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General book blog.

(05/20/2008) Running In The Family by Michael Ondaatje. New York. 1982. Norton. keywords: Autobiography Sri Lanka Literature. 207 pages. Jacket design by Antonina Krass. 0393016374. September 1982.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   This book is an absorbing autobiographical journey of discovery to a far place in another time. Through memory, through imagination, the author reveals a world of fabulous characters and landscapes as he finds his own beginnings in the strange context of his family history. Michael Ondaatje was born in Ceylon to a privileged, highly eccentric family of mixed Dutch, Sinhalese, and Tamil ancestry. His parents separated, and he left Ceylon when he was eleven, eventually settling in Canada. Almost twenty-five years later, he returned to sort out the recollected fragments of experience, legend, and family scandal, and to reconstruct the fascinating relationship of his parents set against the exotic background of a colonial empire in decline. Cobras in the garden; grandmother Gratiaen swept away in a flood; the humid silence of the tropical afternoons; his father burying gin bottles in the flower beds; mad, drunken expeditions through the jungle - these are a few of the pieces that the author tries to fit together in order to understand who his parents were and who he is.

 

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(05/19/2008) In The Skin Of A Lion by Michael Ondaatje. New York. 1987. Knopf. keywords: Literature Canada Sri Lanka. 244 pages. Jacket illustration & design by Bascove. 0394563638. September 1987.

Ondaatje is an accomplished writer of beautiful prose and this one is my favorite.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Michael Ondaatje's previous books - THE COLLECTED WORKS OF BILLY THE KID, COMING THROUGH SLAUGHTER, and RUNNING IN THE FAMILY - have earned him the respect and praise of his fellow writers. Now, with his new novel, IN THE SKIN OF A LION, he has written a book that is certain to gain him the wider readership he so richly deserves. We begin with a young girl sitting in a car in the early morning hours. The man beside her is telling her a story, his story - of his boyhood in the Canadian backwoods, of his arrival in the bustling Toronto of the 1920s, of the passionate and fabulous adventures he underwent there. His name is Patrick Lewis, and as his tale unfolds, other people come forward to illuminate his life: the two women - friends, actresses - whom he loved. an elusive millionaire. a charmed thief. a nun blown off a bridge, only to be plucked - in midair - to safety. Each has his or her moment at the center of the story, as it progresses, as it doubles back on itself, as its full meaning and splendor are finally revealed. Combining history and poetry, mythic events and sensual detail, Michael Ondaatje has fashioned a luminous work of the imagination. 'A dazzling novel of power and style, dealing with human situations through verbal cinema. An extraordinary performance on the level - and beyond - of Ondaatje's THE COLLECTED WORKS OF BILLY THE KID and COMING THROUGH SLAUGHTER. He has invented a new form. ' - Leon Edel. 'Michael Ondaatje's fiction is as original and evocative as any being written today. A brilliantly imaginative blend of history, lore, passion and poetry, In the Skin of a Lion is his best book. ' - Russell Banks.

MICHAEL ONDAATJE was born in Sri Lanka. He left there at the age of eleven to go to school in England. He went to Canada in 1962 and now lives in Toronto, where he teaches at Glendon College, York University. His books include a fictional memoir about his family in Sri Lanka, RUNNING IN THE FAMILY; COMING THROUGH SLAUGHTER, a novel based on the life and music of Buddy Bolden; and THE COLLECTED WORKS OF BILLY THE KID. His books of poetry include THERE'S A TRICK WITH A KNIFE I'M LEARNING TO DO and SECULAR LOVE.

 

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(05/18/2008) Polish Memories by Witold Gombrowicz. New Haven. 2004. Yale University Press. Translated from the Polish by Bill Johnston. keywords: Literature Poland Eastern Europe Translated Memoir Autobiography. 191 pages. Jacket photo coutesy of the beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University. 0300104103.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Although Witold Gombrowicz's unique, idiosyncratic writings include a three-volume Diary, this voluminous document offers few facts about his early life in Poland before his books were banned there and he went into voluntary exile. Polish Memories-a series of autobiographical sketches Gombrowicz composed for Radio Free Europe during his years in Argentina in the late 1950s-fills the gap in our knowledge. Written in a straightforward way without his famous linguistic inventions, the book presents an engaging account of Gombrowicz's childhood, youth, literary beginnings, and fellow writers in interwar Poland and reveals how these experiences and individuals shaped his seemingly outlandish concepts about the self, culture, art, and society. In addition, the book helps readers understand the numerous autobiographical allusions in his fiction and brings a new level of understanding and appreciation to his life and work. Witold Gombrowicz is the author of Ferdydurke, Trans-Atlantyk, Pornografia, and Cosmos, the first two available from Yale University Press. These, along with his plays and the three-volume Diary, have been translated into more than thirty languages.

Witold Marian Gombrowicz (August 4, 1904 in Maloszyce, near Kielce, Congress Poland, Russian Empire - July 24, 1969 in Vence, near Nice, France) was a Polish novelist and dramatist. His works are characterized by deep psychological analysis, a certain sense of paradox and an absurd, anti-nationalist flavor. In 1937 he published his first novel, Ferdydurke, which presented many of his usual themes: the problems of immaturity and youth, the creation of identity in interactions with others, and an ironic, critical examination of class roles in Polish society and culture. He gained fame only during the last years of his life but is now considered one of the foremost figures of Polish literature. Gombrowicz was born in Maloszyce, in Congress Poland, Russian Empire to a wealthy gentry family. He was the youngest of four children of Jan and Antonina (nee Kotkowska.) In 1911 his family moved to Warsaw. After completing his education at Saint Stanislaus Kostka's Gymnasium in 1922, he studied law at Warsaw University (in 1927 he obtained a master's degree in law.) He spent a year in Paris where, he studied at the Institut des Hautes Etudes Internationales. He was less than diligent in his studies, but his time in France brought him in constant contact with other young intellectuals. He also visited the Mediterranean. When he returned to Poland he began applying for legal positions with little success. In the 1920s he started writing, but soon rejected the legendary novel, whose form and subject matter were supposed to manifest his 'worse' and darker side of nature. Similarly, his attempt to write a popular novel in collaboration with Tadeusz Kepinski turned out to be a failure. At the turn of the 20's and 30's he started to write short stories, which were later printed under the title Memoirs Of A Time Of Immaturity. From the moment of this literary debut, his reviews and columns started appearing in the press, mainly in the 'Kurier Poranny (Morning Courier). He met with other young writers and intellectuals forming an artistic cafe society in 'Zodiak' and 'Ziemianska', both in Warsaw. The publication of Ferdydurke, his first novel, brought him acclaim in literary circles. Just before the outbreak of the Second World War, Gombrowicz took part in the maiden voyage of the famous Polish cruise liner, Chrobry, to South America. When he found out about the outbreak of war in Europe, he decided to wait in Buenos Aires till the war was over but was actually to stay there until 1963 - often, especially during the war, in great poverty. At the end of the 40s Gombrowicz was trying to gain a position among Argentine literary circles by publishing articles, giving lectures in Fray Mocho cafe, and finally, by publishing in 1947, a Spanish translation of Ferdydurke written with the help of Gombrowicz's friends. Today, this version of the novel is considered to be a significant literary event in the history of Argentine literature; however, when published it did not bring any great renown to the author, nor did the publication of Gombrowicz's drama 'Slub' in Spanish ('The Wedding', 'El Casamiento') in 1948. From December 1947 to May 1955 Gombrowicz worked as a bank clerk in Banco Polaco, the Argentine branch of PeKaO SA Bank. In 1950 he started exchanging letters with Jerzy Giedroyc and from 1951 he started having works published in the Parisian journal 'Culture,' where, in 1953, fragments of 'Dziennik' ('Diaries') appeared. In the same year he published a volume of work which included the drama 'Slub' ('The Wedding') and the novel 'Trans-Atlantyk', where the subject of national identity on emigration was controversially raised. After October 1956 four books written by Gombrowicz appeared in Poland and they brought him great renown despite the fact that the authorities did not allow the publication of 'Dziennik' ('Diaries'), and later organized a slanderous campaign against Gombrowicz in 1963 who was then staying in West Berlin. In the 1960s Gombrowicz became recognized globally and many of his works were translated, including 'Pornografia' ('Pornography') and 'Kosmos' ('Cosmos'.) His dramas were staged in many theatres all around the world, especially in France, Germany and Sweden. In 1963 he returned to Europe, where he received a scholarship from the Ford Foundation during his stay in Berlin, and in 1964 he spent three months in Royaumont abbey near Paris, where he employed Rita Labrosse, a Canadian from Montreal who studied contemporary literature, as his secretary. In 1964 he moved to Vence near Nice in the south of France, where he spent the rest of his life. There he enjoyed the fame which culminated in May 1967 with the International Publishers Prize (Prix Formentor) and six months before his death, married Rita Labrosse. Gombrowicz wrote in Polish, however, in view of his decision not to allow his works to be published in his native country until the ban on the unabridged version of 'Dziennik', in which he described the Polish authorities slanderous attacks on him, was lifted he remained a largely unknown figure to the general reading public until the first half of the 1970s. Despite this, his works were printed in Polish by the Paris Literary Institute of Jerzy Giedroyc and translated into more than 30 languages. Morover, his dramas were repeatedly staged in the most important theatres in the whole world by the prominent directors such as: Jorge Lavelli, Alf Sjoeberg, Ingmar Bergman along with Jerzy Jarocki and Jerzy Grzegorzewski in Poland.

 

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(05/17/2008) Polyglots by William Gerhardi. New York. 1925. Duffield & Company. keywords: Literature England. 375 pages.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   THE POLYGLOTS, Gerhardie's comic masterpiece, is the unforgettable tale of an eccentric Belgian family living in the Far East through the uncertain years after the First World War and the Russian Revolution. The tale is recounted by their dryly conceited young English relative Captain Georges Hamlet Alexander Diabologh, who comes to stay with them during his military mission to the East. Filled with a host of bizarre characters - depressives, obsessives, paranoiacs, sex maniacs, hypochondriacs - Gerhardie paints a wonderfully absurd and directionless world where the comic and tragic are irrevocably entwined.

William Alexander Gerhardie was a British novelist and playwright. Gerhardie was one of the most critically acclaimed English novelists of the 1920s H. G Wells was a ferocious champion of his work. His first novel Futility, was written while he was at Cambridge and drew on his experiences in Russia fighting the Bolsheviks, along with his childhood experiences visiting pre-revolutionary Russia. Some say that it was the first work in English to fully explore the theme of 'waiting' later made famous by Samuel Beckett in WAITING FOR GODOT, but it is probably more apt to recognize a common comic nihilism between those two figures. His next novel, THE POLYGLOTS is probably his masterpiece Again it deals with Russia He collaborated with Hugh Kingsmill on the biography 'The Casanova Fable', his friendship with Hugh being both a source of conflict over women and a great intellectual stimulus. After World War II Gerhardie's star waned, and he became unfashionable, and although he continued to write, he had nothing published after 1939. After a period of poverty-stricken oblivion, he lived to see two 'definitive collected works' published by Macdonald More recently, both Prion and New Directions Press have been reissuing his works. Asked how to say his name, he told The Literary Digest 'Pronounced jer hardy, with the accent on the a: jer-har'dy. This is the way I and my relatives pronounce it, tho I am told it is incorrect. Philologists are of the opinion that it should be pronounced with the g as in Gertrude. I believe they are right. I, however, cling to the family habit of mispronouncing it. But I do so without obstinacy. If the world made it worth my while I would side with the multitude.'

 

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(05/15/2008) The Outsider by Ernesto Sabato. New York. 1950. Knopf. Translated From The Spanish By Harriet De Onis. keywords: Literature Translated Argentina Latin America. 177 pages. Jacket design by ALVIN LUSTIG. Originally published in Spanish as El Tunel, 1945.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   'I am Juan Pablo Castel, the painter who killed Maria Iribarne. Everybody knows that I killed Maria. But nobody knows how I became acquainted with her, just what the relations between us were, and how I developed the idea of killing her. I shall try to tell everything impartially.' So begins this compact, explosive short novel by a new star in the literary galaxy. The rest of the book is the pell-mell, at times breathless explanation of how Castel first saw Maria, how he searched the streets, buildings, and byways until he found her again, how she became his mistress, how he was involved with her cousin and the blind scholar to whom she was married - and how and why he had, at last, to kill her. Albert Camus recommended to his French publishers that they bring out this extraordinary piece of psychological yarn-spinning by a young Argentine. We are proud to bring it to the attention of American readers. A book of genuine literary distinction, The Outsider is also a real spellbinder.

Ernesto Sabato was born in 1911 in Rojas, Argentina. He is of Italian descent, his mother having been a member of the Cavalcanti family. He showed an early interest in both writing and painting, but went to an engineering school, as he says, 'for family reasons. ' At nineteen he became involved in his country's turbulent political situation and was forced into temporary exile. Suffering violent attacks from both the extreme Left and the extreme Right, he returned to Argentina to earn his living as a journalist, radio and motion-picture librarian, publicity man, book editor, translator, ana tutor. He has traveled widely in both Europe and the United States. His first book, 'a sort of dictionary of my life,' was published in 1945, and won him several Argentine literary prizes. THE OUTSIDER, his second book, was an immediate success in Spanish and became the first Argentine novel to be translated for publication by the Nouvelle Revue Francaise when Albert Camus and Roger Caillois recommended it for French readers. Sabato is married and has two sons. He lives in a suburb of Buenos Aires. Aside from writing, he says, he has two ambitions: to play folk music on the accordion and to paint well. 

