Archive | June, 2013

Review: The Essays of “George Eliot”

30 Jun


The Essays of “George Eliot” by George Eliot
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Some of the essays are very interesting, I have found topics I did not expect. I really like the essay on the rise of European Women’s writing and the introduction to seventeenth Century salon phenomena in France. I also like Eliot’s criticism of silly novels by lady novelists, her criticism of evangelical writings and her essay on the German writer, Hein. Eliot is clearly widely read in multiple languages and fields, and I believe she sometimes proves herself, with the soundness of her logic, a better critic than the novelist she is.

View all my reviews

The Caterbury Tales

30 Jun

I have always wanted to read the Caterbury Tales because I believed it is an important book for an English Literature enthusiast, I tried nine years ago and after a few pages of unfathomable old English I shut the second-hand book and put it back on the shelf. A few weeks ago I saw this version of the Caterbury Tales in the local library, I decided to give it another go, especially that it said on the book that the spelling of the words in this version is modernised, hence easier to understand. It was still difficult though, a book to endure rather than enjoy.

It starts with a group of people on a journey to Canterbury trying to kill the time by telling eachother stories about themselves and people they met, and the book continues with these pilgrims’ tales. The tales are often graphic, obscene, shallow and uncomfortably rude which is completely paradoxical and oxymoronic with the fact that they are pilgrims on a religious journey.

I have pondered a lot while and after reading the Canterbury Tales about why such a superficial difficult-to-read book has been held in such a high regard over the centuries. Eventually I satisfied myself by blaming its historical and linguistic value as the first known major work of literature in the “English” language. I couldn’t help thinking however of other Western literary works which share in their languages this initiality of the Canterbury Tales like the Iliad and the Odyssey, but I realised that their quality of verse, languages and narrative is incomparable to the Canterbury Tales’ embryonic standard of English and literature.

The Canterbury Tales is a book worth knowing about, but reading it and studying it would only be fun for medievalists.

Review: Daniel Deronda

24 Jun

Daniel Deronda
Daniel Deronda by George Eliot
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Daniel Deronda is an over-written excessively expansive book that would have made the same point and stressed on the same themes in just half its size. I give Eliot though the credit of immense research and maybe she just wanted to translate it all into this which subsequently deemed it out of focus.

Daniel Deronda discusses a lot of the themes of its day, illegitimate children, pre and post-marriage relationships, filial duty and how far it should go, anti-semitism, Judaism and more than anything else Zionism.

Zionism explained though unnamed takes the biggest place in the book. Daniel Deronda is occupied throughout the book with the question of his parenthood. He eventually discovers that he is a Jew, born to two Jewish parents. He also befriends Mordecai who teaches him Hebrew and gives him a purpose for his life, which is to fight for establishing a home land for the Jews in the East, in other wordsto become a devoted Zionist.

Zionism, controversial as it is, does not require much commentary. It’s complete disregard for Palestinians, the inhabitants of this so called homeland is utterly as disgusting as the antisemitism Jews have been subjected to in Europe.

I also disagree with the notion of classing Jews in general no matter where they come from as a race. Religion does not make a race. It is the physical and cultural traits that make a race. European Jews have different religious habits from Middle-Eastern ones, Russian Christians are different from Coptic or Greek Christians and Egyptians moslems celebrate Eid differently from Saudis, Pakistanis or Indonesian. Religion is not good enough to call the people who belong to it a race, hence not good enough for founding a state upon it.

View all my reviews

Review: Moby-Dick

22 Jun

Moby-Dick
Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a book!Remains experimental in style today after over a century and a half of seeing the light!

Ishmael, the narrator, comes across as a very reflective, thoughtful person who has done a lot of research in the world of whaling and even decided to experience it first hand, and it is this experience that makes up the story of Moby-Dick.

The whole story could be read from the perspective of the civil vs the savage. On the superficial level, the savage is Quick Quag with his harpoon, ugly tatoo and very little words forming a brotherhood bond with Ishmael, the civil, the thinker, the voice.Although Ishmael seems impressed with Quick Quag’s soft-heartedness, bravery and generosity, he doesn’t hesitate to refer to him as a savage when he takes his money or pagan after becoming his brother. Ishmael also redicules Quick Quag’s religion and fasting, for Ishmael every man is entitled to their own belief, however not Quick Quag whose religion is nonsensical. Ishmael also does not seem very affected when his brother the savage is believed to be dying and the carpenter even gets his coffin ready for him.

On another level, the civil is the whale who is described in all sorts of majestic words and Ishmael goes through a lot of researching trouble to prove the regality of whales in general and Moby Dick in Particular. The savage is the whaler in general and Ahab, the captain, in particular. Like Quick Quag, Ahab is strong-willed and brave to a level of recklessness and like Quick Quag he is ridiculed in physical appearance, he is old, wrinkly with an ivory stub for a leg, which gets broken on various occasions to serve for further ridicule.The chase and the strife between Ahab and Moby Dick is catharsisistic in the story, for they too are bonded till death. In the end, the civil, the whale, Moby Dick prevails over Ahab, his ship and his crew including Quick Quag, and Ishmael the other civil survives to tell the story.

Ishmael’s name also stands for the civil and the savage. For Ishmael is the son of Abraham, the man, the prophet, the wise, the civil on one hand and on the other he is also the son of Hajra, the woman, the slave, the abandoned, the savage.

View all my reviews