The Quest, De Kleine Johannes

Remember my tangent from the other day about historical context, and how important it is to know the environment in which the book you are reading was written?

I just finished a horribly confusing book–until I googled. Sometimes, I just get so far in over my head that I have to look up what the book is about. And that’s ok. Reading these great works is about learning–if I don’t understand something from the book itself, I’m not above looking up the SparkNotes or Wiki!

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When I started reading Frederik van Eeden’s book, I thought it was going to be a book for children. Part I begins so sweetly, sort of an Alice in Wonderland meets The Hobbit type story. Johannes comes across a dragonfly that turns into a fairy-like creature, who shrinks him down to grass-size and takes him on an adventure. It’s a story that begs to be read chapter by chapter at night to a couple of tucked-in youngsters.

But then, the story kind of goes off a cliff and gets dark and darker. It twists and turns and becomes unrecognizable from where it begins, almost if the author descended into madness after he started. I quickly became confused, and probably should have given it up–but Part I was so delightful, I kept hoping it would go back to that.

It never did. The book becomes extremely evangelical, almost punishing in its sermons–at the same time it is full of crushing doubt. Like I said…it really felt like the narrator, if not the author himself, was not in control of his mind.

And then, in Part III, the book starts eluding to socialism and the Social Democratic Workers’ Party. It’s called a different name in the book, but it sounded so familiar that it clicked, and I knew the book was written in Holland just before WWI, so bam, that was it! Once I looked up that Party (<–Click there) it all made so much more sense. All the back and forth between religion and doubt, I THINK is a metaphor for the extremes in the party. There was so much that eluded to the battles between the branches. The Twelve Apostles fit in with that too. I could be way off, but it sure made the book come together for me.

This was a very difficult book to read, but it’s the first Dutch translation I’ve read, so I wanted to stick with it. If anyone has additional analysis on this, I’d love to hear it. I’m still very unsure about how I’ve interpreted it, but I had a hard time finding notes on this in English.

 

Also–I’ve been doing really great about getting a post up every day, but I’ve finally caught up with myself! Because I finished this book late in the day (and we have plans tonight) I am not sure I’ll be able to get one up tomorrow. We’ll see. If not, I’ll resume on Monday. Have a great weekend!

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For Whom the Bell Tolls

Hemingway, you can just Obscenity OFF!! 12939379   And yes. He really does replace the F-bomb with the word Obscenity in For Whom the Bell Tolls. It’s about the most annoying thing ever. That, and the Thee and Thou and Thy. Am I reading the King James Version of the Bible?                             OK, so that’s it. That’s my whole review.                               What are you still doing here?               I’m serious guys. That’s it.                               Ugh. FIIIIIIIIIIIINE. This was a beast, and I really don’t know what I think about. It definitely doesn’t have the normal Hemingway voice that I am accustomed to. Plus it’s about 200 pages longer. The quick random romance is there, the kind Hemingway prefers–lots of love promises, but you know it’s going to end in sadness at some point. The war is there, but I know nothing about WWI in Spain, so maybe that’s why I had such a hard time connecting to this book. The gypsy circle was semi-interesting, but soooooooo confusing. And the language was just really hard to grasp on to.   I did want to share one section with you, towards the end of the book. This is one of the most brilliant descriptions of sex I have ever read. And he does it without ever naming a single body part. “Then they were together so that as the hand on the watch moved, unseen now, they knew that nothing could ever happen to the one that did not happen to the other, that no other thing could happen more than this; that this was all and always; this was what had been and now and whatever was to come. This, that they were not to have, they were having. They were having now and before and always and now and now and now. Oh, now, now, now, the only now, and above all now, and there is no other now but thou now and now is they prophet. Now and forever now. Come now, now, for there is no now but now. Yes, now. Now, please now, only now, not anything else only this now, and where are you and where am I and where is the other one, and not why, not ever why, only this now; and on and always wheeling now, soaring now, away now, all the way now, all of the way now; one and one is one, is one, is one, is one, is still one, is still one, is descendingly, is one softly, is one longingly, is one kindly, is one happily, is one in goodness, is one to cherish, is one now on earth with elbows against the cut and slept-on branches of the pine tree with the smell of the pine boughs and the night; to earth conclusively now, and with the morning of the day to come.” Ok, so I was wrong. He does throw an elbow in there. Heaven forbid. But I love that, because it’s so dead on, and yet nonpornographic, like so much of today’s sexual references. We don’t bat an eye at that today, but in his time it was probably hugely racy. I still want to tell him to Obscenity Off for the rest of the book, though.

Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey

The show Downton Abbey has always intrigued me. I’ve caught a few episodes of the first season, but at that point it wasn’t on Netflix, so I couldn’t watch the whole thing in order. Now that everyone is watching it, I’m dying to watch the whole thing, because I know I’ll be instantly hooked. Which is why I have stayed farrrrrrr away from my Netflix account. Because when I’m watching Netflix shows…I do not read.

However, when I was at Barnes and Noble this weekend, killing time, there as a 3 for 2 sale, and this bio of Lady Almina caught my eye, claiming to be the inspiration for the show. I needed a third book to complete my stack, so why not?

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This book was not as drama-filled as I had hoped, but it was fairly interesting. It was mostly about WWI, and the morphing of Highclere Castle into a war hospital. It is very detailed and covers a lot of time in a little less than 300 pages. The author is Lady Fiona Carnarvon, who married the current Earl of Carnarvon. She actually lives at Highclere Castle currently.

If you like British history as I do, you will find this interesting. It’s not an exciting read, but a fascinating one. This is not a time period I have read about previously, so I am glad I picked it up.