Billiards at Half Past Nine by Heinrich Böll

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9296323-billiards-at-half-past-nine
Originally reviewed by Edith LaGraziana
on Edith's Miscellany

Without any doubt, the first half of the twentieth century counts among the most unstable and most violent times in European history. For survivors and Spätgeborene (“late-born”, i.e. the post-war generation) it was difficult to come to terms with the horrors of holocaust and war and to build a pluralistic and truly democratic society on the rubbles that the totalitarian Nazi regime left behind. As shows the much-acclaimed novel Billiards at Half Past Nine by Heinrich Böll, the German recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature of 1972, in the years or even decades immediately following World War II, most Germans preferred to push the memory of the Third Reich and their role in it into the background. With survival being the first priority, it was rather natural after all to focus on the present. But to forget the lessons of the past means to give those charismatic populists who wish to turn back time a chance to rise.

Something I've Been Meaning to Tell You by Alice Munro

  • Monday, August 14, 2017

Alice Munro received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2013. Long awaited by some critics. She got the Prize for being "master of the contemporary short story". Many of the Laureates of the Nobel Prize in Literature feels like a heavy read and not so accessible. However, lately, I have read a couple of books by Laureates that has been really outstanding. I am thinking of Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann and L'Herbe des nuits (The Black Notebook) by Patrick Modiano.  I can add another name to the list; Alice Munro

One of her books has been on my shelves for some time, and, finally, I got around to read it. Alice Munro writes short stories, which is not really my cup of tea, although I read them from time to time. This is a time when it was really worth it.

From the back of the cover the Observer notes: "Read not more than one of her stories a day, and allow them to work their spell: they are made to last". I can agree to that, although I read half the book before I left for holiday and half of it when I came back. Her stories are about life, often middle aged people or older people. They all have something to tell about life. Inner thoughts, the world changing around them, problems to keep up or events from the past still lingering on their minds and affecting their whole life.

This is the first lines of a story called "Walking on Water". One of my favourites.
"This was a part of town where a lot of old people still lived, though many had moved to high-rises across the park. Mr Lougheed had a number of friends, or perhaps it would be better to say acquaintances, whom he met every day or so on the way downtown, at the bus stop, or on the walks overlooking the sea. Occasionally he played cards with them in their rooms or apartments. He belonged to a lawn-bowling club and to a club which brought in travel films and showed them, in a downtown hall, during the winter. He had joined these clubs not out of a real desire to be sociable but as a precaution against his natural tendencies, which might lead him, he thought, into becoming a sort of hermit."
The stories are engaging, real and the characters she creates on only a few pages are incredible. You are right into them from the first line of each story. The manage to engage you and make you think about life, what it is and how we live it. Worth reading and reflecting. These stories are some of her earlier ones and was published in 1974 for the first time. I am sure this is not the last time I read Alice Munro, and it would be interesting to read some of her later stories.

Fo, Dario "My First Seven Years (plus a few more)"

Il Paese dei Mezaràt: I miei primi sette anni (e qualcuno in più) - 2004

I know this is not one of the books for which Dario Fo received his Nobel Prize because he wrote it seven years later.

However, you can see from this book how the writer Dario Fo developed from a small child into a Nobel Laureate. And he is not just a famous writer, he is also an actor and comedian. And just listening to his stories makes you believe that he is a very good one. He is the little boy who always makes everyone laugh, especially during the hard times of the war.

The title and the story of the book come from a quote by Bruno Bettelheim: "All I ask is that you give me the first seven years of the life of a man. It’s all there; you can keep the rest." Luckily for us, Dario Fo carries on a little longer for this, so we can also look into the Italian Resistance against Fascism.

Some of the stories are quite funny and the whole book is quite easy to read. I am interested in reading more of this author.

One quote that I really liked:
"When a farmer dies who knows the land and the story of the people working it, when a wise man dies, who knows how to read the moon and the sun, the wind and the flight of the birds, ... not just one man dies. It's a whole library that dies."

From the back cover:

"An extraordinary coming-of-age memoir by the Nobel-Prize-winning playwright.

My First Seven Years is Dario Fo's fantastic, enchanting memoir of his youth spent in Northern Italy on the shores of Lago Maggiore. As a child, Fo grew up in a picturesque village teeming with glass-blowers, smugglers and storytellers. Of his teenage years, Fo recounts the struggles of the Fascists and Partisans, the years of World War II, and his own tragicomic experience trying to desert the Fascist army.

In a series of colorful vignettes, Fo draws us into a remarkable early life filled with characters and anecdotes that would become the inspiration for his own creative genius."

Dario Fo "who emulates the jesters of the Middle Ages in scourging authority and upholding the dignity of the downtrodden" received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1997.

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

The Dark Flower by John Galsworthy

Originally reviewed by Edith LaGraziana
on Edith's Miscellany

Just like the body ages and changes with time, emotions don’t stay the same during a whole life. Therefore the experience of love can be very different depending on how old we are when it comes over us, be it like a coup de foudre or only gradually. However much we like the idea of eternal love, we have come to distinguish between three, four or even more seasons of love with good reason. The protagonist of The Dark Flower by John Galsworthy, the Nobel Prize laureate in literature of 1932, is a sculptor and unlike the average Englishman of his time who has learnt to appear calm and poised under all circumstances, he is full of emotions that he finds difficult to control and hide. Three times in the course of nearly thirty years he is swept away by passionate love to women who are forbidden to him because of the bonds of their or his own marriage

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© Read the NobelsMaira Gall