Sunday, 23 December 2012

Somerset Maugham "Theatre"

Everyone wants to know how a cinema or theater star looks like in everyday life. Do they really fall in love, suffer, read newspapers?

Somerset Maugham is a writer who miraculously describes female characters (Tiare in "Moon and Sixpence" or Ata of the same novel), but he is not too fond of putting women at the center of his works. The image of the actress, Julia Lambert, from the novel "Theater" is quite unique.

The answer to the question: “where do the actress end and a real woman begin?” will not be received. Only in a few episodes a mocking, able to speak vulgarly, mischievous "another Julia" looks at us from under her mask, but then again she hides somewhere in the corner of her dressing room. It is interesting what Roger, her son, thinks of her: "Sometimes I think that when you do not play, I can go to your room and find that it is empty, you simply do not exist."

Do you think fans and admirers want a real woman? I
n literature we encountered the phenomenon where a man starts living with an actress, but soon keeping her close to himself becomes boring (Zerbinetta from "Captain Fracasse" of Theophile Gautier runs away from the grand seigneur realizing that he does not love her, but her characters). So Julia is perhaps right that she does not remove the mask from her face.

Her assistant, Evie, a middle-aged London cockney - for whom Julia is transparent as glass -  sees everything, but does not criticize or comment, only utters sometimes : "Well, well" and wipes her nose. For everyone else it is hard to imagine the true motives of Ms. Lambert’s actions.

Did the young accountant Tom Fennel fall in love with a woman? Oh, no. While Julia looks marvelous and no one would give her more than 30 years, the main thing is his vanity - what a woman was he able to conquer!

"Do not touch idols, their gilding remains on your fingers", says an old truth. Tom begins to lose interest in Julia. But she discovers unexpectedly that she is seriously in love with him. Oh, the love of a woman over the age of forty! How tragic it is, if the beloved man is young! Julia tries to throw her feelings on stage. But her husband (the best looking gentleman in London, who manages not to notice anything, though the affair unfolds under his nose) picks an overlap???. "You overact - he tells her - you work on cheap effects." Her truth shown on stage is not convincing in real life. How ironic.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Women characters in Dickens's novels

Dickens is known by his delicate attitude to women; I mean his novels of course. Following women characters we see that, as a rule, women in Charles Dickens’s books are the embodiments of the highest ideals – a dear young lady, or a kind old lady. If you come across, say, members of thieves’ gang, such as Nancy in “Oliver Twist”, then you notice that even they aspire to kindness, they repent of their behavior, they die in an effort to get closer to the circle of respectable women. 

All sins in the novels of Dickens (stealing, drinking, cheating, selfishness) are expressed through men: Fagin (fence),  and, to say the least, not a kind Mr Dombey, and a whole string of selfish parish beadles, dishonest judges, indifferent jailers. Men in the works of Charles Dickens are bearers of rationality emasculated to complete callousness; they are not up to sentiments. Rare samples of Mr Pickwick type are rejected by the society, they are seen as cranks, and nobody chooses them as a role model.

A man must be cautious, not to let the emotions take his heart, be occupied by business rather than by emotions – that is the image of men in the works of Dickens. Among them, of course, sometimes a good old squire or a bookshop owner flashes through, but for the most part these are men with strong jaws, energetic, pursuing careers or supporting businesses, rearing sons to help themselves, as for the daughters…

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Ivan Bunin "Dark Avenues"

I would like to come back to the topic of beauty that was discussed in earlier posts. I re-read the "Easy Breathing" by Ivan Bunin, and could not but admire his talent. Piercing story,  it takes, maybe, fifteen minutes to read the story but the memories of it you have for the rest of your life. The protagonist is a young girl who, I would say, represents a symbol of joy of life, of everything sincere in us. And her death makes you deeply sad, as if something in you died.

I find this story is a perfection from all points of view. Chekhov said that writing for him meant striking out. Bunin  demonstrated that rule brilliantly. For example, the author does not describe the image of Olya Meshcheriyakova in details, he leaves it to the reader's imagination. He emphasizes the important thing - her presence in life, ease and elegance, which contrast with gloomy environment. Easy breathing is an association with a slight breeze, something beautiful and elusive to which we all aspire.

