Sunday, July 24, 2011

Her Fearful SymmetryHer Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I have to admit that only my admiration for Audrey Niffenegger’s first novel, “The Time Traveler's Wife” (which I found it stunning, compelling, and very original) made me to finish her second novel, “Her Fearful Symmetry”…or cemetery. Otherwise, I am pretty sure, I would have put it away after its first half played (I actually listened the audiobook).


The exploration of love beyond life and time continues also in “Hear Fearful Symmetry”. And not only love, but also identity. A pretty ambitious subject that perhaps was a little bit too much, this time, for Niffenegger. She started well, by creating that cold and ethereal atmosphere of death, that painful feeling of loss and sorrow. But soon she got lost and stuck in those too many threads that she had woven for launch the story. A far too many characters: two pairs of twins, a couple who gets apart, a PhD lover who never ends his thesis, a husband who pretends he doesn’t know who is his wife, an old pair that (misleadingly?) looks like keeping an old secret, and a poor kitten that has twice to die in order to reveal some peculiar forces of … a ghost!! And then another ghost, and many others. And also many plots that fail to merge. The result is a “ghosthic” story, inconsistent, un-deepen and, what is worse, unreasoned. The only exception from this disastrous literary attempt is the cemetery: Highgate Cemetery given by Niffenegger in all its glory!
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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Appointment: A NovelThe Appointment: A Novel by Herta Müller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Though this is not one of my favourite books by Herta Müller, I still recommend it. It is representative for her style, which I personally find breathtaking. It is strong and sharp, expressing sadness, frustration and even a kind of guilt of living within an oppressive regime, like that one of Ceausescu. A regime that forced people to become cowards and to renounce their humanity; and those who cared about their conscience remained alone, very alone, isolated, unable to rely on somebody or something. Herta Müller does not forgive anyone, including herself. But what makes Müller to be a very special writer, in my opinion, is not only her obsession (with Securitate and Ceausescu), but her incredible force of playing with words, weaving them, creating wonderful and fresh associations, transforming ugliness in beauty. My favourite readings by her are “Nadirs” (a collection of short stories), “The King Bows and Kills” (essays about her youth in Banat), “Everything I possessed I Carry With Me” (what a cruel disappointment to find out that her best friend, the poet Oskar Pastior, who inspired her in writing this novel, had been a collaborationist himself!) and “Travelling on One Leg” (a very touching story about her experience in West Berlin, after her emigration from Romania). Her “collage” books with poems are very interesting as well …and very creative!
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Monday, July 18, 2011

The Sacred NightThe Sacred Night by Tahar Ben Jelloun
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

La nuite sacrée, The Sacred Night – the night of purge, the night of truth, the night of rebirth. With this night, the 27th one of Ramadan, starts the Tahar Ben Jelloun’s book: a very promising beginning. But what is next is just … disappointing. It is a tale about the role of woman in the Islamic world as a dark, dense, intricate, surrealistic, and almost unbearable story. It is not only the mix between reality and hallucinations that disturbs, but also the blending of poetry and violence, and especially that heavy eroticism. Sex is abused in this book. It is used as a measure of control, lie, freedom, love and desire, hate and revenge. And if Zahra may spiritually have won the right to her feminity, she still remained a slave from the sexual point of view. And this is only half of freedom.
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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Under the FrangipaniUnder the Frangipani by Mia Couto
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

With a simple, but a strong and grave voice (which reminds me of Ismail Kadare), Mia Couto recreates in “Under the Frangipani” the history of his country, Mozambique: with its traditions, beauty and complexity, with its struggles across the centuries of occupation and years of weird freedom. Not only the whole story, but every sentence of this original micro-novel is a fable. The big truths, in all their deepness, are said within an amazing simple way that only can come from the wisdom of the already lived life; or, better, from the afterlife.  In the Sao Nicolau fort is no time, and (almost) no life. There are only dead people and dead souls. Alive is only frangipani, the old big tree, which first has to lose his leaves, in order to blossom up again. And this is hope; the hope of life after the death.
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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The InfinitiesThe Infinities by John Banville
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Infinities?? Yes, there could be many as worlds could be. Like at Arden, where old Adam is lying on his deathbed, while the Greek Gods are continuing their demiurgic jobs. Where life is never ending, though the death is pretty close. Where gods and people are the same: half funny and half gloomy, half smart and half stupid, unpredictable. Pretty normal, could be said. Banville created this mixed universe full with “the mysteries of the others” using his unmistakable style, which consists of a smart dosage between dark humour and optimistic poetry. I found this book both intellectual and funny and I loved the characters: especially Rex, the dog (who else?), that seemed to be the most intelligent creature from Arden. However I felt some flaws, a kind of inconsistency in the way in which narration develops. But this is only Hermes’ guilt! :)
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