 

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(05/14/2008) World Of Wonders by Robertson Davies. New York. 1976. Viking Press. keywords: Literature Canada. 358 pages. Jacket design by Honi Werner. 0670788120. March 1976.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   A movie is being made at a castle in Switzerland, directed by the great Swedish director Jurgen Lind. It stars a magician, Magnus Eisengrim, who plays the part of a celebrated illusionist. Off-camera and after the shooting sessions, Lind - together with the producer, the cameraman, the mysterious hostess Liesl, and Dunstan Ramsay - listens as Magnus Eisengrim tells his life story, a story as rich in color, drama, comedy, and gripping tension as any in recent fiction. It is the story of a cruelly maimed yet in the end liberating youth spent in the tawdry confines of a traveling carnival; of a conflicted young actor who crawls out of the gutter to some kind of salvation with a touring company run by Sir John Tresize, an actor-manager of the old school; finally, of a master magician whose triumphant Soiree of Illusions brings him not only international fame but a return to the Canadian mystery at the heart of his life. Magnus is not allowed to tell his story without interruption. Each one of his listeners has an opinion on what Magnus insists is the truth. Together, their evenings of exploration into the past - and into each others' lives - form perhaps the richest and most compelling of all Robertson Davies' novels. 'His writing has a wholly Dickensian flavor, but Davies, being of our time, goes much further than Dickens could. There is a sense of new psychological vistas opening up all the time, abetted by language which is not afraid of elegant candor. Davies administers his shocks coolly, without stylistic straining. He is, to say the least, a mature and wise writer. He claims the right to be a literary citizen of Britain, hence of Europe, as much as of North America. This is altogether sane, and it produces sane and civilized writing. ' - ANTHONY BURGESS.

William Robertson Davies, was a Canadian novelist, playwright, critic, journalist, and professor. He was one of Canada's best-known and most popular authors, and one of its most distinguished 'men of letters', a term Davies is sometimes said to have detested. Davies was the founding Master of Massey College, a graduate college at the University of Toronto. Growing up, Davies was surrounded by books and language. His father, Senator William Rupert Davies, was a newspaperman, and both his parents were voracious readers. He, in turn, read everything he could. He also participated in theatrical productions as a child, where he developed a lifelong interest in drama. He attended Upper Canada College in Toronto from 1926 to 1932 and while there attended services at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene. He would later leave the Presbyterian Church and convert to Anglicanism over objections to Calvinist theology. After Upper Canada College, he studied at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario from 1932 until 1935. At Queen's he was enrolled as a special student not working towards a degree, and wrote for the student paper, The Queen's Journal. He left Canada to study at Balliol College, Oxford, where he received a BLitt degree in 1938. The next year he published his thesis, Shakespeare's Boy Actors, and embarked on an acting career outside London. In 1940 he played small roles and did literary work for the director at the Old Vic Repertory Company in London. Also that year Davies married Australian Brenda Mathews, whom he had met at Oxford, and who was then working as stage manager for the theatre. Davies' early life provided him with themes and material to which he would often return in his later work, including the theme of Canadians returning to England to finish their education, and the theatre. Davies and his new bride returned to Canada in 1940, where he took the position of literary editor at the magazine Saturday Night. Two years later, he became editor of the Peterborough Examiner in the small city of Peterborough, Ontario, northeast of Toronto. Again he was able to mine his experiences here for many of the characters and situations which later appeared in his novels and plays. Davies, along with family members William Rupert Davies and Arthur Davies, purchased several media outlets. Along with the Examiner newspaper, they owned the Kingston Whig-Standard newspaper, CHEX-AM, CKWS-AM, CHEX-TV, and CKWS-TV. During his tenure as editor of the Examiner, which lasted from 1942 to 1955, and when he was publisher from 1955 to 1965, Davies published a total 18 books, produced several of his own plays and wrote articles for various journals. For example, Davies set out his theory of acting in his Shakespeare for Young Players and then put theory into practice when he wrote Eros at Breakfast, a one-act play which was named best Canadian play of the year by the 1948 Dominion Drama Festival. Eros at Breakfast was followed in close succession by Fortune, My Foe in 1949 and At My Heart's Core, a three-act play, in 1950. Meanwhile, Davies was writing humorous essays in the Examiner under the pseudonym Samuel Marchbanks. Some of these were collected and published in The Diary of Samuel Marchbanks, The Table Talk of Samuel Marchbanks, and later in Samuel Marchbanks' Almanack Also during the 1950s, Davies played a major role in launching the Stratford Shakespearean Festival of Canada. He served on the Festival's board of governors and collaborated with the Festival's director, Sir Tyrone Guthrie, in publishing three books about the Festival's early years. Although his first love was drama and he had achieved some success with his occasional humorous essays, Davies found greater success in fiction. His first three novels, which later became known as The Salterton Trilogy, were Tempest-Tost, Leaven of Malice, and A Mixture of Frailties These novels explored the difficulty of sustaining a cultural life in Canada, and life on a small-town newspaper, subjects of which Davies had first-hand knowledge. In 1960 Davies joined Trinity College at the University of Toronto, where he would teach literature until 1981. The following year he published a collection of essays on literature A Voice From the Attic, and was awarded the Lorne Pierce Medal for his literary achievements. In 1963 he became the Master of Massey College, the University of Toronto's new graduate college. During his stint as Master, he initiated the tradition of writing and telling ghost stories at the yearly Christmas celebrations. His stories were later collected in his book High Spirits Davies drew on his interest in Jungian psychology to create what was perhaps his greatest novel: Fifth Business, a book that draws heavily on Davies' own experiences, his love of myth and magic and his knowledge of small-town mores. The narrator, like Davies, is of immigrant Canadian background, with a father who runs the town paper. The book's characters act in roles that roughly correspond to Jungian archetypes according to Davies' belief in the predominance of the spirit over the things of the world. Davies built on the success of Fifth Business with two more novels: The Manticore, a novel cast largely in the form of a Jungian analysis, and World of Wonders Together these three books came to be known as The Deptford Trilogy. When Davies retired from his position at the University, his seventh novel, a satire of academic life, The Rebel Angels, was published, followed by What's Bred in the Bone These two books, along with The Lyre of Orpheus, became known as The Cornish Trilogy. During his retirement he continued to write novels which further established him as a major figure in the literary world: The Lyre of Orpheus, Murther and Walking Spirits and The Cunning Man A third novel in what would have been a further trilogy was in progress at Davies' death. He also realized a long-held dream when he penned the libretto to an opera: The Golden Ass, based on The Metamorphoses of Lucius Apuleius, just like that written by one of the characters in Davies' 1958 A Mixture of Frailties. The opera was performed by the Canadian Opera Company at the Hummingbird Centre in Toronto, in April, 1999, several years after Davies' death. Davies was a fine public speaker: deft, often humorous, and unafraid to be unfashionable.

 

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(05/13/2008) The Manticore by Robertson Davies. New York. 1972. Viking Press. keywords: Literature Canada. 310 pages. Jacket design by Hal Siegel. 0670453137. November 1972.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   David Staunton, a most successful criminal lawyer, is, above all, a tidily rational man. Even so, it is perhaps not so odd that he should feel a touch of madness and plunge himself into Jungian analysis as a result of his father's accidental death. The father, a model of flawed respectability, has, in an absentee fashion, done the 'right thing' by his only male child, the result being the kind of filial reverence which only a demi-stranger can elicit. As his analysis progresses, David learns a good deal about that father, about the schoolmasterish Ramsay, about the libidinous Liesl, about the giftedly warped Eisengrim - about himself. For those who have read Robertson Davies' FIFTH BUSINESS, this new novel will enrich the earlier one. For those who have not, THE MANTICORE will make for the totally satisfying experience of reading the work of a man who is master of transmuting exquisite English prose into high melodrama. man'ti-core: a fabulous monster having the body of a lion, the head of a man, and the tail or sting of a scorpion.

William Robertson Davies, was a Canadian novelist, playwright, critic, journalist, and professor. He was one of Canada's best-known and most popular authors, and one of its most distinguished 'men of letters', a term Davies is sometimes said to have detested. Davies was the founding Master of Massey College, a graduate college at the University of Toronto. Growing up, Davies was surrounded by books and language. His father, Senator William Rupert Davies, was a newspaperman, and both his parents were voracious readers. He, in turn, read everything he could. He also participated in theatrical productions as a child, where he developed a lifelong interest in drama. He attended Upper Canada College in Toronto from 1926 to 1932 and while there attended services at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene. He would later leave the Presbyterian Church and convert to Anglicanism over objections to Calvinist theology. After Upper Canada College, he studied at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario from 1932 until 1935. At Queen's he was enrolled as a special student not working towards a degree, and wrote for the student paper, The Queen's Journal. He left Canada to study at Balliol College, Oxford, where he received a BLitt degree in 1938. The next year he published his thesis, Shakespeare's Boy Actors, and embarked on an acting career outside London. In 1940 he played small roles and did literary work for the director at the Old Vic Repertory Company in London. Also that year Davies married Australian Brenda Mathews, whom he had met at Oxford, and who was then working as stage manager for the theatre. Davies' early life provided him with themes and material to which he would often return in his later work, including the theme of Canadians returning to England to finish their education, and the theatre. Davies and his new bride returned to Canada in 1940, where he took the position of literary editor at the magazine Saturday Night. Two years later, he became editor of the Peterborough Examiner in the small city of Peterborough, Ontario, northeast of Toronto. Again he was able to mine his experiences here for many of the characters and situations which later appeared in his novels and plays. Davies, along with family members William Rupert Davies and Arthur Davies, purchased several media outlets. Along with the Examiner newspaper, they owned the Kingston Whig-Standard newspaper, CHEX-AM, CKWS-AM, CHEX-TV, and CKWS-TV. During his tenure as editor of the Examiner, which lasted from 1942 to 1955, and when he was publisher from 1955 to 1965, Davies published a total 18 books, produced several of his own plays and wrote articles for various journals. For example, Davies set out his theory of acting in his Shakespeare for Young Players and then put theory into practice when he wrote Eros at Breakfast, a one-act play which was named best Canadian play of the year by the 1948 Dominion Drama Festival. Eros at Breakfast was followed in close succession by Fortune, My Foe in 1949 and At My Heart's Core, a three-act play, in 1950. Meanwhile, Davies was writing humorous essays in the Examiner under the pseudonym Samuel Marchbanks. Some of these were collected and published in The Diary of Samuel Marchbanks, The Table Talk of Samuel Marchbanks, and later in Samuel Marchbanks' Almanack Also during the 1950s, Davies played a major role in launching the Stratford Shakespearean Festival of Canada. He served on the Festival's board of governors and collaborated with the Festival's director, Sir Tyrone Guthrie, in publishing three books about the Festival's early years. Although his first love was drama and he had achieved some success with his occasional humorous essays, Davies found greater success in fiction. His first three novels, which later became known as The Salterton Trilogy, were Tempest-Tost, Leaven of Malice, and A Mixture of Frailties These novels explored the difficulty of sustaining a cultural life in Canada, and life on a small-town newspaper, subjects of which Davies had first-hand knowledge. In 1960 Davies joined Trinity College at the University of Toronto, where he would teach literature until 1981. The following year he published a collection of essays on literature A Voice From the Attic, and was awarded the Lorne Pierce Medal for his literary achievements. In 1963 he became the Master of Massey College, the University of Toronto's new graduate college. During his stint as Master, he initiated the tradition of writing and telling ghost stories at the yearly Christmas celebrations. His stories were later collected in his book High Spirits Davies drew on his interest in Jungian psychology to create what was perhaps his greatest novel: Fifth Business, a book that draws heavily on Davies' own experiences, his love of myth and magic and his knowledge of small-town mores. The narrator, like Davies, is of immigrant Canadian background, with a father who runs the town paper. The book's characters act in roles that roughly correspond to Jungian archetypes according to Davies' belief in the predominance of the spirit over the things of the world. Davies built on the success of Fifth Business with two more novels: The Manticore, a novel cast largely in the form of a Jungian analysis, and World of Wonders Together these three books came to be known as The Deptford Trilogy. When Davies retired from his position at the University, his seventh novel, a satire of academic life, The Rebel Angels, was published, followed by What's Bred in the Bone These two books, along with The Lyre of Orpheus, became known as The Cornish Trilogy. During his retirement he continued to write novels which further established him as a major figure in the literary world: The Lyre of Orpheus, Murther and Walking Spirits and The Cunning Man A third novel in what would have been a further trilogy was in progress at Davies' death. He also realized a long-held dream when he penned the libretto to an opera: The Golden Ass, based on The Metamorphoses of Lucius Apuleius, just like that written by one of the characters in Davies' 1958 A Mixture of Frailties. The opera was performed by the Canadian Opera Company at the Hummingbird Centre in Toronto, in April, 1999, several years after Davies' death. Davies was a fine public speaker: deft, often humorous, and unafraid to be unfashionable.

 

Check zenosbooks.com for either a used or a new copy of this book, or you can add it to your wishlist.

 


(05/12/2008) Fifth Business by Robertson Davies. New York. 1970. Viking Press. keywords: Literature Canada. 308 pages. Jacket design by Mel Williamson. 0670312134. November 1970.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   In reality, conjuring is nothing more than the subtle art of misdirecting an audience's attention. Its practitioners succeed by creating a reality of their own, a mythical moment out of a person's life in time during which he can extend his faith in his beliefs, unafraid. Dunstan Ramsay does not, on the surface, display any such skill as conjuring requires. He is a quiet, devoted, somewhat dumpy history professor, retiring after forty-five years of service to a Canadian boys' school. Though, not deceived by the illusions a magician can create, he is nonetheless fascinated with them. His students and colleagues take him for a doddering, dim old scholar with a wooden leg and an eccentric preoccupation with hagiography: he is obsessed with the search for and charting of saints, having shared his only intimate friendship with one of them, though it was an intimacy tainted by guilt. Compelled to write his memoirs in the form of a dryly indignant letter to the school's headmaster, Ramsay reveals the truly unique, sometimes eerie, always complicating role he has played during his life. Or, rather, during his lives. For Ramsay is a man twice born, a man who has returned from the hell of the battle-grave at Passchendaele in World War I decorated with the Victoria Cross, and destined to live within the probing psychological borderlines between history and myth, reality and surreal ity. As Ramsay tells it, it becomes increasingly evident that, from boyhood, he has exerted a perhaps mystical, perhaps pernicious influence on those around him. His apparently innocent involvements in such innocuous events as the throwing of a snowball or the teaching of card tricks to a small boy in the end prove neither innocent nor innocuous. Robertson Davies has created a deeply civilized, yet theatrical portrait of a dark and witty man who, while moving in a world where questions have more meaning than answers, comes to the knowledge that the marvelous is but an aspect of the real, and that the mystery of his own self, once untangled, provides him with a crystalline insight into the energies and mysteries of the universe.

