Published: Tuesday, 04 March 2014 08:40
Written by Pearls
Today's topic is The political prisoner by Cesare Pavese.
Cesare Pavese tells us a story of his own imprisonment for being against the fascist regime of Mussolini in the early 20th century. His image, Stefano, is a young man who is convicted to exile by the authorities in an almost abandoned village somewhere in south Italy. The author is very lacking in information on his background, the reasons why he is imprisoned or anything whatsoever about his character. We are only presented with the situation, and how one can cope with it.
Stefano lives a solitary life, always having his suitcase ready for departure, hoping that one day his exile will be lifted and he will be happy to leave this foresaken place. He has no idea how long he will be staying, it could be a year, a decade, or just one more day. He refuses to attach himself to any of the places or of the people in the village, although we find out this is not completely avoidable.
At start, Stefano is seen as an outlier, someone who does not belong here, and he has a sleeping checkin that is dutifully done every evening by a special guard, and he has to report to it his every single move. Later, people begin to adopt him to their small community, starting with Giannino Catalano, one of the most influential people in the village, who likes Stefano for his solitude, his lack of talking and communicativeness, and appreciates his engineering skills, although he never graduated an engineering school. They begin by spending time together, swimming and hunting birds in the hills near the village. Giannino closely becomes Stefano's best friend, and the develop a special bond, that he can't share with anyone else.
Elena, the housekeeper of his room, is an abandoned wife, full of sorrow and regret, that tries to find comfort in the arms of another man full of sorrow and regret, Stefano. However, Stefano does not really want her, as he is trying to stay away from other people and be ready to leave at first sight. He grows fond of a servant at a neighbor's house, Concia, a simple girl who always walks barefooted, but his fantasy is only limited to imagination, as the few words that he exchanges with her are not enough to create a relationship.
Stefano is stranded on a desert island, and tries to find connection points for his life, points that can help him cope with the situation: one is the fantasy for Concia, another is his friendship with Giannino and Elena. Later, Giannino is also imprisoned, which makes him compare his situation with Giannino's: he is not bound by the four walls, but his freedom is just as small as Giannino's. Another prisoner is brought up in the hill, but kept within a courtyard. This prisoner is the mirror image of Stefano, only his apparent freedom is more bound. Stefano doesn't lack space, but lacks freedom of opinion, of life, of friends, of meeting new people and doing anything he might want to do, which is almost as bad as withing the four walls.
Stefano is released after one year spent with the villagers, returning home with a new perception over the world, and with more appreciation on freedom, no matter the form of which this is manifested.
Published: Friday, 07 February 2014 11:38
Written by Pearls
I have read Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter, by Simone de Beauvoir, who is not at the first presence on the blog.
The Memoirs present her early life, from her first memories, birth, and the story of her family, until she gets the independence she wanted all her life, after graduating from Sorbonne.
The novel is not a fictional one, the author tells her story in first person, from her own perspective of the respective age, but also looking back from an older age, by having a conscient voice in her early age diary. Her story is one of a child who had to kept her duties to her family, a story of a coming of age of an intellectual, not very restricted by parents, with a great liberty of mind and thought.
I find myself a lot in her development, starting from a prejudice early childhood, powerfully influenced by society, dogma, concepts and beliefs indoctrinated from youth. She has a profound religious crisis in adolescence, which I find very explainable. Simone has been reading a lot, understanding more and more, she begins to get fond of science, philosophy, open world concept, where the ancient gods have no place. She finds out that the God that many people worship does not have any influence on her, nor that it's required in order to have a good life, or to respect moral principles that govern a good life. Her development as a thinker is underway. She finds comfort in books, reading many stuff that her parents bring her, censored, until her cousin Jacques starts to open her up for some new writing.
Simone has a fancy over her cousin, which she dreams to marry one day, or at least have a love intrigue. This infatuation goes to her late adolescence and her early years as a young woman, but it's melt away because Jacques can no longer impress her as a man, with his knowledge, intelligence, or charm.
She experiences the dark side of life, pubs, drinking, flirting with older men, but she is naive and unaware of possible consequences. Lucky indeed, she manages to get away after more men pay for her drinks and demand something in return from her.
Her experiences with the early 20th century society concerning marriage are very blunt: at that time a girl couldn't marry without a proper dowry. Because of her father's bad businesses, he cannot give them a proper dowry for her and her sister. She is forced to pursue a career, not that she wanted otherwise, but this is a good reason for her parents to not force her into a marriage.
Unlike other teenage girls, she is not interested in her looks, trying to look more beautiful, except one episode when she thinks that her sister is much more beautiful because she didn't hit puberty yet, and it's not full of acne and clumsy as she is. Her main objectives are to know as much of the world as possible, and to change something into the world, by writing something that will remain after she is gone.
