Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Reading Challenges Update: April

April is always the Zoladdiction month, to honor Émile Zola. We usually read books by Zola or about Zola the whole month. I have hosted Zoladdiction for the fifth time this year, and this year we are having a mini themed challenge. So, I am quite busy on reading, writing, and posting about Zola until end of this month. Meanwhile, here’s my progress:
Book(s) read = 9
Review(s) posted = 9 (yay!)

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux for Back to the Classics Challenge 2018 (Re-read a favorite classic)
Towards Zero by Agatha Christie for Back to the Classics Challenge 2018 (a classic crime story)
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene for #TBR2018RBR and The Classics Club
March by Geraldine Brooks for #TBR2018RBR
East of Eden by John Steinbeck for The Classics Club and Back to the Classics Challenge 2018 (a 20th century classic)
Resurrection by Leo Tolstoy for #TBR2018RBR, The Classics Club, and Back to the Classics Challenge 2018 (a classic with single-word title)
A Love Story by Émile Zola for Victorian Reading Challenge

Question of the month from #TBR2018RBR:

Have you discovered any new favorite authors as a result of the TBR Pile Challenge? Read an author you’ve never read before but definitely want to again? Share!
So far I have read 3 books from new authors (new for me): Graham Greene, Geraldine Brooks, and Thornton Wilder. They are all good writers, of course, but I instantly felt connected with Geraldine Brooks when I started March. New favorite? Not sure…, but I definitely want to read her again. In fact, I have secured a copy of her Caleb’s Crossing for my next read.

In general, I am satisfied with my progress. This month I have set a new habit, of dedicating 1-2 hours on the weekends to spend only for writing reviews/other blog posts. I live in an apartment, so I usually go down to the lobby on Saturday mornings (when it’s often deserted), sit on my favorite spot on the sofa lounge…. and write. It is very effective, and I would return to my unit with at least one complete review ready to publish!

Right now I am in the middle of my second book for #Zoladdiction2018, yet also impatient to start Clepoatra: A Life for my 5th TBR2018RBR (this month I have made no progress, but I have read 4 books in 4 month, so I guess I am still on track).😎

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A Love Story by Émile Zola

Une Page d'Amour is the eight novel in Rougon-Macquart series, if you follow Zola's recommended order of reading. Helen Constantine titled this new translation published by Oxford World's Classics with A Love Story, instead of 'an episode of love'—the closest translation to Zola's original title—because she found that this book is not only about love affairs, but also represents Zola's love for Paris.

Hélène Grandjean (nee Mouret) is the daughter of Ursule Mouret (nee Macquart)--the illegitimate daughter of Aunt Dide (the matriarch of the Rougons and the Macquarts – The Fortune of the the Rougons). After her husband's death, she lives tranquilly with her sickly 7 y.o. daughter Jeanne. Their neighbors are a young Doctor Henri Deberle and his wife Juliette. Henri attends Jeanne when she's having a seizure. She is believed to suffer the 'hereditary lesion' as was her grandmother (Aunt Dide). A sexual passion then starts slowly to grow between Hélène and Henri.

On the other hand, an Abbe Jouve and his respectable but boring brother Monsieur Rambaud are regular visitors to Hélène's home. The Abbe has at first advised Hélène to remarry with M. Rambaud to protect her honor, but a passionless marriage—just what she had had with her late husband—does not interest her. One day, Hélène learns that Juliette Deberle too—as is many other women—is having an affair with another man. That encourages her to finally give up her modesty, and gives herself to Henri. Is that all? Of course not! It's just the beginning of an impending doom.

As I said earlier, this novel is not all about love story or love affairs. Two things have intrigued me during my reading. The first is Jeanne. She seems to share her mother's growing sexual tension. She becomes more and more suspicious and jealous on Doctor Deberle, and even feels ashamed and humiliated when the doctor saw her naked breast. And she is tormented during her mother's love making with Henri. She seems to know what is going on with the two lovers, and her anxiety grows parallel with the growing intensity of her mother’s passion.