William Robertson Davies, was a Canadian novelist, playwright, critic, journalist, and professor. He was one of Canada's best-known and most popular authors, and one of its most distinguished 'men of letters', a term Davies is sometimes said to have detested. Davies was the founding Master of Massey College, a graduate college at the University of Toronto. Growing up, Davies was surrounded by books and language. His father, Senator William Rupert Davies, was a newspaperman, and both his parents were voracious readers. He, in turn, read everything he could. He also participated in theatrical productions as a child, where he developed a lifelong interest in drama. He attended Upper Canada College in Toronto from 1926 to 1932 and while there attended services at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene. He would later leave the Presbyterian Church and convert to Anglicanism over objections to Calvinist theology. After Upper Canada College, he studied at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario from 1932 until 1935. At Queen's he was enrolled as a special student not working towards a degree, and wrote for the student paper, The Queen's Journal. He left Canada to study at Balliol College, Oxford, where he received a BLitt degree in 1938. The next year he published his thesis, Shakespeare's Boy Actors, and embarked on an acting career outside London. In 1940 he played small roles and did literary work for the director at the Old Vic Repertory Company in London. Also that year Davies married Australian Brenda Mathews, whom he had met at Oxford, and who was then working as stage manager for the theatre. Davies' early life provided him with themes and material to which he would often return in his later work, including the theme of Canadians returning to England to finish their education, and the theatre. Davies and his new bride returned to Canada in 1940, where he took the position of literary editor at the magazine Saturday Night. Two years later, he became editor of the Peterborough Examiner in the small city of Peterborough, Ontario, northeast of Toronto. Again he was able to mine his experiences here for many of the characters and situations which later appeared in his novels and plays. Davies, along with family members William Rupert Davies and Arthur Davies, purchased several media outlets. Along with the Examiner newspaper, they owned the Kingston Whig-Standard newspaper, CHEX-AM, CKWS-AM, CHEX-TV, and CKWS-TV. During his tenure as editor of the Examiner, which lasted from 1942 to 1955, and when he was publisher from 1955 to 1965, Davies published a total 18 books, produced several of his own plays and wrote articles for various journals. For example, Davies set out his theory of acting in his Shakespeare for Young Players and then put theory into practice when he wrote Eros at Breakfast, a one-act play which was named best Canadian play of the year by the 1948 Dominion Drama Festival. Eros at Breakfast was followed in close succession by Fortune, My Foe in 1949 and At My Heart's Core, a three-act play, in 1950. Meanwhile, Davies was writing humorous essays in the Examiner under the pseudonym Samuel Marchbanks. Some of these were collected and published in The Diary of Samuel Marchbanks, The Table Talk of Samuel Marchbanks, and later in Samuel Marchbanks' Almanack Also during the 1950s, Davies played a major role in launching the Stratford Shakespearean Festival of Canada. He served on the Festival's board of governors and collaborated with the Festival's director, Sir Tyrone Guthrie, in publishing three books about the Festival's early years. Although his first love was drama and he had achieved some success with his occasional humorous essays, Davies found greater success in fiction. His first three novels, which later became known as The Salterton Trilogy, were Tempest-Tost, Leaven of Malice, and A Mixture of Frailties These novels explored the difficulty of sustaining a cultural life in Canada, and life on a small-town newspaper, subjects of which Davies had first-hand knowledge. In 1960 Davies joined Trinity College at the University of Toronto, where he would teach literature until 1981. The following year he published a collection of essays on literature A Voice From the Attic, and was awarded the Lorne Pierce Medal for his literary achievements. In 1963 he became the Master of Massey College, the University of Toronto's new graduate college. During his stint as Master, he initiated the tradition of writing and telling ghost stories at the yearly Christmas celebrations. His stories were later collected in his book High Spirits Davies drew on his interest in Jungian psychology to create what was perhaps his greatest novel: Fifth Business, a book that draws heavily on Davies' own experiences, his love of myth and magic and his knowledge of small-town mores. The narrator, like Davies, is of immigrant Canadian background, with a father who runs the town paper. The book's characters act in roles that roughly correspond to Jungian archetypes according to Davies' belief in the predominance of the spirit over the things of the world. Davies built on the success of Fifth Business with two more novels: The Manticore, a novel cast largely in the form of a Jungian analysis, and World of Wonders Together these three books came to be known as The Deptford Trilogy. When Davies retired from his position at the University, his seventh novel, a satire of academic life, The Rebel Angels, was published, followed by What's Bred in the Bone These two books, along with The Lyre of Orpheus, became known as The Cornish Trilogy. During his retirement he continued to write novels which further established him as a major figure in the literary world: The Lyre of Orpheus, Murther and Walking Spirits and The Cunning Man A third novel in what would have been a further trilogy was in progress at Davies' death. He also realized a long-held dream when he penned the libretto to an opera: The Golden Ass, based on The Metamorphoses of Lucius Apuleius, just like that written by one of the characters in Davies' 1958 A Mixture of Frailties. The opera was performed by the Canadian Opera Company at the Hummingbird Centre in Toronto, in April, 1999, several years after Davies' death. Davies was a fine public speaker: deft, often humorous, and unafraid to be unfashionable.

 

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(05/11/2008) Demian by Hermann Hesse. London. 1958. Peter Owen/Vision Press. Translated From The German By W. J. Strachan. keywords: Literature Translated Germany. 184 pages. Jacket design by Eric Patton.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   DEMIAN is one of Hermann Hesse's more important works, and combines narrative with allegory. The novel traces the development of Emil Sinclair's personality from early childhood into late adolescence. In Max Demian he finds a friend who even in childhood draws him away from a normal home life and teaches him to accept the existence of an alternative world of corruption. Sinclair's search for fulfillment culminates in his meeting with Demian's mother, Frau Eva, who is the symbol of the eternal mother. The conception of the book is related to Hesse's self-analysis which is evident in the characterization.

HERMANN HESSE was born at Calw, Germany, July 2, 1877. He started life as a bookseller at Tubingen and Basle, and began to publish poetry at the age of 21. Five years later he had his first great success with his novels on youth and educational problems: first PETER CAMENZIND, then UNTERM RAD, followed by SIDDHARTHA, ROSSHALDE, DEMIAN, and others. All of them sold by the hundred-thousand; and when, as a protest against German militarism in the First World War, he settled permanently in Switzerland, he was established as one of the greatest literary figures of the German-speaking world. His deep humanity, his searching philosophy developed further in such novels as DER STEPPENWOLF and NARZISS UND GOLDMUND, while his poems and critical writings won him a leading place among contemporary thinkers. The Nazis abhorred and suppressed his books; the Swiss honoured him by conferring on him the degree of Ph. D. ; the world finally, by bestowing upon him in 1946 the Nobel Prize for Literature, an award richly deserved by his great novel MAGISTER LUDI.

 

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(05/10/2008) Sir Vidia's Shadow: A Friendship Across Five Continents by Paul Theroux. Boston. 1998. Houghton Mifflin. keywords: Literature England Biography America Autobiography V. S.Naipaul. 358 pages. Jacket design by Michaela Sullivan. Jacket photograph by David Perry/Photonica. 0395907284. October 1998.

I doubt that Paul Theroux's story of the trajectory of his friendship with V. S. Naipaul would please Sir Vidia, but it is a remarkable tale nonetheless that reveals as much about Paul Theroux as it does about V. S. Naipaul.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   This is an intimate portrait of a friendship, its beginning, middle, and end. And it describes that rarest and most fragile of alliances, a literary friendship. One year before he published his first book, Paul Theroux met V. S. Naipaul - Vidia, as he was known. For thirty years both men remained in close touch, even when continents separated them. SIR VIDIA'S SHADOW is a double portrait of the writing life, but it is much more, for travel and reading and emotional ups and downs are also aspects of this friendship, which is powerful and enriching and often a comedy - and, ultimately, a bridge that is burned. The two writers' paths crossed in 1966 in Uganda, which Naipaul saw as a dangerous jungle and Theroux regarded as a benign home. Theroux became Naipaul's driver, interpreter, and apprentice - he was twenty-three and Naipaul thirty-four. Theroux was guided by the older writer, but as the years passed their positions were frequently reversed, as Naipaul sought Theroux's guidance and advice. They became each other's editors, confidants, and teachers. From Singapore to London, India to South America, the United States and back to Africa, the writers corresponded and crossed paths. Naipaul's brother, Shiva, is part of the story, and so is Margaret, Naipaul's Anglo-Argentine companion. A formidable and intensely private figure, who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth and is often cited as a contender for the Nobel Prize, Naipaul was close to few others except his first and second wives and Theroux himself. Naipaul was the first to read and champion Theroux's earliest efforts. Over time, they witnessed each other's SUCCCMCS and failures. Built around exotic landscapes, anecdotes that are revealing, humorous, and melancholy, and three decades of mutual history, mis is a very personal account of how one develops as a writer, how a friendship waxes and wanes between two men who have set themselves on the perilous journey of a writing life, and what constitutes the relationship of mentor and student. Told with Theroux's impeccable eye for place and setting and his novelistic instinct for character and incident, SIR VIDIA'S SHADOW recalls Nicholson Baker's U AND I: A TRUE STORY, Rainer Maria Rilke's classic LETTERS TO A YOUNG POET, and Boswell's LIFE OF JOHNSON, but it is nearly without precedent in anatomizing the nature of writing as well as the nature of friendship itself.

 

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(05/09/2008) A Bend In The River by V. S. Naipaul. New York. 1979. Knopf. keywords: Literature England Africa Caribbean Trinidad. Jacket design by Herb Lubalin Associates. May 1979.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   The setting is Africa today, in a country somewhere in the interior that has recently suffered revolution and civil war and is now under the authority of a new President-a man whose immense, almost insane energy and untempered crudity have made his power felt even in the remotest villages. Youth squads have sprouted up everywhere. There is a whole new apparatus in the university-scholars devoted to chronicling the wars and coups of 'the new Africa. ' Property changes hands mysteriously, and overnight. People are there one day and gone the next. There are executions. No relationship, however private, passionate or casual, is free of an unhinging insecurity. Naipaul takes us completely into the existence of one isolated man who has come to live in an isolated village at 'a bend in the river. ' He is restless, edgy, reflective-strangely, almost deliberately passive in relation to the world around him; to his work, to his sexuality, to both his past and his future. And it is the remarkable achievement of the novel that through the uneasy submission of this one man to the events and conditions that have come to define his life, we ourselves become submerged in, and held by, his reality, and the reality of his time and place. A Bend in the River is the most convincing vision we have yet been given of what 'ordinary' life is like in Africa today. Its publication is an important literary event.

Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul, KB, TC, better known as V. S. Naipaul, is a Trinidadian-born British writer of Indo-Trinidadian descent, currently resident in Wiltshire. Naipaul was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2001 and knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1990. He is the son, older brother, uncle, and cousin of published authors Seepersad Naipaul, Shiva Naipaul, Neil Bissoondath, and Vahni Capildeo, respectively. His current wife is Nadira Naipaul, a former journalist. In 1971, Naipaul became the first person of Indian origin to win a Booker Prize for his book In a Free State. In awarding Naipaul the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2001, the Swedish Academy praised his work 'for having united perceptive narrative and incorruptible scrutiny in works that compel us to see the presence of suppressed histories. ' The Committee added, 'Naipaul is a modern philosophe carrying on the tradition that started originally with Lettres persanes and Candide. In a vigilant style, which has been deservedly admired, he transforms rage into precision and allows events to speak with their own inherent irony. ' The Committee also noted Naipaul's affinity with the Polish author of Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad. His fiction and especially his travel writing have been criticised for their allegedly unsympathetic portrayal of the Third World. Edward Said, for example, has argued that he 'allowed himself quite consciously to be turned into a witness for the Western prosecution', promoting 'colonial mythologies about wogs and darkies'. This perspective is most salient in The Middle Passage, which Naipaul composed after returning to the Caribbean after ten years of self-exile in England, and An Area of Darkness, an arguably stark condemnation on his ancestral homeland of India. His works have become required reading in many schools within the Third World. Among English-speaking countries, Naipaul's following is notably stronger in the United Kingdom than it is in the United States. Though a regular visitor to India since the 1960s, he has arguably 'analysed' India from an arms-length distance, in some cases initially with considerable distaste, and later with 'grudging affection', and of late perhaps even with 'ungrudging affection' He has also made attempts over the decades to identify his ancestral village in India, believed to be near Gorakhpur in Eastern Uttar Pradesh from where his grandfather had migrated to Trinidad as indentured labourer. In several of his books Naipaul has observed Islam, and he has been criticised for dwelling on negative aspects, e. g. nihilism among fundamentalists. Naipaul's support for Hindutva has also been controversial. He has been quoted describing the destruction of the Babri Mosque as a 'creative passion', and the invasion of Babur in the 16th century as a 'mortal wound. ' He views Vijayanagar, which fell in 1565, as the last bastion of native Hindu civilisation. He remains a somewhat reviled figure in Pakistan, which he bitingly condemned in Among the Believers. In 1998 a controversial memoir by Naipaul's sometime protege Paul Theroux was published. The book provides a personal, though occasionally caustic portrait of Naipaul. The memoir, entitled Sir Vidia's Shadow, was precipitated by a falling-out between the two men a few years earlier. In early 2007, V. S Naipaul made a long-awaited return to his homeland of Trinidad. He urged citizens to shrug off the notions of 'Indian' and 'African' and to concentrate on being 'Trinidadian'. He was warmly received by students and intellectuals alike and it seems, finally, that he has come to some form of closure with Trinidad. Naipaul is married to Nadira Naipaul. She was born Nadira Khannum Alvi in Kenya and got married in Pakistan. She worked as a journalist for Pakistani newspaper, The Nation for ten years before meeting Naipaul. They married in 1996, two months after the death of Naipaul's first wife, Patricia Hale. Nadira had been divorced twice before her marriage to Naipaul. She has two children from a previous marriage, Maliha and Nadir.

