Monday, February 18, 2019

Peter Manu și Horia Bozdoghină, „Polemica Paulescu: știință, politică, memorie”


-e-book

Perioada lecturii: 20 ianuarie – 5 februarie 2019

Votul meu: 


Pe Facebook circulă periodic un videoclip intitulat Cum ar arăta lumea fără România, sau cam așa ceva, în care sînt enumerate personalități românești uitate, pare-se, pe nedrept, dat fiind remarcabilele lor contribuții la binele umanității. Primul evocat, dacă-mi aduc bine aminte, este Petrache Poenaru, care ar fi inventat stiloul în 1827, cu toate că, așa cum tocmai am aflat din cartea lui Peter Manu și Horia Bozdoghină, Polemica Paulescu: știință, politică, memorie, primul care a gîndit o astfel de unealtă a fost francezul M. Bion cu un secol mai devreme, iar cel care a produs primul model cu utilizare practică a fost Lewis Waterman, în 1884. N-am să mă lansez acum într-o polemică referitoare la contribuțiile reale ale celorlalte nume menționate superlativ în videoclip, doar am să observ că nu lipsește dintre ele cel al lui Nicolae Paulescu, descoperitor, se spune acolo, al insulinei. 

Friday, February 1, 2019

Adam Kay, “This Is Going to Hurt. Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor”


 – e-book



Read from January 17th to 30th 2019

My rating: 




Written by an author who was not meant to be a doctor or who was defeated by the system (the jury is still out on this one), This Is Going to Hurt is, despite its somehow menacing title, generally a funny book. In fact, Adam Kay is nowadays, according to his own disclosure, “only doctoring… other people’s words”, writing and editing tv comedy scripts, that is. 

The book takes, for the most part, the form of a diary covering the narrator’s experiences as a young doctor in the British public system for six years (from August 3rd 2004 to December 2nd 2010, to be more precise). Its light tone is captured just from the beginning for it is dedicated “To James – for his wavering support And to me – without whom this book would not have been possible.” 

In the “Introduction” he explains how the idea of the book came to him: five years after he resigned, he received a letter from the General Medical Council announcing him that his name had been erased from the medical register. Consequently, he went through his old papers and shredded all the documents except for his training portfolio, a log of the clinical experiences all doctors are supposed to keep as a sort of ‘reflective practice’:


Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Fabio Bertino e Roberta Melchiorre, “Destinazione Russia”


 – kindle book




Letto dal 17 al 28 Gennaio 2019

Il mio rating:



Eccomi finire il primo libro in italiano di quest’anno, Destinazione Russia, che è, nello stesso tempo, il secondo libro che ho letto da Fabio Bertino e Roberta Melchiorre, scrittori di cui mi sono goduta, qualche anno fa, l’eccellente World zapping (la mia recensione qui ). 

Ebbene, la lettura dei nuovi racconti di viaggio è stata ugualmente incitante: luoghi stupendi, gente adorabile, un po’ di storia, un po’ di poesia, un po’ di nostalgia, in un tutto pronto a far desiderare al lettore di seguire i loro pasi a Mosca, a Pietroburgo e soprattutto in Siberia, nonostante il freddo spietato.

È vero che il viaggio non inizia sotto i migliori auspici: i narratori raccontano, con un miscuglio di umorismo e indignazione, come hanno acquistato i biglietti per Bielorussia on line, dalle ferrovie tedesche Deutsche Bahn, rimanendo così impressionati dalla efficienza loro che elogiavano l’agenzia a chiunque volesse ascoltarli. Però, come bene dice il proverbio, Albero grande fa più ombra che frutti, appena arrivati a Varsavia hanno scoperto che non potevano salire sul treno perché l’agenzia aveva omesso di fornirli anche il supplemento cuccetta che richiedevano i vagoni letto russi. Finalmente, con l’amabilità di un controllore polacco, son riusciti ad arrivare a una stazione dove hanno potuto comprare i supplementi e dove hanno visto un’altra coppia che aveva lo stesso problema, dopo che si sono giurati di non utilizzare mai più il sito Bahn (li ho cercati anch’io su Internet, esistono sempre, dunque beware 😊). 

Monday, January 28, 2019

Doina Ruști, „Fantoma din moară”


 – Polirom 2008, ISBN 978-973-46-1099-0. 426 p.


Perioada lecturii: 19 decembrie 2018 – 19 ianuarie 2019

Votul meu: 



E absolut sigur că eu fac parte din tagma cititorilor ălora cam naivi pe care-i ironizează Marius Chivu în recenzia sa Fantoma de pe blog apărută în Dilema veche  din 8 februarie 2009, pentru că, spre deosebire de el, mie tare mi-a mai plăcut romanul Doinei Rusti, Fantoma din moară. Mai mult, dacă e să-l compar cu celelalte două citite, Manuscrisul fanariot  și Mămica la două albăstrele , acesta mi s-a părut cel mai reușit. și culmea e că exact din motivele care l-au făcut pe Marius Chivu să-l desființeze tăios, adică datorită felului în care sînt construite cele trei componente: metanarativă, fantastică și realistă. 

