Arquivo da categoria: clássico

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE: Fear and desire according to Jane Austen

Written in the early XVIII Century, “Pride and Prejudice” is Jane Austen’s most popular and loved novel – but not really her best. One of the first works she wrote, the novel is sometimes a little undercooked compared to her most complex works, like “Emma” and “Persuasion”, however, it is still a joy to read. In this book, she created her most famous romantic hero in Mr Darcy, an unforgettable stubborn who makes a perfect match to Lizzie Bennet. They were meant for each other.

The only problem is that they haven’t figured it our. On the other hand, any reader can realize it from the first moment the couple meet. In other words, we do know how the book ends, so why do so many people keep reading, and rereading this novel? One reason is that Austen has created some very believable characters – and also very endearing. That’s because they are very human. Lizzie and Mr Darcy have very wrong first impressions of each other when they met and that’s why it takes so long for accepting their mutual love.

In this sense, “Pride and Prejudice” is a story about overcoming our prides and our prejudices acquire in the first impression, and changing one’s mind. Both Lizzie and Mr Darcy realize before the end of the story they were made for each other – but the problem is that their wrong impressions lead them to make choices that become barriers to their love. The path they will have to follow in order to find the fully accomplishment of their mutual feelings is the strongest plot in the novel.

At the same time, the reader is fed with details about class and courtship from the time the book was written. In Jane Austen’s work, her characters are sometimes like small figurines that represent the whole world – or at least England. And the writer does it with charm and style. Her books are a document of a time, tackling its fashions, moral and behavior.

Peguin Classics is probably the best edition, since it has many notes and an extensive introduction, dealing not only with Austen’s works in general, but also with an detailed essay on this book. “Pride and Prejudice” is one of those books that will be read forever, and should be read from people in different time of their lives. We find different approaches, and understanding as we grow older.


LIGHT IN AUGUST: Memory believes before knowing remembers

light-in-august.jpgWilliam Faulkner was concerned with the effects of memory in the construction of one’s identity when he wrote one of his most famous work, “Light in August”. As such, most of the narrative is a long flashback detailing what has happened to Joe Christmas that defined he as the person he is. Readers can follow the ups and downs in his life and the search of his own identity. There something deterministic in his story, since this man is the result of the environment he was brought up.

Christmas’s story is intertwined with two other characters’: Lena, a pregnant girl in search of the father of her child; and Reverend Gail Hightower, a former minister that has faced hard times and now is haunted by ghost from the past. But for most of the middle section of “Light in August” Faulkner focus on Christmas that is, indeed, a very peculiar and extremely well developed character.

Compared to other books by Faulkner, such as “The Sound and The Fury” and “Abasom, Absalom”, it is an easier and minor work. Here, his devices such as stream of consciousness is not as present as in the other novels. Therefore, reading it is `easier’ -as far as reading Faulkner can be an easy task. It is an interesting form of start reading Faulkner for those who are interested and haven’t read any yet.

Even tough the structure is not as complex and difficult as “The Sound and The Fury”, “Light in August” has tools that are common in Faulkner’s style, such as digressions and flashbacks. This is one of the reasons why reading this author requires double attention. Scenes from the past pop up throughout the narrative out of the blue. At the same time, he is more interested in the interior life of his characters, and for the reader understand that, he provides a thoroughly depicted background. Moreover, his prose is poetic and his text laboured.

In his work, Faulkner created another universe that is at the same time a mirror and a microcosm of the South of the USA – and that can be applied to the whole world as well. His characters are trying to get out of this world, but hardly can manage to escape, due to exterior factors, such as racism, violence and so on. “Light in August” is a good example of book that summarizes his interests and provides an unforgettable piece of literature.

Originalmente publicado em em 22/02/06

HOUSE OF THE DEAD: Days of fear and hope

Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “The House of the Dead” is one of the most powerful narratives about life in prison. A quasi-autobiographical work, the writer used the days he spent in Siberia prison to create powerful moments of sadness, fear and hope. Not many were able to be released from there, but he was one of them, and with this work he reminds everyone what it is about to be a political prisoner.

the-house-of-the-dead.jpg“The House of the Dead” may not be one of best works from this Russian writer, who produced masterpieces such as “Crime an Punishment” and “The Brothers Karamazov”, but still it is a vivid account of hard times. Many scenes are unforgettable, and resonate to the condition that many people live today around the world – think of the soup that the prisoners have in the first part of the book, for instance.