Then, there was also the parallel between Hélène’s emotional condition and her views of Paris. Hélène lives in a suburb called Passy. From her bedroom window, she has a complete view of Paris. She and Jeanne love to stand by the window to look at and adore the city. There are a lot of passages where Zola described (or literally painted) the panoramic view of Paris. At first I thought it’s his passion for Paris that drove Zola to capture it in different conditions (sunshine, raining, starry, or blazing). But along the chapters, I began to realize that the current condition of Paris correlated with the current level of Hélène’s emotion. When her sexual desire began to kindle, Paris began also to ablaze with lights. That was just remarkable! I found an interesting piece from the Introduction (by Brian Nelson) about this: “[following Freud] …that a dream-landscape is most often a representation of the sexual organs. The female sexual connotations of the landscape are plain:  the focal centre of the city is the Seine, with Paris seen as an immense valley. The violence of the storm as it sweeps across the city matches the phallic significance of the Panthéon, in which Jeanne momentarily imagines her mother to be…

So… what is this novel really about? That’s my direct question after finishing it. I can only guess that it is a kind of psychological study on love and sexuality—how it grows, and many variations of it (I think Rosalie-Zéphyrin’s relationship serves as the opposite of Helen-Henri’s—the healthy v passionate relationship?) Or, is it a critic against the hypocritical bourgeoisie, who ‘condone’ a married woman of having love affair, but ‘condemn’ a widow of having done the same? Either way, this has been an interesting reading. Not my favorite, perhaps, but it’s still beautiful, as always…

My rating: 4/5

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Paris, oh Paris! | #ZolaStyle | #Zoladdiction2018

I have been “warned” in the Translator’s Note by Helen Constantine (translator of A Love Story – Oxford World’s Classics edition) that ‘[Zola’s] abiding passion for Paris shines throughout its pages.’ Nonetheless, I was not prepared to find copious “portraits” of Paris flooded the novel. Paris at twilight, Paris at night, Paris after raining, Paris in the morning; seems that Zola has captured his beloved Paris at every condition. At times, Zola could write a whole page and more, just to tell us about how Paris looks at night! Here I share some for you…

Paris was brightening in the burst of sunshine. After the first ray of light had fallen on Notre-Dame, other rays followed and struck the city. As it went down, the sun caused breaks in the clouds. Then the quartiers spread out in variegations of shade and light. At one minute all the Left Bank was a leaden grey, while the circles of light streaked along the Right Bank, unrolling next to the river like the pelt of some gigantic beast. [...] A ray of light, whose shafts sprang out like rain from the fissure in the cloud, fell into the empty chasm that it left. You could see its golden dust trickle like fine sand, grow into a vast cone, and pour down in torrents on the Champs-Élysées, dancing and splashing with light. This sparkling shower lasted a long time, like the constant firing of a rocket.

Beyond the irregular towers of Saint-Sulpice, the Panthéon stood out on the skyline with a subdued glow like a royal palace of fire about to be burnt to cinders. Then the whole Paris was lit up at the pyers of monuments as the sun went down. Flickers of light gleamed on the tops of roofs […]. All the façades which faced towards the Trocadéro were reddening, their glass sending out showers of sparks, which rose from the city as though some bellows were ceaselessly firing up that colossal forge. Fountains of light, constantly renewing themselves […]. Even on the far plain, from beyond the rusty embers that buried the ruined faubourgs, which were still hot, the odd rocket, shooting up from some suddenly reignited fire, blazed. 

Night was falling. From the pale sky where the first stars were shining, a fine ash seemed to be raining down on the city, that slowly but surely was disappearing. Shadows were already massing in the dips while an ink-black line rose from below the horizon, devouring the remains of the day, the hesitant glow that was retreating towards the setting sun. Beneath Passy there remained only a few stretches of roof still visible. Then came the black flood as darkness fell. [...] They were silent, their eyes still raised, dazzled and trembling a little beneath this, as it seemed, ever vaster teeming in the heavens. Beyond the thousands of stars, thousands more appeared, more and more, in the infinite depths of the firmament. It was a continual flowering, an ember fanned into life, of worlds that burned with the quite brightness of jewels. The Milky Way was already whiter, spreading its starry atoms so innumerable and distant that they were no more than a scarf of light in the round firmament. 

