The Birdcage Archives

Wednesday 31 December 2014

Another Year In Review

Hello Gentle Reader

Once again the Christmas season has ended. Once again, the tradition of playing monopoly was commenced; and as prescience had been set, I was not elected banker by: electoral democratic process; nor did I purchase my own coveted “Marvin Gardens.” To add to this tradition: I once again lost. I lost without being the banker – and no robberies were staged; and I had lost without my own vision of a future estate like home in a place with ‘Gardens,’ in its name. Still as Christmas’s go, it was a good Christmas, and one of the celebratory ways to enjoy being with family; and to set the stage for the oncoming New Year.

In all: twenty fourteen was a good year. Though I certainly enjoy this winter a lot more then, the one prior. Those polar vortexes’s nearly killed me! Yet in all, once winters rage had subsided and the quick thaw of spring lead into summer, the world had become renewed once again, and once again sun and light spilled over the lands – rather than snow and silence. However as the months changed, and turned to August, summer showed its own caprice, with numerous hailstorms that actively destroyed and terrified. However August cannot last forever; and it eventually turned to autumn, and summer once again retreated like a visitor who waves goodbye and promises to comeback. Autumn stayed for only so long as always – always too short, and lives always with an abrupt air; and on came winter. Which to thanks to our lucky stars, has so far been mild and gentle.

As for Literature, two-thousand and fourteen was an interesting year. Once again we lost some writers, of notable mention. Maya Angelou both Mark Strand, both American poets, passed away. Menis Koumandareas a Greek writer had been murdered; and so far from my knowledge, nothing has been noted any further on the information of the writer’s murderer. The world also lost two Nobel Laureates: the first being Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the man who brought Latin America out of its solitude; had been unwell for some time; as well as social commentator Nadine Gordimer. Slovenia and Central Europe lost one of its greatest pots Tomaž Šalamun. Šalamun was a poet of the neo-avant-garde, and a absurdist and surrealist like poet; and yet was truly unique to himself alone. Tomaž Šalamun is remembered as having a continually eternal youthful air about him; and often was watching what young poets were doing, and admired their ingenuity. The other author to pass away from Central and Eastern Europe is: Stanisław Barańczak. Barańczak was a poet, a critic, a translator, an editor, a scholar and a lecturer. He was noted for translating Shakespeare into Polish, and assisting in Syzmbroska’s poetry to reach greater audiences outside of Poland. May each of these writers rest in peace; and their works be read on after their departures.

Once again the Booker Prize was a dud. The attempts at revitalization have once again, mustered no real results. It has been a slow decline for the Booker Prize. But perhaps it’s not the prize itself to blame in its entirety. Perhaps English language literature in the contemporary sense, is in need of a facelift in itself, and requires more thought being put into the outputs that are currently being produced and written. The books themselves that have so far been placed on the Booker Prize long lists and shortlists all seem contrived of a sense of recycling old ground continuously. Perhaps English language literature needs to look past its own historical themes and roots, and explore new themes, and new concepts. It is quite capable of doing that.

As for the Nobel Prize for Literature; it was a delightful shock of a year. Once again a writer, who I had not heard of him, until just a few days before the announcement, had been honored with this year’s award. Patrick Modiano is a reminder of why I enjoy the Nobel Prize for Literature. His work continually retraces itself (yes I know I am being hypocritical because I just said that it appears that English language literature is doing the same thing.), yet this works for Modianio’s work, without it becoming contrived in contrite form of familiarity and a fear of going outside of this familiarity. From reports by many reviewers, and readers of Modiano’s work; my understanding is: that one needs to read many of his novels, to see the continual layering of themes, and landscapes – as if it were to appear that the author is writing a larger novel, that the reader is unaware of, and each novel becomes a chapter in this larger scale work. Still Modiano’s Nobel was a shock and a delight all the same; and I look forward continually to read more of this authors work. Expect in the New Year Gentle Reader a review of Modiano’s “Suspended Sentences.”

I enjoyed many of the books that I had the pleasure of reading this year. Pierre Michon received redemption with his novel “The Origin of the World.” I learned how foolish I had been for overlooking Mu Xin’s collection of short stories “An Empty Room,” and know that this will be a collection that I will go back to read again and again. I became reacquainted with Highsmith with the only other biography that there is currently out about her “Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia Highsmith.” This time around I had less trepidation with reading the book, and though I readily recognize many similarities, I quickly can see discrepancies between the two of us as well. Jacques Poulin continually amazes me, as how his narratives work. The laconic simplicity of the language, and the slice of life like story, mixed with the ambiguities of life, and the opacity of any actual conclusion, still makes me wonder how Poulin accomplishes writing about love and relationships while maintain an almost fairytale like haze throughout his work, and how his work is continually drenched in this golden light; and yet, I cannot nor would I wish to refuse that I did not enjoy “Wild Cat,” by the author. I was impressed and mortified by the works of the Grandfather of the Japanese short story form Ryūnosuke Akutagawa and how he could display such wonderful talents in his fiction and his works, but was to unhappy with life itself, and his own fears of going insane, to continue living – and he himself documented this in two of his short stories: “Life of a Fool,” and “Cogwheels.” Still an impressive read.

What I look forward to in the New Year Gentle Reader, is more translations. Sofia Oksanen returns to the English language with a new novel. Antonio Tabucchi’s catalogue continues to be translated well into the New Year. Wislwa Syzmborska’s newest and last collection and her entire collected works up to date will be released in a new book. As well as many new writers are coming forth as well, and their works are something that I am looking forward to discovering and reading as well.

For you Gentle Reader look forward to more reviews. Starting with “Days in the History of Silence,” in the New Year.

Happy New Year Gentle Reader!

M. Mary

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