Archive for the ‘Literature’ Category

8
Jan

Nathan Filer wins Costa first-novel award with “The Shock of the Fall”

Written on January 8, 2014 by Administrador de IE Blogs in Literature

SHOCK-OF-THE-FALLNathan Filer still does the odd Sunday shift as a registered mental healthnurse, although they may well become less frequent after his debut novel – originally the subject of an 11-publisher bidding war – was on Monday night named winner of one of the UK’s leading book prizes.

The comedian Jo Brand has called The Shock of the Fall “one of the best books about mental illness” and judges for the Costa book awardssaid it was a novel “so good it will make you feel a better person”.

It was named as one of five category winners for the Costas and will go forward to compete for the overall book of the year prize, to be decided later this month.

Filer, 32, won in the best first novel category for a story about a young man’s dramatic descent into mental illness, although the author said he hopes it is about more than that.

“It’s a story about a family coming to terms with grief and it is a character study of Matthew Holmes and one of the things about him is that he’s got schizophrenia. But it’s not a novel about schizophrenia and it’s not a novel about the NHS,” said the author.

Having said that, Filer admitted a responsibility not to propagate myths around schizophrenia, a condition that is still “misunderstood and misrepresented”, he said. “If you ask the man in the street you will still get lots of people taking about split personality, which is completely bogus … and violence which of course can be associated with it but more often isn’t.”

The book, which took Filer three years to write, is based on his MA at Bath Spa University where he now lectures in creative writing. But the story has been on his mind for far longer. “I first started thinking of the main character when I was training as a nurse in 2003 so I’ve been mulling over it for years,” he said.

Filer, also a regular fixture on the stand up poetry circuit, said being a mental health nurse was fulfilling as well as frustrating. “It is not a terribly good time to get unwell at the moment or need NHS services for mental illness. There are a lot of cuts and beds closing. It is a difficult time to be a nurse, it’s a very difficult time to be a patient,” he said.

Continue reading in The Guardian

2
Jan

‘Bullfight’, by Yasushi Inoue

Written on January 2, 2014 by Administrador de IE Blogs in Literature

bullfightYasushi Inoue has been called one of the best Japanese novelists you’ve never heard of. A prolific writer, he produced some 50 novels and nearly 200 novellas and short stories during a career that spanned four decades from the late 1940s until his death in 1991. He was sometimes mentioned as a possible Nobel Prize winner, but was never selected.

Much of his oeuvre comprises meticulously recreated historical fiction, but another strand of his work deals with the social and economic realities of postwar Japan. Bullfight, the story of a small-time newspaper editor’s bold, possibly foolhardy, plan to stage a bullfight in an Osaka baseball stadium, is one of those. Beautifully translated by Michael Emmerich, the 128-page novella is a disarmingly simple tale of ambition and entrepreneurial daring set against the background of a bombed-out country struggling to its feet.

In 1949, when Inoue wrote Bullfight, he was already 42, yet it was only his second work of fiction. It went on to win the prestigious Akutagawa Prize. Although Inoue himself describes the book as hovering between “beginner’s enthusiasm” and “youthful ungainliness”, the story is written in tight, confident prose. Like river water flowing over pebbles, the words reveal rather than obscure meaning, which flashes beneath the transparent surface.

The story takes place just a year after Japan’s surrender. The country is shattered but returning to some kind of normality. A college friend of Tsugami, the protagonist newspaper editor, has died at war but his “bones had not yet come home”. The public is still accustomed to “oafish wartime papers”, not the free-spirited publication Tsugami runs. Temple bells in Kyoto, long silenced by war, ring in the new year. Inoue’s prose contains more than meets the eye. One character is dressed in “elegant attire, from his impeccably white collar to the tips of his well-polished shoes, everything the best that could be had these days”. The words “these days” seem almost an afterthought, yet hint at daily deprivation.

Continue reading in Financial Times

26
Dec

‘The War That Ended Peace,’ by Margaret MacMillan

Written on December 26, 2013 by Administrador de IE Blogs in Literature

The War That Ended Peace - Margaret MacMillanPresident John F. Kennedy once remarked that “in 1914, with most of the world already plunged in war, Prince Bulow, the former German chancellor, said to the then-chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg: ‘How did it all happen?’ And Bethmann-Hollweg replied: ‘Ah, if only one knew.’ If this planet is ever ravaged by nuclear war,” Kennedy went on, “if the survivors of that devastation can then endure the fire, poison, chaos and catastrophe, I do not want one of those survivors to ask another, ‘How did it all happen?’ and to receive the incredible reply, ‘Ah, if only one knew.’ ”

The anecdote about World War I came from Barbara Tuchman’s best-selling history “The Guns of August,” in which Tuchman explored the immediate origins and first weeks of the war. The book inspired Kennedy to install a tape system in the White House, including the Oval Office, to ensure an accurate record of decision-making. It was still on his mind as he confronted the Cuban missile crisis. “I am not,” the president told his brother Bobby, “going to follow a course which will allow anyone to write a comparable book about this time: ‘The Missiles of October.’ ”

Where Tuchman influenced President Kennedy and the popular imagination, Fritz Fischer, a year earlier, had become the touchstone for historians. His hugely controversial account, “Germany’s Aims in the First World War,” published in English in 1967, accused Germany of intentionally starting the war. Historians since have all weighed in on the blame game. Of recent scholarship, Max Hastings backs Fischer in holding Germany responsible; Sean McMeekin argues it was Russia’s fault; Niall Ferguson points the finger at Britain; while Christopher Clark shows Europe “sleepwalking” into war. Despite these bold and often compelling accounts, the case remains unsettled.

