Showing posts with label quotes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label quotes. Show all posts

Sunday, February 26, 2012

SAFL #11: The Golden Age

I'll be posting more about this one in a couple of days, but even after several days of thinking about it and writing about it, I'm still amazed by how incredible this novel is. Heavily focused on the magic of words and stories, The Golden Age by Michal Ajvaz has that fantastic quality that makes it the very definition of SAFL.

The Golden Age seems to begin in a somewhat standard fashion - the narrator tells us of a wonderful and exotic island. Soon, though, fantasy elements make their way into the story and internal tales begin to twist and turn around each other, eventually overtaking the original narrative. This makes for fairy-tale like stories that contain within them enough fantasy (and even science fiction, in one substory) to transform the novel into something utterly magical and beautiful.

There are many lovely and quote-worthy sentences in the book (see here), but this one has to be my favorite:
I have noticed that a lot of literary critics are bothered by the mixing of genres; indeed, some of them are so easily offended in this regard that they experience distress when faced with trifles like the use in a passage of fiction of concepts of theory (as if there were some fundamental difference between stories of people, animals, plants and objects on the one hand and stories of concepts of the other). -p. 187

Monday, February 20, 2012

Quote of the day

You probably won't miss anything important if you skip the next couple of chapters, but you could miss the encounter that holds the key to the entire text. -p.275
Michal Ajvaz's The Golden Age (tr. Andrew Oakland) is one of the most bizarre and wondrous books I've read in several months. I'll discuss it more once I finish reading it, but this quote exemplifies so much of what I'm enjoying in this novel. Ajvaz takes the reader on so many strange tangents that at some point you just get lost and enjoy the ride, but the search for the "key" is still there. The bigger story is still there... somewhere. And I personally cannot wait to find it.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Quote of the week

Her laughter was never more to peal in the United Principalities or anywhere on this earth. Her sufferings had dissolved in a place of greenness and tranquility. Her face was no longer rosy, but thereafter, at least in the month of May, the color of the peonies would recall her cheeks. Now the human language, as many as she had learned, crumbled to dust in Paradise, where the children learn a single language, that of the Heavens.

-p. 173-174, The Days of the King - Filip Florian

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Fads in cyberspace

Fads swept the youth of the Sprawl at the speed of light; entire subcultures could rise overnight, thrive for a dozen weeks, and then vanish utterly. -p.58, Neuromancer
While William Gibson is best known for coining the term "cyberspace", he should (in my mind) really be remembered for predicting our modern internet culture, as is evidenced by the above quote...

Monday, November 7, 2011

Quote of the day

Maybe when people take their eyes off them, inanimate objects become even more inanimate.
- The Wind-up Bird Chronicles, Haruki Murakami, p. 65

Let the rest of the world read 1Q84. I've still got Murakami's back-catalog to read, and by god it's about time I read it.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Armenian genocide, out of context

The Forty Days of Musa Dagh has been sitting on my bookshelves for six years. I finally started reading it last week. Now, after devouring the first of three sections (er... books), I'm going to set the book aside for a short time. It should be noted that this book is brilliant so far.

The Forty Days of Musa Dagh is one of those rare books that makes me want to highlight passages, quote them, analyze them and dissect them to their tiniest commas and dashes. It's a dense book, no doubt, heavy with expectation and meaning. It's also only the second book I've ever read (or encountered) about the Armenian genocide, the first having been a kids book from seven years ago (an Amazon recommendation thus brought The Forty Days of Musa Dagh to my attention).

