Samstag, 3. September 2016

A Clockwork Clocked

I had put off reading "A Clockwork Orange" for a long time. It's a book that has become part of common cultural knowledge, and the things I knew about it - the ultraviolence, the nadsat slang - didn't really entice me to read it. That despite the fact that I liked what else I've read by Burgess - "One Hand Clapping" is a very funny read, and "Language Made Plain" is the one book I'd recommend for a popular introduction into the history and workings of the English language.

But then my daughter left her edition of "Clockwork" behind when she went off to study recently, and I started reading. And I didn't put it down - well, almost, I interrupted reading maybe once or twice.

It turns out that the ultraviolence, while taking up a substantial part of the book, is described not too gorily, and then we're probably nowadays too used to graphically described violence - the book contains less blood and gore than the average episode of Game of Thrones. And the violence is not gratuitous, but again, it's a well-known fact that good and evil and the role of choice betwen them are central topics of the book.
The nadsat - a slang containing a large part of Russian - was also less of a hindrance to understanding than I had assumed. As I speak Russian reasonably well, some of it grated and felt unnatural; gloopy for "stupid" sounds natural, but a lot of the loaned verbs didn't look like natural candidates for loaning and their English adaptations feel forced. But on the whole, it gives the book its very own flavour. Some of the words escaped me for quite some time, simply because the adaptations in English don't sound much like their Russian originals. I only understood in the middle of the book that horrorshow is Russian хорошо, and even more embarrassingly, it took me until the last pages to get that lewdies "people" is not derived from lewd, but Russian люди.

Now you ask, this is all faint praise or no praise at all, so what kept me hooked? It's the voice, the language, the way Alex (the first-person-narrator) talks.  It's enchanting, taking you along on the ride, making you want to find out more about the character. He has a great lot of negative traits and for his actions he'd deserve contempt or hate, and in the chapters after his treatment he's quite pathetic, but still the narrating voice is like a tasty drink that I couldn't put down. The only other narrator who can capture me like that is Isaak Babel, who also knows how to tell horrible tales with a voice that you don't want to stop listening to.

And despite the fact that the book's content has become a part of popular culture, the ending still was surprising.

Freitag, 25. September 2015

Colours of the Past

A great post at Poemas del Río Wang about colour photos shot by Sergey Mikhaylovich Prokudin-Gorsky in imperial Russia before the First World War. I didn't know that colour photgraphy did even exist back then, all I had seen from that period were originally black-and-white photographs that have been coloured by hand. These photographs make the time look so much nearer and closer! Thinking of that period, I would normally have Sepia toned images in my head, or maybe simple black-and white, but these photographs have the look and feel of photographs taken in the 1950 or 60s, like the slides of trips across Germany and Italy that my father used to show to us.
The surviving collection can be found at the U.S. library of congress.

Dienstag, 1. September 2015

One man, one vote

Well, it's one woman, one vote, and it's a funny story.

Freitag, 17. Juli 2015

Evgenij Primakov R.I.P

I'm sure nobody is getting their news from my almost-never updating blog, but as I've reviewed one of his books, I may as well report on his death, on June 29th, 2015. Here's a link to his obituary at the Economist, which sums up his life quite well. Да будет земля ему пухом.

Samstag, 10. Januar 2015

Decorative Hegel

Another webcomic link. But it's about philosophy, so that's OK.

Nisi aperuisses librum, quasi discipulus Hegeli fuisses.

Dienstag, 3. Juni 2014

Bad poetry

I do not understand poetry.
I do not understand poetry.
I understand prose.
You say what you want to say. You say it.
I understand song.
You have a melody and you sing it.
The words follow the melody.
But I do not understand poetry.
Why break the flow for the rythm?
Why break the rythm for the flow?
I do not understand poetry.
That's why my poems are bad.

Dienstag, 6. Mai 2014

All Options / Alle Optionen / Все Варианты

Вот почему я люблю Dinosaur Comics. Если хочется что-нибудь по-проще или по-умнее, послушайте это.
Click on the links. Don't doubt, have faith. If you're disappointed, let me know.
Deckt das wirklich alles ab? Für mich, hmmm... ziemlich viel. Klicken und gucken, meckern dürft ihr in den Kommentaren.