At a certain age, she has fear of death crisis, which I can clearly understand. Most people believe in after life, or some kind of resurrection and eternal life, but for the people who understand and are aware that this afterlife and resurrection are impossible, there are moments when death can overwhelm you. As depicted in one of her later novels, All men are mortal, Simone de Beauvoir expresses her understanding of death, and that death is somehow necessary in order to make people appreciate their limited time on earth, and that eternal life/joy is a nonsense.
Friendship is very important for Simone, as she has profound crisis about loneliness, nobody to understand her, and nobody to share her thoughts with. She doesn't have an inclination for gender friendship, or for special relationship with a man, but treats all her friends the same, no matter if they are men or women. Her best friend Zaza depicts the struggle of the rising girl of the 20th century who fails miserably in all that she has to do: to be a dutiful daughter and to accept a convenience marriage by her parents, to achieve herself as a person, professionally and intellectually, to achieve herself as a woman, in love, by finding the man that would make her happy and tie herself to him, and to have a good life, by dying at a very young age.
On the other hand, Simone is lucky to be part of a family that allows her to become a thinker, a feminist, an opener of new ways for society, even though they are reluctant at start, Simone becomes what she wanted to be, and eventually everyone is proud of her. At the end of her studies, she finally finds the one person that she can admire, she can understand, be understood, share her thoughts, impress her, respect her, and to which to have a long life companion: Jean Paul Sartre.
Published: Friday, 31 January 2014 13:13
Written by Pearls
Another classic I read recently is Quo Vadis, by Henryk Sienkiewicz
Quo Vadis is a classical novel, exploring modern themes in an ancient time, the time when Rome was ruled by Nero, one of the most dark figures in Roman Empire's history. Quo Vadis is a novel about love, about faith, and about people.
The main characters are the young and lustful Vinicius, an important figure in Roman politics, with a good fortune, who falls from the highest of pleasure into a crude love despair for the daughter of a far away barbarian king, Ligia. Ligia is a simple girl, full of faith and innocence, and considering the others more important than herself, fully selfless.
Vinicius is attracted at first by her beauty, which gives him an obsession, while Ligia is vaguely attracted by him. Vinicius makes several mistakes in trying to approach her, which make her life miserable together with his own. He uses his uncle Petronius, a high ranking official and art critique at the court of the emperor Nero, to abduct her from her adoptive parents. Ligia is only revolted by his approach, and runs away. Vinicius is completely left out of options, as he is used to slaves that would obey all his wishes, and everything he would ever desire would come to him without fighting for it. He doesn't understand why Ligia wouldn't want to become his mistress and get all the honors and attention that few other women would have. He begins a desperate search and is consequent in his mistakes, punishing his slaves for something they didn't deserve punishment.
Ligia prefers to stay in solitude, accompanied by kind people, who are not powerful, nor rich, but have a big heart, and a warm soul. Vinicius cannot understand this, but he begins to realize there is more in her way of being that he can try to find out, and begins her search on a different matter, a spiritual journey to finding her.
Ligia is an adept of a new religion, Christianity, that implies spiritual goodness, sacrifice of oneself for the others. She is at the edge of the city, together with other followers of the new religion, far away from the habits of Rome.
Although Vinicius made her suffer, by taking her away from her home, and forcing her to live stranded and hidden, Ligia is willing to forgive him.
Vinicius however is not yet to give up his old ways, and comes to kidnap Ligia again, after finding about her location, by infiltrating the followers of the fish, the symbol of early Christianity. Ligia's guardian kills Vinicius' friend and lets him badly injured, only to be saved by Ligia, who doesn't allow more violence to happen. Vinicius is treated by Ligia for a while, which is a mystical healing of both body and soul, and begins to understand her, her thinking and her way of life. Even though he tried to kidnap her, Ligia is willing to stand by his ill bed, care for him, and let him go without any wish for avenge. Vinicius is astonished by this, and accepts that Ligia is something different that he still has a long way to decipher her. He returns home, healed, but with a different heart, and signs of change begin to show, by releasing some of his slaves.
The faith puts the characters into another test, when Nero begins to blame Vinicius and Ligia for the death of his daughter, and the burning of Rome, when Vinicius and Ligia are separated again. Vinicius meets Saint Peter, who tries to endulge him into the ways of the Christianity. The guilt for burning Rome falls on the Christians, and the most dramatic point in the novel is when the Christians are fed to animals, without fight or remorse, which turns them into martyrs. Ligia is only saved by the request of the audience, which was the only thing that Nero was still afraid of.
Also a dramatic episode is the suicide of Petronius, commanded by Nero. Being in Nero's disgrace, Petronius asks his personal doctor to let him bleed to death, engulfing in last reads of poems and Roman bohemia, before his slow and painless death.
