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Top 10 Russian Authors and Their Masterpieces

Top 10 Russian Authors and Their Masterpieces

1. Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910)

  • Anna Karenina (1875–7)—“All happy families resemble one another, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
  • War and Peace (1865–9)—“The strongest of all warriors are these two—time and patience.”

2. Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821–1881)

  • Crime and Punishment (1866)—“Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart. The really great men must, I think, have great sadness on earth.”
  • The Brothers Karamazov (1880)—“Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”

3. Anton Chekhov (1860–1904)

  • The Three Sisters (1901)—“Man must work by the sweat of his brow whatever his class, and that should make up the whole meaning and purpose of his life and happiness and contentment.”
  • Uncle Vanya (1897)—“When a woman isn’t beautiful, people always say, ‘You have lovely eyes, you have lovely hair.”
  • The Cherry Orchard (1904)—“To begin to live in the present, we must first atone for our past and be finished with it, and we can only atone for it by suffering, by extraordinary, unceasing exertion.”

4. Alexander Pushkin (1799–1837)

  • Eugene Onegin (1833)
    “A woman’s love for us increases
    The less we love her, sooth to say—
    She stoops, she falls, her struggling ceases;
    Caught fast, she cannot get away.”
  • Boris Godunov (1825)
    “Pimen [writing in front of a sacred lamp]:
    One more, the final record, and my annals
    Are ended, and fulfilled the duty laid
    By God on me a sinner. Not in vain
    Hath God appointed me for many years
    A witness, teaching me the art of letters;
    A day will come when some laborious monk
    Will bring to light my zealous, nameless toil,
    Kindle, as I, his lamp, and from the parchment
    Shaking the dust of ages will transcribe
    My true narrations.”

5. Nikolai Gogol (1809–1852)

  • Taras Bulba (1835)—“Turn around, son! What a funny figure you are! Are those priests’ cassocks you are wearing? And do they all go about like that at the academy?” With these words old Bulba greeted his two sons who had been studying at the Kiev college and had come home to their father.”
  • Dead Souls (1842)—“As you pass from the tender years of youth into harsh and embittered manhood, make sure you take with you on your journey all the human emotions! Don’t leave them on the road, for you will not pick them up afterwards!”

6. Mikhail Sholokhov (1905–1984)

  • And Quiet Flows the Don (1934)—“The grass grows over the graves, time overgrows the pain. The wind blew away the traces of those who had departed; time blows away the bloody pain and the memory of those who did not live to see their dear ones again—and will not live, for brief is human life, and not for long is any of us granted to tread the grass.”

7. Mikhail Bulgakov (1891–1940)

  • The Master and Margarita (1966-67)—“The tongue can conceal the truth, but the eyes never! You’re asked an unexpected question, you don’t even flinch, it takes just a second to get yourself under control, you know just what you have to say to hide the truth, and you speak very convincingly, and nothing in your face twitches to give you away. But the truth, alas, has been disturbed by the question, and it rises up from the depths of your soul to flicker in your eyes and all is lost.”

8. Ivan Turgenev (1818–1883)

  • Fathers and Sons (1862)—“Nature is not a temple, but a workshop, and man’s the workman in it.”
  • On the Eve (1860)—“No matter how often you knock at nature’s door, she won’t answer in words you can understand—for Nature is dumb. She’ll vibrate and moan like a violin, but you mustn’t expect a song.”

9. Maxim Gorky (1868–1936)

  • The Lower Depths (1902)—“Everybody, my friend, everybody lives for something better to come. That’s why we want to be considerate of every man—Who knows what’s in him, why he was born and what he can do?”

10. Mikhail Lermontov (1814–1841)

  • A Hero of our Time (1840)—“The love of savages isn’t much better than the love of noble ladies; ignorance and simple-heartedness can be as tiresome as coquetry.”
Posted in Hobbies and Pursuits Music, Arts, and Culture

Three Expositions on “The Fox and The Lion”

Three Expositions on The Fox and The Lion

The “Fox and the Lion” from Aesop’s Fables:

When first the Fox saw the Lion he was terribly frightened, and ran away and hid himself in the wood. Next time however he came near the King of Beasts he stopped at a safe distance and watched him pass by. The third time they came near one another the Fox went straight up to the Lion and passed the time of day with him, asking him how his family were, and when he should have the pleasure of seeing him again; then turning his tail, he parted from the Lion without much ceremony.

