Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Patrick Modiano, "Dans le café de la jeunesse perdue"

E-book




Lu du 23 au 28 octobre 2014

Mon vote


Les points fixes des zones neutres

Qu’est-ce que l’éternel retour ? Pour Nietzsche, c’est une allégorie aux connotations morales, un choix hypothétique que la mort nous offre entre le néant et la répétition perpétuelle et en détail de notre vie. Pour le hindouisme, c’est la description du destin humain, le piège des avatars, c’est-à-dire des renaissances successives. Pour Eliade, c’est la dialectique du sacré par rapport au profane : la répétition infinie des gestes archétypales afin de les maintenir vivants dans la mémoire collective.

Pour les héros du roman au titre proustien de Patrick Modiano, c’est un peu de tout cela, un effort de reconstituer le passé, en redessinant ses zones neutres que la mémoire a ombragées et qu’ils tentent d’éclairer à l’aide de quelques repères fragiles dans le temps, espace, noms et émotions.
Nous étions là, ensemble, à la même place, de toute éternité, et notre promenade à travers Auteuil, nous l’avions déjà faite au cours de mille et mille autres vies.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Hugh MacLennan, "Two Solitudes"

Afterword by Robert Kroetsch – McClelland & Stewart Ltd. 2008



Read from October 2nd to 15th 2014

My Rating


My ineffable Quebec, my love

Quebec is a magic place. You see it and you are besotted. You live in it and you become addicted. Almost imperceptibly you think of it not only as your home but also as your wonderland.

I often wander Montreal’s streets, never tiring to marvel at the people and places’ diversity. Nowhere else in the world the word “cosmopolite” makes more sense than here, furthermore, I almost believe this was the place that originated it, with its incessant scrolling of people from any corner of the world you could think of, with its happy charivari of languages more or less recognizable, with its interesting display of customs and traditions, with its generous, never-ending offer of artistic events. Whatever your mother-tongue, sooner or later you would hear it, in the street, or in a supermarket, or in a theatre foyer. Whatever new the place you happen to come by, sooner or later you meet a friendly face.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Romain Gary, "La vie devant soi"

Folio, 1992







Lu du 13 au 23 mai 2014 

Mon vote


Candeur de l’âme et du langage

Bon je savais que j’ai toute ma vie devant moi mais je n’allais pas me rendre malade pour ça.
La vie devant soi est plein de telles pensées délicieusement paradoxales avec lesquelles l’enfant narrateur, Momo, essaie de comprendre le monde qui l'entoure. Et malgré l’apparent cynisme de cette affirmation qui a suggéré le titre du roman, l’histoire qu’il nous raconte, de sa voix d’enfant précoce que la vie n’a pas réussi à briser est une vraie histoire d’amour, pleine de tendresse, d’humour et d’optimisme. Cet amour qui dépasse les barrières de l’âge, de la langue, de la race et des classes sociales est le thème principal d’un récit qui exploit à la fois les ressources de l’âme et celles de la langue française en aboutissant à un équilibre parfait entre quoi et comment, c’est-à-dire entre la forme et le contenu.

Le quoi, c’est la description d’une vie en marge de la société, là où on trouve les prostituées et leurs proxénètes, les travestis, mais aussi les immigrants pauvres et les vieillards oubliés par leurs familles. Mais ce monde désolé et misérable est rédimé à travers les yeux d’un enfant qui l’habite naturellement, qui le comprend sans le haïr et sans en être corrompu. Aussi, tous les autres thèmes graves du roman, l’injustice sociale, l’enfance, la vieillesse, la mort, sont traités d’une manière fraîche et originale par un narrateur qui réinvente le monde à sa façon à lui, en prouvant que l’innocence n’est pas toujours gâtée par le milieu social.

Primo Levi, Se questo è un uomo

e-book




letto dal 5 al 13 dicembre 2013

Il mio voto
“Oggi io penso che, se non altro per il fatto che un Auschwitz è esistito, nessuno dovrebbe ai nostri giorni parlare di Providenza…” 
Guardi qualche foto per cui non riesci proprio a trovare l’epiteto adatto: la mano scheletrica di un bambino africano affamato; la caduta verso la morte di una vittima dell’attentato sulle torri gemelle di New York; un uccello soffocato in un sacchetto di plastica su una spiaggia; la parete coperta di graffiature di una camera a gas ad Auschwitz. E ti dici: se questo è l’uomo, io me ne vergogno. Se questo è l’uomo, è peggiore di qualsiasi altro essere vivente sulla terra. Se questo è l’uomo, io di questa razza non voglio farne parte.