The image of the school mistress is interesting - an old spinster, a complete opposite to the main character. She is one of those who live long and poorly, stuck to a fictional dream or some other idea. After the death of Olya, she regularly visits the young girl's grave as if servicing funerals of her own soul.
Somehow, I have associations with Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany's, I don't know, probably you will have different ones.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Peter Hoeg "Smilla’s Sense of Snow"

It is almost winter. Do you have snow? Look at these magnificent pictures.

Smilla's feeling for snow

The Chinese say that a dish must contain five tastes to be harmonized; in fact they apply five elements formula to everything in life. I think the Book of Peter Hoeg "Smilla’s Sense of Snow" brings together five elements. Just the way I like it. 

First, it is an unusual detective story.

Second, you learn a lot about Greenland and Denmark. I have not been to any of these countries, therefore it was very interesting to discover winter Copenhagen. Hoeg raises also a social theme (Greenland, the largest island in the world has been, for centuries, a colony of Denmark. So you do not expect to count on the kindness of Greenlanders). 

Third, I was literally fascinated by countless descriptions of snow; I did not know that there exist so many names for snow and ice. I wanted to post many more photographs of snow to transfer the feeling of snow, which remains after the book. 

Fourth, there are elements of science, I actually did not like it a lot, sometimes the characters speak as if they are Wikipedia, the dialogues are long and omniscient. But I think that it will satisfy the taste of those who love scientific explanations and technical descriptions (especially of ships).

And finally, the most important character is the fifth element:), Smilla. Her cold loneliness, endless and snowy, but not painful (maybe sometimes) appeals me. I like that she does not work as a detective agent and her extraordinary potential opens up because of the situation in which she found herself. I like her Nordic passionate nature, I like the way Hoeg (almost without epithets) was able to communicate his special feeling to the main character, to the reality in which Smilla lives. You plunge into silence masterfully created by Hoeg, you understand without quotes, you perceive snow as a special kind of silence. In short, I love an outstanding and brave character of Smilla and her wonderful descriptions of snow.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Margaret Atwood "The Handmaid's tale"

Atwood-The Handmaid's tale
Did the book flash my feminist spirit? No and no.

The role of women in the imaginary society created by Margaret Atwood is "functional" but not diverse. Either you  are a Commander's wife (and must be present during your husband's  sexual intercourse with his Handmaid), or a Handmaid, and your role is limited to procreation. You may also be declared as Unwoman (women who are not able to have children) and sentenced to colonies where they die very quickly, or you can become Marthas (cooking, cleaning etc), there is also a possibility to become a sterile Prostitute for Commanders in a secret brothel. 

Handmaids are supposed to give birth and leave the child to the Commander's family. Then go to another house to fulfill the same duties. Each Handmaid has 2-3 - years for reproduction, afterwards they are deported to colonies. 

Everything is reduced to the cold functionality,robotic humanity. Frivolity is excluded  in every aspect of life - full dress covering bodies, "butterflies" in the collars, rigid Puritan traditions, no cosmetics, no books.

The handmaid, the main character of the book, is deprived of her name,  her husband, and her daughter.  She does not have clothes except for the hideous red robe symbolizing fertility and white wings covering her face. She does not have even a possibility to commit suicide. 

I read some reviews and many women are horrified by the fate of women in this book.  This  book is considered to be feminist. 

In fact, Margaret Atwood created a society in which men are just as unhappy as women. If you are one of the Commanders and do not have children with your wife, you are entitled to have a couple of Handmaids. The way Commanders have interscourse with their Handmaids, can make some men impotent:)  Men of lower ranking do not have rights to get married! Homosexuals are executed and their dead bodies hung from the city wall. If you flirt with Handmaids you will end up at the city wall. It seems that in a new society  women are supressed and the world belongs to men, but what exactly does this new society offer to men? Most of books and professions are banned. Due to military regime, a lot of men work as guards or patrol, which is as dull as being Marthas. Those citizens (men and women) who are involved in resistance, or simply do not agree with the regime are executed too. So why this book is feminist? I did not get that.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Alessandro Baricco "Silk"

Silk-Alessandro Baricco
Some people do not like this work, some do. I find  "Silk" of Alessandro Baricco interesting but it is not my favorite; he managed to stand out from the crowd. This story stays in memory due to its unusual rhythm which reminds me of Maurice Ravel's Bolero. Maybe he decided to express Japanese aesthetics in this way. The story also resembles an old fairy tale that focuses on the main story line omitting detailed descriptions, which is also facilitated by the book's design, its division into short chapters, and repetitions (repetitive long trips to Japan). Well, Alessandro Baricco experimented.

