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BOOK #84: L'Étranger......................finish February 7, 1998
Si bref qu'il soit, et d'une écriture si simple -- au moins en apparence --, L'Étranger semble avoir été le fruit d'une lente maturation. Il fut publié en 1942, chez Gallimard. L'oeuvre ne fut pas toujours bien comprise, ainsi qu'en témoigne l'impatience de l'auteur, qui note dans ses Carnets : "La 'Moraline' sévit. Imbéciles, qui croyez que la négation est un abandon quand elle est un choix." En fait, de tous les jugements parus à l'époque (et même depuis), celui de Jean-Paul Sartre est de loin le plus pénétrant : "Il n'est pas un détail inutile, pas un qui ne soit repris par la suite et versé au débat ; et, le livre fermé, nous comprenons qu'il ne pouvait pas commencer autrement, qu'il ne pouvait pas avoir une autre fin : dans ce monde qu'on veut nous donner comme absurde et dont on a soigneusement extirpé la causalité, le plus petit incident a du poids, il n'en est pas un qui ne contribue à conduire le héros vers le crime et vers l'exécution capitale. L'Étranger est une oeuvre classique, une oeuvre d'ordre, composée à propos de l'Absurde et contre l'Absurde."
BOOK #85: The Story of Philosophy.........finish February 21, 1998
This book is not a complete history of philosophy. It is an attempt to humanize knowledge by centering the story of speculative thought raound certain dominant personalities. Certain lesser figures have been omitted in order tha those selected might have the space required to make them live. Hence the inadequate treatment of the half-legendary pre-Socratics, the Stoics and Epicureans, the Scholastics, and the epistemologists. The author believes that epistemology has kidnapped modern philosophy, and well nigh ruined it; he hopes for the time when the study of the knowledge-process will be recognized as the business of the science of psychology, and when philosophy will again be understood as the synthetic interpretation of all experience rather than the analytic description of the mode and process of experience itself. Analysis belongs to science, and gives us knowledge; philosophy must provide a synthesis for wisdom.
BOOK #86: Jenseits von Gut und Böse..........finish March 7, 1998
Die Philosophie ist Nietzsches Schicksal. Er wollte, wie er in Ecce homo schreibt, das "Schicksal" der Menschheit sein, wollte mit dem Christentum auch den Platonismus und damit die ja stets bloß auf das Denken abgestellte Philosophie überwinden. Doch es kam umgekehrt: Nicht er wurde ihr, sondern sie wurde ihm zum Schicksal. Nietzsche ist zum Philosophen geworden, der nunmehr zum festen Bestandteil der Tradition gehört. In wenigen Jahrzehtnen wandelte sich der Provokateur postum zum Klassiker, dem Zeitschriften, Buchreihen und ganze Forschungseinrichtungen ihren Namen verdanken. Wer nach den großen Denkern der Neuzeit, nach den Höhepunkten menschlicher Selbstdarstellung oder auch nur nach der systematischen Stellung der Philosophie in der Moderne fragt, der kommt um Nietzsche nicht mehr herum.
BOOK #87: 1984.......................finish March 21, 1998
George Orwell's famous novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, written in 1949, is set in an imaginary state of the future where freedom of thought and action have utterly disappeared. Humans are under the constant scrutiny of the government, symbolized by Big Brother, whose posters everywhere warn that "Big Brother is Watching You." Children are taken from their parents and love relationships are strictly forbidden. The story centers on one couple's escape attempt and ultimate defeat at the hands of the secret police. Although Nineteen Eighty-Four is sometimes thought of as science fiction, it is actually a notable work of Utopian literature that emphasizes what Orwell believed were the dangers inherent in modern, bureaucratic society.
