Tuesday 25 November 2014

Döblin, Alfred "Berlin Alexanderplatz"

Döblin, Alfred "Berlin Alexanderplatz: The Story of Franz Biberkopf" (German: Berlin Alexanderplatz: Die Geschichte vom Franz Biberkopf) - 1929

An urban story, the first German book to use the stream-of-consciousness style, often compared to "Ulysses". None of those descriptions sound extremely inviting to a lot fo people. After having read "Ulysses" earlier this year and since I was always interested in this book, even if just for the title, I started reading it a while ago. I usually read more than one book at a time so I won't finish them too soon but that wouldn't have been a problem here.

If I have said about "Ulysses" that it was the most difficult book I have ever read, I probably have to put this as number two. I found it slightly easier, not because of the language it was written in but because of the way it was written. There was more of a story to follow in "Berlin Alexanderplatz", there was more reality to get into. Maybe also, because I have read more about this topic. Germany in the anti-war time, the prophetic vision of the apocalypse. What were people thinking, how did they live, where did it all lead? Having said that, that way I probably missed parts of the non-realistic bits.

The novel is the story of Franz Biberkopf and starts with his release from prison. Throughout the book, we see how he cannot find a way back into normal life, just as the Weimarer Republik couldn't get back to a normal state after World War I. There are a lot of allusions to the political time as well as to biblical stories, there are so many layers in this book. I need to reread it one day.

Apparently, it belongs to the 100 most meaningful books of all times. I can understand how it got on that list. It's tough to read but definitely worth it.

From the back cover:

"Berlin Alexanderplatz is one of the masterpieces of modern European literature and the first German novel to adopt the technique of James Joyce. It tells the story of Franz Biberkopf, who, on being released from prison, is confronted with the poverty, unemployment, crime and burgeoning Nazism of 1920s Germany. As Franz struggles to survive in this world, fate teases him with a little pleasure before cruelly turning on him.

Alfred Döblin (1878-1957) studied medicine in Berlin and specialized in the treatment of nervous diseases. Along with his experiences as a psychiatrist in the workers' quarter of Berlin, his writing was inspired by the work of Hölderlin, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche and was first published in the literary magazine, Der Sturm. Associated with the Expressionist literary movement in Germany, he is now recognized as one of the most important modern European novelists."

Thursday 20 November 2014

Bradbury, Ray "The Martian Chronicles"

Bradbury, Ray "The Martian Chronicles" - 1950

"The Martian Chronicles", a highly interesting novel about the human invasion on another planet. A dystopian novel that couldn't envisage anything better. Or worse.

The whole story is separated into several different short stories, each of which could be read separately but only together do they form a full picture of the extent what the human race can do. That doesn't mean they should necessarily do it.

I think the Martian Chronicles should be seen, as any dystopian literature, as a warning to us. The author doesn't necessarily talk about what we could be doing to the planet Mars but also about what we are doing to our own planet. If we don't stop what we are doing, we will end up like the Martians, non-existent. We should see this book as a parable and learn from it.

I loved Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451" but I think I liked "The Martian Chronicles" even better. His style is agreeable, easy to get, yet full of allusions and side remarks. Anyone who likes this sort of genre should read his books.

From the back cover:

"Leaving behind a world on the brink of destruction, man came to the Red Planet and found the Martians waiting, dreamlike. Seeking the promise of a new beginning, man brought with him his oldest fears and his deepest desires. Man conquered Mars - and in that instant, Mars conquered him. The strange new world with its ancient, dying race and vast, red-gold deserts cast a spell on him, settled into his dreams, and changed him forever. Here are the captivating chronicles of man and Mars - the modern classic by the peerless Ray Bradbury."

Ray Bradbury received a special Pulitzer Prize citation in 2007 for "his distinguished, prolific and deeply influential career as an unmatched author of science fiction and fantasy."

