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 :-)