Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Three Theban Plays: The Oedipus Cycle by Sophocles

For me, Greek plays always have their own charms. Compared to Renaissance’s or any modern plays, I find Greek’s is more intense in emotion. It always feels like I was in a theatre watching the performance live. I have actually never done this, but still….

If I remember correctly, the first play I have ever read years ago is Oedipus the King—I read Indonesian translation then—and have been mesmerized by it. One aspect I love in Greek’s plays is the chorus. It reminds me that I’m reading a play, not a story written as a play.

Oedipus Cycle begins with Oedipus the King, the most famous one. Reading it at much mature age made me realize a wider theme it covers than just a tragedy of a son who married his mother and killed his father—though unintentionally. It speaks a lot about destiny. Can we, mortal, avoid it? Oedipus had tried hard by fleeing from his country; nevertheless it happened without his knowing. And the blow becomes harder because, firstly, he has listened to the prophecy (and worked hard to resist his destiny), and secondly, he then insisted on having all the truth. I imagined, if he have never known the prophecy, he would still have stayed with the Laius; never have come to Thebes to become their King with pride, and to marry Jocasta… and so on. But speaking about destiny, one often comes to think also about free will. “Is destiny a real thing? That makes us like some puppet; don’t have control over our life? If so, does free will also exist?” So… when we are still thinking hard (without coming to a satisfying conclusion), we might want to move on to the second play: Oedipus at Colonus. And there… only there do we get the answer!

Oedipus at Colonus is the opposite of Oedipus the King, in term of the theme. Oedipus—in his old age and banishment—is now a more humble person. He admitted how he was dependent on his daughters’ loving care and Theseus’ generosity; that without them, he was helpless. He didn’t grudge against his bad fate; he could accept it and be peaceful with himself. Only after that, his life became meaningful by giving others better lives. How beautiful the lessons Sophocles taught us from these two plays; that Antigone—the last play—was almost felt like anti-climax.

All in all, Oedipus cycle is a very emotional, intense, engaging, and entertaining plays. My favorite is perhaps Oedipus at Colonus—I was happy for Oedipus’ reconciliation, and was fallen in love with Theseus’ calmness, generosity, and noble character.


Friday, February 3, 2017

Kafka’s The Metamorphosis (and other writings)

First of all, Penguin Classics should put a subtitle “and other writings” after Metamorphosis for this edition. I have a habit of ignoring list of contents or notes, because chapters/part titles often reveal the story plot. For me, curiosity is part of reading excitement, thus I don’t like anyone to reveal anything before I read it myself. When I need a reference or anything to help me understanding a passage, I will consult the introduction or list of contents myself.

So, without any subtitle, I assumed that when I opened the first page of the story, it had to be The Metamorphosis. “The Contemplation—printed largely on first page—I assumed to be a part title (silly me! -_-). And so I read on, chapter after chapter, yet I could not find any thread. Every chapter seemed to be independent story, though it also felt incomplete. Until I finally reached the part of The Metamorphosis. Only then I knew there’s something wrong. I consulted the “note on the text” in the front pages, and found that “The stories in this collection were written…..” Oh OK! It’s a story/journal collection then, not a single novella!

The first collection was Contemplation, written in first person POV. All of them have one same tone: wary, dejected, and lonely. The Metamorphosis itself had the same tone. The protagonist (Gregor) feels alienated and burdened by his job. But what disturbed me most is the reaction of his father, mother, and most of all, his sister, against his metamorphosis. The disgust is one thing, but how can they not feel any affection about their son/brother, that they want to get rid of him? It was Gregor who has provided for them before the metamorphosis, how easy it is for them to ignore his sacrifices!

