Friday, 19 October 2012

6 Diaries and a Notebook

Salvador Dalí, Diary of a Genius.

Hélène Berr, Journal, 1942–1944.;postID=8782684108804132007

Henri Frédéric Amiel, Journal.

Grace Dalrymple Elliott, Journal of my Life during the French Revolution.

The Early Diary of Frances Burney, 1768-1778.

The Log of Christopher Columbus, First Voyage to America in 1492.

L. Da Vinci, Leonardo's Kitchen Notebook.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012


Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, Mario Vargas Llosa
The world of radio drama and an unusual loving relationship are two of the cornerstones of this novel. Its flexible structure is open to interpolated funny stories. Based on the author's real life experience, this novel combines a picture of Lima in the 1950s, and an examination of both the practical and creative aspects of writing.

The Vortex, José Eustasio Rivera
Trying to escape their problems, Arturo Cova and his mistress Alicia venture into the Colombian jungle. They start an initiation trip through the virgin rainforest, a hostile milieu masterfully depicted in the novel. The author had taken part in an expedition that denounced violence against Indians in rubber exploitation.

El señor Presidente (Mister President), Miguel Ángel Asturias
The echoes of the first European avant-garde can be seen in the narrative techniques employed in this novel, in which a dictatorship continues its grip on Guatemala through violence and cruelty.  A love story provides a counterweight to human degradation, while a whole country wonders what the next step is.

The Kingdom of this World, Alejo Carpentier
The slave rebellion in Haiti and mentalities in contrast are the subjects of this novel, whose baroque prose is one of the greatest achievements of the Latin American novel. The presence of Voodoo and the circularity of time help shape this narrative.

Pedro Páramo, Juan Rulfo
At the beginning of this book, two characters move along a dreamlike landscape. It is a symbolic, invented place, a peculiar hell where shadows of the dead feed on old feelings and hate. Later the reader realizes that they are only some of the sleepless ghosts that live in Comala.

Broad and Alien is the World, Ciro Alegría
Peruvian Indian groups are deprived of their lands and natural wealth, with the acquiescence of the authorities and the passivity and idleness of a local scholar. Classical narrative techniques are used in this book that focuses on the dehumanization of life.

A World for Julius, Alfredo Bryce Echenique
The lives and doings of an influential, aristocratic Peruvian family are the starting point of a novel of satire and social criticism. The author shows Julius’s expanding world and the decline of his family. A warm, tender and incisive portrait.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Lost Illusions

Honoré de Balzac wrote Lost Illusions (Les illusions perdues) between 1837 and 1843. The novel is divided into three parts; in the first one, entitled "The Two Poets", the main character – young Lucien - is introduced in his milieu, a dreary provincial town. In Angoulême, Lucien and his friend David inspire each other to pursue their dreams; David feels more engaged with science, while Lucien decides to become a writer. The society into which he is introduced is led by Madame de Bargeton, a lady who encourages him to pursue a literary career.
Although the hero boasts of his noble origins (changing his name to Rubempré), he represents an impoverished class; Lucien is anxious to recover lost ground by bringing his artistic talent to bear. The will to succeed as a writer in Paris will lead him to go beyond moral bounds to improve his social status. Furthermore, his family is ready to sacrifice everything for Lucien, in whom they have blind faith. Eve and David - his sister and brother-in-law - are very much guided by Lucien’s fantasies, as they want to see him succeed in the task he has taken on.
In Part II (“Un Grand Homme de Province à Paris”), these hopes fade away as Lucien has a first taste of parisian life. His musings about his needs and problems touch on topic of falsehood in human relations: it is a hard lesson for Lucien. Despite all of this, he continues his efforts. He sinks deeper, as he frequents bad company. In a contrast very close to melodrama, actress Coralie represents the fallen woman, while Eve is depicted as an angel.
Journalism, and especially, Parisian Bohemianism are well depicted in the novel; among the intellectuals, D’Arthez is not a fame seeker, but he strives to produce quality work. As for journalism, it is addressed in a very critical way. Intellectuals and writers gather at an unforgettable local tavern, and the depictions of customs of librarians and printers at that time are also very interesting as well. Furthermore, David runs a print shop at Angoulême, so it provides greater details. The last part of the book, entitled “The Travails of an Inventor”, focuses on David’s problems to make his business thrive.
Despite all hope, wasted effort increases Lucien’s moral decay. Sand castle crumbles before his eyes and Lucien plunges into despair. The lives and doings of Balzac’s characters continue in other books: the outcome of the story can be found in The Splendors and Miseries of Courtesans (Splendeurs et misères des courtisanes), written between 1838 and 1846.