SUMMER READING AND REREADING UPDATE: P. MERIMEE, F.S. FITZGERALD AND M. VUKOVIĆ RUNJIĆ
Hello, darlings! How have you been? I finally found some time to sit down and write this bookish post. I'll share some summer outfits with you today, but mostly I'll talk books. Yes, it's time for another reading and rereading update! Summer is such a perfect time to read, isn't it? I mean, don't get me wrong, I love to read all year around, but I still see summer as the ideal reading time. I wonder why is it so? Maybe it is somewhat on a subconscious level, seeing all those images of people reading on the beach. Is it because summer is the traditional 'reading time' for many people? Is it because most people go on their vacation in the summer? Is it because most people use vacation time to catch up on reading? Is it the bookworm in me getting excited getting excited about making the most out of the 'reading season'? Is it the joy of reading in the open? It might be any or all of these things, but I do enjoy reading in summertime. How about you? Do you like to read in the summer time?
|DRESS: OLD/ LOCATION: BAY TORAC , ISLAND HVAR, CROATIA|
COLOMBA, A NOVELLA BY PROSPER MERIMEE 4/5
We'll start with the reading recommendations. Do you like French authors? I sure do! Prosper Merimee was a French writer of many talents. Besides being a dramatist and short story writer, Prosper was also a historian and an archaeologist. Moreover, Prosper is also credited with introducing Pushkin and Gogol to the European public, as he was among the first to translate them. Prosper is best known for his novella titled Carmen, mostly because it served as a basis for an opera. Everyone has probably heard of the famous Carmen opera. If you're familiar with the synopsis of the opera, then you'll know that it features a strong female character. Well, this novella is similar in the sense that is centered around a strong willed female character as well. If you are looking for an exciting French classic that isn't half a thousand pages long, look no further, this is your book. Colomba is a masterfully written tale of revenge that takes the shape of a short novel (novella). I've only read Colomba recently, but better late than never. I'm very impressed by this tale and even more by Merimee's precise and beautiful writing.
Early into the novel, I found myself fascinated with Corsica and its traditions. First we are introduced to a very sensible British family consisting of a father (who is a hunting enthusiast) and a daughter (who is a helpless flirt but kindhearted). These two serve as witnesses for most of the story, that is they make the narration sound more reliable, but at some point they also get involved in the events. Their decision to travel to Corsica is something that will change their lives as it will introduce the father and the daughter with the protagonist of this novel, young Orso. The British family of two agrees to let him travel with them. Orso is infatuated with the British girl, and befriends her father. Through their and Orso's eye we are able to observe Corsica and its customs. Orso will soon find himself torn between his connection to the island's customs and his own beliefs.
Who is Colomba this novella is named after? Well, Colomba is Orso's sister, a rather significant character. Colomba waits for Orso to come back home so that he could revenge their father's death. However, when Orso returns home to Corsica after a long absence, he is a changed man. To start with, Orso doesn't exactly belive Colomba's version of the story. While I was reading this novel, I had the feeling that the author used Corsica's unique customs to criticize modern society of the time. In Corsica of the time they shot more than game (according to Merimee), but even though murders are not uncommon, you're not likely to get robbed. Do I sense a critique of modern society obsessed with wealth there? Perhaps there is something to that. Merimee's writing is often set in remote places, perhaps to make us reevaluate things we take for granted. Moreover, the remoteness of the location creates an aroma of mysticism, so popular with the romantics. While we're learning more about Corsica, we also learn that Orso finally starts to see that his sister's version of events might not be as far fetched as it initianlly seems. However, Orso still doesn't see eye to eye with his bloodthirsty sister ( the fatal Colomba). Moreover, under the influence of the British girl he promises to resist the temptation of blood revenge.
