Archive for the ‘Analisys’ Category

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga Reviewed: Winner of the Man Booker Prize for Literature

Thursday, November 11th, 2021

From an Indian born, Australian raised and British educated journalist comes a stunning first novel of poverty, corruption, desperation and murder.

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga is published by Free PressOctober 2008, (ISBN 978-1416562603 , 304pp), and is the winner of the 2008 Man Booker Prize for Literature, albeit squeezing past Sebastian Berry’s The Secret Scripture by a whisker

Set in contemporary India, The White Tiger tells the story of Munny (‘Boy’), aka Balram Halwai, aka The White Tiger, one-time tea-boy, latterly driver to a rich family, and finally a murderer reborn as one of India’s new breed of entrepreneurs.

India’s Silicon Valley

The book takes the form seven e-mails, written over consecutive nights by the narrator to the premier of China; “The white people are on the way out,” Balram says (p305). “In twenty years’ time it will be just us yellow men and brown men at the top of the pyramid, and we’ll rule the whole world.” Balram should know. He’s set his business up in Bangalore, India’s Silicon Valley, where India acts as a global metaphor for the driver, its call centers and IT departments taking care of America and Europe’s needs — at a price.

The novel is set in a world of crushing poverty and corruption, where the rich can literally buy someone to take the blame for their murders. When his employer takes the wheel of the car and believes that he’s hit a pedestrian, Balram –as the driver–signs a confession to the effect that it is his fault. He will literally go to prison if necessary to keep his employer’s name clean. Such inmates are even proud of their status. By contrast, should he steal from his employer and flee, Balram’s family will be tortured, then murdered en masse.

Anyway, if you’re tired of reading just pay attention to free solitaire games to play offline.

The White Tiger

The Asian white tiger is the rarest of animals, and deeply symbolic to Indians as a creature born only once in a generation. Balram takes the white tiger as his pseudonym when writing to the Chinese premier, as that rarest of creatures, the poor Indian who has broken free of his circumstances, and Balram’s prosperity is a metaphor for the Asian Tiger economies of earlier in this decade.

At first the tone of the novel is ironic, mocking, but as it progresses, so the narrator’s rage at the duplicity and hypocrisy of Indian society grows until it When his faithful –if less than enthusiastic– service is repaid by treachery, Balram rebels, kills his patron and flees, even though he knows that he is signing his entire family’s death warrant.

Yet there is a sort of redemption at the end of the book; when one of Balram’s own drivers kills a boy, the new breed of businessmen takes care of his own responsibilities, just as he tries to take better care of his workforce – for Balram has learned from his own experience.

Aravind Adiga

Aravind Adiga was born in India in 1974, but raised in Australia, before studying at Oxford and Columbia Universities, so as an outsider is perfectly placed to write such a commentary on what will become one of the twenty-first century’s superpowers. The White Tiger is his first novel, and is a worthy winner of The Booker Prize.

Short Story Review – Maria L Bombal’s The Tree: Magic Realism in Latin American Fiction

Friday, August 20th, 2021

In brief, magic realism refers to an art or literary style in which the everyday is juxtaposed with the marvelous. In her short story, “The Tree” Maria Luisa Bombal uses elements of magic realism to present a complicated discourse about the human experience: how we strive to find meaning in our lives and to make connections with others, but often fail in these attempts; and how we sometimes have insights into ourselves and others, but often fail to fully understand or act upon those insights.

Bombal dramatizes the complexity of human experience in a narrative world where there is no boundary between reality and dreams.

Magic Realism Defined

Magic realism was first coined in 1925 by German art critic Franz Roh and was later adopted by Latin American writers from the 1940s onward. As it applies to fiction, the term refers to a way of writing that employs realism in representing ordinary events and descriptive details combined with fantastic and dreamlike elements and materials derived from myth and fairytales.

Maria Luisa Bombal’s “The Tree”

In “The Tree,” Bombal employs magic realist techniques to chronicle a woman’s journey toward understanding the truth of her failed marriage. The story begins with the everyday: a woman, Brigida, is sitting in the audience of a classical piano concert thinking about her childhood.

As she listens to the music, her mind wanders through the past, first to the idyllic garden of her youth when all possibilities seemed to open before her and her ex-husband, Luis, were still romantic and playful. It appears that Brigida may have been idealizing her past, however, when she suddenly realizes that she did not marry her husband for love.

Brigida’s dreamy memories gradually give way to visions of a disappointing and lifeless past. It is the first year of her marriage to Luis, a man who seems to have married her out of habit, and she thirsts for a love he cannot provide. In this loveless marriage, Brigida finds a place that eases the sadness of her awakenings: it is her dressing room where she can watch the gum tree outside of her window. Bombal uses the image of the tree to illustrate the way that Brigida creates her own reality.

