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I won't have the time to do it in the upcoming week so this is where the meme ends.

Read more... )
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Day 15 – Favorite male character

This one is difficult because that is not the way I read books. I have favourite characters in films and tv shows, but in books? Not so much. Actually my favourite books don't necessarily have characters I would call favourites, or even likable, and my favourite books are not necessarily novels (this meme seems to be mostly about novels btw).

Among the most intriguing and poignant literary characters, there's Lorenzo de Médicis in the play Lorenzaccio by Alfred de Musset.

Of course I also love my damaged cops from my crime novels, especially the Harrys! Jo Nesbø's Harry Hole is a character I love to bits, just like I love Connelly's Harry Bosch. One fo the appeals of reading a new crime story is to see again those characters.

Also Paul Atreides from Dune, obviously.

And there's Victor Hugues from the wonderful El Siglo de Las Luces by Alejo Carpentier (known as Explosion in a Cathedral in English). I remember that I was very impressed by the character when I first read the novel. The neat thing is that Victor Hugues did exist, but it was one of those people that were involved in French Revolution but whom we know very little about, so Alejo Carpentier could do as he pleased when he "created" him. I was drawn to Victor Hugues much more than to Esteban who is presumably, along Sofia, the main character.

Day 16 – Favorite female character

Same problem. I don't think I have a favorite literary female character. Unfortunately my favourite writers tend to be males and they mostly write male characters, or rather they write male characters better than female ones.

The protagonist in Brazzaville Beach by William Boyd, Hope Clearwater, is a good character but I don't see myself calling her my favourite female character ever!

Of course there's Jane Eyre...or the Austen heroines (Elizabeth Benett mostly), but as strong as they are there's something about those English girls that turn me off. I guess it's the time they live in and the necessary romantic happy ending they get.  If I should go British I'd rather pick Alison, the Wife of Bath, created by Chaucer for The Canterbury Tales!

If I should go French I'd choose either Phèdre from Phèdre by Racine or Camille from Horace by Pierre Corneille, strong-willed and yet tragic heroines. I have a soft spot for Mathilde de La Mole from Le Rouge et Le Noir by Stendhal.

Day 17 – Favorite quote from your favorite book


Well it's one of my favourite books anyway. The quote is from Mendelsohn's The Lost, which I already posted it on here, years ago. Before this extract, Daniel Mendelsohn recalls Rashi's and Rabbi Friedman's exegesis of the Sodom and Gomorrah tale from Genesis, or rather of the meaning of the transformation of Lot's wife, and then he offers his own explanation here:

Read more... )

And here is a quote from Les Faux Monnayeurs by André Gide :

"Dans le domaine des sentiments, le réel ne se distingue pas de l'imaginaire. Et, s'il suffit d'imaginer qu'on aime, pour aimer, ainsi suffit-il de se dire qu'on imagine aimer, quand on aime, pour aussitôt aimer un peu moins, et même pour se détacher un peu de ce qu'on aime - ou en détacher quelques cristaux."


Day 18 – A book that disappointed you

I tend to forget those. But as of late, I gave a try to G. R. R Martin's series (A Song of Ice and Fire) on kindle, out of curiosity since I watch the tv show Game of Thrones, and found the books poorly written.

Day 19 – Favorite book turned into a movie


Turning a book into a movie is some tricky business, and, actually, most of the time I fear that my favourite books might be turned into movies. I remember hating what David Lynch did with Dune for instance.

Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Choderlos de Laclos is a good book, although not a favourite book of mine, and one my favourite movie adaptations is Stephen Frears' Dangerous Liaisons (or to be fair it's rather an adaptation of Christopher Hampton's play). Neither Glenn Close nor John Malkovich looked the part, and both were too old to play Merteuil and Valmont (who are supposed to be in their 20's!), but it worked beautifully (and Malkovich is hot as hell in it). Sometimes a good adaptation needs to betray a little for it's more about the spirit than about the letter.

I also love what the Coen brothers did with Cormac MacCarthy's No Country for Old Men (while the film based on The Road wasn't very good, in spite of Viggo Mortensen's performance) or what Debra Granik did with Winter's Bone (but in that case I saw the film before I read the book).

