Sunday, May 26, 2013

Harry Potter und der Stein der Weisen

Ich wollte Harry Potter und der Stein der Weisen, das erste Harry Potter Buch, zu lesen, weil es leicht und vertraut ist.  Weil die Satze kurz und einfach waren, konnte ich unvertraue Worter von dem Zusammenhang verstehen.  Also, hier ist meine erste Kritik auf Deutsch.  (Meine Kinder sind sehr begeistert, dass ich schliesslich ein Harry Potter Buch gelesen haben!)

Das Buch ist die Geschichte von Harry Potter, ein Junge, der weisst nicht, dass er ein Zauberer ist.  Ein Waise, Harry wohnt mit seiner Onkel und Tante, die ihn nicht sehr viel gern haben.  Das Leben ist eintonig fur Harry bis, im Alter von elf Jahren, bekommt er eine Einladung, Hogwarts-Schule fur Hexerei und Zauberei zu einschreiben.

Harry ist ein neugierig, intelligent, und mutig Junge.  Er und seine Freunde Ron und Hermine haben viele Abenteuer an Hogwarts, und Harry lernt einige von den Geheimnisse seiner Vergangenheit.  Und wir treffen sein Erzfeind, Voldemort ("du-weisst-schon-wer").  

Was mir besonders gefallt, war der Kreativitat der Autorin.  Sie hat die Welt von Zauberers faszinierend und sehr ausfuhrlich gemacht.  Es gibt Geschopfen:  Kobolde, Riesen, Menschenfresser.  Es gibt Rahmen:  Hogwarts Schule, Gringotts Bank, die Laden, worin Harry Schulbedarf kauft (Zauberstab, Zauberumhang, Besen, Kessel, etc.).  Es gibt Regeln:  kein Drachen-besitzen, kein zaubern zu Hause, kein Flugen ausser der Flugstunde.  Viel Spass.

German-speaking readers, please do correct my mistakes!

Language Freak Summer Challenge

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Two Books About Literature

As I've been toying with the idea of grad school, I've done some reading in the field of literary theory over the past few weeks.  Two books I've found both helpful and enjoyable:

Critical Theory Today by Lois Tyson
From the back cover:  "Critical Theory Today is the essential introduction to contemporary critical theory.  It provides clear, simple explanations and concrete examples of complex concepts, making a wide variety of commonly used critical theories accessible to novices without sacrificing any theoretical rigor or thoroughness."  This is probably the most helpful book I could have read--a genuinely interesting refresher.

Six Walks in the Fictional Woods by Umberto Eco
From the back cover:  "We see, hear, and feel Umberto Eco, the passionate reader who has gotten lost over and over again in the woods, loved it, and come back to tell the tale... Eco tells us how fiction works, and he also tells us why we love fiction so much."  This book is a series of lectures given by Eco on how authors write and how we read.  Although the first chapter was a bit esoteric for my taste, Eco's genial humor and incredibly wide-ranging taste in reading matter made this short book a fun read.

Essay Challenge

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Les Miserables

Les Miserables is the first book I've read by Victor Hugo.  At over 1200 pages, it's taken me several months to finish.  My reactions during those months have fluctuated between absorption, admiration, boredom, and excitement.  There's a lot of everything in it--adventure, philosphical lecturing, history, social commentary, war, romance. By the time I finished, I had formed an almost affectionate impression in my mind of Hugo as someone who just couldn't bring himself to leave anything out.

The story is mainly that of Jean Valjean, a man who served 25 years hard labor for stealing a loaf of bread when his family was starving.  He and the many other suffering poor in the story are the "miserable ones" of the title.  He comes out of prison a hardened criminal, and the book, with many (many!) digressions, tells the story of his spiritual redemption. 

That story is compelling.  Valjean, coming out of prison, is an outcast from society.  No inn will feed or shelter him.  He is advised to go to the Bishop's house.  The good Bishop takes him in, Valjean robs him, and the Bishop forgives him.  He sends Valjean on his way, along with what he stole, and tells him: "Do not forget, do not ever forget, that you have promised me to use the money to make yourself an honest man... you no longer belong to what is evil but to what is good.  I have bought your soul to save it..." 

Part of the reason the Bishop's words are so moving is that Hugo has spent the last 80-odd pages telling the man's life story.  We know the Bishop, and we are pretty much in love with him;  he is that sweet and good a human being.  The Bishop will not appear again in the novel, but thanks to the mini-bio we understand, before Valjean gets to the Bishop's house, what a force for goodness he is about to come into contact with. 

Hugo does this again and again in the novel--provides huge chunks of backround history before introducing a character or before a major plot event.  Sometimes it's effective, as just described, and sometimes it's merely boring, as when a 50-page description of the battle of Waterloo, including extensive discussion of both Napoleon's and Wellington's personalities, precedes the introduction of two soldiers we will not meet until much later in the book.

There are, of course, lots of wonderful quotable lines, some of which are on the picture above, if you can make them out.  A couple of my favorites:

From a description of the Paris sewers:
This sincerity of filth pleases us and soothes the spirit.  When one has spent one's time on earth suffering the windy outpourings which call themselves statesmanship, political wisdom, human justice, professional probity, the robes of incorruptibility, it is soothing to go into the sewer and see the mire which is appropriate to all this.
Character description:
In the matter of prim hypocrisy Mlle. Gillenormand could have given points to an English miss.  She carried prudishness to the point of imbecility.  Her life was haunted by a terrible memory:  a man had once seen her garter.
Another character description:
For the rest, he had never succeeded in being as fond of any woman as he could be of a tulip-bulb, or of any man as of a manuscript.  When he was well past sixty, someone had asked him, "Were you never married?" and he had answered, "I forget."
As I said, this was my first Victor Hugo.  I've enjoyed it enough to consider adding some of his other work to my TBR list--and that list is much too long already.

Classics Club
Chunkster Challenge
Mount TBR Challenge