Un homme obscur (An Obscure Man) by Marguerite Yourcenar

Un homme obscur (An Obscure Man) by Marguerite Yourcenar

Published with the short story Une belle matinée 

Edition: Folio Gallimard

First Published: 1982

Language: French

Genre: Literary Fiction

Pages: 227

Published in the US in the short story collection Two Lives and A Dream (University of Chicago Press), translated by Walter Kaiser

Synopsis

TwoLivesAndADreamIn the Netherlands of Rembrandt, of the discovery of the New World and of the printing press, the life of Nathana√ęl, which could be a life as ordinary as any, acquires tinges and depths that touch the essence of existence. In the clear and introspective style of Yourcenar, we are carried from one segment of the life of this character to another: his birth within¬†the Dutch community of Greenwich, his entreprises¬†on a transoceanic ship, his life in a remote colony of North America after a shipwreck, his return¬†back to¬†Europe working as an editor and a servant to a nobleman and, finally, his death, announced from the very beginning of the novel. Relentlessly, the thoughts¬†of our obscure narrator form into a canvas of subdued colours¬†that reflects on¬†the meaning of existence, on¬†love and on our place alongside the other¬†creatures of the¬†world. It is a real journey for the reader, in the most encompassing sense of the term. Continue reading “Un homme obscur (An Obscure Man) by Marguerite Yourcenar”

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A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole

A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole

This is a spoiler-free review 

‚ÄėWhen a true genius appears in the world,51DCRYcNz7L._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_

you may know him by this sign, that the dunces

are all in a confederacy against him’

[Jonathan Swift, Thoughts on Various Subjects, Moral and Diverting]

Edition: Penguin Classics

First Published: 1980

Language: English

Genre: Modern Classic

Pages: 338

 

My Synopsis

A fat and unlikeable Don Quixote living in modern times, Ignatius J. Reilly firmly believes that he is fighting a righteous crusade against a society that seems to be falling apart. Everything around him clearly lacks geometry and theology. So far, he has been venting out his vehement invective on Big Chief tablets, while hiding inside the back room of his mother‚Äôs house. However, everything changes when he‚Äôs forced to step outside his ivory tower and join the streets of New Orleans in the undignified research of a job. He decides to record this social experiment of his under the title Journal of a Working Boy, or Up From Sloth. A unique and irreverent tragicomedy, A Confederacy of Dunces tells the real story behind his writings. Continue reading “A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole”

Mr. Penumbra‚Äôs 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan

This is a spoiler-free reviewPenumbra

Edition: Picador

First Published: 2009

Language: English

Genre: Fiction

Pages: 288

 

Synopsis

Imagine the shape and volume of a normal bookstore turned up on its side, with shelves going all the way up until their end fades ominously into the shadows.

This is the view that presents itself in front of Clay Jannon as he enters Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore for the first time, enquiring about a job as a clerk.

Little does he know, however, that what looks like a curious independent bookstore, is part of something much bigger and mysterious.

Following Clay and many other eccentric and lovable characters, we step into the meanders of a¬†centuries-old mystery. A solution seems to present itself, but it will require that the¬†old knowledge passed on through¬†books and tradition unite forces with the¬†most¬†sophisticated technology. Continue reading “Mr. Penumbra‚Äôs 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan”

A Beautiful Swim

It is today seventy-eight years, eight months, and seven days that the San Franciscans wake up to the view of their spectacular vermillion bridge. This 3rd of February 2016, is not, however, a day of which history will probably preserve the memory. Today is merely the day when I finally start my blog.

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In the greater scheme of things, this does¬†not sound like big news. Indeed, it isn’t. My blog will be just a drop in the wide ocean that is already surrounding us. But the reason why I am creating it is not to follow¬†a plan¬†of conquest of the world (that will ensue at some other point in my life). No, this space will be a home for the mind, a harbour for my thoughts and ideas, where everyone is welcome to join if they wish to.

To start with, I should probably tell you a little something about myself.

The first thing that you should know is that books and story-telling have always accompanied me throughout my life. They have shaped the person who I am today. Thanks to them, I have been able to stretch the muscles of my imagination, I have travelled to remote times and places, created new worlds and lived many lives. To me, books represent a friend; a teacher; a source of advice and discovery that constantly adjusts the way I look at the world and myself.

Other than a reader, I’m also an¬†Italian student studying in England, that extraordinary country that has bewitched the hearts of¬†many. There, I study¬†French and Spanish, with a focus on literature and translation. Due to some strange coincidences and alignments of planets I currently find myself in San Francisco, in sunny California.

This alone¬†might explain why my first post started the way it did. ¬†But it’s also a little reference¬†to¬†the¬†first paragraph in Victor Hugo’s¬†The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. Why?¬†Because I’m trying to confer some authority to my blog by quoting some wise-sounding literary personality. Yes, but not only. There’s an actual connection between Hugo’s work and what I’m trying to say here. There is a chapter in the¬†novel that talks about the printing press. Hugo compares it to a magnificent monumental building, where each storey, addition and decoration corresponds to a contribution to the¬†giant mass that constitutes¬†human knowledge. I find this analogy fascinating and it¬†immediately¬†imposed¬†itself in my mind as soon as I placed¬†my fingers down on my keyboard to write this post.

This blog will¬†be my small addition to the building, an extension of the¬†profound relationship that I have with books and literature. What should you expect from it? Book reviews, literary discussions, comments and other reflections relating to¬†reading and writing. There’ll also be the¬†occasional unrelated post,¬†because you should never¬†impose rigid boundaries to a river that wants to¬†flow freely.

So, yes, today is not a day to remember for everyone. Today is just for myself. Today I set the first stone.

Today I join the ocean. And it will be a beautiful swim.