I think there’s not much to say about this. Talking about each piece would be a never ending story. I had a lot of favorites in this collection. Sometimes, her characters talked or felt the exact same things that I do, although she expressed these thoughts in a much beautiful way that I’d ever could (of course she did). And I like to remark this, because I believe is the first time that I could fully recognize myself in fictional characters. I guess she really understood my kind (introverted people).
English title: The Garden of Forking Paths
Yu Tsun is living in the UK during World War I and he is a spy for the German Empire. He has just discovered the location of a new British artillery park and wishes to convey that knowledge to his German handlers before he is captured by Richard Madden, a British spy. Tsun boards a train, narrowly avoiding Captain Madden at the train station. He has a little advantage over his hunter, and he goes to the house of Doctor Stephen Albert, an eminent Sinologist. As he walks up the road to Doctor Albert’s house, Tsun reflects on his great ancestor, Ts’ui Pên, a man that was famous for pursuing two things: to write a vast and intricate novel, and to construct an equally vast and intricate labyrinth. At his death, what he wrote was a “contradictory jumble of irresolute drafts” that made no sense and the labyrinth was never found. Tsun arrives at the house of Doctor Albert, who is deeply excited to have met a descendant of Ts’ui Pên. Albert explains excitedly that he has solved both mysteries—the chaotic and jumbled nature of Ts’ui Pên’s unfinished book and the mystery of his lost labyrinth.
This is a really short story, so if you want to know how it ends, you’ll have to read it! 😉 (it’s easily found online).
I had to read this short story for college. I usually enjoy this kind of writing from Borges, so I don’t know why I never read an entire book by him.
These two short stories came in the same little book. I was actually just interested in Boule de Suif, so Kafka’s was a bonus. Boule de Suif is a short story I wanted to read for a while, because, apparently, is a must for every naturalism enthusiast as myself. Placed in France right after the end of the French-Prussian war, we found a group of characters that were trying to run away from their town, before the Prussian arrive and take control of it. Those characters are three wealthy marriages, a couple of nuns, a fervent admirer of the Revolution and Boule de Suif, a prostitute, which for the three “respectable” ladies, was quite a scandal and an offense to travel in such company. Boule de Suif came in help of the group in two occasions: the first, when she offered her food to her starving companions, in a journey that was much longer than expected. Everyone was very grateful and seemed to finally came to terms with her presence. When they arrived to the next town, it was already occupied by the Prussians and they’re forced to stay there until Boule de Suif agrees to spend the night with an official. She refuses, being a fervent French patriot and publicly opposed to the Prussians. Her companions don’t understand her point of view. What difference does it make for a prostitute? Well, I’m not going to spoil the end for you, but after I read this story, which present such a complex matter in such a short presentation, I quite understood why is such a classic.
In A Report for an Academy, an ape named Red Peter, who has learned to behave like a human, presents to an academy the story of how he effected his transformation. For me, it was a “meh” reading, I was not really interested in it.
This book compiles 3 short stories with certain characteristics in common. The three are led by middle aged women, and they’re centered in their failed relationships. The first one, “Prime of Life”, is about a professor and scholar that has to deal with the changes in thought and ideologies of her only son, and her incapability to accept these changes, confronting his husband’s reactions to the matter. The second one, “Monologue”, is an uninterrupted train of thoughts of a woman that is kept away from her son, who lives with his father, and mourns the death of a teenage daughter, some years ago. And the last one, “The woman destroyed”, is written as the diary of a woman that finds out her husband has been cheating on her with an ambitious and younger lawyer. Although it was a very interesting reading, I felt like I lacked connection with these characters, probably because I’m not even close to their situation in life.
Original titles: Jerseys, or the girls’ ghost;
The silver party;
The hare and the tortoise;
The banner of Beaumanoir;
How they camped out;
Music and macaroni
All those original titles are the ones from the short stories that this book compiles. It’s the first time in ages that I read something from Alcott that is actually new for me. These tales are very heterogeneous, going from every day-kind-of stories, to fantastic episodes to medieval-like settlements. Some of these stories remind me a lot of the things I loved from Little Women or An old-fashioned girl, so they were my favorite. The rest of them were kind of odd, but still lovable.
Very recently I also read a novel inserted in Anne Shirley’s world, and, just like that one, this book isn’t about Anne herself. We get to see her around and hear of her from the other characters in the short stories. The only difference with the other book is that in this one Anne’s still a young girl. I hope I’ll have more luck buying Anne’s books in the next year, because, so far, I only got town stories. Which are totally adorable and have the same atmosphere, BUT I WANT ANNE, for heaven’s sake!
I don’t know if you’re familiar with Anne Shirley’s adventures (have you ever heard of “Anne of Green Gables”?), but, long story short: Anne was an 11 years-old orphan girl that was adopted by the Cuthbert siblings. Montgomery developed an entire life for Anne, and through the series you can see her grow old, go to college, get married and have a lot of kids. And then she also wrote about the Anne’s kids. As long as the story goes, I believe there was no aspect in every day’s life that wasn’t portrayed in the books. Or, at least, for what life was during the first half of the 20th century.
This book in particular, however, it’s not about Anne or her family, although they’re mentioned in every single tale. Each story is auto-conclusive and gives us a sight in the life of the people from Avonlea, the little town where Anne lives. Some of these stories depict themes such as resentment, revenge, insanity and murder, but also faith, family, friendship, hope and, of course, love. The love stories are the best, or at least my favorites. There isn’t a specific timeline, but you can tell that the years go by from the first to the last story, and it’s noticeable through the changes in Anne’s family.
This book is an alteration of The Blythes are quoted, and that earlier title gives you an idea about how we found out about Anne’s life in these stories: “Dr. Blythe says…”, “Mrs. Blythe says…”, “the Blythe kids…”, and there’s also a lot of “Susan Baker says…” because she, as their house keeper, is the most reliable informant about news from the Blythe household. And, believe me, I was as eager for gossip as any other character in the book. That’s how life is in small towns, right?
Anne’s novels are so heartwarming! And if you don’t believe me, believe Mark Twain, who once said Montgomery’s Anne was “the dearest and most moving and delightful child since the immortal Alice”.