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Le temps des cerises

"But luxury has never appealed to me, I like simple things, books, being alone, or with somebody who understands." Daphne du Maurier

Currently reading

Sophie's World
Jostein Gaarder
Yoga For Dummies (For Dummies (Computer/Tech))
Georg Feuerstein;Larry Payne
Bram Stoker
Belle du Seigneur
Albert Cohen
Les Borgia : enquête historique
Guy Le Thiec
The Borgias - Alexandre Dumas The Borgia inspired many stories and many authors. They tempted many to write about them, to glorify them, to debase them, to make them a fiction, an almost symbolic figures of a symbolic era. More than five centuries later, it’s impossible to know how much of the told is actually true and how many a subjective judgment of characters.
Alexander Dumas just like the Borgia inspired many stories and offered his life to eternal speculations. In the 1840’s he wanted to write documentary stories about historical personalities famous for their crimes. Murder, love, incest and power are magic magnetic words for a writer on the hunt. He documented his work by many researches and tried to be accurate about the events he was writing about. Unfortunately, the way History was seen in the 19 century did not permit to Dumas to be a true historian. Reading his version of the Borgia (in French), I found him judgmental, his writing awfully detailed, dry and unable to retell the era. Historical paragraphs follow fictional events creating an incomprehensible story where even the historical accuracy is questioned. Dumas invented a member of the Borgia family called François (he also translated all Italian names in French, another unreadable detail) who’s supposed to be Cesare’s big brother and another suitor of Lucrezia. I’m not familiar how Dumas could possibly create this character or where he found his plausible existence but there he is. So Dumas do not offer a historically accurate chronicle, neither a fictional story about the Borgia. I dare say his book will only disappoint history amateurs and those interested in the Borgia.
Inferno - Dan Brown Just couldn’t finish it. Somewhere about 70% I decided to quit because it wasn’t worth the trouble to continue this ridiculous story about how humanity will die. Let it die, for all I care and Dan Brown’s plot and intrigue just made me wish it more and more. No real secrets, no real puzzles to solve, no nothing. I’m just sorry for Dante, because that’s the second bad book I read messing with him and his work. (see the first one here)
And message to Dan Brown, please stop using tour guides’ tips about Italian history or places, I do not need an encyclopedia. There are surely more subtle ways to tell us some interesting fact about a painting, or a building, etc.

I’m already utterly disappointed with Dan Brown’s writing and the way he shapes or rather does not shape his characters through what’s happening to them. And all that chilling and startling about Botticelli’s vision of Dante’s hell. Weak hearts beware, here’s comes Hell! For a grownup art historian being that moved by an early Renaissance painting is rather… I don’t know…childish? Anyway, looking forward for some more thrilling and real mystery, cause right now with I'm Shade and all the conspiracy I’m in some version of Assassin’s Creed II jumping Florentine roofs with Ezio Auditore…Wasn’t Dan Brown somehow better with The Da Vinci Code ?
The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald “Who is he?” I demanded “Do you know?”
“He’s just a man named Gatsby.”
Last summer, my father offered me a book bag. Unfolding it, I saw a pair of sad yellow eyes staring at me, a mystical creature, a femme fatale, a burning city with great melancholy. Printed with big white letters was the name Gatsby.

The Great Gatsby. The Great American novel. So they say. But when I read Gatsby, it’s not America(understand USA) that I see, that I feel, that I experience. But a story of human condition, of weakness and delusion, of greed and grieve, of stupidity and sorrow. There’s surely a picture of that so called ‘American dream’, or of its birth more likely. But I would prefer to go beyond that etiquette and explore Gatsby’s world. So let’s push the gates ant step in. We have to meet Gatsby.

