You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘France’ tag.

Moliere is a 17th century French writer known for his satiric comedy plays. His plays-be it Tartuffe, The Misanthrope or The School for

Husbands-predominantly look at the French society of the time with a satiric lens.  In his Preface to the play Tartuffe, Moliere has specifically outlined that the function of comedy is to correct men and society’s faults. This was the prevailing view of comedy’s function among Western writers of the time.

The Misanthrope is also a much layered play which brings into question the hypocrisies of the artificial upper classes of 17th century French society. The play is about Alceste, who detests contemporary society and its ways and manners, and his love for the beautiful widowed Celimene. Alceste does not wish to follow any superficial manners and believes them to be a waste of time and anyone who blindly follows them always elicit bursts of anger and hatred from Alceste. Celimene, on the other hand, believes that it is important to follow the social conventions for one’s own gain. This creates a lot of tension between the two extraordinary lovers who are as different as fire and ice. Alceste’s friend, Philinte, tries his best to diffuse the tension and to make Alceste understand that being in constant argument with the social world and with mankind is detrimental. With this main plot, Moliere explores several questions-whether Alceste is really a misanthrope or is it someone else and if he is the former, then it is rather paradoxical that a misanthrope is in love with Celimene; whether it is worth to struggle with social norms and not accept them at all and several others. There are several sub plots as well such as the nascent love between Philinte and Eliante; the simmering relationship between Celimene and Arsinoe; Oronte’s sonnets and his suit against Alceste who insulted the former’s writing abilities etc.. Within these several layers are revealed the minute workings of the aristocratic class, their hypocrisies regarding human relations, their vanity, the position and status of women etc.

The Misanthrope is a fun play to read as it provides an acute analysis of the malaise of the times, which Alceste detested, in a light, comic manner. All the characters are colourful and rounded with their unique viewpoints. Their dialogues and mannerisms give the reader a glimpse into their personalities and ways of thinking.  Moliere is a master of satiric comedy and he invests The Misanthrope with several lines of thought and meaning which the reader can ponder over. Many critics have pointed out that Alceste’s character is based on Moliere himself and that his deteriorating relationship with Armande Bejart was the basis for Alceste’s relationship with Celimene. We can never know the truth, but only speculate. And while you speculate, do try and relate the play to our own contemporary hypocrisies as well. Happy reading!

Advertisements

It may not be one of the greatest books, maybe out of print and may not even be about the best musician on the planet(though for some he definitely is!), but nonetheless, it is one marvellous novel that must be read.

Taken from goodreads.com

Clair De Lune‘ written by Pierre La Mure is a biography of France’s best musician and composer, Claude Debussy. Before you stop reading the review further because the word ‘biography’ has put you off, I must tell you that the biography is very much a novel, a story of his life rather than a collection of boring essays of Debussy’s life by other people.It is written beautifully tracing Debussy’s life from his birth to his eventual/sad death. La Mure wrote about Debussy’s life like a intricate story so much so that the reader is one with Debussy in his travails and success.

There is not much in the sense of a plot in the novel which is quite obvious as Pierre is writing about a true, famous French musician and not a fictional character.  Yet I will give you a short summary. The book starts with his aunt and her reflection of her motherly love for Debussy. She recalls his birth and how she convinced his parents to let him stay with him in Paris. His aunt recognized his talent and arranged piano lessons for him. His musical talent got him admission in the Paris Conservatoire. He even won the Prix De Rome. However, because of the difficult and experimental nature of his music, Debussy wasn’t able to impress many composers who dismissed his work as difficult to play. Debussy therefore continued to struggle and remain in poverty partly because of this and partly because he did not grab opportunities when he saw them and was not business minded. It was only after his opera’s performance,’Pelleas et Mesilande’, that Debussy tasted success and his music was appreciated. He was finally able to uplift himself from his crushing poverty. He died in 1918 in the middle of World War I due to cancer. Mixed with his musical life is his very colourful love life. He had affairs with several women which is greatly described in the book.

How much is truth and how much is dramatization in this biography I cannot judge. However, I am guessing that the love affairs that have been focused and etched out so vividly have definite touches of fiction, probably given to increase the reader’s curiosity and make them want to buy his novel. And that is one of the negative points in the book. It tends to focus more on his turbulent affairs than his music. He comes across as a womanizer than as a composer because of this. The book does mention that music was his first love but this love is never demonstrated elaborately. His music is relegated to the margins quite often which is quite disappointing. (Though it is quite fun reading pages and pages of love making he had with his love interests!) Another very disappointing aspect is that the novel exalts Debussy, creates a perfectness in him that is impossible in any individual, justifies all his actions and portrays him as a victim(particularly when it comes to his mean actions with his love interests).