I think this book falls under the category "Women as symbols of hope, illusion, dream." Here, as in The Great Gatsby, a married Frenchman, Hervé Joncour, takes enormous efforts (in this story he undertakes long journeys from Europe to Japan) just to have a glimpse of his dream that he imagined.

A young Frenchman smuggles silkworms in 19th century. He is sent from France to Japan to pick up secret cargoes. In Japan, he meets a beautiful girl, a local rich man's mistress. They do not speak to each other, they do not touch each other. This tension, hidden promise and exotic culture made his passion grow like mount Fuji when you climb it. Not being able to speak the same language, they communicate through letters.  In the meantime military interventions begin in Japan, however the love of Joncour does not wane, and Helene, Joncour's wife, begins to suspect...

At the the end of the story Joncour understands that his true love was never far. The question is: why do we make tremendous efforts to discover one day that the truth is nearby?

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Barbara O'Brien "Operators and Things: The Inner Life of a Schizophrenic"


People are not very flexible. As soon as one gets out of ones comfort zone the world becomes a threat. Do you feel comfortable when people  speak a language you do not understand? Just imagine what fear people have towards crazy people who are not just representatives of another country, they are aliens. 

What is schizophrenia? Who visited this planet and came back from there in his/her right mind? 

Barbara O'Brien is a pseudonym of a woman who worked in a big corporation during 1950-1960. She worked in a typical snake atmosphere which we all witness today. However such a corporate ambiance was not for impressionable natures like Barbara. One day, Barbara realized that she got crazy in the literal sense of the word. Her personal journey back and forth to madness Barbara described magnificently.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Laura Esquivel "Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies"

Some people are called sensual I would call this story very sensual.

The book is about a Mexican family consisting of women only: a tyrannical mother, three sisters, a cook and a few servants. The story happens at the turn of the 20th century and the major place of actions is the kitchen of the de la Graza ranch. The book is about tasty things and is written deliciously so you swallow it in one go like an oyster.

Any author who uses food metaphors in her/his writings is doomed to be remembered because these kind of metaphors appeal to our instincts. It works exactly like with the sense of smell, take, for example, "Perfume" of Patrick Suskind. When I was reading it I suddenly noticed that I was breathing deeply as if trying to absorb more flavor, sometimes I would hold my breath for a long time. My body will remember "Perfume" forever:)

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Isadora Duncan "My life"

She is a truly free person, partly thanks to her childhood. 

Her parents were divorced. Her mother taught music to provide for four children, i.e. during the days there were neither governesses nor educators, those who bring up children "fitting the society" as Isadora says. This does not mean that her mother was not involved in her children's education, on the contrary she played piano and read poetry to them in the evenings and that meant a lot to Isadora. So the formula of her formation was a lot of classical music, literature, absence of any authority which could have limited her, a bit of adventure and the sea ...

Isadora lives! Her courage and fidelity to herself are amazing. Her lifestory is worth reading to understand life is short and beautiful like a divine dance of Isadora Duncan.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Ariele Butaux "La Samourai"

The love story of a European girl and a Japanese young man was discussed in the last post. The book of Ariele Butaux is about a Japanese woman and a European man.
Where does your love for yourselves end and your love for others begin?
A Japanese girl, Hisako, and a Frenchman, Eric, were joined by music that both worshiped. Eric is selfish and he is extremely ambitious. Charmed by Hisako's talent, he uses her in order to become a celebrity in musical arena. Hisako (more talented than Eric) sacrifices herself on the altar of devotion and art.

It is a duet of two opposites - West and East, ambition and sacrifice, selfishness and self-denial, and all this under piano accompaniment. 

Both, as a mirror, reflect each other. She is the embodiment of sacrifice, he is centered too much on himself. Both had an unhappy childhood - Eric is an ugly and unloved child, Hisako is a pawn in the game, an object of the fight of two moms. Initially, they build their union on rejection of lies. However the end of their marriage are the final words of Eric's  10-year-old son: "Once you started to lie, persist to the end. The truth hurts."

Both artists revel in success, but over time they start doubting - whether he/she did not destroy his/her life and talent by being in a duet? Both revel in each other, but small secrets appear, which they are afraid to admit even to themselves. The taste of freedom they need grows in the sea of deceit that destroys everything around. Both made sacrifices - he cannot be with his mistress and his own child, she does not have children and cannot pursuit a solo career. Unfortunately, the sacrifices were in vain, the purposes of their union is ghostly.

