Archive for book list

Add-on to my favourite books

Posted in Books with tags , , on May 25, 2009 by xi'an

Although this is likely to be boring to most by now, here are a few more books I could not find on my bookcases but would have liked to add to my list of favourites,

  • Scott’s Ender’s game, a fascinating study on war as a videogame and incidentally about childhood;
  • Golding’s Lord of the Flies, another incredible delve into the core of human behaviour outside society, much more than about childhood. I do think William Golding used boys as allegories of humans because the quick reversal from civilization to animalism is more credible at that age;
  • Stevenson’s Kidnapped, another of my favourite books as a teenager;
  • Pears’ An Instance at the Fingerpost, a not so well-known tale of “everything”, including love, blood (transplant), politics, cyphers, Oxford, Cromwell, witches, and of course God! The core of the plot is reminding me of Borges’ Three versions of Judas…much more than Eco’s The Name of the Rose;
  • Paasilina’s Forest of the Hanging Foxes (which surprisingly does not seem to be translated into English), with a completely hilarious trio of unlikely characters in the Finn woods. The writer equivalent of Kaurismäki’s delirium!
  • Miller’s Canticle for Leibowitz, a post-apocalyptic novel about mixing science with religion, and somehow exposing religion as a civilising cement in dark ages. As Scott’s Ender’s game, it goes beyond the [science-fiction] genre;
  • Rawicz’s The Long Walk, an incredible riveting tale of escape from Soviet goulag in Siberia all the way south to India, across the Gobi desert and the Himalayas. So incredible that it seems Rawicz did not told his story but someone else’s, as I just discovered. Of course, besides this possibility of being an hoax, the book has a rather poor style. But that someone (Rawicz? Glinski?) could cover 6000 kilometers under the most horrendous conditions with hardly any food and no equipement makes for an exceptional read!
  • Conrad’s The Secret Agent, for its psychological study of radical characters and above this its fundamental pessimistic views of the human nature. In a sense, it is connected to this other great novel, Dostoievski’s The Possessed, but the mundane details of Conrad’s book make me rank it higher ..
  • Dinesen’s Winter Tales, again maybe considered as a minor part of the World literature, but so hauntingly different from anything else;
  • Kipling’s Kim, certainly his best novel and a great depiction of Victorian India.

More of my favourite books

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 18, 2009 by xi'an

books4In continuation of the previous post, here are the other books on the pile, which—by a coincidence due to the way books are ordered on my bookshelves—are predominantly 19th century French novels:

  • Maupassant’s Bel Ami, for his precursor style in psychological novels that somehow prefigures Joyce—although many may prefer Joyce!—as well as the narrative power of his short stories—that involves Norman peasants as well as Parisian courtisanes—, and for his description of the Belle Epoque;
  • Mérimée’s Chroniques du Règne de Charles IX, which is a Romantic [genre] novel, both for its historical aspects (Saint Bathelemy’s massacre) and its tale of tolerance versus fanaticism. Although I could have instead put Dumas’ La Dame de Monsoreau in the list, since it describes the same period and I like it very much, I think Mérimée goes further and deeper;
  • Stendhal’s La Chartreuse de Parme, maybe the Romantic novel. It was certainly my preferred book as a teenager and I still enjoy very much this description of (post-)Napoleonic Italy and the intricate love triangles that multiply throughout the novel;
  • Kawabata’s House of the Sleeping Beauties, because of its poignant and dark beauty and of its minimalist style;
  • Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray, another strong psychological portrait at the turn of the (xxth) century, full of Wilde’s witicisms, with a touch of gothic fantasy;
  • Dickens’ Dombey and Son, as, for all his defaults, Dickens remains one of my favourite authors. Actually, I could not find [on my shelves] David Copperfield, a book I read almost every year from a very early age and which remains my top novel from Dickens (if only for Mr Micawber!), but Dombey and Son has an additional darkness that makes it a major novel as well;
  • Borgés’ Fictions, unclassifiable and sublime existentialist tales of the absurd that have so much appeal for mathematicians;
  • Barbey d’Aurevilly’s Une vieille maîtresse. While considered a minor 19th century writer, I really enjoy this author his nostalgic description of the upper Norman peninsula and of a provincial nobility erased by the French revolution.

Some of my favourite books

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 16, 2009 by xi'an

books3Last night, I took some of my favourite books out of my bookcases: here they are from bottom to top (picture-wise!). Obviously, they are not all comparable in terms of literary “quality”, but they are books I like to re-read from time to time or books that impacted me the first time I read them…

  • Heckmair’s My Life, already mentioned in that post about Messner’s book, for the heart-stopping tale of the climb of the Eigerwand. There are better written (more literary) books about mountaineering, but this remains my favourite;
  • Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings that I read so often it is almost virtual by now. This is not here as my favourite fantasy book, but simply as one of my favourite books, because it subsumes the [fantasy] genre into a larger one, borrowing from Nordic sagas as well as Celtic folklore and German tales;
  • Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair, which is the most metaphysical love story he wrote. If I had only one book to carry around that would be the one! (I also love very much his novel Brighton Rocks, another unusual and dark love story);
  • Céline’s Voyage au bout de la Nuit, also discussed in that earlier post, which is for me the most impressive French novel of the xxth century, inventing a new style and seeing beyond the current ideologies;
  • Joyce’s Dubliners, so uniquely modern as well, especially the first short story, The Dead, with its conclusion of quiet despair. John Huston made a movie of it, where he superbly managed to convey the different currents in the story;
  • Hugo’s Quatrevingt-treize, his novel about the French Revolution (and the Breton counter-revolution), with an unforgivable trio of characters, the father, the son, and the defrocked priest, as well as a superb style. Certainly my favourite novel from Hugo with L’Homme qui rit;
  • Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front, for translating both the horror of the war and the ultimate feeling of camaraderie only extreme situations can induce (also a favourite of my son in his rare excursions outside fantasy). The following novels by Remarque like The Road Back and Drei Kameraden carried the same feelings of hopeless friendship, but with less intensity;
  • Chandler’s The Long Good Bye, for, if you think Chandler wrote detective stories, read him again! This is a very deep and sad novel, mostly about jilted friendship, with a detective side that is quite incidental;
  • Dostoievski’s Brothers Karamazov, the quintessential Russian novel with the triptych of brothers as an idealisation of humanity and the undercurrent of spiritual questioning;
  • Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day, for the bittersweet taste of wasted opportunities and things past;
  • Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, a literary genre by itself…

(to be continued for the remainder of the book pile…)