mind living a
life others don’t quite
When you do something noble and beautiful and nobody noticed, do not be sad. For the sun every morning is a beautiful spectacle and yet most of the audience still sleeps.
The Death of Ivan Ilyich is a novella that begins at the end — the death of Ivan Ilyich. We are then carried back to the years of his youth and other life experiences until he gained the position of a judge in a city. Unfortunately, he fell and hurt his side one day while furnishing his house. He didn’t think of the fall as a big deal and so went on with life, as usual. Little did he know that this incident will cause a big impact in his life.
I find Ivan Ilyich’s character boring but Leo Tolstoy has a way of making the reader feel what the character is feeling. He lets us feel Ilyich’s frustrations as a man nearing his death at the age of forty-five. We feel his anger, fear and irritation as well as his annoyance towards his family who don’t see his death as imminent.
This is a novella that contains so much. It’s a story that leaves you thinking and questioning about the life you are living. Is it right to just live according to the rules? Is having a full-time job giving your life its true meaning? Is keeping up with the society’s expectations enough to say we are living a good life? It’s mostly the same things that Ivan Ilyich asked himself as he looked back in his life while on his death bed and when he came across honest answers to his questions, he found peace and accepted his death.
“Always the same. Now a spark of hope flashes up, then a sea of despair rages, and always pain; always pain, always despair, and always the same. When alone he had a dreadful and distressing desire to call someone, but he knew beforehand that with others present it would be still worse.”
“Death is finished, he said to himself. It is no more!”
“It can’t be that life is so senseless and horrible. But if it really has been so horrible and senseless, why must I die and die in agony? There is something wrong!”
“There was no deceiving himself: something terrible, new, and more important than anything before in his life, was taking place within him of which he alone was aware.”
“It occurred to him that his scarcely perceptible attempts to struggle against what was considered good by the most highly placed people, those scarcely noticeable impulses which he had immediately suppressed, might have been the real thing, and all the rest false”
Rating: 4/5 stars
We are sun and moon, dear friend; we are sea and land. It is not our purpose to become each other; it is to recognize each other, to learn to see the other and honor him for what he is: each the other’s opposite and complement.
Memories of My Melancholy Whores is a novella about an old man who has seen much but enjoyed very little specially in human connections and has isolated himself from people as he grows old. He had lived two lives in parallel: first as a journalist and second, as a regular client in brothels. By the age of 50, he had slept with 514 women, all paid one way or the other.
On the eve of the unnamed narrator’s ninetieth birthday, he wanted to treat himself with a wild night of love with an adolescent virgin.
I somehow pity the old man living such a long but loveless life, though, some spark of hope of true love awakes when he saw and watched the teenage virgin sleeping the night it was arranged by the brothel owner for him.
I read this book twice in two days. I didn’t quite like it the first time and felt like I was missing something so I read it again the morning after. It’s a very short read that I finished both times in one sitting. Of course, I appreciated it more the second time as much more meaning emerged.
This is a very short read about watching an adolescent virgin sleeping, nothing so particular to expect but not one to bore you neither and some parts of the story will creep some of you out but there’s much more in the story that will make you continue reading. Add to that the wonderful writing style of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, wonderful and easy to read.
“No matter what, nobody can take away the dances you’ve already had.”
“Age isn’t how old you are but how old you feel.”
“Just as real events are forgotten, some that never were can be in our memories as if they happened.”
“Sex is the consolation you have when you can’t have love.”
“There’s no greater misfortune than dying alone.”
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
You should never have to look for evidence that someone loves you. True love is crystal clear.
It is good to love as much as one can, for therein lies true strength, and he who loves much does much and is capable of much, and that which is done with love is well done.
~Vincent van Gogh
It is a delight to read a novel from José Saramago once again where he gets to argue with God one last time as this happens to be his last written work where he hires Cain to call out on God’s sins and mistakes.
The novel centers on the imagined life of Cain, Adam and Eve’s first son, who slayed his brother Abel, thus committing humanity’s first murder. The book jumps from one Biblical story to another known as “different presents.”
I enjoyed how Saramago ludicrously connected the stories and how entertaining the dialogues were between Cain and all the other characters. I know many religious folks would find this sacrilegious, blasphemous or challenging for at the core of this book is a sense of outrage to the God in the Hebrew Bible, but I guess, one’s satisfaction in reading this novel depends on how they approach it. A bit of an open mind is required to get through.
As to the author’s writing style, first time readers might find it annoying and confusing as Saramago is fond of mashing together the dialogues in his works and only uses commas to separate one speaker from another. It might take others some time getting used to his style of writing but that shouldn’t stop readers from reading and enjoying his books. Rereading the passages a second or third time will help make sense of it.
The last page was stunning, specially the final line, “The story, though, is over, there will be nothing more to tell.” A very fitting end for a brilliant writer. He did went out with a great one.
Cain is a laugh out loud funny little read but at the same time makes us chew on several profound moral questions about the nature of God and events in the Old Testament.
“The history of mankind is the history of our misunderstandings with god, for he doesn’t understand us, and we don’t understand him.”
“I don’t know the details, and the savor of any story is always in the details.”
“Doubt is the privilege of those who have lived a long time.”
“God should be as clear and transparent as a pane of glass and not go wasting his energies on creating an atmosphere of constant terror and fear.”
“It’s odd how lightly people speak about the future, as if they held it in their hand, as if it was in their power to push it further off or bring it nearer in accordance with the needs and expediencies of the moment.”
Rating: 5/5 stars