Since everything in this couple is extreme, the end of their relationship is also categorical. Eric pays his debt of honor by committing a suicide. Hisako follows him.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Amelie Nothomb “Tokyo fiancée” and “Fear and trembling”

In the previous post I talked about Sei Shonagon, a Japanese court lady, who lived over a thousand years ago. I focused on her sense of Beauty. It seems this sacred attitude towards beauty is still strong in Japan.  One of my acquaintances while he was in Tokyo was invited by a Japanese family.  He was presented to all members of the family except the grandmother who preferred to stay in her room – she thought she was not beautiful enough to appear before a foreign guest. What a perfectionist country. My thoughts jumped from Beauty to Japan and I remembered few books about Japan written by a strange and talented writer.
Tokyo fiancée” and “Fear and trembling” are two episodes of Amelie Nothomb’s life in Japan. I strongly recommend reading these two books one after another. The books could have been called “White” and “Black” as they demonstrate love and hate faces of modern Japan.

After graduating from the University in Brussels young Amelie (Belgian writer) returns to Japan where she spent her childhood (she is a daughter of a Belgian diplomat). Amelie is in love with the country and she is determined to stay there. She gets a job in the famous Japanese corporation....

That year becomes hell and paradise for Amelie – she lives awful humiliating days in the Japanese corporation, whereas the nights she spends in the arms of her Japanese boyfriend (perfect like mount Fuji) who apologizes for his country. Amelie constantly gets trapped because of not knowing or of misunderstanding customs of Japan, but she manages to make the benefit of what has happened and treats all with an indescribable optimism.

Tokyo fiancée”

The novel focuses not so much on man-woman as on East-West relationship. It is very interesting to read about cultural differences that surprise you from the first pages. I noted one observation about Japanese’s attitude to beauty (I'm still immersed in the subject of Beauty). She says that in Japan movies with scenes of violence and sex are not subject to censorship, but the woman's pubic area is shrouded in mist, because hair - it's ugly.

It is a beautiful story, full of exquisite details, precise observations, and marvelous landscapes. One of the most exciting scenes is the sunrise on the top of Mount Fuji. It was also interesting to learn about the concept of love in two languages. Amelie says that a partner in current Japanese young unmarried couples is named exceptionally "koibito" (desire, liking, inclination, taste). Deep inner scruples exclude the word "love”, whereas French is full of love language.  Her boyfriend played with love, getting drunk by the novelty, and Amelie reveled in the notion of the "koi", which shows how much they were both open to foreign cultures.

The book reminds you of reckless years of youth when you shake the world and do not have that feeling of super-responsibility. The heroine is young, so she can risk her life in the winter mountains, she can afford bothering the heart of a young Japanese, for whom everything is just too serious (and indeed, he seems, like all Japanese, dealing with most of the issues with an excessive formalism, though he is a representative of the "progressive" youngsters - he is looking for a foreign wife).

The story is filled with the scent of plum flowers, flavored frozen persimmon, hot tubs and steam and, of course, with feelings of  the young Japanese man to Amelie.

"Fear and Trembling"

The second story shows another side of Japan and Japanese society. Do not forget, the events take place simultaneously with Tokyo fiancée”. Amelie Nothomb reveals the "secret" of corporate life in Japan. Adventures, which happened to her in the Japanese corporation, shocked the public so much that the French Academy, in compensation for her moral damages, awarded Amelie Nothomb with the Grand Prix :). The book is captivating, a true documentary thriller full of humor and tension. It was written much earlier than Tokyo fiancée” and I advise you to start with it. Japan presented a truly generous gift to Amélie Nothomb - in one year, she had experienced emotions at 360 degrees. Both books are very easy to read, both are ironic, sometimes sad, but the sadness is not heavy, she is still very young, and she has a life before her.

You can learn a lot about Japan, but these books are primarily about a young European woman in “perfect” Japan. It is with these autobiographical books I began acquaintance with Amelie Nothomb.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Sei Shonagon "Pilow Book"

The last post was about beauty. This theme stirred me up and gave a new impulse to life. Suddenly an interesting blog about dress style came across, I realized that I am sick of the jeans and I decided to go through my wardrobe. Chekhov said: "people should be beautiful in every way - in their faces,  in the way they dress, in their thoughts, and in their innermost selves." I looked at the way I dress .... And if you think that one's exterior is the mirror of one's soul, the conclusions suggest themselves. 

