November 27, 2013

Chess Story by Stefan Zweig (Review)

Title: Chess Story
Author: Stefan Zweig
First published: 1941
Add it: Goodreads, The Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★★

Writing this review is gonna be difficult, so where do I start? Let's try to begin with the obvious, superficial plot. The author is on a ship, and he learns that the world chess champion Czentovic is travelling too. The champion has a very bad temper, but the author and his wealthy acquaintance manage to coax him into a play against all the enthusiasts on board. Needless to say, he wins game after game, unless a mysterious adviser appears in the group of desperate amateurs, who helps them to find a way from a tough situation and draw the game. Everybody is intrigued and ask him to play against Czentovic again. Reluctantly, he agrees, but he seems to be nervous about it, and soon the author hears his full story and learns how he has mastered chess so well.

That's pretty all that can be said about the plot of this short novella, but then it goes deeper into the remembrances of that mysterious player, and there are all the reflections about Nazi occupation, mental anguish, psychological conflicts and many more. This really cannot be described in a short review, so my only advise for you is to read it. These two hours of your reading life will not be spent in vain.

Interesting trivia: it's the last work of Zweig, he wrote it just before committing suicide in his residence in Brasil. So it's pretty desperate and reflects his view of the state of humankind in Europe.

In my book:
Dark and disturbing, but irresistibly fascinating.

November 24, 2013

The Arthurian Literature Reading Challenge 2014

This awesome challenge is hosted by Jean at Howling Frog Books, and if you want to know more and sign up (and believe me, you do!), please go HERE.

I'm super-excited about it, and I hope to do the Paladin level, which requires reading more than 6 works, two of which may be Recent (1950+) and two must be Old (pre-1800). What books am I planning to read in particular? Below I've listed what seems to me to be the most important works in Arthurian canon. There are much more, but those in the list are famous and/or classical. (I couldn't use English Wikipedia page, because it's too overwhelming, so I used the Russian one instead.)

Some of the books from the list I have read before, but I've still put them here for consistency's sake. I'm planning to go through the ones I haven't read in chronological order until I'm run out of enthusiasm or unless I have to skip something because of its insufferable nature (The Faerie Queene, I'm looking at you). We'll see how many I'll get through by the end of next year :) I'll track my progress here and link my reviews to this list.

1. Historia Brittonum attributed to Nennius (9th century)
2. The works of Geoffrey of Monmouth:
· The History of the Kings of Britain (1136)
· Life of Merlin (1150)
3. Mabinogion by Anonymous (14th century)
4. The poems of Chrétien de Troyes:
· Erec and Enide (circa 1170s)
· Cligés (circa 1170s)
· Yvain, the Knight of the Lion (circa 1180s)
· Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart (circa 1180s)
· Perceval, the Story of the Grail (circa 1190)
5. The poems of Hartmann von Aue:
· Iwein (late 12th century)
· Erec (late 12th century)
6. Parzival by Wolfram von Eschenbach (c. 1210s)
7. Lancelot-Grail by Anonymous (c. 1210s-1230s)
· Estoire del Saint Grail
· Estoire de Merlin
· Lancelot propre
· Queste del Saint Graal
· Mort Artu
8. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by The Pearl Poet (14th century)
9. Le Morte d'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory (1485)
10. The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser 1590
11. Idylls of the King by Alfred  by Lord Tennyson (1856–1885)
12. King Arthur by Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1848–9)
13. The Defence of Guenevere by William Morris (1892)
14. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain (1889)
15. The Once and Future King by T. H. White
· The Sword in the Stone (1938)
· The Queen of Air and Darkness (or The Witch in the Wood) (1939)
· The Ill-Made Knight (1940)
· The Candle in the Wind (1958)
· The Book of Merlyn (1958)
16. The Merlin series by Mary Stewart
· The Crystal Cave (1970)
· The Hollow Hills (1973)
· The Last Enchantment (1979)
· The Wicked Day (1983)
· The Prince and the Pilgrim (1995)
17. The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights by John Steinbeck (1975)
18. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley (1983)
19. The Coming of the King: The First Book of Merlin by Nikolai Tolstoy (1988)
20. The Warlord Chronicles by Bernard Cornwell
· The Winter King (1995)
· Enemy of God (1996)
· Excalibur (1997)

What do you think of the list? Haven't I left out something important or awesome? I can't wait to kick the challenge off! :)

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card (Review)

Title: Ender's Game
Author: Orson Scott Card
First published: 1977
Add it: Goodreads, The Book Depository
Rating: ★★★☆☆

I was expecting to love this book, as everybody who have read it are just crazy about it, beginning with my BF. Well, this didn't happen. Why? Well, let's begin with the plot.