Am să le iau și eu pe rând. Mai întîi, criticul îi reproșează romanului că e, ca să mă exprim inelegant, o varză de tehnici și instanțe narative cu pretenții de profunzime, care nu fac decît să-i escamoteze incoerența structurală. Eu l-am perceput însă în primul rînd ca pe o reinterpretare ludică a relației Autor – Cititor – Text, într-un crescendo excelent, în care supremația Autorului se vede pe rând subminată de Cititorul care-și revendică Textul și de Textul care se revendică pe sine, căpătând viață proprie, devenind cameleonic și interșanjabil, pe măsură ce se tot joacă de-a vocile narative, provocând Autor și Cititor să-i țină în frîu nemăsurata creștere, dacă sînt în stare:

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Jean-Claude Schmitt, „Strigoii. Viii și morții în societatea medievală”


 – ebook. Les Revenants. Les vivants et les morts dans la société médiévale. Traducere de Andrei Niculescu și Elena-Natalia Ionescu


Perioada lecturii: 22 noiembrie 2018 – 7 ianuarie 2019
Votul meu: 

Am dat peste Strigoii lui Jean-Claude Schmitt în biblioteca mea virtuală (unde zăcea de ceva vreme) când am început să pun în ordine cele vreo zece mii de titluri, și pentru că subiectul mi s-a părut interesant, am început s-o citesc, ca să realizez după vreo 30 de pagini că exemplarul meu este corupt. Pentru că n-aveam de gînd să întrerup lectura tocmai cînd devenise mai interesant, l-am recuperat cum am putut mai bine, folosind atît o ediție englezească la care am avut acces parțial via Google cât și o ediție integrală de astă dată dar în portugheză, limbă pe care n-o cunosc decît cînd seamănă cu italiana 😊, dar care m-a ajutat să reconstitui unele cuvinte maganate rău în textul meu. În orice caz, tre’ să recunosc că atît mi-a plăcut să fac asta încît stau și mă gândesc dacă nu mi-oi fi ratat vreo vocație de detectiv – restaurator textual.
Acestea fiind zise, revenons à nos moutons. Studiul lui Schmitt pornește de la o premisă interesantă (chiar dacă dezamăgitoare dans un premier temps pentru ahtiații de mitologie, așa ca mine) și anume că povestirile cu strigoi sunt strâns legate mai ales de structurile și de funcționarea societății și a culturii într-o epocă dată: după anul 1000, influența religioasă și materială a Bisericii și a clericilor asupra societății laice s-a accentuat sensibil, inculcînd morala religioasă (păcat, penitență, mântuire), care a culminat la sfârșitul secolului al XII-lea cu crearea Purgatoriului, ce oferea speranța mântuirii cu condiția suportării după moarte a unor pedepse reparatorii. Obiectul cărții ar fi așadar studiul felului în care funcționa memoria morților în plan social în epoca medievală. 

Monday, January 21, 2019

Alice Munro, "The Progress of Love"


 – ebook


Read from January 5th to 16th 2019



My rating: 



Given that I have already reviewed three of Alice Munro’s books (Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, (the best of all to date, in my humble opinion)  Runaway and The View from Castle Rock) and given that the eleven short-stories in The Progression of Love develop similar themes and motives (in the same unique style, of course) such as love, loneliness,  bigotry, family, etc., by using her well-known narrative tools (broken timeline, subtle irony,  free indirect style etc.), I decided to let the narrators speak this  time. However, because the book left me wondering whether love is a work in progress, or a progression towards something else, I’ll just try to point which way it goes in three kinds of love observed (fillial, fraternal and spousal), illustrating it with a quote. 

Filial love could “evolve” into either self-deception or resentment. The narrator of the first story (that also gives the book title) tells to whoever wants to listen how her mother had burned in front of her husband the three thousand dollars (a small fortune in those times) she inherited from her much hated father even though they were very poor, underlining once and again, in a voice full of admiration, how, as a supreme proof of love, her husband did not think for a second to stop her. But the story is not true and she knows it:


Why, then, can I see the scene so clearly, just as I described it to Bob Marks (and to others—he was not the first)? I see my father standing by the table in the middle of the room—the table with the drawer in it for knives and forks, and the scrubbed oilcloth on top—and there is the box of money on the table. My mother is carefully dropping the bills into the fire. She holds the stove lid by the blackened lifter in one hand. And my father, standing by, seems not just to be permitting her to do this but to be protecting her.


On the other hand, the narrator in Mile City, Montana, remembers how irrationally resentful and judgmental she felt towards her parents when she was a child and a boy in their town accidentally died:


I charged them with effrontery, hypocrisy. On Steve Gauley’s behalf, and on behalf of all children, who knew that by rights they should have sprung up free, to live a new, superior kind of life, not to be caught in the snares of vanquished grownups, with their sex and funerals.


The love for siblings implies often the same self deception or resentment. The now adult Colin in Monsieur Deux Chapeaux knows that the love for his younger brother has become also his burden, from the age of thirteen when Ross had tricked him into believing he had shot him dead:


He knew that to watch out for something like that happening—to Ross, and to himself—was going to be his job in life from then on...