From Chapter XVIII “Concerning The Way In Which Princes Should Keep Faith” in Niccolo Machiavelli‘s The Prince:

A prince, therefore, being compelled knowingly to adopt the beast, ought to choose the fox and the lion; because the lion cannot defend himself against snares and the fox cannot defend himself against wolves. Therefore, it is necessary to be a fox to discover the snares and a lion to terrify the wolves. Those who rely simply on the lion do not understand what they are about. Therefore a wise lord cannot, nor ought he to, keep faith when such observance may be turned against him, and when the reasons that caused him to pledge it exist no longer. If men were entirely good this precept would not hold, but because they are bad, and will not keep faith with you, you too are not bound to observe it with them. Nor will there ever be wanting to a prince legitimate reasons to excuse this nonobservance.

From Marcus Tullius Cicero‘s De Officiis (On Duties or On Obligations):

But let us remember that we must have regard for justice even towards the humblest. Now the humblest station and the poorest fortune are those of slaves; and they give us no bad rule who bid us treat our slaves as we should our employees: they must be required to work; they must be given their dues. While wrong may be done, then, in either of two ways, that is, by force or by fraud, both are bestial: fraud seems to belong to the cunning fox, force to the lion; both are wholly unworthy of man, but fraud is the more contemptible. But of all forms of injustice, none is more flagrant than that of the hypocrite who, at the very moment when he is most false, makes it his business to appear virtuous. This must conclude our discussion of justice.

Posted in Philosophy and Wisdom

Robert Frost’s Favorite Poem: “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”

Robert Frost

Robert Frost is a captivating poet and public figure whose approachability and mystique will assuredly engross many generations of scholars, whether their approach is biographical, cultural, or theoretical. Frost’s portions, inscriptions, and random poems will continue to surface until nearly all of the items in small, private collections find their way into shared annals. They in fact add enormously to our interpretation of how Frost worked through his ideas. Paired with poems or excerpts from Frost’s works, these repeatedly sumptuously and lavishly created greetings raise captivating questions about the interaction between the visual and the verbal in Frost’s work.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening is a poem by Robert Frost, published in the collection New Hampshire (1923). One of the most famous, as well as one of the most anthologized, of Frost’s poems. It portrays a lone traveler in a horse-drawn carriage who is both driven by the business at hand and mesmerized by a frosty woodland setting. The poem is written of four iambic tetrameter quatrains, and the contemplative lyric derives its incantatory tone from an interlocking rhyme scheme of aaba bbcb ccdc dddd:

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

No American poet has been more prosaic than Robert Frost—prosaic because many readers like to believe most of his poems are narrative in nature, not just the lyrical representation of an image or a feeling.

Eternity Looking through Time

'The Poetry of Robert Frost: The Collected Poems' by Robert Frost (ISBN 0805069860) Frost’s poem has the back drop of a late dark wintry sundown, a harsh and bitter winter (“The darkest evening of the year”). The physical setting of the work is the deserted woods far off from the village. The significance along with physical landscapes of the poem is dreadfully isolated, bare of any living flowers or leafy trees. The narrator of “Stopping by Woods” is compelled to make a significant ethical choice, which his cherished horse does not seem to concur with. The preference that the narrator must grapple with is whether to return to the cordiality and safety of the village (where the owner of the woods lives) and his home or to stay and watch the beautiful woods filling up with fluffy snowflakes on a wintry evening. The narrator does seem to have trouble making his decision, torn between two equally enticing and delightful possibilities. This kind of persistence upon human choice is distinctive of most of Frost’s poetical works. The narrator eventually chooses to return to the village even though it seems to take his great self-control or willpower. He understands that he has some social or civic duty or responsibility to achieve before he dies.