The book tells about a future in which children are trained to command in space wars, because their minds are still flexible and sharp. So they are all monitored, and the most suitable are chosen and sent to a battle school for further training. Ender is one of them, although not quite, because he is the chosen one best of the best, and he is pushed to his limits in training, as the invasion is supposedly approaching and he is to be the commander in chief of the whole fleet.

Reading this was a very disturbing experience for me, because it's all about children wars. Now, I think children can be awfully creepy and violent, and giving them real weapons is the worst idea ever. Letting them solve their problems by themselves inevitably ends up in a Lord of the Flies kind of situations, and I really, really don't like it. I also found it hard to believe that children at 6 can have some genius tactical plans, and pass as adults on the Internet at 12. And they are all deadly serious, always! Creeps.

Well, maybe it's just me, and nobody else has these problems, I don't know. I see how this book has a lot of great stuff that people like. Take scientific predictions, for example: there are tablets, drone warfare and Internet politics, all very believable. Wonderful, considering it was written in 1977! There is also null gravity, aliens, spaceships, and much more. It just didn't hold together for me very well because of the creepy children.

I read the book as a preparation for the new movie, and now when I can compare them, I think that movie is actually better (gasp!). They left out some of the pathetic gibberish, and made some really nice special effects. I know, I know, I'm not very demanding, I just like a beautiful and entertaining picture on the screen! :)

There was some hype lately about Card's homophobic views, so let me assure you there's nothing of this in the book! One of its main ideas is actually the necessity to reach out and understand those who are different from us, quite the opposite!

In my book:
It's a good, solid Sci-Fi, just didn't work for me.

November 21, 2013

My Own Definitive Science Fiction List With Blackjack And Hookers

In preparation for Carl's Sci-Fi Experience and The Vintage Sci-Fi Month, I'm joining Rinn's Sci-Fi Challenge, because I rather like her definitive list. I've learned about this challenge from Riv, who has posted her own list here, with some awesome additions.

So for my own version I'm keeping the books from both Rinn's and Riv's lists, with the addition of some of my own favourites. I've made this list even more representative of Soviet/Russian Sci-Fi, because heck, I know a thing or two about it! I was trying to behave and not to put all Lukyanenko, Strugatsky brothers and Belayev there, although it was really hard to choose just one or two of their books. I hope you find something new here, and as for me, I'm on my way to fill the gaps and read the books that are not crossed out yet :)

'Classic' science fiction
1. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
2. I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

3. Foundation by Isaac Asimov
4. The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard
5. Amphibian Man by Alexander Belayev
6. Heart of a Dog by Mikhail Bulgakov
7. Abduction of a Sorcerer by Kir Bulychov
8. The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
9. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
10. Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke
11. 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke

12. R.U.R. by Karel Čapek
13. The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
14. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
15. The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
16. Dune by Frank Herbert
17. Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein
18. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
19. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
20. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

21. Solaris by Stanislaw Lem
22. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
23. A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.
24. Ringworld by Larry Niven
25. The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven
26. Sannikov Land by Vladimir Obruchev
27. 1984 by George Orwell

28. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
29. A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
30. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

31. Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon
32. Hard to Be a God by Arkady & Boris Strugatsky
33. Roadside Picnic by Arkady & Boris Strugatsky
34. The Garin Death Ray by Alexei Nikolayevich Tolstoy
35. Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne
36. Twenty-thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
37. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
38. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

39. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
40. The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
41. The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham
42. We by Yevgeni Zamyatin

