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dusksong

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The Story of Art
Ernst Hans Josef Gombrich
Ética a Nicómaco
Aristóteles

Embers

As Velas Ardem Até ao Fim - Sándor Márai, Mária Magdolna Demeter

It has been said that a man lives for as long he has something to live for, as if some deeper yearning fuels the engines of his fabric and binds the bones, muscle and sinew in a being of definite and concrete boundaries - an aspect of some primordial fire whose nature it is to burn its true and only flame before self-consuming its conflagration.

A man as such is Hénrik, center character and narrator, an hermit in his own castle-house deep in the forests of Hungary. He waits as a hunter waits his prey for the imminent return of Konrád, a friend whose departure has left him with forty-one years of reflection about the nature of his hasty farewell. But there is one question that has been left unanswered.

Sandór Marái’s “Embers” is an engrossing novel about the significance of human relationships in its many facets, the joys and bitter agonies of friendship and romantic love, portrayed in the dialogue between the two friends who recollect over sixty years of shared existence, even when living on the other side of the world. As Marái explores the relationship between the two characters, the more one understands the almost antagonistic nature of their personalities.

Hénrik is the wealthy son of the Officer of the Guard, the soldier, the man whose worldview permits only the orderly disposition of things, as each man and woman, every peasant, nobleman and king fall into their proper places in the hierarchy of the world, each of them a cog that spins the machine of sensuality and soft delights.

Konrád, on the other hand, is the product of the ambition of his poor parents whose senseless life has demanded that they craft of the young boy what they themselves could not achieve for them. Alas, Konrád is different, he lingers in the substance of music, the raw, serious tune which can instill the breadth of passion and sorrow.

But as much as Hénrik is the light of civilization and Konrád the darkness of the earth, the reader soon follows that none of them exists wholly without the other. Hénrik longs for the primal jungle, the scent of moist leaves as dawns breaks before the hunt - the kill is the ultimate ritual and the ultimate mark of manhood. Konrád envies the wealth of his friend, not because he truly desires riches but because it was its lack which tumbled his parents into enrolling Konrád into military school, at the high cost of Konrád’s free and unseasoned living, dedicated to the pursuit of his lyrical passions.

As the novel softly settles to a close, a new understanding dawns in Hénrik. As all the fury and anger erupted by the leaving of his friend lessened with the years and gave way only to acceptance and tranquility, a change also took him, an ineffable knowledge that when the wick is black, it is only passion in its tempestuous nature that can justify a life.

Anton Tchékhov's Major Plays

A Gaivota; O Tio Vânia; Três Irmãs; O Ginjal - Anton Chekhov, Nina Guerra, Filipe Guerra

If modern theatre is considered an intellectual pastime not fit for the consumption of the casual viewer, then Tchékhov’s plays strike at the heart of drama’s subtetlies. And rightly so for the plays, filled with undersayings, carve a complex structure out of the amalgam of thoughts and feelings that litter the human psyche.
It would be unfair, though, to describe the pieces as an unintelligible rant. In fact, the plots and characters are robust and strongly developed and despite the apparent mayhem of an histrionic burgoise there is a very fine message that’s never openly uttered but which lingers in the air and, as if poetic mist, hazes the dramatic landscape before settling on the heart of the reader.
Perhaps what struck me the most is Tchékhov’s insistence on the otiosity inherent to the country life, described as a sort of malingering miasma which clouds the human drive and sucks even the steadfast into a state of idleness and bestiality, poles apart from the city life, the vanguard of knowledge, reason and achievement - curiously contrary to Tolstoy’s worldview and ascetic preferences, to whom Tchékhov was a contemporary.
Despite the regret-filled thoughts that the characters have or acquire throughout the plays, I feel there reads a text other than the prophecy for the dark doom of humanity: a beacon, hiding among the words, lighting the path and calling the reader to embrace the rational him, the only fit tool to cross the dark waters of sloth and reach the greatness to which he is bound.