 

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(05/08/2008) The Nonexistent Knight & The Cloven Viscount by Italo Calvino. New York. 1962. Random House. Translated From The Italian By Archibald Colquhoun. keywords: Literature Translated Italy. 246 pages. Jacket design by Lawrence Ratzkin.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   These two novellas together with Calvino's previously published novel, THE BARON IN THE TREES, make a witty trilogy of allegorical fantasy. Recently republished in Italy under the title OUR ANCESTORS, they reflect the unique mind of one of Italy's leading young writers, whose satire of medieval times is highly relevant to the contemporary scene. THE NONEXISTENT KNIGHT is an earthy parody of chivalry and knighthood. Agilulf, the improbable hero of this tale, is an empty suit of armor, yet he is the essence of military perfection, resented by his fellow paladins, loved by Bradamante, a dashing female knight, and admired by Raimbaut, an idealistic volunteer who is eager for the glamour of war. In order to retain his knightly rank, Agilulf is forced to scour Europe to verify the chastity of a virgin he rescued fifteen years before. His quest, a burlesque of the time-honored rituals of medieval romance, finds him evading the seductive charms of the widow Priscilla, and rescuing the reluctant virgin from a Sultan's harem. The author's ironic scrutiny surveys war, love, male vanity and female duplicity. An irreverent view of the human condition is Calvino's aim, and he succeeds brilliantly. THE CLOVEN VISCOUNT, set in the late Middle Ages, is the grisly tale of Viscount Medardo di Terralba, who in his first battle against the Turks is neatly cut in half by a cannon shot. He returns to his lands in Austria -- literally half a man -- and becomes the personification of evil, provides children with poison mushrooms, banishes his faithful nurse to a leper colony, and carries on a ghoulish courtship with a beautiful shepherdess. When the other half of the Viscount miraculously appears on the scene and tries to undo the damage, a weird conflict develops, and the happy ending is no less startling than the story itself. As an allegory of modern man -- alienated and mutilated --this novel has profound overtones. As a parody of the Christian parables of good and evil, it is both witty and refreshing. Italo Calvino was an Italian journalist and writer of short stories and novels. His best known works include the Our Ancestors trilogy, the Cosmicomics collection of short stories, and the novels Invisible Cities and If on a winter's night a traveler.

Italo Calvino was born in Santiago de Las Vegas, Cuba, to botanists Mario Calvino and Evelina Mameli. The family soon moved to its homeland Italy, where Italo lived most of his life. They moved to Sanremo, on the Italian Riviera, where his father had come from The young Italo became a member of the Avanguardisti with whom he took part in the occupation of the French Riviera. He suffered some religious troubles, as his relatives were openly atheist in a largely Catholic country. He was sent to attend a Waldensian private school. Calvino met Eugenio Scalfari, with whom he would remain a close friend. In 1941 Calvino moved to Turin, after a long hesitation over living there or in Milan. He often humorously described this choice, and used to describe Turin as 'a city that is serious but sad.' In 1943 he joined the Partisans in the Italian Resistance, in the Garibaldi brigade, with the battlename of Santiago. With Scalfari he created the MUL Calvino then entered the Italian Communist Party. Calvino graduated from the University of Turin in 1947 with a thesis on Joseph Conrad and started working with the official Communist paper L'Unite. He also had a short relationship with the Einaudi publishing house, which put him in contact with Norberto Bobbio, Natalia Ginzburg, Cesare Pavese and Elio Vittorini. With Vittorini he wrote for the weekly Il Politecnico Calvino then left Einaudi to work mainly with L'Unite and the newborn communist weekly political magazine Rinascita. He worked again for the Einaudi house from 1950, responsible for the literary volumes. The following year, presumably to advance in the communist party, he visited the Soviet Union. The reports and correspondence he produced from this visit were later collected and earned him literary prizes. In 1952 Calvino wrote with Giorgio Bassani for Botteghe Oscure, a magazine named after the popular name of the party's head-offices. He also worked for Il Contemporaneo, a Marxist weekly. From 1955 to 1958 Calvino had an affair with the actress Elsa de' Giorgi, an older and married woman. Calvino wrote hundreds of love letters to her. Excerpts were published by Corriere della Sera in 2004, causing some controversy. In 1957, disillusioned by the 1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary, Calvino left the Italian Communist party. His letter of resignation was published in L'Unite and soon became famous. He found new outlets for his periodic writings in the magazines Passato e Presente and Italia Domani. Together with Vittorini he became a co-editor of Il Menab? di letteratura, a position which Calvino held for many years. Despite severe restrictions in the US against foreigners holding communist views, Calvino was allowed to visit the United States, where he stayed six months from 1959 to 1960, after an invitation by the Ford Foundation. Calvino was particularly impressed by the 'New World': 'Naturally I visited the South and also California, but I always felt a New Yorker. My city is New York. ' The letters he wrote to Einaudi describing this visit to the United States, were first published as 'American Diary 1959-1960' in the book Hermit in Paris in 2003. In 1962 Calvino met the Argentinian translator Esther Judith Singer and married her in 1964 in Havana, during a trip in which he visited his birthplace and met Ernesto Che Guevara. This encounter later led him to contribute an article on the 15th of October 1967, a few days after the death of Guevara, describing the lasting impression Guevara made on him. Back in Italy, and once again working for Einaudi, Calvino started publishing some of his cosmicomics in Il Caffe, a literary magazine. Vittorini's death in 1966 influenced Calvino greatly. He went through what he called an 'intellectual depression', which the writer himself described as an important passage in his life: '. I ceased to be young. Perhaps it's a metabolic process, something that comes with age, I'd been young for a long time, perhaps too long, suddenly I felt that I had to begin my old age, yes, old age, perhaps with the hope of prolonging it by beginning it early'. He then started to frequent Paris, where he was nicknamed L'ironique amus?. Here he soon joined some important circles like the Oulipo and met Roland Barthes and Claude Levi-Strauss, in the fermenting atmosphere that was going to evolve into 1968's cultural revolution During his French experience, he also became fond of Raymond Queneau's works, which would influence his later production. Calvino had more intense contacts with the academic world, with notable experiences at the Sorbonne and at Urbino's university. His interests included classical studies: Honore de Balzac, Ludovico Ariosto, Dante, Ignacio de Loyola, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Cyrano de Bergerac, and Giacomo Leopardi. At the same time, not without surprising Italian intellectual circles, Calvino wrote novels for Playboy's Italian edition He became a regular contributor to the important Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. In 1975 Calvino was made Honorary Member of the American Academy, and the following year he was awarded the Austrian State Literary Prize for European literature. He visited Japan and Mexico and gave lectures in several American towns. In 1981 he was awarded the prestigious French Legion d'Honneur. During the summer of 1985, Calvino prepared some notes for a series of lectures to be delivered at Harvard University in the fall. However, on 6 September, he was admitted to the ancient hospital of Santa Maria della Scala in Siena, where he died during the night between the 18 and 19 September of a cerebral hemorrhage. His lecture notes were published posthumously as Six Memos for the Next Millennium in 1988. His style is not easily classified; much of his writing has an air of the fantastic reminiscent of fairy tales, although sometimes his writing is more 'realistic' and in the scenic mode of observation Some of his writing has been called 'postmodern', reflecting on literature and the act of reading, while some has been labeled 'magical realist', others fables, others simply 'modern'. Twelve years before his death, he was invited to and joined the Oulipo group of experimental writers. He wrote: 'My working method has more often than not involved the subtraction of weight. I have tried to remove weight, sometimes from people, sometimes from heavenly bodies, sometimes from cities; above all I have tried to remove weight from the structure of stories and from language.'

 

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(05/07/2008) Home Is The Sailor by Jorge Amado. New York. 1964. Knopf. Translated from the Portuguese by Harriet De Onis. keywords: Literature Translated Brazil Latin America. 301 pages. Typography, binding, and jacket design by Warren Chappell. March 1964.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   GOOD-NATURED, incompetent, friendly, and lustful-at sixty the crony of college students and high-living officials-Vasco Moscoso de Aragao laments that his life as the son of a wealthy merchant has brought him no rank, degree, or title. So-though Vasco has never made a sea voyage-a friend gets him a license as a ship's captain. Moving to Periperi in the suburbs of Bahia, he takes up with relish the life of an honored, retired old sea dog surrounded by nautical instruments, sea-going uniforms, and listeners eager for his reminiscences' of the oceans and exotic lands that he has visited. Vasco is so endlessly and colorfully inventive that only a few of his canniest neighbors begin to suspect the truth. When the northbound good ship Ita comes into Bahia with her captain dead, Vasco-the only licensed captain in the area-is dragooned into completing the voyage up the coast to Belem as master (with the understanding that he will be free to call on the first mate for all important decisions). On the voyage. Vasco enjoys himself, whiling away the time in social activities and in pursuing a lady passenger of forty, to whom he becomes engaged. But deceiving sailors turns out not to be so easy as dazzling landlubbers, and what happens then and thereafter is almost (but not quite) beyond belief. Written with the narrative grace, humor, ribaldry, compassion, tenderness, and constant inventiveness of Jorge Amado's popular GABRIELA, CLOVE AND CINNAMON, HOME IS THE SAILOR likewise rests (with Amado's thistledown touch) on a kind of philosophical or metaphysical background. 'What is truth, what reality?'-the book asks that eternal question, not ponderously, but as inherent in a triumph of the story-telling art.

 

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(05/06/2008) Diary Of A Mad Old Man by Junichiro Tanizaki. New York. 1965. Knopf. Translated From The Japanese By Howard Hibbett. keywords: Literature Translated Japan Asia. 182 pages. Jacket design by Ellen Raskin. August 1965.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   In this novel Tanizaki returns to the vein of The Key, and to a theme that has dominated much of his work: the relationship of sexual desire to the will to live. It tells the story of a seventy-seven-year-old man of exquisite tastes who suffers a stroke, and then discovers that even while his body is breaking down, his sexual urges are far from diminished. Satsuko, his flashy, modern daughter-in-law, a dancer with a murky past, senses this and follows a psychiatrist's orders to give 'her father-in-law gentle, kindly attention, not exciting him unnecessarily but not ignoring his wishes either. ' As she comes strutting in to her ringside seat at a fight, jingling the keys to her English car, flashing her expensive jewelry, with her American permanent, her French lace gloves, she is the last word in cosmopolitanism. And Utsugi is Everyman close to his end, all pretenses and reticences gone. Pitiful as he is, his diary is without self-pity; ridiculous as he is, he is never without self-mockery. Much of the novel, especially the scene in which Satsuko explains the difference between necking and petting, shines with humor. Here in a short novel is much of the tragicomedy of human existence. 'I am convinced that Tanizaki is one of the few great writers of our time. He is an author of outstanding stature and deserves to be far better known outside Japan than he is.' - IVAN MORRIS.

 

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(05/05/2008) Song Of Solomon by Toni Morrison. New York. 1977. Knopf. keywords: Literature America Women. 339 pages. Jacket design by R. D. Scudellari. 0394497848. September 1977.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Three years after her brilliantly acclaimed SULA, Toni Morrison gives us a novel of large beauty and power, creating a magical world out of four generations of black life in America. It is a world we enter in the present, through Macon Dead, Jr. , son of the richest black family in a Midwestern town. We enter it on the day of his birth, the day on which the lonely insurance man Robert Smith, poised in blue silk wings, attempts to fly from the steeple of the hospital, a black Icarus looking homeward. We see Milkman growing up in his father's money-haunted, death-haunted house with his silent sisters and strangely passive mother, and we watch him beginning to move outward - through his profound love and combat with his friend Guitar. through Guitar's mad and loving commitment to the band of seven, the secret avengers called the Seven Days. through Milkman's exotic and then imprisoning affair with his love-blind cousin, Hagar. and through his unconscious apprenticeship to the one person in his family who is open, unfettered, whole: the exiled one, his unkempt, mystical, bootlegging Aunt Pilate, with a brass box for an earring, with no navel, Pilate who looks like a tall black tree and who saved his life before he was born. And we follow him as he strikes out alone, drawn away from home by the promise of buried gold; moving first toward adventure and then - as the unspoken truth about his family and his own buried heritage announces itself - toward an adventurous and crucial embrace of life. This is a novel in which mystery unfolds on mystery, revelation on revelation - in which our vision of what we have seen turns, changes, and takes shape again, transformed. It is a novel expressing with passion, tenderness, and a magnificence of language the mysterious primal essence of family bond and conflict, the feelings and experience of all people wanting, and striving, to be alive.

 

 

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(05/04/2008) Zorba The Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis. London. 1952. John Lehmann. Translated From The Greek By Carl Wildman. keywords: Literature Translated Greece. 319 pages.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   ZORBA THE GREEK  is a novel written by the Greek author Nikos Kazantzakis, first published in 1946. It is the tale of a young Greek intellectual who ventures to escape his bookish life with the aid of the boisterous and mysterious Alexis Zorba. The unnamed narrator is a scholarly, introspective writer who opens a coal mine on the fertile island of Crete. He is gradually drawn out of his ascetic shell by Zorba, an ebullient man who revels in the social pleasures of eating, drinking, and dancing. The narrator's reentry into a life of experience is completed when his newfound lover, the village widow, is ritually murdered by a jealous mob.

 

 

 

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(05/02/2008) The Love Department by William Trevor. New York. 1967. Viking Press. keywords: Literature Ireland. 281 pages. Jacket design by Paul Bacon.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Who are the real 'enemies of love' in modern life? William Trevor's third novel is written with the same wry comedy and deadpan irony that distinguished THE OLD BOYS and THE BOARDING HOUSE, but its theme reaches out to embrace a much larger segment of humanity. The 'Love Department' of a big women's magazine, headed by the dwarfish and unloved Lady Dolores, is devoted to counseling unhappy housewives in the suburbs. Lady Dolores is disturbed by the reports of one Septimus Tuam, a young philanderer who has been cutting a wide swath among these disaffected matrons, One day there appears in her fabulous offices a hapless young man from the provinces named Edward. She hires him in his innocence and assigns him to the pursuit of Septimus Tuam, He sets out on his landlady's bicycle through the highways and byways of Wimbledon and into the lives of an assorted group of characters, each involved in his or her own way in the precarious problems of love. Septimus Tuam, it turns out, is a charmer, no mistaking it, Edward, in trying to catch up to him, must first go through many frustrations. Be it said only that 'love falls like snowflakes,' and that Septimus finally gets his dramatic comeuppance - not through any conscious act of Edward's, and not at all according to Lady Dolores's nefarious secret designs. Inventive, sardonic, wildly farcical at times, full of quizzical insights into people, THE LOVE DEPARTMENT will delight any reader with an eye for some of life's oddities.

