Arquivo da categoria: inglesa

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.


NEVER LET ME GO: Never let us down

Kazuo Ishiguro is one of the most acclaimed writers of the late XX Century. With his latest novel, “Never Let Me Go”, he proves he can deal with contemporary (and futuristic) subjects with wit and charm and certainly never letting his readers down. The book seems to be a version of the movie “The Island” for those who can read, concerning with the pathos of his characters rather than dull action and explosion.

A girl named Kathy is the narrator, and she tells about her infancy in a school where they didn’t have much contact with the outside world. She meets some friends whose friendship will last forever. They will have to deal with the same situation in the future and that’s why so important to have them around — although it is not an easy task.

Every now and then there are strange words that don’t seem to fit the narrative, such as carers and donors. Who are they? What are they? This is the point of the whole novel to explain who they are and what they do. Once we find out what is happening, the result can be heartbreaking.

Ishiguro is a master of both the narrative and the language. With his skills, he is able to create memorable and unforgettable scenes that are more powerful alone than in the whole. But that is not a problem, even if at some points the book seems to be so calculated. These are minor flaws that are easily forgivable once the final result is a strong book, that both is both moving and alerting.

THE MASTER OF PETESBURG: Following the dance of the pen

master-of-petesburg.jpgIn J. M. Coetzee’s “The Master of Petersburg” when the main character is asked what kind of books he writes, he doesn’t know what to respond. Page later, thinking about it he concludes he could have said he `write[s] perversions of the truth. [He chooses] the crooked road and take[s] the children into dark places. [He] follow[s] the dance of the pen’.

In novel “The Master of Petersburg” South African writer Coetzee could state that of book he writes is the same kind of his character’s — who, by the way, happens to be Russian master Fyodor Dostoevsky. Once the contemporary writer picks the nineteen-century author as his main character and draws the narrative following a period of his life, the novel develops a dialogue between past and present.

Coetzee is one of the best and boldest writers alive and working. He is at the prime of his career and had proven it for over ten years, producing relevant books dealing with current issues — or past issues that resonates in the present. “The Master of Petersburg” is not different. Although the story is set in 1869, the narrative echoes in the present once it portrays a man in quest of the truth. This truth is linked to social problems of dissatisfaction and will of revolution.

Part a thriller, part a mediation on life and arts, this book asks the reader to fully give himself to the narrative. The characters are very vivid and while very local, they reach universal dimensions. Dostoevsky’s books bridges past and present in the narrative. The allusions are very subtle and the more you know about the Russian writer, the more rewarding will be the experience of reading this book.

When it comes to contemporary writers, Coetzee is one of the very likely to have a timeless body of work — just like Dostoevsky and other masters. There is no doubt that in two-hundred year time people will still be reading the South African author just like we read the Russians today.

Originalmente publicado em em 21/05/06

HOWARDS END: Culture Clash


More than a piece of England, Howards End — the place– can be seen as a metaphor of the world, and all the people who somehow are related to it, are examples of real human beings. Even though the novel was written almost a hundred years ago, it is still very suitable for this XXI Century. It seems to me that the story is all about the different moral and background that every class of the society had by that time, and the consequences of it during their lives.The main characters are the two Schlegel Sisters, Margaret and Helen, who are keen on arts, books, philosophy, feminism and other things that have a relation with the soul and the thought. After a misfortunated love affair between Helen and the Paul Wilcox, whose parents they met in a trip to German, their lives change forever. Magaret becomes a close friend to Mrs Wilcox, and her sister starts to despise the family. When Ruth Wilcox dies, she leaves Howads End to her friend, but the Wilcoxes feel betrayed and don’t follow up the lady’s last will. Years later, Mr Wilcox marries Margaret, and in the very end of the book, after a serie of extremely unpleasant events he tells her that Howards End belongs to her.

This brief summary I’ve just done misses a lot in details and the feeling that anyone only gets reading the novel. There are so many brilliant and subtle nuances in Forster’s work. His works bounces from comedy to tragedy in a turn of page. I burst out laughing the first time Helen meets Mrs Bast — a.k.a.Mrs Lanoline. Sometimes, many things are just left between the lines. For instance, I doubt whether Henry Wilcox feels anything for Margaret but guilt for not telling her about his wife’s last will. Personaly speaking, I think he likes and respects her but does not love her until when Charles is arrested, that is when he falls apart, and she is there helping him.

howards-end.jpgI see the whole story as clash between the different cultures that each character have . The Schlegels may feel very confortable in the XX Century. They are very open minded, enjoy discussing, and were not afraid of showing what they think or fell. On the other hand, the Wilcoxes are very worried about social position and not used to letting women express themselves. And to represent the lowest classes are the Bast : Leonard and Jackie. He likes arts and books, but his older wife prefers the joys of the world – and Mr Wilcox used to know it years ago.

The prose is so alive that sometimes I felt extremely agry with some characters, mainly Charles- the oldes Wilcox boy. He is so snobbish, self-centred and xenophibic. For instance, he doesn’t face up the fact to that he’s killed Mr Bast and after telling the event to his father , they both go and have coffe, as if nothing had happened. Mr Wilcox is the character who goes though the most drastic transformantion, and in the end he is a vey different man, in many senses.

Finally, I love the film version of this book. I only regret I hadn’t read the book before watching the movie. I think I would have had much more surprises. But, anyway, both book and film are worth reading or/and watching.

