Saturday, 29 October 2011

Book Review: Tolstoy -The Resurrection

Tolstoy, Leo. The Resurrection. New York:  Penguin Classics, 1966.

 In Tolstoy’s The Resurrection, the protagonist, Prince Nekhlyudov realizes that the young innocent woman in the jury trial, who is now being sentenced to ten years of penal servitude in Siberia, is his once beloved lover Katusha, who he had impregnated and abandoned ten years earlier. After discovering this Nekhlyudov goes on a mission to absolve himself of the guilt of ruining Katusha ( now the prostitute, named Maslova), to assure that she will not suffer anymore He goes on a spiritual journey of reform and good-will, traveling not only the panoramic  landscape of Russia, going to the far eastern part of Siberia, but into the homes of the peasants who are filthy, and into the gaol where he sees much suffering and in justice towards the prisoners. In this process of reformation, Nekhlyudov realizes that the cruelty and violence that are sanctioned by the Russian government do not help to reform the damned or punishable, but rather, perpetuate their depravity and their hopelessness, thereby creating more crime and rebellion. Nekhlyudov, disliking what is evil in the men around him, was  able to dislike what is evil in himself, and attempted to reform himself.  The hatred he felt for the men in his life lessened when he self-reflected and realized that within himself were the same faults and weaknesses. Knowing this and making a determination to reform himself gave him supreme peace, instead of the original insensitive arrogance he felt towards his countrymen, an arrogance which is a common trait of rich aristocracy.

What I believe Tolstoy was attempting to express in writing The Resurrection
is that each one of us, at every moment is being pulled by either our animal nature, that is selfish and cares solely for our own personal universe, or our spiritual self, which regards the happiness of others, and bring us true lasting happiness and peace. Tolstoy uses the character of Nekhlyudov to stand as metaphor for the dying Russian aristocracy that is insensitive and callous to the sufferings of the  poor, by dong so he indicts the inhumane penal system, and the brutally cruel institution of Russian serfdom. Tolstoy  asks the reader  and society as a whole, to reflect and to part from the hypnosis of social conditioning that believes human life is dispensable.  I think Tolstoy  wrote The Resurrection  to awaken in the hearts of his countrymen compassion and respect for their brothers. Ultimately, this novel has stood the test of time, because one- hundred years later, the simplistic candor of his message is clear, that we alone must liberate ourselves from that human impulse to feel that we can use and exploit others out of our own animal greed and ignorance. Tolstoy enlightens the reader into discovering, that we are all connected and that our happiness is inseparable from others and he wants the reader to engrain with their lives the simple fact that no one is immune to the law of causality and the pain we inflict onto others is eventually felt in our hearts.






All blogs are written by Sabrina Rongstad-Bravo More Tales and Adventures in Sabrina's London Diaries

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Wordless Wednesdays - Jane Austen's Home



                                       A photo of me in Jane Austen's Home in Winchester

                                                For More Wordless Wednesday Participants

All blogs are written by Sabrina Rongstad-Bravo More Tales and Adventures in Sabrina's London Diaries

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Shakespeare Sunday's: Julius Caesar- It's All Greek to Me

It's all Greek to me is something that you say when you do not understand something that is written or said. As in, " I've tried reading the manual, but it's all Greek to me."

This phrase comes from Shakespeare's play, Julius Caesar
.

 Play: Julius Caesar -Act 1. Scene 2
  • Cassius: Did Cicero say anything?
    Casca: Ay, he spoke Greek.
    Cassius: To what effect?
    Casca: Nay, an I tell you that I'll ne'er look you i' the face again: but those that understood him smiled at one another, and shook their heads; but, for mine own part, it was Greek to me.
    • Scene ii

For More Shakespeare and his Contribution to the English Language



All blogs are written by Sabrina Rongstad-Bravo More Tales and Adventures in Sabrina's London Diaries

Friday, 14 October 2011

Book Review: Daniel Deronda by George Eliot

Daniel Deronda (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) (B&N Classics Trade Paper)Daniel Deronda (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) by George Eliot

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Eliot, George. Daniel Deronda. New York. Harper & Row Publishers,1878.





