Wednesday, 15 October 2014

The Trouble with Being Born by Emil Cioran (5/5)

First published: 1973
Original title: De l'inconvénient d'être né
Original language: French
Translation to English by: Richard Howard, 1976

Page count: 224

The back says: In this volume, which reaffirms the uncompromising brilliance of his mind, Cioran strips the human condition down to its most basic components, birth and death, suggesting that disaster lies not in the prospect of death but in the fact of birth, "that laughable accident." In the lucid, aphoristic style that characterizes his work, Cioran writes of time and death, God and religion, suicide and suffering, and the temptation to silence. In all his writing, Cioran cuts to the heart of the human experience.

I say: This is basically a book of quotes that was on my reading list for a uni course entitled The Meaning of Life. I’ve spent a lot of time wondering how to do it justice with a review and come to the conclusion that I can’t.

The synopsis says it all.

Therefore I shall simply post a few of my favourite quotes.

“It is not worth the bother of killing yourself, since you always kill yourself too late.”

“What do you do from morning to night?"
"I endure myself.”
“Sometimes I wish I were a cannibal – less for the pleasure of eating someone than for the pleasure of vomiting him.”

“I do nothing, granted. But I see the hours pass — which is better than trying to fill them.”

The quotes may all seem extremely depressing and suicidal, but what I love about them is that they voice all the things I have been pondering my entire life. Cioran puts everything into words that I have ever felt and reminds me that there is beauty in thinking about life and death.

“I do not forgive myself for being born. It is as if, creeping into this world, I had profaned a mystery, betrayed some momentous pledge, committed a fault of nameless gravity. Yet in a less assured mood, birth seems a calamity I would be miserable not having known.”

5/5 because I’ll be re-reading this my entire life.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

The Fierce and Beautiful World by Andrei Platonov (5/5)

First published: 1970
Original title: -
Original language: Russian
Translation to English by: Joseph Barnes, 1970

Page count: 252

The back says: This collection of Platonov's short fiction brings together seven works drawn from the whole of his career. It includes the harrowing novella Dzahn ("Soul"), in which a young man returns to his Asian birthplace to find his people deprived not only of food and dwelling, but of memory and speech, and "The Potudan River," Platonov's most celebrated story.

I say: It took me over a month to finish this collection of 7 short stories because of the emotional turmoil and heartbreak I went through while reading. Each story is more touching and devastating than the next, and even though some of them do have somewhat happy endings, they still broke me entirely. I was literally gasping, clutching my heart and trying my hardest to blink the tears away.

To no avail.

The genius of this collection lies in the prose; the beautifully warm and tender prose that veered into poetry at almost every turn. Platonov lulled me into his Russia full of broken and destitute people that were all hanging on by a thread – some because they had no choice and others because they were trying to survive.

It was perfection.

5/5 and I look forward to reading more by Platonov and re-reading this when I have the strength.

Favourite Stories: Dzan (Soul), Homecoming and The Fierce and Beautiful World.

*The stories in this collection have been reprinted under the title Soul.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Lying Awake by Mark Salzman (2.5/5)

First published: 2002
Page count: 181

The back says: In a Carmelite monastery on the outskirts of Los Angeles, life has continued virtually unchanged for centuries. Here, Sister John of the Cross lives in the service of God. She is the only nun who experiences visions and is regarded by the others as a spiritual master.

But Sister John is also plagued by powerful headaches and when a doctor reveals that they may be dangerous, she faces a devastating choice. Is this grace merely an illness and will a 'cure' mean the end of her illuminations and a soul dry and searching?

I say: I’m not quite sure what I think of this novel because parts of the prose were beautifully written, almost lyrical, while others were bulky and slightly mundane.

The same goes for the story itself.

On the one hand I was intrigued by the choice Sister John had to make, but on the other hand I was not so happy with the resolution of the story.

It felt forced.

It is a short novel that somehow didn’t leave as big an impact as I had hoped, so 2.5/5.