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review 2016-08-09 08:44
Is the Pope Christian?
Julius Excluded from Heaven - Desiderius... Julius Excluded from Heaven - Desiderius Erasmus

This rather short dialogue is written in the style of the Ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes (though it is nowhere near as rude and crude as his plays) and is a simple interaction between Pope Julius and St Peter (with Julius' guardian spirit providing some snide comments as the dialogue progresses) after Julius arrives at the pearly gates and discovers that the keys to the kingdom of heaven that were given to St Peter are not the keys that Julius happens to have in his pocket. Basically it is a criticism of what the church has become in Julius' time and how Pope Julius, the supreme authority in Western Christendom was simply another power player in the political world of the time, and as such while he may go around with the title of 'Most Holy Father', it is just that – a title given to him by the world and nothing more.

 

Once again, as I was reading this dialogue I could not help but see how similar the church of Erasmus' age and the church of today happens to be. Sure, the church is supposed to be a moral compass, but in our day and age this moral compass seems to require a lot of recalibrating. For instance we have the church running around condemning people for 'sexual sin' and abortion, yet are doing nothing to actually provide support and assistance for those in real need, nor are they condemning unrestrained greed, corruption on politics, or environmental destruction. Also, like the church of Erasmus' age, it has become little more than a boys club, and while positions in the church may not be purchased directly, we still see such positions being handed out to the 'most worthy' individuals in the congregations, usually though who are quite well off. In fact I was told of one particular church that would hand out to elderships to those who had happened to have succeeded in life (which usually meant that they were giving a substantial amount of money to the church).

 

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/af/Pope_Julius_II.jpg/800px-Pope_Julius_II.jpg

Pope Julius

 

Then there is the question of indulgences, namely where the church would sell admissions to heaven in the after life, and it didn't just rest with the living, you could also buy indulgences for the dead. The funny thing is that we see things like that going on today – did you know you can buy real-estate on Mars? To me it sounds a lot like an indulgence, namely something that somebody purchases that actually has no value whatsoever. Okay, you can apparently 'name' a star, but my research revealed that the name of the star does go on record, and it is a fundraising activity by an astronomical organisation (though I still haven't gone ahead and named a star after Schrodiger's Cat). As for the church, they may not sell indulgences directly, but there is a doctrine that goes around that basically says the more that you give to the church the more that God will bless you now and in the life here-after – what they are suggesting is that it is like the stock market – we buy into the Church and God will pay us dividends now, and also guarantee an entrance into heaven.

 

Another interesting thing that is raised is how the Pope can't actually do anything wrong, even if he does things that are wrong. It sounds remarkably similar today were the wealthy are able to get away from crimes much easier than those of the lower classes. As a friend of mine suggested most serial killers are white because they are less likely to be searched, or questioned, by authorities than are people of colour, which means that if somebody of colour happens to have the tenancies that give rise to being a serial killer they are usually caught, and taken out of society much sooner than a white person. Mind you Julius' position went much further in that being the Pope he could simply wipe away any consequence of any sin that he may have committed. In a way it is also similar with the concept of war crimes – I do not know of any post World War II Western leader that has been brought to The Hague for committing war crimes, but then again war crimes are only ever committed by the loser in a war.

 

As for the political nature of the church, well it seems that this is also the case today – one of the reasons that the church has become so powerful in the United States is that it has taken control of the Republican party, but even here in Australia, elements of the church have put their claws into the political system, and whatever their moral position is, it is their economic agenda that has me concerned because it is an agenda of small government, light taxation, and limited regulation – they may wish to make homosexuality a crime and punish people having an abortion by charging them with murder, but they will do little for the child once it is born and condemn them to a life of poverty and destitution. They also hate welfare because they believe it leads to laziness, and that those who are poor are poor because they are there by choice, not because of some other circumstance in life.

 

Another example of how the church interferes politically is with a program the Australian government developed to attempt to deal with bullying with schools, however the Christian right were so incensed that 'it promoted homosexuality' that they canned it, despite the fact that bullying in schools has a tremendous psychological effect upon the victims and the families involved. Sure, they might jump up and demand that we stop playing the victim, but as soon as society turns against the church all of the sudden they start screaming persecution.

In fact they also love crying out how they are being persecuted – you cannot criticises the church, or what it does, without being told that you are persecuting the church. However they claim unfair when the left calls them bigots for their stance against the LGBT community. I have been to churches where criticism is shut down through a variety of ways – you are denying Christ, you have unworked out sin in your life, you obviously don't understand the Bible, we cannot change our position because once we do it is a slippery slope into liberalism. No wonder people are deserting the church in droves.