 
Read more... )
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...except [personal profile] kazzy_cee !


Day 09 – A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving

It has to be Daniel Mendelsohn 's The Lost. A Search for Six Of Six Millions. I remember that I was wary as it was advertised, in bookshops, as the new Les Bienveillantes, and I was not a fan of Les Bienveillantes. It also won one of the Literature awards in France (Prix Medicis, that goes to non-French books) in 2007 and I thought it was just a trendy book. Actually I thought it was going to be one of those Holocaust books (what we call in French "littérature des camps"). I was so wrong. I adored the book and fell in love with Mendelsohn. It was as if I had found a living soul mate! Since then I have read everything he's written.



Day 10 – Favorite classic book

Oh this is difficult. I'm tempted to say The Aeneid because it made me fall in love with Virgil – I know it sounds weird and nerdish but I had a blast translating pices from The Aeneid for my Latin class when I was in highschool!–, but I have a soft spot for Sophocles' Antigone as well, and some parts of The Odyssey are just soooo wonderful...

I just love my Classics.
Day 11 – A book you hated

I remember disliking Madame Bovary by Flaubert, when I had to read it in school.
Day 12 – A book you used to love but don’t anymore

Probably something I was very fond of when I was a pre-teen or a young teenager...

Maybe Marion Zimmer Bradley's Mists of Avalon or Pauline Gedge's Child of The Morning.
Day 13 – Your favorite writer

This one is almost easy.

Among the dead writers, Jorge Luis Borges.

Among the living ones, Richard Powers.

I know, it's weird , I'm a European and my two choices are men from the New World...

Day 14 – Favorite book of your favorite writer

I love many books of his (the short stories from El Aleph are brilliant and I adore his Inquisiciones) but Fictions probably encapsulates what is the best about Borges' writing.

As for Richard Powers, it's his Galatea 2.2.
 
Rest of the days )
Day 17 – Favorite quote from your favorite book
Day 18 – A book that disappointed yo
Day 19 – Favorite book turned into a movie
Day 20 – Favorite romance book
Day 21 – Favorite book from your childhood
Day 22 – Favorite book you ow
Day 23 – A book you wanted to read for a long time but still haven’t
Day 24 – A book that you wish more people have read
Day 25 – A character who you can relate to the most
Day 26 – A book that changed your opinion about something
Day 27 – The most surprising plot twist or ending
Day 28 – Favorite title
Day 29 – A book everyone hated but you liked
Day 30 – Your favorite book of all time

Day 2

Feb. 13th, 2013 06:50 pm
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Day 02 – A book that you’ve read more than three times

There are many books I have read more than three times! I re-read my favourite books all the time. Let's say Gide's Les Faux Monnayeurs since I read it every year.
 
the rest of the days )
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I'm super busy but also losing the "habit" of posting on LJ (or of tweeting). I need to post more to keep in touch with flist.

So here's a book meme:


Day 01 – The best book you read last year
Day 02 – A book that you’ve read more than three times
Day 03 – Your favorite series
Day 04 – Favorite book of your favorite series
Day 05 – A book that makes you happy
Day 06 – A book that makes you sad
Day 07 – Most underrated book
Day 08 – Most overrated book
Day 09 – A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving
Day 10 – Favorite classic book
Day 11 – A book you hated
Day 12 – A book you used to love but don’t anymore
Day 13 – Your favorite writer
Day 14 – Favorite book of your favorite writer
Day 15 – Favorite male character
Day 16 – Favorite female character
Day 17 – Favorite quote from your favorite book
Day 18 – A book that disappointed you
Day 19 – Favorite book turned into a movie
Day 20 – Favorite romance book
Day 21 – Favorite book from your childhood
Day 22 – Favorite book you own
Day 23 – A book you wanted to read for a long time but still haven’t
Day 24 – A book that you wish more people have read
Day 25 – A character who you can relate to the most
Day 26 – A book that changed your opinion about something
Day 27 – The most surprising plot twist or ending
Day 28 – Favorite title
Day 29 – A book everyone hated but you liked
Day 30 – Your favorite book of all time


So this is Day One:

The best book I read last year was Augustus, A Novel by John Williams. I'm so glad that Daniel Mendelsohn convinced me to read it!
Williams' Stoner was good too (all credits to [personal profile] herself_nyc  for recommending it), but I prefered Augustus. It is so well written, so touching, and so good at reviving historical moments.
 

