Showing posts from March, 2014

Russian Literature 2014: First Check-in.

We're almost a quarter of the way through 2014 (!), and, as promised, here is the first check-in post for the Russian Literature 2014 Challenge
I aimed to read 12 Russian classics this year, and so far I've read four and reviewed two (though one, Oblomov, is on the way for next week): Eugene Onegin, by Aleksandr Pushkin.Dead Souls, by Nikolai Gogol.Poor Folk, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Oblomov, by Ivan Goncharov.And, for good measure, I wrote a little about Virginia Woolf's essay on Russian Literature, 'A Russian Point of View', from The Common Reader: First Series
So, how is everyone else getting along? Anyone tackled War and Peace yet? If you've read or written anything about Russian Literature, let everyone know by leaving a comment to this post, linking your posts in the comments if you've managed to write any, or if you want, write a check-in post on your blog and let us know, again by linking it in the comments (either cut and paste the url(s) or use thi…

New stash, and other things.

Sunday was my birthday, and yesterday I had a birthday outing to Barter Books, where I spent my birthday money! Here's what I got:
The Complete Poems by Emily Jane Brontë. I haven't read much poetry at all by the Brontës, so it's time to remedy that. Kilvert's Diary by Rev. Francis Kilvert. A few years ago I read The Assassin's Cloak, an anthology of diarists including Kilvert (who was writing in the late 19th Century). I remembered particularly enjoying his entries, so I've been on the look out ever since. The Diary of a Country Parson 1758 - 1802 by Rev. James Woodforde. Seeing this in the biography section reminded me to look out for Kilvert, so that itself was fortuitous! But this one looks intriguing: it's remarkable for being rather unremarkable - Rev. Woodforde wrote in his diary almost every day for fifty years, and he chronicles his day to day activities. In a way, it's like finding an everyday relic from the past - it's always exciting to f…

The Kiss, by Karolina Světlá.

This was a chance read: a few days ago I was going through some of my mother's books and I found Selected Czech Tales translated by Marie Busch and Otto Pick (published in 1928 by Oxford University Press). This morning I began reading them, beginning with The Kiss by Karolina Světlá, and I thought I'd write a little about the story and do some research into this author who, until this morning, I hadn't come across. I have to say - the majority of what I have read has been written in Czech and translated by Google, so there's every chance some of this may be inaccurate (I do hope not). If this is the case then my apologies, and I hope there's someone out there who can correct me if I'm wrong anywhere. Furthermore, not all of the titles I have mentioned could be translated, but where possible I have give the English translation. 
The Kiss, or Hubička in it's original language, is a short story which was written in 1871. It was written by Karolina Světlá (born …

Metamorphoses, by Ovid.

Now I have finished my work, which nothing can ever destroy - not Jupiter's wrath, nor fire or sword, now devouring time. That day which has power over nothing except this body of mine may come when it will and end the uncertain span of my life. But the finer part of myself shall sweep me into eternity, higher than all of the stars. My name shall be never forgotten. Wherever the might of Rome extends in the lands she has conquered, the people shall read and recite my words. Throughout all ages, if poets have vision to prophesy truth, I shall live in my fame. - Epilogue of Metamorphoses. From January 1st to 6th March I have been reading Metamorphoses by the Roman poet Publius Ovidius Naso. The original title, Metamorphoseon Libri ('the book of transformations') comes from the Greek word μεταμόρφωσις, meaning 'to transform', and it has associations with magic, sorcery, or divine intervention. It was completed around 8 AD, 2006 years ago, and has influenced the likes of Chaucer…

Vernal equinox.

Spring is the time of plans and projects.
- Leo Tolstoy.
Equinox, from the Latin "aequus" meaning "equal" and "nox" meaning "night", simply means the time of year when night and day are about of equal length (sunrise was 6.04, sunset will be 18.13). In short, it is spring! The days are now getting longer! Quite possibly my favourite day of the year. For over a month the snowdrops have been out (surely the hardiest flower there is?), and here the daffodils are very close to coming into bloom, though I have seen them in bloom elsewhere. And the crocuses, they've been out at least a week now. Colour, warmth, and life, in short. The northern hemisphere is approaching "full glitter" (to use one of Ted Hughes' phrases). 
Yes, I've been waiting for this day. It seems to me more 'real' than New Year's Day - I can feel the change in the air, I can see it. The lengthening days are more noticeable, and have been for the past …

Early spring.