Dostoyevsky manages to create a living portray of many people who are forced to share the same place at the same time, however much they can’t stand each other. He is able to bring to life both human beings and animals. His description of his meeting with a dog can bring tears to the eyes of the most tough reader.

David McDuff’s translation is superb, and so is Penguin Classics edition. The book is complemented by notes on the text and a excellent introduction. However, as happens to many books in this collection, it is advisable to read the introduction after reading the novel, because it may have spoilers.

Originalmente publicado em em 18/05/06

A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES: My new best friend

confederacy_of_dunces_cover.jpgAt some point in his masterpiece “A Confederacy of Dunces”, writer John Kennedy Toole quotes Macaulay who says that “a great writer is the friend and benefactor of his readers”. Having that in mind, Toole is such a great writer that he should be the best friend of his readers. It is virtually impossible to write about this novel without talking about its writers sad destiny. Toole never saw his work published, and like Walker Percy says in the famous introduction it is a pitty that its creator is not alive to see the success of his writing.

“A Confederacy of Dunces” has one of the most important and memorable characters of North American literature. Flat and flatulent Ignatius J. Reilly in an unforgettable creation. So are his companions –like his mother, Officer Mancuso, Darlene, Santa Bataglia and Jones, to name a few.

This book is the kind love-or-hate novel — there is no in between. Either the reader starts laughing from page one and love it, or he/she finds it bore from the beginning and put it down. Those who embark on Toole’s journey will be only pleased to find more laughs until the end of the book.

Toole has a special awareness for dialogues. Much of the narrative moves through its characters lips. There are, of course, descriptions, digressions and all devices used in literature, but as a matter of fact, it is the dialogue that keeps the narrative going. And if the writer didn’t have a special talent for it, the book would be a mess. The conversations are sharp, funny and witty.

On the other pole are Ignatius’s text from a book he’s been writing. His texts can be at the same time funny, weird and tender. If at one point we think his ideas are far-fetched, we can’t deny there is much truth behind many things he says. And he was living in the early sixties. Probably Ignatius wouldn’t survive to the end of century, to the vulgarization of culture etc.

With “A Confederacy of Dunces” we laugh of our own intellectual misery. This was the best advice he could have given us. Ignatius is weird, but there is a little of him inside of everyone, and that’s not a bad thing.

Toole suffered from the same malady that he uses in his epigraph from a Jonathan Swift’s essay that goes like every time a true genius appears, dunces are all in confederacy against him. The prove that this writer was a genius is that he never got his book published — indeed, dunces were trying to sabotage him.

Originalmente publicado em em 17/04/2005

REVOLUTIONARY ROAD: The good intentions that paved the “Road” to hell

revolutionary_road.jpgIt is a suburban town populated with people with good intentions. But as we all know, the road to hell was paved with the acts of this kind of folks. Among those good acts is a play. It was supposed to be something simple, nice and sweet. A group of amateur actors join to produce a play called “The Petrified Forest”. But everything goes terrible wrong. Actually, embarrassingly wrong.

This is the very first chapter of Richard Yates’s “Revolutionary Road”. This beginning sets the mood for the whole novel: something simple that was supposed to work fine, but ends terribly bad. The presentation of the play works as a metaphor for the Wheelers’ marriage. They could be happy, but inner and outer forces force them to have a miserable life.

Young, beautiful, with two lovely kids and with enough money to live peacefully, April and Frank Wheeler seem to be the perfect couple at the surface. But, as Yates allows us to see under the roof of their home, one learns that they have emotional issues that are destroying their union.

The strongest force to separate them is the post-War melancholy. They can’t relate to anyone else, let alone to each other. April and Frank has drifted apart, and what is left is emotional abuse that may destroy everything.

Yates paints a portrait of a relationship that has no place to survive anymore. April doesn’t love Frank any more – has she ever loved him?. Neither does he. So why do these people are still married? It was the time, it was the commodity of being together. The kids are a good excuse too. On the other hand, all this self-abuse has reached its peak, and they may not tolerate each other until the end of the narrative.