The foliage of the tree reflected in her mirrors recedes into an infinite forest that prevents Brigida from truly seeing the reflection of herself and her life.

Throughout the rest of the story, until Brigida arrives at her final, most important insight, the everyday events of her marriage to Luis are juxtaposed with the marvelous fantasy world of her dressing room. As her marriage slowly deteriorates and she realizes she no longer loves her husband, the dressing room becomes her place to escape. The room is at once liberating and constraining; Brigida creates a space for herself to escape, but that same space also allows her to maintain a psychological distance from her life.

It is here that Brigida convinces herself that there is certain greatness in accepting her life as something definitive and irremediable.

It is not until the gum tree is felled, because the roots are raising the paving stones of the sidewalk, that Brigida is torn from the fantasy world that she has created for herself. When the tree is gone, her dressing room is invaded by white, terrifying light. Brigida’s private space is taken away and she finds herself wondering how she has remained married to Luis in a loveless marriage for so long.

The loss of her sheltering tree and its filtered light is the catalyst that brings Brigida to her final insight in the present, that she left her husband because of the tree, because she could finally understand her reality and realized there could be more to her life than placidity, submission, and resignation.

The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts. ©

At the Heart of Magic Realism

Bombal’s story illustrates that magic realism is more than just combining realism with fantastic and dreamlike elements. It is also about complex imagery, a metafictional awareness of creating fiction, experimentation with different narrative techniques, and a blurring of the traditional boundaries between fiction and reality. And yet, perhaps, despite the labyrinthine structure and meaning of her text, Bombal is trying to reveal what is at the heart of magic realism.

Perhaps she is trying to tell us that if we open our minds to the fantastic in our own lives, our experiences will be enriched and we will come to understand that what is most marvelous is also most human.

Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis – Literature Review: Challenging Aspects of The Other, Disability, Superficiality

Monday, August 23rd, 2021

If there was an admonishment in literary form that gestured towards the maxim that one should not judge a book by its cover, Kafka’s Metamorphosis could be considered as such. The bizarre and darkly comedic tale masterfully obscures the particulars necessary to nail down details that a reader is normally used to navigating – literary signposts that in Metamorphosis have been displaced entirely.


A Multiplicity of Meaning – an “Ice Axe to Break the Seas Frozen Inside our Soul

Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis is a short and rather matter-of-fact tale of Mr Gregor Samsa – a travelling commercial salesman who is dedicated to both his work and his family. Gregor provides his family with nearly the entirety of his earnings, to be spent on sustaining his mean-spirited and abusive father’s retirement as well as sending his younger sister to the Conservatory to study classical violin.

Awaking one morning to find himself transformed into some sort of spider/beetle amalgam, Gregor’s first thoughts run towards his work duties and responsibilities to his family – not to shock and horror at his own grotesque form, as the overwhelming majority of people would be more likely to do in reality. This blatant suspension of disbelief lends a comic edge in the form of absurdism, perhaps necessary black humour in an otherwise grim tale.

After Gregor’s immediate pressures have ceased – his Manager has seen his new form and was duly scared off, his family has seen him and prefer to ignore him – the novel settles into deep contemplation. As time passes, Gregor’s bedroom becomes filthier, more besotted with debris – his own hygiene becomes questionable. His family, without his income, becomes emotionally strained and financially overburdened – having to accommodate lodgers while working at various jobs.

Through the Eyes of Another – “It Could Happen to You!”

Metamorphosis is told from Gregor’s point of view, as The Other, secluded and forcibly separated from his previous life, society, and even his family. Several parallels are drawn with a disability, not only the most obvious manifestations (Gregor’s spiderlike legs are crushed violently several times, and he is nearly fatally wounded by his father) but also in the patronizing and strained relationship that immediately develops between the new Gregor and his family.

The beauty of reading Kafka is that he is able to relate powerful and timeless concepts in such an eccentric and terse manner. How many who read Metamorphosis will be unable to relate to or at least empathize with, Gregor – a positive and ambitious young man who does the best he can for his family. And how many still will question why Gregor was chosen for such a cursed fate – surely he did not deserve such a tragic and hopeless end?

How fair is a capitalist system that chains a man like Gregor Samsa to an exhaustive, ill-paying job while healthy and discards him as useless fodder the moment he becomes useless in the pursuit of capital? How strong is familial love amongst family circles strained by poverty, disability, chronic illness, and ageing?

The answers to these implied questions illuminate the wry and subtle character behind Kafka’s work here in Metamorphosis as well as in The Trial and The Castle – a poetic and highly human insight into hopeless struggles that are part-and-parcel of the human experience.

Aesop’s, The Wolf and the Lamb: Beware of Tyrants – Underlying Fable Message

Wednesday, September 29th, 2021

In this particular fable, a lamb has wandered away from its fold. A wolf spies on him and notes that he will not simply attack him and devour him. He will need to find a reason to eat the young creature.

