Saturday, April 23, 2016

To Read or Not to Read

2016 is the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. It is also the 452nd anniversary of his birthday, as Shakespeare is believed to have died on his birthday.

I hope you are sharing this beautiful day with a great book and why not, maybe this book is related to William Shakespeare! I myself am indulging in "The Merry Wives of Windsor" :) 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

I Am a Happy Reader


“You are always in the right place at exactly the right time, and you always have been.” 

I have been in (an artistic) love with Ethan Hawke since I was in high school back in the late '90s and I saw him starring in "Great Expectations", an adaptation of Charles Dickens' novel. I followed his artistic career with the steady care of someone who wants to discover if Ethan Hawke was more than a pretty face. And he definitely is more than that. He is an extraordinary actor, getting better and better with each part and each year passing by, but he is also a fantastic writer. He is the proof that you can be a Hollywood star and still go beyond the shallowness of it all by writing.
He can act in thrillers, romantic or horror movies and impress me deeply. He is my favorite Hamlet (2000) and Snow Falling on Cedars (1999) is among my all time favorite movies.

“Like a dead branch falling from a tree, which them decomposes and nourishes the soil, your disappointments can transform into the elements of change and growth.” 

A few years ago I read his Ash Wednesday and the novel came as a shock of how well he can write about love, marriage and the intricacies they imply.
On the same note, last year in November he launched his "Rules for a Knight", a small book full of pieces of advice and wisdom about how to raise your children in an authentic way and what lessons you should teach them. I received the (signed) book in January and I really loved it. So simple, yet so true, just as any serious matter of life... and finally, death, and what happens in-between.
Here is Ethan talking about his book:


Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Other Love Stories


The 41 year old Romanian writer Lucian Dan Teodorovici is the one whose book "The Other Love Stories" (2009) I managed to read in March and I can honestly say I was expecting more from these stories, but taking into account that this was the first book I had read penned by him, I guess so much expectation was a faux pas and it probably stemmed from the fact that after reading or rather being imbued by Cartarescu's writing, I want all other books to impress me as much...

Still, the book manages to leave me with some thoughts on how time flies, on how nothing is what it seems and, cliched as it may seem, still waters run deep. And if you expect a lot of romantic, syrupy-like love, you will be disappointed. Even though the writer himself states on his site that the stories have a common theme and that is of lost love, I did not actually felt them as such.
Out of the 11 short stories, the ones that I enjoyed the most were "Goose Chase" and "A Few Kilometers Back". Here are a few lines from "Goose Chase":

Grandfather swore in his turn when he saw that our geese with the Nike mark were nowhere to be found. And he began to go from house to house, looking for the geese. I followed him, more out of curiosity than anything else, although my grandfather let me tag along because he imagined that I, at the age of eight, had keener eyes and could spot things that he, at the age of sixty, was unable to. In the end, it turned out to be a good thing that he took me along. Because, while he was in a neighbour’s yard, I remained in the lane, bouncing up and down the rather deflated ball I’d brought from home so as not to grow bored during the search. And as my grandfather was talking to the neighbour in the yard, a gap-toothed, hare-lipped friend of mine came up. I told him our geese had been stolen and he said: 
“I fink I know who shtole them. They were on the corner of the shtreet,” he said pointing to the place. “And that gypshy who nicked our ball that time when we were playing football on the pitch by the railway shtation turned up,” he added. “Honest. He was holding a shwitch and I shaw him driving the geesh up there to the water tower. I don’t know if they were yoursh, but they had marks and I even thought, what the devil, gypshies don’t mark their geesh.”

L. D. Teodorovici has published books in Italian, Spanish, French and German and has written novels, short stories, scripts and plays.

What have you read for the Romanian Writers Challenge? :)

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Perfectly Divine


It seems I have waited the perfect amount of time to write about the wonderful concert I attended at the beginning of March because Eduard Kunz would be once again present in my town to play his glorious piano scores. On the 2nd of April, he will play in a charitable concert whose aim is to raise money for autistic children.

Eduard Kunz is a Russian piano player aged 35 who has been named by the BBC among the 10 tomorrow's great piano players and who has had recitals all over the world. In 2007 he won The Grand prix at George Enescu International Competition of Classical Music. Since then, he has continued to win first prizes in competitions organized in the United States, Italy or Spain.

