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(12/10/2007) The Hills Were Joyful Together by Roger Mais. London. 1953. Jonathan Cape. keywords: Literature Caribbean Jamaica Black. 288 pages. Jacket design from a painting by the author. The Author: from a Self-Portrait in Oils.

Roger Mais writes of poor people in Jamaica. His tales are moving and unforgettable. Don’t miss THE HILLS WERE JOYFUL TOGETHER, his 1st novel.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   The author is a Jamaican and his novel is set in Jamaica. Its characters, who belong to the submerged nine-tenths of the population, are strangers to writers of books for tourists and to the tourists themselves, but not to the police nor to politicians at election times. Roger Mais, having lived and worked among them for most of his 47 years, knows them intimately; and his story, concerned with a small community of the industrious, the shiftless, the pious and the lawless, is as close to reality as art can depict it. Naive and savage, generous and cunning, sensitive and gross, their violence repels while their simple tenderness attracts. Their high spirits, their humour, their love of singing and dancing, are here contrasted with their primitive barbarity in scenes which evoke terror and pity, tears and laughter. In a style that soars into lyrical beauty and plumbs the depths of squalid tragedy, this is a novel of great power by a writer whose sincerity is not to be denied.

ROGER MAIS was born at Kingston, Jamaica, in 1905. One of his great-grandfathers was sentenced to the stocks for harbouring runaway slaves. His education was sketchy and unorthodox, but liberal. He is unmarried, and is a painter, as well as a writer, and THE HILLS WERE JOYFUL TOGETHER is his first novel. His recreations are reading, the theatre and music. He says that his most interesting experience was going to jail for six months under Defence Regulations, for writing an article which was considered adverse to the War Effort, but was really only asking for a more liberal constitution (and got it). He wrote this first novel, he says, very quickly, and because he had to; ‘it had been gestating for years.'

 

 

 

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(12/07/2007) Don Quixote by Miguel De Cervantes. New York. 2003. Ecco Press. Translated From The Spanish By Edith Grossman. Introduction By Harold Bloom. keywords: Literature Translated Spain. Jacket design & photograph by David High & Ralph Del Pozzo, High Design, NYC. 0060188707. November 2003.

I will admit that I made a couple of passes at DON QUIXOTE over the years before I finally acquired the stamina to tackle it in earnest. This translation became available at just the right time for me.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Edith Grossman’s definitive English translation of the Spanish masterpiece. Widely regarded as the world’s first modern novel, and one of the funniest and most tragic books ever written, Don Quixote chronicles the famous picaresque adventures of the noble knight-errant Don Quixote of La Mancha and his faithful squire, Sancho Panza, as they travel through sixteenth-century Spain. Unless you read Spanish, you’ve never read DON QUIXOTE. ‘Though there have been many valuable English translations of Don Quixote, I would commend Edith Grossman’s version for the extraordinarily high quality of her prose. The Knight and Sancho are so eloquently rendered by Grossman that the vitality of their characterization is more clearly conveyed than ever before. There is also an astonishing contextualization of Don Quixote and Sancho in Grossman’s translation that I believe has not been achieved before. The spiritual atmosphere of a Spain already in steep decline can be felt throughout, thanks to her heightened quality of diction. Grossman might be called the Glenn Gould of translators, because she, too, articulates every note. Reading her amazing mode of finding equivalents in English for Cervantes’s darkening vision is an entrance into a further understanding of why this great book contains within itself all the novels that have followed in its sublime wake. ’ - From the Introduction by Harold Bloom.

Miguel de Cervantes was born on September 29, 1547, in Alcala de Henares, Spain. At twenty-three he enlisted in the Spanish militia and in 1571 fought against the Turks in the battle of Lepanto, where a gunshot wound permanently crippled his left hand. He spent four more years at sea and then another five as a slave after being captured by Barbary pirates. Ransomed by his family, he returned to Madrid but his disability hampered him; it was in debtor’s prison that he began to write DON QUIXOTE. Cervantes wrote many other works, including poems and plays, but he remains best known as the author of DON QUIXOTE. He died on April 23, 1616.

 

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(12/03/2007) The Marriage by Witold Gombrowicz. New York. 1969. Grove Press. Translated from the Polish by Louis Iribarne. Introduction by Jan Kott. Paperback Original. keywords: Literature Translated Poland Eastern Europe Drama. E-482. 158 pages.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   This is a play about the shifting relationship between reality and imagination. Henry, a soldier stationed in northern France during World War II, has a dream about his father, mother, sweetheart, and best friend; the dream constitutes the action of the play. In the dream, Henry’s imagination transforms himself and the other characters into players of multiple roles — Father and King, Mother and Queen, Servant and Princess, Son and Prince, Friend and Courtier. The author explores the kind of transformations which occur in human relationships and which allow a father to be elevated to kingship and then deposed, the lost chastity of a young woman to be restored by a respectable marriage, and one’s character and relationship to others to be built totally through one’s individual perception. To some extent, THE MARRIAGE parodies Shakespearean convention, for the type of complication of plot and character provides a plausible and flexible context for Gombrowicz’s ideas, and a dramatic exploration of the nature of the absolute reality of form in relation to the always changing reality of self and imagination.