William Trevor, born in Ireland in 1928, attended the National College of Art and Trinity college in Dublin, He moved to London in pursuit of various careers--as sculptor, teacher of art, and advertising copywriter. His fiction first brought him wide attention in 1964 with THE OLD BOYS, which was awarded the Hawthornden Prize, one of Britain's most esteemed literary honors, His next novel, THE BOARDING HOUSE, was published in 1965; in reviewing it for the London Times, John Bowen remarked that Trevor 'is one of those rare writers who can make one laugh against one's will,' The Love Department has been chosen as the first Additional Choice of Britain's Book Society.

 

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(05/01/2008) The Farewell Party by Milan Kundera. New York. 1976. Knopf. Translated From The Czech By Peter Kussi. keywords: Literature Translated Czech Eastern Europe. 213 pages. Jacket design by Lidia Ferrara. Jacket illustration by Charles Shields. 0394496604. September 1976.

An early novel from Milan Kundera.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   With the international publication of THE JOKE, LIFE IS ELSEWHERE, and LAUGHABLE LOVES, Czechoslovakia's foremost contemporary writer has won world recognition--admired by Jean Paul Sartre, Philip Roth, and Louis Aragon, among others. His new novel--already a critical triumph in France--comically, chillingly, enters the peaceful, self-contained world of a fertility spa, where a compelling psychological drama unfolds in the span of five days. A telephone call announcing an unwanted pregnancy intrudes with the sound of doom into the life of Klima, famous jazz trumpeter and incurable philanderer whose 'erotic secret' is his hopeless love for his wife Out of the would-be-forgotten past, the call sends him hastily back to the small spa where two months before, entertaining there with his band, he met and spent the night with a pretty young nurse, Ruzena. As he proceeds--according to a plan carefully based on 'the only reasonably certain element in the entire affair: the girl's love'--to 'lovingly' persuade her to abort the child, and as Ruzena vacillates between faith and suspicion, meek compliance and mulish refusal, other lives are drawn into their delicate conflict. Brilliantly, Kundera gives us a constellation of characters whose destinies become fatefully intertwined: Klima's beautiful wife and Ruzena's infatuated boyfriend, who 'sweep into the story like two rockets steered by blind jealousy--if that can be called steering'; the spa's own Dr. Skreta, cheerfully 'curing' his childless patients with injections from his private sperm-bank that populate the region with little Skretas; Bartleff, the mysterious and saintlike American millionaire; Jakub, the persecuted political dissident whose path briefly crosses Ruzena's, who sees in her the image of all that is corrupting his country, and who places her life in peril, giving Fate an ever-present deadly weapon to use--or not. As the story moves toward its denouement, as souls are humorously, ironically, terribly revealed, the unsparing clarity of Kundera's insight and the suspense of his narration powerfully illuminate the fearful ambiguity at the core of human life, and the intricate strategies we live by.

 

 

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(04/30/2008) The World Of Witold Gombrowicz 1904-1969 by Vincent Giroud. New Haven. 2004. University Press Of New England. keywords: Literature Poland Translated Biography Literary Criticism. 74 pages. Cover photograph by Hanne Garthe. 0845731580.

A pictorial biography of one of Poland's greatest writers of the 20th century.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   The greatest prose writer of twentieth-century Polish letters, Witold Gombrowicz is also recognized as a figure whose literary standing is comparable to Proust, Joyce, Kafka, Musil, or Beckett. Yet, his reputation in the United States and the English-speaking world has never been equal to his renown in continental Europe or in Latin America. In a letter to an American publisher preserved in his archive at the Beinecke Library, he writes that he hoped to be read in America some day, at least by the elite. Yet Gombrowicz is no elitist writer. His first novel, FERDYDURKE, its moral and philosophical implications notwithstanding, is as funny as Moliere or Lewis Carroll. His three plays - YVONNE, PRINCESS OF BURGUNDY, THE MARRIAGE, and OPERETTA - have been successfully produced in many countries and have acquired a permanent place in the repertory. His DIARY, in more than 1,200 pages, is an account, in turn moving and humorous, of his experience of exile, a document on the intellectual polemics of the post-World War II period, and a philosophical journal in the manner of Montaigne. Reading Gombrowicz, or attending a performance of one of his plays, is an exhilarating and profoundly liberating experience. This remains the case today as it was for the young Poles who discovered his work at the height of the Communist period. He is, as Jozef Czapski has pointed out, a great debunker of all false reputations and false values. In this and other respects, such as the philosophical underpinnings of much of his writing, it is appropriate, as Wojciech Karpinski has suggested recently, to see in him a modern Nietzsche. Gombrowicz was born a century ago, an anniversary observed in the spring of 2004 in Poland and other countries of Europe. The Yale commemoration is part of the 'Gombrowicz Autumn' on the East Coast and in other parts of the United States, which will feature performances of his plays, screenings of film adaptations of his works, photographic exhibitions, and a variety of other public programs, as well as publications by and about him, including some of his work available in English for the first time. The presence in the Beinecke Library of the Gombrowicz Archive, next to the papers of several fellow Polish emigre writers, was enough to justify that Yale play a major part in this celebration. In conjunction with this exhibition, an international symposium on Gombrowicz, sponsored jointly by the Beinecke Library, the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, and Yale University Press will gather scholars, writers, and translators from Argentina, France, Poland, and the United States.

Witold Marian Gombrowicz was a Polish novelist and dramatist. His works are characterized by deep psychological analysis, a certain sense of paradox and an absurd, anti-nationalist flavor. In 1937 he published his first novel, Ferdydurke, which presented many of his usual themes: the problems of immaturity and youth, the creation of identity in interactions with others, and an ironic, critical examination of class roles in Polish society and culture. He gained fame only during the last years of his life but is now considered one of the foremost figures of Polish literature. Gombrowicz was born in Maloszyce, in Congress Poland, Russian Empire to a wealthy gentry family. He was the youngest of four children of Jan and Antonina In 1911 his family moved to Warsaw. After completing his education at Saint Stanislaus Kostka's Gymnasium in 1922, he studied law at Warsaw University He spent a year in Paris where, he studied at the Institut des Hautes Etudes Internationales. He was less than diligent in his studies, but his time in France brought him in constant contact with other young intellectuals. He also visited the Mediterranean. When he returned to Poland he began applying for legal positions with little success. In the 1920s he started writing, but soon rejected the legendary novel, whose form and subject matter were supposed to manifest his 'worse' and darker side of nature. Similarly, his attempt to write a popular novel in collaboration with Tadeusz Kepinski turned out to be a failure. At the turn of the 20's and 30's he started to write short stories, which were later printed under the title Memoirs Of A Time Of Immaturity. From the moment of this literary debut, his reviews and columns started appearing in the press, mainly in the 'Kurier Poranny He met with other young writers and intellectuals forming an artistic cafe society in 'Zodiak' and 'Ziemianska', both in Warsaw. The publication of Ferdydurke, his first novel, brought him acclaim in literary circles. Just before the outbreak of the Second World War, Gombrowicz took part in the maiden voyage of the famous Polish cruise liner, Chrobry, to South America. When he found out about the outbreak of war in Europe, he decided to wait in Buenos Aires till the war was over but was actually to stay there until 1963 - often, especially during the war, in great poverty. At the end of the 40s Gombrowicz was trying to gain a position among Argentine literary circles by publishing articles, giving lectures in Fray Mocho cafe, and finally, by publishing in 1947, a Spanish translation of Ferdydurke written with the help of Gombrowicz's friends. Today, this version of the novel is considered to be a significant literary event in the history of Argentine literature; however, when published it did not bring any great renown to the author, nor did the publication of Gombrowicz's drama 'Slub' in Spanish in 1948. From December 1947 to May 1955 Gombrowicz worked as a bank clerk in Banco Polaco, the Argentine branch of PeKaO SA Bank. In 1950 he started exchanging letters with Jerzy Giedroyc and from 1951 he started having works published in the Parisian journal 'Culture,' where, in 1953, fragments of 'Dziennik' appeared. In the same year he published a volume of work which included the drama 'Slub' and the novel 'Trans-Atlantyk', where the subject of national identity on emigration was controversially raised. After October 1956 four books written by Gombrowicz appeared in Poland and they brought him great renown despite the fact that the authorities did not allow the publication of 'Dziennik', and later organized a slanderous campaign against Gombrowicz in 1963 who was then staying in West Berlin. In the 1960s Gombrowicz became recognized globally and many of his works were translated, including 'Pornografia' and 'Kosmos' His dramas were staged in many theatres all around the world, especially in France, Germany and Sweden. In 1963 he returned to Europe, where he received a scholarship from the Ford Foundation during his stay in Berlin, and in 1964 he spent three months in Royaumont abbey near Paris, where he employed Rita Labrosse, a Canadian from Montreal who studied contemporary literature, as his secretary. In 1964 he moved to Vence near Nice in the south of France, where he spent the rest of his life. There he enjoyed the fame which culminated in May 1967 with the International Publishers Prize and six months before his death, married Rita Labrosse. Gombrowicz wrote in Polish, however, in view of his decision not to allow his works to be published in his native country until the ban on the unabridged version of 'Dziennik', in which he described the Polish authorities slanderous attacks on him, was lifted he remained a largely unknown figure to the general reading public until the first half of the 1970s. Despite this, his works were printed in Polish by the Paris Literary Institute of Jerzy Giedroyc and translated into more than 30 languages. Morover, his dramas were repeatedly staged in the most important theatres in the whole world by the prominent directors such as: Jorge Lavelli, Alf Sjoeberg, Ingmar Bergman along with Jerzy Jarocki and Jerzy Grzegorzewski in Poland.

 

 

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(04/29/2008) Fathers & Sons by Ivan Turgenev. New York. 1994. Norton. Newly Translated From The Russian By Michael R. Katz. keywords: Literature Translated Russia. 157 pages. Jacket photograph of Ivan Sechenov: Ivan Sechenov established the first Russian school of physiology and propagated a scientific view of the nature of human kings. His theories provided the basis for the development of neuro-physiology. 039303559x.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   On the eve of Alexander II's great reforms, in an atmosphere of uncertainty and anticipation, Turgenev began work on his fourth novel, in FATHERS AND SONS the author planned to portray a new type of hero, a 'nihilist,' who would represent the values of the younger generation. Set at a very specific Moment in history, the novel reveals the full breadth of nineteenth-century Russia. Michael Katz presents Turgenev's greatest and ultimately most important novel in a beautifully rendered, finely tuned new translation. it captures a world on the brink of change, subtle psychological confrontations among powerful fictional characters, and the gracefulness of the author's poetic imagination. This new version of FATHERS AND SONS will be welcomed by general readers and scholars alike.

MiCHAEL R. KATZ was born in New York City. He was educated at Williams College and Oxford University. He is presently professor of Russian, chairman of the Department of Slavic Languages, and director of the Center for Post-Soviet and East European Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. His other translations include Dostoevsky's NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND and DEVILS, Herzen's WHO IS TO BLAME?, Chernyshevsky's WHAT IS TO BE DONE?, and Druzhinin's POLINKA SAKS. He has also published books on the literary ballad and on dreams in fiction, as well as articles on various topics in Russian literature. He is married and has one daughter.

 

 

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(04/28/2008) Life & Times Of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass. Hartford. 1883. Park Publishing Company. keywords: Black Autobiography History.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Born in slavery, largely self-educated and self- liberated, Frederick Douglass rose against formidable odds to become a great American leader. not only in the fight for the abolition of slavery, but in the general cause of human rights. After the Civil War. Douglass. utilizing his unique gifts as writer and orator, fought for equal rights for Negroes as zealously as he had fought for emancipation. He was actively associated with the campaign for equal rights for women. He was a champion of free education for 'every poor man from Maine to Texas. ' He played an important role in the early Negro labor movement. He was involved in the temperance crusade. Having attained the distinguished position as advisor to President Lincoln. Douglass reached the apex of his astonishing career with his appointment as Minister Resident and Consul General to the Republic of Haiti. His autobiography is a unique chronicle of seventy-eight crucial years in American history, and a provocative and impressive self-portrait of an uncommon man. it is. above all, an eloquent tribute to the persistent hope that, despite the imperfections of our democracy. any American--however disadvantaged-- may aspire to greatness.

 

 

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(04/27/2008) A Mixture Of Frailties by Robertson Davies. New York. 1958. Scribners. keywords: Literature Canada. 379 pages. Jacket design by Robert Galster.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   When LEAVEN OF MALICE was published, Orville Prescott called it 'immensely amusing' and Edmund Fuller said in The Saturday Review: 'One of the funniest, shrewdest, wittiest, and withal wisest novels to come along in recent seasons. ' Robertson Davies has written his new book with the wit and the alert sense of the absurd that made his earlier one delightful; but A MIXTURE OF FRAILTIES is far richer, in character, background, and story. It tells the story of the making of a singer. A native of the Canadian city of Salterton Monica Gall sings soprano in the Heart and Hope Gospel Quartet, feels a vague dissatisfaction with her job in the Glue Works, but certainly is not consumed by artistic ambition. Then, quite suddenly, the freakish provisions of a rich old lady's will give Monica the opportunity for a serious training in music. Her life hi London, her education as a singer and as a human being make up the story. The London which Monica discovers with astonishment, some agony, and delight is composed chiefly of Sir Benedict Domdaniel, a conductor of international renown; Murtagh Molloy, the Irish voice coach; Giles Revelstoke, a brilliant young composer; and the erratic and vehement Bohemian types surrounding Revelstoke, whom he calls the 'menagerie. ' For Monica, the new life means very hard work and places severe strain on her good sense: it plunges her into a love affair, it causes her to help finance the production of an opera, and in the end it changes a rather amorphous young girl into a distinct individual. The episodes of Monica Gall's career offer Mr. Davies a fine variety of chances for comedy, and he does not miss them. Wherever he sights human frailty he neatly impales it, but without cruelty. Mr. Davies likes his characters even when they are ridiculous, and so will the reader. What is more, Mr. Davies knows how to make fascinating the inner workings of the musical life. The result is an absorbing novel, comic in the true sense, vivid, and frequently very moving.