The night, as well as the winter, is closely related to old age, pain, loneliness, and death. As stunning as snow looks, it implies the cold wintry weather, which is in turn connected with despair, disintegration, and death. Just as the woods are “lovely, dark and deep” to him, so does death look to him. Death seems not to be so unnerving, grim, or even scary—but rather fascinating, welcoming, almost a feeling of relief. The narrator is reminded of the final destination of his journey—probably to the village where his home is. The narrator’s “little horse” is perplexed by his master’s conduct —stopping by the woods located far away from any farmhouse—and thus jiggles his harness bells in impulsiveness. Impatient, the horse prompts him to resume his homeward journey.

Robert Frost Narrating and Speaking

“My Best Bid for Remembrance”

In a message to American poet, anthologist, and literary critic Louis Untermeyer, American poet Robert Frost called his famous poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” as “my best bid for remembrance.”

According to an essay by N. Arthur Bleau, Robert Frost described the poem’s back-story during a reading at Bowdoin College in 1947:

Robert Frost revealed his favorite poem to me. Furthermore, he gave me a glimpse into his personal life that exposed the mettle of the man. I cherish the memory of that conversation, and vividly recall his description of the circumstances leading to the composition of his favorite work.

'The Road Not Taken and Other Poems' by Robert Frost (ISBN 0486275507) We were in my hometown—Brunswick, Maine. It was the fall of 1947, and Bowdoin College was presenting its annual literary institute” for students and the public. Mr. Frost had lectured there the previous season; and being well received, he was invited for a return engagement.

I attended the great poet’s prior lecture and wasn’t about to miss his encore—even though I was quartered 110 miles north at the University of Maine. At the appointed time, I was seated and eagerly awaiting his entrance—armed with a book of his poems and unaware of what was about to occur.

He came on strong with a simple eloquence that blended with his stature, bushy white hair, matching eyebrows, and well-seasoned features. His topics ranged from meter to the meticulous selection of a word and its varying interpretations. He then read a few of his poems to accentuate his message.

At the conclusion of the presentation, Mr. Frost asked if anyone had questions. I promptly raised my hand. There were three other questioners, and their inquiries were answered before he acknowledged me. I asked, “Mr. Frost, what is your favorite poem?” He quickly replied, “They’re all my favorites. It’s difficult to single out one over another!”

“But, Mr. Frost,” I persisted, “surely there must be one or two of your poems which have a special meaning to you—that recall some incident perhaps.” He then astonished me by declaring the session concluded; whereupon, he turned to me and said, “Young man, you may come up to the podium if you like.” I was there in an instant.

We were alone except for one man who was serving as Mr. Frost’s host. He remained in the background shadows of the stage. The poet leaned casually against the lectern—beckoning me to come closer. We were side by side leaning on the lectern as he leafed the pages of the book.

“You know—in answer to your question—there is one poem which comes readily to mind; and I guess I’d have to call it my favorite,” he droned” in a pensive manner. “I’d have to say ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’ is that poem. Do you recall in the lecture I pointed out the importance of the line “The darkest evening of the year’?” I acknowledged that I did, and he continued his thoughtful recollection of a time many years before. “Well—the darkest evening of the year is on December twenty-second—which is the shortest day of the year—just before Christmas.”

'Robert Frost's Poems' by Robert Frost (ISBN 0312983328) I wish I could have recorded the words as he reflectively meted out his story, but this is essentially what he said.

The family was living on a farm. It was a bleak time both weatherwise and financially. Times were hard, and Christmas was coming. It wasn’t going to be a very good Christmas unless he did something. So—he hitched up the wagon filled with produce from the farm and started the long trek into town.

When he finally arrived, there was no market for his goods. Times were hard for everybody. After exhausting every possibility, he finally accepted the fact that there would be no sale. There would be no exchange for him to get a few simple presents for his children’s Christmas.

As he headed home, evening descended. It had started to snow, and his heart grew heavier with each step of the horse in the gradually increasing accumulation. He had dropped the reins and given the horse its head. It knew the way. The horse was going more slowly as they approached home. It was sensing his despair. There is an unspoken communication between a man and his horse, you know.

Around the next bend in the road, near the woods, they would come into view of the house. He knew the family was anxiously awaiting him. How could he face them? What could he possibly say or do to spare them the disappointment he felt?

They entered the sweep of the bend. The horse slowed down and then stopped. It knew what he had to do. He had to cry, and he did. I recall the very words he spoke. “I just sat there and bawled like a baby”—until there were no more tears.