I first heard Kunz performing one year ago, in May 2015, when he toured with the famous violin player Alexandru Tomescu and his Stradivarius violin and it only took me a few seconds to be mesmerized by both of them. I am not very good with words when it comes to music and emotions, so I will let you enjoy a few minutes of his perfectly divine playing...

Saturday, March 5, 2016

The Romanian Writers Challenge Has Begun!

I am proudly announcing the start of the first (ever) Romanian Writers Challenge!

As I stated at the beginning of January, I am planning on reading more Romanian literature, together with you.

The challenge started on the 1st of March and it will end on the 1st of December, when we celebrate our National Day. So far, there are 7 of you who have decided to join in, but do know that you can join at any time, just let me know in comment or add your blog to the wiki posted on the 2nd of January. You can also add the button on the right to your blog. :)

The challenge is quite simple: in these 9 months you have to read at least one book by a Romanian writer and if you decide to write a review about it, you will be entered a draw on the 1st of December to win a special prize. 

As far as my Romanian readings are concerned, I will be reading a book by a Romanian writer each month, trying to finish Mircea Cartarescu's "Solenoid" in March, then April and May will be dedicated to discovering new authors: Nora Iuga's "Sexagenara si tanarul" (The Sexagenarian and the Young Man) - written in 2000, and Lucian Dan Teodorovici's stories "Celelalte povesti de dragoste" (The other love stories) - written in 2009. I am really looking forward to these!

Happy reading, everyone!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Bonjour Tristesse!


« Sur ce sentiment inconnu, dont l'ennui, la douceur m'obsèdent, j'hésite à apposer le nom, le beau nom grave de tristesse »

I remember having read "Bonjour Tristesse" (1954) back in high school like it was just a few months ago... I remember the amazement at how rebellious Cecile was, not wanting to study for her final exams, then falling in love but still being capable of creating a whole web of lies and tricks in order for things to get her way... This was truly a book that changed my life in the way of seeing things beyond what they may appear at a first glance, a book that made me discover the beauty and uniqueness of French literature, a discovery that no long after that turned into a passion that I still cherish quite fondly.

However, what I do not remember is whom I discovered first, Francoise Sagan or Paul Eluard, but I still know his perfect poem "A peine defiguree" (1932) by heart... the poem that probably inspired Sagan for the title of his controversial short novel and which can be found in the beginning.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

A Date with Destiny - Solenoid


I first discovered Mircea Cartarescu back in 2001 when my college roommate introduced me to his poems, which I later decided to translate into English for the Traductology course which I passed with flying colors, the professor being thoroughly impressed with my translations. Curious by nature I wanted to see what his prose was all about and I was struck by how creative he could be in his short novel "Travesti" (1994).

In 2005 He came to my hometown to launch his easy-to-digest book "Why we love women” (2004) and I even managed to ask him a question. That was the moment I became one of his fans. I continued reading his masterpieces, because for me, everything he has written is highly remarkable and his writing demands to be taken into account when committees decide to nominate writers for the Nobel Prize of Literature. I am an avid reader but out of the thousands writers I have read he is the most powerful and imaginative. With each page you read, you become more amazed at how incredible his mind and writing is. At the end of 2014 he visited us again, to pick up his award for the best Romanian writer of the year, nominated by a local literary committee but meeting everybody's approval. He even donated all the money he received for a good cause: promoting young writers.

(M. Cartarescu talking about "Solenoid")

Back to present times, two weeks ago Mircea Cartarescu came once more in a campaign to promote his latest masterpiece, “Solenoid”, published in November last year, the book he described as his most impressive in terms of creation, topic and why not, time to write. It took him almost 5 years to finish the 800 page novel and he stated that he actually hoped the readers would complete it in three - or four months, taking their time to digest and absorb, but in my case, this will not happen, because I have already read 200 pages and I am planning on finishing it by the end of March... just in time for my Romanian Writers Challenge!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Brunetti's Venice

"Venice is a complicated place, physically and spiritually, and it is extraordinarily difficult to establish Venetian facts. Nothing is ever quite certain." (Jan Morris, Venice) 