Besides all these drawbacks, ‘Clair De Lune‘ is a breathtaking work, a beautifully crafted biography that ignites the life and times of the great misfit musician. It pulls the reader into the bygone latter years of the 19th century, paints a stunning, opulent, luxurious,enchanting picture of France and Paris and other European places that Debussy visits. The emotional ups and downs, the tempestuous love affairs, the harrowing poverty, the fantastical music moments and the astonishing success seep into the reader making it difficult to tear oneself away from the book’s magic and come back to the dreary,music-less 21st century world!

Clair De Lune‘ is a novel that is not to be missed. One does not need to be a music expert to read Claude Debussy’s life story. The book never throws a lot of confusing music jargons that laypeople won’t understand. One can however, fall in love with his music because of this novel and that won’t be futile as his music is pretty darn good with its melting, lilting, dreamy qualities. It is sure to be a heart stirring experience!

Do check out this book and his wonderful music. They are both worth the time and money!

The book ‘ The Historian‘ was hailed as a thriller, a splendid debut by Elizabeth Kostova. Every time I read a review of this book, I felt I would adore this book which was steeped in history with apparently a daughter in search for her roots. The summary appealed to me but unfortunately, the book did not live upto my expectations.

Taken From sodahead.com

The story begins with the daughter proclaiming about the legacy her father left her behind. Then the 1st chapter goes on to how she stumbled upon this legacy. The story then continues with the father, Paul, narrating stories from his past that are connected to his horrific legacy. Paul had happened to come into possession during his university days, a book with only a single woodcut of a dragon. His curiosity led him to his academic adviser, Barthlomew Rossi, who infact had the same book! Rossi’s curiosity and his own book had led him deeper into a mystery of vampires, of Vlad Dracul, the inspiration behind Bram Stoker’s novel, ‘Dracula.’ Rossi’s disappearance, soon after this meeting plunges Paul into a wild goose chase across most of Europe where he is being watched and followed by either vampires or communist party members. The story keeps shifting from past to present as and when Paul narrates. In the present, Paul’s daughter, after Paul is finished narrating his story, sets out to find more of this intriguing brutal, medieval legacy.

Firstly, the book’s exploration into history is brilliant. It is obviously well researched. Of course, not all of it is true. But simply the fact that Elizabeth Kostova has put history in the forefront of a way to delve into past mysteries makes the subject, often hailed as redundant, quite relevant. This historical aspect that suffuses the book is superb. One of the few good points of this novel.

The negative points however are a long list. Firstly, the story is rather slow paced. For a thriller, such a pace can do nothing but disappoint the reader. The pace picks up only after 200 pages or so and then slows down again.

Secondly, the book seems more like a tourist magazine in the initial pages. Kostova spends many pages describing each place that Paul goes to in great, rich detail. While there is nothing immediately wrong with this, it however does hamper the story’s pace.

Kostova tries hard to use shock tactics to enchant the reader. They do work initially but later on she reiterates the same tactics- like ending the chapter with an appearance of a man who looks gaunt, scary with fangs or having Dracula’s or the dragon’s image at the end of the chapter. These do elicit shock in the beginning but they soon become monotonous and the shock wears off. The reader can even easily predict when she will use those same tactics.

Another disappointment was the discrepancy in the simultaneous narration of the father and daughter’s story. Kostova tends to run away with the former’s story as if she has forgotten about the latter completely. She also seems to have a penchant for libraries and librarians because there are descriptions of several of them and form a major part of the story but somehow it seems a bit inappropriate. The book should have been called ‘The Librarian’ instead of ‘The Historian.’

To conclude, ‘The Historian‘ is not a completely pathetic or ridiculous book. It is worth reading once. It has a unique scholarly touch to it, a great historical novel but in terms of literature or writing skills, ‘The Historian‘ could be a great disappointment. It is also not exactly a thriller, does not pump the reader with jabs of excitement. It is a rather careful narration of a different perspective on one of the most cruelest rulers of the middle ages and his alluring legends that draws writers to pen down stories about him!

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 442 other followers

Categories

Archives

Indiblogger

WWF

Be part of the solution Support WWF-India today
%d bloggers like this: