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I couldn't put The Catcher in the Rye down, I was gripped. Mr. Salinger has done an excellent job of exposing the psyche of the adolescent.
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Aldous Huxley was born at Godalming in 1894, into a prominent family of scientists. The nearly blind man was educated at Eton and Oxford and writer of many novels, short stories, essays, drama and verse, but 'Brave New World' has proved to be his most lastingly popular work. The title was taken from Shakespeare's 'The Tempest', in which Miranda, when seeing the first glimpse of the world outside the island on which she grew up, speaks the words: "O brave new world that has such people in it."
In this novel-of-ideas and dystopia, or in other words, a savage criticism of the scientific future, the motto is Community, Identity and Stability. There is no love, no individualism and people do not have emotions. Everybody belongs to one big group. No one is alone, because everybody is the same. The motto is, off course, an ironic contrast with the battlecry of the French Revolution: Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. It's obvious that Huxley wants to point out the dangerous aspects of the advancement of science. People will abuse the results of investigations, which will make the individual disappear.
The link of the motto with the battlecry of the French Revolution is not the only one. Many of the character's names are composed by use of the names of historical heroes. For example Benito Hoover, is made of Benito Mussolini and Herbert Hoover. This way the writer is parodying all the time.
The story starts at the London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre, where the Director explains some students how humans are being made by the Bokanovski-process. Eggs divide again and again (sometimes even 96 humans are beings hatch from one egg). When the Director asks a student whether he knows what a parent is, he answers: '"Human beings used to be." he hesitated; the blood rushed to his cheeks. "Well, they used to be viviparous."'
Bernard Marx is different from others. Something went wrong when he was in his bottle. He turned out to be, although he is, too small for an Alpha. He doesn't look like and has more emotions than other Alphas, which makes him not belonging to the big group. He and his colleague Lenina, a very pretty girl, who is very popular among the Alphas, go to New Mexico, to the Savages. Here the people haven't been scientifically produced. They meet John and his mother and take them to their world, which John really likes. He would love to see the New World. John hasn't been manipulated, so he's still able to have strong feelings....
A real pessimist can only think of a world like this. Therefore I think it's amazing how Huxley made up this story. It's been a great pleasure reading it, and it makes you start thinking about what the world will be in the future. Next to that, there's another, an educational aspect in the book. People have to be aware of abusers of knowledge. Huxley sure makes clear what he wants to say. It's a perfect novel.
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The apparent indifference Mersault carries strikes one as inhuman: shrugging off his mother's death, swearing off the church, agreeing to marry in a heartbeat, and, most poignantly, accepting his fate - a death sentence. But the things Mersault is trying to say through the gaps between what's actually on the page is simple: it's all arbitrary, we're fools on a ball spinning around a star, and contentment is the simplest thing to feel amidst chaos.
Although the murder and the trial, and definitely the funeral, are fantastic moral-bending existentialist scenes, what sticks with you in the dark of night, is as simple as the prose and also as endlessly complex: we're here, we'll never understand each other, we see what's most convenient to see, and we all die in the end anyway, whether or not our tenure here can be marked as "good" or "bad" or "moral". Not the most uplifting read in the world, but literature is a cruel mistress sometimes.
By the way, this book is about as un-autobiographical as is possible for a book to be. Yes, Camus grew up in Algiers and loved to swim, but he was primarily a thinker; he was utterly incapable of turning off his mind and thinking everything through. He philosophy was completely opposed to the Meursault's view of life. Yet, like me, he found in Meursault a certain honesty, of living consistently, without faking emotions and conventions. But it was ultimately against Meursault's attitude that Camus fought in his books and essays.
It is a philosophical novel, and no doubt people will be turned off by anything that challenges them, but definitely give this book a chance. It has more to say than all but a handful of books five times the length of this one. I read it almost ten years ago for school, and have read it a half dozen times since, as well as every other novel Camus wrote... those for my own enjoyment. Put aside that King book for a week and read one of the greatest books ever written.
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If you want to get a deeper insight into Beowulf as a work of literature, this book is an excellent way to do it. Some of the essays are a bit challenging--the book is for the fairly serious Beowulf fan. Seamus Heaney's translation really got me into a work which I've been meaning to get to for a long time. This collection of essays took me the rest of the way--it told me all I wanted to know about Beowulf as work of literature. Think of it as a senior-level college text book.
The essays give the reader some valuable insights into the language, but you don't have to know Old English to appreciate it. But a willingness to learn about a few of the words will help.
"Difficult" classics usually pay back many-fold the effort one puts into studying them. Beowulf and these essays are definitely worth that time and effort.
All that said, I would advise readers to be cautious of these translations for the following reasons. First, the plays are presented in the chronological order according to the myths they portray - not in the order in which Sophocles wrote them. In other words, even though Antigone was one of the first plays Sophocles produced and Oedipus at Colonus was produced posthumously, they are presented in order of their dramatic events. This means that they are very likely translated without regard for any evolution of Sophocles's thought or any implicit commentary the poet might have made upon the works of his own youth.
Second, in his introduction, Grene states that he sees in Oedipus at Colonus Sophocles's clumsy attempt to cover over the inconsistencies of his Theban Cycle. While this is certainly not all Grene sees in Oedipus at Colonus, the judgement of anyone who takes so irreverent and shallow a view of the last work of the most technically savvy tragedian of the classic age must be called into question.
In summary: Buy this book, read it, enjoy it, but if you're going to write an important paper on Sophocles, look at his work in the Greek, or at least in the Lloyd-Jones translation of the Loeb edition.