 

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1723181899
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review 2016-08-07 23:07
Let Stupidity Reign
Praise of Folly - Desiderius Erasmus,Betty Radice,A.H.T. Levi

Well, what better book to read when you are in the Netherlands than Erasmus' tributed to stupidity. Okay, I'm sure he is not being serious, though it is difficult to tell at times, particularly when he suggests that by being an idiot one does become healthy, wealthy (but not necessarily wise – actually, that would be quite the opposite). Actually, healthy is probably not necessarily something that comes either, but certainly wealth seems to come to a lot of people who simply don't seem to have all that many brains, and that a lot of people are running around with pieces of paper that seem to claim that they are actually really intelligent, but in reality are complete idiots. Actually, that is not at all surprising because my Dad, who was an academic, has actually confirmed that one thing that academics seem to lack is common sense – they may have a university degree, but they haven't made their way in the school of life where they learn that doing stupid things doesn't necessarily pay off.

 

Actually, what Erasmus was getting at was that in the Europe of his time it seemed to benefit one a lot more to be stupid than to actually be wise. For instance, there are a lot of philosophers out there that don't seem to have all that much to rub together – actually being an artist doesn't seem to do all that much for you, at least while you are alive: as people seem to suggest, the only famous poet is a dead poet (and I suspect that is also the case when it comes to other artists, unless of course you happen to be Justin Beiber, but then again I guess he goes to prove that Erasmus actually has a point).

 

Look, everybody could rile against bankers, lawyers, and the like, but the problem is that as long as there is money and trade they are going to be with us – which is probably why Lenin, rather unsuccessfully mind you, tried to do away with commerce. Actually, we need to also consider the world in which Erasmus was running around – it wasn't like today where the bankers, lawyers, and such, would actually be the rulers of the country – that was the job of the aristocrats (the Netherlands was still a couple of hundred years away from becoming a republic) – however they still managed to dig their fingers into anything and everything that they could (and if you wanted to see a prime example of stupidity then you need look no further than the aristocracy). It reminds me of a quote by Kurt Vonnegut – the job of a lawyer is to move money from one point to another and take some for themselves, though the reality is not a bit but as much as they can get away with (they'll take all of it if they can generate enough billing hours).

 

Yet this is the foolishness that Erasmus is poking fun at – the fact that people are so caught up with the acquisition of wealth that they don't actually see the beauty of the world around them. In fact as long as they can surround themselves in a bubble of niceness (such as the Gardens by the Bay in Singapore – and that is a classic example – the city itself is beautiful, but jump across the straights of Malacca you will see an industrial hell hole – externalising to the extreme), it doesn't matter what goes on outside of their circle of comfort as long as it doesn't disturb that circle. However this is foolishness to the extreme – they want their comfort but comfort doesn't necessarily equate with happiness. I have lived in a big house with a swimming pool, but as soon as all my friends left after a three day party I was all alone again, and it all fell apart as well (and it wasn't as if I had money either – I didn't – it was just that I managed to score a room in a really cool sharehouse, and when I everybody moved out I was left with the entire house to myself).

 

They say that there is no such thing as a stupid question, only stupid people, and I am sure this was going through Erasmus' mind at the time. The thing that makes a person stupid is because they don't ask questions, and the reason that they don't ask questions is because they don't want to seem to be stupid, but by not wanting to appear stupid they make themselves stupid by not asking any questions. At other times the reason they don't ask questions is because they believe that they already know the answer, or if the answer is wrong that is irrelevant because as far as they are concerned if that is their answer then that is the correct answer. Have you ever tried to argue with a stupid person? If you have then you'll know what I mean (though, of course, because we don't accept their answer, and their answer is actually right, then it makes us the stupid person).

 

The conclusion of the book comes down to a criticism of the church. Like [author:Martin Luther], Erasmus went to Rome and was horrified at what he saw. In fact he completely ruined his career by writing books such as Praise of Folly, however I will leave it at that because I am reading the next section of the book, and I will deal with criticism of then church therein.

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1718547399
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review 2014-10-07 12:56
Een Mooie Jonge Vrouw (Tommy Wieringa)
Een mooie jonge vrouw - Tommy Wieringa

Verschrikkelijk. Slecht geschreven, en het tweede boek dat ik van Wieringa heb gelezen dat een seksistisch hoofdpersonage opvoert en geen fatsoenlijk vrouwelijk personage als tegenhanger kan opdragen. De vrouw in dit verhaal is geen mens van vlees en bloed, maar een mythisch wezen in het leven van de hoofdpersoon gekomen om alles beter en mooier te maken (jammer dat dit "ding" niet lijkt te werken, he?).

