Archive for William Blake

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!).

the Frankenstein chronicles

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 31, 2019 by xi'an

Over a lazy weekend, I watched the TV series The Frankenstein Chronicles, which I found quite remarkable (if definitely Gothic and possibly too gory for some!). Connections with celebrities of (roughly) the time abound: While Mary Shelley makes an appearance in the first season of the series, not only as the writer of the famous novel (already famous in the novel as well) but also as a participant to a deadly experiment that would succeed in the novel (and eventually in the series), Charles Dickens is a constant witness to the unraveling of scary events as Boz the journalist, somewhat running after the facts, William Blake dies in one of the early episodes after painting a series of tarot like cards that eventually explains it all, Ada Lovelace works on the robotic dual of Frankenstein, Robert Peel creates the first police force (which will be called the Bobbies after him!), John Snow’s uncovering of the cholera source as the pump of Broad Street is reinvented with more nefarious reasons, and possibly others. Besides these historical landmarks (!), the story revolves around the corpse trafficking that fed medical schools and plots for many a novel. The (true) Anatomy Act is about to pass to regulate body supply for anatomical purposes and ensues a debate on the end of God that permeates mostly the first season and just a little bit the second season, which is more about State versus Church… The series is not without shortcomings, in particular a rather disconnected plot (which has the appeal of being unpredictable of jumping from one genre to the next) and a repeated proneness of the main character to being a scapegoat, but the reconstitution of London at the time is definitely impressive (although I cannot vouch for its authenticity!). Only the last episode of Season 2 feels a bit short when delivering, by too conveniently tying up all loose threads.