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am 30. Juli 2000
Shimmering beauty and shocking sensuality are the only phrases to adequately describe A.S. Byatt's Angels and Insects.
Although this novella really encompasses two distinct stories, my comments focus on Morpho Eugenia, my favorite of the two, and, in my opinion, by far the superior.
Set more than a century ago, in Victorian England, Angels and Insects (Morpho Eugenia) follows the life of William Adamson, a naturalist who has spent years of research in the jungles of South America.
A shipwreck sends him to the home of his benefactor, the Reverend Harald Alabaster, an amateur insect collector of enormous wealth.
Upon arriving at Alabaster's sumptuous country estate, poor William instantly falls in love with Alabaster's eldest daughter, Eugenia, a weak and wan, but still golden, beauty.
Although Eugenia appears to be out of his reach, William embarks upon a shy courtship and is more than a little surprised when his proposal of marriage is accepted. And, on their wedding night, the usually distant, aloof and somewhat mysterious Eugenia has even more surprises in store. Surprises William soon comes to savor.
Complicating matters is Eugenia's brother, a socially misfit snob who takes an instant dislike to William and talks incessantly of children who grow up sans the proper breeding...breeding poor William's genes cannot provide, of course.
Eugenia, herself, soon begins to show a darker side as her mood swings from lustful to ravenous to passionate to melancholy. Feeling a bit over his head in this baronial estate, William begins to experience somewhat of an attraction to his drab and dull, but very intelligent, assistant.
Angels and Insects is a fascinating book and, as always, Byatt lets us become intimately involved with her characters.
The real triumph though, lies in the book's symbolism. The Victorians were fascinated with the insect world and Byatt uses this fascination to refect the social order of the times: the women are doted on by servants as if they were queen bees and colonies of ants mirror the red and black jackets worn during a fox hunt.
Angels and Insects takes a fascinatingly intimate look at the quirkiest of families, one whose secrets and prejudices simply cannot be dismissed.
It is William's drab assistant who sums up the book's theme. "There are three kinds of people in this house: the visible, the invisible and the in between." Angels and Insects is a lyrically sensual portrait of the fascinating world of the in between.
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am 21. März 2008
"Angels und Insects" enthält 2 Erzählungen, die im viktorianischen England spielen. In "Morpho Eugenia" heiratet der Forscher William Adamson in die Familie seines Gönners ein. Was ihm zuerst die Erfüllung aller seiner Träume zu sein scheint, kommt ihm zunehmend fremdartig und seltsam vor - nicht zu Unrecht, wie er am Ende erkennt.
Den Hintergrund zu "The Conjugal Angel" bilden die eine Zeitlang so populären spiritistischen Sitzungen; es geht vor allem (aber nicht nur) um die Beziehung von Alfred Tennysons Schwester Emily zu ihrer ersten Liebe, dem früh verstorbenen Arthur Hallam.

"Angels and Insects" ist ein sehr kluges Buch - beinahe schon zu klug und damit zu ausgefeilt, um wirklich zu berühren. Die erste Geschichte ist wunderschön ausgedacht - es ist faszinierend, wie die Parallellen zwischen dem Leben im Herrenhaus und den Ameisen-und Bienenvölkern, die William Adamson studiert, immer auffälliger und unheimlicher werden. Die Passagen, in denen aus den Werken zitiert wird, die Lord Alabaster bzw. William verfassen, fand ich allerdings zu lang. Auch Mattys Märchen unterbricht den Erzählfluss und stört eher, als dass es die Geschichte bereichert; die Aussage, die daraus zu gewinnen ist -"Things are not what they seem" - hätte sich kürzer, prägnanter und wesentlich wirkungsvoller darstellen lassen. Ich wurde zeitweise schon ziemlich ungeduldig, weil ich wissen wollte, wie die eigentliche Geschichte weitergeht.
Leidet "Morpho Eugenia" schon etwas an Geschwätzigkeit, tut es "The Conjugal Angel" noch viel mehr. Das liegt sicher auch daran, dass die Geschichte der Engels-Erzählung weniger stark ist - es tut sich rein inhaltlich nicht viel, sie handelt hauptsächlich von Verlustgefühlen und wie verschiedene Menschen mit ihnen umgehen. Die langen Monologe einiger Charaktere sind ziemlich ermüdend (vielleicht nicht für jemanden, der sich mit Sörenberg oder Tennyson wirklich gut auskennt, aber für Laien wie mich schon).
Man könnte jetzt sagen, "Angels and Insects" ist halt keine einfache Lektüre. Aber dieses Buch erstickt stellenweise fast an seiner eigenen Klugheit und ist auch für Leute, die ihr Gehirn nicht ausschalten, wenn sie ein Buch zur Hand nehmen, oft einfach nur mehr anstrengend. Die Gelehrigkeit wird Selbstzweck. Anders als nach der Lektüre von "Possession" war da, als ich das Buch ausgelesen hatte und weglegte, kein Zauber.