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 (née 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 café 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 café, 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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(12/01/2007) Against The Current by Isaiah Berlin. New York. 1980. Viking Press. Edited By Henry Hardy. keywords: Philosophy History. 394 pages. Jacket design by Tony Pollicino. 0670109444. February 1980.

Isaiah Berlin was a master of the philosophical essay. In fact, nearly all of his literary output comes to us in this form. His essays are timeless, mentally stimulating, and simply a pleasure to read. He is one of those authors whose works inevitably lead one to other authors, usually the classics. His point of view is fresh and his writing is engaging. Don’t miss out on the experience of reading Isaiah Berlin.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   For most of Sir Isaiah Berlin’s life, the history of ideas has been the focal point of his interest and work and the background against which he has forged his own eloquent and deeply felt opposition to the fanaticism of the singleminded. His main theme in Against the Current is the importance in the history of thought of dissenters whose ideas still challenge conventional wisdom; Machiavelli, Vico, Montesquieu, Hamann, Herzen, and Georges Sorel are central examples. He is especially concerned with the phenomenon of originality, with the unpredictable capacity of men with exceptional minds to battle against the current of their times and contribute something entirely new to our intellectual heritage. This book is a celebration of some of the most original and influential, misunderstood, or neglected thinkers of the Western world. It is essential reading for anyone responsive to the force of ideas in history. ‘Berlin expounds the ideas of half-forgotten thinkers with luminous clarity and imaginative empathy. [These essays] are exhilarating to read. ’ - The Observer.

ISAIAH BERLIN, O. M. , B. C. E. , president of Wolfson College, Oxford from 1966 to 1975, is a Fellow of All Souls. He was a Fellow of New College from 1938 to 1950 and professor of social and political theory in Oxford from 1957 to 1967. He was president of the British Academy from 1974 to 1978 and is an Honorary Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the National Institute of Arts and Letters. For his writings on the freedom of the individual in society he was awarded the 1979 Jerusalem Prize.

HENRY HARDY, editor of the four-volume series of Sir Isaiah’s collected essays, took his B. Phil, and D. Phil, from Wolfson College, and is now an editor and publisher. His edition of selected writings by Arnold Mallinson, Quinquagesimo Anno, was published under his own imprint in 1974. ROGER HAUSHEER is a member of Wolfson College, Oxford, and is studying the philosophy of J. G. Fichte. At present he is also Lecturer in British Studies at the University of Giessen, West Germany.

 

 

 

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(11/30/2007) The Known World by Edward P. Jones. New York. 2003. Amistad Press. keywords: Literature America Black History Slavery. 389 pages. JACKET PHOTOGRAPH (c) 1989 BY EUDORA WELTY. PATCHWORK (c) COLLIER CAMPBELL LIFEWORKS/CORBIS. AUTHOR PHOTOGRAPH BY JERRY BAUER. JACKET DESIGN BY LAURA BLOST. 0060557540. September 2003.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Henry Townsend, a black farmer, bootmaker, and former slave, has a fondness for Paradise Lost and an unusual mentor - William Robbins, perhaps the most powerful man in antebellum Virginia’s Manchester County. Under Robbins’s Tutelage, Henry becomes proprietor of his own plantation - as well as of his own slaves. When he dies, his widow, Caldonia, succumbs to profound grief, and things begin to fall apart at their plantation: slaves take to escaping under the cover of night, and families who had once found love beneath the weight of slavery begin to betray one another. Beyond the Townsend estate, the known world also unravels: low-paid white patrollers stand watch as slave ‘speculators’ sell free black people into slavery, and rumors of slave rebellions set white families against slaves who have served them for years. An ambitious, luminously written novel that ranges seamlessly between the past and future and back again to the present. THE KNOWN WORLD weaves together the lives of freed and enslaved blacks, whites, and Indians - and all of us a deeper understanding of the enduring multidimensional world created by the institution of slavery.

EDWARD P. JONES won the PEN/Hemingway Award and was a finalist for the national Book Award for his debut collection of stories, LOST IN THE CITY. A recipient of the Lannan Foundation Grant, Mr. Jones currently resides in Arlington, Virginia. THE KNOWN WORLD is his first novel.

 

 

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