December 23, 2012

Costumes in Twelfth Night

Costumes play a very important role in Twelfth Night, so this month's play meme fits perfectly! As I remember watching only one adaptation of the play (but many times!), I'll take illustrations from it. And the adaptation I'm speaking about is Russian 1955 film "Twelfth Night". I like it a lot, because the cast is perfect, and they are all very good actors. Costumes are also very well chosen, you'll see!

Viola & her twin brother Sebastian

Viola is pretending to be a man, and so she dresses accordingly:

No wonder breasts are completely invisible under such a thick velvet! And men's haircuts are just perfect for a woman to imitate!

She also behaves like a proper guy:

But when she looks at her love, Orsino, her disguise is completely useless! Look at those eyes!

And that's she in a dress, in the very end:


By Maria's trick poor Malvolio is made to believe that his mistress, Olivia, is in love with him. And he thinks that to show her that he shares her feelings, he has to wear yellow stockings and cross garters:

 Cute, eh? =)


The clown usually looks like this:

but for the practical joke they played with Malvolio he had to dress as a monk:


For other characters costumes are not so important, so here are just a few pictures:

Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Olivia's suitor

And that's the whole merry company together.

Antonio, a captain and friend to Sebastian.

Preparing for a duel =)

Olivia in mourning. I love her dress!
So that's pretty much everything about the costumes in this wonderful adaptation of Twelfth Night. I hope I made you wish to watch it, but even if not - just enjoy the nice costumes! =)

Twelfth Night, or What You Will by William Shakespeare

Twelfth Night was the first of Shakespeare's comedies I've actually read, though of course I've seen a lot of adaptations of them. The experience was very different than that of reading a tragedy. There are a lot if puns and practical jokes in it and the focus is really not on the love story. Actually, I felt a bit deprived of the romantic details. I also found it a bit difficult to follow the half-drunken jokes in some of the dialogues. Maybe it's my English, maybe they are really old, or maybe I should have tried better? But it's a light book, and you don't want to linger on passages at all, so I must confess I might have missed something.

A plot is very classical and potent - a girl, Viola, is dressed as a boy for safety in an unknown country and has to help her master, Orsino, with his unfortunate love to another woman, Olivia. Needless to say, Olivia falls in love with Viola, thinking she's a man, and thus there are some funny situations. Should I mention that Viola has a twin brother, who she thinks has drowned in a ship wreck that she herself survived, but who hasn't? =) Or that everything ends well?

Besides the main plot line there is a lot of action for the servants. They are responsible for the most comical situations in the play, which involve fake love letter, dressing the clown as a monk and a lot of drinking on the part of Toby Belch. Among the servants Maria is my favourite. She is a very prototypical "cunning maid", but she is not spiteful, she rather tries to amuse her fellow servants with her pranks.

Overall, it's a very fast-moving and pleasant read, but I must say I'd rather watch it on stage - I think it would be more lively with the addition of proper acting. I have a suspicion that a play was written for specific actors, which is quite probable, if we remember a bit of Shakespeare's history. I'll leave you with the picture from my favourite adaptation of the play - Russian 1955 film "Twelfth Night":

And that's happy end, of course! =)

December 22, 2012

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Today Caroline at Beauty is a Sleeping Cat is hosting a readalong of A Christmas Carol, and everybody is asked to answer the following questions:

Is this the first time you are reading the story?
Yes. I've seen some adaptation many years ago, but I remembered only the main idea.

Did you like it?
It is well written (it's Dickens!), so I quite enjoyed the language. I also liked the descriptions of the Christmas mood in the city. However, there is too much moral there to my taste.

Which was your favorite scene?
I'd say that the one I liked most was when all the Scrooge's favorite book characters appeared. For me too books were very real in my childhood, so I quite understand why these characters are an important part of his memories.

Which was your least favorite scene?
The scene with the charity collectors. They ask Scrooge for money for the poor, and he tells them it's none of his business. To tell you the truth, that's exactly my position in this question. I pay taxes, so why should I give even more money to the poor? But in the book it was put as a very mean point of view, and I felt a bit uncomfortable about it. Although it didn't make me change my mind, of course. Everybody in the modern world should mind his own business - government takes care of the poor, and we give government money for it. I wish it worked!

Which spirit and his stories did you find the most interesting?
The spirit of the Christmas Past, of course! His light and its extinguishing make a good metaphor.

Was there a character you wish you knew more about?
I wish I knew more about Scrooge's ex-love. She seems an interesting and strong woman and would make a good heroine!

How did you like the end?
It's Christmasy and nice.

Did you think it was believable?
I find it hard to believe Scrooge changed so fast. Even when travelling with the second ghost he understood it was for his own good. Not very stubbornly, eh?

