Hesse, Hermann "Narcissus and Goldmund"


(German Title: Narziss und Goldmund) - 1930

Reviewed by Marianne
from Let's Read

A friend of mine was surprised that I never read this book. Well, we can't have read all the books available and I had read three other books by Hermann Hesse before. Still, she had a DVD of the film they made in 2020 (see here) and then she lent me her copy of the book. Thanks, Elisabeth.

They are both great works though, as so often with films, you cannot compare the two. The ending is pretty different and there are parts that are larger in the book than in the film and vice versa. Why do they always have to do that? I have no idea.

This is a much acclaimed book and supposedly one of Hesse's best. I can well understand that. It is a great novel with many layers and much information about life in the middle ages.

I have enjoyed the book very much though I find it hard to say why. Certainly, the writing is superb and the description not just of the two main characters but also all the other ones is fantastic. Maybe I just say it's magical and - like magic - not explainable.

Of course, I cannot vouch for any translations as I have read this book in the original German language.

From the back cover:

"Narcissus and Goldmund is the story of two diametrically opposite men: one, an ascetic monk firm in his religious commitment, and the other, a romantic youth hungry for worldly experience.Hesse was a great writer in precisely the modern sense: complex, subtle, allusive: alive to the importance of play. Narcissus and Goldmund is his very best. What makes this short book so limitlessly vast is the body-and-soul-shaking debate that runs through it, which it has the honesty and courage not to resolve: between the flesh and spirit, art and scientific or religious speculation, action and contemplation."

And another one:

"Narcissus is a teacher at Mariabronn, a monastery in medieval Germany, and Goldmund his favourite pupil. While Narcissus remains detached from the world in prayer and meditation, Goldmund runs away from the monstery in pursuit of love. Thereafter he lives a picaresque wanderer's life, his amatory adventures resulting in pain as well as ecstasy. His eventual reunion with Narcissus brings into focus the diversity between artist and thinker, Dionysian and Apollonian".

Hermann Hesse received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946 "for his inspired writings which, while growing in boldness and penetration, exemplify the classical humanitarian ideals and high qualities of style".

Hermann Hesse received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (Friedenspreis) in 1955.

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

Original Post on "Let's Read".

Neruda, Pablo "The Captain's Verses"

(Spanish Title: Los versos del capitán) - 1973


Reviewed by Marianne
from Let's Read


I mentioned it before, I'm not much into poetry, I don't enjoy it much. But my book club chose it, and I am always committed to read everything on the list.

The only plus is that my edition has both the Spanish as well as the English version, so I could practice my Spanish a little. And Pable Neruda is a Nobel Prize laureate that I hadn't read, yet. I probably won't read more by him.

If this book has taught me anything, I'm REALLY not into poetry.

Some comments from our members:

  • Reading the book and widening my own experience was well worth the read anyway.
  • What a heart! Neruda opens his heart to love again and again, bringing his readers' hearts along no matter what. Even across all these distances and all these years, Neruda loves the very essence of love in these poems. And I don't even like poetry.

We read this in our book club in July 2021. 

From the back cover:

"Pablo Neruda finished writing The Captain's Verses (Los versos del Capitán) in 1952 while in exile on the island of Capri - the paradisal setting for the blockbuster film Il Postino (The Postman), that centers around this period of Neruda's life. Surrounded by the sea, sun, and the natural splendor of a thousand vineyards, Neruda addressed these poems of love, ecstasy, devotion, and fury to his lover Matilde Urrutia, the one "with the fire/of an unchained meteor".

Later the same year, Neruda published The Captain's Verses anonymously in an edition of fifty copies, fourteen years before he and Matilde legally married. The first 'acknowleged' edition would not appear until 1963.

This complete,bilingual collection has become a classic for love-struck readers around the world - passionately sensuous, and exploding with all the erotic energy of a new love.

Pablo Neruda received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971
"for a poetry that with the action of an elemental force brings alive a continent's destiny and dreams".

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

Original Post on "Let's Read".

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".


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