Richard Yates, "Revolutionary Road"

- e-book




Read from October 15th to 22nd 2014

My rating: 


I was always suspicious about the reasons an author might have to disambiguate the title of his book – I saw it rather as a sort of mocking warning to the reader not to look further, for there are no hidden meanings, it is just a name – of a character, or a house, or a street.

And in Revolutionary Road the disambiguation comes soon enough, in the second chapter of the first part, right after the first encounter with the main characters and the information of the timeframe:
He started the engine and drove carefully away, down to the turn at the base of Revolutionary Hill and on up the winding blacktop grade of Revolutionary Road.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, "The Idiot"

e-book







Read from June 28th to July 26th, 2013

My rating



That tragic solemnity hidden behind the strident, aggressive, crazy scenes in The Idiot has always made me think of Ancient Greek mysteries - the Eleusinian mainly, but also the Dionysian ones. Firstly because of the exemplarity of the main character, secondly because of the artificiality of the world that surrounds him: a frenetic, delirious, demented world that indulges in the voluptuousness of the ridicule, of the villainy, on the principle that if you acknowledge your flaws and weaknesses everything is permitted.

Like Herman Hesse in his beautiful essay "Thoughts on the Idiot by Dostoyevsky", I've had some difficulty in accepting unreservedly the comparison to Jesus, that seemed to me too obvious, too general and finally too vague. After all, as Hesse says, "you can compare to Jesus anyone who has been touched by one of the magical truths, who no longer separates thinking from living and thereby isolates himself in the midst of his surroundings and becomes the opponent of all."


David Lodge, "The Modes of Modern Writing"

- e-book


Read from January 8th to February 10th, 2014

My rating:

The history of modern English literature … can be seen as an oscillation in the practice of writing between polarized clusters of attitudes and techniques: modernist, symbolist or mythopoeic, writerly and metaphoric on the one hand; antimodernist, realistic, readerly and metonymic on the other.
This is, in a nutshell, what The Modes of Modern Writing is about: demonstrating that the Modern English writing oscillates between two poles: metaphor and metonymy. David Lodge uses Roman Jakobson’s distinction between the two aspects of the language: one to be found on the selection axis, hence, metaphoric, the other on the combination axis, hence metonymic and synecdochic. These terms could be reinforced by Roland Barthes’ dichotomy of readable (readerly) and writable (writerly) texts and are, in the author's opinion, more appropriate than the usual antithetic distinction between modernist and realistic literature (for modernists claim their literature is the truly realistic one).

Marguerite Yourcenar, Mémoires d'Hadrien

Éditions Gallimard 2001







Lu du 18 février au 14 mars 2013

Mon vote: 



Umberto Eco affirmait quelque part que la principale fonction de la littérature ne serait pas celle esthétique, mais – ontologique, vu qu’en dépit des jeux de la hypertextualité elle reste unchangeable, non modifiable, ainsi nous enseignant sur le destin et la mort.



Dans un premier temps, il m’a semblé que cette fonction s’applique également à l’histoire, dont le sort des héros est aussi immutable que celui de Madame Bovary, par exemple. Maintenant je n'en suis plus si sûre. Hadrien est à la fois un personnage historique et littéraire et il fait grande figure dans les deux domaines. Pourtant, les hésitations historiques estompent, dépersonnalisent sa figure pendant que les Mémoires la rendent grandiose, bien que les deux se servent des mêmes sources, car Marguerite Yourcenar, dans le Carnet de notes qui suit son livre énumère soigneusement tous les documents historiques utilisés.


William S. Burroughs, "Naked Lunch"

e-book







Read from June 28th to July 12th, 2013
My rating


“THIS IS NOT A NOVEL”, capitalized emphatically Burroughs in a letter to his editor, mimicking the horrified denial of any respectable 16th century writer suspected to have embraced such a minor genre. And he's right, Naked Lunch is definitely not a novel – not even in a post-modern, experimentalist or nouveau roman sense – it’s at its most a series of short stories or rather vignettes, kept together by some narrative hooks, which are sometimes a narrator, William Lee, or characters migrating from a story to another and of course, by the main theme, which is addiction. The result? Some deliberately frightening, hilariously incoherent, sarcastically irritating and ultimately carelessly annoying, nonsensical tales depicting a world where in the absence of reason, monsters happily break free, where the mixture between fantastic and reality is not some clever technique to create magic realism but a faithful description of an astute, even if drug-clouded, mind. Similar to that old surrealist technique ("automatic writing" I think it is called), only this time the narrative is not the description of a dream – or not really.