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Instead of working, I'm enjoying one of my Christmas presents, my DvD box set of Breaking Bad's season 4. Sue me!

By the way, Dean Norris has been quite active on twitter and revealed that HE IS THE ONE WHO WIPES !

Also, I just have to share this interview with Daniel Mendelsohn. I love that man!!! I don't agree with everything he says but the interview is just so quotable.

Here are some bits I do approve of. They are worth reading, people!

"I think criticism is potentially just as legitimate a literary genre as any other kind of writing. Writing is writing. But I don’t know what people think in the abstract of writers—critics vs. novelists vs. memoirist or any kind of writing. I think it depends on what you write."

[...]

"Critics are trying to illuminate texts that they find interesting, and to educate readers. I have a friend, who’s also an editor, and he always says that “criticism is a service industry.” Really your job is to illuminate whatever it is that you’re looking at—movies, or books, or novels, or non-fiction, whatever it is. And because you’ve done the homework, and you’re sharing your impressions—now, they’re your impressions and people might not agree with that—but you have to lay groundwork of what you’ve learned about the writer, the other books that they’ve written, you’re the one who has to synthesize it all."

[...]

"I mean novels are like that, novels are written by people who have a story they want to tell. And they’re not trying to package it to a certain group. If it’s a good novel, it will mean something to everybody. That’s the difference between a good novel and a mediocre novel. So, I am who I am, I write about what’s interesting to me. I’d like to think that my thinking out loud benefits the reader to perceive things that she or he might not have thought of alone."

[...]

"Barnes & Noble is interested in genre because they have to figure out where to put your book in the store. Why bother? I write narrative nonfiction that incorporates lengthy analyses of literary texts as part of the fabric of the book. It’s just what I do. I don’t know what the name for it is. I don’t know if it has a niche in the Barnes & Noble worldview, but it just is what it is. These people wrapping themselves in knots trying to give a name to what they’re doing, it’s not interesting to me personally what the “name” is: a piece of writing is a piece by whichever writer produced it. Period. That’s what it is."

[...]

"I think people whose orientation is essentially critical, who write primarily as critics, have a harder time being novelists. I don’t think that’s a rule, I just think that’s probably a fair summary of the available evidence. Being a critic is not a day job, it is an orientation to the world. Your orientation to reality is to analyze, break it down, figure it out, and present your findings. That’s how you do things, and that is where you live as a writer. And being a novelist, I’m sure, is a different orientation to the world. I just think these things are different. I think all comparisons are invidious. I think it was John Banville who was interviewed in some French magazine about me, and he said something along the lines of,  “Oh, well his writing is so interesting, and his criticism is so sharp, but it would be nice to see what he could really do as a writer, with a novel.” And I’m just like, “Yeah, and it would be nice to see what you could do as an Abstract Expressionist.” The sort of fallacy that everyone is gearing up to write their great novel is just a kind of holdover prejudice from a different era."

[...]

"The book that is only meaningful to the gay reader cannot be a great book. It is precisely the gay book’s ability to be interesting to a straight reader that makes it a great book. What makes Things Fall Apart a great novel is the fact that it can say something to me, a middle class white person in the USA, that is meaningful and rocks my world. If it only speaks to its black audience it is a more limited book. What makes literature literature is precisely its ability to go beyond borders, beyond identities. "

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It is an old question in art and literature. Are we what we think we are or are we being fooled and actually living a farce?

Do we really exist just because we are aware of our own existence? Are we sentient beings or the figments of someone else's imagination?

My favourite author, Jorge Luis Borges, once wrote a short story that deals with the issue. The title is "Las Ruinas Circulares" and if you don't know it you can read it online in English HERE.