William Robertson Davies, was a Canadian novelist, playwright, critic, journalist, and professor. He was one of Canada's best-known and most popular authors, and one of its most distinguished 'men of letters', a term Davies is sometimes said to have detested. Davies was the founding Master of Massey College, a graduate college at the University of Toronto. Growing up, Davies was surrounded by books and language. His father, Senator William Rupert Davies, was a newspaperman, and both his parents were voracious readers. He, in turn, read everything he could. He also participated in theatrical productions as a child, where he developed a lifelong interest in drama. He attended Upper Canada College in Toronto from 1926 to 1932 and while there attended services at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene. He would later leave the Presbyterian Church and convert to Anglicanism over objections to Calvinist theology. After Upper Canada College, he studied at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario from 1932 until 1935. At Queen's he was enrolled as a special student not working towards a degree, and wrote for the student paper, The Queen's Journal. He left Canada to study at Balliol College, Oxford, where he received a BLitt degree in 1938. The next year he published his thesis, Shakespeare's Boy Actors, and embarked on an acting career outside London. In 1940 he played small roles and did literary work for the director at the Old Vic Repertory Company in London. Also that year Davies married Australian Brenda Mathews, whom he had met at Oxford, and who was then working as stage manager for the theatre. Davies' early life provided him with themes and material to which he would often return in his later work, including the theme of Canadians returning to England to finish their education, and the theatre. Davies and his new bride returned to Canada in 1940, where he took the position of literary editor at the magazine Saturday Night. Two years later, he became editor of the Peterborough Examiner in the small city of Peterborough, Ontario, northeast of Toronto. Again he was able to mine his experiences here for many of the characters and situations which later appeared in his novels and plays. Davies, along with family members William Rupert Davies and Arthur Davies, purchased several media outlets. Along with the Examiner newspaper, they owned the Kingston Whig-Standard newspaper, CHEX-AM, CKWS-AM, CHEX-TV, and CKWS-TV. During his tenure as editor of the Examiner, which lasted from 1942 to 1955, and when he was publisher from 1955 to 1965, Davies published a total 18 books, produced several of his own plays and wrote articles for various journals. For example, Davies set out his theory of acting in his Shakespeare for Young Players and then put theory into practice when he wrote Eros at Breakfast, a one-act play which was named best Canadian play of the year by the 1948 Dominion Drama Festival. Eros at Breakfast was followed in close succession by Fortune, My Foe in 1949 and At My Heart's Core, a three-act play, in 1950. Meanwhile, Davies was writing humorous essays in the Examiner under the pseudonym Samuel Marchbanks. Some of these were collected and published in The Diary of Samuel Marchbanks, The Table Talk of Samuel Marchbanks, and later in Samuel Marchbanks' Almanack Also during the 1950s, Davies played a major role in launching the Stratford Shakespearean Festival of Canada. He served on the Festival's board of governors and collaborated with the Festival's director, Sir Tyrone Guthrie, in publishing three books about the Festival's early years. Although his first love was drama and he had achieved some success with his occasional humorous essays, Davies found greater success in fiction. His first three novels, which later became known as The Salterton Trilogy, were Tempest-Tost, Leaven of Malice, and A Mixture of Frailties These novels explored the difficulty of sustaining a cultural life in Canada, and life on a small-town newspaper, subjects of which Davies had first-hand knowledge. In 1960 Davies joined Trinity College at the University of Toronto, where he would teach literature until 1981. The following year he published a collection of essays on literature A Voice From the Attic, and was awarded the Lorne Pierce Medal for his literary achievements. In 1963 he became the Master of Massey College, the University of Toronto's new graduate college. During his stint as Master, he initiated the tradition of writing and telling ghost stories at the yearly Christmas celebrations. His stories were later collected in his book High Spirits Davies drew on his interest in Jungian psychology to create what was perhaps his greatest novel: Fifth Business, a book that draws heavily on Davies' own experiences, his love of myth and magic and his knowledge of small-town mores. The narrator, like Davies, is of immigrant Canadian background, with a father who runs the town paper. The book's characters act in roles that roughly correspond to Jungian archetypes according to Davies' belief in the predominance of the spirit over the things of the world. Davies built on the success of Fifth Business with two more novels: The Manticore, a novel cast largely in the form of a Jungian analysis, and World of Wonders Together these three books came to be known as The Deptford Trilogy. When Davies retired from his position at the University, his seventh novel, a satire of academic life, The Rebel Angels, was published, followed by What's Bred in the Bone These two books, along with The Lyre of Orpheus, became known as The Cornish Trilogy. During his retirement he continued to write novels which further established him as a major figure in the literary world: The Lyre of Orpheus, Murther and Walking Spirits and The Cunning Man A third novel in what would have been a further trilogy was in progress at Davies' death. He also realized a long-held dream when he penned the libretto to an opera: The Golden Ass, based on The Metamorphoses of Lucius Apuleius, just like that written by one of the characters in Davies' 1958 A Mixture of Frailties. The opera was performed by the Canadian Opera Company at the Hummingbird Centre in Toronto, in April, 1999, several years after Davies' death. Davies was a fine public speaker: deft, often humorous, and unafraid to be unfashionable.

 

 

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(04/26/2008) Leaven Of Malice by Robertson Davies. Toronto. 1954. Clarke Irwin & Company. keywords: Literature Canada. 312 pages. Jacket design by Clair Stewart.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   It was malice that prompted the insertion in the columns of the Salterton Evening Bellman of a false announcement of an engagement. Though it was aimed at three people only, before the leaven of malice had ceased to work, it had changed permanently, for good or for ill, the lives of many of the citizens of Salterton. The tasteless joke was directed against Solly Bridgetower, a junior instructor in English at Waverley University, out of love with his work, bound hand and foot by the over-devotion of a possessive mother; against Pearl Vambrace, the prisoner of a gloomy and divided home, the subdued daughter of a dominant father; and against Gloster Ridley, editor of the Evening Bellman, whose successful guidance of his paper did not prevent him from being ridden, whip and spur, by Anxiety. But malice, as Jevon Knapp, Dean of the Anglican Cathedral in Salterton, put it, 'works like a leaven; it stirs and swells, and changes all that surrounds it. ' The good Dean spoke of what he knew, for he too was touched by the stirring of the leaven, as was Humphrey Cobbler, that somewhat dif- ferent organist; Professor Vambrace, the saturnine Head of Waverley's Classics Department; Swithin Shillito, editorial writer, upon whom had fallen, in his opinion at least, the mantle of the eighteenth century essayist; Constant Reader, Ridley's devoted housekeeper; Mr. Snelgrove, the lawyer who played the part with a store of stagey mannerisms; and a host of others, LEAVEN OF MALICE is Robertson Davies' second novel, As in TEMPEST-TOST, the first, the locale of the story is Salterton, a Canadian provincial city, and some old friends from TEMPEST-TOST make their reappearance here. There are few writers in the English language today who excel Robertson Davies in the art of characterization and the humour of situation, The men and women who people the pages of this book, and the situations into which their characters drive them under the stirring and swelling of the leaven of malice, are its principal joy. The scenes in which Professor Vambrace corrects the conception of the Oedipus Complex held by a professional psychologist; or Solly Bridgetower lectures on the new field of Amcan; or Humphrey Cobbler leads some pupils in folk-singing in the Cathedral on Halloween; or Gloster Ridley addresses himself to his day's stint as an editorial writer, are funny indeed, and the glimpses of the workings of a daily newspaper are unforgettable. In LEAVEN OF MALICE Robertson Davies has contrived a truly comic work.

William Robertson Davies, was a Canadian novelist, playwright, critic, journalist, and professor. He was one of Canada's best-known and most popular authors, and one of its most distinguished 'men of letters', a term Davies is sometimes said to have detested. Davies was the founding Master of Massey College, a graduate college at the University of Toronto. Growing up, Davies was surrounded by books and language. His father, Senator William Rupert Davies, was a newspaperman, and both his parents were voracious readers. He, in turn, read everything he could. He also participated in theatrical productions as a child, where he developed a lifelong interest in drama. He attended Upper Canada College in Toronto from 1926 to 1932 and while there attended services at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene. He would later leave the Presbyterian Church and convert to Anglicanism over objections to Calvinist theology. After Upper Canada College, he studied at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario from 1932 until 1935. At Queen's he was enrolled as a special student not working towards a degree, and wrote for the student paper, The Queen's Journal. He left Canada to study at Balliol College, Oxford, where he received a BLitt degree in 1938. The next year he published his thesis, Shakespeare's Boy Actors, and embarked on an acting career outside London. In 1940 he played small roles and did literary work for the director at the Old Vic Repertory Company in London. Also that year Davies married Australian Brenda Mathews, whom he had met at Oxford, and who was then working as stage manager for the theatre. Davies' early life provided him with themes and material to which he would often return in his later work, including the theme of Canadians returning to England to finish their education, and the theatre. Davies and his new bride returned to Canada in 1940, where he took the position of literary editor at the magazine Saturday Night. Two years later, he became editor of the Peterborough Examiner in the small city of Peterborough, Ontario, northeast of Toronto. Again he was able to mine his experiences here for many of the characters and situations which later appeared in his novels and plays. Davies, along with family members William Rupert Davies and Arthur Davies, purchased several media outlets. Along with the Examiner newspaper, they owned the Kingston Whig-Standard newspaper, CHEX-AM, CKWS-AM, CHEX-TV, and CKWS-TV. During his tenure as editor of the Examiner, which lasted from 1942 to 1955, and when he was publisher from 1955 to 1965, Davies published a total 18 books, produced several of his own plays and wrote articles for various journals. For example, Davies set out his theory of acting in his Shakespeare for Young Players and then put theory into practice when he wrote Eros at Breakfast, a one-act play which was named best Canadian play of the year by the 1948 Dominion Drama Festival. Eros at Breakfast was followed in close succession by Fortune, My Foe in 1949 and At My Heart's Core, a three-act play, in 1950. Meanwhile, Davies was writing humorous essays in the Examiner under the pseudonym Samuel Marchbanks. Some of these were collected and published in The Diary of Samuel Marchbanks, The Table Talk of Samuel Marchbanks, and later in Samuel Marchbanks' Almanack Also during the 1950s, Davies played a major role in launching the Stratford Shakespearean Festival of Canada. He served on the Festival's board of governors and collaborated with the Festival's director, Sir Tyrone Guthrie, in publishing three books about the Festival's early years. Although his first love was drama and he had achieved some success with his occasional humorous essays, Davies found greater success in fiction. His first three novels, which later became known as The Salterton Trilogy, were Tempest-Tost, Leaven of Malice, and A Mixture of Frailties These novels explored the difficulty of sustaining a cultural life in Canada, and life on a small-town newspaper, subjects of which Davies had first-hand knowledge. In 1960 Davies joined Trinity College at the University of Toronto, where he would teach literature until 1981. The following year he published a collection of essays on literature A Voice From the Attic, and was awarded the Lorne Pierce Medal for his literary achievements. In 1963 he became the Master of Massey College, the University of Toronto's new graduate college. During his stint as Master, he initiated the tradition of writing and telling ghost stories at the yearly Christmas celebrations. His stories were later collected in his book High Spirits Davies drew on his interest in Jungian psychology to create what was perhaps his greatest novel: Fifth Business, a book that draws heavily on Davies' own experiences, his love of myth and magic and his knowledge of small-town mores. The narrator, like Davies, is of immigrant Canadian background, with a father who runs the town paper. The book's characters act in roles that roughly correspond to Jungian archetypes according to Davies' belief in the predominance of the spirit over the things of the world. Davies built on the success of Fifth Business with two more novels: The Manticore, a novel cast largely in the form of a Jungian analysis, and World of Wonders Together these three books came to be known as The Deptford Trilogy. When Davies retired from his position at the University, his seventh novel, a satire of academic life, The Rebel Angels, was published, followed by What's Bred in the Bone These two books, along with The Lyre of Orpheus, became known as The Cornish Trilogy. During his retirement he continued to write novels which further established him as a major figure in the literary world: The Lyre of Orpheus, Murther and Walking Spirits and The Cunning Man A third novel in what would have been a further trilogy was in progress at Davies' death. He also realized a long-held dream when he penned the libretto to an opera: The Golden Ass, based on The Metamorphoses of Lucius Apuleius, just like that written by one of the characters in Davies' 1958 A Mixture of Frailties. The opera was performed by the Canadian Opera Company at the Hummingbird Centre in Toronto, in April, 1999, several years after Davies' death. Davies was a fine public speaker: deft, often humorous, and unafraid to be unfashionable. leaven of malice clarke irwin. jpg. Leaven Of Malice by Robertson Davies. New York. 1955. Scribners. Literature Canada. 312. Jacket design by Helen Borten. 'Mr. Davies balances wit with sympathy,' said the London Times, 'and has a fine eye for the more alarming aspects of social intercourse. ' It is precisely those qualities that make LEAVEN OF MALICE a delight to read. The story takes place in a Canadian university city, called Salterton; and the action is set off by a malicious joke--the insertion, in the Evening Bellman, of a false engagement announcement. What lies behind this act becomes an increasingly disturbing mystery, until the climax of the novel, but the resulting uproar bears out the words of the Dean of the Salterton Cathedral: 'Malice works like a leaven; it stirs and swells, and changes all that surrounds it. ' There are a number of people affected by this leaven of malice. First of all, Gloster Ridley, editor of the Bellman; then Solly Bridgetower, an instructor of English at the university, who has been named as prospective groom; his equally startled 'bride', Pearl Vambrace, and her father, a classical scholar now in a state of ferment exceptional even for him. The good Dean of the Cathedral is affected, too, and his uninhibited organist, Humphry Cobbler; so are two or three lawyers, a psychologist, and several ladies of social prominence. Mr. Davies writes with alert urbanity. Whenever his characters behave absurdly he is quick to make the most of it, to the great entertainment of the reader. But his satire, for all its bite, is not cruel; his comedy contains so much warmth that the author's liking for his characters is made evident - and infectious. LEAVEN OF MALICE catches the flavor of the particular world of Salterton, and it reveals with precision the odd mixture of nonsense, decency, pomposity and pathos that exists in every society. William Robertson Davies, was a Canadian novelist, playwright, critic, journalist, and professor. He was one of Canada's best-known and most popular authors, and one of its most distinguished 'men of letters', a term Davies is sometimes said to have detested. Davies was the founding Master of Massey College, a graduate college at the University of Toronto. Growing up, Davies was surrounded by books and language. His father, Senator William Rupert Davies, was a newspaperman, and both his parents were voracious readers. He, in turn, read everything he could. He also participated in theatrical productions as a child, where he developed a lifelong interest in drama. He attended Upper Canada College in Toronto from 1926 to 1932 and while there attended services at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene. He would later leave the Presbyterian Church and convert to Anglicanism over objections to Calvinist theology. After Upper Canada College, he studied at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario from 1932 until 1935. At Queen's he was enrolled as a special student not working towards a degree, and wrote for the student paper, The Queen's Journal. He left Canada to study at Balliol College, Oxford, where he received a BLitt degree in 1938. The next year he published his thesis, Shakespeare's Boy Actors, and embarked on an acting career outside London. In 1940 he played small roles and did literary work for the director at the Old Vic Repertory Company in London. Also that year Davies married Australian Brenda Mathews, whom he had met at Oxford, and who was then working as stage manager for the theatre. Davies' early life provided him with themes and material to which he would often return in his later work, including the theme of Canadians returning to England to finish their education, and the theatre. Davies and his new bride returned to Canada in 1940, where he took the position of literary editor at the magazine Saturday Night. Two years later, he became editor of the Peterborough Examiner in the small city of Peterborough, Ontario, northeast of Toronto. Again he was able to mine his experiences here for many of the characters and situations which later appeared in his novels and plays. Davies, along with family members William Rupert Davies and Arthur Davies, purchased several media outlets. Along with the Examiner newspaper, they owned the Kingston Whig-Standard newspaper, CHEX-AM, CKWS-AM, CHEX-TV, and CKWS-TV. During his tenure as editor of the Examiner, which lasted from 1942 to 1955, and when he was publisher from 1955 to 1965, Davies published a total 18 books, produced several of his own plays and wrote articles for various journals. For example, Davies set out his theory of acting in his Shakespeare for Young Players and then put theory into practice when he wrote Eros at Breakfast, a one-act play which was named best Canadian play of the year by the 1948 Dominion Drama Festival. Eros at Breakfast was followed in close succession by Fortune, My Foe in 1949 and At My Heart's Core, a three-act play, in 1950. Meanwhile, Davies was writing humorous essays in the Examiner under the pseudonym Samuel Marchbanks. Some of these were collected and published in The Diary of Samuel Marchbanks, The Table Talk of Samuel Marchbanks, and later in Samuel Marchbanks' Almanack Also during the 1950s, Davies played a major role in launching the Stratford Shakespearean Festival of Canada. He served on the Festival's board of governors and collaborated with the Festival's director, Sir Tyrone Guthrie, in publishing three books about the Festival's early years. Although his first love was drama and he had achieved some success with his occasional humorous essays, Davies found greater success in fiction. His first three novels, which later became known as The Salterton Trilogy, were Tempest-Tost, Leaven of Malice, and A Mixture of Frailties These novels explored the difficulty of sustaining a cultural life in Canada, and life on a small-town newspaper, subjects of which Davies had first-hand knowledge. In 1960 Davies joined Trinity College at the University of Toronto, where he would teach literature until 1981. The following year he published a collection of essays on literature A Voice From the Attic, and was awarded the Lorne Pierce Medal for his literary achievements. In 1963 he became the Master of Massey College, the University of Toronto's new graduate college. During his stint as Master, he initiated the tradition of writing and telling ghost stories at the yearly Christmas celebrations. His stories were later collected in his book High Spirits Davies drew on his interest in Jungian psychology to create what was perhaps his greatest novel: Fifth Business, a book that draws heavily on Davies' own experiences, his love of myth and magic and his knowledge of small-town mores. The narrator, like Davies, is of immigrant Canadian background, with a father who runs the town paper. The book's characters act in roles that roughly correspond to Jungian archetypes according to Davies' belief in the predominance of the spirit over the things of the world. Davies built on the success of Fifth Business with two more novels: The Manticore, a novel cast largely in the form of a Jungian analysis, and World of Wonders Together these three books came to be known as The Deptford Trilogy. When Davies retired from his position at the University, his seventh novel, a satire of academic life, The Rebel Angels, was published, followed by What's Bred in the Bone These two books, along with The Lyre of Orpheus, became known as The Cornish Trilogy. During his retirement he continued to write novels which further established him as a major figure in the literary world: The Lyre of Orpheus, Murther and Walking Spirits and The Cunning Man A third novel in what would have been a further trilogy was in progress at Davies' death. He also realized a long-held dream when he penned the libretto to an opera: The Golden Ass, based on The Metamorphoses of Lucius Apuleius, just like that written by one of the characters in Davies' 1958 A Mixture of Frailties. The opera was performed by the Canadian Opera Company at the Hummingbird Centre in Toronto, in April, 1999, several years after Davies' death. Davies was a fine public speaker: deft, often humorous, and unafraid to be unfashionable.

