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review 2017-11-16 00:20
The Librarian of Auschwitz
The Librarian of Auschwitz - Antonio Iturbe,Lilit Thwaites
 

 

“It’s the war, Edith……. it’s the war”. Every time I saw this comment in the novel I had to smile, for it showed me the attitude that some of the individuals acquired as they dealt with the circumstances they were dealing with.

This novel is about the prisoners that were held in the Family Camp, Block 31, a section of Auschwitz that allowed children and parents to be held together during WWII. The rules stated that the children would be entertained while their parents worked. School was forbidden but the children would be entertained with games and other activities. It was a unique situation, a first, and some individuals could not understand why it was happening. Fred Hirsch was in charge of the school, he knew the expectations but Hirsch had his own agenda. Hirsch created an invisible school, invisible to the people outside the walls of their contained area. He gave these children hope, strength and courage within their gated world. I loved how creative Hirsch was and how he encouraged others, he encouraged individuals to succeed. While death surrounded them, these children were able to be children, they were able to learn and have fun.

 

Hirsch has inquired a small library for this school, a handful of forbidden books. This library needs a librarian to make sure they are protected and safeguarded and Hirsch encourages Dita to accept this position. Dita is hesitant to accept this responsibility but Hirsch knew what he was doing when he asked her because she thrives in this position.


The world outside their contained area is full of change and uncertainty. The crematorium burns daily, prisoners are coming and going, romance still tries to kindle, and their future is uncertain but for now, the children feel safe. This was an excellent novel, because of its subject matter it is a difficult novel to read but it is an important novel that needs to be read and appreciated.

 

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review 2017-11-11 10:27
Sexual Proclivities: "The Politicians and I: what I couldn't (or didn't want) to write until today" by José António Saraiva
Eu e os Políticos (Portuguese Edition) - José António Saraiva

 

Is it possible for a journalist (or an author “who was once a journalist”) to cross the line? When someone gave me this book I wasn’t sure I’d read it. I’m not really into the gossipy side of politics. But because I was on a boat cruise on route to the Greek Islands everything sort of made sense...

 

António José Saraiva makes quite clear what’s wrong with this kind of book; a book of this kind chooses a bunch of people who didn't consent to be a subject, rather than the ones who did. If Miguel Portas were alive this kind of privacy violation would probably be traumatic and maybe involve legal action. He's dead, yes but ..is it not still better that Saraiva should just have found a consenting subject? (For my foreign readers, Saraiva claims Miguel Portas said to him that Paulo Portas, his brother, was/is gay).

 

I mean; are you interesting? Are you flawed? Is it ok for a book to talk about things you wished to remain private, and said in a private conversation, to be made available to audiences without your consent? If you are dead, is it OK then, and if you say yes, does it matter how it will affect other still living people who knew you and if you still say yes - should journalists assume its OK for all subjects just because some subjects would be OK with it? Audiences might not care about any of this, but how to get the story without doing anything defamatory or breaching privacy for the subject is what journalists question all the time. I do think it is a more complex issue than that when we are still dealing with the all-pervasive structures of the closet. Individual agency is not always what is keeping something secret in such structures. And I really don't think that one is right that people would have been shouting louder about journalistic ethics if the subject were a straight man.

 

 

If you're into gossipy politics, read on.

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review 2017-11-05 10:15
Legitimate Form of Writing: "Little Misunderstandings of No Importance" by Antonio Tabucchi, Frances Frenaye (translator)
Little Misunderstandings of No Importance: Stories - Antonio Tabucchi
“Tell me, dear heart, dear chilled heart, what would you say to going to live in Lisbon? It’s surely warm there and you’d revive like a lizard under the sun. The city’s at the water’s edge and they say it’s built of marble. You see it is a country after my own heart; a landscape made up of light and stone, and water to reflect them! And so you walk slowly through this marble city, between 18th-century buildings and arcades that witnessed the days of colonial trade, sailing ships, the bustle and the foggy dawns of anchors being weighted."
 
In the short-story “Time is very strange” from the collection “Little Misunderstandings of No Importance” by Antonio Tabucchi, Frances Frenaye (translator) 
 
I am glad authors are challenging the homogenisation that is so demanded by many readers. Too much fiction does not reflect real dialogue; I know it can be harder to follow, but it is good that some writing is articulated in that way. Perhaps short-stories are best for this as readers might be able to tolerate for a shorter time than throughout a novel. However, online reviewing is effectively channelling so much writing into narrow parameters which squeeze out interesting and/or innovative approaches. I have also been pleased in recent years to see more short-story collections being physically published, even from obscure writers like Tabucchi (does anyone still read him in this and age?). Ironically short stories and episodic novels are ideal for reading the way most people use e-readers. Yet, the sense that they are an illegitimate form of writing with people saying they are waiting for the 'full' novel of the story or feeling that, as if by accident, the author has only published a 'fragment' of the 'proper' story, is too common. When you read a Tabucchi short-story we don’t have this feeling of incompleteness.
 
 
 
If you're into Lisbon, my city, read on.
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review 2017-10-31 16:20
I'm bovvered that I'm not bovvered: “Letter from Casablanca” by Antonio Tabucchi
Letter from Casablanca - Antonio Tabucchi,Janice M. Thresher

‘“Saudade,” said Maria do Carmo, “yearning. It isn’t a word, it’s a category of the spirit. Only the Portuguese are able to feel it, because they have this word in order to say they have it. A great poet said this.” And then she began to talk about Fernando Pessoa.’

 

In the short-story “The Backwards Game” taken from “Letter from Casablanca” by Antonio Tabucchi

 

The idea that some people aren't bothered about finding meaning reminds me of a saying in the book of Ecclesiastes 1 v 18: 'For in the abundance of wisdom there is an abundance of vexation, so that he that increases knowledge increases pain.' I love this book in the bible as it really does emphasize the 'what is the point?' question. Tabucchi’s fiction does not belong to the self-help book category, but it’s one hell of a help. Ultimately, what I’m getting from Tabucchi’s fiction is the fact that it gives me something I enjoy doing every day; for a moment I stop being a problem solver, and someone who’s overwhelmed by problems all day long in his day job. I have found that it is the only way to bring about an appreciation and a focus on what you have and what you do in life, rather than what you lack. That said, it's not always that easy; as a person who thinks about life and the world a lot, I will always have to work hard on the things above to avoid falling into despair.

 

 

If you're into Mundane Literature and the Meaning of Life, read on.

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review 2017-10-24 21:19
Pereira Maintains
Pereira Declares: A Testimony - Antonio Tabucchi,Patrick Creagh

The content is not culturally translatable to a Dutch girl. The title is going to haunt me and remind me that sometimes you don't have to keep reading to get it. Obnoxious.

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