'Robert Frost Poet as Philosopher' by Peter Stanlis (ISBN 1933859814) The horse shook its harness. The bells jingled. They sounded cheerier. He was ready to face his family. It would be a poor Christmas, but Christmas is a time of love. They had an abundance of love, and it would see them through that Christmas and the rest of those hard times. Not a word was spoken, but the horse knew he was ready and resumed the journey homeward.

The poem was composed some time later, he related. How much later I do not know, but he confided that these were the circumstances which eventually inspired what he acknowledged to be his favorite poem.

I was completely enthralled and, with youthful audacity, asked him to tell me about his next favorite poem. He smiled relaxedly and readily replied, “That would have to be ‘Mending Wall.’ Good fences do make good neighbors, you know! We always looked forward to getting together and walking the lines—each on his own side replacing the stones the winter frost had tumbled. As we moved along, we’d discuss the things each had experienced during the winter—and also what was ahead of us. It was a sign of spring!”

The enchantment was broken at that moment by Mr. Frost’s host, who had materialized behind us to remind him of his schedule. He nodded agreement that it was time to depart, turned to me and with a smile extended his hand. I grasped it, and returned his firm grip as I expressed my gratitude. He then strode off to join his host, who had already reached the door at the back of the stage. I stood there watching him disappear from sight.

I’ve often wondered why he suddenly changed his mind and decided to answer my initial question by confiding his memoir in such detail. Perhaps no one had ever asked him; or perhaps I happened to pose it at the opportune time. Then again—perhaps the story was meant to be related, remembered and revealed sometime in the future. I don’t know, but I’m glad he did—so that I can share it with you.

Two Minds About It

'Robert Frost A Life' by Jay Parini (ISBN 0805063412) Frost’s daughter Lesley later validated the narrative and quoted her father reminiscing his weeping, “A man has as much right as a woman to a good cry now and again. The snow gave me shelter; the horse understood and gave me the time.”

For many years I have assumed that my father’s explanation to me, given sometime in the forties, I think, of the circumstances round and about his writing “Stopping by Woods” was the only one he gave (of course, excepting to my mother), and since he expressed the hope that it need not be repeated fearing pity (pity, he said, was the last thing he wanted or needed), I have left it at that. Now, in 1977, I find there was at least one other to whom he vouchsafed the honor of hearing the truth of how it all was that Xmas eve when “the little horse” (Eunice) slows the sleigh at a point between woods, a hundred yards or so north of our farm on the Wyndham Road. And since Authur Bleau’s moving account is closely, word for word, as I heard it, it would give me particular reason to hope it might be published. I would like to add my own remembrance of words used in the telling to me: “A man has as much right as a woman to a good cry now and again. The snow gave me its shelter; the horse understood and gave me the time.” (Incidentally, my father had a liking for certain Old English words. Bawl was one of them. Instead of “Stop crying,” it was “Oh, come now, quit bawling.” Mr. Bleau is right to say my father bawled like a baby.)

Posted in Music, Arts, and Culture

Aesop’s Fables

A bronze statue from between 330 and 100 BCE, that is believed to depict Aesop holding a papyrus scroll. Fables refer to the idea of presenting criticism or advice indirectly in a simplified, fictional setting.

A fable is a narrative, in prose or verse but usually simple and brief, that is intended to convey a moral lesson.

Fables frequently involve non-human characters-animals (real or mythic), plants, artifacts, forces of nature, and so on-that are represented as having human attributes. Fables are a common form of folk literature; the best-known fables of the Western world are credited to the legendary figure Aesop, who is supposed to have been a slave in ancient Greece sometime between 620 and 560 BCE.

Hellenistic statue claimed to depict Aesop from Rome's Art Collection of Villa Albani In the ancient classical world, fables were not considered as fare for children nor as works of literature in their own right. Rather, they were used as vehicles for indirect—and thus carefully polite—criticism and persuasion. For example, Xenophon (c. 430–354 BCE), in his Memorabilia (c. 371 BCE), describes Socrates advising a citizen named Aristarchus to tel l his ungrateful relatives—to whom he had provided capital for a business and who are now accusing him of idlenessthe fable of the dog and the sheep, concluding, “Tell your flock yonder that like the dog in the fable you are their guardian and overseer.”

