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Archive for July, 2007

A translucent style

I think it was Virginia Woolf who described Shakespeare’s writing style as ‘translucent’.  She attributed to it his uncanny way of being able to present ourselves to ourselves. Which is probably the reason that he is read and quoted so widely, even today. I felt that the same word applies to the writing style of Irene Nemirovsky. I just read her unfinished work, Suite Francaise and loved it. The prose is like a clear, flowing stream. The author seems to have no presence and no agenda but her ideas are fully conveyed.  Nemirovsky was a Ukrainian refugee and novelist living in Paris when World War II broke out.  As the Germans destroyed the French army and proceeded to occupy Paris, she was able to observe much about human behavior in times of crisis. She envisioned a work in 5 parts, like a symphony, but was only able to complete two of them before being arrested and sent to Auschwitz where she died.  The first book details the reactions of Parisiens to the advance of the German army; the second is set in a village under German occupation. Many of the characters overlap between the two books.  Despite being unfinished, the book is well worth reading and one is filled with admiration and gratitude toward her twelve-year-old daughter, Denise, who saved the manuscript, carrying it around from one hiding place to another until the end of the war.  The end notes include biographical information about the author and her family and selected correspondence. 

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Reading Collette

I read Cheri some years ago, but forgot it was by Collette. Then, I started to read Le Fin du Cheri in French, but couldn’t quite manage it. Recently a friend recommended The Vagabond, which I just finished.  It was  good, some of the descriptive writing was very beautiful, parts of it were quite funny and the character studies were excellent.  I only wonder if the translation could have been better; at times the language seemed stilted and dated.  Still, the bravery with which Renee refuses the easy road and stays true to herself as a vagabond was thought-provoking and must have been truly ground-breaking when written (1955?).  The struggle with herself for ownership of her own soul is inspiring and should ring true for young women of any time period.

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Probably everyone knows this already, but I had never figured out how to grill these critters. They usually end up as charred and blackened lumps that more likely than not are still undercooked.  Now, thanks to a local catering firm I have a source for excellent sausages and the directions.  The secret is to cook them in a roasting pan at 450 for 20 minutes (add a little water to the pan).  Then grill a bit and serve on warm rolls with sauteed peppers and onions and mustard.  Just like we used to get in the North End!

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A man in full

No, not the Tom Wolfe book (which I never read), but a novel by William Boyd (why isn’t he more well-known?).  Some years ago, I read and liked The Blue Afternoon.  There was something about the style, the setting, the characters. So, I decided to try another one by him — Any Human Heart, which is the fictional journal of an Englishman who lived through the 20th century, born in 1906 and dying in 1991.  It is such an interesting, lifelike story.  As he grows older, you seem to age along with him, looking back on his youth as you do your own – as a bit of a dream.  It is so skillfully done and very poignant.  He says near the end:

“That’s all your life amounts to in the end:  the aggregate of all the good luck and the bad luck you experience.  Everything is explained by that simple formula.  tot it up–look at the respective piles.  There’s nothing you can do about it:  nobody shares it out, allocates it to this one or that, it just happens.  We must quietly suffer the laws of man’s condition, as Montaigne says.”

Ah, well, having lived with him up until the age of 85; I can thankfully return to my own, and be more appreciative of my relative youth and good luck.

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