The characterization of Colomba is perhaps a little one dimensional, but seeing as she is the femme fatale of this story, that is perhaps inevitable. When I call her femme fatale, I don't mean that in the classical way. Colomba is beautiful young woman, but she acts almost a man, her entire being focused on vendetta. She is resourceful, cunning and intelligent but everything she does seems to serve one function and that does make Colomba seem a bit inhuman. The author provided us with Colomba's history and added many details into her portrayal, but everything about her still seems rigid. In other words, even if Colomba is superbly described and well written, the reader invariably feels that she is a work of art more that a human being. Colomba is the character who constantly sets things in motion, she is a force a nature, a part of Corsica, a living incarnation of blood revenge. She never rests, never changes, and seems to never sleep. Colomba is almost too passionate to be real. Nevertheless, this doesn't make the story any less interesting to read. It is hard to see Colomba as a real person, but it is easy to understand Orso's dilemma. He is, quite possibly, the true protagonist of the novel, a young man in love, a man of both Corsica and the world. Caught between the desire to revenge his father and a love toward a British young lady, Orso is torn. He is no coward, but he can't imagine taking another man's life, not like that (meaning by killing someone in cold blood). At start Orso doesn't even believe the story of his father's murder. However, once his sister makes him see things in a different light, Orso's blood starts to boil. What will he do? Will he throw away his life because of revenge? One thing is sure, this writer knows how to keep his reader's interest.
|READ MY OTHER READING UPDATE HERE|
|MY PENCIL ILLUSTRATION, ORIGINALLY POSTED HERE|
TENDER IS THE NIGHT BY FRANCIS SCOTT FITZGERALD 4/5
I have another classic that I'll like to review. Tender Is the Night was viewed as its author as his best work. In many ways, Tender Is the Night is more ambitious, though provoking and profound than the novel Fitzgerald is better known for, aka The Great Gatsby (although, I always insist there is a great deal of depth in that one, even more than people notice). Nevertheless, Tender Is the Night definitely doesn't read as easily. There is much tenderness inside this book, but you must work to get to it and you need to keep your heart open.
Tender Is the Night feels more personal in tone. There is no framed narrative here, you don't get to see the protagonist through Nick's eye. What you get is a pretty clear picture of a man. Tender is the Night is definitely more autobiographical than the The Great Gatsby, perhaps more than any other work of his. The writing, albeit beautiful, doesn't flow as easily. You get the feeling that this wasn't an easy book to write. The reader can definitely see a lot of Fitzgerald in Dick, a man married to a glamours rich heiress. While you can glimpses of Fitzgerald's married life in other works of his (think his short stories), none is as detailed as this one. As a reader, one can see how much work Fitzgerald has put into this book and by that I don't mean just the years and the number of pages. It is an ambitious book. However, it is also difficult book. It is not easy to read.
There is something very depressive about this novel, and it is not just the sadness that penetrates its pages. I hate to say, but I felt like sometimes Fitzgerald was a bit too indulgent. Not in showing himself in a good light, in fact, it was just the opposite. There were moments when I felt like the writer dived a bit too much into self-piety. As wonderful as it is to see him so honest, it is also painful to read at times. To be completely honest, this book did leave a bitter taste in my mouth, like the medicine that might be good for you but it sure doesn't taste so. Tender Is the Night is perhaps a bit like bitter medicine for the soul. I often felt overwhelmed while I was reading it, and kind of afraid I might get lost in this novel (as bizarre at that might sound).
In a way, reading this book is a lot like getting to really know a person. It takes time, vulnerability and an open heart to get at the bottom of it. Perhaps that is what this great novel is really like- a real person. A tormented but beautiful human being. Maybe I'm getting a bit too metaphorical, but reading it was an intense and even a bit mystic experience. Mysticism aside, what kind of novel it is? This book tells the story of Dick and Nicole, a wealthy American couple enjoying their permanent European vacation lifestyle...or are they truly enjoying it? Their marriage is both happy and sad, both tragic and beautiful. They are both good and bad one for another. Nicole used to be Dick's patient (mental patient) and it seems he is genuinely concerned for her. He is definitely not with her just for her money, but Dick might be getting himself lost in their extravagant lifestyle. Money can make things seem more unreal, and this couple does have issues. The protagonist Dick is, at times, really a dick. Dick can be the worst kind of misogynist and the narrative voice is much alike to the leading character. The novel is very much focused on him, and that makes it seem more realistic but it also takes away from the other characters. We don't really get to see what Nicole is feeling. Similarly, a young American actress Dick becomes enamored with is never given a voice of her own. It seems a bit of a missed chance. I think this is a novel that could have benefited from focusing more attention to its female characters. Their part in the story is significant but their portrayal is somewhat lacking.
