Archive for Robert Louis Stevenson

Treasure Island

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 1, 2019 by xi'an

Just spent a wonderful hour listening to excepts from Stevenson’s Treasure Island while cooking dinner… Actually promoting a new translation (in French) in a much more colloquial version than the one I read as a child. I never get enough of this story (even though Kidnapped remains my favourite and not only mine’s!). As a child I remember Old Pew as being the scariest character in the book, Long John Silver being two-faceted from the narrator’s perspective [despite witnessing him kill two sailors in cold blood].

As an aside, this is a definitely “boys’ book”, with no female character but the grieving mother of Jim! When asked to guess which book the radio was, my wife told me she never read that book as a child. And I cannot resist sharing this third drawing from N.C. Wyeth (1911), which I always attribute to Norman Rockwell….

The Wrecker

Posted in Books, Travel with tags , , , , on May 28, 2011 by xi'an

“Full of details of our barbaric manners and unstable morals; full of the need and the lust of money, so that there is scarce a page in which the dollars do not jingle; full of the unrest and movement of our century, so that the reader is hurried from place to place and sea to sea, and the book is less a romance than a panorama.” R.L. Stevenson

Despite a strong appreciation for other books of his’, I was not aware of Robert L. Stevenson’s The Wrecker until Judith Rousseau lent it to me a few months ago. It took me a while to start the novel, maybe because of its kind of kaleidoscopic style with tales within tales within tales…, but past a certain point, I became engrossed in the reading and could not stop till I completed The Wrecker! (Note that the book is freely available for Kindle on amazon!)

“I can never think upon this voyage without a profound sense of pity and mystery; of the ship (once the whim of a rich blackguard) faring with her battered fineries and upon her homely errand, across the plains of ocean, and past the gorgeous scenery of dawn and sunset; and the ship’s company, so strangely assembled…” R.L. Stevenson

The Wrecker is a great travel book, most of the action taking place in the South Pacific seas, with connections in San Francisco, Edinburgh, and even Barbizon. While the main character (and the main point of view) is Dodd Loudon (a Glaswegian name), there are several tales inserted inside his story, especially the resolution of the mystery of the Flying Scud, the boat for which Loudon and his associate Pinkerton go bankrupt, all for nothing. While I enjoy very much the description of the attraction of the southern seas on Dodd, the last two-thirds of The Wrecker on the search for the Flying Scud and then the pursuit of Carthew, the only remaining member of the Flying Scud, are reminding me of Stevenson’s other books, particularly the Scottish ones like Kidnapped (also free!) and Catriona (again free for Kindles), for the exceptionally gripping pace he can impose on the reader. While the book abounds in 19th century style descriptions, they amazingly do not cut this pace but on the opposite contribute to make it more real. I am thus little surprised that Borges loved this book as it is a literary masterpiece, but also because it contributes to the ambiguity between reality and fantasy, and to the endless spiral of alternative realities that Borges liked so much.

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