Books

KLASSEN'S RECOMMENDATION FOR SPRING READING By John Klassen (Review)

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Eric Ambler (1909-1998) was a British author, and screenwriter, best known for his thriller/spy novels. In many of his novels, the protagonist is rarely a professional spy, a police officer, or a counter-intelligence operative; he is, instead, an amateur who finds himself haphazardly and unwillingly in the company of criminals or spies with real threats to his life. This is very much the approach of The Mask of Dimitrios (first published in 1939) which is often cited as one of the best of Ambler's novels. test

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THE BEST IN FICTION AND NON-FICTION IN 2016 By John Klassen (Reviews)

 

        John Klassen

 FICTION

Robert Harris: Cicero Trilogy: Imperium, Lustrum, Dictator
Historical fiction that brings alive the time, place, society, and personalities that defined the evolution of Rome and its empire, all framed through the life of one of the main protagonists. Cicero had neither family name, nor wealth, nor military exploits to his credit; what he did have was overweening ambition, a brilliant mind, and peerless ability as an orator, that let him scheme and manipulate and sway individuals and mobs. Life was a malestrom of shifting fortunes and political climates in which Cicero survived a long time, in and out of the pinnacles of influence and power, but in the end, he paid with his life. Not only excellent history but, in Harris's hands, page-turners that are hard to put down.

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KLASSEN ON BOOKS -November 2016 - By John Klassen (Review)

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W.G. Sebald

Sebald, (1944-2001) has been described as, "one of contemporary literature's most transformative figures."  A retrospective on his writing said that his four prose fictions, Vertigo, The Emigrants, The Rings of Saturn, Austerlitz are, "...utterly unique. They combine memoir, fiction, travelogue, history, and biography in the crucible of his haunting prose style to create a strange new literary compound." Sebald himself once described his writing as "documentary fiction."  He also believed that the horrors of the 20th century could not be approached directly because their enormity would paralyse the ability to think about them morally and rationally. They must, therefore, be approached obliquely, and is what he achieved in Austerlitz, approaching the Holocaust.

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KLASSEN ON BOOKS - OCTOBER 2016 - By John Klassen

 

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John Klassen

Sarah Bakewell, (1962-) is an English writer of non-fiction. She has published four books: The Smart (about an 18th century forgery); The English Dane (about a 19th century adventurer who was a key player in a revolution in Iceland to break from Danish control); How To Live: A Life of Montaigne; her latest is At the Existentialist Cafe (about the existentialist movement).

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"YOUR COUNTRY, MY COUNTRY" BY ROBERT BOTHWELL - Book Review by Jeremy Kinsman

  

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Jeremy Kinsman

"Who do we think we are?"

That huge identity question roils the world, including our closest relations. Many Scots want to leave Britain, especially if Britain leaves the EU. Other Europeans are challenged by the integration of refugees from other places, especially Muslims. Eastern Europeans who had longed to join their old European cultural family have ended up disappointed.

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KLASSEN ON BOOKS - MISCELLANY OF READING JULY-AUGUST 2016 - By John Klassen

 

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John Klassen

Capsule reviews/summaries of a miscellany of books read July-August, 2106.

John Horne Burns (1916-1953): The Gallery

This first novel, published in 1947, is set largely in Naples in August, 1944 during the Allied, mainly US, occupation while war against the Germans continued to the north. The novel was widely acclaimed for its uncompromising portrayal of the motives and methods of the occupation and its effects on individuals, and morals, on both sides. Burns pulled no punches in his evaluation of American actions:

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KLASSEN ON BOOKS - May 2016 - By John Klassen (Reviews)

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Penelope Fitzgerald

Penelope Fitzgerald (1916-2008) was an English novelist, poet, essayist and biographer.   In the 1950s, she worked, with her husband, as co-editor of a magazine called World Review to which she contributed articles on literature, music and sculpture. She and her husband lived in public housing in the 1960s after her husband was disbarred for forging cheques. She then worked as a teacher in a drama school.  Fitzgerald launched her literary career at the age of 58, in 1975. She won the Booker Prize for her novel Offshore (1979). The Times included her in a list of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945. The Observer named her novel, The Blue Flower, as one of the ten best historical novels. 

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KLASSEN ON BOOKS - April 2016 - By John Klassen (Reviews)

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Stefan Zweig: Beware of Pity

Zweig (1881-1942) was an Austrian novelist, playwright, librettist, journalist, and biographer. At the height of his literary career in the 1920s-1930s, he was one of the most popular, and most translated, writers in the world. As Hitler consolidated power, Zweig left Austria, in 1934, to move to England. In 1940, Zweig and his wife moved to New York where they lived for two months before moving again, to Brazil where they committed suicide in February, 1942. Looking at the state of Europe, Zweig wrote in his suicide note: "I think it better to conclude in good time and in erect bearings a life in which intellectual labour meant the purest joy and personal freedom the highest good on Earth."

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KLASSEN ON BOOKS - February 2016 By John Klassen (Reviews)

 

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JOHN KLASSEN

 Elmer Mendoza

 Mendoza (1949-) is a Mexican novelist and short story writer. He is a professor of literature at the Autonomous University of Sinaloa. He is a key figure in, some even consider him the originator of, the genre known as 'narcoliterature' that explores the effects of drug trafficking and corruption in society. Silver Bullets is the first of Mendoza's novels to be translated into English.  

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