First, the wolf tells the lamb, “Last year you grossly insulted me.”

However, the lamb had not yet been born. When that does not work, the wolf accuses the lamb of eating from his pasture. However, the lamb also denies that charge. The wolf then blares that the lamb has drunk water from his private well.

But the noble lamb is adamant. He has not yet been weaned; his mother sustains him completely. At this point, the wolf becomes exasperated. It is not that the lamb is clever; he is merely forthright, speaking the truth of his brief life. The wolf declares that these reasons will not prevent the wolf from obtaining his supper. Thus he seizes the lamb and eats him.

The Innocent Lamb Is Collateral Damage

Humans have often identified themselves with animals, with aggressive people being “sharks,” “bears,” “tigers,” and of course, “wolves.” Lambs have been a timeless symbol of gentlefolk, who are often simple-hearted and unschooled. The wolf, in this fable, wants the lamb to admit to trespassing upon his land or honor. Clearly, he believes it will be easy to trick such a plain creature. And in this case, not only does the lamb lack guile, it is young and unaware of the ways of the world.

The underlying message of this fable is that lambs will exist for the gratification of wolves. In real life, wolves may be bullies, ordinary predators, or the heads of unfavorable governments. The lambs are vegetarians, and the wolves, meat-eaters. In this way, Aesop is showing us that there are members of society who live by doing no harm to others, while there exist other classes of people who profit only from using the flesh of others.


Does the Wolf Have a Conscience?

If the wolf has a conscience, it is a very weak one. He wants to feel justified in his eating the young lamb, so he looks for an excuse to do his deed. Yet, after a mere three attempts, the wolf gives up because the noble lamb has beaten him. It would be better for the wolf to simply portray his true nature, instead of disguising himself as one who has been harmed by invented intrigues of the lamb. He is going to get what he wants, no matter what; however, his digestion might be a bit better, if he extracts a confession from the young lamb.

The Noble Lamb Wins

The wolf slaughters the young lamb, and the tyrant has dined well again. The lamb dies, but is nevertheless heroic, in his death. If gentle creatures, such as lambs, are to have any chance at surviving the tyranny of creatures such as wolves, they will need to stick together, gathering strength in numbers, for clearly the tyrant is prone to frustration when confronted by nobility and truth.

Millennia after this tale was first told, we still see that the peaceful, only when united in numbers, can stand a chance of defeating totalitarianism.

Five Novels Set in France

Monday, August 30th, 2021

These five novels are set in France. Not all are written by French authors but all tell of some experience, either fictional or biographical, of living in France.

Muriel Barbery – The Elegance of the Hedgehog

The Elegance of the Hedgehog tells the story of the main character Renee, a seemingly unassuming concierge of an elegant Paris building. She hides her true self from her tenants and thrives in her own secret world of philosophy and literature. The novel takes on a political aspect and studies the theme of class divides whilst at the same time showing the brightness and beauty that life has to offer.

Ernest Hemingway – A Moveable Feast

A Moveable Feast is a personal account of Hemingway’s memories of living in Paris as an as-yet-unknown writer. Hemingway nostalgically documents his life during the 1920s which involved much drinking and spending time writing in cafe La Closerie des Lilas. The novel provides accounts of other literary figures living in the area at the time such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound.

Jack Kerouac – Satori in Paris

Key Beat writer Jack Kerouac travels to France to learn more about his heritage in this 1966 novel. As with many of Kerouac’s novels it is also a journey of spiritual enlightenment and Zen Buddhism. In tracing his roots he comes across a variety of people and the tale is told in the familiar spontaneous prose style of Kerouac’s other works.

George Orwell – Down and Out in Paris and London

Orwell’s first published novel, the semi-autobiographical Down and Out in Paris and London provides a portrait of society’s poor in the two cities of the title. The first part of the novel tells of his time in Paris. In order to survive the narrator works long hours as a poorly paid dishwasher, whilst in London he faces poverty and lives with the homeless. The Paris section of the novel is based on his personal experiences in the city after a situation where, after having had his money stolen, he took on low paid menial jobs.

Patrick Suskind – Perfume

An eery tale, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is an unwanted orphan with an incredible sense of smell but no personal odour of his own. This repulses other people and he in turn is sickened by them and their smells. He comes across a beautiful scent and finds that is it that of a young woman.

The novel shows the strength that scent has on emotions and how it influences others. Grenouille dedicates his life to preserving smells and this leads to the murder of young virgins to create a perfect scent that manipulates human emotions. Perfume takes a look at the perception of identity and how this affects human relationships.

