Showing posts from January, 2014

Dead Souls, by Nikolai Gogol.

"No, no, what I want are not exactly peasants," said Chichikov. "It's the dead ones I want..."Dead Souls (or, in Russian Мёртвые ду́ши) was the only novel of Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol, published in 1842. The full title: The Wanderings of Chichikov, or Dead Souls: Poema, and my edition was translated by Christopher English.

It was an odd one for me, this novel. So so many people love it, but I just didn't couldn't quite - but I did like it, which is better than not. It tells the story of Chichikov and his travels through the provincial backwaters of Russia in search of peasants, dead peasants that is, in order, he claims, to relieve the burden of tax on the owners, and, for himself, to increase (or appear to increase) his wealth, power, and social status (appearing to have power, I suppose, amounts to actually having power). Imagine, anyway, a macabre version of, say, Fieldings' Tom Jones, Dickens' Pickwick Papers, or Cervantes' Don Quixote. T…

Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf.

I put Mrs. Dalloway on my 25 re-reads list, but it was Cleo's recent post that spurned me on to read it this week. And, today is Virginia Woolf's birthday - she was born 132 years ago today, on the 25th January 1882. It's a good time to write about one of my favourite books by her.
Mrs. Dalloway was published in 1925, Virginia Woolf's fourth novel. It tells the story of a day of Clarissa Dalloway, a character who first appears in The Voyage Out, Virginia Woolf's first novel (1915), and is again seen in various short stories: Mrs. Dalloway's Party, Mrs. Dalloway in Bond Street, The Prime Minster, The New Dress, The Introduction, Together and Apart, The Man Who Loved His Kind, and A Summing Up. It is a modernist novel, which would ordinarily strike fear into my heart, but not so with Woolf.

Yes, Mrs. Dalloway, like a lot of her novels, owe a lot to James Joyce, as Cleo points out, and also to Marcel Proust and various Russian authors and their perception of the …

Eugene Onegin, by Aleksandr Pushkin.

Eugene Onegin, or Евге́ний Оне́гин in Russian, was written by Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin and published in serial form between 1825 and 1832, before being published as a complete edition in 1833, and despite having been published over seven years, it's rather short - my edition (translated by Charles Johnston, Penguin 1977) is, without endnotes, 233 pages. What also surprised me was that whilst Nikolai Gogol subtitles his novel Dead Souls as a poem, Pushkin refers to his epic poem as 'a novel in verse'. I can explain Gogol (and indeed will when I come to writing about Dead Souls), but I don't quite understand Pushkin. 
Reading Eugene Onegin was supposed to be a readalong with Marian of Tanglewood, but it didn't quite work out like that for me: I didn't start until a week after everyone else, and once I began catching up I ended up finishing it that same evening. I did, clearly, very much enjoy it, but I do have a problem with it, namely the translation. About …

Les Misérables, by Victor Hugo.

They are les misérables - the outcasts, the underdogs. And who is to blame? Is it not the fallen who have most need of charity? I started my re-read of Les Misérables on 22nd December, and early this afternoon I finished it. Whether it be because it was a second read, or because of the different translation (Norman Denny, 1982) to my first Les Misérables (Julie Rose, 2009), I loved it even more, which is saying something as I originally gave it five stars. 
I think, when I decided to re-read it, I was hoping to write more about the historical setting (1815 - 1832, the June Rebellion), and perhaps have Émile Zola (a Hugo fan in his youth) in mind. But it hasn't worked out like that: all I want to write about is just how damn good it is! 
There's no use saying with how awe-inspiring it is. Perhaps, on beginning it, or even before beginning it, it is awe-inspiring. It's very long, it's French, it's very clever, and it is widely regarded as a masterpiece. But, if you have…

Hyde Park Gate News: The Stephen Family Newspaper, by Virginia Woolf, Vanessa Bell, and Thoby Stephen.

