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review 2017-01-08 23:23
Books of 1916: Part Two
The Metamorphosis - Franz Kafka
Understood Betsy - Dorothy Canfield Fisher,Eden Ross Lipson,Kimberly Bulcken Root
Illustrated Adventures in Oz Vol IV: Rinkitink in Oz, the Lost Princess of Oz, and the Tin Woodman of Oz - L. Frank Baum,John R. Neill
Pilgrimage 2: The Tunnel and Interim - Dorothy M. Richardson
Pointed Roofs - Dorothy M. Richardson
Collected Works of Ouida - Maria Louise Ramé
Leatherface - Emmuska Orczy
The Scarlet Pimpernel - Emmuska Orczy
The Convenient Marriage - Georgette Heyer

Books of 1916: Part Two


The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka


Since childhood I’ve been familiar with the plot of this short novel; people talk about it all the time because it’s so compelling. I even had the first sentence memorized thanks to my older brother. Reciting it was a warm-up exercise in some sort of theater class he was in, except for some reason they added an extra word, making it: “When Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from unpleasant dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin sofa.” And yet I had never even read one word of The Metamorphosis before now! It was so much more awesome than I was even expecting. So dark and weird and sad but a little bit funny.


Gregor realizes straightaway that he has become a monstrous vermin, but he’s mainly worried about how he will get to work on time and what would happen to his family if he lost his job. I was thinking, oh Gregor, you’re worried about the wrong thing, you just can’t face what your real problem is. But you know what? He absolutely was worried about the correct things. It’s becoming more and more clear that I’m the one who’s always worried about the wrong thing.


My wife wanted to know what does this story mean, on a metaphorical level. I never think about stuff like that. But I think it is a metaphor for being a lowly creature trapped living at home with your parents. Gregor is the ultimate back bedroom casualty. He literally can't leave his room after he transforms into a bug. Also it's about humanity, and the way we treat the Other, including non-human animals. Gregor is the one who is no longer a human, but his family are the ones who treat him so cruelly without sympathy or understanding, even his sister who started out being the caring one.


Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield


I can’t even remember when I first read this; presumably as a child. I think it deserves a much greater reputation as a children’s classic than it has. It’s about a little orphan girl, Elizabeth Ann, who is being raised by her two overprotective, uptight, city-dwelling aunts. Poor Elizabeth Ann is frail and vaguely sickly and afraid of everything, just like her aunties who “understand” her and smother her with love. When a family illness means she must be sent away to stay with another branch of the family who live way out in the country, she is terrified. But she blossoms as she encounters nature, animals, having responsibilities, doing things for herself, and especially her brusque but kind, plain-spoken new family. Elizabeth Ann (now Betsy) begins attending a one-room school house that amazingly seems exactly like a Montessori school, and she makes friends for the first time. The part where Betsy is left behind at the Fair, and the ending where Betsy must choose where she is going to live, elevate this book into a masterpiece.


Rinkitink in Oz by Frank L. Baum


I love the Oz books. Rinkitink is a jolly king with a talking goat who has to go on a dangerous journey with young Prince Inga. As a matter of fact, they’re not in Oz but in a nearby fantastical land. Prince Inga has three magical pearls that guide him, and he tries to hide two of them in the pointy toes of his shoes. But the shoes get thrown away and then they’re really in trouble. You think you won’t see Dorothy but at the last minute she and the Wizard and Ozma show up to save the day.


Usually you can count on the Oz books to leave out the racist garbage that is so prevalent in the books of this time period, but there was a horrible bit at the end of this one that I had forgotten which involves transforming the talking goat back into Prince Bobo of Boboland, and there’s even an illustration. If I were reading this book out loud to a young child I would skip over that part.


Unfortunately there aren’t that many Oz books left as L. Frank Baum is due to die in 1919. Do you think I should keep on reading the sequels by Ruth Plumly Thompson, who took over the series after Baum’s death? I have a couple years to make up my mind.


Backwater by Dorothy Richardson


The second in Richardson’s modernist, stream-of-consciousness novels about an English girl who has to become a teacher because her family has fallen on hard times. There are thirteen of these books and the series is called Pilgrimage. Last time she was working at a German boarding school, and this time she is at an English school. I love the way the main character Miriam’s mind works. Her romantic mooniness is so real and relatable. The most touching part was when she discovers a lending library where she can read the complete works of Ouida, which have always been forbidden to her because they’re too smutty. This novel really shows how when you have a rich inner life you will find splendor and meaning somewhere, even in the most depressing or banal surroundings. Unfortunately there’s a section when she’s on holiday at the seaside and there are some musicians who are described with the n-word repeatedly.