Literature Review – John Steinbeck, Cup of Gold: A Tale of Sir Henry Morgan, With Occasional Reference to History

Thursday, September 2nd, 2021

A swashbuckling adventure that also carries some very strong elements of medieval and Arthurian folk legend, John Steinbeck’s first novel Cup of Gold is an exciting and wonderful read for those interested in a little escapism that also happens to be more than fair in its historical treatment of Sir Henry Morgan‘s life.

Cup of Gold – Exotic Locales such as Panama, Jamaica, Tortuga, Barbados

Cup of Gold presents a wild variety of locations in which to place the action of such a whirlwind life, beginning with his life as a boy in Wales, complete with a teenage love story. After seeking sage advice from the aged minstrel, Merlin, Henry Morgan sets out for the Indes in search of fame, fortune, and the sea.

Sold into indentured servitude by a less than scrupulous Irishman named Tim, Henry Morgan is thankfully taken as a pupil and, over time, a dear son to the plantation owner – James Flower. The plantation in Barbados becomes the launching point for Henry’s dream, as he is able to learn how to speak to men in order to command respect, cunning tactics for battle and diplomacy via James Flower’s immense library and business contacts, and a small fortune by investing in a worthy ship for the plantation itself.

From this point of departure, Henry Morgan’s career as a pirate (and later, privateer) begins in earnest as he sails for Tortuga and begins his terrible series of strikes against Spanish trading ships and port cities. Eventually, that Spanish pearl, Panama, must surely fall before the cannons of the fearsome and legendary pirate.

Sir Henry Morgan as Tragic Hero, Fatal Love for La Santa Roja

Perhaps the most interesting part for the reader to consider when encountering Steinbeck’s Cup of Gold is the engagement of the text as a character study. While it is true that the book reads very similarly to a boy’s adventure tale common to the era in which it was written, there is a depth of character afforded to Sir Henry Morgan that lends a maturity to the book which might have otherwise gone unnoticed.

Henry Morgan is a dreamer who, unlike his father Robert, is willing to actualize his goals – setting out, no matter the cost, to attain the reality that he sees within his own mind. This is the cause for his great success, and in keeping with the trope of the tragic hero, similarly the cause for his greatest defeats.

The Achilles heel for Henry Morgan comes into play in the second that he meets the famed La Santa Roja, reportedly the most beautiful woman in the world. Legends of her fairness spread the world over, and any man who might possess her love would be a mighty king indeed. As Panama burns, Henry Morgan, having taken the prize with nary any casualties of his own, it is, in fact, La Santa Roja that destroys the mighty pirate.

The clever and cunning Santa Roja manipulates Morgan emotionally, preferring to blindside his immense ego and carnal jealousy rather than to attempt any physical resistance – a far more effective ploy. What defense can a man such as Henry Morgan mount against this assault, far more terrifyingly introspective and deprecating than the more conventional hazards he might whisk away under the aegis of martial expertise?

Cup of Gold is a beautifully written fantasy tale that provides rich imagery of a time soaked in rum, violence, and plunder – truly an appropriate tone for a boy’s adventure with themes reaching far beyond the traditional boundaries of the genre.

Check it: Review: Some Prefer Nettles – Junichiro Tanizaki: Tanizaki’s Novella Explores a Divorce in a Changing Japan

Review – Beijing Coma by Ma Jian: Modern Chinese Literature Is Pushed Forward By Ma Jian’s New Novel

Saturday, August 28th, 2021

The student movement leading to the Tiananmen Square massacre and life in modern China are examined through this fictional account of a student leader attending Beijing University. Tracing his life and the impacts of living under China’s authoritarian regime, Ma Jian provides insights into how China’s changes are largely superficial. Ranging from China’s Cultural Revolution to the crackdown on Falun Gong, Ma Jian’s Beijing Coma is a stunning and ambitious novel bearing witness to events that should not be forgotten.

From The Cultural Revolution to Tiananmen Square

As a child, Dai Wei’s father was condemned to work in education camps as China cannibalized itself during its Cultural Revolution. Raised by his mother, he experiences the rapidly changing China of the 1980s with its beginnings of market liberalization. Ma Jian paints a personal story as he explores Dai Wei’s young love life and the abuses he faces by a rigid, rule-focused society focused on conformity.

As Dai Wei traces his father’s journey in work camps, he begins to expose the violent history that China would assume to forget, providing his own basis for later radicalization.

As a student at Beijing University, Dai Wei finds himself living with several progressive-minded friends which taps into his own desires to rebel against the repression that has punished his family and affected his life. He eventually becomes the head of security for the student movement allowing him to observe the student movement from its exuberant and naïve beginnings to its violent end. Throughout the novel, Ma Jian weaves the lives of Dai Wei’s friends into the narrative creating memorable, tragic profiles.