Paradise Lost (Oxford World's Classics)

Paradise Lost (Oxford World's Classics) - John Milton, Philip Pullman, Michael Burghers, P.P. Bouche

O ye old blind master of tale thus long

Though in darkness sole left but not of light

Removed: what heavenly orient beam

Must lone hath shone upon the intellect

Of thine and spring divine inspiration.

O weaver of the story of man: in

A single narrative alone it stands

But encompassing all the theatre

Which is humanity: what is the fall

Of fair ancestral couple first if not

The fall of every human thence: all spite

And malice, Pandemonium’s domain,

Lay dormant not but endlessly renewed

As each day trial over trial’s heaped.

But meekness twined along obedience,

A foul conscription fated, shatters soon:

To yearn for more than what allotted is

To tempters ever inner found transgress

Is destiny and doom to man reserved,

If self-caused doom it be for who but God

Hath tilled lone action impious upon

His seed most pure and made of guilt first free?

Can thus be sin among the offspring found,

Amid the serpent’s bruisers, children all

To Eve, if she of Adam's rib was bred

And he in turn creation prime of God?

Is one fit perfect ergo capable sole

Of art imperfect? Proved thus false, decreed

The godhead then perdition void of flight.

Of tyrants chthonic is this fair land plagued

At length; what need exists of petulant

Unearthly lords? Be gone creator sad!

In mischief made, in mischief we thus fell.

But leave to us this all corrupted plane:

Though our poor beating hearts in darkness cast

With hope never brightest glimmer still

That holy edifice be built from ruin.

To free will bound, to freedom our not lost.

O father high who hath forsaken us

In our raw hour of need! So, tarry not

In cause thence solitary, made next strong:

Within ourselves long godhood we soon found.

On heaven earth and earth in heaven’s gone,

Left unregainable, but I tell thee

A paradise as such is better lost.

 

(Thank you for reading that! Actual [practical] review: beautifully crafted verse, Milton's a true master when it comes to developing eternal characters. If you're even remotely interested in epic poetry please be kind to yourself and read this.)

For Whom the Bell Tolls

For Whom the Bell Tolls - "I obscenity in the milk of thy mother."'What?', I though to myself. 'Surely the .epub is corrupted! What manner of twisted syntax is this?'Robert Jordan is a former Spanish teacher from Montana traveling to Spain to meet the fascist opposition during the Civil War. As an experienced dynamiter, he finds himself fighting behind enemy lines, along with a group of guerrilleros with a single purpose in his mind - to blow up a bridge.Were it that simple.Hemingway, himself a journalist in Spain during this period, managed to create a very personal account of the hardships the common folk face with the tidings of war: when you are forced to execute people you have known all your life, people with whom you shared long summer nights, because of clashing political ideologies; when you witness your father and your son being shot in front of you, your mother and your daughter being raped and then shot - the amicable and stale temper of the Spanish boils and nothing but an unending escalation of violence lays waste to the country.The plot is interesting and most of characters are fairly well developed and captivating. However, the book lacks somewhat when it tries too hard to create an archetypical love story and just ends up with a one-dimensional female character who, though sweet and all, feels as hollow as a bucket.Nonetheless, the jewel in the crown (or downfall to some) is the prose: you either love it or you loathe it, it seems. The book reads a lot like a Spanish text distastefully translated to English and I repeatedly heard the voice inside my head talking like a Spanish before an English-speaking audience. A fine example of this would be the sentence above: it's a transliteration of the saying "Me cago en la leche __" which means something like "I don't give a crap about __" or "What the hell!" - you get the idea. Within the context of the book it's amusing and imbues it with a certain idiosyncrasy that made me giggle inside every time I read it. The slow momentum of the dialogues with innumerable repetitions mirrors well the easy-going, almost lazy way Hemingway attempts to portray the Spaniards and their lifes, but I understand why some might find it unsettling, if not unappropriate, to have war feel so mundane when you are in the middle of it.It's a book worth reading and some of the passages are truly spectacularly writen: the fascists' bane in Pilar's village in the beginning of the revolution, as recounted by her; the bullfights; Sordo's last stand.Recommended."The world is a fine place and worth fighting for."