Hemingway, Ernest "For Whom the Bell Tolls"


Reviewed by Marianne
from Let's Read

After reading this book, I don't understand why I didn't read it earlier. This is one of the "must read" classics, a book that tells us so much about a terrible time, not just a particular terrible time about the guerillas in the Spanish Civil War, but about war in general. War isn't jsut a number of how many people died or how many fights were won or lost. War is horrible. War is brutal. War is everything nobody wants. And yet, we still have wars.

You can tell that a lot of experience flowed into this piece. Ernest Hemingway faught himself in the Spanish Civil War. He must have lived through lot of the actions described here.

This novel is a brilliant account of the partisans, their fight, their effort, their dreams. A strong story about a fight that we all know was lost and cost many Spaniards dearly in the following years.

I never watched the movie with Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman, two actors I really loved. I probably should. They received nine Oscar nominations for it.

From the back cover: 

"High in the pine forests of the Spanish Sierra, a band of anti-fascist guerrilla prepares to blow up a strategically vital bridge. Robert Jordan, a young American volunteer, has been sent to handle the dynamiting. There, in the mountains, he finds the dangers and the intense comradeship of war. And there he discovers Maria, a young woman who has escaped from Franco's rebels."

Ernest Hemingway received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954 "for his mastery of the art of narrative, most recently demonstrated in 'The Old Man and the Sea' and for the influence that he has exerted on contemporary style" and the Pulitzer Prize for "The Old Man and the Sea" in 1953.

Read my other reviews of the Nobel Prize winners for Literature.  

Original Post on "Let's Read".

Saramago, José "Blindness"


(Portuguese: O Ensaio sobre a Cegueira) - 1995


Reviewed by Marianne
from Let's Read

This is my second book by this wonderful author. Same as "Cain", this book is totally captivating.

We get no information about the city or even the country where this takes place. However, this is a dystopian novel and they usually could take place anywhere. We never know what will happen if a catastrophe - or in this case an epidemic - strikes us.

In this book, the people go completely mad. Everyone goes blind one after the other and everyone is scared. That doesn't mean they all react in the same way. There are those who stick together and help others and other who live according to the motto "help yourself so God will help you". It wouldn't even be fair to the animals to say they behave like them because animals at least only take what they need.

Both the sentences and the paragraphs in this book are very long, there is hardly a place where you can stop. But that makes it even more compelling, you have the feeling you are stuck in the book just the way the blind people are stuck in their destiny. A good way to emphasize the situation.

None of the characters have a name. They are just called "the first blind man" or "the doctor's wife" and "the girl with the dark glasses". Again, this makes it easier for us to identify with them, I guess. Anyone could be one of the guys or one of the girls.

He definitely makes it easy for us to imagine that this actually could happen. We can try to imagine how it is when you turn blind. And we can feel with the people who not only go blind but lose their life as they knew it until then.

Great novel. Like many dystopian books, a look into humanity or the lack of it.

From the back cover:

A city is struck by an epidemic of 'white blindness'. The first man to succumb sits in his car, waiting for the light to change. He is taken to an eye doctor, who does not know what to make of the phenomenon - and soon goes blind himself.

The blindness spreads, sparing no one. Authorities confine the blind to a vacant mental hospital secured by armed guards under instructions to shoot anyone trying to escape. Inside, the criminal element among the blind holds the rest captive: food rations are stolen, women are raped. The compound is set ablaze, and the blind escape into what is now a deserted city, strewn with litter and unburied corpses.

The only eyewitness to this nightmare is the doctor's wife, who faked blindness in order to join her husband in the camp. She guides seven strangers through the barren streets. The bonds within this oddly anonymous group - the doctor, the first blind man and his wife, the old man with the black eye patch, the girl with dark glasses, the boy with no mother, and the dog of tears - are as uncanny as the surrounding chaos is harrowing. Told with compassion, humor, and lyricism, Blindness is a stunning exploration of loss and disorientation in the modern world, of man's will to survive against all odds."

José Saramago "who with parables sustained by imagination, compassion and irony continually enables us once again to apprehend an elusory reality" received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998.

Read my other reviews of the Nobel Prize winners for Literature.  

Original Post on "Let's Read".

Bunin, Ivan Alekseyevich (Иван Алексеевич Бунин) "In Paris"

(Russian: в Париже/Parisiis) - 1943
In Paris

Dark Avenues (or Dark Alleys) (Russian: Тёмные аллеи/Tyomnyie alleyi)



Reviewed by Marianne
from Let's Read


 Ivan Bunin was an emigrant, he saw a lot of Russian culture from the outside. "In Paris" is a story of Russian emigrants - exactly - in Paris, where he lived for a long time. 