Do you know anyone like Scrooge?
Well, not really. Of course there are people who share a trait or two with him, but I can't say I know them well. But... he is not supposed to be real, it's a fairy tale anyway.

Did he deserve to be saved?
Everybody deserves a chance to be saved. And he was really eager to change after the "three-ghost show", so he is a good choice for being saved =)

Merry Christmas to everybody!

December 20, 2012

Brief news and plans

I haven't been here for some time, and there were reasons for it. First, it was the end of the semester, and you know what that means =) Then, my notebook got broken, the keyboard didn't work, and it felt very stupid to write on a separate keyboard. And finally, I came home for Christmas (it is not celebrated here, but I do not choose time for holidays) and I've been spending a lot of time with my family and my boyfriend.

This doesn't mean I haven't been reading, however. I've finished 3 books during this crazy period, and as I'm in no mood to write proper reviews, I'll just make a short summary here.

1. Hotel by Arthur Hailey
This I didn't like at all. I started it as a light reading to help me relax during the end of the semester, but I was disappointed. I remember how gripping was Hailey's Airport, I just couldn't put it down, but in Hotel the focus is too much on the descriptions of how it all works in a hotel, characters' stories all seem too tragic to be real and the love line is uncertain and unconvincing. So I dragged through the book for more than a week and didn't really enjoy it. What surprised me in the book is the segregation. Were African Americans really refused rooms in certain hotels even in 1965? Terrible.

2. The Stranger by Max Frei
My second attempt to relax was far more successful, which was quite predictable, as this book was a re-read, and not the first one. I'm not sure if this book is known outside Russia, but if it's not, it should be. Seriously, it's the coziest book ever! It is a mystery/fantasy/detective novel set in a small dream-town, where the hero comes from our world to work as a Night Face of the Chief Detective of the Secret Police (in my own poor translation). All the characters are cute and funny, and everything ends well after a lot of curious magic, and everybody chew something all the time =) This book has a bit of philosophy in it, and the detective part is very interesting too. This book always brings me in an optimistic mood, so I return to it from time to time, and I highly recommend it to everybody!

3. Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
I'll write a proper review later, as it is in my Let's read Plays and The Classics Club lists. But briefly - quite an enjoyable comedy!

About some events I am participating (or am supposed to participate =) ) now:

1. Dickens in December is in full swing now, but I'm only 1/4 through my first (and I guess the only) novel, The Old Curiosity Shop. Too many distractions around! Tomorrow will be A Christmas Carol read-along, and I hope I'll be able to participate!

2. Moby Dick Big Read is not going quite as planned, I'm now ~25 chapters behind, as I was concentrating on other books. But I'm planning to update myself before New Year, and I will!

3. The The Hobbit  Read-along is the only thing I'm keeping on with. Maybe it's the book, and maybe it's lively discussions.... Anyway, it just perfectly slow for my suddenly-so-crazy life!

So that's pretty much everything, and I hope you'll see more of me soon =)

December 7, 2012

Team 1001 Introductory Post

Beginning from 17.09.14 all the challenge updates are moved to a SEPARATE PAGE

Great news! Rachel at Resistance is futile is gathering a team for a long-lasting project of reading books from  the 1001 list! She plans to link all the members' reviews to the list and make quarterly update memes. You can read the rules and join here.

Now, I've been interested in the list for quite some time, and I'm keeping my own list here. So I think that to create a group for this is a great idea!

I'll use this post as a master and link my reviews (or something) here, bit I'll still keep the list at Google Drive, as it is very convenient.