A large portion of the novel follows the hunger strike and occupation of Tiananmen Square. Confusion of names and rapid actions provide the sense of how energizing, vibrant, and disorienting the experience must have been. As head of security, Dai Wei observes the power struggles and battling egos of the exuberant and occasionally self-serving student leaders. Ma Jian’s vivid writing style creates a fast-paced story and his insights into the personal as well as political give Beijing Coma a strong balance.

The Tiananmen Square massacre and its descriptions in Beijing Coma are particularly brutal and graphic. Ma Jian conveys the sense of being an eyewitness, and watching the innocence of the students robbed by tanks and rifles is horrifying. The impending danger the students face invests Beijing Coma with urgency despite knowledge of the outcome.

Check it: Review of Four Letter Word by Knelman and Porter: Top Writers Explore the Modern Love Letter

Modern Chinese History

Dai Wei was shot in the head during the Tiananmen Square massacre leaving him in a coma. Living incapacitated, he relies on his memory to tell the narrative of his life, while his mother cares for him. Beijing Coma weaves two narratives together, the struggle of the students and Dai Wei’s actions are told in flashback through his memories, while his mother’s efforts to care for him are recounted as well.

Living in a coma for ten years, Dai Wei is visited by friends who relay a changing China to him while his mother finds ways to provide for his care. As a victim of the massacre, his mother faces government retribution and his health care is supported through unofficial channels and a reliance on faith healers. As Dai Wei sleeps, China undergoes rapid change, but the paranoia and repression of the government never end.

As his mother becomes a member of Falun Gong, a banned Chinese sect, the family undergoes greater difficulty, finally facing forcible eviction to build a new shopping center.

Ma Jian, whose previous work Stick Out Your Tongue, was banned in China, writes a provocative novel about being human in a repressive country. The callousness, paranoia, and cruelty of the government, and society, are buoyed by the earnest hopes of students fighting for democracy in China. As he sees his father, his himself, and then his mother affected by the machinations of the government over the decades, the sense that China hasn’t changed filters through.

Beijing Coma is centered on tragedy and is mottled with dark humor throughout, creating an entertaining and thought-provoking example of contemporary Chinese fiction.

Review – I Have The Right To Destroy Myself: Modern South Korean Literature From Young-Ha Kim

Monday, August 23rd, 2021

Playing with the tired themes of sex and death and bordering at times on sensationalism, Young-Ha Kim’s I Have the Right to Destroy Myself is still an engrossing read. Korea, and its heart of Seoul, is a dizzying place of high technology and modernity, but lurking beneath are dark desires and a disconnection with the surrounding world. This novel and its nihilistic characters prove memorable if at times slightly melodramatic read.

Modern Korean Literature

Young-Ha Kim’s I Have the Right to Destroy Myself is narrated by an anonymous person who facilitates the suicides of others. After completing a job, he then writes their story with the novel consisting of two women who make use of his services. The apathy of the characters, adrift and depressed, reflects the alienation of many in post-modern societies. The novel is dark and brooding, filled with meaningless sex and preposterous characters, but despite this, it remains engaging.

The novel focuses on various stories with the competitive brothers K and C being focal characters. They each are engaged in a relationship with a woman nicknamed Judith, called so after a Gustav Klimt painting. K is a speed-addicted taxi driver searching for meaning in his life while his brother C, a video artist, sheds those around him. As Judith mysteriously disappears, K struggles while C moves onto Mimi, a performance artist also utilizing the services of the narrator.

The middle section of the novel focuses on the narrator’s brief affair with a woman in Europe. Also dissatisfied, she is not at the point where she chooses death. The narrator and many of the characters come across as slightly affected with slightly forced references to art throughout the book. The narrator’s character is not really explored or developed, and the interlude fails to provide much depth to the story.

Check it: Review: Some Prefer Nettles – Junichiro Tanizaki: Tanizaki’s Novella Explores a Divorce in a Changing Japan

A Short Asian Novel

As K and C confront longing and death, and while the characters muse on art and life, the novel moves towards its ending. Although the plot is minimal, the writing conveys a sense of alienation and hopelessness which aids the story tremendously. The motivations of the characters, and their desire for suicide, are barely touched upon, while the conflict between K and C is only superficially explored. The novel however is short and is a good opportunity to explore a young Asian voice reflecting some of the concerns of his society.

Review: Some Prefer Nettles – Junichiro Tanizaki: Tanizaki’s Novella Explores a Divorce in a Changing Japan

Tuesday, August 17th, 2021

Kaname and Misako are trapped in a loveless marriage, but each lacks the courage to enter into a divorce. Considerations of face, timing, and reluctance to tell their young son Hiroshi of their pain lock them in a downward spiral of depression. While Kaname remains indecisive, he also discovers a longing for life in a more traditional Japan. As Misake and Kaname drift apart, this nostalgia reinforces the alienation experienced in a rapidly changing society.

