1001 Books Round-Up February 2020
This months winners and losers….
Amok by Stefan Zweig – BOTM. What Wiki says “Amok is a novella by the Austrian author Stefan Zweig. First printed in the newspaper Neue Freie Presse in 1922, Amok appeared shortly afterwards in the collection of novellas Amok: Novellas of a Passion. As Zweig was fascinated and influenced by Sigmund Freud’s work, Amok includes clear psychoanalytical elements. It deals with an extreme obsession, which leads the protagonist to sacrifice his professional and private life and, eventually, to commit suicide.” Yes the obsession is extreme, the protagonist does sacrifice everything but for this reader it never felt real.
My Thoughts: Personally this wasn’t a book for me the writing is melodramatic and the central character behaved in an completely unbelievable way. Add to that the casual mentions of “yellow people” of seeing a “fellow white” of “masters” and the abuse of a servant boy (perhaps slave is the better term) and I lost engagement.
Yes the race issues are a product of the time but the writer is asking the reader to feel sympathy for a doctor who confesses about a woman patient that:
“just a wish to break her pride, dominate her as a man”
This is a woman who is in desperate need of help and this is how he thinks. Really?? We are then asked to believe that because she won’t give in and degrade herself before him he becomes obsessed with saving her to the point where he views his life as hell:
“I am not a believing Christian any more…I don’t believe in heaven or hell, and if hell does exist I am not afraid of it, for it can’t be worse than those hours I passed between morning and evening”
Personally I think good, if you hadn’t been such a dick in the first place you wouldn’t have ended up in “hell”
The reason for this change of heart from dick to knight in shining armour is explained by “a kind of intoxication affecting the Malays”
The people of the village know that no power can halt a man running Amok, so they shout warnings ahead when they see him coming.”
Well why didn’t you say that in the first place because that makes everything alright. Really??
Character issues aside the way the story is set up works well, secret meetings on a boat late at night, a desperate need to confess to someone, rejection of help and a final melodramatic action that takes place “off-screen” as it were did make for an interesting if over the top read.
3 Stars – at 60 pages this is super short so if you don’t enjoy it you won’t have wasted much of your life.
Troubling Love by Elena Ferrante Monthly Challenge. What GR says: “Following her mother’s untimely and mysterious death, Delia embarks on a voyage of discovery through the chaotic, suffocating streets of her native Naples in search of the truth about her family. A series of mysterious telephone calls leads her to compelling and disturbing revelations about her mother’s final days.” Disturbing yes, compelling not to this reader.
My Thoughts: While the idea for the book was interesting and certain events held my attention I feel that too many pages were wasted on describing bodily functions and fluids, there was just way too much information included on this subject none of which added anything to the narrative. We also had a used underwear fetish why??
The story itself is a confused mish mash of ideas and emotions. Half the time this reader didn’t know if we in the present, the past or some complete fantasy land.
Some events felt real while others just left me scratching my head thinking WTF.
This is not a story with a happy ending, in fact it doesn’t have a happy beginning or middle either. I reached the end of the book without feeling anything for any of the characters except mild disgust.
The area that the book did do well was showing how people cope with trauma and how not even our clearest memories can be relied upon. It also shows how attached children can become to their mothers to the exclusion of all others. It also makes a comment about the place of and treatment of women with particular regard to domestic abuse and what is acceptable. It is the psychological side of the book that has kept thinking about it.
I will read more by Ferrante because they are on the list however I will not be rushing out to find them.
3 Stars read it because it is on the list or because you have a fetish for bodily fluids and used underwear. You don’t have to tell me which it is ROFL.
Germinal by Emile Zola – BOTM2 – What GR Says: “The thirteenth novel in Émile Zola’s great Rougon-Macquart sequence, Germinal expresses outrage at the exploitation of the many by the few, but also shows humanity’s capacity for compassion and hope. Definitely saw the outrage not so much the hope.
Etienne Lantier, an unemployed railway worker, is a clever but uneducated young man with a dangerous temper. Forced to take a back-breaking job at Le Voreux mine when he cannot get other work, he discovers that his fellow miners are ill, hungry, in debt, and unable to feed and clothe their families. When conditions in the mining community deteriorate even further, Lantier finds himself leading a strike that could mean starvation or salvation for all.” Oh Etienne, Etienne what would have happened if you had never sought work in the mines?
My thoughts – this was a powerful novel that describes in detail the suffering faced by workers in a French mining community and what happens when they eventually stand up for themselves to try and force the bosses to pay them a living wage.
While his heart clearly belongs to the miners, Zola doesn’t condemn the bosses out of hand. Instead he shows the good and the bad. The woman who refuses to give money to the starving miners but who will instead provide them with warm clothing for the children without realising what a double standard this actually is. Then there is the fact that while he is sympathetic to the miners they are not above his pointed observations particularly regarding sex and the “Starvelings” this will ultimately lead to. He also manages to critique several political stances including Marxism, Socialism and Anarchism.
Overall this is a bleak but thought provoking book and one that in its time may well have lead to an improvement in workers treatment and their standards of living.
3 Stars for enjoyment. 5 Stars for message. Don’t read this if you are looking for a happy ending or need something uplifting in your life.