1001 Books Round-Up: February 2022
This month’s winners and losers
Michael Kohlhaas by Heinrich von Kleist
What GR says: Based on historical events, this thrilling saga of violence and retribution bridges the gap between Medieval and modern literature, and speaks so profoundly to the contemporary spirit that it has been the basis of numerous plays, movies, and novels.
It has become, in fact, a classic tale: that of the honorable man forced to take the law into his own hands. In this incendiary prototype, a minor tax dispute intensifies explosively, until the eponymous hero finds the forces of an entire kingdom, and even the great Martin Luther, gathered against him. But soon even Luther comes to echo the growing army of peasants asking, “Isn’t Kohlhaas right?”
Widely acknowledged as one of the masterworks of German literature, Michael Kohlhaas is also one of the most stirring tales ever written of the quest for justice. Justice but at what cost?
My Thoughts: This is one of those books where once you have read it you can see its influence all around you in other books, in films and in real life.
Based on a true story this book examines what it means if you are unable to get justice within the laws of your country are you then no longer a member of society of that country and if not can you then take justice into your own hands as there is no-one else to do it for you?
Micheal Kohlhaas is prevented from obtaining justice because the people he seeks justice against are in higher societal positions than him and almost everyone he can appeal to are inter-related and therefore side with their own family. Driven to despair by the fact that he cannot get a fair hearing anywhere Kohlhaas takes the law into his own hands and commences on a campaign of revenge and terror not caring about the innocent people he hurts along the way. So yes he is a bit of a git but they did drive him to it.
While we might not agree with how Michael Kohlhaas goes about obtaining justice it is a historically necessary evil. Our society as it is today came about because people were willing to go beyond the law to get justice, I am thinking about events on a much larger scale than one man and his need for revenge, I am thinking revolutions and riots even social media campaigns that force our new “top level of society” to sit up and take notice.
4 Stars – an important book about justice and what that actually means.
The Swimming Pool Library by Alan Hollinghurst – TBR – What GR Says: A literary sensation and bestseller both in England and America, The Swimming-Pool Library is an enthralling, darkly erotic novel of homosexuality before the scourge of AIDS; an elegy, possessed of chilling clarity, for ways of life that can no longer be lived with impunity. “Impeccably composed and meticulously particular in its observation of everything” (Harpers & Queen), it focuses on the friendship of two men: William Beckwith, a young gay aristocrat who leads a life of privilege and promiscuity, and the elderly Lord Nantwich, an old Africa hand, searching for someone to write his biography and inherit his traditions. Not how I would describe this one…
My Thoughts: I am so not the target audience for this book so my views can be taken with a pinch of salt but honestly ugh.
Hollinghurst can definitely write and there are points where the narrative is so beautifully written it could be heart breaking if only it didn’t then degenerate into boring beyond measure descriptions of beautiful men with beautiful…cock, arse, abs etc or yet another sex scene where the narrator takes someone roughly in terms that nowadays would sound vaguely raperish. Added to that is the fact that every man Will sees seems to inspire sexual fantasising it is a wonder he ever manages to get anything done.
To illustrate my point let’s start with the beautiful:
“My life was in a strange way that summer, the last summer of its kind there was ever to be.”
“Though I didn’t believe in such things, I was a perfect Gemini, a child of the ambiguous early summer, tugged between two versions of myself, one of them the hedonist and the other – a little in the background these days – an almost scholarly figure with a faintly puritanical set to the mouth”
“I was enthralled almost breathless, at the very idea of men, the mythological beauty of them running under trees and sunlight in the Avenue or in the long perspectives of Kensington Gardens.”
Followed by this…
“His sleek heavy cock, cushioned on a tight, crinkled scrotum”
“a firm hairless ass”
“I tugged my half-hard cock out through my fly and stroked it casually”
“the barely perceptible swing of cocks and balls in shorts and track suits”
“I looked at Strong, and at his red, thick prick”
And on it goes…
The best parts of the book are any scenes featuring Will’s 6 year old nephew Rupert who is an absolute breath of fresh air and provides some comic relief from the otherwise essentially dull narrative.
This book is 352 pages and if you took out the repetitive and boring sexual descriptions you are left with about 100 pages of interesting story such as the true connection between Will & Nantwich, the development of friendships and how while the more things have changed between Nantwich’s past and the present the more they have stayed the same.
3 Stars – Not my cup of tea but it has plenty of fans you never know you could end up being one of them.
Have you read any of these? Let us know what you thought.