I've been reading lots this week, however am not close to finishing any of my books, which makes blogging a little hard! I'm near approaching the beginning of the final book of Les Misérables, so I imagine I'll still be reading that into next week, I'm a tad behind on Onegin, and I've only just started Metamorphoses, so that's no where near completion. But, thankfully (for the blog's sake), this morning I finished Hyde Park Gate News: The Stephen Family Newspaper. It is a collection of what were weekly articles for the Stephen family newspaper, written by Vanessa Stephen (Vanessa Bell), Thoby Stephen, and Adeline Virginia Stephen (our own Virginia Woolf). The articles began in 1891, when Vanessa was about twelve, Virginia nine, and Thoby eleven, and ran until 1895. It is a very interesting work, very interesting indeed, but the question is why? 
There are different ways of reading it.
It is a record of the Stephen family, headed by Sir Leslie Stephen, a very …

Hen Progress Pictures: the six month mark.

I've finally managed to get some new pictures of my hens! They've been out of the battery farm a little over six months now, and here is their progress!

I wrote about them in detail in this post, about the problems they'd faced, and how proud of them I am, but I never realised just how much progress they had made until I looked at these old pictures. I haven't looked at the early ones since probably the last time I did a progress report (6th September). I remember how bald Emily was, and how pale Charlotte and Annie was, and of course Annie's bad eye, but looking at them now... I'm so proud of them.
And they're such good good hens!

Metamorphoses Book I, by Ovid.

From 'The Flood'. So he put the lightening, forged in the Cyclops' workshop, aside
and chose a different method of punishing mortals, by massing
his storm-clouds over the sky and destroying the race
in a great flood.
All of the gales which scatter the gathering clouds,
and among them
the north wind Aquilo, Jupiter promptly imprisoned inside
the caverns of Aéolus. Notus, the wind of the south, he released/
Notus flew out on his soaking wings, his terrible visage
covered in pitchy gloom; his beard was a bundle of rain-storms;
water streamed from his hoary locks, his forehead a cushion
for mists; his wings and the folds of his garments were sodden and dripping.
He squeezed the bank of menacing clouds like a sponge, and a thunderclap
followed. Instantly rain poured from the sky in torrents.
Juno's messanger, decked in her mantle of many
Isis the rainbow, sucked up moisture to thicken the clouds.
The corn was flattened; the farmer wept for his wasted prayers;
and all the fruits of a…

Top Ten Goals/Resolutions For 2014.

This week's Top Ten (hosted by Broke and the Bookish) is Top Ten Goals/Resolutions For 2014, and I'm glad to do this because the new year seems to have passed me by a little. I have thought about goals and resolutions, and I've blogged about them too, but I wasn't feeling the spirit of it at all. I still feel under the weather post-cold, which has spread to my chest, so that's not much fun at present, but I do feel much better and more inclined to feel excited for the new year. All that said, I can't help but feel that Vernal Equinox is something to really look forward to! A new year is fun, but it seems almost arbitrary. There is nothing arbitrary about Vernal Equinox: when spring starts, the year truly does start. 
With that in mind, my first non-bookish resolution is to have the ultimate spring clean. I do like a good clear out in March, but I'm starting early this year: I have a habit of building up tasks and not starting them until a day I randomly deem…

The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins.

Lord bless us! it was a diamond! As large, or nearly, as a plover's egg! The light that streamed from it was like the light of the harvest moon. When you looked down into the stone, you looked into a yellow deep that drew your eyes into it so that they saw nothing else. It seemed unfathomable; this jewel, that you could hold between your finger and thumb, seemed as the heavens themselves. We set it in the sun, and shut out the light out of the room, and it shone awfully out of the depths of its own brightness, with a moony gleam, in the dark.
The Moonstone was my first bookish surprise of 2014 (which bodes well - it's also only the second book I've read so far this year). I never thought I would hate it, and I didn't dread it the way I dread the fifteen or so books I sincerely regret putting on my Classics Club list, but I thought at best I might "quite like it". But no, I loved it very much - it was the only book I read on Saturday and made for a very fun rea…

Agnes Grey, by Anne Brontë.

