Archive for Kafka on the shore

the 101 favourite novels of Le Monde readers

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 1, 2020 by xi'an

Le Monde called its readers to vote for their five favourite novels, with no major surprise in the results, except maybe Harry Potter coming up top. Before Voyage au bout de la nuit and (the predictable) A la recherche du temps perdu. And a complete unknown, Damasio’s La Horde du Contrevent, as 12th and first science fiction book. Above both the Foundation novels (16th). And Dune (32nd). And Hyperion Cantos (52). But no Jules Verne! In a sense, it reflects upon the French high school curriculum on literature that almost uniquely focus on French 19th and 20th books. (Missing also Abe, Conrad, Chandler, Dickens, Ishiguro, Joyce, Kawabata, Madame de Lafayette, Levi, Morante, Naipaul, Rabelais, Rushdie, Singer, and so many others…) Interestingly (or not), Sartre did not make it to the list, despite his literature 1953 Nobel Prize, maybe because so few read the (appalling) books of his chemins de la liberté trilogy.

I did send my vote in due time but cannot remember for certain all the five titles I chose except for Céline’s Voyage au bout de la nuit (2nd), Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (74th) and maybe Fedor Dostoievski’s Brothers Karamazov (24th). Maybe not as I may have included Barbey d’Aurevilly’s L’ensorcelée, Iain Pears’ An instance at the fingerpost, and Graham Greene’s The End of the affair, neither of which made it in the list. Here are some books from the list that would have made it to my own 101 list, although not necessarily as my first choice of titles for authors like Hugo (1793!) or Malraux (l’Espoir). (Warning: Amazon Associate links).

Dance Dance Dance

Posted in Books, Travel with tags , , , , , , on November 25, 2012 by xi'an

In the (rather nice) bookstore in Changi Aiport, I came across this book by Murakami, “Dance Dance Dance”, and got hooked by the cover catchphrase: “If Raymond Chandler had lived long enough to see Blade Runner, he might have written something like Dance Dance Dance“. And the (UK) cover looked great too. (This was also a good opportunity to get rid of my remaining Aussie coins!)

I am not a major fan of Murakami as I find his stories rather uneven and his semi-fantastic undertone sometimes completely alien: e.g., I loved the short stories in after the quake and Kafka on the Shore was a great novel. On the other hand, the first volume of 1Q84 convinced me not to look any further in the series. This novel alas belongs to the second category of books I do not like so much: for one thing, the catchphrase above is just completely inappropriate! This is not a hard-boiled detective story: there are murders, for sure, but the main character is not hard in any sense and the murders are possibly solved by psychics and ghosts. There is no dark technocratic future à la Blade Runner either, only a lingering past that remains hidden behind the daily normality as an harmless ghost. (I do not know the author of the catchphrase but I hope (s)he gets fired from The Observer) The characters in Dance Dance Dance are caricaturesque, even when they have some real depth, like the main character (whose name is never given), and it is difficult to fathom what his motivations are, as he gets carried like flotsam along the various currents of the novel. There is no conclusion to the story: some characters vanish and the main character finds some (short-term) love achievement with an hotel clerk he has been wooing the whole time. The book is not altogether unpleasant, it is well-written with a kind of counter-pace, however the psychological quandary of the main character is simply too complete to stand!

Reading list

Posted in Books, Travel with tags , , , , , on August 16, 2011 by xi'an

Being on a boat for a week means a lot of spare time for reading. Here are the books I read last week.

Kafka on the shore, a long allegorical and fantastic novel by Haruki Marukami. Here is a pretty good review from the New York Times. The book is indeed obscure and confusing, with unexpected forays of the supernatural, but I liked it very much nonetheless. The Oedipus story of the boy in search of his mother is gripping, although I missed some of the Greek (and all of the Japanese) mythology references. Puzzling, at times perturbing, a major novel.

Market forces is the fourth novel of Richard Morgan that I have read. It is much less successful than the three other ones constituting the Takeshi Kovacs cycle, telling the story of a corporate Mad Max like universe where road duels are legal and where mercenary companies are controlling wars all over the World. Some psychological aspects of the story are interesting, like the conflict between the main character and his relatives, however the whole universe is not credible and there are too many deus ex machina occurences. I do not think I would have finished Market forces elsewhere than on a boat! (I am still looking forward the fantasy novel Richard Morgan wrote…)

The winner in the series is certainly The lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch. I loved the book and read it in less than twenty four hours! It is a sort of fantasy Ocean’s Eleven, following my son’s description of the book (he also read the book, right after Best served cold), setting a clever con artist in a Venezia-like city and following his team through increasingly complex schemes until all falls apart. The dialogues are quite funny, the setting is completely convincing, and the background plot unravels superbly. I am clearly looking forward the second volume in the series. Red seas under red skies. (The following volumes are in the coming, apparently due to an on-going depression of the author…) One highly critical review of  The lies of Locke Lamora on Strange Horizons Reviews induced a lot of flak: I however think the reviewer makes the right point when she states that “Lamora [the character] is not very interesting”. It is true that the book somehow lacks an in depth psychological analysis of the characters, incl. Locke Lamora. Nonetheless, it makes for “an enjoyable summer novel—not much depth, but a whole heck of a lot of fun” (to steal from the review out of context!).