Book Review: The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares

I am a big fan of Latin American writers, especially G.G. Marquez and Julio Cortazar, but I have to admit to the fact that Adolfo Bioy Casares exerts a special influence on me. He lived his life under the shadow of Borges’ immense genius and was often overshadowed by the brilliant prose of a writer who can, with ease, be considered as the best writer never to have been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

But Casares, even though not as famous as his best friend, and most certainly not as brilliant, managed to grow in a different direction and forge a different style. He did all that, but he managed one more thing, for which I commend him greatly. He wrote this short novel.
Continue reading Book Review: The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares

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Book Review: The Pearl by John Steinbeck

From Amazon.com:

Like his father and grandfather before him, Kino is a poor diver, gathering pearls from the gulf beds that once brought great wealth to the Kings of Spain and now provide Kino, Juana, and their infant son with meager subsistence. Then, on a day like any other, Kino emerges from the sea with a pearl as large as a sea gull’s egg, as “perfect as the moon.” With the pearl comes hope, the promise of comfort and of security….

A story of classic simplicity, based on a Mexican folk tale, The Pearl explores the secrets of man’s nature, the darkest depths of evil, and the luminous possibilities of love.

John Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962. You’d expect some hefty volumes with his signature on them, but the truth is that his most memorable works are quite short. Continue reading Book Review: The Pearl by John Steinbeck

Book Review: The Order of the Day by Eric Vuillard

From Amazon.com:

Winner of the 2017 Prix Goncourt, this behind-the-scenes account of the manipulation, hubris, and greed that together led to Nazi Germany’s annexation of Austria brilliantly dismantles the myth of an effortless victory and offers a dire warning for our current political crisis. 

“The sun is a cold star.”

The words used to introduce us to a world we wish never even existed in literature, let alone in real life. Imagine a single day in history. One day. 24 hours. Now, imagine that God chose to abandon us for that day.

The players that Vuillard writes about are all well known: Siemens, Opel, Reuter, Krupp. The folks who run businesses such as Bayern, Agfa, Farben, Allianz, Varta. They are the titans of industry, the owners of mass-media, and they are all there, on the marbled steps of the Reichstag, in the presence of Hermann Göring. All of them waiting for Hitler. Continue reading Book Review: The Order of the Day by Eric Vuillard

Book Review: The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway

From Amazon.com:

The Old Man and the Sea is one of Hemingway’s most enduring works. Told in language of great simplicity and power, it is the story of an old Cuban fisherman, down on his luck, and his supreme ordeal — a relentless, agonizing battle with a giant marlin far out in the Gulf Stream.

Here Hemingway recasts, in strikingly contemporary style, the classic theme of courage in the face of defeat, of personal triumph won from loss. Written in 1952, this hugely successful novella confirmed his power and presence in the literary world and played a large part in his winning the 1954 Nobel Prize for Literature.

If this would have been Hemingway’s only published book, it would would still have been enough to earn him the Nobel prize.

“It’s silly not to hope. It’s a sin he thought.”

Hope. That double-edged sword, the source of our power, the reason behind so many of our sorrows. Hope. It is truly silly not to hope, not to dream of Heaven even when walking through Hell. Continue reading Book Review: The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Book Review: The Woman with the Bouquet by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt

In his new collection of stories, Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt, author of The Most Beautiful Book in the World, probes the paradox that the events that shape our lives are often the stuff of dreams, yet nonetheless true. Humor, tenderness, irony, and exquisite writing have always been the hallmarks of Schmitt’s work. Here, he adds a pinch of philosophy.

In one story, a lovelorn writer seeks refuge in Ostende, a remote and charming town on the North Sea. His host is a solitary and eccentric octogenarian. The fairy-tale setting starts to work its magic and the old woman begins to tell her tale—an extraordinary story of passion. Bewitched by what he hears, the writer can no longer distinguish what is real from what is not, and in the woman’s account he will finally find a response to his own deep-seated grief. Here, as in the other stories in this collection, Schmitt displays the combination of stylishness and insight into the human condition that prompted Kirkus Reviews to write of his tales that they “echo Maupassant’s with their lean narratives, surprise endings, mordant humor and psychological acuity.”

It is said that there’s no creature that does not try to escape reality. There isn’t a living thing endowed with a central nervous system that does not dream. The brain is what is called an exclusion system: its purpose is to decide what information is important and what is not. There is so much information in the world that we’d go mad if we tried to understand it all.

What does this have to do with this collection of short stories?

Well, because the characters in each of the stories have this in common: they want to escape reality, they are looking for a shelter against it. If you ever felt this gnawing sense of fear at the thought that you are simply waiting for life to happen to you, if you daydreamed to the point of it becoming an obsession, then this is the book for you.

Reality cannot be negotiated with, but our imagination can be bargained with; our dreams can show us a world that will never come true.

But that never stopped us from dreaming and wishing our dreams would, somehow, come true.

The Woman with the Bouquet is one of the most intriguing compilations of short stories I have ever read.

Book Review: The Gospel According to Jesus Christ by José Saramago

A brilliant skeptic, José Saramago envisions the life of Jesus Christ and the story of his Passion as things of this earth: A child crying, the caress of a woman half asleep, the bleat of a goat, a prayer uttered in the grayish morning light. His idea of the Holy Family reflects the real complexities of any family, and as only Saramago can, he imagines them with tinges of vision, dream, and omen. The result is a deft psychological portrait that moves between poetry and irony, spirituality and irreverence of a savior who is at once the Son of God and a young man. In this provocative, tender novel, the subject of wide critical discussion and wonder, Saramago questions the meaning of God, the foundations of the Church, and human existence itself.

 

Nobel Laureate José Saramago is a titan of literature. The quality, originality, and importance of his writings cannot be denied. yet this might be the most controversial of all his novels.

The Gospel According to Jesus Christ is the kind of novel that will make a lot of people want to throw stones at him. Maybe.

Yes, Saramago is incredibly ironic all through this story, yes, he’s incredibly sarcastic when it comes to the rules passed down by some divine power. It is the human aspect of Jesus that he describes wonderfully.

Blasphemy?

Maybe. Who knows? Continue reading Book Review: The Gospel According to Jesus Christ by José Saramago

Book Review: Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread by Chuck Palahniuk

The title is self-explanatory. Chuck Palahniuk, the literary god of transgressive fiction, who kind of forgot how to write great novels somewhere in 2009 with the release of Pygmy, tries to shock the reader even more with a bunch of short stories that should act as some sort of parables somehow… I think.

Don’t get me wrong. Chuck is still one of my favorite writers. There are a bunch of brilliant novels, some fantastic short stories, and I will always be fond of passages that made me laugh out loud or truly ponder over for weeks. But… but…

That’s the word. But. Continue reading Book Review: Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread by Chuck Palahniuk