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jueves, 26 de enero de 2017

The Luminous Landscape: Chinese Art and Poetry - Richard Lewis (Editor)

Rating: 
22/01/17
Autumn is beginning, the weather is turning chill.
Crickets move in to sing under my bed.
A thousand things surge into my mind
And grieve my heart.
A thousand tales search for words;
But to whom will they be told?
Ruan Ji (210–263)


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Shen Quan, "Birds and Flowers - Dragonfly on Wisteria"


This is a short yet fine collection of Chinese art and poetry that, regardless of the period, gracefully conveys the profound bond between nature and the human perception of it; the relationship between the essence of every element that constitutes a landscape and human nature.

The mountain moon shines on a cloudless sky.
Deep in the night the wind rises among the pines.
I wish to weave my thoughts into a song for my jade lute,
But the pine wind never ceases blowing.
Zhu Yi-zun (1629–1709)


This book introduces us to the work of numerous Chinese poets who captured the spirit of every one of the elements mentioned above and transformed them into evocative poems capable of portraying the countless shades of our nature, which usually involves a sense of longing that only sees infinity.

I must endure the sorrow of leaving these
green mountains,
But can I forget their blue streams?
Wang Wei (701- 761)


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Mu Xi, "Eight Views of Hsiao Hsiang."


The contemplation of an ethereal scenery as our own introspection evolves in complete harmony. The subtle and vehement nuances of our mood. The affection for solitude personified by the imposing mountains engulfed by diaphanous clouds. The need to hear another sound beyond the echo of our own voice that barely disrupts the splendor of a pond. Someone to tell how sublime the lake whitened by the moon is. Yes, all the essentials and principles that are part of us.

For Three Days I Traveled Through Mountains;
When the Mountains Came to an End I Was Deeply Moved


Before my eyes, green mountains –
I have truly loved them.
Why not have their craggy heights before me every day?
But this morning, the curtain fell,
the mountains were swept away,
and I felt unhappy, as if I were saying goodbye
to a friend.
Yuan Zhongdao (1570–1624)


Those contrasting realities and other aspects of human life are also depicted through painting, and this collection includes several beauteous creations of Chinese artists that are exquisitely combined with the referred poems. As the editor states, art and poetry were often one entity, to the point of poems being inscribed on the paintings themselves. He summarizes that fact quite eloquently by quoting an old Chinese proverb: “A picture is a voiceless poem, a poem is a vocal picture.”

This collection wasn’t the one I intended to read, but since I still can’t find the book I wanted, I gave this one a try. And I’m glad I did. I found many voiceless poems interspersed with vocal pictures that transport the reader to the beautiful simplicity of nature, despite mountains made of concrete. A relaxing read to hold on to when one has to return to civilization.

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...haze, mist, and the haunting spirits of the mountains are what human nature seeks, and yet can rarely find.
Guo Xi (1020–1090)





* The last painting is not from the book; artist unknown.
** Update Jan 26, 17: I found the book I was looking for.


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sábado, 21 de enero de 2017

The Enemies - Dylan Thomas

Rating: 
17/01/17


This is a 1934 short story written by a multifaceted author named Dylan Thomas. I already got acquainted with his poetry, something that I thoroughly enjoyed. But I was curious about his side as a storyteller, especially after someone recommended me his prose. It is hard for me to leave the Russo-Japanese bubble, but I am determined to explore other cultures and their literature, if only a glimpse in the form of a short story. So I have been reading some and this one is a most memorable example that urges me to read The Collected Stories.

As it usually happens with my favorite kind of narrative, action is not the main factor. By all outward appearances, we merely have three characters who take part in a very simple story, but the author endowed them with a rich symbolism that continues to intensify as the atmosphere darkens with every glance. His writing combines a variety of elements whose final product is imbued with brilliant uniqueness. A piercing lyricism is hidden behind every metaphor, every simple description.

I can't help the comparison with another short story I recently read: Once Upon a Time by Nadine Gordimer. Her stark style blended perfectly with the powerful themes she analyzed. In that case, the real element was action, through which her views on certain matters were effectively conveyed, but her more straightforward writing (at least in that short story; the first time I read something by her) didn't resonate with me as much as Dylan Thomas' so the connection was rather different. Different but real.