To the left, another gap appeared, the Champs-Élysées led a regular procession of stars from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde, where there was a glittering constellation; the the Tuileries, the ouvre, the blocks of houses next to the river, the Hôtel de Ville right at the back formed a dark shape, separated here and there by a large brightly-lit square. [...] On the other bank, on the right, only the Esplanade was clearly visible with its rectangle of flames like some Orion of the winter nights who had lost his belt. The long streets in the Quartier Saint-Germain were lit rather despondently at intervals. Beyond them, the populous quartiers scintillated, lit up with the little flames packed closely together, glowing in a misty nebula.

On the Pont des Invalides stars constantly crossed, while below, along a black, thicker band, was a miraculous thing, a group of comets, whose golden tails stretched out into a rain of sparks. These were the reflections of the lamps on the bridge in the waters of the Seine. But beyond that, began the unknown. The long curve of the river was etched out in a double string of gaslights attached to other strings of lights, from place to place, square to square. You would have thought that a ladder of light had been thrown across Paris, resting at two ends on the edge of the sky, in the stars. 

All you could see in the far distance was a bank of clouds which were heaping up a landslip of chalky boulders. Now in the pure, intense blue sky, puffs of cotton wool were sailing by at a leisurely pace, like flotillas of little boats billowing out in the wind. To the north, over Montmartre, a web of exquisite pale silk stretched over a section of the sky, like a fishing net on a calm sea. But as the sun went down over the hills of Meudon, the last of the downpour must still have been obscuring the sun, for Paris, under the brightness, was still dark and damp, beneath the steam of the drying roofs. The Seine had the dull sheen of an old silver ingot. [paris-rain]

I could have shared more, but I have to stop now before hurting my arm from continual typing!

Monday, April 9, 2018

The Ides of March by Thornton Wilder

Julius Caesar is perhaps one of the most famous people, of whom so many authors have written about. And after that many (Shakespeare included), what else left for Thornton Wilder to cover in his The Ides of March? To me, that was the most interesting aspect which persuaded me to read this book at the first place. Partly because I thought it was a play (Wilder is famous for his plays), and partly because Ancient Rome always fascinates me, particularly the era of Caesar and Cicero. I am Cicero's admirer too, if you haven't known it. :)

Anyway, with that in mind, I plunged into the book, only to find, not without surprise, that The Ides of March is actually an epistolary novel! It contains communication through letters of Caesar and people around him, his journal-letters to a fictional character of Lucius Mamilius Turrinus, as well as Commonplace Books of some historians such as Cornelius Nepos. Commonplace Book is an account of events of the writer's time that he kept by himself. These materials are, of course, fictional, but Wilder kept most of the events and the characters as real as possible; but not the times.

In the Preface, the author has stated that 'historical reconstruction is not among the primary aims of this work.' What, then, is this work's about? I had to finish it before realizing the answer. The Ides of March covers events in year 45 BC, from the profanation of the Mysteries of the Bona Dea by Clodia Pulcher and her brother Clodius, to Caesar's murder. I have assumed from the novel title, that Brutus, Cassius, Casca, and the gang would be the center characters. But no--another surprise!--Clodia Pulcher played almost as much important role as Caesar in the plot. Then, Cleopatra also made her appearance, as well as Catullus the poets who fell in love with Clodia. At first I asked myself: 'Why must I read about Clodia Pulcher and Catullus? They had nothing to with Caesar's murder!'