In Don Taylor's translation of "Antigone," published in the book, Sophocles, The Theban Plays, there are indeed too many notes, i.e., words. The defect does not lie in the art of Sophocles, nor in the requirements of translation. Taylor wrote with a contract for television performance already in hand. He fashions lines that are easy for actors to play and for audiences to understand. Having translated a character's thought, he often expands, supplements or restates the material. Thus, the audience is given a second and third bite at the apple of understanding. But this is more like a college lecturer who fears that his students won't get the point, than like Sophocles, who is famous for a clear, solid, succinct style.
Sophocles peppers his scenes, usually dialogues between two persons, with extended series of one-line "zingers," which the characters alternately thrust and counterthrust. The power and excitement of the exchanges lie in economy and pointedness of expression. To illustrate, here is a segment from the first scene between Creon and the soldier who tells him that Polynices' body has been partly buried. The first translation is by Dudley Fitts and Robert Fitzgerald, available in their book, The Oedipus Cycle, and also in Greek Plays in Modern Translation, both listed on Amazon.com. The second translation is Taylor's.
SENTRY: King, may I speak?
CREON: Your very voice distresses me.
SENTRY: Are you sure that it is my voice and not your conscience?
CREON: By God, he wants to analyse me now!
SENTRY: It is not what I say, but what has been done, that hurts you.
CREON: You talk too much.
SENTRY: Maybe, but I've done nothing.
CREON: Sold your soul for some silver: that's all you've done.
SENTRY: How dreadful it is when the right judge judges wrong.
SOLDIER: Am I allowed to speak, sir?
Why should you speak? Every word you say
Is painful to me.
SOLDIER: Well, it can't be earache,
Can it sir, not what I said!
It must stick in your gullet. Or further down
Maybe, a sort of pain in your conscience.
CREON: Do you dare to answer me back: and make jokes
About my conscience?
SOLDIER: Me sir? No sir!
I might give you earache; I can see that.
I talk too much, always have done.
But the other pain, the heartburn as it were,
It's the criminal causing that sir, not me.
CREON: You're not short of a quick answer, either.
SOLDIER: Maybe not. But I didn't bury the body.
Not guilty to that sir.
CREON: But maybe guilty
Of selling your eyes for money, eh sentry,
Of looking the other way for cash?
SOLDIER: I think it's a shame sir, that an intelligent man
And as well educated as you are
Should miss the point so completely.
The Fitts/Fitzgerald translation has 9 lines and 86 words; compared to Taylor's 24 and 160. Sophocles had used 9 lines and only 69 words. All the one-liner segments, occurring in almost every scene, undergo a similar transformation at Taylor's hand. But they are not alone. The same translating style appears in the major speeches of the play. Listen to part of the condemnation of Creon by the prophet, Teiresias, from Taylor first this time, then from Fitts/Fitzgerald.
TEIRESIAS: Listen Creon. This is the truth!
Before many more days, before the sun has risen
- Well, shall we say a few more times -
You will have made your payment, corpse
For corpse, with a child of your own blood.
You have buried the one still living: the woman
Who moves and breathes, you have given to the grave:
And the dead man you have left, unwashed,
Unwept, and without the common courtesy
Of a decent covering of earth. So that both
Have been wronged, and the gods of the underworld,
To whom the body justly belongs,
Are denied it, and are insulted. Such matters
Are not for you to judge. You usurp
Ancient rights which even the gods
Themselves don't dare to question, powers
Which are not in the prerogative of kings.
Even now, implacable avengers
Are on their way, the Furies, who rise up
From Hell and swoop down from Heaven,
Fix their hooks into those who commit crimes,
And will not let go. The suffering
You inflicted upon others, will be inflicted
Upon you, you will suffer, as they did.
Have I been bribed, do you think? Am I speaking
For money now? Before very long,
Yes, it will be soon, there will be screaming
And bitter tears and hysterical crying
In this house. Men, as well as women.
TEIRESIAS: Then take this, and take it to heart!
The time is not far off when you shall pay back
Corpse for corpse, flesh of your own flesh.
You have thrust the child of this world into living night,
You have kept from the gods below the child that is theirs:
The one in a grave before her death, the other,
Dead, denied the grave. This is your crime:
And the Furies and the dark gods of Hell
Are swift with terrible punishment for you.
Do you want to buy me now, Creon? Not many days,
And your house will be full of men and women weeping.
Box score, lines and words. Taylor 29:223. Fitts/Fitzgerald 11:106. Sophocles 16:94.
Are all these words really necessary? Taylor claims that his approach helps to make the text not only more dramatic and intelligible, but also more poetic. I agree that his version is easier to grasp by first-time viewers or readers. But in the process much of the Sophoclean clarity, solidity and reality are lost.
To say so much within such a short piece is a mystery within itself. The sheer power of the plot is testimony of Williams's genius. The play is beautifully constructed and hits upon many themes and emotions with clarity and precision, making it an enjoyable read while having substance. I did an analysis of this book for my junior Reading class, and recommend the read to anyone seeking high drama and a well rounded take on death.
I haven't looked at other editions, but the Signet edition contains two different versions of Act 3, along with a note by Williams explaining how director Elia Kazan persuaded him to write a second version. This feature makes the book particularly useful for teachers and students.
"Cat" takes place on a Southern plantation, and deals with a wealthy, but very dysfunctional family. Williams creates stunning dialogue for his characters: Brick, the bitter, alcoholic ex-athlete; Brick's frustrated wife Margaret; "Big Daddy," the patriarch, who is dying of cancer; and the rest. Williams also establishes the plantation's original owners as a haunting presence through the lines of his characters.
"Cat" is an explosive family drama about greed, secrets, guilt, alcoholism, and sexual frustration. Williams' characters are larger-than-life, and even grotesque, but Williams never loses a grasp on their essential humanity. An important book for those with a serious interest in American drama.
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