 

 

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(04/25/2008) Tempest-Tost by Robertson Davies. New York. 1952. Rinehart & Company. keywords: Literature Canada. 307 pages. Jacket design by Edwin Schmidt.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   It all happened when the Salterton Little Theatre decided to put on a performance of 'The Tempest' and Hector Mackilwraith decided to throw propriety to the winds. Staid, fortyish, Professor of Mathematics Hector Mackilwraith was not in the habit of throwing propriety or anything else to the winds. He had risen to both his professional and amateur station in life by industry, plan, and common sense. Impulse had no place in his ordered life. Then suddenly it did. Hector decided to be an actor--specifically in the Theatre's production of 'The Tempest. ' He got the part--but that was not all. He also received an enchanting smile from Griselda Webster, the star. Griselda was nineteen and lovely. Love was a sensation foreign to Hector--and when it hit him, it became the source of some of the merriest, maddest fun to be set down between book covers in many a day. Hector had not only to cope with his own emotions but also with the emotions of everyone from Nellie Forrester, the megalomaniac President of the Little Theatre, to Professor Vambrace, its bony, saturnine hatchet man. And between these two points were such complications as Pimples Buckle, Salterton's closest approach to a gangster, Bonnie-Susan, widely and admiringly known as 'The Torso,' and others. Readers and playgoers who are familiar with the impish wit of Robertson Davies know what is in store for them in TEMPEST-TOST. To those who are not, we state frankly that it is a pure delight, a gay, really funny book.

William Robertson Davies, was a Canadian novelist, playwright, critic, journalist, and professor. He was one of Canada's best-known and most popular authors, and one of its most distinguished 'men of letters', a term Davies is sometimes said to have detested. Davies was the founding Master of Massey College, a graduate college at the University of Toronto. Growing up, Davies was surrounded by books and language. His father, Senator William Rupert Davies, was a newspaperman, and both his parents were voracious readers. He, in turn, read everything he could. He also participated in theatrical productions as a child, where he developed a lifelong interest in drama. He attended Upper Canada College in Toronto from 1926 to 1932 and while there attended services at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene. He would later leave the Presbyterian Church and convert to Anglicanism over objections to Calvinist theology. After Upper Canada College, he studied at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario from 1932 until 1935. At Queen's he was enrolled as a special student not working towards a degree, and wrote for the student paper, The Queen's Journal. He left Canada to study at Balliol College, Oxford, where he received a BLitt degree in 1938. The next year he published his thesis, Shakespeare's Boy Actors, and embarked on an acting career outside London. In 1940 he played small roles and did literary work for the director at the Old Vic Repertory Company in London. Also that year Davies married Australian Brenda Mathews, whom he had met at Oxford, and who was then working as stage manager for the theatre. Davies' early life provided him with themes and material to which he would often return in his later work, including the theme of Canadians returning to England to finish their education, and the theatre. Davies and his new bride returned to Canada in 1940, where he took the position of literary editor at the magazine Saturday Night. Two years later, he became editor of the Peterborough Examiner in the small city of Peterborough, Ontario, northeast of Toronto. Again he was able to mine his experiences here for many of the characters and situations which later appeared in his novels and plays. Davies, along with family members William Rupert Davies and Arthur Davies, purchased several media outlets. Along with the Examiner newspaper, they owned the Kingston Whig-Standard newspaper, CHEX-AM, CKWS-AM, CHEX-TV, and CKWS-TV. During his tenure as editor of the Examiner, which lasted from 1942 to 1955, and when he was publisher from 1955 to 1965, Davies published a total 18 books, produced several of his own plays and wrote articles for various journals. For example, Davies set out his theory of acting in his Shakespeare for Young Players and then put theory into practice when he wrote Eros at Breakfast, a one-act play which was named best Canadian play of the year by the 1948 Dominion Drama Festival. Eros at Breakfast was followed in close succession by Fortune, My Foe in 1949 and At My Heart's Core, a three-act play, in 1950. Meanwhile, Davies was writing humorous essays in the Examiner under the pseudonym Samuel Marchbanks. Some of these were collected and published in The Diary of Samuel Marchbanks, The Table Talk of Samuel Marchbanks, and later in Samuel Marchbanks' Almanack Also during the 1950s, Davies played a major role in launching the Stratford Shakespearean Festival of Canada. He served on the Festival's board of governors and collaborated with the Festival's director, Sir Tyrone Guthrie, in publishing three books about the Festival's early years. Although his first love was drama and he had achieved some success with his occasional humorous essays, Davies found greater success in fiction. His first three novels, which later became known as The Salterton Trilogy, were Tempest-Tost, Leaven of Malice, and A Mixture of Frailties These novels explored the difficulty of sustaining a cultural life in Canada, and life on a small-town newspaper, subjects of which Davies had first-hand knowledge. In 1960 Davies joined Trinity College at the University of Toronto, where he would teach literature until 1981. The following year he published a collection of essays on literature A Voice From the Attic, and was awarded the Lorne Pierce Medal for his literary achievements. In 1963 he became the Master of Massey College, the University of Toronto's new graduate college. During his stint as Master, he initiated the tradition of writing and telling ghost stories at the yearly Christmas celebrations. His stories were later collected in his book High Spirits Davies drew on his interest in Jungian psychology to create what was perhaps his greatest novel: Fifth Business, a book that draws heavily on Davies' own experiences, his love of myth and magic and his knowledge of small-town mores. The narrator, like Davies, is of immigrant Canadian background, with a father who runs the town paper. The book's characters act in roles that roughly correspond to Jungian archetypes according to Davies' belief in the predominance of the spirit over the things of the world. Davies built on the success of Fifth Business with two more novels: The Manticore, a novel cast largely in the form of a Jungian analysis, and World of Wonders Together these three books came to be known as The Deptford Trilogy. When Davies retired from his position at the University, his seventh novel, a satire of academic life, The Rebel Angels, was published, followed by What's Bred in the Bone These two books, along with The Lyre of Orpheus, became known as The Cornish Trilogy. During his retirement he continued to write novels which further established him as a major figure in the literary world: The Lyre of Orpheus, Murther and Walking Spirits and The Cunning Man A third novel in what would have been a further trilogy was in progress at Davies' death. He also realized a long-held dream when he penned the libretto to an opera: The Golden Ass, based on The Metamorphoses of Lucius Apuleius, just like that written by one of the characters in Davies' 1958 A Mixture of Frailties. The opera was performed by the Canadian Opera Company at the Hummingbird Centre in Toronto, in April, 1999, several years after Davies' death. Davies was a fine public speaker: deft, often humorous, and unafraid to be unfashionable.

 

 

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(04/24/2008) The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius. Baltimore. 1957. Penguin Books. Newly Translated from the Latin & With A Foreword by Robert Graves. keywords: Literature Roman History Translated. L72. 315 pages.

In the words of Lord Acton, 'Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.' Suetonius shows us that he knew exactly what Lord Acton was talking about centuries before Lord Acton was even born.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   'Not much is known about the life of Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus. He was probably born in 69 A.D. - the famous 'year of four Emperors' - when his father, a Roman knight, served as a colonel in a regular legion and took part in the Battle of Baetricum. From the letters of Suetonius's close friend Pliny the Younger we learn that he practised briefly at the bar, avoided political life, and became chief secretary to the Emperor Hadrian (117-38 A.D.). The historian Spartianus records that he was one of several Palace officials, including the Guards Commander, whom Hadrian when he returned from Britain dismissed for behaving indiscreetly with the Empress Sabina. Suetonius seems to have lived to a good age. The titles of his books are recorded as follows: The Twelve Caesars; Royal Biographies; Lives of Famous Whores; Roman Manners and Customs; The Roman Year; Roman Festivals; Roman Dress; Greek Games; Offices of State; Cicero's Republic; The Physical Defects of Mankind; Methods of Reckoning Time; An Essay on Nature; Greek Objurgations; Grammatical Problems; Critical Signs Used in Books. But apart from fragments of his Illustrious Writers, which include short biographies of Virgil, Horace, and Lucan, the only extant book is The Twelve Caesars, the most fascinating and richest of all Latin histories. Suetonius was fortunate in having ready access to the Imperial and Senatorial archives and to a great body of contemporary memoirs and public documents, and in having himself lived nearly thirty years under the Caesars. Much of his information about Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero comes from eye-witnesses of the events described. Apparently he took care to check facts wherever possible, and often quotes conflicting evidence without bias, which was not the habit of Tacitus or other later historians. If his credulousness about omens and prodigies is discounted, he seems trustworthy enough, his only prejudice being in favour of firm, mild rule, with a regard for the human decencies. As the famous Dean Liddell wrote: His language is very brief and precise, sometimes obscure, without any affection or ornament. He certainly tells a prodigious number of scandalous anecdotes about the Caesars, but there was plenty to tell about them; and if he did not choose to suppress those anecdotes which he believed to be true, that is no imputation on his veracity. As a great collection of facts of all kinds, his work on the Caesars is invaluable. And Pliny, who persuaded the Emperor Trajan to grant Suetonius the immunities usually granted only to a father of three children, though he had none, wrote that the more he knew of Suetonius, the greater his affection for him grew; I have had the same experience. This version of The Twelve Caesars is not intended as a school crib; the genius of Latin and the genius of English being so dissimilar that a literal rendering would be almost unreadable. For English readers Suetonius's sentences, and sometimes even groups of sentences, must often be turned inside-out. Wherever his references are incomprehensible to anyone not closely familiar with the Roman scene, I have also brought up into the text a few words of explanation that would normally have appeared in a footnote. Dates have been everywhere changed from the pagan to the Christian era; modern names of cities used whenever they are more familiar to the common reader than the classical ones; and sums in sesterces reduced to gold pieces, at 100 to a gold piece (of twenty denarii), which resembled a British sovereign. The problem of finding suitable English equivalents for Latin technical words is exemplified in Imperator. This, at first, meant simply 'army commander'; next it became a title of honour which a general might cam by an important victory; then it was placed as a title of honour after, or (more flatteringly) before, the name of one of the ruling Caesars, whether or not he had won any victories; finally, it was used in an absolute sense to mean 'Emperor'. I might have prefaced the translation with an essay on die Roman Republican Constitution and the merciless struggle between the popular and aristocratic parties in which Julius Caesar became involved, and which ended only with the triumph of Augustus; but most readers will perhaps prefer to plunge straight into the story and ' pick up the threads as they go along.' - Robert Graves, Deyi, Majorca, Spain 1957.