The result of a three-hour shuffling through clothes was a little black dress made for me in an expensive studio, and which, because of the move to the country side was lying unused for three years. So I, the former town business diva, decided to put it on the same day. With glittering black beads and elegant shoes  I went with my family to a pizzeria.
It is always like that, I plunge in the flow of daily affairs, until something shakes me up. Right now the idea of beauty has stirred me up very strongly, maybe it was a sign of a forthcoming illness because after only three hours of fitting and changing I caught a cold. In any case, I read the "Pilow Book" of Sei Shonagon in bed and drinking tea with lemon. 
While reading Sei Shonagon  I remembered one Taoist master who said the following: "Only pleasure can be a source of strength. Pleasure is the music which plays when you write your  pages of the Book of Life.  If there is no pleasure it may be that your pages of the Book of Life remain empty ... Woman is a tool of pleasure. Of the thousands of pictures she chooses inexplicably the one that brings pleasure... Women always ask how to attract a man. The answer is simple - learn to enjoy, the stronger you feel  pleasure, the more your fans will want to experience this feeling with you. Without them knowing it, their body will find you anywhere in the universe.  Energy of pleasure is the most powerful tool to attract people to yourself."

All the above said by  the Taoist master is inherent to Sei Shonagon who is a true woman. In her diary, written over a thousand years ago and which resembles a modern blog, she describes what she likes and dislikes, what brings joy and what irritates her. She has a highly developed sense of beauty, her diary is full of descriptions of nature, or rather brief  sketches. The same Taoist master said about the effect that beauty has upon us: "When you contemplate something beautiful or return  to the image of the beautiful in your mind, positive expectations associated with that image appear in your brain. If this image is strong enough to capture your attention and consume all of your ability to focus, your body will be relaxed, like algae in a mountain stream, and the energy flow like a crystal clear mountain stream will flow through it, and you will be filled with joy. .."

Sei Shonagon is one of those who remind you that learning to enjoy exquisite music, spring flowering, beautiful paintings, and reading should be never stopped. 

Now let me go out and enjoy the music of our river and begonias :-)

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Ivan Bunin "Visiting cards"

The story by Ivan Bunin, a true master of words, has much to tell about love to our hearts. Like in Zweig's novel "24 hours in the life of a woman", in this short story things happen in a very short time.

The plot is simple - on a boat floating down the Volga a married woman meets a famous writer. After a few hours of communication both had a feeling of true love they were dreaming all their life and to which they were internally prepared. In a short time there was all that for some people lasts a lifetime. To emphasize time’s scantiness allotted to their love, author does not even name the characters; he only describes the rapidly growing feelings.

The heroes made a real jump to their dream, there was everything: love at first sight, shyness coupled with extreme courage, love climax.

The next morning they parted. He kissed her cold hand with love that is somewhere in the heart for a lifetime, and she, not looking back, ran down the gangplank into a rough crowd on the pier.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Stefan Zweig "Marie Antoinette"

Frederick the Great, the mortal enemy of Austria, lost his peace of mind, as Marie Antoinette, the daughter of his long-standing opponent, Maria Theresa, came to the French throne. Indeed, the danger was great for him. Marie Antoinette could have had all the threads of French diplomacy in her hands. “Now, thought Frederick the Great, Europe will be ruled by three women: Catherine the Great (Russian Empress), Maria Teresa (Austrian Empress and the mother of Marie Antoinette) and Marie Antoinette (French queen).” Interesting fact, is not it?

But Frederick need not have worried - Marie Antoinette did resemble neither her mother nor the Russian Empress, Catherine the Great. Zweig says that Marie Antoinette became a real Queen when the crown was removed.

For me, Marie Antoinette is more a true embodiment of the First Lady. Epithets Zweig gives a propos her elegance and tastes are endless. Portraits, unfortunately, do not convey her lightness, grace and ease of movement. She was a real "fireworks of a woman’s triumph" (the epithet is not mine, read it somewhere)

However, Zweig sadly notes that for all her potential talents, she did not go beyond the level of an ordinary person. Oh, had her husband be more energetic and decisive...

