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All Quiet on the Western Front
All Quiet on the Western Front
von Erich Maria Remarque
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 6,49

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5.0 von 5 Sternen A Rare Light to Escape from the War, 15. Juli 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: All Quiet on the Western Front (Taschenbuch)
In some way, All Quiet on the Western Front lacks the spark and depth that establishes War and Peace as the ultimate combat novel. Yet when one scrutinizes the common features of warfare, it is not so difficult to realize that war reflects so much darkness in humanity that there is nothing extraordinary about it. In this sweeping tale set in WWI, the author promulgates nothing bombastic as the narrator hastily jots down the face of death he perceives in motion. The story is able to transcend nationality and politics; Paul Baumer, a German soldier (who could very well been an English one, a French one, a Russian one) fresh out of highschool, sees himself in his enemies and vice versa. He enlists with a vague conviction to serve and be glorified, and as his classmates and he wake up to the dusty reality of war, the freshness of youth quickly evaporates. No more bubbles of ideal, bubbles of anything as Paul finds all that his formal life was based on shattered and dissolved in the trenches. The brutality of war does not destroy Paul and his classmates essentially although the undertone of the story becomes cloudier, but that is the mere shadow of Paul's development as an individual--eroding away in the acidity of confusion.
Even though he declares that one loses Selfhood in a war, Paul does emerge with a less acute sense of nationhood. Indeed, he is alone, on the Western Front, puzzled by the purpose of sacrifices made by millions of youth--on both sides. Remarque does not employ melodious voices and profound concepts to demean warfare on a grander, spiritual scale; instead, the down-to-earth sentences, glide loutishly like a young man of twenty into readers' understanding. Gawky Muller, flirtatious Leer, clear-headed Albert, and weathered Kat stand out as faceless as possible, what a mural they paint with their muddy cheeks and bold laughs, one feels at once the connection to these lads, it's their commonality that evokes and kindles. The transition these men make from students, peasants, postmen to "butchers" is so gradual and tender that so many harsh scenes turn to overwhelming tear-jerkers. Tolstoy touched sympathy with his grand focal point--high above what common men saw behind the bloody veil; well, Remarque led us through that bloody veil, sparing no details. And their pain and anguish are transmitted so simplistically that they produce such thundering effect on the heart; after all, scars never need any decorations, the rawness of cruelty and human weakness lay bare in the trenches that overlook a western front that may never quiet. War is always a difficult subject to fictionalize because it fastens extensive strings on humanity in countless ways. Remarque plucks only one string and watches it vibrate, the node is naive and plain, but it echoes in everyone's heart because the flame of life burns in all of us. And this flame keeps Paul groping in the deep trenches for an exit, but he himself has long vanished in the narrow tunnel towards light. All his beliefs fuse into reality, his facade into bestiality, and his morals into the emptiness of ignorance. This is a very emotional work that keeps one pondering long afterwards, long after the echoes of aeroplanes, bayonets, rifles, hand grenades die away. We readers understand how crucial a role this warfare will forever play in these soldiers' future. The specter of warfare will always be there to haunt humanity; the beasts released during the war may never tire and the men remain forever tattered by the period without morality and understanding. Such is the vicarious pain.


Dead Souls (Oxford World's Classics)
Dead Souls (Oxford World's Classics)
von Nikolai Gogol
  Taschenbuch