Violet, who has taken care of her sisters from a very tender age and whom her fiancé broke up with when he found about her siblings some despicable behaviour, tricks herself into believing it was her who sacrificed her love for the sake of the family:


That was the way Violet saw to leave her pain behind. A weight gone off her. If she would bow down and leave her old self behind as well, and all her ideas of what her life should be, the weight, the pain, the humiliation would all go magically. And she could still be chosen. She could be like the June grass that the morning light passed through, and lit up like pink feathers or streaks of sunrise cloud. If she prayed enough and tried enough, that would be possible. (A queer streak)


Most of the stories illustrate spousal love, and the various ways it transforms itself when confronted with betrayal. For the “pensioned-off” wife in Lichen, who has mockingly got the power to transform the new women in her husband’s life in mere parasite plants, born from his infatuation and vanishing as soon as he tires of them, the sentiment has become caricatural witchcraft:


She said, “Lichen.” And now, look, her words have come true. The outline of the breast has disappeared. You would never know that the legs were legs. The black has turned to gray, to the soft, dry color of a plant mysteriously nourished on the rocks.


In Circle of Prayer, Trudy, remembering both her happy and sad times with her husband who meanwhile had left her for another woman, discovers that love (and the end of it) is nothing more than a “breathing space”:


She sees her young self looking in the window at the old woman playing the piano. The dim room, with its oversize beams and fireplace and the lonely leather chairs. The clattering, faltering, persistent piano music. Trudy remembers that so clearly and it seems she stood outside her own body, which ached then from the punishing pleasures of love. She stood outside her own happiness in a tide of sadness. And the opposite thing happened the morning Dan left. Then she stood outside her own unhappiness in a tide of what seemed unreasonably like love. But it was the same thing, really, when you got outside. What are those times that stand out, clear patches in your life—what do they have to do with it? They aren’t exactly promises. Breathing spaces.


On the contrary, for Isabel, who has left her perfect family behind, the breathing space is outside the suffocating, dutiful love she too often had convinced herself she had to feel:


She knew about Laurence’s delicacy and kindness, as well as she knew his bullying and bluffing. She knew the turns of his mind, his changes of heart, the little shifts and noises of his body. They were intimate. They had found out so much about each other that everything had got cancelled out by something else. That was why the sex between them could seem so shamefaced, merely and drearily lustful, like sex between siblings. Love could survive that—had survived it. Look how she loved him at this moment. Isabel felt herself newly, and boundlessly, resourceful. (White Dump)


The same dutiful love leads a husband towards deliberate blindness in front of the strange behaviour of his wife (who apparently had enjoyed the sight of a murder scene so much she jealously kept the gory details for herself), by convincing himself that the victims were, at the end of the day, of no importance:


He thought of himself telling Peg about this—how close he had to get before he saw that what amazed him and bewildered him so was nothing but old wrecks, and how he then felt disappointed, but also like laughing. They needed some new thing to talk about. Now he felt more like going home. (Fits)


The book ends with a verse in Old Norse I don’t know how to pronounce and couldn’t verify is real but I liked the sound of in my own invented pronunciation:


Seinat er at segia; svá er nu rádit.  (It is too late to talk of this now: it has been decided.) (White Dump)

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, "In the First Circle"


 - Translated from Russian by Harry T. Willetts

 

Read from September 17th to December 7th 2018

My rating: 4/ 5 stars

 


This is not the first time I encounter the sad, Kafkian world of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, for I have already accompanied Ivan Denisovich during one of his regular days and I’ve taken a long, painful walk in the Gulag Archipelago. Only that the hell depicted there has been upgraded in the novel In the First Circle. Here, the mighty communist society, which couldn’t but acknowledge some zeks’ scientific skills has relocated them in the “sharashka”, the prison research institute that is, to be put to work at the development of a phone encryption device that could identify any voice on earth. Because they have food and cigarettes to discretion, some books and some space to walk, for a prisoner coming from Gulag it may seem paradise, but in reality they only reached the first circle of Inferno. A circle inside the last one, the rim of the funnel which is the Iron Curtain. 

In the Foreword of the book, Edward E. Erickson recalls that In the First Circle was composed from 1955 to 1958, when the author was in his thirties, barely released from the Gulag and exiled in Kazakhstan, where he had found work as a schoolteacher. He tried to publish his manuscript for the first time in 1964, erasing nine chapters in order to pass the censorship, but because the KGB had confiscated the unshortened copy from a friend, the publishing was indefinitely delayed by the authorities. Finally, he sent the same censored version abroad, where it appeared in 1968 under the title The First Circle. Only ten years later the author will restore the original version and the preposition “in” will be added to the title to change the focus from the place to the people in it.
Erickson also observes that the novel illustrates Solzhenitsyn’s literary credo: to follow “the canons of the realistic tradition of Russia’s nineteenth-century masters of fiction, starting with Dostoevsky and Tolstoy. (…) Despite starting with actual people, events, and locations, Solzhenitsyn in his Gulag writings—the fiction and The Gulag Archipelago—succeeds in creating a literary world that is as distinctly his own as are the signature literary worlds created by such authors as Dostoevsky, Dickens, Kafka, and Faulkner”.