Category Archives: Literary Calendar

Ulysses: why is it so hard to finish?

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Recently the world celebrated Bloomsday –  one of the most famous literary holiday. The name is derived from the name of the main character of Joyce’s emblematic novel “Ulysses”. The holiday is a commemoration and celebration of the life of the Irish writer. The events of “Ulysses” are relived during just one day of June 16 in 1904. Joyce chose the date as it was the date of his first outing with his wife-to-be, Nora Barnacle.

 

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And here is the paradox. “Ulysses” is one of the most famous books of the 20th century. The icon. The threshold. Joyce himself is a popular figure, his life being discussed and so many photographs and articles found in the Internet. Yet there are so many people who didn’t manage to finish it or even reach the middle of the book, including those who read it in the translaion to their native language from English.

We searched the Internet for some tips that can help you to read the book and understand the allusions hidden there:

http://www.wikihow.com/Read-Ulysses

http://www.buffalo.edu/news/releases/2004/05/6747.html

https://www.extension.harvard.edu/inside-extension/why-you-should-try-read-ulysses-again

http://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2012/06/james-joyces-ulysses

But the most important piece of advice is the approach – look at it as the most exciting adventure and try to find a personal interest. It is a book about love, worries, books and love again – so there should be one! The authors of this article agree with us: https://biblioklept.org/2010/06/16/how-to-read-james-joyces-ulysses-and-why-you-should-avoid-how-to-guides-like-this-one/

Finally, here are some book titles “around” “Ulysses”. If you’re in St. Petersburg, you can borrow these books at the British Book Centre.

Books, mentioned in the novel:

 

Books on the topics of “Odyssey” and traveling, both real and in your mind:

 

Books on Irish history, nature, folklore and mythology:

 

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Dickens 205: writers in books and in the flesh

Image associéeThe bibliography of Charles Dickens includes more than a dozen major novels, a large number of short stories (including Christmas-themed stories and ghost stories), several plays, several non-fiction books, and individual essays and articles. Dickens’s novels were serialised initially in weekly or monthly magazines, then reprinted in standard book formats.

He is often called the “creator” of Victorian age, having described and “conserved” it for the future generations. When we read his books at school and in childhood we don’t really imagine him a real person. We seldom do that with writers of the decent past. When it concerns “the pillars”, the giants, the great masters, we tend to imagine them made of bronze or stone, but not of flesh and blood. But they were humans once.

Specialists in literature theory distinguish several types of authors: author as a real person, a human being; author as someone who created a text, creative personality, everything that is called poetics belongs here; finally – author’s point of view, his presence in the text not to mix up with narrator or storyteller.

At the library, thinking about recommendations what to read and watch Image associéeon the occasion of Dickens’ anniversary we looked at the book by Claire Tomalin about Dickens and his relationship with Nelly Ternan. And then there was a question: should we try to know more about writer’s real lifes? Or should we be satisfied with their works and what we can learn and find out in these works? Of course, there’s no definite answer to this. It depends on the researcher, and we think, if the aim is to learn about the time and not to judge someone, if the aim is to feel this connection with someone who lived long or not so long ago, then there’s probably nothing bad in our interest.

Our suggestion is to read talented works like Tomalin’s, which is not only the story of Dickens and Nelly, but a great excursus into theatrical world of England of the second part of the 19th century.

There are also a lot of works of fiction where writers are shown as characters and this is another curious direction of exploring the theme. Real people in fiction and fiction in real life – exciting reading is guaranteed!

In the British Book Centre:

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Claire Tomalin’s multi-award-winning story of the life of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens is a remarkable work of biography and historical revisionism that returns the neglected actress to her rightful place in history as well as providing a compelling and truthful portrait of the great Victorian novelist.
 The book is based on the life of the author Henry James. Lodge populates his novel with several of the most famous figures of English literature from the time of the book’s setting in the late nineteenth century.
 The novel features the Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky as its protagonist. It is a deep, complex work that draws on the life of Dostoyevsky, the life of the author and the history of Russia to produce profoundly disturbing results.
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The novel depicts the life and character of Christopher Marlowe, one of the greatest playwrights of the Elizabethan era.
The novel recites amateur Gustave Flaubert expert Geoffrey Braithwaite’s musings on his subject’s life, and his own, as he looks for a stuffed parrot that inspired the great author.
The book concerns three generations of women affected by a Virginia Woolf novel. The first is Woolf herself writing Mrs. Dalloway in 1923 and struggling with her own mental illness. The second is Mrs. Brown, wife of a World War II veteran, who is reading Mrs. Dalloway in 1949 as she plans her husband’s birthday party. The third is Clarissa Vaughan, who plans a party in 2001 to celebrate a major literary award received by her good friend and former lover.

Charlotte Brontё 200

With two notable works, the third of six children, Charlotte (21 April 1816 – 31 March 1855), is widely known for just one of them – “Jane Eyre”. This became one of the first books with strong female character. The book which tells a story of an independent woman with high moral standards. A woman who is ready to sacrifice her happiness, but to stay “pure”. But this is the story of two loving people who finally find each other. There’s another book – “Villette” (1853) – that tells another story, the story of unrequited love.

