Archive for Nobel Prize in Litterature

a journal of the plague, sword, and famine year

Posted in Books, Kids, Mountains, pictures, Running, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 2, 2023 by xi'an

Read my very first Annie Ernaux piece and it was in English, in The New Yorker! A very short piece on a short visit to her mother. Beautifully written, carrying the bittersweet feeling of the impossibility to reconnect with earlier times and earlier impressions. I was much less impressed, however, by her Nobel discourse and the use of Rimbaud’s race (and Galton’s and Fisher’s…) in such a different context. A constant projection/fixation on her background and class inequalities, supplemented by an ethic of ressentiment, does not sound enticing, the more because auto-fiction has never appealed to me. (Sharing similar social and geographic [Rouen!] backgrounds sounds precisely as the wrong reason to contemplate reading her books.)

Cooked weekly butternut soups, red cabbage stews and squid woks as these are the seasonal best offers at the local market, along with plentiful Norman scallops, not yet impacted by inflation. Also restarted making buckwheat bread, with the side advantages of temporarily heating home (and a pretense to add the rice pudding dish in the oven!).

Watched Trolls, Wednesday (only on Wednesdays), and Decision to Leave. Apart from the Norge exposure, the first is terrible, esp. when compared with the earlier 2010 tongue-in-cheek Troll Hunter (Trolljegeren).Wednesday is a television series that centres on Wednesday Addams, the dead-pan daughter in the Addams family. I found the series hilarious, even though intended for YA audiences. The quality of the episodes varies, those from Tim Burton usually coming on top, but the main character (Wednesday, in case you are not paying attention!) is fantastic. (The fact that, Christina Ricci, the actor playing Wednesday in the 1991 movie is also involved in the series is a great wink to the earlier installments of this series.) And, final argument, a series where the heroin pogoes to a song by The Cramps cannot turn all bad! The Korean Decision to Leave (헤어질 결심) is a masterpiece (except for the ridiculous climbing scenes!) in deception and ambiguity (with a very thin connection to Hitchcock’s Vertigo). Far from his backup role in the stunning Memories of Murder, Park Hae-il is fabulous as a policeman torn between his duty and an inexplicable attraction for the main suspect, brilliantly played by  Tang Wei, who manages the ambiguous character till the very end.

Klara and the Sun [book review]

Posted in Books, Kids with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 22, 2022 by xi'an

Klara and the Sun is the latest book of Kazuo Ishiguro. I am a big admirer of Ishiguro’s books and always moved by their bittersweet exploration of humanity (or humanness?!). The remains of the day is one of my favourite books, competing with Graham Greene’s The end of the affair,  and I deeply enjoyed When we were orphans, Never let me go, and The buried giant. While this latest book exhibits the same craftsmanship in depicting human feelings and incomplete (in the sense of unsatisfactory) relations, I feel like I missed some component of the book, too many hints, the overall message… Not that I rushed through it, contrary to my habit, reading a few chapters at a time during lunch breaks. But I cannot set the separation between the subjective perception of Klara [the robotic friend], which is very clearly limited, both by her robotic sensors [lacking a sense of smell for instance] and her learning algorithm, furthermore aggravated by her wasting (?) some material to sabotage a machine, and the real world [within the novel, a vague two-tiered USA]. Because the perspective is always Klara’s. This confusion may be completely intentional and is in that sense brilliant. But I remained perplexed by the Sun central episode in the novel, which I fear reveals a side of the story I did not get. Like Джозі в якийсь момент перетворилася на робота? [Using Ukrainian to avoid spoilers for most readers!]  (In a way, Klara and the Sun is a variation on Never let me go, both dealing with a future where copies of humans could be available, for those who could afford it.)

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead [book review]

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , on March 15, 2020 by xi'an

I read (the French translation of) this novel, by Olga Tokarczuk, whose title comes from a poem by William Blake:

In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.
Drive your cart and your plow over the bones of the dead.

Actually Blake is central to the story as the main narrator is helping a former student of her to translate Blake letters and poems into Polish. Although she is a retired civil engineering. And an astrologer. And a free-thinker. And a feminist. And an ecologist fighting hunting and hunters. Plus a potential hypochondriac. While the book is promoted (at least in French) as an unusual type of countryside murder mystery, the rendering of the psychological complexity of the narrator and of the local community is much more powerful than the murder inquiry itself, in a picaresque spirit that reminded me very much of the best novels of Arto Paasilinna. Because, while supported by the many practical aspects of the almost recluse life of this ageing woman, the story keeps escaping reality and realism, to the point I was utterly surprised by the ending of the book. Apart from the lengthy if necessary passages about astrology, I really enjoyed reading about Janina Duszejko (not Dushenko!).

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