All in all, I enjoyed these few pages. Prose written by a poet. A delectable treat in the first month of the year, during this unforgiving summer - already longing for autumn.


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lunes, 2 de enero de 2017

2016 on Goodreads - Various

28/12/16


It is never too late to be what you might have been.
— George Eliot


So, it’s that time of year. Well, my entire bookish journey can be seen by hitting that loud orange button you may notice without any effort. (Random fact, due to Goodreads’ choices, this year I had to resort to some technological magic to avoid being swallowed by giant book covers and superfluous information, but the huge orange box that leads to my reading challenge is still there. Blue is always the safest choice, humans.)

Since I don’t have many eloquent words to share, clearly, I believe it’s wise to let Adulthood Is a Myth speak for me; a magnificent book I reviewed recently, brimming with countless pearls of wisdom expressed through simple pictures that my goldfish could have drawn.
Reader, I told you we were going to come back. You have been warned.

Swann's Way, Anna Karenina, Snow Country, The Decameron, No Longer Human, The Bell Jar, Russian poetry, my first Calvino, my second and a half Sōseki, my third Mishima. This year has been quite enriching when it comes to books. Some were utterly captivating...

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...while a few were a variety of words I could not follow even if they were holding enormous neon signs over their heads.

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I perfected some well-known habits, though I gave up trying to read books while walking on the street, after some awkward experience involving coffee.

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And my talent for enjoying a rainy day was never wasted, thanks to the satisfying combination of books and movies.

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I should mention that, while I’m in another city now and starting all over again, other aspects of life haven’t changed that much during this strange year since regardless the place, wherever you go, you take yourself with you.¹ Therefore, some ways of thinking continued to knock some little door in the vicinity of my mind.

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However, one of my goals for 2016 was to be less socially awkward; a brave attempt at challenging my DNA, thinking that might improve my communication skills and even make my life better, despite a myriad of other existential crises, both meaningful and absurd.

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And I am pleased to announce that on many occasions, it wasn’t that bad, even though there were times when sociability totally backfired.

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Someone who is reminiscent of everything one shouldn’t do in a friendship once implied that I give common sense platitudes. Perhaps that’s what I do and am doing right now. Another person once wrote that I give myself fully; perhaps that’s what I shouldn’t do since most of the time people don’t value such attention—sorry, I’m not blindly generous; I do expect some reciprocation. Personal things aside, this charming place named Goodreads has brought me much joy and some moments of sadness, the ineluctable dichotomy of life, but this is where I choose to express myself for the time being and naturally, I’d rather lose sight of anything that doesn’t bring me joy (Gilmore reference minus Marie Kondo) than to be divested of my humble sanctuary.
I have to thank all the wonderful people who enrich my life with their reviews. And I'm also grateful for every kind comment I receive, regardless of the level of nonsense of what I write.

This was a good literary year and I hope the next one will be just as rewarding and exciting. And that’s what I wish you all: wonderful books, great music, exceptional movie marathons, knowledge, mystery, excitement, new places, new perspectives and loving, honest, amazing people around you who never (or almost never) take your love and friendship for granted, who have the remarkable ability to make you want to be a better person, changing the things you wish to change, reaffirming the virtues you possess. There are always people worth having around, and it takes courage to say and do the things so as to not losing them. Solitude has its charms but they never last forever, so unless you are an Aristotelian beast or god, you will need people, so let’s hope they bring color to your life, simplicity to your world, and a special place for you in theirs; otherwise, adiós. Their loss. And time is finite.
I read an interesting and unusual book recently, and as I write these wandering, disconnected thoughts, I remember a particular passage.
I can say more or less the same thing as the Pretorian Prefect who was disgraced under Vespasian and went to end his days in the country: ‘I have spent seventy years on earth and I have lived for seven of them.’
Jean-Jacques Rousseau; Reveries of the Solitary Walker, p. 154

If well lived, perhaps seven years are more than enough but, human beings I knew, I know, I thought I knew or will never know, I hope those words never describe your entire life.


Happy New Year. Now, if you’ll excuse me.

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¹ Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book

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