Julius Caesar's assassination
After finishing the novel, I realized that The Ides of March is more a philosophical novel than historical; that Wilder might have brought us to enter Caesar's mind; saw him as a statesman--as well as a man--and enter one of the genius minds that ever lived on earth. This side of Caesar appeared in his journal-letters to Lucius Mamilius Turrinus. Most of them reflect his searching for human existence, and his thoughts on many subjects. These insights changed my mind on Caesar. Now I can see that Caesar is an extremely proud person. He is not snobbish, but he just believes that he is different from others. He knows how to make Rome a solid state, and has capability and commitment to do the works, when others had none of the qualities (and he was probably right). He cares about others, especially common people--although perhaps selfishly--that they also loves him in return. He seems to dislike vulgar luxury and indulgence, and hates the deity that others imposed on him. His bigger flaw, perhaps, is women. But even in his affair with Cleopatra, I can see that being a genius man, Caesar longs to acquaint others who equal him. Cleopatra is one! They understand each other. Although Caesar also realizes that Cleopatra's only concern is her Egypt. What a lonely man, Caesar is!

I was most intrigued by Caesar's decision to let Clodius sneaking into the Bona Dea ritual disguised as a woman to meet Pompeia, albeit a warning from Cleopatra before the event (both Caesar and Cleopatra have secret polices). Is it his way to 'punish' Pompeia because she was aware of Clodius' plan but did nothing to prevent it (and thus dishonored herself)?

About the conspirators, Caesar was aware of their presence (from the secret police), but he must have never thought them to be so solid, and certainly never suspected Brutus, whom he loved. I think Brutus is the most hypocrite man I've ever known. How he scolded his mother for suggesting the idea of tyrannicide (I have never known this word ever existed!); he really appeared to be disgusted; but then… :(. Even Dante made him dwell on the lowest circle, didn't he? And what was that for? The freedom, they said? It’s more for their persona; freedom, I think, not so much for Rome!

All in all, it is an interesting take on Julius Caesar. 3,5/5 was my final score.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

I Spy Book Challenge

I found this on Joseph @ The Once Lost Wanderer. But the original version is believed to be BooksandLala’s. It looks fun, so... let’s play!

The rules:
Find a book on your bookshelves that contains (either on the cover or in the title) an example for each category. You must have a separate book for all 20, get as creative as you want and do it within five minutes! (or longer if you have way too many books on way too many overcrowded shelves!)

And here are the books. For books I have read and reviewed, follow the link to read my posts. The books come from my bookshelves, physical and virtuall ones. 😁

1. Food
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society 
by Mary Ann Shaffer

2. Transportation
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

3. Weapon
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

4. Animal

5. Number 
Twenty Years After by Alexandre Dumas

6. Something You Read 
The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens

7. Body of Water
Walden by Henry David Thoreau

8. Product of Fire
The Flames of Rome by Paul L. Maier
(review in Bahasa Indonesia)

9. Royalty
Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon

10. Architecture
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
(review in Bahasa Indonesia)

11. Item of Clothing 
The Ladies’ Paradise by Émile Zola

12. Family Member 
Père Goriot by Honoré de Balzac

13. Time of Day
Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

14. Music 
Tales of the Jazz Age by F. Scott Fitzgerald

15. Paranormal Being
The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

16. Occupation 
Rouge Lawyer by John Grisham

17. Season
The Rainmaker by John Grisham
I live in a tropical country (Indonesia), where we only have two seasons in a year: dry and rainy (monsoon) seasons.

18. Color
The Black Tulip by Alecandre Dumas

19. Celestial Body 
Test of Magnitude by Andy Kasch
I was offered the e-book by the writer, to be read and reviewed years ago, but somehow I couldn't find the right mood to do it (and now I shamelessly use it for this challenge 🙈). Very sorry, Andy! I wish you have the best writing career!

20. Something That Grows 
Germinal by Émile Zola
ger·mi·nal [jərmənl]
relating to or of the nature of a germ cell or embryo.
* in the earliest stage of development.
* providing material for future development.

If you read this challenge and want to do it, consider yourself tagged.

Monday, April 2, 2018

The Swinging in Zola’s A Love Story | #ZolaStyle | #Zoladdiction2018

I am reading A Love Story for #Zoladdiction2018, and loved this scene which I found very picturesque and full of life burst, as you would always find in Zola’s novels.