If you love Venice, then I am sure you are familiar with Donna Leon's series set in the magic city and whose main character is Commissario Brunetti. I have read a few of her books with the intention of definitely reading some more, but a few weeks ago I came across this book, "Brunetti's Venice" and I had to leaf though it, since you cannot actually read it. You have to be in Venice to track Brunetti's walks, his favorite places, the churches he passes by, his stops at different cafes and his home. The book presents such an accurate description of his wanderings that you cannot but wish to discover Venice, book in hand, the way that Toni Sepeda, the professor of literature who compiled these walking tours envisaged for you. Each chapter takes us on a different tour, and the sights are blended with passages from Donna Leon's books (pictured above), in order to support and clarify the character's endeavors. At the end of each walk you can also find info on additional sites and details as well as the time the walk may take.

"He wondered what divine intercession could save the city from the oil slick, this modern plague that covered the waters of the laguna and had already destroyed millions of the crabs that had crawled though the nightmares of his childhood. What Redeemer could come and save the city from the pall of greenish smoke that was slowly turning marble to meringue? A man of limited faith, he could imagine no salvation, either divine or human." (Death at la Fenice, chapter 14) 

So, next time you visit Venice, try to exchange your ordinary tour book with this fascinating account and you will be seeing Venice though the eyes of a famous character. And when you return home, why not try some of the recipes from "Brunetti's Cookbook" as well? :)

Monday, February 1, 2016

Venice in February... Again


I have no intention of giving up on my other challenge, which turns 4 today, mainly because Venice is still my favorite city in the world and I can't wait to rediscover it though fantastic literature. I have in mind quite a lot of books, but I will definitely read these two: "La Tempestad" written in 1997 by Juan Manuel de Prada, translated into Romanian a few years ago, and which seems to present a totally different image of the Venice we may know, and the long awaited "Venice Noir", a selection of 14 stories set in Venice, which range from the ones depicting tourists during Carnevale to criminals trying to elude the law.... These two tomes should be quite intriguing, to say the least!

Do join me this month in my quest for the mysterious Venice! 

Monday, January 18, 2016

You + Me = US

“I had always been led to believe that ageing was a slow and gradual process, the creep of a glacier. Now I realise that it happens in a rush, like snow falling off a roof.” 

I decided to read "US" by David Nicholls because I simply adored "One Day" and I was secretly hoping this novel would be as good as the previous one. Even if certain critics claim that it has lived up to its expectations, I myself can say that it is a good book, interesting in its story, but not as good as "One Day". In fact, up until the last 50 pages I quite loved it, hoping it would end the way I wanted, then I was brutally disappointed by its quick denouement, just to notice a glimpse of hope for the main character when he decided to call that woman in

"US" tells the story of a man in love with his wife who wakes up one morning, after 20 years of marriage, to hear his wife say "Our marriage has run its course .... I want to leave you." What follows is his struggle to make his wife change her mind, to convince her that he truly loves her and to recreate a broken bond between him and his 17 year old son Albie, all this on a previously planned trip through Europe.

“From an evolutionary point of view, most emotions – fear, desire, anger – serve some practical purpose, but nostalgia is a useless, futile thing because it is a longing for something that is permanently lost, and I felt its futility now.” 

We know we are reading a love story, but sometimes this turns into a comedy, when Douglas, the scientist, remembers the first years or his relationship with Connie, the artist, and into a tragedy when he does not manage to reconnect with Albie, the rebel son. The whole trip though Europe turns into opportunities often missed to win back his wife and son. However, this is not a depressing book, in fact, thank goodness there is still some hope in the universe, both for the main character and for us, readers, looking for books to be inspired by.

“Was it the happiest day of our lives? Probably not, if only because the truly happy days tend not to involve so much organisation, are rarely so public or so expensive. The happy ones sneak up, unexpected.” 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Scream


Art can be serious but you can still enjoy it while having a laugh. I have been familiar with Van Gogh's work for decades, and I am a fan of Munch's The Scream, but to see the two painters together in an amazing exhibition, that was quite extraordinary. While visiting Amsterdam last December I wanted to see The Sunflowers and Starry Night but I did not expect to be caught by surprise with some of Munch's most famous works  of art brought from Oslo, Norway in a parallel between the two painters' creations. I had no idea there are so many similarities in their art but seeing them side by side, I was impressed by the intensity with which they painted life, almost the same life even if they never met, although they were contemporaries. Their self-portraits resemble as well, which is quite astonishing.

