Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Classics Unknown, Part 1




As you may have noticed I have been missing from the blogosphere for some weeks now, all due to a holiday. I was actually in Bad Dreikirchen in Italy, which is only important because Goethe was there once, apparently.

Now I'm in France and the only reason that is important is because I picked up a French Literary magazine, which is quite good. The best article is definitely one on a 100 classics who's authors are either forgotten or barely remembered. Most of them are French, which offers me the perfect opportunity to refresh my French. I picked a couple of author's whose books sounded pretty good and thought I'd share them with you. Perhaps you have read some of them and could tell me what you think, perhaps they are books you'd like to read yourself.

JudasThe first is 'Judas' by Lanza Del Vasto. I was trying to find this one on Amazon, but the British Amazon only has 3 copies left, so I will have to be quick in getting my copy!
The author's actual name is Giuseppe Giovanni Luigi Enrico Lanza di Trabia and he was born in 1901in Italy and died 80 years later. He had quite a spectacular life, from joining Ghandi in the Indian Independence Movement to going to Palestine during its Civil War. Also, he is the founder of the Arks, Christian communities that follow Ghandi. I couldn't find a proper summary, all that Amazon wrote was:

One of the deepest novels of the 20th century. The book deepens into the utmost depths of the greator Traitor, he who would not accept the love of the Saviour.
The magazine was highly positive about the book and I think that Lanza's life and his belief in Ghandi and Christianity must make this book very interesting.

Another is called 'Auschwitz and After' and is written by Charlotte Delbo. This is what Amazon writes:
In1942, Charlotte Delbo (1913^-85) and her husband were arrested in their Paris apartment, where they were preparing to distribute anti-German leaflets. He was executed, and she was deported first to Auschwitz and then to the Ravensbruck concentration camp. Auschwitz and After, first published in France as three separate books (None of Us Will Return, Useless Knowledge, and The Measure of Our Days), is a memoir about her experiences in the camps. Delbo, a non-Jew, recounts the daily struggle to stay alive while besieged with hunger, thirst, abuse, fatigue, and despair. She also relates the recollections of survivors of her own work group and their difficulties in returning to a normal life, as well as her return to France after her liberation. A small portion of the memoir is written in the form of poetry. Holocaust scholar Lawrence Langer has written a penetrating introduction to this masterpiece, in which he says that Delbo writes "not as a heroine but as a victim. Her language is exquisite, but the pain of her memories is not, and this may help to explain why her audience has never been very large." Finally translated into English, this unique memoir will be able to reach the larger audience that it deserves.
To me, this sounds very promising. I always feel like a lot of stories about the Second World War have been written to fit a certain style, yet a book by a woman about that time and her experiences must be a great read.

In the next part I will look at Valery Larbaud's Fermina Marquez, Junichiro Tanizaki and Helene Bessette's Le Bonheur de la Nuit.

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