She shrugs off the burden of the government as a nuisance. She may be called an ordinary person, as well as a very bad ruler, but you cannot call her an ordinary woman. She was a mega star; French court has not seen such a desire to emulate the Queen of Rokoko. Charm and elegance are still a large share in the goodwill of France, and Marie Antoinette left in it a considerable share.

Zweig says she had to do few things to avoid the destiny. For example, she should have not closed herself in the Trianon from the old aristocracy, which later, embittered by her indifference, maintained and distributed pamphlets. I would not be unjust to say that the bomb that exploded in France at Marie Antoinette's time was laid by Louis XIV who started all this fuss with Versailles. Heavy, expensive protocols and traditions of the French court just had to die away. Remember that was the time of Voltaire.

To write interestingly about real people’s life is difficult, but Zweig did it. I watched Sofia Coppola's film about Marie Antoinette, and I can say that the film embodies, well, maybe twenty percent of the book (I would rather call the movie “the illustrations to the book”, because the movie characters are too two-dimensional). The book is richer, and so many details and important episodes are missing: the attitude of the mother to Marie Antoinette, the fatal influence of the sexual failure of Louis XVI on the spiritual development of Marie Antoinette, release of "The Marriage of Figaro" (I did not know all the underpinnings of this opera), scandalous and shocking scam with the necklace, and even her wedding is full of details that are not in the movie.

Zweig reiterates that Marie Antoinette was not able to rise beyond the level of an ordinary person. That is why we, "ordinary persons" are attracted by her story. We find ourselves in Marie Antoinette rather than in her mother, wise and religious ruler. Her story causes a pile of contradictory feelings: admiration, irritation and familiarity. How many times oblivious, just like Marie Antoinette, we were inactive and waited carelessly for our blows of fate?

The book is beautifully written and if you have not read Zweig before, I would advise you to start with this book.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Honore de Balzac «A Woman of Thirty" and Simone de Beauvoir "The Woman Destroyed"

Are you familiar with the term "Balzac-woman" or “Balzac-aged woman? What kind of a woman does it mean? What is the origin of the term? After all, women described by Balzac lived more than one and a half century ago. Who is a modern Balzac-woman?

e owe the advent of the term "Balzac-woman" to the great French writer, Honore de Balzac who wrote a novel called "A Woman of Thirty.” Realities of that time said that any woman who was over thirty, thirty-odd years, lost its feminine appeal and relevance in the eyes of society. But Balzac "allowed" a thirty year old woman to fall in love for the first time, and more importantly, to be loved.

Balzac allowed a woman to hope. Golden autumn, bright, warm Indian summer, but the passion is still quite possible, and love, and happiness.
Had Balzac worked now, in the twenty-first century, he would have called his work "A Woman of Fifty or Sixty." See the difference?

And what was the "Balzac age" in-between, in the twentieth century? Another French novelist, Simone de Beauvoir with her book "The Woman Destroyed" answers that question. [By the way, without her, this blog would not be complete; she was the one who wrote “The second sex”. She has an interesting biography, but we'll talk about it later.]

Both "A Woman
of Thirty" and "The Woman Destroyed" talk about different women’s fates, the question of age is slightly present like a dotted line. In “The woman destroyed" Monique, a woman, whose marriage is falling apart, states the “Balzac age”, which is forty-four. At that age she remains alone - no profession, no other interest other than her husband. Simone de Beauvoir described masterfully how the truth breaks through the thick cocoon in which Monique was enveloped. Her love for her husband and her two daughters was too devoted and too oppressive. The true picture that she sees after her shell is broken makes her recapitulate all her life. It can be felt that the book was written in the second half of the twentieth century. Monique is forty-four, and it seems there is little hope left in life. 

Nowadays women give birth at the age of forty four and learn new professions. I wonder what will happen in half a century, given the pace of the medicine's development? The “Balzac age” will be seventy? I would rather accept the assumption that our souls are eternal and that the “Balzac age” does not exist at all. In fact, do women need to be sex appealing as long as possible, what other options do they have?

More interesting things about women characters, beauty and style in my blog Notes about styling

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Compare the incomparable: Evelyn Waugh "A Handful of Dust" and Alexander Kuprin "The Duel"

It would seem that two writers, the works of which we will discuss today, are not comparable - an English aristocrat, Evelyn Waugh, and the Russian writer of non-noble origin who dropped out of military service, Alexander Kuprin. One defends the traditional values, the other one tries to imagine a bright future.