Leatherface by Emma Orczy


Just like last year, the Baroness is the only one who takes the horrors of war head on. Again it is historical fiction, set in Belgium (who wouldn’t feel for brave little Belgium in 1916?) during the Spanish Inquisition. A dashing hero known only as Leatherface because of the mask he wears has been protecting the Prince of Orange and doing other brave deeds for the cause. Fans of Baroness Orczy’s Scarlet Pimpernel series won’t be surprised to learn that it is the lazy, good-natured, tavern-loving man about town character who is actually Leatherface, or that the female protagonist is torn between her family duty to unmask Leatherface and her love for him.


A bit of altar diplomacy has brought Leatherface and this beautiful Spanish lady together into a marriage in name only, but it turns out to be one of those things where they fall in love after they are married. (I asked my brother if there was a name for this trope, and he suggested A Convenient Marriage since Georgette Heyer wrote at least four novels on this theme and one of them was called A Convenient Marriage.) I ate all this intrigue up with a spoon. But the bulk of the novel is about the horrors of war and people getting killed, killed, killed.


In the end, the town of Ghent escapes complete annihilation but the people allow Spanish supervillain the Duke of Alva to go free. “Perhaps they had suffered too much to thirst for active revenge,” is the book’s closing line, which I found unexpectedly pacifistic and moving. Also hats off to Emma Orczy for FINALLY laying off the anti-Semitism for one entire book except for a single one-liner.


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review 2016-11-14 00:00
De gedaanteverwisseling
De gedaanteverwisseling - Franz Kafka,Willem van Toorn Oeps, dit is een erg lange samenvatting + review geworden....

Op een dag wordt Gregor wakker, en is hij veranderd in een gigantisch insect.
Zo'n drastische en lichamelijk onmogelijke verandering is absurd.
Ook de reacties van de karakters op deze verandering maken het verhaal des te absurder;
Gregor vraagt zich niet af hoe deze verandering is ontstaan, maar vraagt zich af hoe hij het zich zo comfortabel kan maken, en hoe hij nou zijn werk kan doen.
Zijn familie zoekt helemaal geen hulp of advies, en lijken meer beschaamd voor hem dan echt geschokt.

Hoewel Gregors lichaam drastisch veranderd, blijft zijn geest menselijk.
Hij denkt dat hij melk lust, maar komt er achter dat hij dat niet meer lekker vind, en eet daarna alleen maar beschimmeld voedsel. Naarmate het verhaal vordert, veranderd zijn gedrag steeds meer in dat van een insect; hij heeft steeds meer behoefte aan kleine, donkere ruimten, en vind het leuk om over muren te kruipen.
Zo zie je maar, dat je lichamelijke toestand invloed heeft op je mentale toestand. ( jaja, een metafoor . )

Eerst heeft zijn familie nog sympathie voor hem, maar deze gevoelens verdwijnen steeds meer op de achtergrond, en hun afschuw voor Gregor komt steeds meer naar voren.
Omdat hij zijn gedachten en gevoelens niet kan verwoorden, ziet de familie hem uiteindelijk alleen nog maar als een insect, en is hij echt helemaal geïsoleerd van alles.

Mijn gedachten
In het boek lees je dat Gregor een ontevreden leven leidde.
Hij werkte als verkoper, en was hiervoor constant op reis. Hij vond zijn baan verschrikkelijk, en werkte daar alleen maar om de schuld van zijn ouders af te betalen. Hij had geen vrienden, en ook met zijn familie had hij geen intieme band.
Kortom: zijn leven had geen betekenis, zijn lichaam was een leeg omhulsel, zoals een verlaten slakkenhuis.
Eigenlijk leidde hij dus al het bestaan van een insect.

Ook zette dit boek me op een ander onderwerp aan het denken, de metafoor die ik al eerder noemde:
Dat je lichamelijke toestand heeft invloed op je mentale toestand.
Denk bijvoorbeeld aan mensen die na een ongeluk opeens hun benen kwijt zijn. Wanneer je lichamelijke situatie verandert, kan het erg moeilijk zijn om je mentale situatie daar op aan te sluiten, om een harmonie tussen beide te vinden.

Ja, dit boek heeft mij wel echt aan het denken gezet.
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review 2016-04-10 21:41
Zamek - Franz Kafka

W swoich felietonach z lat 50. Stanisław Lem napomknął o twórczości Kafki jako o ciekawostce, która z klasyczną literaturą nie ma wiele wspólnego. Ot, nowinka taka.


Raczej konsekwentnie próbuję sygnalizować emocje, które powstają we mnie podczas lektury kolejnych tytułów. I nie silę się na recenzje z prawdziwego zdarzenia.