Overall, Quo Vadis is a book who shows an impossible love coming true, in a dark age presented magnificently, full of violence and lacking any justice or fairness.
Petronius is the ancient intellectual, desiring his pleasures, and not being afraid to pay for a life full of lust. He envies a bit but it's full of compasion for Ligia and Vinicius.
Vinicius is the perfect Roman, which discovers a whole new world through Ligia, and an example of faith conversion and one of the most early Christians.
Ligia is the innocent maid, who can devote herself to a better cause, for the good of everyone else.
Published: Tuesday, 03 December 2013 14:22
Written by Pearls
I thought it's time for a classic since I was not present here in a long time. So, I approached Thomas Hardy's Tess d'Urberville.
Even though it's a famous novel, I did not have the chance to read it so far, so here are my thoughts about it.
Tess is a sad novel, a depressing novel, somehow a Prometheus novel, a novel where life and ethics and society imposes enough restrictions to fully condition one's life.
Tess starts from a young girl of coming age, a soft, uneducated, naive girl who is faced with far greater problems than she can handle, also fed by a pair of irresponsible parents, who sometimes look even more naive than her. Tess is not afraid of the world, but she doesn't impose anything to herself, mostly because of her missing knowledge and lack of interest.
First, she is faced with the problem of obtaining the most of her ancient name, which is one thing that brings her worse things than better ones. Her name becomes a stain on her face, something that attracts people to take advantage of it, or run away of her. Her encounter with the so called cousin only brings her trouble: she is daydreaming, young, and one could say even stupid. She is eagerly punished by the following events, but her pride is one thing that she never loses until her very end. She gets pregnant and the death of her offspring makes her enter a period of denial, of self-punishment, of despair, of a world with no end and no light at the other side of the tunnel.
Life offers her a good chance in the person of Angel Clare and an idyllic job in a rich farmhouse. Her old ways of thinking, her self-punishment and oath never to marry, prevent her for being honest with her new romance. Even though Tess appears innocent, she makes several mistakes that nobody can be blamed for, not even herself, but these mistakes bring her only pain. Her wedding night scene is marvelously depicted, where the eternal love of one man melts away at a sorrow past, and love blindness uncovered makes Angel realize he does not know the woman in front of him.
Tess is torn apart, but her pride is again winning: she accepts being denied, thrown away, put back into a life of misery. Her admiration for Angel's intelligence makes her overbelieve in him, altough Angel is only driven by ethic and society values, which destroy their relationship. In these scenes, Tess becomes more mature, and regrets not respecting her old oath, but still not strong enough to become a woman. Tess never uses her feminine side, she never shows weakness in front of others. Tess is like a statue of a warrior although inside she is full of tears, misery, pity and weakness. All the men in her life are attracted by her, although she denies herself, never loves herself and always refuses everything thrown at her.
The life of misery is depressing, grey, and full of hardfeelings. Her old seducer, raper, and mischievous man reappears in her life, and again, takes advantage of her weakness, the death of her father, the lose of their home, and forces her to become his woman again.
Angel returns too late, at a place where Tess only lives in resignation, just taking her existence from one day to another. The last scene is epic, and makes one really feel sorry for Tess. The author successfully achieves the highest dramatic point of the novel, where Tess's only purpose in life, her only hope, reappears after a very long time, but it's too late, in her own words. Her morality has been destroyed. Her pride has been stepped over. Her self esteem as a woman has been vanquished. Her last spark of will is concentrated in a desperate gesture to destroy the one man that has destroyed her life.
Her wedding with Angel is finally consumed in a five day hideout from authorities, where she feels complete, loved, cared for, and finally together with the one man she really loved. Some feelings many people have for long time, but never really appreciated, nor realized they have. The happiness is very bitter though, as the punishment draws near. Tess ends her life regaining part of her pride, at a sacrifice of their couple and their love.
The book depicts the destruction of a human being, by society and evil people, starting from young age to maturity. Tess is the model of the naive who expected so much more from people, and given so much less. Angel is the model of the man who made mistakes, regrets them, but doesn't learn anything from it, sacrificing the life of maybe one single person he really loved for his own pride and society's ethical values. Alec, the "cousin", is the model of the decadent, the man without any remorse or moral values, who undergoes different stages in his development, but in the end showing his true evil face to the bitter end. Alec is punished for all his sins though, because the author punished almost everyone in this novel. Angel though gets a new wife in the person of Tess' sister, this time unstained and full of pure virtue as he pleased. But is this what he really wanted? Pure virtue in a person he doesn't care for? Or maybe he could be willing to forgive the person he really loved, for some sins that she actually never commit ?
Tess d'Urberville is bitter, really bitter.