Portrait of Charlotte BronteBased on the author’s experiences as a governess in Brussles, the novel tells the story of lonely Lucy Snowe, who finds employment at a girls’ boarding school in the town of Villette. she encounters a culture and religion different from her own, and falls in love with a man (Paul Emanuel) whom she cannot marry.

“Villette, Brontë’s last and – to my mind – greatest novel, is less popular, perhaps because it is so uncompromising and so original. It is high time it was recognised as the blazing work it is. Reading it you enter an area of experience – of passion and disappointment and the violent return of the repressed – that has seldom been so lucidly articulated.

It is also an astonishing piece of writing, a book in which phantasmagorical set pieces alternate with passages of minute psychological exploration, and in which Brontë’s marvellously flexible prose veers between sardonic wit and stream-of-consciousness, in which the syntax bends and flows and threatens to dissolve completely in the heat of madness, drug-induced hallucination and desperate desire” (Lucy Hughes-Hallett, The Telegraph).

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Pensionnat Heger in Brussels, where Charlotte Bronte fell in love with the master, Constantin Heger.

  “No mockery in this world ever sounds to me so hollow as that of being told to cultivate happiness. What does such advice mean? Happiness is not a potato, to be planted in mould, and tilled with manure. Happiness is a glory shining far down upon us out of Heaven. She is a divine dew which the soul, on certain of its summer mornings, feels dropping upon it from the amaranth bloom and golden fruitage of Paradise.”

― Charlotte Brontë, Villette

Writer: Iris Murdoch

Iris Murdoch (15 July 1919 – 8 February 1999)

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In the library:

  • “The sea, the sea” (Vintage, 2009) – winner of the Booker Prize,1978
  • “The Black Prince” (Vintage, 2006), winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize
  • “The Bell” (Vintage, 2004)
  • “Under the Net” (Vintage, 2002)
  • “The message to the planet” (Vintage, 2000)

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Iris Murdoch was Irish-born British writer, university lecturer and prolific and highly professional novelist. She lived a life entirely dedicated to her art while creating works whose importance is still relevant in the world today.

As a writer, she was a perfectionist who did not allow editors to change her text. Murdoch produced 26 novels in 40 years, the last written while she was suffering from Alzheimer disease.

In 2001, she was portrayed by Kate Winslet (as a young Iris) and Judy Dench (plays the author later in life) in the biographical film “Iris”,  based on her husband John Bayley’s memoir.

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Happy birthday to Sir Salman Rushdie!

Salman Rushdie is a British Indian novelist and essayist, he was born in Bombay (now Mumbai) on 19 June 1947. He is said to combine magical realism with historical fiction.

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In the library:

Midnight’s Children (1981) – Booker Prize for Fiction

In 1993 was judged to have been the ‘Booker of Bookers’, the best novel to have won the Booker Prize for Fiction in the award’s 40-year history (by a public vote).

Midnight’s Children is a fictional history of post-Independence India, a story we are asked to read through the lens of Saleem Sinai’s life. Born in the midnight hour of Independence, Saleem, along with 1001 other children, is gifted with magical powers which lead in both creative and destructive directions. Born to poor Hindu parents, brought up by wealthy Muslims, Saleem is a bastard child of history and a metaphor for the post-colonial nation.

Midnight’s Children (1981); Shame (1983); and The Satanic Verses (1988) are Rushdie’s best known works to date, and are sometimes regarded together as a trilogy.

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“I am the sum total of everything that went before me, of all I have been seen done, of everything done-to-me. I am everyone everything whose being-in-the-world affected was affected by mine. I am anything that happens after I’m gone which would not have happened if I had not come.”

― Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Children

“Memory has its own special kind. It selects, eliminates, alters, exaggerates, minimizes, glorifies, and vilifies also; but in the end it creates its own reality, its heterogeneous but usually coherent version of events; and no sane human being ever trusts someone else’s version more than his own.”

― Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Children

On June 10, 2015 – Saul Bellow’s 100th birthday (1915-2005)

Saul Bellow was a celebrated novelist who won the Pulitzer, the Nobel Prize for Literature and the National Book Award for Fiction three times.SaulBellowdesk_3330678b

 The Nobel Prize in Literature 1976 was awarded “for the human understanding and subtle analysis of contemporary culture that are combined in his work”.

“A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.”©

“Unexpected intrusions of beauty. This is what life is.” (“Herzog”, 1964)

John Updike, AS Byatt, Ian McEwan and Martin Amis are among the biggest fans of Saul Bellow.

3231352In the library:

  • Humboldt’s Gift (1975) is a self-described “comic book about death”. It explores the long friendship between Charlie Citrine, a young man with an intense passion for literature, and the great poet Von Humboldt Dleisher. At the time of Humboldt’s death, Charlie’s life is falling apart: his career is at a standstill, and he’s enmeshed in an acrimonious divorce, infatuated with a highly unsuitable young woman, and involved with a neurotic Mafioso. And then Humboldt acts from beyond the grave, bestowing upon Charlie an unexpected legacy that may just help him turn his life around.