The books I've read so far:
  1. Aesop's Fables - Aesop (c.4th BC)
  2. The Golden Ass - Apuleius (c.260)
  3. The Thousand And One Nights - Anonymous (c.850)
  4. The Tale Of The Bamboo Cutter - Anonymous (c.900)
  5. The Tale Of Genji - Murasaki Shikibu (c.1000)
  6. Robinson Crusoe - Daniel Defoe (1719)
  7. Candide - Voltaire (1759)
  8. The Castle Of Otranto - Horace Walpole (1765)
  9. The Sorrows Of Young Werther - Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe (1774)
  10. Dangerous Liaisons - Pierre Choderlos De Laclos (1782)
  11. The Mysteries Of Udolpho - Ann Radcliffe (1794)
  12. Sense And Sensibility - Jane Austen (1811)
  13. Pride And Prejudice - Jane Austen (1813)
  14. Mansfield Park - Jane Austen (1814)
  15. Persuasion - Jane Austen (1818)
  16. Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen (1818)
  17. Frankenstein - Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1818)
  18. The Life And Opinions Of The Tomcat Murr - E T A Hoffmann (1820)
  19. Ivanhoe - Sir Walter Scott (1820)
  20. The Red And The Black - Stendhal (1831)
  21. The Hunchback Of Notre Dame - Victor Hugo (1831)
  22. Eugene Onegin - Alexander Pushkin (1833)
  23. Eugenie Grandet - Honore De Balzac (1834)
  24. Le Pere Goriot - Honore De Balzac (1834-5)
  25. The Nose - Nikolay Gogol (1836)
  26. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens (1838)
  27. The Fall Of The House of Usher - Edgar Allan Poe (1839)
  28. The Charterhouse Of Parma - Stendhal (1839)
  29. A Hero Of Our Time - Mikhail Lermontov (1840)
  30. Dead Souls - Nikolay Gogol (1842)
  31. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens (1843)
  32. The Pit And The Pendulum - Edgar Allan Poe (1843)
  33. The Purloined Letter - Edgar Allan Poe (1844)
  34. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas (1844)
  35. The Count Of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas (1845-6)
  36. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray (1847)
  37. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte (1847)
  38. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte (1847)
  39. Moby Dick - Herman Melville (1851)
  40. Uncle Tom's Cabin - Harriet Beecher Stowe (1852)
  41. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert (1857)
  42. Oblomovka - Ivan Goncharov (1859)
  43. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens (1859)
  44. The Woman In White - Wilkie Collins (1860)
  45. On The Eve - Ivan Turgenev (1860)
  46. Fathers And Sons - Ivan Turgenev (1862)
  47. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland - Lewis Carroll (1865)
  48. Little Women - Louisa May Alcott (1868)
  49. The Moonstone - Wilkie Collins (1868)
  50. The Idiot - Fyodor Dostoevsky (1868-9)
  51. War And Peace - Leo Tolstoy (1869)
  52. Through The Looking Glass - Lewis Carroll (1871)
  53. Spring Torrents - Ivan Turgenev (1872)
  54. The Enchanted Wanderer - Nicolai Leskov (1873)
  55. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy (1877)
  56. Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson (1883)
  57. Bel-Ami - Guy De Maupassant (1885)
  58. The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain (1885)
  59. Germinal - Emile Zola (1885)
  60. Kidnapped - Robert Louis Stevenson (1886)
  61. The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde - Robert Louis Stevenson (1886)
  62. The Master Of Ballantrae - Robert Louis Stevenson (1889)
  63. The Picture Of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde (1891)
  64. The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1892)
  65. The Time Machine - H G Wells (1895)
  66. The Island Of Dr Moreau - H G Wells (1896)
  67. Dracula - Bram Stoker (1897)
  68. The Invisible Man - H G Wells (1897)
  69. The War Of The Worlds - H G Wells (1898)
  70. The Hound Of The Baskervilles - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1902)
  71. Call Of The Wild - Jack London (1903)
  72. The Forsythe Saga - John Galsworthy (1906)
  73. Death In Venice - Thomas Mann (1912)
  74. Crome Yellow - Aldous Huxley (1921)
  75. We - Yevgeny Zamiatin (1924)
  76. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald (1925)
  77. Mrs Dalloway - Virginia Woolf (1925)
  78. The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd - Agatha Christie (1926)
  79. To The Lighthouse - Virginia Woolf (1927)
  80. Decline And Fall - Evelyn Waugh (1928)
  81. Lady Chatterley's Lover - D H Lawrence (1928)
  82. All Quiet On The Western Front - Erich Maria Remarque (1929)
  83. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley (1932)
  84. Tender Is The Night - F Scott Fitzgerald (1934)
  85. Tropic Of Cancer - Henry Miller (1934)
  86. At The Mountains Of Madness - H P Lovecraft (1936)
  87. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell (1936)
  88. The Hobbit - J R R Tolkein (1937)
  89. Chess Story (The Royal Game) - Stefan Zweig (1942)
  90. The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint-Exupery (1943)
  91. Ficciones - Jorge Luis Borges (1944)
  92. Pippi Longstocking - Astrid Lindgren (1944)
  93. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh (1945)
  94. Titus Groan - Mervyn Peake (1946)
  95. Nineteen Eighty-Four - George Orwell (1949)
  96. I, Robot - Isaac Asimov (1950)
  97. The Catcher In The Rye - J D Salinger (1951)
  98. Foundation - Isaac Asimov (1951)
  99. The Old Man And The Sea - Ernest Hemingway (1952)
  100. Lord Of The Flies - William Golding (1954)
  101. The Lord Of The Rings - J R R Tolkein (1954-56)
  102. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov (1955)
  103. Justine - Lawrence Durrell (1957)
  104. Doctor Zhivago - Boris Pasternak (1957)
  105. On The Road - Jack Kerouac (1957)
  106. Homo Faber - Max Frisch (1957)
  107. The Once And Future King - T H White (1958)
  108. To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee (1960)
  109. A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess (1962)
  110. One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest - Ken Kesey (1962)
  111. One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich - Aleksandr Solzheitsyn (1963)
  112. Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut (1963)
  113. The Master And Margarita - Mikhail Bulgakov (1967)
  114. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? - Philip K Dick (1968)
  115. 2001: A Space Odyssey - Arthur C Clarke (1968)
  116. Cancer Ward - Aleksandr Solzheitsyn (1968)
  117. The French Lieutenant's Woman - John Fowles (1969)
  118. Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut, Jr (1969)
  119. The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy - Douglas Adams (1979)
  120. If On A Winter's Night A Traveller - Italo Calvino (1979)
  121. The Name Of The Rose - Umberto Eco (1980)
  122. Perfume - Patrick Suskind (1985)
  123. Beloved - Toni Morrison (1987)
  124. Disgrace - J M Coetzee (1999)
  125. Choke - Chuck Palahniuk (2001)