Newer science fiction
43. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Attwood
44. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
45. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
46. Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks
47. The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
48. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
49. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
50. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
51. Guardians of Paradise by Jaine Fenn
52. Neuromancer by William Gibson
53. The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
54. Labyrinth of Reflections by Sergei Lukyanenko
55. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
56. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
57. Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan
58. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
59. The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi
60. House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds
61. Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds
62. Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
63. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
64. Old Man's War by John Scalzi
65. Hyperion by Dan Simmons
66. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
67. Mockingbird by Walter Tevis

Young Adult science fiction
68. Ultraviolet by R.J. Anderson
69. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
70. Breathe by Sarah Crossan
71. The Maze Runner by James Dashner
72. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
73. Earth Girl by Janet Edwards
74. Legend by Marie Lu
75. Cinder by Melissa Meyer
76. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
77. Across the Universe by Beth Revis
78. Divergent by Veronica Roth
79. All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill
80. What's Left Of Me by Kat Zhang

Sooo, what do you think about this list? Sounds great, right? :)

R2D2 is approving:

November 20, 2013

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (Enthusiastic Review)

Title: The Lies of Locke Lamora
Author: Scott Lynch
First published: 2006
Add it: Goodreads, The Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★★

I've finished reading The Lies of Locke Lamora late this night. So late it was actually nearly morning. I just couldn't put it down, because it's one amazing bastard of a book: it doesn't let you do anything else at all! You are lucky if you at least remember to eat, sleep and visit the bathroom while reading it. Forget about being reasonable, making stuff done or looking nice, it's totally useless, I tell you. :)

First, I need to thank Sarah at Sarah Says Read, whose wonderful review prompted me to actually read this novel, which I had already been eyeing for some time then. I don't usually expect to see something REALLY new in fantasy books these times. It's probably a pessimistic approach, but the more I read, the more repetitive stuff I see. But The Lies of Locke Lamora was a fresh whiff, because it not only builds a beautiful and unique world, populated with awesome characters, it also sets up all kinds of CONS in it, some well-planned and elaborate, and some - brilliantly improvised.

Now, let me confess that I LOVE cons. Some of my favorite movies and series are about con men: Leverage, Hustle, Now You See Me, Ocean's Eleven/Twelve/etc. to name some. So the charming gang of Locke immediately won my sympathies. They style themselves Gentlemen Bastards, and the things they can pull off with the rich and unaware are incredible! Of course, there are minds in their city that can match theirs, and some of them are not happy with having Lamora's gang around...

Apart from an amusing and at times really surprising plot, The Lies of Locke Lamora has a wonderful setting: it's a city styled after medieval Venice, with channels, islands, dirt, smells, plagues, gangs and weird celebrations. It's dark and wet and menacing, and there are mysterious Elderglass towers overlooking it, a legacy of some long vanished civilization and the residence of the Duke and his nobility.

To finish the praise I'll just add that the humor in the book is unfailing. I'm very picky as regards humor, and it's difficult to please me in this aspect, but plot twists and witty dialogues in this novel made me smile all the time. But please don't think that it's just a fun book! It is fun, but it does have some really dark parts too, because you can't expect everything to always go well if you are a thief in such a place. And these parts are equally well-written and are sometimes heartbreaking.

In my book:
Read it now! Seriously, don't wait! You are missing something really cool!

November 18, 2013

SOS - Help Needed!

I need your help, my dear friends, so solve a very difficult problem that I'm facing with the approaching December. Winter is coming, and there are 4 read-a-longs of some daunting books that I really want to read, plus a Sci-Fi event that I will be participating in, and I totally don't know which to choose! The problem is, as usual, the lack of time: December for me is not only the end of the semester, it's also a long-expected visit home for the time when Catholics have Christmas and a high time to start preparing for the January exams. So I HAVE to choose ONE of these difficult chunky classics, because I will not be able to read more. So how about I list my options here and you tell me what you think I should choose? I'd so appreciate it!

Option 1: Middlemarch readalong at Too Fond, running from December 1st to 31st

- is on my Classics Club list
- it was my Classics Spin title, so it's kind of... destiny?
- I've already started it in March and read the first part
- there's a clear weekly plan for the readalong. I love schedules!
- it's supposed to be very satirical, multi-layered and enjoyable... hm..