Ben er helemaal voor om een apart genre te maken met "guy lit", vol met verhalen over mannen met een mid-life crisis. Dan hoeven die boeken zich niet meer te verstoppen onder "literatuur". Kan dit boek gelijk tussen.

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review 2014-05-21 07:00
Trapped in her Sister’s Shoes: Storm by Margriet de Moor
Sturmflut: Roman - Margriet de Moor
The Storm - Margriet de Moor, Carol Brown Janeway (Translator)

Abridged version of my review posted on Edith’s Miscellany on 24 January 2014

 

Winter is the season of storms in Europe and everybody living in coastal areas of the North Sea can certainly tell you a thing or two about it. The two biggest storm catastrophes of the twentieth century happened in the Netherlands on 31 January 1953 and in Hamburg on 16 February 1962. Both times cyclones caused huge tidal surge which broke dikes and cost the lives of thousands of people. A novel dealing with the flood disaster in the Netherlands and its impact on the lives of the surviving is The Storm  by the Dutch writer Margriet de Moor.

 

The opening scene of The Storm  is set in Amsterdam on the morning of 31 January 1953. An omniscient third-person narrator tells the stories of the sisters Lidy and Armanda, the first twenty-three and married with a child, the latter twenty-one, shy and a bit jealous of everything her older sister has. When Lidy instead of Armanda sets out for the small town of Zierikzee several hours to the South disaster takes its course. It’s the night of a winter storm of unexpected power and Lidy is in its centre. After a long and desperate fight for survival she drowns in the floods. This short and thrilling period of Lidy’s life is set against the long and rather ordinary existence of Armanda in well-ordered circumstances that follows the events because Lidy’s body isn’t found. The worries of her family change into grief as the hopes to find her alive shrink. Before soon Armanda takes the place in Lidy’s little family, but for the rest of her days she feels like she were continuing her sister’s instead of her own life.

 

Reading The Storm  by Margriet de Moor has been an interesting and instructive pleasure as well as a sad and moving experience. And of course I highly recommend the book.

 

For the full review please click here to go to my blog Edith’s Miscellany.

Source: edith-lagraziana.blogspot.com
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2014-05-01 21:18
de Thuiskomst (the Return Home) by Anna Enquist
De thuiskomst - Anna Enquist

nb. this book has not been translated into English (as far as I know), but is available in Dutch (original language), French and German, and perhaps some other languages as well.

I will say before I start with the review that I did not finish this book. I read until half-way and then I gave up. It's not that it isn't any good, it's just that this main character is written in such a way that I couldn't finish it.

First the positive. There are many good things about this book. It's about Elizabeth Cook, wife of the famous explorer James Cook. I think this is a very interesting premise for a novel: instead of writing the story about James and his adventures and discoveries, we get to read about the woman who stayed behind, who had to do things all on her own and despite years of marriage didn't spend more than one entire year in her husband's company. That was the reason I wanted to read this novel. It's an interesting, fresh subject and it's so interesting to explore the role and life of women like Elizabeth Cook. I do think the novel succeeds in this. It shows the loneliness, the doubt, the self-denial and generally the harsh life of a woman who has to do everything on her own - from running the household to mourning over her children who died at a young age.

The writing is clean and gives a great sense of the period and the confined world of Elizabeth: her home, the daily rounds she walks, her imaginations about James' travels.

However, I had a major issue with the way Elizabeth was written. The author clearly meant to get across to the reader to show how hard life was for Elizabeth, and the effect it had on her mental wellbeing. After all, she lived to be well into her nineties, she lost all her children, her husband, her best friend, etc. That's hard, I get that. But from page one of the novel (when she still has her husband, who is on the return after a long journey! shouldn't you be happy about that?), we get nothing but a defeated character. If the writer set out to write a depressed character, she succeeded. However, I personally cannot read about such defeatism, such self-loathing, self-denial and self-sacrifice, without a spark of hope that it will change. I just don't handle narrow POV stories about depressed characters very well.

I kept on reading until halfway through the novel, hoping for Elizabeth to change quickly, but everything just circled back to her defeatism. There was nothing to feel for this character except pity and frustration that she didn't try to do anything on her own initiative, for herself, or her own happiness. I had to abandon the novel.

Perhaps others find this a really wonderful portrayal of a woman who had centered her life around a husband who was never there, and as a consequence had a tough, unhappy life, and the kind of effect it had on her psyche. Sadly, it was not for me.

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