As someone who lived abroad myself for a long time, I could relate to many of his allusions. This short story is very interesting and I wouldn't mind reading more by this author.

You will find this story in his collection "Dark Avenues".


"One of the great achievements of twentieth-century Russian émigré literature, Dark Avenues took Bunin's poetic mastery of language to new heights.

Written between 1938 and 1944 and set in the context of the Russian cultural and historical crises of the preceding decades, this collection of short fiction centres around dark, erotic liaisons. Love - in its many varied forms - is the unifying motif in a rich range of narratives, characterized by the evocative, elegiac, elegant prose for which Bunin is renowned.

Ivan Alekseyevich Bunin received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1933
"for following through and developing with chastity and artfulness the traditions of Russian classic prose." He was the first Russian author to be awarded this prize.

Read my other reviews of the Nobel Prize winners for Literature.  

Original Post on "Let's Read". 

Mann, Thomas "A Man and His Dog"

(aka Bashan and I)
(German: Herr und Hund. Ein Idyll
- 1918

Reviewed by Marianne
from Let's Read

Anyone who knows me is aware of the fact that I love Thomas Mann. And that I'm not a fan of short stories. So, here is a short story by one of my favourite authors. 95 pages. In German! Which means it has probably fewer in English. (I could only find editions with extra writings, so I have no idea how many pages are left of the actual story.

Bashan is called "Bauschan" in the German original. Not a name I have ever come across anywhere. I am not an animal person, have never owned a single one and if I would want one, I'd rather have a cat than a dog, so I probably would not have touched this story if it hadn't been for the author.

The subtitle in German is "an idyll". Is it really that idyllic? Well, at least Thomas Mann manages to describe it like that. Long walks with his dog, beautiful landscape descriptions, a great tale of how a man and his dog grow together, the psychology of his dog. And of the owner. It's a feel good "story". Nothing much happens but you can follow them through their everyday life and imagine you are their on their walks.

The book was written and published in 1918, just when people had to get over WWI, maybe not a bad time to come up with a novella like this.

As for the cover pictures, I prefer the German one, it reminds me of Monet and other impressionists. Well, it's by Henry Moret, a French impressionist painter. I hand't heard of him so could google more of his works and they are beautiful. Lots of seascapes which I always like.

This was our book club read in February 2021.

Some thoughts:

  • It was again a completely different book than what we have read before, and the style of writing also totally different.
  • Many thought the language was too long and difficult, with too much detail. Like a monologue you listen to, where you want to ask about what else is going on in life outside the picture, but you are unable to.
  • Some really enjoyed some parts of the descriptions of scenery but felt very sad for the dog in much of the story.
  • The contrast how we love and care for dogs nowadays compared to how Bashan was cared for back in those days felt enormous.
  • The book made me curious about how it compares to Mann's other works, and what else was going on in life at the time.

I can understand these points. My favourite book by Thomas Mann is still is "Buddenbrooks".

I read this in the original German edition.

From the back cover:

"Bashan and I is the moving story of Thomas Mann's relationship with his spirited German short-haired pointer. From their first encounter at a local farm, Mann reveals how he slowly grows to love this energetic, loyal, and intelligent animal. Taking daily walks in the nearby parkland, Mann begins to understand and appreciate Bashan as a living being, witnessing his native delight in chasing rabbits, deer, and squirrels along with his careful investigations of stones, fallen branches, and clumps of wet leaves. As their bond deepens, Mann is led to contemplate Bashan's inner life, and marvels at the ease with which his dog trusts him, completely putting his life into his master's hands.

Over time, the two develop a deep mutual understanding, but for Mann, there is always a sense of loss at never being able to enter the private world of his dear friend, and he slowly becomes conscious of the eternal divide between mankind and the rest of nature. Nonetheless, the unique relationship quietly moves to the forefront of Mann's life, and when master and companion are briefly separated, Mann is taken aback by the depth of his loneliness without his dog. It is this deep affection for another living creature that helps the writer to reach a newfound understanding of the nature of love, in all its complexity.

First published in 1919 and translated into English in 1923,
Bashan and I was heralded for its simple telling of how a dog became a priceless companion, an animal who brought meaning to the author's life."

Thomas Mann received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1929 "principally for his great novel, 'Buddenbrooks', which has won steadily increased recognition as one of the classic works of contemporary literature".

Read my other reviews of the Nobel Prize winners for Literature.  

Original Post on "Let's Read".

© Read the NobelsMaira Gall