The books I tried but did not finish for various reasons:
  1. Romance Of The Three Kingdoms - Luo Guanzhong (c.1300)
  2. The Pilgrim's Progress - John Bunyan (1678-84)
  3. The 120 Days Of Sodom - Marquis de Sade (1785)
  4. Last Of The Mohicans - James Fenimore Cooper (1826)
  5. Crime And Punishment - Fyodor Dostoevsky (1866)

December 6, 2012

The Life And Opinions Of the Tomcat Murr by E. T. A. Hoffmann

Mystical German Romantism mixed with sharp social satire - that's what The Life And Opinions Of the Tomcat Murr is! The book consists of the memoirs of Murr himself, who used pages from another book (which happens to be about the life of his once-master, a musician and a kapellmeister) as a blotter and put them between the lists of his work. By the mistake of the publisher (from whom we get a lot of apologies about this in the beginning) the book was printed to include both the cat's memoirs and the blotter pages. That's why we really have two very differently written books in one here - romantic and satiric.

The satirical parts are written by Murr, a self-educated intelligent cat, who wants to preserve the story of his life as an admonition for the next generations. He describes his childhood, his growing passion for books and poetry, then his first love, family problems, his attempts to find his place in the higher society and his friendship with a poodle. He reasons about everything he experiences and pretty often puts himself as an example for everybody. He is very cute and human-like, and his parts are usually very funny.

The romantic parts are written by a biographist of Johann Kreisler, once a kapellmeister at court, a very sophisticated and talented musician. The action takes place in a small fictional German province, which formally doesn't have an king any more, but which citizens pretend that their king is still a real king, so they have a real court and real court intrigues. There is everything in this story - love, madness, an old crazy alchemist/scientist/magician/organ master, murders, refined feelings - everything. And the further you read the more you knew about all the complicated characters of this story and the better you see what is really happening there at the court.

The book is a patchwork of the two stories, each bit with no logical beginning or anding. So when you begin to read the book, it takes quite a while to understand who is who and what is happening, but when you are well into it, you can't put it down. The book is just fascinating ans it's definitely a masterpiece.

The Life And Opinions Of the Tomcat Murr is a book from my Classics Club list

November 27, 2012

Short Sci-Fi Stories by German Authors

I'm continuing to explore German science fiction for German Literature Month, and what is better for this than a good short story collection? Unfortunately, I have been experiencing a lot of problems with writing about it, as English-speaking world seems to be utterly uninterested in this kind of literature (only one author in English Wikipedia? Really?) Fortunately, I know German, at least enough to successfully google in it. So the names of the stories and the authors' names are correct, and if you are interested, you can try to search for translations using them. 

I read the stories in Russian. The collection is called "Parallels", and it is part of the science fiction series of books issued in Soviet Union between 1965 and 1976. I've written a bit about each story, and you can decide for yourselves if you want to explore some of the mentioned authors.

  •  Die Experimente des 
  • Professors von Pulex by Herbert Ziergiebel
  • I didn't like this one. It is about a mad professor, breeding huge insects for Nazi army after the war is already finished. Not really my cup of tea. But is you like really creepy stuff, that's for you!

     Trinicia by Gunter Metzner
    Two explorers find a skeleton of a huge carnivorous plant on a far away planet. What killed the thing? And what will they read in the notebook found in the capsule inside it? The story is very simple, but it is very psychologically true.

    Urlaub auf aldebaranisch (Vacation, Aldebaran style) by Michael Szameit
    A somewhat funny story about an unfortunate traveller, who is having some problems with teleportation. I especially liked the description of the aldebaranians. Certainly reminding me of some places I've travelled =)

     Kunstfehler in Harmonopolis by Günter Braun, Johanna Braun
    No crime has happened for some 200 years in the town (and in the world), but then someone begins to rob shops night after night. What should people do? Certainly not close their doors or have a night watch! It would be so offensive to suspect anybody! Then a mad collector of an old forgotten mystery genre is summoned to deal with the robber. I've enjoyed every moment of this story, and I totally recommend it to everyone!