- there's a reason I abandoned it after the first part, and I'm not sure I will not be suffering the same this time
- it's 900 f***ing pages!

Option 2: A Tale of Two Cities readalong at An Armchair By The Sea, running from December 1st to 22nd

- I've meant to read it for a long time
- December kind of suits for reading Dickens
- I like the button
- it's only 400 pages

- it's not on my Classics club list, but I guess I can add another book there. *sighs* It keeps growing...

Option 3: Little Women readalong at Unscripted, running from December 1st to 29th

- it's on my Classics Club list
- it's supposed to be a sweet and easy book, suitable even for children, although full 500 pages long

- I just have this strange feeling I will not like it very much.. But I suppose it's not a valid reason :)

Option 4: Ulysses readalong at Roof Beam Reader, running from December 15th to January 5th

- I'm so afraid of this book I'll never start to read it on my own. Srsly, I'm panicking even when I just think about it. I need an event for this!
- it's the best book for boasting that you have actually read it
- it's also on my Classics Club list

- the timing couldn't be worse: out of 21 days for the readalong, 16 I will be enjoying my visit home, refreshing my distance relationships, buying gifts and then traveling. Not even the relatively calm beginning of December to get me started...

Sooo.. guys, what should I do? I'd really appreciate your opinions on the above-mentioned books to help me decide which one to choose! :)

November 16, 2013

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke (Review)

Title: Inkheart
Author: Cornelia Funke
First published: 2003
Add it: Goodreads, The Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★★

This year's German Literature Month is focusing on female writers, and when I started to think what books to choose, Funke was the only German female writer that came to my mind. The only one! I shamed myself and consulted the Internet, but even after that Inkheart remained the most alluring choice. Well, what can I say, I'm in a really escapist mood right now :) I'm craving something magic and beautiful, and this novel is THE BEST for this!

There is every component of a great children's book in Inkheart: a bunch of scary bad guys, a brave little girl as a protagonist, a really cool dad with a mysterious past, beautiful mountainous settings, chases, fights, magic, and a cute little marten with horns! What makes Inkheart special though, is that it's all about books, about different worlds inside them that are so real they can come to life, about the comfort reading brings in difficult situations and about all the cool books out there that wait to be read. References to some of my own childhood favourites, such as Treasure Island or Pippi Longstocking made me smile more than once.

In my book:
That's a perfect children's book, and it'll make you feel like a child in a wonderland :)

If on a Winter's Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino (Review)

Title: If on a Winter's Night a Traveller
Author: Italo Calvino
First published: 1979
Add it: Goodreads, The Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★★

It's a meta-book. It's a book about books. It's a book about you reading books. And yes, it's every inch as crazy as this description makes it sound! My feelings while reading the novel were something like "Ha-ha, Calvino, what are you doing to me? Stoooop, you bastard!". No wonder I couldn't slow down enough to read along with the guys from this wonderful event. I HAD to know what else he had in store for me!

The book focuses on a Reader - you, who has just bought a new Calvino book If on a Winter's Night a Traveller and is starting to read it. The first chapter totally grips you, but then... you discover that there is some printing mess, and the rest of the pages are from some other book. You go to the bookshop to scandal, but they could do nothing, and so you start a hunt for the book, exploring more and more book beginnings which have nothing to do with the book you have started to read... Sometime on the way you meet a beautiful female Reader, who joins you in your quest. Where it'll bring you? Ha, if only you knew...

Incorporated in this one novel there are a total of 10 book beginnings of different genres, with different settings, characters and plots. And they are ALL worth to be stand-alone novels if only they had the chance. It's amazing how Calvino plays with different styles and how unbelievably good he is at any and all of them. Somewhere in the middle of the book I felt frustration that I'm not to know how all these stories end, but then I started to think that it's really not necessary. I mean, if you recognize the genre of the book, you can very well predict what kinds of events will happen there. So do you actually need to read the book just to make sure? Isn't it better to guess?