Agnes Grey was the first of two novels by Anne Brontë . Published in December 1847, it is at once a novel, a polemic, a love story, an autobiography, and a documentary detailing the lives of governesses in the mid-19th Century. It is both sombre and witty, gently written, yet, in allowing the facts to speak for themselves, the fury is subtlety but undeniably contained in this relatively short and powerful novel. It is, I believe, one of the finest books ever written.
Brontë tells the story of Agnes Grey, a young woman like herself, with a modest upbringing in northern England; her father a minister, and her mother who, by marrying her father, was disinherited, and her sister, Mary, (the other siblings, like Anne's, died young) who is a skilled artist. Her father, feeling guilty at what his wife has forsaken in marrying him, makes an unwise investment in a merchant's sea voyage, however the ship sinks and with it what little money the family had. Mary is able to sell her drawing…

2nd Annual Classics Club Readathon.

It's the second Annual Classics Club readalong! I have been looking forward to this! And I need it - my cold is much better, but what with all the coughing I've pulled muscles everywhere, so this is definitely a good day to relax in the warm and, well, read lots.
I've been thinking about what I want to read, and I have to conclude that today may perhaps be a day of not actually completing any books. Firstly, I can't manage the full 24 hours (part of the fun of colds is lying awake all night coughing!), and secondly, I want to read too much of everything! 
So, the plan is this: this afternoon, I'm going to start by reading the first book of Ovid's Metamorphoses. Then, I'm going to read some of The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. Early evening, I'm going to finish the first book of Kipling's The Jungle Books, and tonight I aim to read 'Marius', which is book three of Les Misérables. And, who knows, perhaps I'll skip The Jungle Books (which I am…

A New Year's Message (To Joseph Mazzini) by Algernon Charles Swinburne.

Send the stars light, but send not love to me.
- Shelley.


Out of the dawning heavens that hear
Young wings and feet of the new year
Move through their twilight, and shed round
Soft showers of sound,
Soothing the season with sweet rain,
If greeting come to make me fain,
What is it I can send again?


I know not if the year shall send
Tidings to usward as a friend,
And salutation, and such things
Bear on his wings
As the soul turns and thirsts unto
With hungering eyes and lips that sue
For that sweet food which makes all new.


I know not if his light shall be
Darkness, or else light verily:
I know but that it will not part
Heart's faith from heart,
Truth from the trust in truth, nor hope
From sight of days unscaled that ope
Beyond one poor year's horoscope.


That faith in love which love's self gives,
O master of my spirit, lives,
Having in presence unremoved
Thine head beloved,
The shadow of thee, the semitone
Of thy voice heard at heart and known,
The light of thee not set nor flown.


Seas, lands, and …

The Russian Point of View, by Virginia Woolf.

To start the Russian Literature 2014 event, I wanted to write a little about Virginia Woolf's 'The Russian Point of View' (a short essay from The Common Reader First Series which you can read here).

In 1912, Constance Garnett (the mother of David Garnett, who married Angelica Bell, Virginia Woolf's niece) translated The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. It was the first highly regarded translation (the very first translation was by Marie von Thilo in 1881), and in total, Garnett translated 71 Russian works, and she was also one of the first translators of Leo Tolstoy and Anton Chekhov as well as Dostoyevsky. The Hogarth Press, the publishers founded in 1917 by Leonard and Virginia Woolf, published many Russian works and Woolf reviewed thirteen between 1917 and 1927, so it's of no surprise that Virginia Woolf was well-read in Russian Literature. In fact, Woolf explored Russia through its literature and she went on to write several essays on the subject, such …

January 2014.

A new year, and by coincidence a new moon. It's pouring down here, has been all day. Four o' clock and it's getting dark, with a heavy mist, and a wind that's getting stronger. It's a perfect day to curl up with a hot drink and a good book, which is what I shall be doing this evening. I'm still full of cold, but it's getting better I think. Coffee, a biscuit, bed, and Agnes Grey is what I'm most looking forward to in the next hour! There's only so much hot lemon I can drink...
2013 went by so fast, I'm almost nervous to make resolutions for 2014. On the first day of the year I always think of things I want to achieve however am not yet inclined to work for, but I think motivation is bound to come at some point in the following 365 days. Now I feel forced to be realistic!
That said, I do want to at least start to read Das Kapital by Karl Marx. I've been meaning to for quite some time, but I do think I'm ready. 2015 will be election year, so…