…Then standing on the swing, her arms spread wide and hanging on to the ropes, she shouted gaily: “Come on then, Monsieur Rambaud… Gently at first!”

Monsieur Rambaud hung his hat on a branch. His wide, pleasant face lit up with a fatherly smile. He made certain the ropes were strong, looked at the trees, and decided to give her a light push. Hélène had just cast off her widow’s weeds for the first time. She wore a grey dress, decorated with mauve bows.

The dress described in this particular passage turns out to be inspired by Renoir's painting The Swing (1876) which was shown in the Impressionist exhibition of 1877, while Zola was writting this book.

And sitting straight, she started off slowly, skimming the ground, as though rocked in a cradle. “Faster!” she said. Then, his arms at full length, Monsieur Rambaud seized the swing as it came back, pushed on it harder. Hélène rose into the air, each time increasing her height. But she still retained her steady rhythm. She looked correct still, rather serious, eyes shining bright in her fine, quiet face, her nostrils alone distended, as if to drink in the wind….

“Faster, faster!” A sudden push carried her up. She rose up to the sun, higher and higher. The displaced air blew over the garden; and she was moving at such a speed you could no longer see her very clearly. …. But Hélène was right up in the sky. The trees were bending and cracking as though beneath gusts of wind. All you could see were her skirts whirling round, making a noise as though in a storm. When she came down, her arms spread out, breasts thrust forward, she lowered her head a little, paused for a second; then she was sent aloft and came down again, head thrown back, fleeing and swooning, her eyelids closed.

Don’t you suddenly want to swing as well, reading this scene?

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Zoladdiction 2018 Master Post

It’s April 1st, and instead of April Mop, I bring you… #Zoladdiction2018! *trumpet sound*

Thanks to those who have signed up through the sign up post or by social media. For you who haven’t but want to join, please do right away. 
  • It’s very simple; just read the rules, and get to the play!
  • Linky to put your post URLs is up below (Main Posts linky)!
  • Don’t forget to also share your posts on social media (Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram) using hashtag: #Zoladdiction2018 and #EmileZola.

#ZolaStyle - Mini Themed Challenge
  • Starting this year Zoladdiction will come with a mini themed challenge. For 2018, it’s called #ZolaStyle – exploring Zola’s unique literary style. There are three categories.
  • You can play along all the categories or just pick any one(s) you like.
  • It does not have to be book you are reading. You can include any passage from any Zola’s books.
  • Just post them during the month, and link them up on the #ZolaStyle linky (will be up on April 2nd).

The categories:

Literal Painting
Zola had great interest in paintings. He had been a strong promoter of Impressionism; supported and befriended young artists such as Manet and Cézanne. His literary style often had quality of a painting. Quote and share those literal paintings you find from the book you are reading, or any book you have read; add paintings or pictures too if you like. You can check this post to get more idea about this literal painting.

Naturalism Metaphor
Zola often uses natural things as metaphor. In The Belly of Paris, for instance, cheeses are described as fruits. In Germinal, the mining machine becomes a giant beast; and a steam locomotive transforms into a woman in La Bete Humaine. Quote and post about this naturalism you find from the book you are reading, or any book you have read. Click this link if you need an example.

Heredity Problem
As a Naturalist, Zola believed that human psychology is heavily influenced by heredity and environment. He wrote the twenty novels in The Rougon Macquart series to study this. Analyze, discuss, and post about the heredity problem of book you are reading, or any book you have read.

It’s not obligatory, but if you own Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook accounts, sharing your #ZolaStyle posts means you are helping in spreading acknowledgement to Zola’s works. Please make sure to use these hashtags: #ZolaStyle #EmileZola #Zoladdiction2018 on your posts.

And THE BEST PART IS… each #ZolaStyle post linked up at #ZolaStyle linky will be entered to win book(s) by Emile Zola of your choice max $20 from Book Depository. LET’S DO IT, and have FUN!