Henry Miller, "Tropic of Cancer"

e-book





Read from September 23 to October 13, 2012

My rating



The Tropic of Cancer, Wikipedia says, "also referred to as the Northern tropic, is the circle of latitude on the Earth that marks the most northerly position at which the Sun may appear directly overhead at its zenith. This event occurs once per year, at the time of the June solstice, when the Northern Hemisphere is tilted toward the Sun to its maximum extent."

The sun at its zenith, that is, in its full splendour, “tropic” being the word of reference here.
On the other hand, Henry Miller emphasizes the second word when he explains the title of his novel as follows: "It was because to me cancer symbolizes the disease of civilization, the endpoint of the wrong path, the necessity to change course radically, to start completely over from scratch.” 

Boris Vian, "L'écume des jours"

Édition: 10/18, 1963




Lu du 25 avril au 1er mai 2013

Mon vote

Tous les deux ou trois ans, il faut absolument que je relise L’écume des jours. Tous les deux ou trois ans, ce livre me hante.

D’où cette inlassable fascination ? Dans une charmante trouvaille, Jacques Bens la pointe dans le « langage-univers ». C’est beau, comme formule, mais incomplet, parce qu’il s’agit d’un langage ET d’un univers, non d’un univers des mots, comme dans la poésie. Les deux s’appuient et s’entrelacent en restant quand même distincts, singuliers, chacun avec sa beauté tragique, étrange, éthérique.

Saul Bellow, "Herzog"

e-book

Read from August 20 to 27, 2014


My rating


"Pray tell me, Sir, whose dog are you?"

What is the world for the intellectual? The playground of his ideas or the hell of his emotions? For Moses Hezog, a forty-seven-year old former Professor in a mid-life crisis is certainly both. Recently gone through a messy divorce and the tragi-comedy of a marital triangle, the hero looks for the cathartic liberation from this emotional ballast in two ways: by writing letters to acquaintances and strangers, to the living and the dead, and by remembering the past. The result? A very exquisite mixture between epistolary and psychological novel intertwined with cleverly hidden intertextual dialogues, in a perfect narrative structure and a memorable collection of characters. A masterpiece signed Saul Bellow.



The novel follows Herzog’s quest to make sense of the world either following Tolstoy’s belief – that freedom is personal and indifferent to historical limitations, or Hegel’s conception – that freedom begins with the knowledge of death, knowledge fed by history and memory.

Lucian Boia, "De ce este România altfel?"

Editura Humanitas, 2012




Perioada lecturii: 13-16 aprilie 2013

Votul meu:

Eu vocea aceasta care încearcă să pună un diagnostic incurabilei Românii o cunosc foarte bine. E vocea care se ridica, acum aproape 150 de ani, „În contra direcției de astăzi din cultura română“, e vocea care se înduioșa lăcrimos, cam tot pe-atunci, de soarta „țărișoarei“ ce continua să rămînă și la începutul secolului 20 aceeași „țară tristă, plină de umor“, și împotriva moravurilor căreia un mare interbelic spunea un „Nu“, hotărît, în timp ce altul, respingîndu-i dezgustat apatia, afirma: „Nu pot iubi decît o Românie în delir.“

La urma urmei, e vocea mea, chinuindu-se să exprime mai puțin articulat aceleași adevăruri. Încercînd să pună degetul pe rană, doar-doar demonul românismului s-o exorciza printr-o recunoaștere cinstită a multelor sale păcate. Din acest punct de vedere, bine zicea Cristian Ghinea că eseul lui Lucian Boia seamănă cu o terapie, deși asta e cam singura afirmație valabilă într-o recenzie ale cărei strîmbături din nas sînt cumva contracarate de un titlu lejer incoerent si cu aere de geniu plictisit de amuzamentele plebei (O carte altfel. Banală ca un talk show).

Umberto Eco, "Sulla letteratura"

e-book




Letto dal 8 febbraio  al 31 marzo 2013

Il mio voto




Cominciando con un’opinione generale su “Alcune funzioni della letteratura” per finire con un resoconto personale e dettagliato di “Come scrivo”, Sulla letteratura è una raccolta di “saggi Bompiani” che ci invita a una passeggiata nei boschi della cultura universale, senza un ordine apparente. Dico apparente, perché c’è un “sopra tema” che unisce i capitoli: la ricezione dell’opera che rivela maschere e atteggiamenti dei lettori, divisi dall’autore in due categorie: di primo livello, diciamo semantico, di chi vuole sapere come la storia vada finire e di secondo livello, diciamo semiotico o estetico, di chi vuole sapere come accada ciò che è stato raccontato. 