5.0 von 5 Sternen A treasure of ironies, 13. Juli 2000
Before moving onto Gogol's most famed piece, I had the chance to savour a taste of his folklore side through Taras Bulba. The Ukaranian native possesses what I understand to be the Russian soul, not something restrained by political boundaries, but a sense of humour, a sense of understanding, and a sense of wisdom unique only to the Russian people. Dead Souls is the perfect example of such a combination. The story evolves around up-start Chichikov's clandestine pursuit of wealth through the purchase of dead souls which leads onto other intrigues more heinous on the surface. As he arrives at one town after another, he dazzles the society with his superb taste and exquisite character, yet behind his "wonderfully humble nod of the head", lies a corrupted soul that is bringing out everyone's darkest ambitions. With hundreds of "wise phrases", this book is a true allegory--Gogol drags the readers on with the dark humour, only to lead them to the feet of a supreme realization. The author also took special care to name his characters such as their names stand for something specific in the Russian language. Surely few expects to discover much as the chase for truth dashes through episode after episode of innocent funnies, yet when you do get there, you realize you have already garnered much on the way, the humour comes back as the simplest truth.
The hiatus was of some problem, but a good edition offers the chance to patch up the missing pieces at the end. As some other review mentioned, the ultimate irony is the fact that Chichikov is the true dead soul, devoid of morality, blinded by greed, and chastised by the very travesty of justice--a crippled system that is manipulated by dead souls such as Chichikov. Indeed, this is a piece of literature that makes one ponder long after the last page is turned. There are just so many hidden switches that trigger the senses and tantalizes one's security about our world. Gogol's vision still holds true for today, a highly materialized world, maybe this classic will offer some seemingly antedeluvian advice on our very modern problem of ambition. After all, there is a dead-soul dealer in all of us, and Chichikov is far from the villian (as Gogol calls him "our hero").


The English Patient (Vintage International)
The English Patient (Vintage International)
von Michael Ondaatje
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 10,99

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5.0 von 5 Sternen Poetic and Hallow, 27. Juni 2000
Desipte Minghella's focus on the romance of the English patient, this book is not a mere tale of doomed love (presented as gorgeous as possible however on the big screen, thus leading most of us astray). Ondaatje intended a lurid story of identities, so many different identities of utterly uncrossable lives that come fusing into one rhapsody. This tune is so soulful and the rapport between the 4 main undertones is truly amazing. Yes, in a way, these undertones lose their distinctions as they are weaved in the burned patient's story in the deserted villa on the Italian front, during WWII Nazi's retreat.
Count Almasy is the burned patient--faceless and nameless, for whom the emotionally scarred nurse Hana stays behind. He recalls details w/ such alacrity and recite senses w/ such keenness, the young Canadian nurse immediately finds herself enamored with this "ghost". Hana herself lost her father in the war, what she holds as protection against the acidity of warfare remains the English patient, who remembers much yet refuses to accept any. Shortly after, joining them is a maimed thief, Caravaggio, an enigma during the war working as a spy for the allies. He is in possession of one piece of clue to the English patient's identity, and he is desperate enough for that identity b/c much of his own remaining dignity and hope have long intertwined with the burned man's past. Last of all, the supposedly strongest vibe in the blues tune creeps warily into the villa--Kip, a Sikh sapper with Ondaatje's alienation in the white man's world all over his skin.
The romance between Kip and Hana seems inevitable, but their youthful affection has none of the realistic ownership overwhelmingly expressed between Almasy and his lover, Katherine Clifton, a married woman that took his face away from him. Ownership, more than anything else, keeps Almasy's desert romance alive, the blinding flame of its passion and its ignorance during rapid colonization. Almasy, a linguist and explorer, sees the world as one preserved mural; in some way, he sees love the same way--as pristine as the uncharted desert of North Africa. Love may have long been conquered as nomads roamed the desert, its devious curves remain charted and mapped and grasped. He seeks out the shortcuts and wakes his proud soul with a possessive force. What dooms his love? His sense of the world, or rather his lack of it? Love is multifaceted, and the forbidden territory is divided, much like the "civilized" world.
Civilization has instigated much progress and much enlightenment. But to these 4 shattered souls, humanity is nothing but enlightened by the tremendous darkness of the human mind. The mind that is so eager to conquer and to suppress and to differentiate. The primal alienation comes from Kip, and as he befriends a man who may have compromised the lives of allied soldiers for a simple promise, he himself fades away into the night with the woman he knows he can never have. Caravaggio's injury of the hands symbolize humanity crippled by warfare, and as he even grows weary of morphine, as much as Truth, he comes to see Almasy's decisions judgments made not for any country, but overlooking all nationhood.
Poet writer Michael Ondaatje deserves all the recognition this book has brought him. There has rarely been such tender force behind a modern writer's pen-nonchalant on the surface, but pounding at the core of truth. And truly, seldom have I been so moved and touched by plain words weaved together with naivety, yet such rhythm! This is not a novel of anguish, or of anti-war sentimentalities; it simply records lives, so many different lives existing in parallel universes of humanity, looking over for intersections that never come.


