelligent, well-educated and beautiful Lucrezia Borgia who served her father and brother as pawn in their endless game of power.

Billiards at Half Past Nine by Heinrich Böll
Originally reviewed by Edith LaGraziana
on Edith's Miscellany

Without any doubt, the first half of the twentieth century counts among the most unstable and most violent times in European history. For survivors and Spätgeborene (“late-born”, i.e. the post-war generation) it was difficult to come to terms with the horrors of holocaust and war and to build a pluralistic and truly democratic society on the rubbles that the totalitarian Nazi regime left behind. As shows the much-acclaimed novel Billiards at Half Past Nine by Heinrich Böll, the German recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature of 1972, in the years or even decades immediately following World War II, most Germans preferred to push the memory of the Third Reich and their role in it into the background. With survival being the first priority, it was rather natural after all to focus on the present. But to forget the lessons of the past means to give those charismatic populists who wish to turn back time a chance to rise.

Something I've Been Meaning to Tell You by Alice Munro

  • Monday, August 14, 2017

Alice Munro received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2013. Long awaited by some critics. She got the Prize for being "master of the contemporary short story". Many of the Laureates of the Nobel Prize in Literature feels like a heavy read and not so accessible. However, lately, I have read a couple of books by Laureates that has been really outstanding. I am thinking of Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann and L'Herbe des nuits (The Black Notebook) by Patrick Modiano.  I can add another name to the list; Alice Munro

One of her books has been on my shelves for some time, and, finally, I got around to read it. Alice Munro writes short stories, which is not really my cup of tea, although I read them from time to time. This is a time when it was really worth it.

From the back of the cover the Observer notes: "Read not more than one of her stories a day, and allow them to work their spell: they are made to last". I can agree to that, although I read half the book before I left for holiday and half of it when I came back. Her stories are about life, often middle aged people or older people. They all have something to tell about life. Inner thoughts, the world changing around them, problems to keep up or events from the past still lingering on their minds and affecting their whole life.

This is the first lines of a story called "Walking on Water". One of my favourites.
"This was a part of town where a lot of old people still lived, though many had moved to high-rises across the park. Mr Lougheed had a number of friends, or perhaps it would be better to say acquaintances, whom he met every day or so on the way downtown, at the bus stop, or on the walks overlooking the sea. Occasionally he played cards with them in their rooms or apartments. He belonged to a lawn-bowling club and to a club which brought in travel films and showed them, in a downtown hall, during the winter. He had joined these clubs not out of a real desire to be sociable but as a precaution against his natural tendencies, which might lead him, he thought, into becoming a sort of hermit."
The stories are engaging, real and the characters she creates on only a few pages are incredible. You are right into them from the first line of each story. The manage to engage you and make you think about life, what it is and how we live it. Worth reading and reflecting. These stories are some of her earlier ones and was published in 1974 for the first time. I am sure this is not the last time I read Alice Munro, and it would be interesting to read some of her later stories.

© Read the NobelsMaira Gall