Interest in fables remained high through classical antiquity, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance, with collections of fables—typically ascribed to Aesop—serving as the basisfor rhetorical textbooks and literary works. Jean de La Fontaine (1621–95) produced Fables (1668–1694), which are perhaps the most best-known original fables in modern times.

'The Classic Treasury of Aesop's Fables' by Don Daily (ISBN 0762428767) The English author and philosopher G. K. Chesterton wrote in his Alfred the Great (1908), “Fable is more historical than fact, because fact tells usabout one man and fabletells us about a million men.”

As literary tastes developed in sophistication, fables increasingly became the province of humorists such as George Ade and children’s writers such as Dr. Seuss—although the defamiliarizing effect of fables, with the artistic form being used to stimulate fresh perception of a familiar subject, is still deployed in books such as George Orwell’s criticism of Stalinism, Animal Farm (1945).

Posted in Music, Arts, and Culture

The Greatest Writers Passed Over for the Nobel Prize in Literature

The Greatest Writers Passed Over for the Nobel Prize in Literature

Many of the best writers of the past 112 years have received the Nobel Prize in Literature, but there have been some astounding omissions right from the start. The list of great writers who were alive after 1901 but never received the prize is shocking.

Posted in Music, Arts, and Culture

The 100 Greatest Novels of All Time

The 100 greatest novels of all time

Can’t decide what to read? Consider The Guardian’s list of top 100 novels ever written.

  1. “Don Quixote” by Miguel De Cervantes
  2. “Pilgrim’s Progress” by John Bunyan
  3. “Robinson Crusoe” by Daniel Defoe
  4. “Gulliver’s Travels” by Jonathan Swift
  5. “Tom Jones” by Henry Fielding
  6. “Clarissa” by Samuel Richardson
  7. “Tristram Shandy” by Laurence Sterne
  8. “Dangerous Liaisons” by Pierre Choderlos De Laclos
  9. “Emma” by Jane Austen
  10. “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley
  11. “Nightmare Abbey” by Thomas Love Peacock
  12. “The Black Sheep” by Honoré De Balzac
  13. “The Charterhouse of Parma” by Stendhal
  14. “The Count of Monte Cristo” by Alexandre Dumas
  15. “Sybil” by Benjamin Disraeli
  16. “David Copperfield” by Charles Dickens
  17. “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Brontë
  18. “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Brontë
  19. “Vanity Fair” by William Makepeace Thackeray
  20. “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  21. “Moby-Dick” by Herman Melville
  22. “Madame Bovary” by Gustave Flaubert
  23. “The Woman in White” by Wilkie Collins
  24. “Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll
  25. “Little Women” by Louisa M. Alcott
  26. “The Way We Live Now” by Anthony Trollope
  27. “Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy
  28. “Daniel Deronda” by George Eliot
  29. “The Brothers Karamazov” by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  30. “The Portrait of a Lady” by Henry James
  31. “Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain
  32. “The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson
  33. “Three Men in a Boat” by Jerome K. Jerome
  34. “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde
  35. “The Diary of a Nobody” by George Grossmith
  36. “Jude the Obscure” by Thomas Hardy
  37. “The Riddle of the Sands” by Erskine Childers
  38. “The Call of the Wild” by Jack London
  39. “Nostromo” by Joseph Conrad
  40. “The Wind in the Willows” by Kenneth Grahame
  41. “In Search of Lost Time” by Marcel Proust
  42. “The Rainbow” by D. H. Lawrence
  43. “The Good Soldier” by Ford Madox Ford
  44. “The Thirty-Nine Steps” by John Buchan
  45. “Ulysses” by James Joyce
  46. “Mrs Dalloway” by Virginia Woolf
  47. “A Passage to India” by EM Forster
  48. “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  49. “The Trial” by Franz Kafka
  50. “Men Without Women” by Ernest Hemingway
  51. “Journey to the End of the Night” by Louis-Ferdinand Celine
  52. “As I Lay Dying” by William Faulkner
  53. “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley
  54. “Scoop” by Evelyn Waugh
  55. “USA” by John Dos Passos
  56. “The Big Sleep” by Raymond Chandler
  57. “The Pursuit Of Love” by Nancy Mitford
  58. “The Plague” by Albert Camus
  59. “Nineteen Eighty-Four” by George Orwell
  60. “Malone Dies” by Samuel Beckett
  61. “Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger
  62. “Wise Blood” by Flannery O’Connor
  63. “Charlotte’s Web” by E. B. White
  64. “The Lord Of The Rings” by J. R. R. Tolkien
  65. “Lucky Jim” by Kingsley Amis
  66. “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding
  67. “The Quiet American” by Graham Greene
  68. “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac
  69. “Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov
  70. “The Tin Drum” by Gunter Grass
  71. “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe
  72. “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” by Muriel Spark
  73. “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee
  74. “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller
  75. “Herzog” by Saul Bellow
  76. “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel García Márquez
  77. “Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont” by Elizabeth Taylor
  78. “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” by John Le Carré
  79. “Song of Solomon” by Toni Morrison
  80. “The Bottle Factory Outing” by Beryl Bainbridge
  81. “The Executioner’s Song” by Norman Mailer
  82. “If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller” by Italo Calvino
  83. “A Bend in the River” by V. S. Naipaul
  84. “Waiting for the Barbarians” by J.M. Coetzee
  85. “Housekeeping” by Marilynne Robinson
  86. “Lanark” by Alasdair Gray
  87. “The New York Trilogy” by Paul Auster
  88. “The BFG” by Roald Dahl
  89. “The Periodic Table” by Primo Levi
  90. “Money” by Martin Amis
  91. “An Artist of the Floating World” by Kazuo Ishiguro
  92. “Oscar And Lucinda” by Peter Carey
  93. “The Book of Laughter and Forgetting” by Milan Kundera
  94. “Haroun and the Sea of Stories” by Salman Rushdie
  95. “La Confidential” by James Ellroy
  96. “Wise Children” by Angela Carter
  97. “Atonement” by Ian McEwan
  98. “Northern Lights” by Philip Pullman
  99. “American Pastoral” by Philip Roth
  100. “Austerlitz” by W. G. Sebald
Posted in Hobbies and Pursuits