The Rainbow (Wordsworth Classics)
The Rainbow (Wordsworth Classics)
von D H Lawrence
  Taschenbuch

2 von 2 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen Probing for truth beyond the mist of lust, 14. Juni 2000
Sunshine is a substance of transparency, yet when it touches the soft mist and shines through the concrete droplets, the arc of color manifests and dazzles the human yes. In many ways, this is the journey of man as the essence of living is filtered through the mist of love. D.H. Lawrence's controversial Rainbow makes few reference to the natural phenomenon as rainbow, yet through out the lines, readers feel the "unbearable lightness of being" sipping through to cinch the yearning hearts. Countless twenty-century writers dedicated their finest works to capture this evanescence, and surviving through scandals and suppression is this ambitious piece.
One of the unique faces of The Rainbow is its treatment of characters; instead of expanding from individuals, D.H. Lawrence reverses focus and lets the plot drift along. It's impossible to determine which character is the true protagonist because individuality is simply abashed in this banned work. In place of emphasis on characters, Lawrence traces a circuitous journey through three generations-alternating voices of three generations of Brangwen women. Despite the complexity of this novel however, each of these three women are given their space to dictate the path of their own rainbow. The word "journey" itself is repeated frequently enough, and the torch of change is constantly being passed along. The journey traces from the Polish widow to her Brangwen husband, her daughter to another Brangwen, and eventually the "heiress" of Brangwen memories-Ursula. The mother-daughter loop itself is a symbolic journey as the understanding of love is inherited.
As a novel focusing on the very nature of relationships and their connection to love, to sex, and to God, The Rainbow captures the pain and anguish of each woman as they come to possess the fruit of union with a man. And as the daughter gains voice over the ailing mother, the readers come to see how much time leads the mind towards something new. All characters seek illumination of love, and different from conventional romance novels, The Rainbow traces not the journey of one person, but the journey of an understanding. Anna Brangwen, the daughter of Lydia Lensky, finds a lover with whom she develops "a sensuality violent and extreme as death" (280), a relationship that ends in great fecundity. As her fresh and wishful perspective fades, her eldest daughter, Ursula commands the pace as she comes to possession of passion. Through her youthful flirtation with Anton Skrebensky, Ursula grows to be an emotional teacher eager to share her passion, only finding herself shut down by reality into "a hard, insentient thing" (445). Her meager knowledge of love leads her to a physical and emotional affair with Skrebensky as both grope for the truth behind relationships. But this truth is too grand for both of them as they yield to the tempting nature of passion, and let love pass by. But does the journey stop there?
"The primeval darkness falsified to a social mechanism" (499) is indeed the chimera that propels all characters towards the light of human affections. During a time of great changes, men and women cannot help but clang to one thing that seems unscathed-this primordial sense of protection in the bodies of opposite sex. But this need fades so fast as they probe deeper into the soul in search of the amorphous answer that leaves them sleepless. Just as the sun penetrates through the seductive veil of mist, the characters reach a point where physical relationships is a concrete something that does not satisfy. But while they reach in the darkness of lust for the light of emotional union, all falter just as the beautiful array of colors fade away. The sunshine never fails to reach earth, but it never fails to trick wild hearts into the trap of a surreal realm of love-the paradise beyond the rainbow.