Classic Japanese Novel

Misako, under Kaname’s tacit support, has begun an extra-marital affair. She wants to leave Kaname, who again expresses his desire for the West through a relationship with, Louise, a Eurasian courtesan. Kaname and Misako have begun to resent each other, but their personalities prevent them from making the final step towards separation. Tanizaki writes in a lucid style and does an admirable job of bringing their personalities to the fore.

Although much of the story is told from Kaname’s perspective, he lends weight to Misako and Hiroshi’s psychological makeups as well.

Some Prefer Nettles opens with Kaname and Misako attending a play upon an invitation from Misako’s father. Misako who aspires to be a modern woman with cultivated Western tastes is offset by her father’s young mistress, O-hisa. Kaname and Misako have difficulty in divorcing partly due to society’s expectations and being beholden to a more traditional standard. Although Misako’s lover is expected to take her in, divorce brings a sense of disgrace which the family would like to avoid.

Globalization in Japan

Kaname and Misako envision themselves as a modern Tokyo couple with predominately Western tastes. They enjoy Hollywood films, foreign literature, and Western food. Written in the 1920s, Some Prefer Nettles reflects a rapidly changing Japan, where cultural tastes have begun to differ and old ways have begun to die out. Kaname experiences personal turmoil as he discovers a preference for Japan he experienced in his childhood. Will he recapture his past or stay trapped in the present?

Kaname becomes intrigued with Japan’s past through Misako’s father and his strong adherence to traditionalism. His obsession with traditional trappings brings Kaname to traditional Japanese Puppet theatre. Kaname feels a stirring of nostalgia, and despite his Tokyo upbringing, he learns to appreciate the arts of Osaka. Some Prefer Nettles places Tokyo at the forefront of Japanese society while Osaka and Kyoto reflect a different class and period of time.

As Kaname delves into Japan’s artistic past and visits the countryside, he begins to question his current identity, while Tanizaki plays with the perspectives of tradition and modernity of different cities.

Female Characters in Japanese Literature

Tanizaki writes from a male perspective and this gives his female characters a certain flatness. Despite this, the archetypes presented to give insight into Tanizaki’s mind. O-hisa, forced into traditional roles by Misako’s father becomes Kaname’s ideal woman, despite his obsession with a Eurasian lover, and the modern tastes he and his wife prefer. O-hisa is being instructed in the arts of a geisha although she wishes for modern life.

Misako represents the women of a dynamically changing Japan. Still strongly rooted in the cages of culture, her want of freedom and ability to express herself make her Kaname’s equal.

Kaname finds himself choosing to prolong his loveless marriage with modernity through Misako and Louise or choosing the traditionalism represented by O-hisa. His obsession with tradition and O-hisa can be read as a desire for control. Kaname is lost in modern Japan and can only be sure of himself by mimicking Misako’s father who dominates O-hisa. This longing for surety remains undefined but encapsulates the emotions of many lovers and those disaffected by globalization.

Review of Four Letter Word by Knelman and Porter: Top Writers Explore the Modern Love Letter

Thursday, August 12th, 2021

What is the modern love letter? According to Victor Hugo in the nineteenth century, such communication was a “kiss in the post.” Classic historical examples are celebrated for their drama and emotional openness.

The collection Love Letters of Great Men, of Sex and the City fame, has many eloquent examples of men prepared to put their hearts in their beloved’s hands. To make such romantic declarations in our more cynical, scientific age, however, would seem at best insincere, at worst psychotic. What makes a good love letter today?

Technology and the Modern Love Letter in Four Letter Word

Four Letter Word is a selection of fictional love letters by celebrated writers, including Jeanette Winterson and Douglas Coupland. There are many references to modern technology such as texting and Facebook, but only one is actually written in the style of an email.

Lionel Shriver’s contribution is a series of increasingly desperate communications from Alisha to Seymour, a man she had a one-night stand with. The emotional, romantic style is totally inappropriate in this modern form and shows the suspicion given to overt declarations of love in our era. Indeed, Shriver seems to be satirizing the convoluted style of previous centuries. We are invited to laugh at the melodramatic Alisha.

Neil Gaiman in Four Letter Word

Neil Gaiman’s creeping, obsessive letter tells a darker story. The narrator has been watching his object of desire and has found out information about her through Facebook. This is a common fear – many fear being stalked, and many perfectly sane people do not openly state their adoration for fear of being seen as overly intense. The possible reasons for this cynicism are complex. Is it the news, which can bring the horrors of the world into our lives twenty-four hours a day? Perhaps many people are struggling to cope in our technically more detached modern era.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in Four Letter Word

Tellingly, one of the most positive contributions is also the most down-to-earth. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s calm, the rational letter ends with a casual, “So yes, I suppose we should begin to talk of the possibility of getting married soon.” The absence of histrionics makes it all the more believable. Chioma’s refusal to directly declare her love for Emeka ironically shows how much she does love him. Understatement seems more appropriate now.