As fascinating is to see Dick's tragic life story, at the same time the novel feels overwritten, especially the misogynistic parts of it. You know, with so many (often mean) things being said about everyone and everything, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. It is said that the writer was in a really dark place when we wrote this novel and the reader can really feel it. The writing is of great quality but it is terribly negative. As we witness Dick's downfall into alcoholism, the book gets darker. The endless critique of everything and everyone doesn't help either. Perhaps that is another aspect of it that makes it feel depressive. The writer is often critical and mean to just about anyone: the rich, the poor, the Americans, the Europeans, the non Europeans, the Blacks, the list is endless. With him being so negative about everything, you get this feeling that it's at least a democratic kind of hate maybe, but nevertheless all that hate can get so tiring. It is easy to see that Dick is deeply unhappy. Paradoxically (or perhaps not), as his wife gets better, Dick gets worse, perhaps because he loses his purpose- that of being her doctor/caretaker and protector. He begins to doubt himself.
I must admit that as a reader I often felt like a tennis ball being tossed around. At times this novel moves quite quickly. So many things happen and they don't seem to leave a trace...at least not at first. The hectic rich lifestyle soon loses its charm. The individuals in this book, they often feel lonely. In that sense Tender Is the Night seems authentic. Not just in that sense. Despite it being a bit overwritten, this novel does feel very much feel authentic and real. Often very open and sincere in his writing (sometimes revealing too much), Fitzgerald definitely manages to touch and move its reader.
Tender Is the Night does a great job of drawing out human imperfections. The main characters are in so many ways detestable, but at the core of their being they are also very tender. It takes to be a good writer to get a reader to really care for them, too see the human under the glam and the sorrow, under it all. I cared alright, much to my surprise because on the conscious level there is so much to swallow. But I swallowed it somehow and it made me feel more humble. It made me see how fragile we are all. A sad but oh so beautifully written work of fiction.
Another book that I absolutely loved was Proklete Hrvatice- od Cvijete Zutorić do Ene Begović by Milana Runjić Vuković (here you can read my review for one of her other books). This book focuses on lives of several notable Croatian women. I found it absolutely fascinating and I enjoyed the writing style very much. The author wrote about these women from a more personal point of view, often wondering what they must have felt like in different stages of their life and I quite liked that. Since I read and reviewed this book in Croatian, I'll share my review of it in the language it was written in:
Pročitala sam knjigu Proklete Hrvatice u jednom dahu moglo bi se reći, imala sam dojam da sam jednostavno potonula u nju, u likove, povijest i događanja. Svidjelo mi se što je spisateljica o njima pisala iz osobne perspektive, gledajući ih, barem mi se tako činilo, prvenstveno kao žene, pitajući se kako su se osjećale u pojedinim trenucima. Povijesne žene, ali prikazane kroz osobnu i modernu prizmu. Čak mi se i jezik jako dopao i čitajući ovu knjigu shvatila sam koliko mi nedostaje čitati takve knjige. Hrvatska klasična književnost pa i ona novija mi je nekako uvijek pri ruci, ali lijepo je pročitati i nešto iz današnjice. Koliko god volim klasike, jednako volim čitati i modernije knjige na hrvatskom. Ova knjiga me nekako i ranila i izliječila, rastužila i usrećila. Bilo mi se lako poistovjetiti sa sudbinama i životima svih ovih žena, možda zato što sam o njima dosta i promišljala (ipak sam sa njima dosta upoznata). Osim mađarske plemkinje koja je odlučila postati ilirskom i Hrvaticom, sve su mi ostale žene bile otprije poznate. Imam dojam da bi i sama mogla o njima nešto zanimljivo napisati (možda nekad i sama napišem nešto više o njima, a u međuvremenu sam sretna što mogu o njima čitati). Ova knjiga je bila više nego dobrodošla lektira o znamenitim ženama čije su sudbine bile često tužne i tragične i vidim je i kao poticaj za daljnje čitanje. To svakako nije opširna knjiga, no upravo u tome je njezina draž. Kratka je i lako se čita, a opet prepuna je ne samo povijesnih podataka nego i emotivnih pitanja. Stil pisanja je jednostavan i prisan, bez pretenzija, a sama povijesna građa dobro je predstavljena. Sveukupno, Proklete Hrvatice je zanimljivo i hvalevrijedno ostvarenje.