The book Daniel Deronda, written by George Eliot, is a story about selfishness, redemption, and Zionism. It is a social novel in that it speaks about the limited choices women had for financial independence in Victorian England. Gwendolyn, the main protagonist of the story, is a vibrant and outspoken young woman, who gambles not only at the roulette table, but also with life itself. She frequents a Parisian casinos where she gambles. It is here that she meets with the English gentleman Daniel Deronda. Daniel, while rowing down the river Thames, saves a woman, Mirah’s, life, when he finds her trying to drown herself. Mirah, he discovers, is a Jewess and singer and he makes it his mission to help her become happier. In the meanwhile, when Gwendolyn’s parents become ruined, her mother informs her of a position at the home of a bishop where she could work as a governess. She obstinately refuses believing working as governess would be far too demoralizing. Gwendolyn would prefer to marry a man she does not love, the cold aristocrat Henleigh Grandcourt, than work as a governess. As her life with Henliegh Grandcourt becomes daily more and more unbearable, she begins to seek the friendship of Daniel Deronda. In the meanwhile, Daniel, discovering that he is a Jew by birth, marries Mirah and decides to work for a Jewish unified state. Henliegh Grandcourt drowns in a boating accident in Genoa. Gwendolyn is finally free of her obnoxious husband. Daniel becomes an immensely positive influence on Gwendolyn’s life. Daniel tells her, “ Our happiness comes from helping others and not just thinking about us”(483). Gwendolyn resolves to put her wretched past behind her and become a more altruistic person beginning with being a good sister and daughter.



This is a very ambitious novel in which Eliot explores a myriad of human conditions. Eliot explores selfishness vs. altruism with her two characters, Gwendolyn and Daniel Deronda respectively. I like the sensitivity in which Eliot explores the racial issues of Jews living as outsiders in a homogenous society of nineteenth century England. I especially like how she uses Gwendolyn’s character to expose women‘s limited opportunities in Victorian England. Gwendolyn practically prostituted herself out to the wealthy Grandcourt and once she was married she had to live as a slave to his patriarchal rules. I believe Eliot was showing the reader society’s low estimation of women, women not having rights as far as property, education, marriage and divorce are concerned. I believe Eliot is trying to show us that many women like Gwendolyn led oppressive existences. This is a great historical novel for its social commentary and raw exposure of the shallow values, and mores of Victorian England.











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All blogs are written by Sabrina Rongstad-Bravo More Tales and Adventures in Sabrina's London Diaries

Friday, 7 October 2011

Book Review: Dai Sije Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

Balzac and the Little Chinese SeamstressBalzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Sijie. Dai. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. Translated from the French by Ina Rilke. Anchor Books. A Division of Random House, Inc. New York. 2000.





Set during the China’s cultural revolution Dai Sijie’s Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress is the tale of two friends Luo and the narrator, (name never gets mentioned) who get sent to work in the coal mines for “ re-education” to the ways of Mao. It is there they become acquainted with the beautiful “Little Seamstress” and both fall in love with her. They also encounter a suitcase of the classics and get transported to the inspirational world of literature. The classic books they read give them the strength and inspiration to survive the harshness of their daily existence in their small village in communist China, where food is scarce, their clothes are lice ridden and people enjoy a an elixir of buffalo blood . Their mutual admiration for the “ Little Seamstress” gives the young men with their first taste of true love, boyish romance and fantasy. The “little seamstress” although very beautiful is just a simple, unsophisticated village girl. It is her lover Lou’s ambition to refine the “ little seamstress” by reading to her the words of Balzac. But in the end, it is the “little seamstress” that is most influenced by the power of literature as revealed when she decides to run away from the village surreptitiously. Confronted by Lou as to why she is leaving the village for the city, she explains,” that she had learnt one thing from Balzac: that a woman’s beauty is a treasure beyond price.” (184).



Dai Sijie pays tribute to the power of literature to influence, transport you to other lands, give hope, nourish the mind and brain cells with intellectual food, and most importantly inspire you to be better than who you are. In Balzac and the Little Seamstress, Dai Sijie´s spins a charming tale of friendship, first love and the suffering of those that experienced communist “ re-education” . Dai Sijie in his simple and short book, has very wisely introduced the historical milieu of China in the seventies. He has done this in a very subtle and circuitous way so that the reader can readily identify with the first whisperings of love and romance and is reminded of their own first impressions of classic literature. Dai Sijie, himself a film-maker was sent for re-education between 1971 and 1974. He has made his home in France since 1984.









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Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Wordless Wednesdays - Renaissance

Take in Bath, England, August 2009

This Photo is of Pulteney Bridge in Bath, England. Putleney Bridge is modeled after the Ponte Vechio in Florence Italy.These two bridges are the only two in the world that have shops inside the bridge. I can't help but think of the Renaissance when I look at this bridge.


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