In the next stories/journals, lack of recognition theme came again. In fact, I have jotted down aspects or themes that are interesting and quite often appeared throughout the book, here they are:

Engineer
Businessman
Lack of recognition from authority
“Life is astonishingly brief”
Huge gap between superior and inferior
Lack of gratitude > slaving
Mechanical structure
Wary
Dejected
Lonely
Suicidal behavior
No way out
Metamorphosed to animal
Caged > helplessness

So I think, to better understanding Kafka, or the meaning of his writings, is to find the connecting thread. Unfortunately I am quite hectic at present to much analysis, but I think it’s safe to conclude that Kafka wrote this book out of disappointment of his own life and maybe, of the social condition. To what and why? I have still much to analyze… or do you know? Have you read the book? What is your conclusion?


Friday, January 13, 2017

Back to the Classics 2017

After much (and rather long) consideration, I have decided to participate again in Karen’s Back to the Classics 2017. I have failed my 2015 challenge and skipped the 2016, due to my personal activities. This year I think I would have more time to reading and blogging, and I feel my love of classics need to be nurtured and satisfied once again. 

Hence, here are the nine (of twelve) categories and the books I picked for the challenge (wish me luck!)...



A 20th century classic 
The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton (re-read)

A classic by a woman author.
Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather

A classic in translation.  
Max Havelaar by Multatuli

A classic published before 1800.
The Iliad by Homer

A Gothic or horror classic. 
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

A classic about an animal or which includes the name of an animal in the title.  
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

 An award-winning classic. 
The Age of the Innocence by Edith Wharton

A Russian classic
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Conquest of Plassans

Finally...another masterpiece from Zola! One of those that blow your minds.

The Conquest of Plassans follows the faiths of Marthe Rougon (daughter of Pierre and Felicité Rougon in The Fortune of the Rougons) and François Mouret (son of Ursule Macquart and a drunkard called Mouret—also depicted in The Fortune). They live peacefully with their children in a little town of Plassans, almost a perfect happy family. But one day Mouret has an idea to rent their second floor to a priest. Without their knowing, when Abbé Faujas arrived with his mother, the faiths of the Mourets have been sealed.

Little by little Faujas and his family—later on his sister and brother in law also live there—conquer Mourets household, just as Plassans being conquered by the Abbé. It all comes gradually, subtly, but cunningly, that no one realizes it until it is too late.

In this book Zola played a lot in psychological field, that is the process of madness. The seeds are already there by heredity, but it needs one trigger for it to start the process. I wonder, if someone with hereditary madness is living always a steady and peaceful life—thus never meets the trigger—could he or she be spared from the madness?

This book is very entertaining. What I like most is the way Zola patiently building the momentum. He let us know where it is going, yet we don’t know how or where it will end. And when the momentum came, it’s just…WOW! I savored the chapter of the madman very slowly, reading every sentence twice, and at the end it felt like I have had the best dinner in my life.

It was not the last chapter though… After so satisfying a chapter, I thought the last one would be slightly anti-climax (pardon me, M. Zola, for not trusting you completely!). But… lo and behold, the last sentence was absolutely unexpected. That was just brilliant! In the end I am so glad I can open this year with so nice reading experience. Again…. merci beaucoup Monsieur Zola!


Thursday, December 22, 2016

2017 Victorian Reading Challenge

You know how I love challenges. I do. But lately I have so many things in life that I no longer have time to write proper reviews for this blog as usual. I keep reading, though not as much as I have expected. But the reviews are the most challenging part right now.

So, I am very excited to find this Victorian Reading Challenge, firstly because it doesn’t require you to make reviews (yay...thanks Becky!). Secondly because Victorian literature is my favorite, and although I have vowed not to plan my reading for next year, well… I just can’t resist of having a reading list! It’s in my blood, I guess. Like, not knowing what I should read next can make me unsecured. Is it normal? LOL… Anyway, after consulting my reading list, and found that there are several Victorian books in it, I decided to join in.