I remember an old episode from The Twilight Zone in which the characters thought they were real but turned out to be toys "living" within a dollhouse. Not "real people" but the playthings of a giant and merciless child-god.

Borrowing a lot from previous films but also from books, especially Lewis Carroll's wonderful Alice In Wonderland, The Matrix told us that although people think they are living they might be asleep and used as batteries while the world they think they live in is a mere simulation generated by machines. The illusion is perfect, except for a few déjà-vu moments that give away glitches.

Battlestar Galactica, the miniseries, started with a Six asking a human "are you real?" and later Caprica showed us that there are many ways of being real, including the one in the V-world or in the game New Caprica City when you put the holoband on.

And now, a scientist, a NASA guy, is about to release a book based on the idea that we might be living in a simulated world that some future person would have built thanks to future super-computers...out of boredom. Interview with Rich Terrile, here. In the end, he says:

"And our simulated beings could also create simulations. What I find intriguing is, if there is a creator, and there will be a creator in the future and it will be us, this also means if there’s a creator for our world, here, it’s also us. This means we are both God and servants of God, and that we made it all. What I find inspiring is that, even if we are in a simulation or many orders of magnitude down in levels of simulation, somewhere along the line something escaped the primordial ooze to become us and to result in simulations that made us. And that’s cool."

Borges, who was blind and a poet, saw it all, before science men even started dreaming of it.

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I missed the news weeks ago but saw this on twitter today:

The great Southern novelist and story writer William Gay died at his home in Hohenwald, Tennessee, on February 23rd of this year, at the age of 70. An intensely private man who valued his reclusion and had no interest in the sometimes shameless self-promotion required by authors, Gay spoke at great length and on numerous occasions with William Giraldi in 2008 in preparation for Giraldi’s essay “A World Almost Rotten: The Fiction of William Gay,” the only in-depth critical analysis of Gay’s novels and stories.

The Rumpus offers Giraldi’s essay for the legion of Gay’s heartbroken fans, and for those lucky ones who are about to discover for the first time this important voice in American fiction.
chani: (medieval demons)
As you have probably guessed, I have decided to take a break from my thesis this weekend, especially given that I wasn't feeling very well. A lot of people around me seem to have the same symptoms so there must be something in the air...

A cut to spare the readership, given that, while I answer the meme, I'm sorta digressing on romance novels and genres...

Another book meme that is around )
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Daniel Mendelsohn, with whom I fell in love when reading his The Lost a few years ago, is on twitter. It's really weird to follow on twitter a writer you love, but the twitter thing is weird, anyway,when it comes to "famous" people you have never interacted with.

I don't tweet myself a lot, even though I was drawn to twitter, at first, for its rule of "up to 140 characters". I saw it as a challenge of concision – a tool that Tacitus would have liked!– and a funny way to come up with neat aphorisms. That was before I realised that some twittos just mircoblogged and used text-message language to "cheat"! The art of aphorism is lost on so many people...

I mostly follow media accounts and academic accounts, in order to get links to interesting articles. I also follow a few French politicians, because this is election year. So basically I use twitter for the news, to get information. It is my very won AFP or Reuters. And twitter can also become a forum when there's an event people all over the world tweet about and you just follow and feed the hashtag said event is about. It's fascinating to see twitter turning into an agora then.

So, basically my use is rather impersonal, and I don't really consider twitter as a "social network". There are exceptions of course. Some LJ friends are on twitter so it's another way to be connected. It's like bumping into someone you know, while walking in the street, and stopping for a moment to say hello or have little chat. I also follow a few artists in order to get updates on their works (like Moffat, Rufus Wainwright, Emily Barker, Bear McCreary, etc...), most of them are performers so twitter is a way to know about albums or gigs.

And of course there's Tom Mcrae, who fits in the later category but is also someone I have met in RL and with whom I sometimes have interactions online. We aren't friends but, after all those years, exchanging words with Tom on the internet doesn't feel like crossing the line. He's familiar enough to me in a way that is similar to my connection with certain distant LJ readers who are on my flist. In other words, there's nothing "sacred" about his online persona. I see him as an equal.