BOOK #88: Brave New World & Brave New World Revisited....................finish April 4, 1998
Brave New World (1932), a satirical, futuristic novel by Aldous Huxley, is a major work of Utopian Literature. Set in the year 632 AF (After Ford), it depicts a world in which art, religion, and individual achievement have been replaced by societal conformity, indifferent technology, and drugged stability. Human embryos, ranging from Alpha Plus Intellectuals to Epsilon Minus Morons, are produced by artificial, assembly-line fertilization. John, a naturally born "savage" individualist, is found in New Mexico, taken to London for experimentation, and driven to madness and destruction when his human emotions conflict with the brave new world of rigid predictability. Huxley's ironic title is taken from Shakespeare's The Tempest.
BOOK #89: Narziß und Goldmund...............finish April 18, 1998
Hesses Roman "Narziß und Goldmund" setzt mit großer sprachlicher Schönheit ein und scheint in einer mittelalterlichen Zeitlosigkeit zu schweben, die dem poetischen Bedürfnis dieser rohen Aktualität widerstrebenden Geistes entspricht, ohne darum seine schmerzliche Fühlung mit den Problemen der Gegenwart zu verleugnen . . . ein wunderschönes Buch mit seiner Mischung aus deutsch-romantischen und modern-psychologischen, ja psychoanalytischen Elementen . . . eine in ihrer Reinheit und Interessantheit durchaus einzigartige Romandichtung. --Thomas Mann
BOOK #90: The Portable Emerson..................finish May 2, 1998
A seminal figure in American literary history, Emerson exerted great influence on his contemporaries, both by his financial support of them, as of A. Bronson Alcott, and by his intellectual companionship, as with his Concord neighbor, Henry David Thoreau. Emerson's essays contain his most famous writing. In "Self-Reliance" he tells man to trust himself against a society that "everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members." He holds that "nothing can bring you peace but yourself." In "Compensation" Emerson asserts that in the nature of the soul is "the compensation for the inequalities of condition." In "Friendship" Emerson recommends truth and tenderness as the basis of genuine friendship. Emerson shows the interconnectedness of all life in an almost pantheistic view of god-in-matter in "The Over-Soul." "The Poet" lists Emerson's qualifications for the artist who is "the sayer, the namer, and represents beauty." "Experience" describes the "lords of Life" that form man's existence: illusion, temperament, succession, surface, surprise, reality, and subjectiveness.
BOOK #91: Le Père Goriot.......................finish May 16, 1998
--Honore de Balzac
Le Père Goriot, publié en 1835, est à la base de La Comédie humaine d'Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850). On y trouve les personnages-clefs du monde romanesque balzacien. La pension Vauquer sert de carrefour à plusieurs destins. Celui du père Goriot, brave homme se dépouillant, jusqu'à la misère, pour ses filles (et qui meurt pour elles comme Balzac mourra pour son oeuvre, avec la même passion), celui de Rastignac, qui y fait son éducation sentimentale et sociale, celui du sinistre Vautrin, que sa connaissance de la nature humaine porte à la haine.
BOOK #92: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek................finish May 30, 1998
"I am no scientist," says Annie Dillard. "I am a wanderer with a background in theology and a penchant for quirky facts." -- "This book of wonder is one of the truly beautiful books of this or any other season . . . which, on any page, offers a passage one can scarcely wait to share with a friend. It is a triumph." --Publishers Weekly. "The book is a form of meditation, written with headlong urgency, about seeing. A reader's heart must go out to a young writer with a sense of wonder so fearless and unbridled. There is an ambition about her book that I like. It is the ambition to feel." --Eudora Welty, New York Times Book Review Here is no gentle romantic twirling a buttercup. Miss Dillard is stalking the reader as surely as any predator stalks its game. Here is not only a habitat of cruelty and 'the waste of pain,' but the savage and magnificent world of the Old Testament, presided over by a passionate Jehovah with no Messiah in sight. A remarkable psalm of terror and celebration.
