Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Blindness by Jose' Saramago

WOW!!! Saramago is undoubtedly a Nobel Prize winning novelist. Blindness is rich in allegory. He portrays the best and worst in man's character. Some very disturbing reading, at times. Nonetheless one of the most amazing books I have read in a long time! The difficulty in reading this book (and I understand much of what Saramago writes) is the fact that he writes in paragraphs that are pages long; sentences go on for lines upon lines without a period; and, conversations are not put into quotation marks. Characters have no names, I believe making them everyman. In the end, Saramago raises the question about whether we are not all truly blind...we see, but really do not see the things that are most important. In our efforts to survive and get ahead of everyone else, we miss the important things, the personal touch of what humanity is all about.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

The poetry of Kahlil Gribran is beautiful, rich, wise, and insightful. Some passages that I particularly liked:

On Work:
"Work is love made visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste,it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.
For is you bake bread with indifference, you bake a bitter bread that feeds but half man's hunger."

On Joy and Sorrow:
"Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter's oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy."

Finally, on Teaching:
"No man can reveal to you aught but that which already lies half asleep in the dawning of your knowledge.
The teacher who walks in the shadow of the temple, among his followers, gives not of his wisdom, but rather of his faith and his lovingness.
If he is indeed wise he does not bid you enter the house of his wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind.
The astronomer may speak to you of his understanding of space, but he cannot give you his understanding.
The musician may sing to you of the rhythm which is in all space, but he cannot give you the ear which arrests the rhythm nor the voice that echoes it...
For the vision of one man lends not its wings to another man.
And even as each one of you stands alone in God's knowledge, so must each one of you be alone in his knowledge of God and in his understanding of the earth."

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Thousand Splendid Suns

I recently completed the book A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. My review follows:
Hosseini is an amazing storyteller. The characterizations are fabulous...so realistic. The historical value of the book is what I treasured the most as I have come to understand more of the history of Afghanistan and the political situation that led up to the events of 9/11 here in America. Valuable insight into the Islamic culture before and after the rise of the Taliban.
The title comes from a Persian poem of the 17th Century by Said-e-Tabrizi called "Kabul." I was fascinated by how Hosseini uses parallelism to weave Miriam and Kabul as one in their descriptions...their true beauty. The poem, translated into English by Josephine Davis follows:

Ah! How beautiful is Kabul encircled by her arid mountains
And Rose, of the trails of thorns she envies
Her gusts of powdered soil, slightly sting my eyes
But I love her, for knowing and loving are born of this same dust

My song exhalts her dazzling tulips
And at the beauty of her trees, I blush
How sparkling the water flows from Pul-I Bastaan!
May Allah protect such beauty from the evil eye of man!

Khizr chose the path to Kabul in order to reach Paradise
For her mountains brought him close to the delights of heaven
From the fort with sprawling walls, A Dragon of protection
Each stone is there more precious than the treasure of Shayagan

Every street of Kabul is enthralling to the eye
Through the bazaars, caravans of Egypt pass
One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs
And the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls

Her laughter of mornings has the gaiety of flowers
Her nights of darkness, the reflections of lustrous hair
Her melodious nightingales, with passion sing their songs
Ardent tunes, as leaves enflamed, cascading from their throats

And I, I sing in the gardens of Jahanara, of Sharbara
And even the trumpets of heaven envy their green pastures.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Pilgrim's Progress byJohn Bunyan

I consider this a classic "must read" for all interested in truly classic literature that has affected so deeply American and English literature. The historical value of the book as an explanation of the environment around the Pilgrims coming to America is fabulous. Great insights into the early reformation religions. Also, Bunyan deals with political philosophies, particularly about concerns with capitalism. Written the year before Milton's Paradise Lost, many of the themes are similar.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A Meaningful Life

"A man must fill his life with meaning, meaning is not automatically given to life. It is hard work to fill one's life with meaning."
Chaim Potok
1929-2002. Rabbi and American Jewish novelist

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Joy of Writing

I have to admit that I am not a big fan of poetry, with the exception of some American and British poets of the Romantic period; I just finished reading a book of Polish poetry which tested my stamina to the limits! The pieces made no sense to me or were extremely dark and pessimistic. Many demonstrate the effects of Communism on Poland as they laud atheism, yet condemn many of the other beliefs of communism and Leninism. I hope that the poetry in Polish comes across better...and maybe that was my problem.
I did enjoy one of the poems. It talks of the power that comes to a writer in the art of writing. Here it is:

"The Joy of Writing" by Wislawa Szymborska
Where is this word "doe" running?
Does she want to drink from the written water,
that like carbon paper reflects her mouth?
Why is she lifting her head? Does she hear anything?
Poised on four delicate legs borrowed from the truth
she pricks up her ears under my fingers.
Silence--this word also rustles on paper
and parts the branches
evoked by the word "forest."

Above the blank paper letters coil to jump
they may arrange themselves wrong,
attacking sentences
from which there is no escape.

In a drop of ink there are many hunters
squinting their eyes,
ready to rush down the steep pen,
and surround the doe, in position to fire.

They forget that this is not life.
Separate, black on white, rules govern here.
The wink of an eye lasts as long as I wish,
it may be divided into small eternities.
Full of buckshot caught in flight.
If I insist, nothing will happen here forever.
Against my will no leaf will fall nor blade of grass
bend under the dot of a hoof.

So is there such a world
I rule with impunity?
Or time I bind with chains of letters?
Or an existence, if I command it, never ending?

The joy of writing.
The ability to converse.
The revenge of a mortal hand.