In the intermissions between the book beginnings there are some really interesting thoughts and musings on reading-related topics. Calvino describes in detail the processes of preparing to open a new book, of visiting a bookshop, of participating in a book club... He lets the reader meet different types of bookish people: a researcher, a publisher, a writer, a non-reader and many more. It's not very fair, I think, as everybody reading this novel is a reader, so literally everybody reading it is bound to find something to relate to. So it's good to keep in mind that Calvino is playing with you and not to take it seriously :)

In my book:
It's a great novel, very readable, very amusing, and yet very thoughtful and sometimes frustrating. Not recommended to people who need a closure to everything - it can really piss them off :) Otherwise - it's a book for you and about you, reader, so go read it!

November 11, 2013

The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike (Review)

Title: The Witches of Eastwick
Author: John Updike
First published: 1984
Add it: Goodreads, The Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★★

This is one of those books you don't know how to start writing about. Not only has it layers upon layers of meaning, it is also so enchanting that you are afraid that the charm will be broken from your amateur jabber. But in spite of being intimidated and feeling totally unequal to the task, I'll try, because to pass over this book in silence would be very unfair.

The story takes place in a small rural town of Eastwick, where everybody know each other (and some of them has even slept with almost everybody they know) and where in the sleepy atmosphere of quiet contempt a coven of three witches is formed. They are all middle-aged women, divorced and not caring much for their children. What they care about is their womanliness, their self-actualization and their powers. Now this is tricky, because their powers are very subtle, like when they wish somebody to break their leg, sometime later they do. A "reasonable" person can find millions of plausible explanations why it's just an accident, but when these incidents repeat, nobody doubts that this is witchcraft. Sometimes they become very nasty, but they try to think they are only tools of some Nature's purpose.

All goes relatively well in the town and in their coven before a new menacing resident Darryl Van Horne appears in an old mansion on the shore. He lures all three of them to his house, joins in their Sabbaths and tries to challenge them to do something new and bigger with their lives. He manipulates them to think that each of them is special to him, and this diabolic influence destroys their fragile idyll. Horrible things start to happen in the town, and the witches' powers change.

Now I'm not sure I can judge the plausibility of the described feelings and thoughts of middle-aged women, because I'm too young for that, but I find them very believable, and I was wondering how a man could have written such a book. The other wonderful thing is the structure of the narrative, where everything has its meaning and fits in its place: the seasons, the holidays, the coming and leaving of characters - all is perfectly adjusted. And the writing is just mesmerizing.

In my book:
Not an easy book to read, but totally worth it. It is disturbing and scary at times, but not in the supernatural way. It's the horror of a woman's nature, so nothing to be done with this :)

November 8, 2013

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle (Review)

Title: The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
Author: Arthur Conan Doyle
First published: 1893
Add it: Goodreads, The Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★★

This is the second collection of Sherlock Holmes short stories, and the one where he dies (which is hardly a spoiler, as well as that he will be revived again :) )  Needless to say, the last story, the one with prof. Moriarty, Reichenbach falls and the last confrontation between the "Napoleon of crime" and the most famous "consulting detective" of all times, is the most awesome of all. It's actually a thriller, not a mystery, as there is no case in the story, but the mood is perfect for waving goodbye to Sherlock. It's very sad. What is also surprising is that it's also the first story in which Moriarty appears ever, and what a powerful character this obscure maths professor immediately becomes! It's like Irene Adler: she is also mentioned only in one short story and yet, as Moriarty, she is present in every S.H. adaptation since then.

As for other stories, I especially liked "The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual", "The Adventure of the Reigate Squire" and "Silver Blaze". The first one is about treasure hunt, the latter two are sometimes really funny, and all involve some nice deductions. I was however a bit disappointed with "The Adventure of the Stockbroker's Clerk", because it reminded me so much of "The Adventure of the Red-Headed League". They are really twin stories and I was wondering if Doyle had run out of plots or he was simply experimenting how the same device would work in a slightly different story.

In my book:
Although this collection doesn't contain as many all-time favourites as The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, it is very nice overall, and the ending is just wonderful!