The scale of the disaster that followed the events of August 1914 complicates the historian’s task. “Loss of a generation” was a lament heard around Europe when the war was over. The conflict claimed 20 million military and civilian lives, with a further 21 million wounded. For some countries the burden was greater than others. While Britain, France and Germany lost between 2 and 3 percent of their total populations, Serbia suffered a staggering 15 percent depletion. Such losses had seemed unthinkable when the war began.

Continue reading in The New York Times

29
Nov

Book presentation: “Thoughts Translated” by Goldie Nanwani

Written on November 29, 2013 by Administrador de IE Blogs in Literature

Attachment-1_Snapseed_SnapseedIE India Club Madrid Chapter is pleased to invite you to the presentation of Goldie Nanwani’s debut book – “Thoughts translated”. 

Goldie Nanwani is a woman of Indian origin, born and brought up in Spain, who has received her secondary and higher education in the United Kingdom. Her exposure to both the Indian and Western cultures has enabled her to spend many years understanding the differences between both. She currently lives in Barcelona and is working mum, with two young children. She speaks four languages fluently and started writing quite accidentally at the tender age of 13. As an eagle-eyed and observant woman, she has learnt to pay attention to the details and often tries to identify with a situation that she either hears about or visualises and later her thoughts give birth to a poem or an article.

In her first book “Thoughts Translated”, she has transmitted strong hues of her Indian roots, covering a myriad of subjects from basic relationships, health and fitness to emotional states of the mind. Thoughts Translated is a collection of inspirational poems and lifestyle articles which all contain strong flavours of spirituality. They are written in a simple manner, facilitating anyone a read.There are intense moments of humor, depth, pain and above all lots of sensitivity. Thoughts Translated is a book which can be called a companion for most men and women, as they can recognize and identify themselves in it on many levels.

Structure of the event:

Goldie will do a reading of three pieces that have been chosen either from her book or taken from her successful blog Thoughtstranslated.com, and offer the audience an opportunity for questions later.

1. “0 to 21” – Poem

2. “Marriage, is it for everyone?” – Article

3. “The Power of Positive Energy” – Article

The book will be available for sale and the author will be happy to sign copies.

The event will take place on December 3rd at 6pm. If you wish to register please click here

20
Nov

A tribute to a world literature classic

Written on November 20, 2013 by Administrador de IE Blogs in Literature

Marcel-Proust-001

France is commemorating the 100th anniversary of the first volume of Proust’s ‘In Search of Lost Time’ with new editions of the work and unseen letters

Nearly everything there is to write about Proust has been written already, but not so about In Search of Lost Time proper, because it is a classic. And the thing about classics is that they have a mysterious ability to take on new meaning with each successive generation. What this work means today is not the same as what it meant back in 1913, when volume one,Swann’s Way, was first published.

The immense universe of In Search of Lost Time was put to readers’ judgment just ahead of World War I through an initial fragment that made it impossible to guess the scope of the whole. The sheer scale of it was going to be massive, more than 3,000 pages, and it would have been fanciful to predict that those inaugural tiles would later become part of a giant mosaic where they would play an essential, if unpredictable, role. This is the only justification for the tremendous mistake made by Gide when he rejected the manuscript for Gallimard.

Following that first publication came one of the bloodiest conflicts ever to hit the very bloodthirsty Europe. The “Guerre de 14-18,” as the French call it, strongly influenced Proust’s project, and there is nothing quite as chilling as the last volume in the series, Time Regained, which takes the shape of a masked ball that brings together the characters after the war and ends a life that began with the Gothic brightness of the Duchess of Guermantes. After the war there are no more heroes: all the dashing military men, the beautiful ladies, the subtle aristocrats, the seductive teenagers of the fureur de vivre are now but macabre remains of a defunct society. The cycle of life and death is completed in that final, somber scene.

His own work was done, and although Proust did not live long enough to make corrections to the entirety, contemporary readers can read around the unpolished blocks of marble that are The Captive and The Fugitive. This does not mean that these volumes should be avoided altogether — on the contrary, they are required reading — but it is possible to analyze them less attentively than the rest of the material.

The fact that In Search of Lost Timenever feels outdated is partly due to its not being exactly a novel, even though it is one of the greatest ever written. But it is also a lot more than that. Its hundreds of characters possess the verisimilitude of the best realistic portraits, yet they embody iconic states of mind with the same intensity as Odysseus or Don Quixote; that is to say, they are myths representing a precise and chilling review of contemporary human lifestyles and their various fates. To read In Search of Lost Time does not just entail jumping into an extremely intelligent world of fiction — it is also a lesson on how to reflect on our own vices and virtues, our ways of expressing love, our false beliefs, the things we are enslaved to, and our hypocritical truths. It is a veritable encyclopedia of modern humanity, in all its glory and stupidity.

Continue reading in El País

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