It's another story when it comes to Umberto Eco or Daniel Mendelsohn! I wouldn't dare to reply to one of their tweets...

Why following writers on twitter? To get a glimpse of the person behing the books? Maybe. To extend the connection you once fell when reading their work. Probably. To witness a work in progress and perhaps make out the backstage of creation? Hopefully.

But there's also the fact that we expect them to shine, to use their words mojo within an up-to-140-characters post. Is it possible?

Umberto Eco uses twitter in an interesting way, juggling with Italian and English (but so do I, with French and English), making aphorisms and, above all, bypassing the rule with bursts of multiple tweets, which isn't very refreshing per se, except that, the way he does it, the ending part comes first so his speech scrolls down and you can read his tweets normally, from top to bottom, without losing the right syntax! It means that he has to prepare the whole thing before he starts tweeting.

So far, Mendelsohn's tweets are unimpressive. He seems to use twitter as a social network or as a newsletter for his articles.

By the way, he posted links to two of them, lately:

The first one is a travel tale, titled A Modern Odyssey, in which he tells the Mediterranean cruise he took with his father, following Odysseus' steps. I especially liked the ending of the article:

Read more... )

The second, Unsinkable, is a long article published on The New Yorker. It's about The Titanic, and of course, being a classicist he studies the event as a Myth.

So I follow him on twitter, but I know the brilliance is elsewhere, and the Mendelsohn I love isn't the tweeting man who exposes himself online, but the one who reveals himself when telling stories.

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Je n'achète pas souvent les livres qui ont reçu des prix littéraires. Le Houellebecq qui a reçu le Gouncourt de l'an dernier, La Carte et le Territoire, a été une exception à la règle, car j'étais curieuse à son sujet, mais il m'arrive d'emprunter des livres à des amis, et il se trouve parfois que ces ouvrages ont reçu des prix. Ce fut le cas avec Les Disparus de Daniel Mendelsohn qui avait reçu le prix Médicis mais il ne m'inspirait pas du tout à l'époque, et il aura fallu qu'une collègue me le prête pour que j'en tombe amoureuse et que j'en achète ensuite la version originale. Comme quoi...

Cette année on m'a offert à Noël le nouveau Goncourt que je n'ai pas encore lu, et j'ai fini par emprunter à une amie le Limonov d'Emmanuel Carrère, non pas parce qu'il avait reçu le Prix Renaudot, mais parce que la préface que Carrère avait écrite pour Les Chuchoteurs d' Orlando Figes m'avait plu. Je savais que mon amie, russophile et russophone, avait lu Limonov , et je la savais critique à l'égard du livre, donc je lui ai demandé de me le prêter pour les fêtes, alors même qu'elle partait pour Moscou.

Je ne lis pas souvent de biographies, c'est un genre, comme le biopic au cinéma, qui ne m'attire guère, probablement parce qu'il me semble assez peu littéraire, mais je sentais que le livre de Carrère pouvait se distinguer du stéréotype biographique. C'est en partie vrai. Ce n'est pas une biographie, mais un portrait. Reste à savoir de qui...

Read more... )

chani: (sunset in Tanzania)
All Our Yesterdays

“Quiero saber de quién es mi pasado.
¿De cuál de los que fui? ¿Del ginebrino
Que trazó algún hexámetro latino
Que los lustrales años han borrado?
¿Es de aquel niño que buscó en la entera
Biblioteca del padre las puntuales
Curvaturas del mapa y las ferales
Formas que son el tigre y la pantera?
¿O de aquel otro que empujó una puerta
Detrás de la que un hombre se moría
Para siempre, y besó en el blanco día
La cara que se va y la cara muerta?
Soy los que ya no son. Inútilmente
Soy en la tarde esa perdida gente.”

Jorge Luis Borges, La rosa profunda.

If you don't read Spanish, The New York Review of Books posted the poem translated into English by Robert Mezey.

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Today Google celebrates my favourite author, Jorge Luis Borges...the blind man in the library who dreamt the stuff he couldn't see and wrote down what he had dreamt. He would have been 112...