Originalmente publicado em em 21/12/01

THE ACCIDENTAL: Everything you ever dreamed of

the-acdidental.jpg“I’m everything you ever dreamed”, says one character at some point in Ali Smith’s award winner “The Accidental”. And the person who proclaims it is right. This line can refers both to the character and to the novel itself. This book can blends comedy, drama, romance and tragedy -everything in one combo, and everything satisfyingly executed. Moreover, the writer’s domain of her media in order to set a crescendo is remarkably.

Smith belongs to the tradition of British writers who are not very interested in easily labeled books. And in telling the story of “The Accidental” in “Rashomon” style enables her to toy with many sort of narratives in one single book. Sometimes we can see the same event more than once, but it is never redundant, the `repetition’ has something new to add, a new fact, a new point of view or a new aftermath. That is what makes the book addictively readable.

But, usually, addictively readability does not make great pieces of literature – which hardly the case here. Not only is Smith’s novel bewitching but it also displays her major talent to convert story into images – what makes her novel very filmic. The first reference one can think of is Pasolini’s “Theorem’, but once one reaches the end and digs deeper it is possible to find a strict relation to Lars Von Trier’s “The Idiots”. Both movies and book are dealing with outsiders charming regular people and changing them. It is a one-way street, since this character does not get anything from the people he/she changed.

Smith is more or less the same as her character Amber, the mysterious girl who invades the Smart family life and breaks them into something else. It was not by chance that the writer picked that surname for the family – she points out that people are not as smart as they claim to be. And the subversion of this `happy’ home is the main agenda of “The Accidental”.

However not every segment is as good as the others (Michael’s is the weakest one, but not bad), “The Accidental” is a great book as whole. One of those that keeps reader thinking long after he/she has finished it. The novel does not bring answers. As great art, it poses questions, it brings lights to the dark corners, and leaves the reader wondering what is on the other corners of the room.

Originalmente publicado em em 09/08/06

THE MASTER: Deconstructin Henry

the-master.jpgIn his magnificent novel “The Master”, Colm Tóibín managed to bring us the man behind the genius — in this case American writer Henry James, autor of “The Portrait of a Lady“, among other books. The narrative focus in a period about a year and a half that the author was set in Europe, and working on some of his most sophisticated novels, such as “The Wings of the Dove” and “The Golden Bowl”.

“The Master” deals with the thin line between what is real and what was inspiration to produce fiction. Back and forth, the narrative portrays James’s past and present, his childhood in American, the death of his sister, friends that were important to his life among other things. Somehow everything ends up being inspiration for the master creating his novels and short stories.

At the same time, Tóibín is able to produce a Henry James that is extremely human, dealing with success, failure, frustrated love and things like these. The novel begins with the infamous opening night of the writer’s play that was a huge flop. Depressed, James questions his work and the art itself.

Just like the whole novel that is a meditation about art and its power. Tóibín’s prose follows James’s style, which makes the novel acquire its own rhythm. Fans of the classic writer will be pleased not only to see him as a convincing character, but also because the may feel they are reading one of his best novels. At the same time, Tóibín managed to create his own literary voice, which is very powerful and resonant. It is not his aim to uncover his character’s life, and he doesn’t attempt to do so — what he does is to illuminate some dark corners of the human soul and the result is devastating. 

Originalmente publicado em em 30/04/06

THE LINE OF BEAUTY: There are no angels and this is not America

alanhollinghurst.jpgCall it the British “Angels in America” minus the angels, but Alan Hollinghurst’s “The Line of Beauty” can stand on its own, even when compared to Tony Kushner’s brilliant play. Both works share a lot in common: they are set in the 80s when the world was changing in a strange way, AIDS has just become the issue, and both have its country politcs in the background (USA: Ronald Regan; UK: Margaret Tatcher).

The 2004 MAN Booker Prize winner is a novel that takes a little time to grabs one attention — but once it does so, it is hard to put it down. It covers a couple of years in the lives of a group of people, all related to Nick Guest, young man who has moved to the elegant house in Notting Hill that belongs to the parents of one of his best friends. This family sort of becomes his second family.

But Nick is never really connected to the Feddens, for many reasons. One of them is that they are wealthy and futile, whereas he is not. Another one is the fact they never really deal with his homosexuality. They seem to cope that but never accept it. But politics in England in the 80s play such a major role in the narrative the homosexuality has a supporting part sometimes.

The book focus on is the climate of giddy success among well-to-do Tories between the electoral victories of 1983 and 1987. The patriarch Gerald Fedden has just entered Parliament and wants to fulfill another political ambition: to host the PM at home for a party. Eventually when it happens Hollinghurst delivers some of the best pages of social and cultural delight and critic of his novel. For pages and pages he teases his reader in the best possible way, announcing that something big will happen — but one can never be aware of what will happen. One critic has wisely compared the appearance of “The Lady” to the presence of Kurtz in ”Heart of Darkness,” who both are invisible until near the end.

lineofbeauty.jpgHollinghurst has a special obsession for beauty and its forms — and this is totally explicit in the title of the book. But his prose also has its own beauty. The writer’s choose of words is remarkable, as well as the way he builds his sentences. At the same time, Hollighurst gambles with another of his main themes: Henry James. Nick is working on a thesis about this writer, which turns out to be a good excuse to inject some Jamesian comments throughout the narrative.

Many readers maybe shocked with the honesty that sexuality is dealt with. This concern only enhances the experience of reading the narrative. Nick’s sexually naivety and awakening is believable and never gratuitous. And all the characters have enough personality and humanity to fill a whole book on them.

Hollinghurst won a deserved Booker Prize with his novel, which has much more consistence and smartness than last year’s “Vernon God Little”. Giving the Prize to “The Line of Beauty” brings back the hope that it is indeed a literary prize and not just a fashion contest.

Originalmente publicado em em 08/12/05