     Die Ignoranten by Reinhard Heinrich, Erik Simon
    What do mineral life forms from other planets think about our planet? An interesting viewpoint, really. Absurdity of the situation is even funny, but it made me think too.

     Insel der Angst by Günther Krupkat
    Nothing really new here. Robots with artificial intelligence are not listening to the mad professor who has build them and want to live as they want, and they usually want to build more robots.

     W by Erik Simon
    A very short short story about the probability of improbable. Real fun!

     Die Spinne by Erik Simon
    The existence of parallel worlds if revealed with the help of... a spider. But a spider running along an non-existing wall. Or should we believe the author at all? I liked the description of the main character's flow of thoughts, and the idea is interesting in itself.

     Der Schritt aus dem Jenseits by Frank Rychlik
    This one is just perfect! After the accident the main character has some strange memory issues... and I'll never tell you what is the matter in the reality, because it's too good. Just read it!

     Imago by Wolf Weitbrecht
    The story is written by the main character as a plea of not guilty (or whatever is the proper judicial term) when he is under jail for killing his colleague's son. But of source, this colleague is an old mad professor, and his son is really a "new evolution step for a mankind". Or so this professor claims.

     Nichts als Arger mit dem Personal by Siegbert Günzel
    What are you to do when your wife buys a new robot-housekeeper, who is the exact copy of a famous singer, and who sings even better than the original? Buy a famous actress for yourself, of course. New level of arguing in a family of the future. Liked it!

     Begegnung im Licht by Gunter Metzner
    Two spaceships of two different civilizations, who had no idea of the existence of each other, meet for a short time in the outer space. And fly further.

     Nebel by Jörg Gernreich
    Didn't understand anything in this story. Read again. Again didn't understand anything. Maybe it's not me?

     Ende einer Karriere by Günter Teske
    It's a book about sport. And cheating in it. But with new, horrible methods. Reading about all this was a bit nauseous, but the idea is very true: the sport has no value in it when there is cheating.

     Der Haltepunkt by Rolf Krohn
    Science fiction + classic mystery? Yes please! There is a stop on an old railway, where everybody sees a murder when passing for the first time. And the main character wants to know, what happened here long ago. The setting is so traditionally-cozy, that the answer is even more unexpected.

     Bazillus phantastikus oder Die Nixe mit dem Hackebeil by Günther Krupkat
    How does a romantic become a married fatty philistine in the distant future? The same way as now. A sad story, but very truthful.

     Der astronomische Dieb by Gerhard Branstner
    We all think science fiction is sad and philosophical. But try these short anecdotes about the adventures of two resourceful friends in the outer space! A very nice change, and I really liked it.

     Parallelen by Alfred Leman, Hans Taubert
    A contact between two very different civilizations is described from the two different point of views. And they are so different themselves, that the actions of ones are completely inexplicable for the others. Interesting idea!

    I enjoyed the book very much, and I hope it'll encourage some of you to explore German science fiction (which I never thought even existed before this month :) ), as it is really diverse and engaging!

    November 24, 2012

    Weekend Quote: Moby-Dick

    I've decided to celebrate my half-way through Moby-Dick by joining Weekend Quote, hosted by Half-Filled Attic. I am highlighting quite a lot while reading, as I completely love Melville's philosophical passages, but those two are my favourite so far:
    Chapter 52:
    Round the world! There is much in that sound to inspire proud feelings; but whereto does all that circumnavigation conduct? Only through numberless perils to the very point whence we started, where those that we left behind secure, were all the time before us. 
    Were this world an endless plain, and by sailing eastward we could for ever reach new distances, and discover sights more sweet and strange than any Cyclades or Islands of King Solomon, then there were promise in the voyage. But in pursuit of those far mysteries we dream of, or in tormented chase of the demon phantom that, some time or other, swims before all human hearts; while chasing such over this round globe, they either lead us on in barren mazes or midway leave us whelmed. 
    Chapter 68: 
    It does seem to me, that herein we see the rare virtue of a strong individual vitality, and the rare virtue of thick walls, and the rare virtue of interior spaciousness. Oh, man! admire and model thyself after the whale! Do thou, too, remain warm among ice. Do thou, too, live in this world without being of it. Be cool at the equator; keep thy blood fluid at the Pole. Like the great dome of St. Peter’s, and like the great whale, retain, O man! in all seasons a temperature of thine own. 
    But how easy and how hopeless to teach these fine things! Of erections, how few are domed like St. Peter’s! of creatures, how few vast as the whale!
    And a small one, which I completely adore:
    Chapter 46:
    ...of all tools used in the shadow of the moon, men are most apt to get out of order.