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am 7. Februar 1999
A. S. Byatt's "The Conjugial Angel," second novella of Angels and Insects, masterfully and tenderly revives the story of Alfred Tennyson and his college friend and mentor, Arthur Hallam. The story looks into a spiritualist group which meets in the home of Emily Tennyson Jesse, Alfred's sister and Arthur's fiance at the time of his death, and although members of the group have individual desires and losses, the reader soon learns that one of their highest goals is to contact the spirit of Hallam. Emily, it seems, has unfinished business with him. She has felt overshadowed by her brother's public expression of grief in his grand poem In Memoriam; she has felt angry and seems to believe her life has been on "hold" since Hallam's death. It is true that she married Captain Jesse, but in so doing, she incurred expressions of disapproval from many including Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Hallam, too, has "issues," the chief being chained to earth by these grieving, unsettled people. One of the women of the seance group finally encounters Hallam in a horrible but artistically powerful scene, and they together also connect with Tennyson, now an old man. This is one of the book's tenderest scenes. Others include the narrator's presentation of the nineteenth-century's answer to Carlyle's question "What exactly is a miracle?" and another longed-for reunion of a wife and her husband, long assumed lost at sea. All in all, The Conjugial Angel is a tour de force, and yes, it is made sweeter if the reader is up on nineteenth-century literary history and a vulnerable reader of In Memoriam. I just taught this novella alongside In Memoriam in a course I called "Bronte et al. Today"; we also read Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea, and several other nineteenth-century classics with their contemporary "spins." It was exhilarating, and the Tennyson/Byatt pairing was as powerful as any other two. Byatt is deep, scholarly; she quotes a little poetry here, too--not nearly the amount used in Possession!--but the result is of sterling reading quality.
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am 25. Juli 1996
Readers who are familiar with Byatt's "Possession", may think
at first glance that the two novellas offered in this book are
nothing new. True, these novellas repeat some of the same
elements, in setting and in theme: they are both explorations of
the passionate lives of Victorian intellectuals. But these
two short works are a revelation, marked by Byatt's
distinctive blend of an ambitious curiosity to find out what makes
people tick and a respect for the mysteries she uncovers.
The first novella, "Morpho Eugenia", is the basis of the
current movie "Angels and Insects". It starts from an
ingenious premise: a Scottish naturalist, having spent
years in the Amazonian jungle, is taken into a landed family,
and uses his skills of observation and his knowledge of
social insects to interpret this well-appointed hive. But
ingenuity alone often wears thin after a few chapters; Byatt does
not rely on this premise alone to carry the novella, but rather
uses it to reveal the interactions between high-minded obsessions,
such as science and theology, and the less consciously examined
human habits of erotic attraction and snobbery. In fact,
this novella could be described by the term one character
offers to describe the project of the natural history of the ants:
"the observation of the unknown world close to hand".
The second novella, "The Conjugial Angel" is, in some ways,
an even more amazing balancing act between the the ordinary and
the mysterious. It uses the implicit parallel between seances
and poetry, as two ways in which we try to understand the loss
of love and try to regain what we have lost. Again, as with
the ants in the first story, the temptation many authors would
fall prey to, is to use spiritualism as an example of simple
naivete and either romanticize it or dismiss it. Byatt makes
poetry as much a heartfelt striving to repair loss as
spiritualism is, and the seance as much an artful
comment on human nature as poetry is. She both dissects and
yet somehow leaves intact the mysteries of desire, intellect and art.
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am 1. Januar 2000
Let me explain my 4 stars: I would have liked to give a 5-Star for "Morpho Eugenia" and a 3-Star for "Conjugal Angel." All the reviews here are correct in that A.S. Byatt is an amazing writer thoroughly versed in Victorian England. Her observation is keen and her prose style is assured. I can't really name another author besides Byatt who manages to weave narrative and intellectual discussion so seamlessly. The first of the two novellas, "Morpho Eugenia," is immediately appealing. I was hooked by the story very quickly through lush descriptions and how Byatt deftly sets up the conflict and character dynamics. I enjoyed "Conjugal Angel" much less. This one demands much more on the readers, especially if they are not familiar with Tennyson and Hallam. Even if you're a pro in Victorian poetry, you may find (as I did) the opening confusing in setting up the premise of the drama and introducing characters. The prose seems discursive and lacking in focus from time to time--very uneven. But you can't beat the nice surprise ending, almost conventional and (dare I use the word?) sentimental, Byatt's erudition notwithstanding. :-)
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am 13. Mai 2000
It's weird. It's quirky. It's erotic. It's strange. Byatt does a superb job of digging into the well hidden secrets of a Victorian family in Morpho Eugenia. The subtle comparison to insect societies is superbly done. I just wish that this novel had not been paired with The Conjugal Angel. This second novel just doesn't live up to the quality of Morpho Eugenia. It's just a bore. Buy Angels and Insects for the first novel. Skip the second one. Morpho Eugenia remains one of my favorite quirky novels. I just wish that the movie was available on DVD.
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am 7. Februar 1999
I have read several works by A.S. Byatt, and I must say that Angels and Insects is her best yet. Her understanding of romanticism literature and human emotions make this story seem real. It will make you cry, gasp, laugh, and scream without you knowing it either. I highly recommend this book to anybody who loves gothic, romanticism stories set in the 19th century with an intelligence all of its own. It makes you realize the imperfections of humans, even in the most prestiegest of families.
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am 18. November 2001
For those willing to sacrifice a lazy read for the pleasure of good literature, this is definitely a book to consider. Not the kind of book to read when you're tired, Angels & Insects needs the reader's full attention at all times (and captures it very well, in my opinion).
The book contains two short stories or novellas, dealing with the dichotomy of nature and culture.
Set in Victorian Times, this work of historical fiction combines the writing of the time with modern elements of fictional writing. Together, they present a unique experience for the reader.
A captivating read and one I would recommend to all lovers of literature.
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am 17. Mai 2000
These two novells really transfixed me. I was deeply moved and affected by both of them. (The Conjugial Angel a bit more) Her use of language, romanticism, and setting is simply fabulous. This isn't a "normal" book at all. It's much more deep and intriging. Byatt has such a talent for imagery and words. A real read...deep, emotional and full of passion. Really Good!
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am 6. Oktober 2014
I expected a kind-of-used book, since it was described as such, but I was really pleased that it looked as if it was rarely ever opened!
No markings or anything :)
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