The exhibition opened on 25th September and runs until January, the 17th, so there are just a few days in which one can admire both painters in the same place.

If not, there is always the virtual option. Click here to go to the museum site.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Ogawa's Housekeeper and Professor

“A problem isn't finished just because you've found the right answer.” 

Even if Tony has given up on his challenge, January in Japan, I still wanted to read at least one Japanese writer this month, and I have chosen Ogawa's book, mainly because I quite enjoyed her previous book, "Hotel Iris" and then, because 2016 looks like the year of big reading challenges, I have to tackle - or continue - two challenges I really love: Bellezza's and The Women Challenge.
"The Housekeeper and the Professor", published in 2003, tells the story of a mathematician who had a car accident and whose brain was damaged, meaning that every 80 minutes his memory erases, but he can still remember things that happened before the accident. And he loves numbers, prime numbers.
Reading the book you immerse yourself into Maths problems and the struggle of both main characters to relate to each other beyond the 80 minute time gap. You notice how the professor becomes affectionate towards the housekeeper's son, nicknamed "Root" and how they start sharing each other's passions. The professor rediscovers his penchant for baseball while the mother and son find out the pleasures of Maths problems. Until one day, when the professor's memory declines even more.

“The Professor never really seemed to care whether we figured out the right answer to a problem. He preferred our wild, desperate guesses to silence, and he was even more delighted when those guesses led to new problems that took us beyond the original one. He had a special feeling for what he called the "correct miscalculation," for he believed that mistakes were often as revealing as the right answers.” 

Even if at times I was wondering if the Maths problems and equations did not take too much space within the story, I did enjoy seeing the connections beyond the obvious, the mystery that surrounded the numbers, just as there is always a mystery when you read poetry or listen to music.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

My Literary Challenges in 2016

I have read on a lot of people's blogs that they wish to drop challenges in 2016 and rely more on quality rather than quantity when it comes to their chosen books. I think that should apply to anything in life, whether it is food, clothes or time spent at the gym. :) 

However, in the last few years, when I joined a few (or more than a few) reading challenges, I did not see myself as choosing quantity over quality. In fact, the challenges made me focus more on reading while also managing to discover great books and fantastic writers, no matter if I had the time to write about them or not. With this in mind, I realized that there are more and more Romanian writers on my reading list(s) because they write fantastically and I love their style, and also, there is no such challenge on the internet - or one that I could find after attentively looking for - so here I am, starting a brand new reading challenge, one that is extremely simple: 

THE ROMANIAN WRITERS CHALLENGE 2016


What exactly do you have to do for this challenge? 

It starts on the 1st of March 2016 and it ends on the 1st of December 2016, when we, Romanians celebrate our National Day. 

So, you have 9 months to read at least one book by a Romanian writer, whether in the original or in translation. 

If you decide to also write a review on your blog or send the review (because you do not have one), you will be entered in a draw on the 1st of December to win a special prize

So, without further ado, please join the following list:

Friday, January 1, 2016

Call me Vicky


I have been planning to write about Cristina Nemerovschi since I first read her book, "nymphette_dark99" a few months ago, but I just did not find the time (obviously). However, at the beginning of December I started reading the sequel to that, "Vicky, nu Victoria" and I knew I had to express my awe towards her writing and thrilling imagination.
Cristina's books are not for weak souls, I can truly say that. Having read only these two, out of 10 that she has published since her debut back in 2010, I am not quite sure I will soon gather the courage to read something else, not because they may not be good, but mainly because they may not be as good as these two.

"She would always tell me that if you bothered with whatever may happen after you did something, you would no longer want to do it. And this is how you become a robot that has given up on living."