Victor Hugo’s Finest Peom: “To the One Who Stayed in France”

Victor Hugo, French Poet, Novelist, and Dramatist Victor Hugo wrote “Notre-Dame de Paris” (1831), usually translated as “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, when he was in his twenties. Set in fifteenth century Paris, The Hunchback of Notre Dame tells a moving story of a gypsy girl Esmeralda and the deformed, deaf bell-ringer, Quasimodo, who loves her. The success of the book in France gained Hugo great fame and renown. He used his celebrity to criticize the autocratic regime of Napoleon III and encourage the French to revolt.

Napoleon III declared Hugo an enemy of the state. In 1851, just before soldiers arrived to arrest him at his home, Hugo managed to flee the country in disguise. He lived in exile in Guernsey, an island in the English Channel, until the revolution against Napoleon III in 1870.

In exile, Hugo wrote at a fast pace. “Les Châtiments” (“Castigations”,) a volume of aggressive invectives against the emperor, appeared in 1853.

It was also during his exile that he wrote his masterpiece, “Les Misérables” (1865), about Jean Valjean and other characters’ struggles for human rights, love, revolution, and redemption through a period of 18 years. Les Misérables was hugely popular, and when Hugo returned to his homeland in 1870, he was elected to the Senate of the new Third Republic. By the time he died in 1885, at the age of 83, he was a national hero. In Paris, two million mourners joined his funeral procession from the Arc de Triomphe to the Panthéon, where he is buried.

Laments For Leopoldine, the “One Who Stayed in France”

Leopoldine Hugo, Daughter of Victor Hugo, the In 1843, Hugo’s oldest and favorite daughter, the 19-year old Léopoldine Hugo, drowned shortly after her marriage in a boating accident in the river Seine at Villequier in northern France. When her boat overturned, she was pulled down by her heavy skirts. Her young husband Charles Vacquerie also died while trying to save her.

“Les Châtiments” was followed by “Les Contemplations” (1856), (“The Contemplations”,) the belated laments for Leopoldine. “Les Contemplations” concludes with “To the One Who Stayed in France,” a major elegy and one of Hugo’s grandest poems.