Reading about the Armenian genocide in today's world is a fairly difficult task. Like Peter Sourian, writer of the introduction in my edition of the book, I repeatedly find myself making connections to the Holocaust. The more famous one, that is. The one that is heavily represented in literature. It's actually rather hard not to make such connections. Allow me the indulgence of quoting some lengthy passages.
For many people it is depressing even to move house. A lost fragment of life always remains. To move to another town, settle in a foreign country is for everyone a major decision. But, to be suddenly driven forth, within twenty-four house, from one's home, one's work, the reward of years of steady industry. To become the helpless prey of hate. To be sent defenceless out on to Asiatic highroads, with several thousand miles of dust, stones and morass before one. To know that one will never again find a decently human habitation, never again sit down to a proper table. Yet all this is nothing. To be more shackled than any convict. To be counted as outside the law, a vagabond, whom anyone has the right to kill unpunished. To be confined within a crawling herd of sick people, a moving concentration camp, in which no one is so much as allowed to ease his body without permission. - p. 93-94
According to Wikipedia, Franz Werfel's novel has always been interpreted as referencing Jews and anti-Semitism. Werfel himself faced much anti-Semitic behavior in his life and twice had to flee the Nazis - the first time from Austria and later from France. The Forty Days of Musa Dagh was written in 1933, "prefiguring the atrocities of World War II" (as the back of the book refers to it). It's an eerily accurate and apt description.
Germany, luckily, has few or no, internal enemies. But let's suppose that, in other circumstances, she found herself with traitors in her midst - Alsace-Lorrainers, shall we say, or Poles, or Social Democrats, or Jews - and in far greater numbers than at present. Would you, Herr Lepsius, not endorse any and every means of freeing your country, which is fighting for its life against a whole world of enemies without, from those within?... Would you consider it so cruel if, for the sake of victory, all dangerous elements in the population were simply to be herded together and sent packing into distant, uninhabited territory? - p. 135-136
This second quote is taken from a conversation between the German priest Dr. Lepsius and the Turkish leader Enver Pasha. The conversation is full of comments that make the noble Lepsius (as well as the reader) want to rip his hair out. 
I agree that among Armenians one finds an alarming proportion of intelligence. Are you really so much in favor of that kind of intelligence, Herr Lepsius? I'm not. We Turks may not be very intelligent in that way, but we're a great and heroic people, called to establish and govern a world empire. Therefore we intend to surmount all obstacles. - p. 138-139
There's also a fair amount of anti-Semitism in the conversation (as is evidenced above). At one point, Enver Pasha says of the American ambassador (who has eye-witnessed atrocities): "Mr. Morgenthau [...] is a Jew. And Jews are always fanatically on the side of minorities." - p. 134

But what's remarkable is the way the similarities are drawn by the reader, not by Werfel himself. Werfel, at the time of writing The Forty Days of Musa Dagh could not have imagined what horrors Jews would face in Europe only a few years later. Some parallels are apparent - the fact is that by the 1930s, anti-Semitism was rampant in Austria. Werfel inserts the same fears, paranoias, stereotypes and false beliefs in as the views of the Turks against Armenians. The Turks are seen as jealous of the wealth and power of some Armenians. Of their positions in fields like medicine and accounting.

Then the connections that I draw: the same absolute fear of a people deemed to be outsiders. The same desire to entirely destroy a race that is viewed as a "traitor", working from within to bring down an empire (and even more specifically, the new regime that represents a far more ancient empire). The methodological manner of completely destroying a group of people. True annihilation. Genocide.

I'm certain I will have more to say after I read the second two "books" that comprise of The Forty Days of Musa Dagh. So far, it's been fascinating. Not only does it tell of a wonderful (also difficult) story (resistance is always interesting), it has taught me a lot and given me much to think about. I'll take some time to mull it over before diving back in, but I'm certainly looking forward to completing this book. I'm glad I'm finally giving it a chance.

Friday, December 31, 2010

5 quotes that serve as examples for why this book is incredible

The book in question: Wolf Hall.
Further information: This book will be finished by today. If I need to stay awake until tomorrow morning - I will finish this wonderful book to-day.

In no particular order:
1. [Cromwell to his son] "I once heard him say I looked like a murderer." Gregory says,"Did you not know?" p. 527

2. [following a Seymour family scandal, Cromwell to Anne Boleyn] "And the daughter? Jane, is it?" Anne sniggers. "Pasty-face? Gone down to Wiltshire. Her best move would be to follow the sister-in-law into a nunnery. Her sister Lizzie married well, but no one wants Milksop, and now no one will." p. 297

3. [to a newly married fifteen year-old who is not permitted to be with his equally young wife] "Be reasonable, my lord. Once you've done it, you'll want to do it all the time. For about three years. That's the way it goes." p. 518

4. So day by day, at his request and to amuse him, he would put a value on his master. Now the king has sent an army of clerks to do it. But he would like to take away their pens by force and write across their inventories: Thomas Wolsey is a man beyond price. p. 50