"The Google Doodle shows a complex scene of an aging man overlooking great architecture from behind glass. Study the illustration and you will find a library on the right and images from “The Garden of Forking Paths,” a short story of his in which Borges describes the future in multiple ways. But, of course, he had never enjoyed the wonders of a digital computer, so even his scenes of a far-flung future have a distinctly retro feel."


http://www.csmonitor.com/Innovation/Horizons/2011/0824/Jorge-Luis-Borges-The-man-behind-the-Google-Doodle

And on Gallica (the online catalog of the BnF) it's now possible to read the first issue of Proa (1925) which was Borges' magazine.

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This one was inspired by an internet friend who isn't on LJ so I don't think it's going on around here, but I might be wrong.


Suggest up to five books that would help define you; that is, by reading them you would get a sense about the member who chose them. What books would you suggest, that tell something about you? Explain a little about why you picked the book.

I think it's an interesting meme because it isn't your usual "5 favourite somethings" , it's about picking books you think that they would define yourself, so it's as much about your tastes and books you love as about the way you see yourself or the way you'd like to be...

So it's probably way too much revealing but hell, here we go!

My 5 choices )
Now tell me, what are your five books?

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I don't read as much as I used to...I mean I don't read for pleasure and fun as much I used to – of course I read al the time because of the doctorate, but it's either mediaeval documents I work on or History books or theology books or canon law books.

I still read "in bed" but it isn't as regular as it once was. I blame all those great American tv shows I can't help but follow.

I say American, because most of them are from the U.S, but there's of course Doctor Who, and lately I've followed the daring and dark The Shadow Line on the BBC. It wasn't as "special" as Life on Mars or even Ashes to ashes, but it was a memorable moment of television.

To be fair, there are also movies and music that fill the relaxation/culture moments of my life, but it saddens me a little that tv is eating away the time I could devote to reading, especially in the evenings. Feeling the urge to write essays on certain shows that are so thought-provoking doesn't help of course.

Actually, I blame the Internet for providing both tv shows and places to write down about them!

So the pile of to-read-books keep getting higher and higher. There's for instance the book a colleague gave me last year (!) when I left our school, or Pynchon's Mason & Dixon that I  got about at the same time; or The Goldbug Variations by Richard Powers (and it's one of his biggest novels) that I bought months ago; or La fabrique du droit by Bruno Latour or Viktor Vavitch by Boris Jitkov; or the book ( Dino Egger by Eric Chevillard) that I keep in my purse for metro-reading but I rarely find a seat when I am in the subway so I haven't begun to read it yet! And the list goes on...

I finally started reading the last novel by Umberto Eco, Le Cimetière de Prague, yesterday and I'm determined to finish it quickly so I probably won't be online much in the upcoming days.

ETA: I leave you for a little while with this poem, which, contrary to common belief, has not been written by Pablo Neruda.

Muere lentamente )
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Si je ne savais pas déjà pourquoi j'aime autant Richard Powers je l'aurais compris en lisant l'essai de Joseph Dewey, Understanding Richard Powers.
Le livre publié à la fin du XXe siècle, juste avant la sortie de The Time of Our Singing, ignore les derniers ouvrages (The Time of Our Singing, The Echo Maker, Generosity) de Powers mais tente une mise en perspective des sept précédents romans, tout en les analysant tour à tour. J'ai donc sauté les chapitres concernant The Gold Bug Variations(il est près de mon lit depuis un certain temps et je ne vais pas tarder à m'immerger dans ce que d'aucuns considèrent être le chef d’œuvre de Richard Powers), Wandering Soul et Gain, pour ne lire que ceux consacrés à Three Farmers on Their Way to A Dance, The Prisonner's Dilemma, Galatea 2.2 et Plowing the Dark.