Rosalind Porter comments on the ‘mountain of grief’ in her introduction, and certainly love is a dark subject in this engaging collection. The traditional format of most of the letters shows that, when dealing with personal feelings, technological innovations can seem too distant. Indeed, in one anonymous contribution, the narrator writes to the people she loves after ignoring their emails and phone calls. It seems the physical act of putting pen to paper is still the most meaningful in the twenty-first century.

Sacred Ground – Where Religion and Magic Meet: Magical Realism Mediates

Saturday, August 7th, 2021

The overtones of magic present themselves in more beguiling hues, stretching from pagan forests where sanguinary rites sometimes are still practiced to the richly incensed halls of the Catholic Mass. Magical realism is a form of literature in which both religion and magic not only meet but reconcile their differences.

Magical Realists Ask, “What is Real?”

Magicians and magical realists perceive reality as something malleable, plastic, layered, and spirit-infused. Poet, Wallace Stevens offered a magical realist definition of reality, “Reality is not what it is. It consists of many realities which it can be made into.” While concrete realists may seek crisp portraits of immutability, magical realism delivers a world in which the fantastical exists alongside the dancing atoms of brick and mortar.

Magical Realism and the New Gnosticism

The Gnostic experience of mystical revelation, that is, the direct experience of the divine or another world to the seeker is fundamental in magical realism. Such a leap into transpersonal experience eclipses the notion of faith, blurring semantic lines, in order to perceive clarity amid the apparent chaos of a work of encyclopedic myth and religious experience. Joseph Campbell‘s lifelong research of myth, on a worldwide scale, consistently arrives at a central thesis: unity is found in multiplicity.

Although heroes and experiences may be masked differently, humans have utilized myth with its accouterments of magic and mysticism to seek a transpersonal relationship with the Divine. Magical realists have used this journey as an inspirational tool.

Magic Is Not So Alien to Mainstream Religion

Magical and mystical thinking continues to exist, and in some cases flourish, almost rebelliously, in the margins of many mainstream religions, those that still cling to mystical roots. These religions include Catholicism, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Native American religions.

Traditional Catholics might object to the use of the word “magic” in reference to their religion; however, miracles are noted to be occurrences in that system of beliefs. The notable quotidian miracle is transubstantiation, taken by the faithful as the literal changing of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ.

The miracles of saints who achieve the consciousness of the Christos and alchemical-like abilities are myriad within the Catholic pantheon of spiritual masters. The traditional Catholic might eschew the label of “magical” as applied to her religion because of the historical connection with witchcraft and pagan mythologies. The magical realists work through historical labels to seek common human experience, which they see as mixing the ordinary with what is extraordinary, but still natural.

Check it: Types of Allegorical Novels: Spiritual Journey, Human Experience, Political and Social Satire

Types of Allegorical Novels: Spiritual Journey, Human Experience, Political and Social Satire

Tuesday, July 27th, 2021

Allegory in Greek means “to speak publicly.” An allegory is a work that uses symbolic figures to express thoughts or ideas about a human condition or experience. An allegorical novel is one that has a dual meaning, both literal and symbolic. The allegory serves as an extended metaphor throughout the entire course of the novel. It consists of a series of Interconnected symbols which are interrelated throughout the entire work.

Early authors discovered that it is easier for a reader to grasp a theme when it is presented in the form of telling a story, as opposed to presenting a lecture or delivering a sermon. The allegory attempts to teach a lesson by putting abstract ideas into a more concrete, narrative form complete with characters and a story or adventure that the reader may find entertaining and can identify with and readily understand.

Examples of Allegorical Novels

  • The Pilgrim’s Progress John Bunyan
  • Moby Dick Herman Melville
  • Lord of the Flies Wiliam Golding
  • Animal Farm George Orwell

The Pilgrim’s Progress: The Religious or Spiritual Journey

A great number of allegories contain some kind of moral message. A common theme, especially in earlier works, is that of the Christian faith and the human soul’s pilgrimage through life’s temptations to reach salvation.

Characters in this type of allegory are often quite obviously named to represent human qualities, For example, in the 1678 work The Pilgrim’s Progress, the hero Everyman encounters characters such as Christian and Old Honest as he flees the City of Destruction, passes through the Valley of the Shadow of Death and other familiar places on his way to the Celestial City. As in The Pilgrim’s Progress, the allegorical tale is often about one man’s pilgrimage to understand his life, but also represents the universal trials of every man’s life.

Moby Dick: The Human Experience

Moby Dick is an example of an allegorical novel representing man’s struggle against fate. On one level it is an adventure tale about whaling on the open seas and the main character Ishmael’s quest for the white whale. On a more symbolic level, the hero’s epic journey represents man’s search for the meaning of life. The white whale symbolizes the elusive goal. It is also representative of nature and elements over which man has no control.