Wolę lekturę, której autor miał jakąś myśl przewodnią do przekazania od tej, która jest obrazem wnętrza autora. Fakt, że im bardziej pogmatwane to wnętrze, tym ciekawsze rzeczy powstają. Zamek nie nastraja optymizmem. Jest ewidentnie brudnoszarym majakiem sennym z logiką lekko koszmarnego snu, z którego każdy raczej próbowałby się obudzić.


Jeśli nawet Kafka próbował się przez swoje pisanie wyrwać z tego, co go dusiło - nie udało mu się. Za to dusi teraz także mnie. Może kiedy spotkam bliżej Listy do Mileny, będę mógł powiedzieć o autorze coś ciepłego.


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review 2016-01-24 14:53
Ein Landarzt von Franz Kafka
Ein Landarzt - Franz Kafka

Unfassbar, dass ich bisher kaum von Kafka Notiz genommen habe. Unfassbar! Diese Erzählung gefiel mir jedenfalls sehr gut und ich werde sicherlich noch einen weiteren Blick in die Kafka-Ecke wagen. Ich meine, wow, wie er mit Sprache spielt und mit den Lesererwartungen und am Ende kann ich alles und nichts deuten! Von mir gibt es dafür 5 Sterne für Kafkas Schreib- und Erzähl-Können!

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review 2015-12-25 23:43
Society's Burdens
The Metamorphosis - Franz Kafka,Stanley Corngold

Normally I would try to write my post fairly soon after I have read a particular piece of literature, however in this instance I was meeting up with a book club today so I decided that I would hold off until after I have been to the group. I must say that this group is quite different than the other book club I attended because the other one spends an hour talking about the book, and when finished they move on to the reading circle in which we all share the books that we have been reading after which we all pack up and go home. This new group talks about the book, and then goes off and starts talking about a bunch of other stuff, sometimes connected, sometimes not. For instance we ended up talking a lot about language, probably because we find language fascinating, and a number of us do know more than one language.


As for this particular novella I must say that it has layers upon layers of meaning, but the main essence of the story is what could be considered to be an attack against utilitarianism. The basic premise is that the protagonist of the book, Gregor, wakes up one morning to discover that he has changed into a filthy vermin (ungeheueren Ungeziefer), which some have translated into a giant insect. Though I initially pictured him as being a preying mantis I feel that a cockroach is probably more appropriate (since he does climb over the walls, has a lot of difficulties turning over when he is lying on his back, and it is probably one of the more filthier insects around).


It appears that this particular story could be an attack against the more utilitarian aspect of society, particularly in the sense that unless you have a use in society then you are not needed: are a burden and should be discarded. It is interesting to note that it is only Gregor who is consider to be the burden because it appears that he is the only bread winner in the family. However, there is also the aspect of illness and disease back in those days. Okay, this book was written in 1915, and medical science was quite different, but you still get the impression that unless you are fit and healthy then you are a burden, and a problem, which is the case with poor Gregor. Firstly we notice that because of Gregor the family is effectively outcast (the boarders do not want to have a bar of the family once they discover Gregor living in the room), and then they also keep him locked away, and Gregor learns his place by remaining hidden whenever the door is opened.


In a way Gregor, who is diseased, disabled, or whatever (which is what the metaphor of the filthy vermin means to me), it is clear that his family do not want to deal with him, and society doed not want to have to deal with that family either. As such the family is outcast until such a time as they can dispose of Gregor. Yet he is slowly being turned into a beast, and a monster despite the fact that he clings onto his humanity. For instance he grabs hold of the painting of the woman, the last human item that has been left in the room, because of that desire to try to remain human, however this fails because he knows that he has become an outcast and can no longer interact with, or even communicate with, other humans.


One sometimes wonders if much has changed since those days. Living in Australia (up until recently that is) we had considered ourselves a lucky country, however as one particular member of parliament has said, 'the age of entitlement is over'. This suggests that the government of the day has developed this belief that it no longer wants to support those who cannot support themselves, and has taken that attitude that these particular people are little more than a burden to the state, a burden that the state simply cannot afford. While this has began to change in a number of states in the Anglo-sphere, it appears that this has always been the case in the United States, which is why you have such a high rate of homelessness. I am not speaking about the lazy and the indolent, but rather those that simply cannot work and now have no means of supporting themselves. In a way we are viewing them as Gregor's family viewed him, as ungeheueren Ungeziefer, people that have no use to the society and are simply vermin. The question that I raise is have we now gone full circle? It was not long ago that disabled and diseased people where simply thrown out of the city and left to die. Is this the case now, that those of us who do not have a family, and do not have any care or support, are simply thrown outside and forgotten, left to struggle and die, lost, alone, and unloved?


Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/936319008
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