    November 22, 2012

    Banquo from The Tragedy of Macbeth

    Why is this picture here again?
    Because it's awesome, of course!
    When we say "Macbeth" we probably think of Macbeth himself or his wife or the witches. We don't usually remember Banquo. Who is he anyway? He even dies in the third act.

    However, his role is crucial in the play. His name is first mentioned in the play in scene two of act one, and together with the Macbeth's name:
    Dismay’d not this
    Our captains, Macbeth and Banquo?
    And this makes us understand, that they are compared throughout the play. This is confirmed in the scene of predictions. See how the witches hail Macbeth:
    All hail, Macbeth! hail to thee, thane of Glamis!
    All hail, Macbeth, hail to thee, thane of Cawdor!
    All hail, Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter!
    And Banquo:
    Lesser than Macbeth, and greater.
    Not so happy, yet much happier.
    Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none:
    So all hail, Macbeth and Banquo!
    And it is Banquo who first warns Macbeth to beware the predictions of witches:
    And oftentimes, to win us to our harm,
    The instruments of darkness tell us truths,
    Win us with honest trifles, to betray’s
    In deepest consequence.
    When Macbeth becomes king, he starts to fear Banquo. I think, that apart from Banquo suspecting Macbeth of "playing foul", there is an issue of fertility/infertility between them. Banquo is promised to have his sons on the throne, and his name will continue in the generations, while Macbeth will perish, and all his treacherous deeds have been for nothing.

    Banquo is not only the opposite of Macbeth, staying faithful and not seduced by the promises of future. His death takes place in the very middle of the play (scene three of act three) and marks the "point of no return" for Macbeth. There still was hope for the new king if he hasn't continued to kill, but he does. And after Banquo killing is easier and easier for Macbeth.

    So Banquo, a nobleman of Scotland, is Macbeth's doppelgänger, a symbolical character that helps the reader get some important ideas of the play

    November 20, 2012

    Der Elfenbeinturm (The Ivory Tower) by Herbert W. Franke

    I didn't know any German science fiction authors before this week, which is a Genre Fiction week of the German Literature Month. I started by plain googling, and discovered that German science fiction is a big field with a lot of well known authors in it. This one caught my attention with a beautiful allegorical name, and I don't regret I've read it.

    The Ivory Tower (although I'm not sure it is correct translation, as I read it in Russian) is a science fiction novel which takes place in the dystopian (or utopian?) future. All decisions are made by a giant computer, which has all the information about everything. This computer, as well as the government itself, is situated on the moon, where only authorized scientists can get. But a group of liberal revolutionists plan to destroy this big computer to make people "free" in their understanding of the word.

    I cannot say more about the plot without including any spoilers here, so I will just say that the novel is very dialectical and philosophical. Of course, there is a lot of action there, but sometimes characters just stop to discuss some theoretical issues concerning the destiny of humankind. Sometimes you even feel that the situation was created specially to give the characters an opportunity to talk. But the ideas themselves are rather interesting and uncommon, so this book will be interesting for the adepts of the genre.

    Herbert W. Franke (born 14 May 1927 in Vienna) is an Austrian scientist and writer. He is considered one of the most important science fiction authors in the German language. He is also active in the fields of future research, speleology as well as computer graphics and digital art. You can see the list of his works here.

    November 19, 2012

    Eugénie Grandet by Honoré de Balzac

    Eugénie Grandet - Alida Valli, Gualtiero Tumiati

    This is a short novel, which introduces us to the life of a provincial miser and his family in the town of Saumur. Felix Grandet has made his fortune all by himself, and is considered the richest man not only in the town, but also in the whole region. His wife and daughter, however, don't know anything about their riches. They sew their own clothes, they can't buy anything without the approval of Grandet, they can't even make fire whenever they want. Needless to say that they don't have a lot of social life apart from entertaining two local families, who both seek to marry their sons to young Eugénie.

    But everything changes for them when Eugénie's cousin Charles, a young and bright gentleman, comes from Paris as a consequence of a tragic event. The cousins fall in love with each other, but their feelings are not approved by the old Grandet. Moreover, Charles has to go to India to win his own fortune soon, so their love ends abruptly. But not for Eugénie, for whom this feeling is everything she has in her life. This feeling changes her dramatically in a very short time, but will it overcome her dry and strict upbringing which has trained her to value money more than everything?

    If you have read some Balzac before, you would probably guess the answer, but I will not include any spoilers here. This book is very powerful, it describes people for whom money is everything and the measure of everything (still topical, isn't it?), it speaks about society and it's mercenariness and indifference towards individuals, but, most important, it puts a question: can we determine our life and who we are ourselves, or are we bound to follow our parents' path?

    The book is beautifully written, and even when nothing really happens is it completely impossible to put it down. I especially liked the setting of the tragedy: every single thing in the old house is described in detail, and you can easily visualise how dim and dull their rooms and their lives are.