Tuesday 11 November 2014

Nietzsche, Friedrich "Thus spoke Zarathustra"

Nietzsche, Friedrich "Thus spoke Zarathustra. A Book for All and None" (German: Also sprach Zarathustra. Ein Buch für Alle und Keinen) - 1883-85

A philosophical book. The title itself is mere poetry. Even for non-German speakers, it sounds magical, or at least it should.

Nietzsche was a German philosopher of the late 19th century. We have to bear that in mind when reading his work. I've been trying to put together a little description of the book but have failed miserably. It's too hard to put these thoughts into just a few lines.

All I can say, it is definitely worth reading this book and it should be read more than once in order to grasp the whole philosophy behind it. One of the greatest works of its sort. Highly provocative, it had a huge influence on both literature and art, certainly one of a kind.

From the back cover:

"Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None is a philosophical novel by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, composed in four parts between 1883 and 1885. Much of the work deals with ideas such as the "eternal recurrence of the same", the parable on the 'death of God', and the 'prophecy' of the Übermensch, which were first introduced in The Gay Science. 

When Zarathustra (also known as Zarathusta, Zoroaster) had reached the age of thirty years, he left his native country for the mountains where he prayed and fasted for ten years. Finally, when he got his Prophetic calling an angel is said to have appeared before him. 

Later Zarathustra became the founder of Zoroastrianism and his teachings are preserved in the Zend Avesta and the Gathas which include topics like spirituality, ritualism, sacred chants and astrology."

Friday 7 November 2014

Book Quotes of the Week

"The first thing that reading teaches us is how to be alone." Jonathan Franzen

"His hands were weak and shaking from carrying far too many books from the bookshop. It was the best feeling." Joseph Gordon-Levitt

"You want to know about anybody? See what books they read, and how they’ve been read…" Keri Hulme, The Bone People

"I am a product of endless books." C.S. Lewis

"Books are like mirrors: if a fool looks in, you cannot expect a genius to look out." J.K. Rowling

"Literature is a fiction that tells a greater truth." N.N.  

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday 6 November 2014

Aaronovitch, Ben "Moon over Soho"

Aaronovitch, Ben "Moon over Soho" (Rivers of London 2) - 2011

The sequel to "Rivers of London". We meet Peter Grant again, the trainee wizard in the London Metropolitan Police, who hunts supernatural forces, investigates supernatural crimes, tries to save the life of that make everyone's life miserable.

Same as the first one, this book is funny and interesting to read. Lots of fantasy elements mixed in with real life but deep down a crime story with likeable characters. If you enjoyed "Rivers of London", you will like this one, as well. If you haven't read "Rivers of London" (or "Midnight Riot" in the US), read that first. This really should be read as a sequel.

From the back cover: "My name is Peter Grant, and I’m a Detective Constable in that might army for justice known as the Metropolitan Police (a.k.a. The Filth). I’m also a trainee wizard, the first such apprentice in fifty years.
Something violently supernatural had happened, something strong enough to leave an imprint on the corpse of part-time jazz saxophonist Cyrus Wilkinson as if he were a wax cylinder recording. He's not the first musician to drop dead of a heart attack right after a gig, but no one was going to let me start examining corpses to check for supernatural similarities. Instead, it was back to old-fashioned police legwork. It didn't take me long to realise there were monsters stalking Soho, creatures feeding off the gift that separates great musicians from those who can raise a decent tune. What they take is beauty. What they left behind is broken lives.
And as I hunted them, my investigation got tangled up in another story: a brilliant trumpet player, Richard 'Lord' Grant – my father – who managed to destroy his own career. Twice.
Policing: most of the time you're doing it to maintain public order. Occasionally you're doing it for justice. And, maybe once in a career, you're doing it for revenge."

The whole series:
"Rivers of London" - 2011
"Moon over Soho" - 2011
"Whispers Under Ground" - 2012
"Broken Homes" - 2013
"Foxglove Summer" - 2014
"The Hanging Tree" - 2016

I found a good site about this series: The Follypedia