“To the One Who Stayed in France”

During his exile in the English channel, Hugo was unable to continue his annual visits to his daughter’s grave. Hugo offered “Les Contemplations” as surrogate, and asked a minimal favor of the visionary world; some hope that his daughter somehow will receive “this strange gift of the Exile to the Dead!” in her eternal rest.

Well, may at least this book, this somber message, reach
The silence as a murmur
The shore as a wave! May it fall there—sigh or love-tear!
May it enter the grave where youth, dawn, kisses,
Dew, the laughter of the bride,
Radiance and joy have already gone—and my heart along with them:
Indeed, that has never come back! And may it be
A song of mourning, the cry of a hope that can never tell lies,
The sound of a pale farewell in tears, a dream whose wing
We feel brushing against us lightly! May she say:
“Someone is out there—I can hear a noise!”
May it sound in her darkness like the footstep of my soul!

Victor Hugo (from “The Contemplations translated by E. H and A. M. Blackmore”)

Posted in Music, Arts, and Culture

The Rushdie Affair

Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses and The Rushdie Affair

The Rushdie Affair, or The Satanic Verses controversy, was the impassioned furious reaction of several Muslims to the publication of The Satanic Verses, a novel by British Indian novelist and essayist Salman Rushdie. The Satanic Verses was first published by Viking Press in the United Kingdom in 1988.

'The Satanic Verses: A Novel' by Salman Rushdie (ISBN 0812976711) Many Muslim authorities decried The Satanic Verses as blasphemous. Its distribution and sale were banned in India, Pakistan, South Africa, and Iran. The ireful reactions became dramatic in early 1989 when Muslims in England burned copies of the novel and protest and demonstrations in Pakistan ended in killings and injuries. On 14-Feb-1989, Iranian religious leader and politician Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa urging Muslims the world over to execute those associated with the novel. The fatwa also placed a death sentence on Salman Rushdie and Viking Press, his publishers, for blasphemy against Islam. The sentence has never been discharged. The fatwa was eventually revoked under the rule of Mohammad Khatami in the late 1990s.

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Posted in Faith and Religion Music, Arts, and Culture

Naguib Mahfouz, the Arab World’s Most Prominent Literary Figure

Naguib Mahfouz, Egyptian Author, the Arab World's Most Prominent Literary Figure

Naguib Mahfouz (1911-2006) was an incredibly prolific Egyptian writer who, over course of five decades, wrote over thirty-five novels, five plays, fourteen short-story collections and many articles.

After a degree in philosophy from the University of Cairo, Mahfouz got a job with the civil service. In 1939, he published his first book: a historical novel called Mockery of the Fates. Mahfouz’s first three novels dealt with ancient Egypt, but his later novels were critical of contemporary Egyptian society and portrayed human foibles.

The Cairo Trilogy by Naguib Mahfouz “Al-thul al-hiyyah” or “the Cairo Trilogy”, consisting of “Palace Walk” (1956), “Palace of Desire” (1957) and “Sugar Street” (1957) recounted generational and philosophical conflicts in Cairo life between 1917 and 1944, and established Mahfouz as a leading Arab novelist. Mahfouz’s celebrated work is “Palace Walk” or “Between the Two Palaces” (1956), considered by many the most famous novel in the Arabic language.

In the novel “Children of Gebelawi” or “Children of the Alley” (1959), Mahfouz portrayed feuding brothers who resemble Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed and their power struggles in a traditional Cairo neighborhood. This book portrayed God in an allegorical manner, and metaphorically suggested the failure of religion and the prospective success of science in creating a better life. The book was deemed blasphemy and was formally banned in the entire Arab world with the exception of Lebanon.

Palace Walk or Between the Two Palaces: Naguib Mahfouz's most famous novel in the Arabic language Through his writing career, Mahfouz kept his day job as a civil servant in the Ministry of Religious Affairs, the Foundation for the Support of the Cinema, and the Ministry of Culture. His daily routine included taking a ninety-minute walk around Cairo, and reading the newspaper at the same Cairo cafe each day.