Gatsby is just a man. He’s in his core no different from any other human being. He’s simply mortal. He has this awful dream about a girl, a dream that drives him through life that gives him sense about what he is and what he’s doing. Without it, nothing of what he has gained does matter. He sees his dream every night through a green light…
"I'm the Sheik of Araby,
Your love belongs to me.
At night when you're are asleep,
Into your tent I'll creep----"
And he creeps, slowly but surely till the moment he finally meets that girl again. And at that moment everything falls apart. The dream disappears, as does Gatsby like a shiny fat soap bubble. It’s a story about how we, as human beings, make sense of life, how we answer the question ‘why we live’ and ‘what’s everything about’. But practically, life has no meaning, no big one, but our own. And Gatsby is doomed from the beginning till the end to see the nonexistence of this life meaning. And that’s only right because Gatsby does not exist either. He’s part of the dream. He’s a lost boy’s sad delusion. And no one comes to the funeral of a mirage.

As we step forward, we hear a little voice…
“I'm glad it's a girl. And I hope she'll be a fool--that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool." I think Daisy describes herself beautifully. Because, it’s what she is. A fool. Daisy sees no meaning in her life. She does not think. And precisely because she doesn’t think and doesn’t know what she wants, she is governed by the desires of others, by their little games and dreams. I thought Daisy to be the weakest of them all.

But then, we must step aside. There’s a crowd to let in. A crowd of empty people.
“Once there they were introduced by somebody who knew Gatsby and after that they conducted themselves according to the rules of behavior associated with amusement parks.” There are Tom, Myrtle and Jordan. Another bunch of shallow fools Fitzgerald gives us to play with. They have no significant role in the book outside of being fools. They are of no use at all, but to witness the downfall of a dream and to rejoice at its death.

And finally we meet the honest almost chevaleresque Nick. He says about himself to be in and out at the same time. And he is right. He’s in the story but has no real part of it. He plays no role of how the destiny of the others will turn out. He observes them, describes them and makes no judgment. "Whenever you feel like criticizing any one," he told me, "just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had." There are few book openings that fit for me so perfectly with a feeling how a hero should be. Nick is like Dante who leads us through Hell and offers us all kinds of sins and sinners. But he has the cardinal virtue of honesty and there’s no place for him between them. He just can’t fit it.

Every good book is like a zoo offering some of the finest human specimen. Every great book is like a mirror fill with smoke which reveals at the end our own picture. Of us, humans. Gatsby deserves to be read just for that if it’s not for the delicious prose of his author. I made an attempt to read the book in French (due to my French residence) but gave it up. Unfortunately Fitzgerald is one of those authors whose prose is untranslatable. The beauty, the sadness and the melancholy, one translated, are lost. So I picked up the one staring at me all the time from my book bag. And I must say it. Read it in English or do not read it all. Otherwise, there’s no use of reading it.

Finally, reading Fitzgerald reminded me of reading Kerouac. There’s something of the way Sal sees and describes the world that reminded me of Nick. There was that same feeling of melancholy, of asking why, why we are here, of thinking over and over “You can't live forever, you can't live forever."

Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen Virginia Wolf once said “The wit of Jane Austen has for partner the perfection of her taste”. I could not but agree with her. While reading Austen, I’m constantly in awe with her writing, beautifully witty and fundamentally true. While, nowadays, I see so often reproached to Miss Austen the always happy ending of her books, I cannot but see our own lack of faith of human heart. Don’t get me wrong, I love bad book ending as much as I love happy ones as long as they remain true to the story. But when I seek to read Austen, I seek it for the ingenuity of her writing and the knowledge I will finish her story light-hearted and slightly amused. I love her books for they are realistic, exposing the very heart of human stupidity, vanity and hypocrisy but at the same time full of hope for human kind. The bitterness is somehow sweet and bearable and the despair of her heroines and heroes always temporary.

