Archive for Purge

journal of the [second] plague year [con’d]

Posted in Books, Kids, Mountains, pictures, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 24, 2021 by xi'an

Read The Office of Gardens and Ponds (in French), by Didier Decoin [whom John l’Enfer I read more than forty years ago, with no lasting memories!], another random book found in the exchange section of our library!  While a pastiche of Japanese travel novels, the book is quite enjoyable and reminded me of our hike on the Kumano Kodō routes, two years ago. The tale takes place in 12th Century Japan and tells of the epic travel of a widow to the capital, Kyoto, carrying live carps for the gardens of the emperor. While some sections are somewhat encyclopedic on the culture of medieval Japan [and I thus wonder how Japanese readers have reacted to this pastiche], the scenario is rather subtle and the characters have depth, incl. the dead husband. The scene of the perfume competition is particularly well-imagined and worth reading on its own. I figure I will not bring the book back. (Warning: this book was voted a 2019 winner of the Bad Sex Award!). Also read Patti Smith’s Devotion, which was one of my Xmas presents. I had never read anything but Smith’s songs, since 1976 (!) with Horses, missing by little some of her concerts as on the week I was in Rimini… The book is quite light, and not only length-wise, made of two travel diaries in (to?) Paris and in (to?) Southern France, where she visits Camus’ house, and of a short story she writes on the train. While the diaries are mildly interesting, if a bit American-Tourist-in-Paris-cliché (like this insistence to find glamour in having breakfast at Café Flore!), the story comes as a disappointment, both for being unrealistic [in the negative sense] and for reproducing the old trope of the young orphan girl becoming the mistress of a much older man [to continue skating]. The connection with Estonia reminded me of Purge, by Sofi Oksanen, a powerful novel about the occupations of Estonia by Nazis and Soviet troups, an haunting novel of a different magnitude…

Made  soba noodles with the machine, resulting into shorte-than-life noodles, due to the high percentage of buckwheat flour in the dough, still quite enjoyable in a cold salad. Also cooked a roghan josh lamb shack, along with chapatis flavoured with radish leaves [no fire alarm this time] and a vegetable dahl whose recipe I found in Le Monde the same morn. Also took advantage of the few weeks with fresh and tender asparagus sold at the local market to make salads.

Watched a few episodes of Better than Us, Лучше (чем люди), a Russian science-fiction series set in a close future with humanoid robots replacing menial workers, until one rogue version turns uncontrollable, à la Blade Runner. There are appealing aspects to the story, besides the peep into a Russian series and the pleasure of listening to Russian, about the porous frontier between human and artificial intelligence. The scenario however quickly turns into a predictable loop and I eventually lost interest. Even faster did that happen with the Irregulars of Baker Street horror series, which I simply could not stand any further (and which connection with Holmes and Watson is most tenuous).

Having registered for a vaccination to the local pharmacy, I most got surprisingly called a few days later mid-afternoon to come at once for a shot of AstraZeneca, as they had a leftover dose. And a rising share of reluctant candidates for the vaccine!, despite David’s reassurances. I am unsure this shot was done early enough to get abroad for conferences or vacations in July, but it is one thing done anyway. With no side effect so far.

Puhdistus

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , on November 28, 2010 by xi'an

I read Purge (Puhdistus in Finnish) by Sofi Oksonen (in French) this summer when flying to San Francisco from Vancouver. This is a strong and gripping novel, as others have noticed before me. It takes place in post-communist Estonia where a widow of a (very lower-ranking) member of the communist nomenklatura is forced into considering her past choices and the lies she made to herself and to others when her grand-niece pops in, pursued by Russian-mafia-style gangsters who had enslaved her into a cruel prostitution scheme in Germany… This may sound like a cheap plot but the slow unravelling of the old woman’s (horrific) deeds and of the compromises she was led to endure makes for a much deeper read. There is also an historical level about Estonia being as ruthlessly occupied by Soviet soldiers as by Nazis, and about the hopeless fight of the local partisans followed by massive deportations to the Russian Far East. The book is thus multifaceted and the end, although predictable, is a nice tale of redemption for the old Aliide Truu who would otherwise appear as a remorseless criminal… An impressive and recommended tour-de-force! (Note that, despite some misguided criticisms found on Amazon, this is not a thriller!)

Purge
by Sofi Oksanen
Old Aliide Truu lives alone in a cottage in the woods, pestered by flies she wishes would leave her in peace. Her isolation is interrupted when she spies a young woman under a tree in her garden. The girl is strange; arriving in the dead of night, bruised, dirty and shoeless – why is she at Aliide’s door? Overcome by curiosity the old woman decides, warily, to take her in. Zara is on the run from men who tortured, raped, and sold her into slavery. Her only possession is a tattered photograph of her grandmother and another woman; in which Aliide recognizes herself and her sister. Horrified, she begins to realize that the past she has long tried to forget has finally caught up with her – Purge is a hauntingly intimate portrait of one family’s shame against a backdrop of European war. It is a fiercely compelling novel about what we will accept just to survive and the legacies created by our worst experiences.