“Revolutionary Road” reminds us of what the good prose is capable of doing. As Yates is painting his characters in their time, he is also painting us. Human beings are the same, no matter what, when or where. Always unsatisfied.

Originalmente publicado em em 13/05/2007

THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY: The other things a woman can do otherwise marrying

the-portrait-of-a-lady.jpgIsabel Archer –the unforgettable protagonist of Henry James’ “The Portrait of a Lady” — says at some point that she doesn’t want to begin life by marrying, and she attests there other things a woman can do. This declaration is the heart of the matter of this amazingly well executed and brilliant book. Naïve as she is, Isabel believes that in the 19th Century she would be able to enjoy her life and meet the world before getting married — and not marrying is still a possibility.

With Isabel’s dilemma American writer Henry James deals with the conflict between society and individual longings. Many writers have dealt this issue — but only a few succeeded with such grace and competence as this author. The point is that Isabel is not the only one dealing with this problem. As a matter of fact, all characters of this novel, at some point in their life have to face the society against their personal wishes.

James was a master of psychological development. Not a single character in this novel is unrealistic. The cast of supporting characters is as deep as Isabel. With his talent, the writer explores the psychological conflict is a result of the society pressures against the characters beliefs — and not a gratuitous philosophy like many writers usually do. The depth brings another pleasure in the reading of the novel.

Language is usually the main barrier for contemporary readers, when it comes to classic novels. With James it is a problem that can be easily overcome. His use of language however sophisticated is not difficult. His choice of words and structures are conscious and beautiful. The first chapters tend to be read slowly, but once the readers get the hang of James’ prose, reading becomes an undeniable pleasure.

At the same time the writer explore the psychological side of his characters; he never neglects their social conflict. In the last part of the novel, for instance, James explores the results of Isabel choices relating them to her identity — and how one affected another. At the same time, James makes a curious choice: we never see the main events in Isabel’s life, they are told to the reader after they happen. This use of ellipses happen usually when the heroine chooses to value social costume over her independence.

As in most Henry James novels, he doesn’t neglect the major conflict of this period of his work: Americans and Europeans. This time round the novel explore many American people living in Europe — most characters are US born. If on the one hand, they represent the innocence, individualism and capability; the Europeans, on the other, are the sophistication, social convention and the decadence. But with so many Americans living in Europe how can one set the limits?

Isabel moves from America to England and, then, to continental Europe. At each stage she loses her independency, and she realizes she cannot control her life the way she thought she could. And she realizes that there aren’t many things a woman of her time could do before marrying.

Originalmente publicado em em 01/05/2005

DUBLINERS: Dublin as the center of the world


Despite being written almost a hundred years ago, James Joyce’s `Dubliners’ is still as fresh as when it was released. The characters are Dubliners, but above all they are human beings and act as such, and this makes this collection of fifteen stories so universal. Moreover this book is a good start for readers who want to read Joyce and are afraid of his most famous and notoriously difficult works such as “Ulysses” and “Finnegans Wake”.The tales are supposed to be read in the order they are published because they follow the natural course of the human life. The first ones deal with childhood, then with adolescence, later adulthood –and in this segment some of them deal with public life– and the last one is called “The Dead”, making it clear that the stories follow the sequence of life events that happen to everyone.

Joyce’s brother Stanislaus Joyce once wrote that the book pairs up stories on common themes: adolescent life, sporting life, artistic life, amorous life, political life, religious life, and celibate life (male and female), plus four ‘petty employees’ (two married and two unmarried), plus the final story on ‘holiday life’. But this kind of classification is only a plus when one reads the book, because what really matters is Joyce’s ability to create real people and situation.

Not only does the writer makes a wonderful job when developing his characters in such a small form of telling a story, but he also has a sophisticated command of the language. And some academics claim that “The Dead” is one of the best –if not THE best– piece of short fiction written in the 20 century.

The view of the human nature in this book is quite dark most of the time, dealing mostly with the failure or the impossibility of acquisition something desired, Joyce is able to sneak in the human soul and its incapability of coping with loss, fear and another difficult feelings.

Most of the stories in “Dubliners” are not easy to be read, but all of them are a real pleasure to be discovered. An important book that with some concentration is accessible to everyone.

Orginalmente publicado em em 08/04/04