BOOK #93: A Doll's House and other plays.......................finish June 13, 1998
Ibsen was one of the earliest writers to dramatize the indivdual's alienation from society. In play after play society is increasingly seen as a force insidiously hostile to self-fulfilment. These three plays written at ten-yearly intervals, show the development of Ibsen's belief as his main characters succeed, to a lesser or greater extent, in facing up to the truth -- their only chance, as Ibsen saw it, of gaining their freedom. The League of Youth (1869) was Ibsen's first venture into realistic social drama and marks a turning-point in his style. By 1879 Ibsen was convinced that women suffer an inevitable violation of their personalities within the context of marriage. In A Doll's House he portrayed the wife struggling to break free: this was unheard of at the time and Ibsen's play caused a sensation. Continuing the theme of tensions within the family in The Lady from the Sea, Ibsen put forward the view that freedom with responsibility might at least be a step in the right direction.
BOOK #94: Effi Briest.......................finish June 27, 1998
Effi Briest geht auf eine sogenannte wahre Geschichte zurück, auf eine Duell-Affäre mit tödlichem Ausgang. Es ist die Geschichte des Barons Armand Léon von Ardenne, seiner Frau Elisabeth und ihres Liebhabers Emil Hartwich, die Fontane nach Berlin, nach Hohencremmen, einen havelländischen Herrensitz, in das Ostseebad Kessin und nach Berlin verlegt. Effi hat eine unbeschwerte Jugendzeit verbracht und wird mit dem ungleich älteren Baron von Instetten verheiratet, dessen starre Lebnsregeln ein Korsett um die doch eher lebensfrohe junge rau schnüren.
BOOK #95: Democracy in America..................finish July 11, 1998
--Alexis de Tocqueville
In Democracy in America, Tocqueville affirmed his commitment to human freedoms and helped establish the European view of the United States as a land of unlimited opportunity, equality, and political wisdom. The essays that form the book appraise the American experience from the viewpoint of an enlightened European whose own society was still constricted by aristocratic privilege. Tocqueville felt that the old aristocratic institutions of Europe would inevitably give way to democracy and social equality, and he held up the American system as a successful model. Tocqueville's praise for the young country's ideals was not unqualified, however. He felt that democracy was an inevitable political force; at the same time, however, he feared that virtues he valued--freedom, civic participation, taste, creativity--would be imperiled by "the tyranny of the majority," individualism, and other democratic despotisms. Tocqueville believed that America's egalitarian spirit and democratic institutions "awaken and foster a passion for equality which they can never entirely satisfy."
BOOK #96: Twelfth Night.......................finish July 25, 1998
Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, or, What You Will, possibly first performed for the Queen of England on the twelfth night after Christmas in 1601, depends on many of the conventions of romance--mistaken identity, shipwreck, disguise, fortuitous meetings-- especially as these were developed by Italian Renaissance writers. Through the force of love (Viola's and Sebastian's), Orsino and Olivia are cured of their self-love, but the puritanical steward Malvolio cannot be drawn into the magic circle of comedy, and he exits from the play with threats of revenge on all the comic manipulators. The play contains some of Shakespeare's funniest low comedy, much of it supplied by Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek.
BOOK #97: The Origin of Species................finish August 8, 1998
In Origin of Species (1859) Darwin challenged many of the most deeply held beliefs in the Western world. Arguing for a material, not divine, origin of species, he showed that new species are achieved by "natural selection." Development, diversification, decay, extinction, and absence of plan are all inherent to his theories. Darwin read prodigiously across many fields; he reflected on his experiences as a traveller, he experimented. His profoundly influential concept of "natural selection" condenses materials from past and present, from the Galapagos Islands to rural Staffordshire, from English back gardens to colonial encounters.
BOOK #98: A Brief History of Time............finish August 22, 1998
For two decades Stephen hawking has been responsible for ideas which have transformed the way we view our universe. With A Brief History of Time he fulfils a long-held ambition and opens his astonishing insights to a wider audience, offering the non-scientific layman a unique opportunity to participate in perhaps the greatest intellectual adventure of our age. Was there a beginning of time? Could time run backwards? Is the universe infinite or does it have boundaries? These are just some of the devastating questions considered in a clear and accessible book which begins by reviewing the great theories of the cosmos from Newton to Einstain, before delving into the secrets which still lie at the heart of space and time.
