Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Prague Tales

(Still on vacation!)  Prague Tales (no image available) is a collection of stories written in the mid-nineteenth century by Jan Neruda, and set in Mala Strana, the "old city" neighborhood of Prague.  Full of slices-of-life and colorful characters, this was a fun read.  Apparently, the Chilean author Pablo Neruda took Neruda's name as his own after reading  "The Three Lilies,"  one of the stories from this collection.  The only thing that rubbed the wrong way somewhat was the extremely negative portrayals of the occasional Jewish characters.  Commentators generally put this down to Neruda's depicting Mala Strana residents' attitudes, good and bad. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013


Still on vacation, but I've finished Austerlitz by W. G. Sebald.  I first heard of this author over at dovegreyreader scribbles, and was intrigued enough to buy this book sometime last year.  I knew going in that Sebald's works often concern memory, what it means and how it plays out in human lives.  Sebald reminds me a bit of Borges with his dreamlike narration, and a bit of Dinesen with her layering of stories within stories.  Austerlitz is complex and often puzzling, and so many memories are related at such great length, that for the first quarter or so of the book, I kept asking myself, where is he going with this?  But then it all falls into place, and it's heartbreaking, and I couldn't put it down till I finished it. 

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Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Assault

I'm on vacation this month, but still reading as much as I can.  I do want to stay connected, and will be posting, but posts will probably be shortish, like this one.

The Assault, by Dutch author Harry Mulisch, impressed me more than I thought it would.  Early in 1945, a Dutch collaborator is shot to death and his body left where it fell in front of a house.  The house's residents, fearing German reprisals, move the body to a neighboring family's doorstep.  That family, all except the youngest son, Anton, is executed.  The effect of this trauma on Anton's life, and the gradual revelations of everything that happened that night, and why, make up the story.  I appreciated the symbolism (Anton becomes an anesthesiologist as an adult, and forms the belief that patients experience all the trauma of their surgery but are unable to respond and unable to remember afterward, for instance).  I also enjoyed the intertwinement of good and evil motives, on the part of both the Dutch and the Germans, and how the combination of these motives led to what happened on the fatal night.

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