Sunday, January 15, 2012

Book review - "Demian"

"Demian: The Story of a Youth" by Hermann Hesse
My grade: A+

An excellent novel! I am a big fan of Hesse, so this comes as no surprise to me. A deeply philosophical work, this is the kind of novel that needs to be read several times in order to be fully understood. But the writing itself is superb, with a wonderful foreword by Thomas Mann. A highly recommended book!

Book review - "A Streetcar Named Desire"

"A Streetcar Named Desire" by Tennessee Williams
My grade: B+

It's amazing how much Williams accomplished in such little space! This play is very short, but nonetheless extremely loaded. Williams does an excellent job of portraying both time and place, as well as creating characters that are alive and recognizable. Definitely worth the short read!

Book review - "Anna Karenina"

"Anna Karenina" by Leo Tolstoy
My grade: A-

It seemed immoral to me to give Tolstoy anything less than an A, but my expectations were not necessarily met. I have previously read this book in the original Russian, many years ago, but wanted to reread in English as I felt I had missed many of the nuances. Firstly, I must say that I was not impressed with Joel Carmichael's translation. On a few occasions, the writing itself seemed flat and, dare I say it, bad. Having gotten that out of the way, the work itself is blindingly outdated; a fact that's sad but true. It's difficult to relate to any aspect of it and to understand the lives or purposes of the characters involved.

Perhaps the most tragic aspect of this novel is that I found Anna Karenina herself, the heroine, entirely unsympathetic. There wasn't a single moment in time when I felt sorry for her or her fate, which was by all means Tolstoy's objective. I found her deserving of her grief and pathetic not in the way the author intended.

Another aspect of Tolstoy's writing that simply drove me crazy (and something that has not previously affected me in such a way in his works) is his propensity to digress and focus on his personal philosophies. Many chapters of the book were exceptionally boring and bore no relevance to the main story, arousing questions of why here and now. It gives the impression of a rambling old man, who may have a lot to say, but can't organize his thoughts or ideas properly.