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:
J'ai beaucoup aimé ce livre de Mémoires de notre ancien Ministre, en particulier la partie très originale consacrée à la diplomatie parlementaire internationale , un domaine auquel le Ministre Graham a apporté une contribution significative.
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.
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."
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.
Attiré par le titre de ce livre qui m'amena à penser que j'aurais quelques belles heures de lectures devant moi, consacrées à notre politique à l'égard d'un pays dont l'histoire politique contemporaine m'a toujours intéressé, j'ai donc acheté le livre de John en ligne, mais fus d'abord un peu étonné par le contenu de la table des matières qui semblait peu correspondre à ce qu'annonçait le titre !
Je me suis néanmoins mis à la lecture de cet ouvrage, l'un des plus fascinants que j'ai eu l'occasion de lire parmi tous ceux produits par nos anciens collègues.
TOP TEN 2015
Edward Lewis Wallant: The Pawnbroker
A novel about the tortured soul of a Holocaust survivor, now a pawnbroker in Harlem (1950s), a man who is socially and emotionally bereft, living a life for which he sees no purpose. The loss of his family in the camps appears in only a few, separate moments of reminiscence but these heighten greatly the emotional impact. Wonderful writing throughout. (Reviewed on JustOttawa in December)
Daoud (1970-) is an Algerian writer and journalist. The Meursault Investigation is his first novel.
The Meursault Investigation
It is a bold writer who takes an acknowledged classic, Camus's The Stranger (aka The Outsider) and writes a novel that gives the other side of the story as told by the brother of the man who is murdered in the Camus book.
WHOSE MAN IN HAVANA?
Adventures from the Far Side of Diplomacy
By John W. Graham
Review byPaul Durand
John Graham has produced a rollicking, engaging memoir - a combination of black humour, wry observations on life in exotic climes and - woven throughout - sophisticated socio-political analyses of places most of us really don't want to experience in any depth.
Reviews by John Klassen
Urquhart (1919- ) is a retired Scottish businessman. He wrote The Forgotten Soldier at the age of 90. It became a best-seller and Urquhart was much in demand as a public speaker. After retiring from business, he taught computer skills to retired people and continued with his passion for ballroom dancing.