Le regard de Dewey est un regard américain sur l’œuvre de Richard Powers, donc sensiblement différemment du mien (il est d'ailleurs plus préoccupé par l'architecture des œuvres, la structure générale de la narration et le message qui est transmis que par le "style" dans son acception la plus pure, alors que pour moi Powers est aussi avant tout un styliste avec un "son" particulier), et c'est également un regard professionnel puisqu'il est spécialiste de littérature contemporaine – ce que je ne suis pas – aussi j'ai redécouvert certains livres sous un angle que je n'avais pas forcément envisagé à la lecture (The Prisonner's Dilemma en particulier mais aussi Plowing the Dark). Au-delà de l'enrichissement que procure ce type de "commentaire composé", j'ai aussi apprécié de voir formuler noir sur blanc ce qu'inconsciemment je devinais; ce qui affleurait dans mon rapport à l’œuvre de cet auteur, mais qui n'avait pas été totalement exprimé jusqu'ici; ce qui fait que l'écriture de Richard Powers résonne autant en moi.

Je recopie ici quelques extraits du premier chapitre qui sert d'introduction à l'étude des sept œuvres.

"Loneliness, then, haunts Powers's awareness. It is even part of his intricate narrative structures. Powers believes that narrative form is visceral, so that how a story is shaped reveals characters and theme. Design always hovers about the reader's awareness. Powers' s narratives are each accomplished designs in contrapuntal narration. Two (and sometimes three) narrative braids are offered polyphonically, told side by side, creating a narrative harmony that is as much vertical as it is horizontal[...] They are narrative lines that do not touch each other, that do not refer to each other, or that are only lightly linked – to the unprepared reader they may initially appear to be entirely incompatible. Yet they come to complement and deepen each other. Narrative structure itself becomes an exercise in his dominant theme: the search for connection among isolates.

Read more... )
 




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I read until 2 am last night for I couldn't drop Henning Mankell's novel before the end.

L'homme inquiet tells Kurt Wallander's last story. The mystery could be have been better crafted but the mystery wasn't really the point in that 9th novel and it is not Wallander's case even though he can't help investigating. This detective story is all about our beloved detective, and "the worried man" from the title is neither the possible victime nor the possible criminal, but the aging hero (and probably his aging creator as well) who gives away a last confession, a testament.

It isn't Mankell's best Wallander book, crime novel-wise – far from it –, but it has its moments here and there.

Obviously Mankell was fed up with Wallander, a character he doesn't like much which he admitted in several interviews; he had already turned the page and involved himself in other projects (books and plays) for a few years, but I guess the pressure was there so he needed to get rid of the myth for good, and destroy the creature that gave him a world wide success (the Holmes syndrom as Conan Doyle's legacy!) . I won't reveal how Wallander "leave the stage", but it's quite depressing. Mankell is merciless!

I think it's probably better that the series ends before it becomes really poor, but I was sad to see Kurt disappear. He has been in my life for so long, it's like losing an old companion.
chani: (medieval demons)
I often lament about the lack of great French writers or great French films these days. Compared to the beginning of the XXth century French literature has been poor for the past decades, and French movies keep disappointing me.

But I've read the interesting and original Mémoire de La Jungle by Tristan Garcia and I'm reading Michel Houellebecq's La Carte et le Territoire, which is really really good. Besides I saw yesterday Xavier Beauvois's Des hommes et des Dieux so there's hope still.

No matter what is said about Houellebecq, he is a good writer and  true author –– not the likes of Marc Lévy or Anna Gavalda or Amélie Nothomb who sell so many books every year–– and his last book belongs to Literature with a capital L.

As for Des Hommes et des Dieux (Of Gods and Men), it's the best French film I have seen for a very long time. It won Le Grand Prix in Cannes and many critics consider it should have received la Palme d'or instead of Uncle Boonmee (I haven't seen Uncle Boonmee yet so I can't tell). Xavier Beauvois whose Le Petit Lieutenant I enjoyed very much years ago, really turned out to be an amazing film maker.

Go, run if needed, and see this movie! If you are a movie buff you will be thrilled, if you're a believer you will feel warm, and if you're just a human being you will be deeply touched.

By the way, it's funny to think that a movie like this does much more for the Catholic Church and its Christian values, even though it isn't Xavier Beauvois's intent at all, than The Pope's behaviour or speeches.