Heart of Darkness: (Penguin Great Books of the 20th Century)
Heart of Darkness: (Penguin Great Books of the 20th Century)
von Joseph Conrad
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 13,40

5.0 von 5 Sternen The Unfathomable Fathom, 28. April 2000
Known as Conrad's most enigmatic and haunting work, this 1902 psychological thriller continues to pluck strings deeply planted in the human heart. Story of a young Englishman Marlow's adventure up the Congo River, Conrad paints a surreal yet harshly concrete tale evolving around the disturbances of the spirit. Marlow narrates his encounter (mental and physical) with the unfathomable Kurtz, a half-English, half-French ivory trader in the heart of Dark Africa yet to be explored. Long before Kurtz even takes shape and dictates his own path, his life is sewn into the lush landscape and told by despairing pioneers who worship the very characteristics that drive Kurtz to madness-the ambition to crown Western colonialism with the last uncharted puzzle of humanity. His impenetrable nature, more so than Congo it seems, dazzles and puzzles the natives as well as the whites who attempt to gain a better sense of identity through supremacism. Kurtz's ability to exert control over men and rule spiritually without physical manipulation is revealed as Marlow's own troubled spirit fuses into Kurtz's whirlpool of obsession to conquer and glorify brutality of another sort. Thus as Marlow ventures upstream towards Kurtz's quarter, appalled and fascinated by Kurtz's ominous sense of balance in a world of cannibals. Again, men who come hoping to conquer and penetrate, find not virgin soul ready to be sown with Western seeds, but the ultimate unconquerable and impenetrable in their own frail heart too shielded from the naked truth of life. Here, in Congo, Kurtz loses sanity as he is forced to stoop when he is conquered and penetrated by the harshness of Africa and its beaming beastliness that also roars underneath his pale skin. Marlow, as the sole heir to Kurtz's memory as a "hero", returns with a tale of desperation and of hate. Desperation and hate not of one person, but of one race/one world whose conscience is forever scarred by what they cannot fathom-darkness within themselves.
"For me it crawled towards Kurtz-exclusively... deeper and deeper into the heart of darkness.


The Sea Gull (Dover Thrift Editions)
The Sea Gull (Dover Thrift Editions)

5.0 von 5 Sternen Elaborate and Realistic: crown of Chekov, 24. April 2000
Inspired by a real-life incident of the death of a sea gull, this is hailed as the best written play by Chekov, The Sea Gull tells a poignant love story centered on literaray nonentity Konstantin's tragic quest for a burgeoning actress Nina. Swirling around the country estate are characters who reflect Konstantin's pain and suffering in their own harshly realistic ways. In this famed play, Chekov introduces a brand new form of literature as to emphasize characters other than plot. Instead of placing characters beneath a steady frame, Chekov lets his characters guide the subtle movement of the sad tale of devastated dreams and hopes. The dying sea gull symbolizes the emptiness of defeat and further stressing the beauty of life. The fullness of being simply alive comes beaming with power and touches life.


The Poisonwood Bible (Oprah's Book Club)
The Poisonwood Bible (Oprah's Book Club)
von Barbara Kingsolver
  Taschenbuch