BOOK #99: Poetry of Donne, Burns, Longfellow, Sandburg.......................finish September 5, 1998
Four very different poets from four different centuries. I have the Dover Thrift Editions for each poet which contain their most famous poetry. Considered by many critics the foremost English "metaphysical" poet, John Donne (1572-1631) earned renown for both sacred and secular verse, his love poems in the latter genre ranking among his most original and popular works. Robert Burns (1759-1796) called himself "an Aeolian harp strung to every wind of heaven." His first volume of poems, entitled Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, was published at Kilmarnock in 1786. An immediate success, it established Burns's poetic reputation, which has grown over two centuries to the point where he is not only the Scottish national poet but the object of a cult unique in British poetry. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) was teh most popular American poet of his time, and one of the most famous American poets of all time. A former teacher who fulfilled his dream to make a living as a poet, Longfellow taught at Bowdoin and Harvard, was eventually honored for his poetry with degrees from Oxford and Cambridge, and is one of the few americans to have a monument dedicated to his memory in Westminster Abbey. Chicago Poems (1916) was Carl Sandburg's first published book of verse. Written in the poet's unique, personal idiom, these poems embody a soulfulness, lyric grace and a love of and compassion for the common man that earned Sandburg a reputation as a "poet of the people." He writes on themes of war, immigrant life, death, love, loneliness and the beauty of nature. His early poems reveal the simplicity of style, honesty and vision that characterized all of Sandburg's work and earned hmi enormous poplarity in the 1920s and 30s and a Pulitzer Prize in poetry in 1951.
BOOK #100: Les trois mousquetaires.......................finish September 19, 1998
Les trois Mousquetaires (1844) est le plus célèbre roman d'Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870). D'Artagnan, Aramis, Porthos et Athos qui, pour l'honneur de la reine, ferraillent contre les gardes du cardinal de Richelieu, sont des héros célèbres dans le monde entier. Leurs aventures ont emporté des millons de lecteurs. Avec Les trois Mousquetaires, Alexandre Dumas « inventait » le roman historique français. Ce roman tumulteux, rapide; aux rebondissements incessants; et aux personnages inoubliables; bâti comme un scénario de grand film d'aventures a été, à lusieurs reprises, adapté à l'écran.
BOOK #101: Death of a Salesman................finish October 3, 1998
Death of a Salesman (1949), winner of the 1949 Pulitzer Prize for drama, is Arthur Miller's best-known and most important problem play. Symbolic and in part expressionistic, it challenges the American values concerning success held by the aging Willy Loman, who is here given individual as well as universal dimensions. Fired, Willy Loman tries to understand why he has failed as a traveling salesman, as a father, and as a husband. Flashbacks show him with his sons, Biff and Happy, his wife, Linda, and others, always seeking but failing to realize the outsized dreams of his youth. Still holding on to false values of success that have both sustained and destroyed him, Willy Loman ultimately commits suicide.
BOOK #102: Faust.......................finish October 17, 1998
--Johann Wolfgang Goethe
Der Faust, Goethes bedeutendestes und geheimnisvollstes Werk. Keine Gestalt in der deutschen Literatur wurde so sehr mit dem Wesen der Deutschen identifiziert wie Goethes Faust, der, um zur Wlterkenntnis zu gelangen, mit dem Teufel einen Pakt eingeht. Doch weder die Wissenschaft, noch die Liebe oder die Magie führen ihn zum Ziel. In Faust steckt der moderne Mensch an sich -- der ganz auf sich gestellt nach dem sucht, was die Welt im Innersten zusammenhält.
BOOK #103: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.......................finish October 31, 1998
James Joyce wrote the first draft of his autobiographical novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, in various stages between 1904 and 1914. After serialization in The Egoist, it appeared in book form in 1916. The book is a bildungsroman; the novel describes the hero's search for identity. Each chapter is written in a different style, reflecting Stephen Dedalus's progress toward maturity, and each is part of a dialectic in which apparent triumph is undermined by actual experience. At the conclusion, Dedalus discovers his identity as a writer and leaves Ireland for the greater freedom of Europe. As a bold literary experiment, this book has had an important and lasting influence on the contemporary novel.