We'll talk about "A Handful of Dust" by Evelyn Waugh (which is according to Wiki is included in Modern Library List of Best 20th-Century Novels, and was chosen by TIME magazine as one of the one hundred best English-language novels from 1923 to present) and one of the best novels   of Alexader Kuprin “ The Duel". Since very few people would have thought to compare these literary works, the reader's eye misses what they have in common, which is the presence of an aggressive female character.

Let’s recall "A Handful of Dust", the manor, Tony Last, hardly absorbs the costs of the estate. He feels responsible for the heritage of his ancestors, and hopes to transfer the estate to his son. His wife, Brenda, appears as a cheerful, energetic woman in the beginning of the book, thinking the same way as her husband. But she finds a lover in the city and she deceives shamelessly her loving husband under the pretext that she attends some courses; she rents an apartment and appears rarely in the family home. Their son dies tragically. Tony tries to comfort her, "We will be having other children", and gets an extra kick, "Tony, you have not realized that we are going to divorce?" Brenda is not tortured by the slightest remorse apropos the estate (so dear to her husband) to be sold. As for him, the whole world falls apart! As a result, Tony refuses to divorce his wife in order to keep the house, and participates in the transatlantic expedition. Astray, he finds himself imprisoned by a half-crazy amateur of Dickens and is forced to read a book after book, with no hope to escape. Where, in fact, to break out? Predatory woman nearly deprived him of home, the child died – there is no place for Tony Last in the society!

In the famous "Duel" a sweet, wonderful, charming Shura turns the head of a young officer, Yuri Romashov. May be she really felt something for him,  but the main thing for her (and for Brenda Last) is an opportunity to get into a brilliant society, her beauty should be noticed and appreciated not only by garrison officers but also by a more prominent public. Therefore, for several years, she prepares her husband to enter the Academy of the General Staff, so that he makes a career and gives her the opportunity to reign in the high society.

A quarrel happens between Romashov and Shura’s husband. The purest and sensitive Romashov is accused of impinging Shura’s reputation. An ugly scene takes place in the provincial brothel. For officers of that time the only way to solve the problem was a duel.
A competent strategist, Shura, understands that if Romashov refuses the duel, the impeccable biography of her husband will have a stain. Late at night she sneaks into the apartment of Romashov to persuade him that the duel should take place, but both players would shot in the air. In parting, she gives a "royal" gift to Romashov – she makes “love” with him.

Romashov shot into the air. Shura’s husband did not ... life of the young officer was ruined for the sake of the ambitions of a cold-blooded woman.
Evelyn Waugh shows a life of a beautiful man ruined by his wife and Alexander Kuprin shows the death of a young guy who just started to live, a death in the name of the love for an ambitious, cold-blooded woman who made her choice - for the sake of the future she donates somebody else's life.

The countries are different the situations are similar.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Wolfgang and Heike Hohlbein "Mirror time"

Books for girls - age 12-16

"Mirror Time" is a fantasy novel by Austrian writer, Wolfgang Hohlbein, written in collaboration with his wife, Heike. The plot revolves around a boy, Julian, who by chance came to be in the entertainment fair and survived a truly horrific adventure. Hohlbein differentiates by the ability to scare his readers, and, in this sense, "Mirror time" is not an exception. A dynamic development of the plot combined with a constant tension launches you headlong into the book.

It is clear that the authors were inspired by "Alice in Wonderland". However, this does not mean that they simply borrowed the idea from Carroll, not at all. The novel is a true science fiction where genres such as mystery, thriller, fantasy, time travel and drama are oddly mixed. The only parallel between the work of Carroll and the "Mirror time" is a character named Alice.

Alice is a girl appearing at first in the mirrors to warn Julian and save him from a deadly peril. Hohlbein alluded to the character of Alice in passing, you can learn about it only from a few of the dialogues and you need to be a very careful reader. Only her desire to help Julian in every possible way and her strange relationship with him strikes the eyes.

Alice is probably the most mysterious character of the book; her role is unclear almost until the very end. Alice’s incomprehensible behavior and unusual way to appear along with an amazing feeling, which Julian has for her, force you to think all kind of things. The girl’s character is so hidden from the reader and that prompts a great interest. Subsequently, her role in the plot becomes clearer and her personality becomes more defined.

Apparently the character's name is not accidental, this inevitable association with the book of Carroll gives a special meaning to the work, some vivid flavor.