    I also liked how Eugénie's character develops when she discovers love. I admire how she finds strength to openly oppose her father and to stand to her guns even when treated very badly. She is still very submissive, but then she is very religious too, so this can be explained. She also sees money only as means, not as an object, which should be respected, especially considering her father's attitudes.

    All in all, the book is a perfect representative of "La Comédie humaine" and so far this is my favourite novel by Balzac.

    Eugénie Grandet is a book from my Classics Club list

    November 16, 2012

    2013 Challenges

    I'll just put them all here in no particular order with rules and my intentions.

    What's in a Name Challenge 2013

    Between January 1 and December 31, 2013, read one book in each of the following categories:
    • A book with up or down (or equivalent) in the title: Deep down True, The Girl Below, The Diva Digs up the Dirt
    • A book with something you'd find in your kitchen in the title: Loose Lips Sink Ships, The Knife of Never Letting Go, Breadcrumbs
    • A book with a party or celebration in the title: A Feast for Crows, A Wedding in Haiti, Cocktail Hour under the Tree of Forgetfulness
    • A book with fire (or equivalent) in the title: Burning for Revenge, Fireworks over Toccoa, Catching Fire
    • A book with an emotion in the title: Baltimore Blues, Say You're Sorry, Dreams of Joy
    • A book with lost or found (or equivalent) in the title: The Book of Lost Fragrances, The World We Found, A Discovery of Witches
    Books may be any form (audio, print, e-book), books may overlap other challenges, books may not overlap categories. Creativity for matching the categories is not only allowed but encouraged. You do not have to make a list of books before hand and you do not have to read through the categories in any particular order.

    To learn more about the challenge or sign up please go here.

    The Colorful Reading Challenge 2013

    The Colorful Reading Challenge is simple:
    1. Just choose 9 books with colors in the titles.
    2. The books can overlap with other reading challenges (because let's face it, we need them to.)
    3. Post your links to your reviews each month to share with other participants.
    4. The challenge runs from January 1, 2013 to December 1, 2013.
    5. Read to your heart's content!

    To learn more about the challenge or sign up please go here.

      Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge 2013: Scattergories

    This challenge runs from January 1, 2013 to December 31, 2013. All novels must have been originally written before 1960 and be from the mystery category. To complete the challenge you need to read books from minimum 8 of the following categories:

    1. Colorful Crime: a book with a color or reference to color in the title
    2. Murder by the Numbers: a book with a number, quantity in the title
    3. Amateur Night: a book with a "detective" who is not a P.I.; Police Officer; Official Investigator (Nurse Keate, Father Brown, Miss Marple, etc.)
    4. Leave It to the Professionals: a book featuring cops, private eyes, secret service, professional spies, etc.
    5. Jolly Old England: one mystery set in Britain
    6. Yankee Doodle Dandy: one mystery set in the United States
    7. World Traveler: one mystery set in any country except the US or Britain
    8. Dangerous Beasts: a book with an animal in the title (The Case of the Grinning Gorilla; The Canary Murder Case; etc.)
    9. A Calendar of Crime: a mystery with a date/holiday/year/month/etc. in the title (Hercule Poirot's Christmas, Holiday Homicide, etc.)
    10. Wicked Women: a book with a woman in the title--either by name (Mrs. McGinty's Dead) or by reference (The Case of the Vagabound Virgin)
    11. Malicious Men: a book with a man in the title--either by name (Maigret & the Yellow Dog) or by reference (The Case of the Haunted Husband)
    12. Murderous Methods: a book with a means of death in the title (The Noose, 5 Bullets, Deadly Nightshade, etc).
    13. Staging the Crime: a mystery set in the entertainment world (the theater, musical event, a pageant, Hollywood, featuring a magician, etc)
    14. Scene of the Crime: a book with the location of the crime in the title (The Body in the Library, Murder at the Vicarage, etc.)
    15. Cops & Robbers: a book that features a theft rather than murder
    16. Locked Rooms: a locked-room mystery
    17. Country House Criminals: a standard (or not-so-standard) Golden Age country house murder
    18. Murder on the High Seas: a mystery involving water
    19. Planes, Trains & Automobiles: a mystery that involves a mode of transportation in a vital way--explicitly in the title (Murder on the Orient Express) or by implication (Death in the Air; Death Under Sail) or perhaps the victim was shoved under a bus....
    20. Murder Is Academic: a mystery involving a scholar, teacher, librarian, etc. OR set at a school, university, library, etc.
    21. Things That Go Bump in the Night: a mystery with something spooky, creepy, gothic in the title (The Skeleton in the Clock, Haunted Lady, The Bat, etc.)
    22. Repeat Offenders: a mystery featuring your favorite series detective or by your favorite author (the books/authors you'd read over and over again) OR reread an old favorite
    23. The Butler Did It...Or Not: a mystery where the butler is the victim, the sleuth....(gasp) the criminal....or is just downright memorable for whatever reason.
    24. A Mystery By Any Other Name: any book that has been published under more than one title (Murder Is Easy--aka Easy to Kill [Christie];Fog of Doubt--aka London Particular [Christianna Brand], etc.)
    25. Dynamic Duos: a mystery featuring a detective team--Holmes & Watson, Pam & Jerry North, Wolfe & Goodwin, or....a little-known team that you introduce to us.
    26. Size Matters: a book with a size or measurement in the title (Death Has a Small Voice, The Big Four, The Weight of the Evidence, etc.)
    27. Psychic Phenomena: a mystery featuring a seance, medium, hypnotism, or other psychic or "supernatural" characters/events
    28. Book to Movie: one vintage mystery that has appeared on screen (feature film or TV movie).
    29. The Old Bailey: a courtroom drama mystery (Perry Mason, anyone?Witness for the Prosecution...etc.) 
    30. Get Out of Jail Free: This is a freebie category. One per customer. You tell me what special category the book fits ("It's got an awesome cover!"..."First book I grabbed off my shelf") and it counts. Only thing I won't take is "It's a Vintage Mystery!"--that's a given. :-)