BOOK #104: Notre-Dame de Paris..........finish November 14, 1998
Notre-Dame de Paris, symbole du romantisme, publié en 1831, est un chef-d'oeuvre du roman historique. Victor Hugo (1802-1885), poète à l'imagination puissante, y réinvente le Moyen Age et fait, d'une basilique gothique, une héroïne grandiose, servant de cadre à l'une des plus émouvantes histoires d'amour jamais écrites : celle du bossu Quasimodo, sonneur des cloches de Notre-Dame, pris de passion pour Esmeralda, la danseuse gitane dont la beauté excite la convoitise d'un beau capitaineet d'un archidiacre. Depuis la parution du roman, en 1831, le succès de Notre-Dame de Paris ne s'est jamais démenti. Les envoûtantes descriptions hugoliennes, de la Cour des Miracles à l'incendie des tours de Notre-Dame, continuent à fasciner un vaste public, emporté par le souffle créateur de l'un des plus grands écrivains de tous les temps.
BOOK #105: Gravity's Rainbow.............finish November 28, 1998
Published in 1974, this sprawling narrative comprises numerous threads having to do either directly or tangentially with the secret development and deployment of a rocket by the Nazis near the end of World War II. Lieutenant Tyrone Slothrop is an American working for Allied Intelligence in London. Agents of the Firm, a clandestine military organization, are investigating an apparent connection between Slothrop's erections and the targeting of incoming V-2 rockets. As a child, Slothrop was the subject of experiments conducted by a Harvard professor who is now a Nazi rocket scientist. Slothrop's quest for the truth behind these implications leads him on a nightmarish journey of either historic discovery or profound paranoia, depending on his own and the reader's interpretation. The novel won the National Book Award for fiction in 1974.
BOOK #106: Old Testament: Joshua to Malachi.......................finish December 16, 1998
Joshua and Malachi comprise all the books of the Old Testament after the Pentateuch. Historical Books: Joshua tells of a thorough conquest of Canaan, but Judges contains traditions of the Hebrew tribes in the period before the monarchy that reveal the conquest as partial. The books of Samuel are about the founding of the monarchy under Saul and David. Ezra and Nehemiah were composed after the exile. The two Books of Chronicles cover Hebrew history from Ezra's priestly point of view but contain some valuable earlier traditions. Ruth is the story of a foreign woman who became loyal to Israel and was the ancestor of David. Esther is a tale of a Jewish queen of Persia who saved her people from persecution. Poetical, or Wisdom, Books: Job contains some of the finest poetry in the Bible. Its themes are the problems of suffering and of man's standing before God. The Psalms were essentially composed for temple worship, although some may be pieces of individual devotion. Proverbs comprises several collections of ancient wisdom. Parts of Ecclesiastes are skeptical, but other sections express conventional wisdom. The Song of Solomon is a collection of love poems. The Prophets: The great prophets of the 8th century BC were Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, and Micah. They proclaimed God's holiness and his judgment on the idol worship and moral abuses of the Hebrew kingdoms, and called the people back to loyalty to the covenant.
BOOK #107: A Christmas Carol.............finish December 26, 1998
A Christmas Carol (1843), Charles Dicken's popular tale of a miser's conversion through the agencies of love and fear, combines elements of the fairy tale, the allegorical dream vision, and the social tract. The story's most memorable elements are those of cheer (Christmas food shops, Fezziwig's ball, the Cratchits' goose dinner, the game of forfeits at Scrooge's nephew's) and of pathos (the uncertain fate of crippled Tiny Tim). But Dickens also conveys his morbid concern with personal annihilation and his social indignation through the dramatic portrayal of the Ghost of the Future and the figures of Ignorance and Want attending the Ghost of Christmas Present.
"One reads classics not because they are in every way up-to-date, or because in all aspects they are fair reports on how the world susequently has turned out. One reads classics because it is impossible to get behind them and to forget how the world we experience was shaped by their statement. It is not possible to get around them, once they have provided norms and terms." --Martin E. Marty
Take a look at our book suggestions for 1998.
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