As to ‘Pride and Prejudice’, I write this review for my second re-read. One good thing about re-reads is that you already know the story and there’s no need to rush through the pages to know the end. I actually let myself to savor every word of the story while my morning train was quietly leading me to work. During the weeks I was reading it, there were sometimes beautiful spring mornings, full of green and while crossing countryside and small villages on my way to work, I would imagine myself in Longbourn observing the everyday life of the Bennets. On other days, the rain was pouring, the clouds gloomy, my umbrella weak and useless, and my only comfort were the very pages of that same book. In those I could hide myself and switch worlds. And finally, when I put it down today closing the last page, I once more thought art is the only true perfection of human soul for why I consider Jane Austen’s books a truly form of art. Her ability to seize human nature in all its variety and forms, creating astonishingly vivid and truthful characters exposing them to themselves, leaving them in their own limits of surpassing their faults and weaknesses is her greatest accomplishment.

There are many many portraits of English society of the late 18 and 19 centuries. We have Dickens, Thackeray, Hardy, the Bronte’s sisters, Gaskell, to mention but the most commonly known and there is Jane Austen. It is true, her novels lack of political background, of world changing events or the complete misery of human condition but I do not see the necessity of those ingredients in her books. It does not make them less valuable, well-written or accurate to certain time and habits. On the contrary, it makes them more precious and genius for the fact she managed to make out of the boring everyday life of English countryside society real page-turners.
I would recommend to everyone to read Jane Austen in English for I think one could fully appreciate her style and technique in her own language. As to myself, I know, I’ll sometimes soon be reading ‘Emma’.

Consequences (Consequences, #1)

Consequences (Consequences, #1) - Aleatha Romig I don’t remember the last time I really appreciated a story and the characters within, especially the second. Ms Romig has successfully summoned to life two real characters. They were created and developed in their deepness and I enjoyed exploring their consciousnesses, especially Tony’s and I regret she didn’t make his point of view more present in the story. I hated him, I really did, I was repulsed by him all the way while reading and wished I could slap him really hard. It’s been a long time since some fictional person had that effect on me. For me that kind of effect means that the author really gave a thought about the characters he/she wishes to create. From personal experience, I know how hard it is to give life to believable human beings on paper. It always reminded me of somehow playing God. The whole process of creating a whole universe populated by living creatures is a difficult journey and I remember my grandfather telling me that it never ends like you were expecting at the beginning. He used to tell me how Pouchkine didn’t know his Tatiana will marry the general. I guess even while writing our imaginary worlds we are unable to control their happening and their ending, well at least not entirely. I sometimes wonder if we have the slightest control over our lives at all or we’re just given the illusion. Ms Romig’s Consequences made me think about all that and more.

For me Claire and Tony have a protagonist / antagonist relationship, they seem to be both at the same time and complete each other because the one is not possible without the other. I remember wondering if Ms Romig has ever liked her characters, especially Anthony, to create them so unpleasant and so real. They weren’t sugarcoated neither idealized nor perfect. With that in mind, the others characters appeared to me strangely unattached to the story and that continues to be the fact now while reading the second chapter of the story. Apart from Claire and Tony, the others were just a blur, for me they remained at the surface. I suppose the second book tries to rectify that but now I don’t want to read about them and don’t care about them. The flashbacks to Tony’s past were interesting and gave the story a little punch while it was lacking action. At first the story went well, it was high paced and I patiently read about Claire’s life as prisoner in Tony’s house. I enjoyed the rhythm until his proposal. Then suddenly, it stopped. I had to read about the wedding with all the unnecessary details, later about the honeymoon, their trip to Europe, and their other trips…long story short I was bored and honestly skipped some of the descriptions. I still find them insignificant to the story; some of them could have been saved. And most of all they were full of clichés something the story wasn’t until then. Fiji, seriously? Paris? The French Riviera? Florence, Rome? I’m honestly tired of reading about the same destinations over and over again. We all know what to visit in the damn Paris, and if you really go there you will see nothing is really so romantic but more crowded and just everyday life to some people. I think mother earth is big enough to find other places worth visiting in a story. Then again, French people speaking fluent English and being polite?! Please! If I may say the French despise English language and often some French people pretend not to understand English just because they hate speaking it! I’ve witnessed it some many times and I barely know a French person that could speak fluent English. So, if I may suggest cut the usual crap and go deeper when placing the story in some foreign country. Europe always appears like one giant shallow sightseeing cliché!