Des hommes et des dieux tells the story of the Trappist monks from Tibihirine (a monastery in the Atlas) who died in 1996, during those horrible years in Algeria when the F.I.S party, that had been declared outlaw after it had too much success in elections, tried to conquer power using terrorism while the government (ruled since 1962 by one party, the FLN) fought back using similar means. It was a decade of violence and sheer terror for everybody living in Algeria and a lot of blood has been shed. Seven monks (out of the 9 who lived in the monastery then)were among the thousands victims because they decided to stay over there. Finally they were seized by G.I.A (the F.I.S's army) and their heads were found later...

For a long time their death has been a mystery, even though the official version was that the Islamist terrorists killed them. However last year a former French officer from the secret services finally told a judge what he knew from a fellow Algerian officer but had covered until then for the sake of the French-Algerian relationship: it's likely that it's actually "an error" (I don't know the English word for "bavure") from the Algerian army that killed the monks.

That said, the film isn't about the mystery or about who killed the monks. It's about their last days, about the everyday life that was theirs, about brotherhood, harmony and solidarity; about the fraternity within that religious community but also between the monks and their Algerian neighbours who lived in the village nearby and often shared stuff with the brothers and whom the Trappists helped but never tried to convert; about the harmony between men from different cultures (an example of peaceful coexistence between religions) and also between men and nature.

Of course the violence surrounding Tibihirine is there and the film doesn't shy away from the consequences of terrorism or the threat of having the military around, but it isn't a study on terrorism or a documentary on the civil war in Algeria.

It's first and foremost about those men, and at some point, despite the liturgy, the religious singing and the habit, you forget that they are monks, you just see how human they are. They don't live or dies as heroes but as men. And they are simply touching.

You can see the trailer on youtube.

The film is beautifully shot and moving but never falls into melodrama; it isn't austere but it isn't a hollywood movie either!

Beauvois films the everyday life of the monks like he filmed the everyday life of a police station in Le Petit Lieutenant. His movie has the realism of a documentary but also the lyricism of an opera. There are the beautiful landscapes of the Atlas, the camera indulging in a contemplative side that suits the Cistercian order; there's the quiet of working the land and another kind of quiet that comes from the hymns they sing; there are also moments of smile and moments of tears.
The cast is brilliant; Michael Lonsdale is a wonderful brother Luc, Lambert Wilson isn't bad as Christian (he's even quite good when he stops watching himself act)  and I was impressed by Olivier Rabourdin as brother Christophe (on the picture below). The most beautiful scene in the film, as the monks are having a Last Supper together while listening to The Swan Lake and drinking burgondy wine, is rather daring and could have been terrible but was poignant and powerful. I couldn't help crying then.

Those monks won't be forgotten.



The rest is in French )
chani: (Default)
Part One about Daniel Mendelsohn

My second American hero is a genius whom it's difficult not to admire. I've been marathon-reading Richard Powers' s work for about a year now, starting with the widely and rightly acclaimed The Time Of Our Singing –I reread it after Obama won the American elections, which added to the emotions the story and the characters convey, and I've failed to post about it since then but I will some day because it deserves a post of its own–going on last Autumn with the wonderful The Eko Maker that convinced me that Richard Powers was one of a kind, and perhaps the best American writer alive. So I've decided to explore Powers' s bibliography before.

Read more... )
chani: (Default)
No this entry was not prompted by a documentary about WWII GI's; it has nothing to do with movie stars and I am not particularly into those superheroes born in comics of which Americans are so fond either. Actually I guess it goes against a lot of clichés but my American heroes are writers.The more I read Daniel Mendelsohn and Richard Powers the more I adore them.

Perhaps you remember how I fell in love with the former while reading his The Lost. I have read two other books of his since then, and I'm still under Daniel Mendelsohn's spell.

Read more... )

PS: I'm spamming(yes there's a Part Two coming soon) today but since the History & Geography test took place yesterday morning and given that this afternoon I went to Saint-Cloud to picked the Baccalauréat papers, that I'm supposed to mark in the 7 upcoming days, these entries are probably my latest "big posts" for a while. Marking Hell begins tomorrow morning so you won't see a lot of me until I'm done, unless I need a place to rant and whine from time to time...which might happen.

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