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Snow
Snow
by Orhan Pamuk
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing and Involving, 19 Jun. 2012
This review is from: Snow (Paperback)
This is the first book by Orhan Pamuk I've read, and unfortunately I have to admit to knowing very little about modern Turkey when I picked it up. For that reason I was expecting the book to be something of a struggle, especially given the Post Modern label that Pamuk has.

If you're having the same doubts though, I would seriously recommend giving the book a chance. Despite its flaws, I thoroughly enjoyed being absorbed in the small world of alienation, confusion and isolation that Pamuk creates through his descriptions of the provincial Turkish town, closed off by snow and on the verge of eating itself alive. Sometimes the political or romantic twists and turns of the plot do verge on the farcical, but more often they legitimately enhance the sense of the main character's hopelessness (or passivity) in the face of chaos and violence. The fact that it is based in this closed-off environment made it easier somehow to accept the elements of surrealism and people behaving oddly - as though, like Ka, you step through a veil of snow and within the confines of that isolated world anything can happen. Which is enhanced by the German chapters being narrated in a more straight-forward (though I did think, weaker) style. The political aspect to the plot was consistently interesting and didn't often feel forced, though to someone more familiar with the subject then I am, that might be different. The female characters are very flat, as others have mentioned - I suppose this could have been one of the subtle reflections of Ka's flawed character, but even so it niggled a bit. Overall though, a fascinating and compelling book for many reasons.


Two Kafka Plays: Kafka's Dick & The Insurance Man: "Kafka's Dick" and "The Insurance Man"
Two Kafka Plays: Kafka's Dick & The Insurance Man: "Kafka's Dick" and "The Insurance Man"
by Alan Bennett
Edition: Paperback

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A match made in my dreams, 10 Oct. 2008
At first glance Alan Bennett and Franz Kafka don't seem to have much in common. For one thing, as Bennett points out in the wonderful introduction, Kafka is seen as rather untouchable, barricaded in his own castle of academic scrutiny, not accessible to the common man. And surely Bennett, a 'national treasure', is exactly the opposite?

Well, maybe not quite, if these plays are anything to go by. In the first, 'Kafka's Dick', Max Brod and Kafka turn up on the doorstep of a middle-class, English insurance worker, who happens to be writing an article on the rather more famous Prague insurance man. Things decline into subtle, clever farce in a way that should certainly have its own adjective (though Bennettian is a bit of a tongue twister).

In the second, Kafka himself has little more than a bit-part, but the spirit of his works trembles through every piece of dialogue, every set, every silence. I would say though that, whilst 'Kafka's Dick' can be enjoyed when read as a script, this one really needs to be watched - there must be a Beeb DVD of it, surely? I saw it when it was on TV and it's unmissable.

I'm left a bit speechless when trying to describe how funny and moving both of these plays are. If you enjoy Bennett - here he is near his best. But more than that, if you are a fan (bad word - enthusiast? follower?) of Kafka, Bennett is surprisingly his greatest and most honest critic. In a quiet Yorkshire way he rips through the secular cult of Kafka and the contradictions in the man's character (eg. whether he *really* wanted his works burned) - but he is also full of admiration and understanding of a remarkable genius whose reputation seems to have escaped him in a most violent way. Read, watch, enjoy.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 20, 2014 4:40 PM BST


Measure for Measure (The New Cambridge Shakespeare)
Measure for Measure (The New Cambridge Shakespeare)
by Brian Gibbons
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Readable Edition of a Complex Play, 5 Oct. 2008
This was the first play that, when I was required to read it for A-level English, really got me excited about Shakespeare. It has genuinely laugh out loud moments (no, I wouldn't have believed it either), then some of the most terrifying, moving speeches in the whole canon.

Every character is interesting, from the repressed and cruel manipulator Angelo, to Isabella, a kind of anti-heroine, who discovers power in a patriarchal society through an exaggerated (and sometimes eroticised) purity. After Isabella's brother Claudio is unfairly sentanced to death for impregnating a woman before marriage, Angelo tries to use his power over her brother's fate to convince Isabella to have sex with him. But both he and Claudio have underestimated the novice nun's seemingly inhuman zealousness. As Claudio begs for his life in prison, Isabella rebuffs him with the famous line: "more than our brother is our chastity".

It is also a good introduction if you have previously struggled with the bard - not as confusing as some of the comedies, or as unremittingly hard-going as the tragedies can seem when one is not used to translating the language.

And just a last note on this (Cambridge) edition - it's excellent. The introduction and notes are thorough and enlightening - but at the same time, not every variation of langauge in the different quartos is analysed in depth. While this must be vital for scholors at a higher level, to the everyday reader it can have a somewhat swamping effect.


The Member of the Wedding (Penguin Modern Classics)
The Member of the Wedding (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Carson McCullers
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Slow, funny, touching, 13 Jan. 2006
Throughout the authors life she wrote about lonliness and love, usually unrequited. These themes are brilliantly realised in this small novel about a weekend in the life of Frankie, a twelve year old girl unsure of herself and the world. There isn't much plot, and in parts it seems to move on leisurly, taking time over small details, but you are never bored because every detail seems to be whipped up with realistic emotion and perfectly placed within the story. The language is similarily thoughtout, often it boarders on poetic, but than at the moments of highest drama Mccullers draws back into a declarative objective tone. This book feels so real, the charecters, and most of all the things the author puts into words that you have only felt before. I'm blathering, but in short BRILLIANT. Read and read again.


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