Tag Archives: Nobel prize for literature

“Baltazar and Blimunda” by Jose Saramago

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My “To read all authors on the Nobel Prize for Literature list” brought me to 18th century Portugal. Jose Saramago was awarded the Nobel Prize for literarure in 1998. 

“Every man follows his own path in search of grace, whatever that grace might be” is the central idea of his “Baltazar and Blimunda” book. The book narrates in details the times of King Dom Joaa and of Padre Bartolomeu Lourenco de Gusmao, a historic figure and a pioneer of aviation. It is the story of “one handed solder who ironically became a manufacturer of wings”. Phrases like this had me spellbound from the first page. 

I was mesmerised by the central feminine character – not the queen, but an extraordinary ordinary women – Blimunda. Her mother was burn for witchcraft and she had a special gift of seeing what others do not see and the ability to collect the wills of dying. When the “wings” – the flying machine they built together with Padre Bartolomeu – took him away from her into the unknown she keeps looking for him, to find him in Lisbon, after nine years of continuous search throughout the entire country, in a procession leading to a fire burned by the inquisition. 

The book demands patience. It took me months of reiterated reading and putting it down. The “search of grace”, as we know it, is a painful process. Or at least humans are skilful at making it painful. Due to this and very long phrases, it is a challenging reading. It was the first time i read a book written in this style, and it was worth it every single page. 

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“Something I’ve been meaning to tell you” by Alice Munro

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untitledMy choice of the next writer having won a Nobel Prize for Literature was guided by a desire for a feminine touch with a modern writing allure. I gladly learned that in 2013 the Nobel Prize was awarded to Alice Munro, a Canadian writer. She was awarded the prize cited as a “master of the contemporary short story”. She is the first Canadian and the 13th woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.
The title of the book caught my attention by the mistery the word “something” implied. This book is a collection of 13 short stories first published in 1974. I am not a fan of short stories as they almost always leave a “so what’s next” question unanswered. Alice Munro stories, by contrast, give a clear sense of the story’s end, some even too abrupt to my taste.
Some stories are personalized and presented as the author’s own experience, some have feminine characters, ten year old girls, teenagers, married women, seniors.
Of the 13 stories, I liked most the “Forgiveness in families”. It passes on the message of practicing tolerance and compassion with members of the family, who willingly or unwillingly push our buttons. It is the story of a relationship between a brother and a sister, whose life’s views and lifestyles clash. Their mother’s sudden illness brings them together in the most unorthodox way. The story left a sunny print on my beliefs about siblings’ relationships.
On many occasions, I caught myself thinking that the writing did not do justice to some of the feminine characters by letting them live in a state of confusion, endless search of self, or an exacerbating dependence on a male love. For instance the character in “The Spanish Lady” whose husband of twenty years got a mistress, her best friend. The character’s daughters are gown up and experience their lives while she feels empty and betrayed to a level of finding an imaginary admirer meant probably to reassure her feminine self worth. While far from contesting the presentation of the author’s reality, I would have liked the fiction to be a bit more up-lifting and serene. In the last story “The Otawa Story” the author herself seems to acknowledge this and do justice to her characters.

Poetry in prose: “Platero and I” by Juan Ramon Jimenez

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My next choice on ” Read all Nobel prize in Literature” project was Juan Ramon Jimenez, a Spanish poet and writer who was awarded the Nobel prize in 1956. More on http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1956/jimenez-bio.html. Jimenez was primarily a poet. Reviews guided me to “Platero and I” for its purity.51Y11l4uUvL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_
To me, this book is about compassion and a perfect refuge from urbanised minds and surroundings and a reminder of life’s simple joys. Written in 1914, it continues to enchant with its delicate poetic style 100 years later.
This book is a collection of short titled stories of a relationship between an unnamed man and his donkey, Platero. Platero is a symbol of a confident any human soul longs for. Each story has its own life, letting the reader to read what he/she likes to indulge in the spirit of the moment. Early figs” story is dedicated to puberty and its mysteries. The “Pit” is a metaphor for an after life devotion to the soul made and life companion. “The kindergarten” is a pledge to keep the little one away from the “educational” system that breaks rather than makes. And so on.

Animal lovers would relish the book. The sensitivity and care in “The Thorn” and “The canary’s flight” for the wounded animal and old bird respectively are worth following in human interactions.

This book is for all and everyone. From the “enchantment of the roof” and the breath of sounds, aromas and visual experience reminds of the beauty of small things in life; a tribute to solitude in “Return”, a magic play of imagination and reality in “The Gate”; the glory of a Spring morning in “Spring”, gorgeous nature description in “The Pool”, to the best definition of gratitude “as if the evening sun has kindled a dawn of joy” in “The cart”.

At times I wondered if Jimenez was a painter:”over the plain hovers a pure divine essence of blue meadows, celestial and terrestrial” in “The cricket’s song” or his moon description in “Nocturne”. Definitely, he is a painter in readers’ minds.

“If one could only eat flowers”, one of my favorite quotes, the world would become a better place for all living beings.

The book comes with beautiful sketches and is accessible in English with Eloise Roach’s enchanting translation.

“Thousand cranes” by Yasunari Kawabata

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photo-1A dear friend of mine gave it to me as a birthday gift, a nice addition to my “Read all Nobel prize for literature” project. The book has also a beautiful cover and precious sketches on the first pages of each chapter. This friend of mine is a great artist in all her choices.

Kawabata got the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968 and he is the first Japanese author to receive the award.

photo 1The novel is a perfect reminder of that fine line between love and hate, regret and gratitude, beauty and beast, revenge and peace, friends and enemies, guilt and harmony, death and life, danger and safety.photo 2

A young man, Kikuji, finds himself unwillingly, as the author wants us to believe, caught in a power game of two former mistresses of his father. My take is that he wanted to know, to taste it and immerse into past to come to peace with his father and his own masculinity. A young lady whom he meets at a tea ceremony, orchestrated by his father’s mistress, and the daughter of the other mistress, Fumiko, appear to me as symbols of life choices. photo 3In any tea ceremony ever gesture has a meaning, meanings Kikuji will embrace latter on. His urge to understand his father’s choices and his own masculinity guides him to a relationship with one of his father’s former lovers, Mrs Ota. A sensitive nature, she commits suicide, leaving her daughter on the edge of insanity. Kikuji is also marked by her choice to end her life and is left wondering “Had Mrs. Ota died unable to escape the ¬†pursuing guilt? Or, pursued by love, had she found herself unable to control it? Was it love or guilt that had killed her?”
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My favorite part is the description of Kikuji paying respect to a soul who loved him: “as he knelt with closed eyes before the ashes, her image failed to come to him;but the warmth o her touch enfolded him, making him drunk with its smell. A strange fact, but, because of the woman, a fact that seemed in no way unnatural. And although the touch was upon him, the sensation was less tactile than auditory, m u s i c a l.