A Bend in the River by V. S. Naipaul


Originally reviewed by Edith LaGraziana

Freedom, independence and self-determination are values that we hold high in esteem in our modern western-style democracies, but to gain as well as to keep them often had and sometimes still has a high price. In the name of freedom many wars have been fought and many people have been killed everywhere on this planet, notably in Africa. Unfortunately, to throw out foreign rulers and chase away home-bred tyrants has seldom been enough because what followed far too often was a ferocious and violent struggle for power between opposing political or/and social groups. In the novel A Bend in the River by V. S. Naipaul, the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature 2001, a young Indian-Muslim shopkeeper who came from the East Coast to an unspecified country at the heart of Africa to make his fortune gives testimony of the chaos after independence that made possible the rise of the “Big Man”.

An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro


Originally reviewed by Edith LaGraziana
on Edith's Miscellany 

Very popular subjects of the famous Japanese colour woodblock prints from the seventeenth century on are scenes from ephemeral life in the pleasure districts which accounts for their being called ukiyo-e (浮世絵), i.e. “pictures of the floating world”. But life is in constant flow elsewhere too: πάντα ῥεῖ. In turbulent times, the flow even seems to accelerate and turn into a maelstrom that threatens to crush whatever or whoever gets caught in the strong current. In 1948, once famous painter Masuji Ono from An Artist of the Floating World by Japanese-English writer Kazuo Ishiguro finds himself stranded in a world where his art work has become an unwanted reminder of totalitarian ideals that led the Japanese Empire into disaster and where his daughter is no suitable match for any decent man because of his shameful part in the terror before and during the war. As he looks back, time passes, wounds heal and bitterness fades.

The Pope's Daughter by Dario Fo


Originally reviewed by Edith LaGraziana

It’s a known fact that places of power are and have always been hotbeds of gossip, intrigue and crime. As capital of the Papal State and seat of her glamorous Court, the Holy See in Renaissance Rome wasn’t an exception as Martin Luther learnt during his visit there in 1510/11. The idealistic German monk must still have heard people gossipping about the Borgia family and its unscrupulous head Pope Alexander VI. who had died less than a decade earlier. Instead of a paragon of virtue Alexander VI. was a family man with great plans for himself as well as for his children. And his ambitions knew no limits. The historical novel The Pope’s Daughter by Dario Fo, the famous Italian playwright and recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature 1997, traces the life of highly intelligent, well-educated and beautiful Lucrezia Borgia who served her father and brother as pawn in their endless game of power.

Billiards at Half Past Nine by Heinrich Böll

Originally reviewed by Edith LaGraziana
on Edith's Miscellany

Without any doubt, the first half of the twentieth century counts among the most unstable and most violent times in European history. For survivors and Spätgeborene (“late-born”, i.e. the post-war generation) it was difficult to come to terms with the horrors of holocaust and war and to build a pluralistic and truly democratic society on the rubbles that the totalitarian Nazi regime left behind. As shows the much-acclaimed novel Billiards at Half Past Nine by Heinrich Böll, the German recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature of 1972, in the years or even decades immediately following World War II, most Germans preferred to push the memory of the Third Reich and their role in it into the background. With survival being the first priority, it was rather natural after all to focus on the present. But to forget the lessons of the past means to give those charismatic populists who wish to turn back time a chance to rise.


© Read the NobelsMaira Gall