Now about the plot, it was clever and well constructed and I’m not sure I would have liked it so much if it wasn’t for the ending. Before finishing the book, I read some of the reviews and knew there will be surprise at the end. But I was telling myself not to except too much because I surely will be disappointed. I wasn’t. It was the best possible ending. It gave a final logical touch to the story and at the same time opened it. The idea reminded me of that ‘Everything happens for a reason’ thing, that there are not coincidences but just a logical turns of the events. Like a puzzle and a domino. I felt pity for Claire and how her life turned to be even when she married the devil. I regretted her decision and never understood why she did it, how can you possible love a monster like this one. Then I guess love is not always logical or beautiful, it is that unexplainable thing that still makes us human. There is also this Beauty and the Beast feeling and we all know now that appearances can be really deceptive.

One last thing, I do not want to judge the lifestyle described within the story, but its shallowness always irritates me and the fact Claire was like a trophy wife didn’t help. All that meaningless shopping Claire finally used to enjoy so much, I hope it was premeditated in order to show how a person can change and adopt a lifestyle she never aspired to. If it is not the case, well I’m disappointed. Desperate housewives was never my must watch show. But I appreciated that desire to live, the will to survive and the pursuit of happiness no matter what your life turns out to be.
Now I know I’ll have to wait a whole year to read the third part but I don’t have much of a choice, don’t I [Anthony]?

"We're born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we're not alone." Orson Welles

Gabriel's Inferno (Gabriel's Inferno, #1)

Gabriel's Inferno (Gabriel's Inferno, #1) - Sylvain Reynard Here’s the thing Gabriel’s inferno is way way behind being some sort of favorite book of mine but I’m writing my second review about it. It started pretty easy, the first time I read the book I was so disappointed, so frustrated with it that I wrote a small review. A friend of mine called it a polite destruction. Ok, maybe I was a bit mean, but only a bit and just because of my frustration with the main characters. I know now I’ve been expecting too much from this book. When I started it I hoped to be reading some sort of a new Byatt’s Possession. Unfortunately that was not the case. Gabriel’s Inferno and Gabriel’s rapture are far, far away from being as well and cleverly written or possessing some real interpretation of the masterpieces of occidental literature.

But let’s start with the plot. Briefly, it’s a love story between a professor and his student related somehow to the story of the Italian poet Dante and his love for a young woman called Beatrice. I do not intend to tell you the whole story, you already know it at least by reading the book description or others’ reviews. So far so good. She falls in love with him the moment she sees him and apparently he’s attracted by her shyness, modesty and innocence. That first meeting is before they’re professor and student. He’s a bad boy, a lonely lost boy, an adopted rebellious young man; she’s in high school with a drunk for a mother and an absent father. But this first meeting we acknowledge it only briefly, only in a memory she recalls one time. She had a lousy boyfriend who cheated on her with her roommate. Apparently this must be some sort of a major drama, a severe psychological trauma, her highness still suffers from. Her name is Julia or maybe I should say Julianne, the professor only calls her that way, but why I would never know. When we meet him he is one pretentious fool. I recommend you to read Laura de Steiguer's excellent review on the subject and her list of pretentious shit she so cleverly picked in the book. It’s all true. And with all his manners he calls her Julianne. Honestly that drove me crazy. And of course he’s a…let me say it for you… a Dante specialist. At 32, when we know later he has been a cokehead while writing his dissertation in Harvard about Dante. Poor Dante. Maybe one day, I’ll name my cat on him. I forgot to tell you his name. Gabriel. Like the archangel who tells Virgin Mary she’s pregnant with the Savior. It’s a beautiful name, I won’t deny it, but is he also so gorgeous? Apparently so, if we follow author’s description of him, his blue eyes, firmed, well toned body and black hair. Yummy yummy. Well, we’re talking about a Dante specialist, not some supermodel girls, let’s be a bit more respectful to the man. Gabriel and Julia meet again at Toronto University, he’s well respected professor, and she’s his student. Clichés’ bells ringing here. Ignore them. They meet, he does not remember her, but I won’t tell you why, let’s keep the great mystery. After a horrible night with a lot of vomiting, he finally sees her for who she is, oh god, she’s Beatrice! How romantic you’ll say, I suppose we can call it that if it wasn’t for the way it was said. And we finally embark on their story which developed in two books is highly sufficient, but because I guess trilogies are really fashionable these days, we’re expecting a third part to the series. I leave you here to discover the rest of the story by yourself and go for the characters.