Naguib Mahfouz is known as the “Father of Modern Arabic Literature.” He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1988. He delivered his 1988 Nobel Lecture in Arabic, and he commenced,

I would like you to accept my talk with tolerance. For it comes in a language unknown to many of you. But it is the real winner of the prize. It is, therefore, meant that its melodies should float for the first time into your oasis of culture and civilization. I have great hopes that this will not be the last time either, and that literary writers of my nation will have the pleasure to sit with full merit amongst your international writers who have spread the fragrance of joy and wisdom in this grief-ridden world of ours.

In the late 80s, the disputes over Salman Rushdie’s “The Satanic Verses” again evoked the controversy surrounding Mahfouz’s novel “Children of the Alley” (1959). In 1994, Mahfouz was the target of an assassination attempt by militant Islamists. He survived the assassination attempt but damaged the nerves in his right hand. Mahfouz could not write for more than a few minutes a day and subsequently produced fewer works. He died in 2006 at the age of 94.

Naguib Mahfouz: Written Works

Posted in Music, Arts, and Culture

My Favorite Chick Flicks from Chick Lit Novels

‘The Devil Wears Prada’ by Lauren Weisberger

The Devil Wears Prada, American drama film The Devil Wears Prada (2003) by American author Lauren Weisberger eatures a young woman working as the personal assistant of an influential editor of a fashion magazine. The young woman strives to keep up with her boss’s exhausting schedule, humiliating attitude, and demeaning needs. The Devil Wears Prada was made into a successful 2006 drama featuring Anne Hathaway as the assistant and Meryl Streep as the editor of the fashion magazine. The film grossed $326 MM at the box office.

‘Eat, Pray, Love’ by Elizabeth Gilbert

Eat, Pray, Love, 2010 romantic comedy / drama film Eat, Pray, Love (2006) is a memoir by American author Elizabeth Gilbert who chronicles her trips to Italy, India, and Indonesia in search of meaning, purpose, pleasure, and balance. Eat, Pray, Love was made into a successful 2010 romantic comedy / drama film featuring Julia Roberts as Elizabeth Gilbert and Javier Bardem as Brazilian businessman with whom Gilbert falls in love with in Bali at the end of the movie.

‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ by Helen Fielding

Bridget Jones's Diary, English romantic comedy film Bridget Jones’s Diary (1996) is a novel written in the form of a personal diary by English novelist Helen Fielding. Bridget Jones is a thirty-something single working woman living in London who is fixated with love life and her struggles with her weight, her over-indulgence in alcohol and cigarettes, and her profession. When her boss starts flirting with her, she plunges straight in and begins an affair with him. She also keeps coming across her “true love” Mark Darcy, a shy, diffident barrister who has known her since she was young. Bridget Jones’s Diary was made into a successful 2001 English romantic comedy film that stars Renee Zellweger as Bridget, Hugh Grant as the her boss, and Colin Firth as Bridget’s “true love.”

‘Parfumerie’ by Miklos Laszlo (Movie: ‘You’ve Got Mail’)

You've Got Mail, romantic comedy film Illatszertar, also known as Parfumerie, is a play by Hungary-born American playwright Miklos Laszlo. Parfumerie has been used as the storyline for the Broadway musical “She Loves Me” and three movies: “Shop Around the Corner” (1940,) “In the Good Old Summertime” (1949,) and most recently “You’ve Got Mail” (1998) in which Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan play the two e-mailing unacquainted lovers who are unaware that their sweetheart is, in reality, a person with whom they share a degree of animosity.

‘The Princess Bride’ by William Goldman

The Princess Bride, romantic comedy adventure film The Princess Bride is a 1973 fantasy romance novel written by William Goldman. The Princess Bride features a caring grandfather who sits down with his sick grandson to reads him a story the action comes alive. The story is an archetypal legend of love and adventure. The lovely Princess Buttercup, engaged to the loathsome Prince Humperdinck, is kidnapped and held against her will in order to start a war. Buttercup’s childhood beau Westley reemerges as Dread Pirate Roberts. Aiding Westley in his attempts to save Buttercup, are a thief, a skillful swordsman, and strong monster. The Princess Bride was made into a successful 1987 American romantic comedy adventure film starring Cary Elwes as Westley and Robin Wright as Princess Buttercup.

Posted in Music, Arts, and Culture