Victorian Reading Challenge

Duration: January - December 2017
Goal: Read a minimum of 4 Victorian books



I might only take 6 categories (from original 32), but who knows… My original list of 2017 reading consists of 20 books (I am very pessimist at this moment), but if I have finished them before end of year, I would certainly add more Victorians into it. Here’s my plan:

_   5. A new-to-you book by a FAVORITE author: The Earth by Émile Zola
_ 11. A book published between 1871-1880: The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
_ 16. A book by Charles Dickens: Dombey and Son
_ 17. A book by Wilkie Collins: The Woman in White
X 23. A book translated into English: The Conquest of Plassans by Émile Zola
_ 29. Book with a name as the title: Claude’s Confession by Émile Zola

If you are interested too to do this challenge, find out more of the list and rules in Becky’s blog.


Monday, December 19, 2016

Brona’s Salon: Time for Another Dickens

If you like to talk about books you are reading, this might suit you well: Brona’s Salon. It’s a new meme which aims to gather a group of like-minded bookish people 'under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine the taste and increase the knowledge of the participants through conversation.'
(wikipedia)



I am in the middle of an exciting book right now, and am so exciting to share it with you…

 What are your currently reading?

Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens




How did you find out about this book?

I always love to read Dickens, and have meaning to read all his books.


Why are you reading it now?

There is no more perfect time to read Dickens than December! Do you agree? ;)


 First impressions? 

The opening is really dark, so at first I was afraid it would be as dark as The Mystery of Edwin Drood. But it turned out to be not that dark after all, although it’s still quite mysterious. Gaffer Hexam found a body drowned in the river, and it was believed to be John Harmon’s. Harmon’s father has inherited his assets to John on condition that he must marry a poor girl named Bella Wilfer. It was on his way back home to London that John Harmon was drowned.

That was only a summary for first chapter. Then the story unfolds to so many characters and background stories, that you can’t put it down too long without the risk of losing track of the story. See…. Dickens is always perfect for December reading!


Which character do you relate to so far?

Eugene Wrayburn, the barrister. From his first appearance, I was at once in love with his straightforward, laid back and insolent character.


Are you happy to continue?

Definitely! I am now in page 400s, and this book is becoming more and more interesting. Although the mystery around John Harmon has been slowly unfolding, it’s still interesting to see what would happen to the main characters. Finger-cross for the happiness of Lizzie Hexam!


Where do you think the story will go? 

As with all Dickens’ stories, I think it will end up good for the poor and honest lots, but the hypocritical ones will suffer.


So, how is your December reading so far?


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Brona’s Salon: Zola’s “Money”


This is my second participation in Brona’s Salon. It’s a new meme which aims to gather a group of like-minded bookish people 'under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine the taste and increase the knowledge of the participants through conversation.'
(wikipedia)

So, here’s mine…

What are your currently reading?

Money by Émile Zola



How did you find out about this book?

I have become a hardcore fan of Zola right after reading Therese Raquin, back in 2011. Naturally I then searched for more of his books. And how delighted was I when being introduced to the Rougon-Maquart series with 20 books. 20, yay! Money is the 18th book of the series.

Why are you reading it now?

My first reading from Rougon-Maquart is L’Assommoir. I picked Oxford World Classics (OWC) edition, and was very satisfied with the translation. Plus OWC uses lovely paintings for its cover, and I love it! So, I decided to read the series from OWC edition in random order. Money is one of the latest being published, and I am also reading it for The Classic Club challenge.

 First impressions? 

It will be slightly boring because of its financial theme. But, knowing Zola and his story-telling talent, I still had hope.

Which character do you relate to so far?

Madame Caroline. She is a trusted friend and also mistress of Saccard (born Aristide Rougon—from The Kill). Madam Caroline is a sensible and self-esteemed woman. She admires Saccard’s ambition to “conquer financial world”, but does not let passion overcome her conscience. She seems to know what must be done, and although disagrees with Saccard, she keeps protecting him from scandals. Though she is broken-hearted over Saccard’s affair, she still befriends him.

Are you happy to continue?

Of course! It has been a pleasant reading, although I’m not very familiar with the stock exchange terms and system.  

Where do you think the story will go? 

I am only 100s pages left to end, so it’s quite obvious about how Saccard’s condition would be. But I am really curious about how Madam Caroline would react.


So, have you read this book?