4.0 von 5 Sternen An Unlikely Masterpiece: dazzles and puzzles, 24. April 2000
Kingsolver, after the successful Bean Trees, shifts gear to conquer a little piece of the unknown in this 1998 best seller, set in a Congo struggling for, then with its new identity. Caught in the dramatic events such as Kantaga's secession, mysterious death of Congo's first prime minister, and CIA entanglement, is a disillusioned Georgia family, tyrannized by a devout evangelical Baptist father against the backdrop of a dazed Black Africa. The first half of Poisonwood Bible dedicates itself to description of a serene village called Kilanga, where Nathan Price rooted his family, which remains superficially unchanged as the world around it changes faces. Despite the banality of fanatical preachers we have had in this half of the century, Kingsolver approaches the racist, supremacist, chauvinistic Father Price with an uneasy tenderness revealed in narration by his pessimistic and neurotic wife Oreleanna as well as their four daughters, who come to represent the different extremities that are to ail and be ailed by Congo. As Nathan becomes possessed with the religious fervor that pushes his family closer to the pit of ignorance and death, the natives prove themselves true kindred spirits and save the family despite Nathan's attempt to force Kilanga into marriage with Christianity. The first half ends in an exodus, which is only one of many vivid biblical allusions pervading this bible. The soothing tone of voice takes a sudden turn as readers are forced to draw attention away from the life and the people; the main weakness of this novel is indeed Kingsolver's intense intellectual storm in the second half that forces the reader to swallow history. There is an awkwardness in the transition that provides no continuity in the natural progress of the four sisters and the mother: frank but shallow Rachel, competitive but dogmatic Leah, philosophical but morbid Adah, and young but so very young Ruth May, and an ailing mother too scarred by the devastation of Congo's burgeoning aberration as a young independent country under Western shadow still. Almost similar to War and Peace except, Tolstoy was brilliant at picking up the thread, Kingsolver devotes the second half to reflections of her own political views through voices of different characters, that the magnitude of ideas and opinions come as an astounding force to push the unique intimacy established previously between the readers and characters completely away.
But despite its faults as an almost propagandized political novel, The Poisonwood Bible is a great read for what it evokes in you. Arrays of characters come fusing into the grand panaroma of Congo, to help shape a fragile yet stern frame of the human resilience. Do overlook Kingsolver's effort to "re-educate", Leah's defense of communism may seem tiresome at the end but one thing is certain that lurks behind every single line: Kingsolver's great love for a country, whose birth and growth are hindered by what Westerners continue to regard as phenomena. Her clear focus never did become hazy despite the verbose offence her latter half hastes to thrash upon Western Imperialism and expansionism. Perhaps Africa is a matter that demands far more folds, then Kingsolver does achieve an impressive balance to capture the very essence of struggle at least. Just like disabled twin Adah says in the book, "The Congo is only a long path that takes you from one hidden place to another," yield to the beautiful language and rhythm to be guided and questioned. History wise, read an encyclopedia for more accurate details.


The Divine Comedy: Volume 1: The Inferno
The Divine Comedy: Volume 1: The Inferno
von Dante Alighieri
  Taschenbuch

5.0 von 5 Sternen Journey to deep down under, 7. April 2000
Don't read Dante for his fame, don't judge The Inferno for its subject. Instead, savor Dante's overpowering language that is cleverly winded around one of life's most daunting matter-Hell. Pervaded with vivid and often gruesome imageries, Inferno captures the very essence of suffering through Dante's unqiue understanding of religion with a blend of paganism and christianity. Also it's a thrilling ride down the underworld to be met by history's greatest souls. The notes before every Canto is crucially helpful in helping readers keeping up with ancient historical references. And feeling yourself penetrating the Nine Circles of Hell in the company of Dante and Vergil, you will surely catch a rare taste of the living value as Vergil guides curious eyes down a path where judgment befalls every single flaw of human nature. Perhaps, just perhaps you will attain a better sense of your existence once matched against the standards of Nine Circles designed for different sins. I call that a gripping journey.


Lolita (Vintage International)
Lolita (Vintage International)
von Vladimir Nabokov
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 10,99