What first draw me towards these books was the main character and the controversies surrounding her. Sure, I have read Nabokov's "Lolita" and I was thoroughly impressed by it, but this goes beyond any rebellion you can find in there. Just imagine a much darker Lolita, who loves sex but hates her mother, who has no problem skipping school, using drugs or cutting a stranger's eyes in the woods. I don't remember having read something more "deranged" and yet, captivating. You cannot but want to see how far the main character will be going. "Vicky, not Victoria" is a very violent book, but one that makes you think that it is in some people's blood to start a revolution. I need the writer, seen by critics as "the rebel of Romanian literature nowadays" to write a sequel to the sequel, one that will make me hope that nothing is in vain, not even setting fire to your school.

"Once again, I praise my taste in clothes. It is always harder to spot blood on black."

Saturday, December 26, 2015

All I want for Christmas is ... SNOW!


No, this blog is not dead, it just took a break away from the maddening crowd until next year, which is just a few days away :)

Have Yourself a Happy New Year, full with Love and Light... and Good Books! :)

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Grotesque in Us


I was expecting Natsuo Kirino's novel to be a shocker, mainly because "Out" was one and this book too was announced as a thriller, but it was beyond my expectations. "Grotesque" (2007, for the English version) tells the story of people who are ugly on the inside, who have no second thoughts about hurting, physically or mentally the others around, if that brings them even a little pleasure. There is so much abuse among schoolgirls, so much horror and mystery among women who become prostitutes just for "the fun of it" and who wish to actually be killed while working on the streets.

Personally, I found it hard to empathize with any of the characters, whether male or female, mainly because I could not visualize so much violence and masochism. However, this did not stop me from appreciating the writer's creativity in developing a story that starts with two prostitutes found dead in Tokyo to deconstructing the mystery from the point of view of a girl who is not very impressed with what happened, even if one of the prostitutes was her sister and the other one a schoolmate. Thus, we get to read the killed women's letters and journals, to see how they lowered their expectations and why they became prostitutes when their lives could have been quite different. A "must" if you want to discover Japan's contemporary literature.

Read for The Japanese Reading Challenge but also for Women in Translation Challenge.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

13

A few months ago people around the internet started playing this literary tag, mainly they named their 10 most influential books. I remember I posted them somewhere, after hours and hours of debating. It's time they were posted here, too, not necessarily in a specific order! Not 10, but 13... since it was quite hard to decide.

1. The Catcher in the Rye (Salinger) - One never forgets their first (literary) love
2. The Alchemist (Coelho) - An optimistic book during a pessimistic time
3. Sputnik Sweetheart (Murakami) - Haruki Murakami at his best
4. Tropic of Cancer (Miller) - Nobody does it better when it comes to ...
5. Anais Nin's letters  - Well... :)
6. The Museum of Innocence (Pamuk) - (too much) love and obsession
7. Why be Happy ... (Winterson) - my favorite Jeanette encounter
8. One Day (Nicholls) - It made me laugh and cry, and do it all over again...
9. In the Company of the Courtesan (Dunant) - It made me fall in love with Venice
10. The Bad Girl (Llosa) - What a story!
11. Candide (Voltaire) - Nobody beats Voltaire's wit!
12. Written on the Body (Winterson) - My first encounter with Jeanette's books
13. Sex, Shopping and the Novel (de Botton) - I have read everything Botton has written, but this is my all time favorite of his

Consider them my all time recommendations for falling in love with literature and books! 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Japanese and French Women in Translation


August has been quite a lazy month for me, taking time to visit places and enjoy the company of the special people around me. However, I did manage to read a few books and among them is "The Pillow Book", for The Japanese Reading Challenge but also for Women in Translation Month. It is an interesting book, with wise opinions and joyful musings recorded by Sei Shonagon, a court lady during the early 11th century Japan. I am aware that the book is valuable as a historical document presenting life at the Japanese court, but it is all that that did not appeal to me. I was rather drawn to her criticism, preferences and passionate ideas on the people and objects around her.

Also, I have started reading "Grotesque", a crime novel written in 2007 by Natsuo Kirino, the Japanese writer of "Out", a thriller I simply loved and so far, this book has made me see the relationships within a family in a different light. I hope I will finish it in the next few days and still consider it a great book and its author a talented one.

On the other hand, Simone de Beauvoir's "The Woman Destroyed" will have to wait its turn sometime next month...

Happy reading and a memorable autumn! :)