5. "Do you know what Chapuys is saying about you? That you keep two women in your household, dressed up as boys." "Do I?" [Cromwell] frowns. "Better, I suppose, than two boys dressed up as women. Now that would be opprobrious." p. 388
It should be noted that only two of these quotes were pre-picked for this post. The remaining three were found just by opening the book to random pages. I suspect I could find an excellent quote from just about every page of this book. But that will be discussed a little later...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Br. writes, Bi. types

In response to the "Not the TV Book Group"'s reading of Philippe Claudel's "Brodeck's Report" ("Brodeck" in the U.S.), I wanted to share my thoughts. Verbivore recommended the book, and I was pleased to see it getting more exposure. Realizing, though, that I'd missed the official date (blast!), I thought back to the things I wrote about this novel in June. Among my papers, I also found a typewritten sheet where I'd quoted from the English translation (which is not the one I originally read) and discussed the book at length (but with numerous spoilers). At dovegreyreader scribbles, several commenters discussed the typewritten aspects of the book, suggesting that the occasional blips might be meant to parallel the story itself. The entire discussion is fascinating, and as a hat tip to the interesting points raised, I offer one of my favorite passages from the book (I don't think it's much of a spoiler but I suggest caution anyways), childishly and amateurishly typewritten from a few months ago:

Click to enlarge

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Quote of the week

Today's quote comes from the excellently titled "A Honeymoon in Space" by George Griffith, and is an exchange between an Englishman and a young American woman. Lord Redgrave says:
"I'm for sound money all the time, if I may be permitted to speak American."

"English is quite good enough for us, Lord Redgrave," said Miss Zaidie a little stiffly. "We may have improved on the old language a bit, still we understand it, and—well, we can forgive its shortcomings.["]
*A small reminder to readers - the book blogger survey is still going on; see here for more details.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Quote of the week

Also known as translation failure of the week...
The salon they entered was large. It had three windows.

-p. 40, "The Family Moskat" - Isaac Bashevis Singer, translation by A.H. Gross
It's very nice that people translate books. Really. It makes life simpler for most of us. But it's pretty disappointing to find lines like these in the midst of a book that deserves better. I suspect the blame lies with the translator, as the quote sits awkwardly compared to the rest of the page. I may obviously be mistaken and it's Isaac Bashevis Singer's fault but the impression was that the translation flubbed. Thankfully, most of "The Family Moskat" is better written (and translated) than these two sentences. It would make for pretty uncomfortable reading if not...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Quotes out of Africa

The ideas of flights and pursuit are recurrent in dreams and are equally enrapturing. Excellent witty things are said by everybody. It is true that if remembered in the daytime they will fade and lose their sense, because they belong to a different plane, but as soon as the one who dreams lies down at night, the current is again closed and he remember their excellence. All the time the feeling of immense freedom is surrounding him and running through him like air and light, an unearthly bliss.

-p. 83, Out of Africa - Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen)
Above, dreams. Below, the chapter "The Elite of Bournemouth".
I had as neighbour a settler who had been a doctor at home. Once, when the wife of one of my houseboys was about to die in childbirth, and I could not get into Nairobi, because the long rains had ruined the roads, I wrote to my neighbour and asked him to do me the great service of coming over and helping her. He very kindly came, in the midst of a terrible thunderstorm and torrents of tropical rain, and, at the last moment, by his skill, he saved the life of the woman and the child.

Afterwards he wrote me a letter to say that although he had for once, on my appeal, treated a Native, I must understand that he could not let that sort of thing occur again. I myself would fully realize the fact, he felt convinced, when he informed me that he had before now, practised to the elite of Bournemouth

-p.223, "Out of Africa"
The book is (to an extent) summarized by these two passages. The first goes to show the elegance and beauty to Blixen's writing and how she manages to vividly describe everything she mentions. The second displays the culture gaps, humanity and ordinary life she constantly seeks to explain. The book manages to juggle these two styles fairly well though had it been more tightly written (and perhaps better edited) it might have been an easier, better read. Still, passages like those above redeem the book to an extent. It is difficult to fault a book that pinpoints the essence of dreams in the best description I've ever read.