Today may be summed up by Charles Dickens, It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.Exactly it. We went for a little walk around a disused quarry in the forest - the puddles by the trees had one inch of ice over them, but the sun was delicious. We've been outside a lot today (no coats on!), and the sun was most welcome to our birds: today marked the very first day of the budgies being out in the aviary and the hens going out for a walk. I believe the day was enjoyed most by Trotwood.
Trot, who is 2 years old next Wednesday, flew directly out of his cage and straight on to the perch in the aviary, where he proceeded to dance for a full ten minutes. He's quite a serious sort of chap, though sometimes prone to extreme silliness, so seeing his with his little mohican right up, frantically running around all the poles, bobbing up and down, flying hither and thither and squeaking constantly …

Hamlet, by William Shakespeare.

Ah, Shakespeare. In my previous post, I wrote about how I could not fathom how anyone could not at least like The Wind in the Willows, and now, with this post, I swap sides and join the ranks of the unfathomable. Everyone who loves classics seems to love Shakespeare, everyone that is except me.
I've tried several times since re-reading Hamlet back in January to write this post, and not managing to write anything at all has been at the back of my mind for a while. It's on my 25 re-reads list, and I wanted to write something about all the books I've read, and furthermore, most importantly, re-reading some of these books has changed my opinion on both the books I've revisited and the authors too. Pride and Prejudice is one of the most important books I've read this year: for over a decade I've had a strong aversion to most books by Jane Austen and I couldn't understand what it was that was so appealing, but in reading Pride and Prejudice again I suddenly saw he…

The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame.

One does not argue about The Wind in the Willows. The young man gives it to the girl with whom he is in love, and, if she does not like it, asks her to return his letters. The older man tries it on his nephew, and alters his will accordingly. The book is a test of character. - A. A. Milne The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (first published in 1908) is described by A. A. Milne as "a Household Book: a book which everybody in the household loves, and quotes continually." And he's right: a library cannot be complete without The Wind in the Willows, and, furthermore, it is one of the few, if not the only book I cannot understand people not liking. I can forgive people not liking Zola: I admit he's a bit grim at times ("a bit?", the haters ask!). Virginia Woolf is not for everyone, Samuel Richardson can go on a bit, and I don't mind at all if you prefer Charlotte or Emily Brontë to Anne, or if you prefer Jane Austen to all. But not Wind in the Willows. …

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

Despite not being terribly keen on Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice is one of my favourite books. It was first published in 1813, following Sense and Sensibility (1811), and is one of the most popular novels in the English language. Most people can quote that opening sentence, and it seems almost everyone has affection for it, and I certainly do - it was one of the only pleasant things during February. It even made me laugh, which was no mean feat. 
Virginia Woolf wrote of Jane Austen, "she never trespassed beyond her boundaries", and yet, "Whatever she writes is finished and turned and set in its relation, not to the parsonage, but to the universe" (The Common Reader First Series). There are indeed elements of realism in her works, perhaps owing to the fact that she did not "trespass beyond her boundaries": for example in the introduction to my Wordsworth edition, it is said that "she never reports a conversation between men when there is no women pr…


It's been a very sombre week, but today, for the first time in weeks, I worked so very hard. I had let things slide, so today was catching up, housework, gardening, various other things, and I have the righteous ache in my muscles that is rather satisfying. February was a bleak month in many ways, and I want to move forward, away from it, forget it in short, so it was good to wake up early, a new month, the first day of meteorological spring (though personally I recognise the official first day astronomically, which is on the 20th), and begin working on the plans we have for the garden. Much digging, and hours of heavy lifting, once done (half done, actually, it was getting dark), I tidied the house, then finished Brighton Rock in the bath (least said about that book the better. Three stars on Goodreads was extraordinarily respectful of me, I really must be in a better mood).
One of the consequences of February is that I'm very behind in my reading, so I'm thinking less of …