Ovviamente, Umberto Eco si rivolge alla seconda categoria quando identifica, per esempio, la principale funzione educativa della letteratura, che non sarebbe quella morale (certo che no!), nemmeno quella estetica (ah, no?), ma quella… ontologica : cioè l’opera ci educa "al Fato e alla morte", all'idea d'irreversibilità del destino, come irreversibile e immodificabile è il destino di un Edipo, di una Bovary, malgrado tutto ipertesto che cercherebbe di cambiarli. 

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Marguerite Duras, "L'amant"

Editions de Minuit, 1984





Lu du 20 au 26 novembre 2012

Mon vote




J’ai lu quelque part que Julia Kristeva avertissait les lecteurs d’un équilibre mental fragile de ne pas lire les œuvres de Marguerite Duras, parce qu’elles pourraient les amener près de l’expérience de la folie. Et que « L’amant », de ce point de vue, ne serait que l’histoire de la folie gothique de la mère de la narratrice, à laquelle cette dernière essaie de s’échapper en effaçant son image.

L’hypothèse est séduisante, mais elle ne couvre qu’une partie de ce mini roman dont le thème principal est, c’est vrai, la famille (le deuxième thème, l’amour, n’est qu’un prétexte pour mieux mettre en évidence le premier). Une famille marquée par la folie, le crime et la mort, à laquelle la narratrice voit la chance de s’échapper dès sa première rencontre avec son futur amant : « Dès qu’elle a pénétré dans l’auto noire elle l’a su, elle est à l’écart de cette famille pour la première fois et pour toujours. » Et c’est le rôle de l’amant de produire la rupture en incarnant, paradoxalement, tous les images masculines de la famille : le père (« j’étais devenue son enfant »), le frère aîné (« par la chambre passe l’ombre d’un jeune assassin » ) et le petit frère (« par la chambre passe l’ombre d’un jeune chasseur »). Et je pense que c’est ici qu'on trouve la stylistique du changement de focalisation qui apparaît presque chaque fois que la narratrice évoque les scènes d’amour, en changeant la première personne de la voix narrative avec la troisième. En objectivant sa relation, elle la transforme dans la pierre milliaire de son destin, le moment de la fuite, de la rupture ; non nécessairement le récit d’un couple, car cette Lolita n’a pas d’Humbert et ce Roméo n’a pas de Juliette – mais le récit du chemin vers l’expérience, commencé à quinze ans et demi avec la révolte qui mènera à la séparation de la mère qui vit seulement pour le frère aîné, du frère aîné qui vit seulement pour profiter matériellement de sa famille et du petit frère qui s’en meurt en achevant ainsi cette séparation. 

Margaret Atwood, "Alias Grace"

Emblem Editions, 1999





Read from June 18th to July 8th, 2012

My rating


Take a sensational event. Gather all information available about it, credible or not (testimonies, newspaper articles, letters etc.). Fill in the gaps with your own imagination. Carefully delete any border between reality and fiction. Here it is: the perfect recipe for a postmodernist novel. 

And what a novel! As usual, Margaret Atwood creates a "oeuvre d'art". The story of Grace Marks, a "celebrated Canadian murderer" of the 19th century, is retold in a ludic manner, enriched with unexpected meanings and robbed of all her "real" reality to be invested with a whole "fictive" reality. Do you get now the "alias" in the title? Of course, the surprising adjective stands also for the subtle transformation of "grace" into a commun noun, and for many other meanings, yours to discover.

Doris Lessing, "The Fifth Child"



Read from September 30th to October 08th, 2013

My rating:


It was the summer of 2013 that a friend of mine, who’s an English teacher, asked me how I would teach “The Fifth Child”. Since I didn’t know about the book or have it, she sent me a PDF copy and here I am, after an unsettling but fascinating reading, asking myself the same question: what key of lecture could I offer? Because it is, undoubtedly, worth reading. A little masterpiece about the fragility of happiness and the illusion of the security provided by family, as the author herself said in an interview:

''I do have a sense, and I've never not had it, of how easily things can vanish. It's a sense of disaster. I know where it comes from – my upbringing. That damn First World War, which rode my entire childhood, because my father was so damaged by it. This damn war rammed down my throat day and night, and then World War II coming, which they talked about all the time. You know, you can never get out from under this kind of upbringing, the continual obsession with this. And after all, it's true. These wars did arise, and destroyed a beautiful household with all the loving children.''