Sunday, December 11, 2011

Poetry: Octavio Paz

Octavio Paz Lozano (March 31, 1914 – April 19, 1998)
Between going and coming

Between going and staying
the day wavers,
in love with its own transparency.
The circular afternoon is now a bay
where the world in stillness rocks.

All is visible and all elusive,
all is near and can’t be touched.

Paper, book, pencil, glass,
rest in the shade of their names.

Time throbbing in my temples repeats
the same unchanging syllable of blood.

The light turns the indifferent wall
into a ghostly theater of reflections.

I find myself in the middle of an eye,
watching myself in its blank stare.

The moment scatters. Motionless,
I stay and go: I am a pause. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Classic Fiction: Three man in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

One of the funniest novels ever written, Three man in a Boat (To say Nothing of the Dog),1889, has scarcely dated since its first publication when it was celebrated throughout Europe and bootlegged in America. it started life as a piece of travel writing. Jerome K. Jerome remarked in his My Life and Times that "I did not intend to write a funny book... the book was to have been 'The Story of the Thames', its scenery and history", but as he began writing, it took on a life of its own.

Narrated by J., it is the hilariously chaotic story of a sojourn taken on the Thames from London to Oxford with his weary inept friends George, Harris and the dog Montmorency. The novel is a series of often very funny vignettes that recount the many scrapes the men get involved in. Rather than the situations, it is jerome's prose that is the real attraction here. He finds humour in the most banal of objects from a tin of pineapple chunks that is impossible to open, to the description of his friend's day's work: "George goes to sleep in a bank from ten till four each day except Saturdays, when they wake him up and put him outside at two".

The Worst Witch

The magical tale of an orphaned boy who discovers his wizard heritage at an unusual boarding schools for magicians has won the hearts of millions, and the suspicious of a few. Pottermania, it seems, has a dark side.

At its strongest in the USA, a growing movement is targeting the Harry Potter series for the propagation of the word of the devil. They contend that the books are merely Satan's cover in his ultimate plan to plant immorality and corruption in the minds of the nation's children. Christian societies are becoming passionately divided on the issue, schools are banning them on the grounds that they are sacreligious and entire families are refusing to buy they because the occult skills they allegedly contain (witchcraft, sorcery, casting spells, spiritualism, interpreting omens and "calling up the dead") are considered "an abomination to the Lord".

It appears that the UK's most beloved young hero is not quite as humble an courageous as was once thought.

Modern Fiction: The Tin Drum by Gunther Grass

Gunther Grass is often lauded as the spokesman for a generation of Germans who grew up during the Nazi era. In 1999, he received the Nobel prize for Literature, but it was his Explosive debut novel The Tin drum which took the literacy world by storm.

this is the autobiography of Oskar Matzerath, and is, we are told, written in a sanatorium in the early 1950s, but it begins in Poland in the 1900s when Oskar's mother marries Alfred, a shopkeeper. Oskar, however, may be the child of an affair with her cousin Jan. At the age of three, Oskar decides as an act of will and of protest at the stupidity and wickedness of adults that he will not grow, and communicates largely through his tin drum, from which he is inseparable.

Set primarily in Grass's native Danzig, the shadow of Nazism hangs heavy over the first two-thirds of the book, with Kristallnacht, the fall of Poland and ultimately the Soviet capture of the city all refracted through Oskar's eyes, as is the plight of German refugees struggling westwards ahead of the Red Army.

The Tin Drum is a marvellously memorable novel, both for the treatment of its subject, and for the richness of the images, the ironic humour and wit of the text, the power of the writing and towering, enlightened imagination of its author.

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