Gabriel, sweetheart, you’re such a tease. You have a beautiful name of an angel but you wear it the wrong way. The author wants him to be a fallen angel seeking redemption. If only. Gabriel has, as every well respected hero of his kind, a lot, a lot of women. He likes to fuck. Hard. But he meets her. And there’s no more fucking, no more getting laid, no more random toilet sex. She’s his exception, his better half, the girl who always changes the hero. Ok. He changes. But we can’t see why, except of course for her beauty, modesty, shyness, innocence, intelligence… (Add here another noble quality and you got it). Oh, I forgot to tell you, his Latin is excellent like his Italian, French, Spanish and German… But wait, we don’t know about his ancient Greek or maybe Finnish… Quel dommage! … Now, I’m sure your hearths swells with love for him… Good. Shall we continue? He has an impeccable taste for clothes, don’t ask why or from where he got it, he just has it, he’s Gabriel for god’s sake! He knows how to make dinner, how to make love, has a lot of money (inherited but unwanted) and a great brain. His Excellency is marvelous, isn’t he? Is there a cliché that has been spared?

She. Julia. Beatrice. Rabbit. Oh, how silly of me, I forgot to tell you about Paul, her knight in shiny armor. He thinks of her like some sort of a small animal, preferably rabbit, not a hamster, and mouse would be pejorative. I get the point. We have to see her for what she is and apparently the rabbit describes her best. But the way Paul says it, it’s just plain creepy. Paul’s her classmate, a PhD to be assistant to the professor, a full time hero and a part of an intended love triangle. But there’re so many women for Gabriel that we cannot call it a triangle but more of a polygone. Julia does not understand why Gabriel loves to spend his evenings at the local club (Almost a maison close to him), but she wears a tongue and wonders if he could see it from where he stands (at the same club).Hmmm. And Rodin’s Le Baiser is too… arousing for her. Well, I wish I could call her a prude, but I’ll be a hypocrite. Her character is so confusing that she always manages to irritate me. Finally, when you construct a character, he or she must be at least logical in his/her thoughts and actions. Even the most irrational characters are logical in their conception.

I have no desire to delve into the other characters. Paul is a creepy sweetheart, Paulina and Christa (two of Gabriel's harem) are bitches but this is how deep it goes with all of them. They are just accessory characters. Like the sister, the father, the mother, etc. who’re either entirely good or bad. I see Monsieur Reynard tries to project in Gabriel a Byronic hero in all his glory and attributes but in my humble opinion he fails epically. And we have an ancient background story in the face of Dante and Beatrice. I respect that. It’s not a bad idea at all; it’s actually an interesting idea to develop, if it had been developed. But it was not. The author makes some space for verses from Dante’s Divine Comedy and tries some art history lessons with Botticelli. It’s not working for me. The Academic world he tries to revive is lacking authenticity. Some Greek mythology, I thought of Orpheus and Eurydice, is trying its way out, but in the mediocrity of the writing it’s really hard. I wish all the symbolism, all the references and poetry to be better introduced, thought and developed. It could have been a great story that now I regret.