November 1, 2013

Let's Read Plays Wrap Up

A year long Let's Read Plays challenge is at an end, and although I can't say I've read everything I had planned to, it was a success for me anyway :)

Here is what my year-long plan looked like:
  • Nov '12 - Shakespeare's Tragedy: Macbeth by William Shakespeare
  • Dec '12 - Shakespeare's Comedy: Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
  • Jan '13 - freebie: A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
  • Feb '13 - Shakespeare's History: Henry V by William Shakespeare
  • Mar '13 - Greek: Oedipus the King by Sophocles
  • Apr '13 - Shakespeare's Comedy: A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare
  • May '13 - Shakespeare's Tragedy: Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
  • Jun '13 - Oscar Wilde: An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde
  • Jul '13 - Other author: The Seagull by Anton Chekhov
  • Aug '13 - Shakespeare's Comedy: As You Like It by William Shakespeare
  • Sep '13 - freebie: The Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov
  • Oct '13 - Shakespeare's Tragedy: Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

So, as you see, I've managed to read 10 out of 12 plays. I've missed May and June because of ridiculously huge work and study load, and I knew that if I make myself catch up, the pressure will make me drop it altogether. Besides, those two plays were re-reads anyway.

My favourite was Macbeth. Witches, prophesies, ghosts, menacing atmosphere and AMAZING strong characters (Lady Macbeth, I'm looking at you!) - what else do you need in a play? :) The close second place is shared by A Streetcar Named Desire, The Seagull and Julius Caesar. I didn't really enjoy Shakespeare's comedies a lot, and the only one I can recommend is A Midsummer Night's Dream, which is rather nice in comparison with the others. Sophocles also didn't impress me at all. Chekhov is an all-time favourite of mine, and I will definitely be rereading all his plays someday.

It was a very well-organized event, which worked very well for me, as I read some amazing books, which otherwise I might have put off for a looooong time. Thanks a lot for organizing it, Fanda! I'll be looking forward to any of your future events, as you are a great host! :)

Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare (Review)

Title: Julius Caesar
Author: William Shakespeare
First published: 1599
Add it: Goodreads, The Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★★

For me Shakespeare's tragedies work much better than comedies. He has this sixth sense as to how to make them pathetic and believable, dramatic and realistic at the same time. And no 16-century weird humour, thank you!

Julius Caesar tells about - guess, what? Correct, about the assassination of Julius Caesar. But it's a mistake to think the guy is the main character in the play - the centre of everything is rather Brutus, who is struggling between his love to Caesar and his duty as a citizen. The most interesting part of the plot is all the polemics about the necessity and reasons to kill Caesar. On the one hand, he is a great and very estimated man, but on the other hand he is on the verge of being asked to become an emperor, and this no free citizen can abide. I also really loved how Brutus and Antony in turns bring the mob to their side, people changing their opinions cardinally in a matter of 5 minutes just because of some words they hear. The power of rhetoric!

Brutus is a very well-developed character: principled, valiant and thoughtful. His is a really tragic figure, as he knows all the consequences of his deed, but he still does it because of his beliefs and in spite of personal feelings. Another favourite of mine is Portia, Brutus's wife, who will not be treated as merely a wife and a woman, but rather as an advisor and friend. Her idea of a marriage is sharing not only a bed and a table, but also thoughts, anxieties and plans. Rather modern!

Let's finish, as usual, with some wonderful quotes:

"Cowards die many times before their deaths;"

Portia's greatest phrase:
"I have a man's mind, but a woman's might."

"The ides of March are come.
Ay, Caesar; but not gone."

A great judicial principle for all times:
"What touches us ourself shall be last served."

Very meta:
"<...> How many ages hence
Shall this our lofty scene be acted over
In states unborn and accents yet unknown!"

Brutus's reasoning:
"Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more. <...> As Caesar loved me, I weep for him; as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was valiant, I honour him: but, as he was ambitious, I slew him."

About historical judgement:
"The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;"

"When love begins to sicken and decay,
It useth an enforced ceremony."

"Words before blows"

And my personal favourite:
"There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries."

In my book:
A beautiful tragedy with a lot of controversial moral loading. Great characters, great dialogues! One of the Shakespeare's best plays!

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