5.0 von 5 Sternen Appreciate Beauty in its Naked Form, 22. März 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Lolita (Vintage International) (Taschenbuch)
Despite continuous obsession with what beauty signifies, <Lolita> is still captivating readers worldwide w/ its pure stroke of genius, its glamorous yet clandestine charm, and most of all, the startling beauty of the English language mastered by a Russian. Of a tragically "romantic" and disturbing nature, <Lolita> captures the essence of perversion and obsession through the story of Humbert Humbert and his pre-teen nymph Dolores Haze, aka Lolita. The nature and consequence of Humbert's doomed passion is not meant to be judged; as a lost European romanticist, Humbert comes to encompass the fading European sensuality as he attempts to grasp his own lost innocence. His troubled adulthood is, according to Freud, the distorted extension of a nightmare never fully awaken from. After the failed romance in his childhood, Humbert grows into a tattered frame looking for protection in a daughter figure--Lolita. The true disturbing aspect of this masterpiece is the concept of "double seducer". Instead of presenting the mere form of child molesting, Nabakov further highlights the darkness of obsession and perversion by having Humbert seduced by a blossoming American girl eager to weave her net of "amor". The combination of Europe's weakening sensuality and America's burgeoning sexuality proves to be deadly as Humbert marries Lolita's mother in vain. What exactly make a nymph?
"Slightly feline outline of a cheekbone, the slenderness of a downy limb, and other indices with despair and shame and tears of tenderness forbid me to tabulate-the little deadly demon among the wholesome children; she stands unrecognized by them and unconscious herself of her fantastic power"
Lolita is not a mere juvenile character; the darkness of her soul, unclouded by Humbert's blind passion is of such shattering force that she transforms from the offended to the offender, the tormented to the tormentor. When I mentioned how Humbert was seeking a daughter-figure to assuage his anguish and incomplete development, Lolita is at the same finding the father figure in her "lover". Nabakov may not have intended a propaganda message through his bewitching prose, yet lurking hideously between the lines is the truth about children's seemingly untainted hearts. Oh no, no one is born free of sin, it takes only a spark to unleash the demonic nymph who is made to woo, to be wooed, to destroy, and to be destroyed. Humbert on the other hand, is far more than a mere spark; he sought the undying flame of beauty. Truly, unlike common criminals who consciously shatter the bounds of law and order, Humbert commits "crime" to attain beauty in a very ignorant yet sincere fashion that the disturbing way he accomplishes his goal appears pitiful.
If there were a boundary to love, would it have been drawn far far away from where Humbert and Lolita lay? Although the brutality of Humbert's passion eventually drives Lolita into the arms of another man, and consequently a different hell of ignorance and of pain, their story might as well been labeled as a surreptitious romance about a man and a woman finding SELF in each other, except the man is a middle-aged European and the woman a teenage American. Many argue that <Lolita> is a work of mere mental games and psychic labyrinth with an added advertisement for the American highway system, depended on which Humbert and his child-love traverse the entire country in order to escape and to embrace "beauty". But what Nabakov intended was an art piece, destined to dazzle and to puzzle the world with its bold exploration into some forbidden corner of the heart, and Hummy and Lo no larger than two mere figureheads made to laugh away down the highway of immoral passion. "The hell with morals," they sing.


The Death of Ivan Ilych and Other Stories: Family Happiness; The Kreutzer Sonata; Master and Man: Death of Ivan Ilych (Sc) (Signet classics)
The Death of Ivan Ilych and Other Stories: Family Happiness; The Kreutzer Sonata; Master and Man: Death of Ivan Ilych (Sc) (Signet classics)
von Leo Tolstoy
  Taschenbuch

5.0 von 5 Sternen Bubble of Life framed Forever, 21. März 2000
In this seemingly monotonous novella, Tolstoy approaches death with a fresh view for his contemporaries. Life, says Tolstoy, is nothing but a long stretched road of regulations, of normalities, and of ordinance. Ivan Ilych, a prominent official has led a glamorious life until he is struck by the notion of the transitory life. As he lay dying, the only pleasantry he could recall is from his distant childhood when his path was clear and his vision unclouded by ambition. Modern society is indeed a fierce experiementation ground for Social Darwanism: only the stronger survive, and the stronger pays the ultimate price with their soul in order to sustain the forever momentum of the conformist world. Death in no longer an end, it is the beginning, it is the resurrection Ivan Ilych could not achieve during his lifetime when he was dazzled by the illusions of life. But what of that life? He never lived as a person, instead, along w/ other toiling automaton striving to shed individuality in order to paint a great picture of unity, Ivan Ilych glided across time to reach the end without having once set foot on his path.


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