Animal Farm and Lord of the Flies: Political Allegory and Social Satire

Not all allegorical novels are religious or tales of spiritual growth. Some allegorical novels such as Animal Farm are political satires or criticisms of government policies and serve as a warning as to what might happen if certain political ideals are allowed to take over. Animal Farm is a thinly-veiled satire on communism and the evils of authoritarianism. Knowledge of the politics of the time indicates that the head pig Napoleon represents Stalin and Snowball, Leon Trotsky.

In Lord of the Flies, Golding uses the example of a group of marooned schoolboys who attempt to set up their own form of government on a deserted island to point out the flaws of man-created culture. The island represents society and the boys are representative of the different members who make up society. For example, Piggy stands for intellect and reason, Simon for morality. The Beast represents evil. The entire novel is about how bad leadership can lead to destruction and how lack of civilization leads to savagery.

Often political allegory is used when outright criticism of a government might prove to be dangerous.

Courage is contagious. A critical mass of brave leaders is the foundation of an intentionally courageous culture. Every time we are brave with our lives, we make the people around us a little braver and our organizations bolder and stronger. Brené Brown


Summer Reading List for Book Lovers

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2021

Summer is the perfect season to lay out in the sun or in the shade of a tree with a good book and a tall glass of lemonade. For book lovers, summer can be the perfect time to catch up on a list of books that have been waiting to be read. From the beach to the swimming pool, there are a number of books that any book lover should pick up.

Beach Reads for Book Lovers

Beach reads are fun, light, easy reading for taking along on vacation –whether that vacation leads to a beach or not. Having a few fun books along for reading during travel and vacation downtime ensure that there is never a dull moment.

  • The Passage by Justin Cronin was released in 2010, and tells the story of a post-apocalyptic America overrun by vampires. Cronin’s take on the vampire mythos is sure to satisfy older readers and teens that are growing bored with the Twilight fad. Although Cronin utilizes the common motif of a military experiment gone wrong to create the setting for The Passage, there is much more under the surface.

Literary Reads for Book Lovers

Literary reads are not always the best books to take on vacation, since their depth and complexity can become lost in the bustle of travel and sightseeing. Picking up a few literary books can satisfy that summer craving for brain food at home, however, and reading a good novel is one of the best ways to spend a summer evening.

  • Muriel Barbery’s novel The Elegance of the Hedgehog (2008) was translated in English from the original French, and the flawless transition of the story is a masterpiece of storytelling. The Elegance of the Hedgehog follows a young girl named Paloma living in a ritzy apartment, and the elderly concierge, Renee. Paloma and Renee have more in common than meets the eye –both are able to see through the absurdity of their lives, and find a friendship that transcends class boundaries.
  • Water for Elephants (2007), by Sara Gruen, is a story of the Depression set in an unconventional setting. After the death of his parents, Jacob ends up running away from school and landing on a circus train. The young veterinarian is given a job caring for the circus animals, but there is more to the situation than meets the eye. Jacob begins to fall in love with the animal trainer’s wife, and their relationship puts them both in danger. Told in the present tense, from ninety-year-old Jacob’s perspective and in his memory, Water for Elephants is sure to delight any book lover.
  • Neil Gaiman’s Carnegie Medal-winning novel The Graveyard Book (2008) is a book that will enchant and amaze fans of Gaiman as well as first-time readers. The story follows Nobody, called “Bod,” a young boy raised by ghosts after his family is brutally murdered. The book follows Bod as he grows, learning to survive within and without the graveyard. As Bod grows, the mystery of the man Jack who murdered his family also grows and deepens, threatening Bod’s safety and the safety of his graveyard home.

Literary Mash-Ups for Book Lovers

  • The best-selling Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2009) is not the only literary mash-up to grace bookstore shelves. A number of similar undertakings by new authors and by Ben H. Winters, co-author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, have been created. For lovers of great literature, these books are a refreshing and entertaining look at books many readers have considered untouchable.
  • Android Karenina (2010) is a remake of Tolstoy’s immortal Anna Karenina, only in Winters’ re-imagined Russia, robots are nearly ubiquitous. With its steampunk feel and Tolstoy’s brilliant storytelling lighting up the background, Android Karenina is a great book for anyone interested in these literary mash-ups.
  • Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (2009) is another of Winters’ creations, taking a classic Austen and adding creatures from the deep to this well-known love story. Austen fans will enjoy both Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Reading is one of life’s simplest pleasures, and finding a good book is a treat for any book lover. Summer is the best season to try new books and return to some old favorites.

Check it: The Power of One: Author and Hero: Bryce Courtenay’s Novel on Youth in Apartheid South Africa