    To learn more about the challenge or sign up please go here.

    Books On France 2013 Reading Challenge

    For this challenge all books related to France count: 
    • it can be set in France,
    • written by a French author,
    • written in French (not Canadian French),
    • about a French theme: French cuisine (how the French influenced American cuisine is accepted for instance), French fashion, etc.

    I'm going to go for level 2, “beaucoup”= 6 books, which is enough for the beginning, I think.

    To learn more about the challenge or sign up please go here.

    New Authors Challenge 2013

    • The challenge will run from January 1, 2013 through December 31, 2013.
    • Since this is an author challenge, there is no restriction on choosing your novels. They can definitely be from other challenges. However, the authors must be new to you and, preferably from novels.
    • Anthologies are a great way to try someone new, but only a third of your new authors can be from anthologies.

    I'm going to try 25 new authors in 2013.

    To learn more about the challenge or sign up please go here.

    Narrative Poem Reading Challenge 2013

    • The challenge will start on January 2013 and end on December 2013.
    • Only narrative poems will be counted. If it's just a good poem, but not a narrative poem, it doesn't count.
    • The length of the poems may vary, from long epics such as Illiad and Odyssey to Poe's The Raven. Don't worry about it. If you read a collection of narrative poems, you may write a review for each poem or as a group of it. But please put all reviews in the master post that will come later on..

    I am aiming at Orpheus level (5 – 8 narrative poems) and here is the list of boos I plan to read for the challenge (may change!):
    • Chaucer, Geoffrey: The Canterbury Tales
    • Ovid: Metamorphoses
    • Milton, John: Paradise Lost
    • Scott, Sir Walter: The Lady of the Lake
    • Virgil: Aeneid
    • Coleridge, Samuel Taylor: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
    • Re-read some Scandinavian mythology or Tolkien (?)

    To learn more about the challenge or sign up please go here.

    2013 Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge

    2013 Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge hosted by The Book Vixen

    Reading Challenge Details:
    • Runs January 1, 2013 – December 31, 2013 (books read prior to 1/1/2013 do not count towards the challenge).
    • The goal is to outdo yourself by reading more books in 2013 than you did in 2012. You can move up a level as often as you’d like but no moving down.
    • Books can be any format (bound, ebook, audio).
    • Novellas that are at least 100 pages in length, as well as full-length novels, will count for this reading challenge.
    • Re-reads and crossovers from other reading challenges are allowed.

    I'm going for "Out of breath" level, which is to read 6-10 more books in 2013 than in 2012. I'll fill in the concrete number by the end of 2012.

    To learn more about the challenge or sign up please go here.

    2013 Ebook Challenge

    It's not actually a challenge for me, as I read mostly on my Sony reader, but... it can be fun! I've chosen level 4 - Memory stick – 50 ebooks, but I hope I'll be able to go up to the next level with 75 ebooks. I will not plan my books in advance, but I'll submit reviews.

    To learn more about the challenge or sign up please go here.

    Monthly Key Word Reading Challenge

    The task is to read one book each month whose title includes one or more of the key words for that month.
    A title can be a variation on one of the key words. For example, a title could include the word 'snowing' or 'snowflake' even though the key word is 'snow.' Key words can be tweaked. For example, "Cinder" or "Ashes" can count for the key word 'Fire' and that would be just fine. If the key word is 'family' then a title could include the word 'sister' or 'mother.' If the key word is 'food' then a title could include the word 'cake.'

    Monthly Key Words:

    To learn more about the challenge or sign up please go here.

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