 

 

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(04/23/2008) Ashes And Diamonds by George Andrzeyevski. London. 1962. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. Translated From The Polish By D. J. Welsh. keywords: Literature Translated Poland Eastern Europe. 239 pages. Jacket design by Harry Sida.

A tale of political factional intrigue in Poland following World War II.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   George Andrzeyevski's novel is set in Ostrowiec, a pleasant provincial town in Poland, during the few days in the spring of 1945 while the final surrender of the German armies is being negotiated. The war has ended at last, but not all of the inhabitants of Ostrowiec are rejoicing. Some belong to the new elite of Communist fanatics who will rule the country with the help of the Red Army; some think of nothing but escape to the West. A degenerate group cashes in on the confusion and makes fortunes out of the black market; a band of fanatical young idealists hides in the woods and assassinates One of the new leaders in the hope of breaking the Russian stranglehold; an even younger group of boys commits murder, steals money and buys guns without any very clear idea of their goal. Many are still searching for relatives who disappeared in the concentration camps; a former magistrate who collaborated with the Germans lives in terror of being denounced; and the young man chosen to assassinate the Party Secretary falls in love for the first time. People stroll in the square listening to the wireless announcements, bathe in the river, plot in dilapidated, overcrowded rooms, dance in the town's one good hotel, attend political meetings, eat, drink, quarrel, make love and sleep while their fate is being decided. This is a thrilling, complex and moving story of what life was really like in Poland during those fateful few days when the war came to an end and the Communist regime which is still in power today took over the country.

GEORGE ANDRZEYEVSKI was born in Warsaw in 1909 and has lived there all his life. His first book, a collection of short stories, appeared in 1936. Two years later his first novel won him two literary awards. Since the war Andrzeyevski's prolific output of novels, plays, short stories and articles has gained him a leading position among Polish writers, and his last novel to appear in English, The Inquisitors, was unanimously hailed by Polish critics as a major contribution to contemporary literature. The film version of ASHES AND DIAMONDS was awarded the International Critics' Prize at the Venice Film Festival of 1959, but the book has never before been translated into English.

 

 

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(04/22/2008) The Hydra Head by Carlos Fuentes. New York. 1978. Farrar Straus Giroux. Translated From The Spanish By Margaret Sayers Peden. keywords: Literature Translated Mexico Latin America. 292 pages. Jacket design by Honi Werner. 0374173974.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   In an astonishing turnabout, Carlos Fuentes follows his most recent novel, the huge, complex, baroque, historical fantasy TERRA NOSTRA, with what is probably the first Third World spy thriller, an action-filled, quick-paced, terse novel of intrigue as contemporary as a headline. One fateful morning, Felix Maldonado, a minor official in the Mexican bureaucracy, steps into a nightmare world in which he is ensnared in a murder he never intended: the assassination of the President. As he is gradually divested of his identity, he struggles between his Dostoevskian frenzy for affirmation and the Kafkaesque passivity of oblivion others try to impose on him: the Director General of his Ministry, who first proposes that Felix surrender his name in exchange for his life; the fat economics professor, Bernstein, who believes a man is recognized only when he is not being hunted down; and the ambiguous master spy, 'Timon,' who prefers defeat to success. They are surrounded by a cast of twilight figures: Ayub, a Lebanese punk; the posturing coward Rossetti and his ambitious wife, Angelica, a lady with a penchant for adventures in swimming pools; Licha, a sensual but unsatisfied nurse; the teenage Mexican agents Rosita and Emiliano; and the women in Felix's life, all three Jewish: Ruth, his wife; Sara Klein, a survivor of the Holocaust; and Mary Benjamin, who tortures her ugly merchant husband with her infidelities. Set in the houses of the rich and in sleazy hotels and sinister hospitals in Mexico City, in the steamy Gulf ports of Coatzacoalcos and Galveston and the luxury clubs and corporate offices of Houston, THE HYDRA HEAD has a constant political reality as backdrop: the permanent tension in the Middle East and the vast new oil resources of Mexico. Behind the individual drives for power, justice, money, love, or simple survival lurk the cold imperatives of the international chessboard and its masked players. Felix is caught between both, making it impossible to know where his lust for Mary, his tenderness for Ruth, and his love for Sara stop and the hard facts of political reality begin.

CARLOS FUENTES was born in Mexico City in 1928. Among his earlier books, published and honored in many countries, are the novels WHERE THE AIR IS CLEAR, THE GOOD CONSCIENCE, AURA, THE DEATH OF ARTEMIO CRUZ, A CHANGE OF SKIN, and TERRA NOSTRA.

 

 

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(04/21/2008) Koba The Dread: Laughter & The Twenty Million by Martin Amis. New York. 2002. Talk Miramax/Hyperion. keywords: Literature England Russia History Joseph Stalin Communism. 306 pages. jacket Design by DOYLE PARTNERS. Stalin Photograph HULTON ARCHIVE/GETTY IMAGES. cheka Badge Photograph courtesy of THE DAVID KING COLLECTION, LONDON. 0786868767. July 2002.

A memoir, a history, and a meditation on Stalin and his legacy.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   KOBA THE DREAD is the successor to Martin Amis's celebrated memoir, EXPERIENCE. It is largely political while remaining personal. It addresses itself to the central lacuna of twentieth-century thought: the indulgence of communism by intellectuals of the West. In between the personal beginning and the personal ending, Amis gives us perhaps the best 'short course ever in Stalin: Koba the Dread, Iosif the Terrible. The author's father, Kingsley Amis, though later reactionary in tendency, was 'a Comintern dogsbody' from 1941 to 1956. His second-closest, and then closest friend, was Robert Conquest, our leading Sovietologist, whose book of 1968, The Great Terror, was second only to Solzhenitsyn's THE GULAG ARCHIPELAGO in undermining the USSR. Amis's remarkable memoir explores these connections. Stalin said that the death of one person was tragic, the death of a million a mere 'statistic. ' KOBA THE DREAD, during whose course the author absorbs a particular, a familial death, is a rebuttal of Stalin's aphorism.

MARTIN AMIS is the bestselling author of several books including LONDON FIELDS, MONEY, THE INFORMATION, EXPERIENCE, And THE WAR AGAINST CLICHE.

 

 

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(04/20/2008) Niels Lyhne by J. P. Jacobsen. New York. 1919. American-Scandinavian Foundation. Translated From The Danish By Hanna Astrup Larsen. keywords: Literature Translated Denmark Scandinavia.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Originally published in 1880, the classic novel NIELS LYHNE is the story of a young man's existential struggle, told with great psychological insight. It is about romanticism, atheism, and the turmoil of an artistic temperament caught between dreams and reality. And it is about the relationships between men and women, which are doomed to failure when the woman is elevated to a goddess and not perceived as a human being. Jens Peter Jacobsen produced only a small body of work in his short lifetime - two novels, a volume of short stories, and some poetry - yet these works have had a significant impact on some of the most important writers and artists of this century. Thomas Mann, Sigmund Freud, August Strindberg, Jean Giraudoux, Hermann Hesse, and Henrik Ibsen: all expressed admiration for Jacobsen's work. Both James Joyce and Stefan Zweig wanted to learn Danish in order to read Niels Lyhne in the original. Adventurer T. E. Lawrence pronounced Niels Lyhne a 'magnificent' book. And Alberto Giacometti, who rarely traveled, accepted an invitation to visit Denmark for an exhibition of his work because he wanted to see the country of Jens Peter Jacobsen. But it was the poet Rainer Maria Rilke who felt most indebted to Jacobsen. In Letters to a Young Poet, Rilke lavishes praise on his novel, urging his readers to experience this 'book of splendors and depths. ' 'NIELS LYHNE - how ardently, how passionately we loved this book in the first years of youthful awareness: it was the Werther of our generation. Countless times we read this melancholy biography, knew whole pages of it by heart, and the thin, worn Reclam volume accompanied us to school and late at night to bed; even today, when I look up some passages in it, I am at once able to write them down word for word from memory, because we had so often, so passionately absorbed those scenes into our lives. ' - STEFAN ZWEIG. Rilke said that Jacobsen, more than any other writer, bad given him 'the greatest experience of the essence of creativity, its depths and eternity. '. 'Now NIELS LYHNE will open to you, a book of splendors and depths; the more often one reads it, the more everything seems to be contained within it, from life's most imperceptible fragrances to the full, enormous taste of its heaviest fruits. In it there is nothing that does not seem to have been understood, held, lived, and known in memory's wavering echo; no experience has been too unimportant, and the smallest event unfolds like a fate, and fate itself is like a wonderful, wide fabric in which every thread is guided by an infinitely tender hand and laid alongside another thread and is held and supported by a hundred others. You will experience the great happiness of reading this book for the first time, and will move through its numberless surprises as if you were in a new dream. ' - RAINER MARIA RILKE. 'Jacobsen has made a more profound impression on my heart than any other reading in recent years. ' - SIGMUND FREUD. 'Jacobsen's book is a fine work of literature in every respect; yes, I dare say it is among the most exceptional that our time has produced. ' - HENRIK IBSEN. 'I am quite Nordically inclined, and perhaps it is J. P. Jacobsen who has had the greatest influence on my style so far. ' - THOMAS MANN. 'In Jacobsen we have the earliest and noblest example of an author who combines a powerful imagination and a wistfully tender nature with all the finesse of the most highly developed realism. He finds words full of pregnant vividness for every manifestation of Nature, for every blade of grass by the wayside, for every visible beauty. And then he attempts, with dark yearning, to translate this huge talent for portrayal, this most refined technique of expression, to the life of the soul. Not as a realistic psychologist, but as a dreamer and explorer on the pathless sea of the unknown.' - HERMANN HESSE.

 

 

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(04/18/2009) First Love by Ivan Turgenev. New York. 1978. Penguin Books. Introduction By V. S. Prichett. Translated From The Russian By Isaiah Berlin. keywords: Penguin Classic Paperback Russia Translated Literature 19th Century. 107 pages. The cover shows a detail from 'Der Spaziergang in Garten' by Adolf von Menzel. 0140443355.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   FIRST LOVE is a perfect example of Turgenev's art in miniature. His lyrical, sensitive treatment of ardent boyish love achieves the brilliance of a small gem. Contrasted against the background of mid-nineteenth century Russia and shadows by a subtle evocation of more mature and tragic passion, Turgenev's brief classic encapsulates all the innocence and confusion of first and unforgettable love. In Isaiah Berlin's remarkable translation, the quality and simplicity of the Russian original is exquisitely retained.

 

 

 

 

 

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    Dumas, Henry. Jonoah & the Green Stone Dumas, Henry. Jonoah & the Green Stone. New York. 1976. Random House. 0394497910. 170 pages. hardcover. Jacket design by Mike Stromberg.  FROM THE PUBLISHER - Henry Dumas was a first-rate writer with first-order intelligence. The publication of his short stories, ARK OF BONES, and poetry, PLAY EBONY PLAY IVORY, was received with spectacular acclaim. Now a novel has been discovered that will satisfy the appetites[…]

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  • Uwagba, Otegha. Whites: On Race and Other Falsehoods

    Zenosbooks - Zeno's Picks

    Uwagba, Otegha. Whites: On Race and Other Falsehoods Uwagba, Otegha. Whites: On Race and Other Falsehoods. London. 2020. 4th Estate. 9780008440428. 71 pages. paperback.  FROM THE PUBLISHER - In this powerful and timely personal essay, best-selling author Otegha Uwagba reflects on racism, whiteness, and the mental labour required of Black people to navigate relationships with white people. Presented as a record of Uwagba's observations on this era-defining moment in history - that is,[…]

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  • Davies, Carole Boyce. Left of Karl Marx: The Political Life of Black Communist Claudia Jones

    Zenosbooks - Zeno's Picks

    Davies, Carole Boyce. Left of Karl Marx: The Political Life of Black Communist Claudia Jones Davies, Carole Boyce. Left of Karl Marx: The Political Life of Black Communist Claudia Jones. Durham. 2008. Duke University Press. 9780822341161. 311 pages. paperback. Cover photograph - Claudia Jones in 1948.  FROM THE PUBLISHER - In LEFT OF KARL MARX, Carole Boyce Davies assesses the activism, writing, and legacy of Claudia Jones (1915-1964), a pioneering Afro-Caribbean radical intellectual, dedicated communist, and feminist. Jones is buried[…]

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  • Painter, Nell Irvin. The History of White People

    Zenosbooks - Zeno's Picks

    Painter, Nell Irvin. The History of White People Painter, Nell Irvin. The History of White People. New York. 2010. Norton. 9780393049343. 496 pages. hardcover. Cover design by Keenan.  FROM THE PUBLISHER - A mind-expanding and myth-destroying exploration of notions of white race - not merely a skin color but also a signal of power, prestige, and beauty to be withheld and granted selectively. Our story begins in Greek and Roman antiquity, where the[…]

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