Wednesday, September 25, 2019

A Look at a Banned Book

Book banning happens periodically across the world. From writings that can upset political status quo, to those that contain disturbing amounts or levels of sex or violence, various works have at various times been considered for or subject to banning. More recently, we have seen cases of books being banned for hurting religious sentiment. Since book banning happens periodically, we have times when a society decides what we can or cannot read, and times when it appears to allow and encourage its members to read a lot and widely. As such, reading has only recently become a skill almost anybody can acquire.

What this means is that, until very recently, most people simply could not read - were not literate. And, it is only recently that more people can not only read but consider reading for pleasure and growth. Thus, it is very hard to have a public, at this point in time, who can make an informed decision about banning books. In such a scenario, we find a report about an Indian judge allegedly finding Tolstoy's War and Peace inflammatory reading. One positive fallout of this unfortunate news item is that people might actually read the book.

The only reason I can find fault with the book could be for length - a person once told me that they managed to finally read War and Peace during a long convalescence. However, it is hard, beyond the question of length, to consider that anything in Tolstoy's writings can incite the reader to violence.


The best way to settle the matter is to read War and Peace.


Or listen to it.

And you can even enjoy the epic as film:




Directed by Sergei Bondarchuk, the film, made in the sixties, has been screened again this year. Which makes it a must-watch but don't take my word for it - all the reviews rave about it:

Virtuosic camerawork rendered each scene of Bondarchuk’s War and Peace its own sort of spectacle

The director’s plan to hook the masses relied on shock and awe, bending even the most stubborn detractors into submission via the sheer magnificence of his vision. ... the crew mounted a series of astonishing set pieces, continually topping themselves.

Or as TV series:


Now, though the TV show has attracted some minor criticism, it is made by the BBC and, thus, one can expect a certain standard and never be too disappointed. 

There are three things the BBC does very well. Nature/science documentaries (narration by Attenborough or GTFO), make baking seem interesting, and most pertinently costume drama.

I hope that I have convinced you that War and Peace is not a book to be banned. I also hope that I might have convinced you that book banning is never a good idea. 

Just in case this is not enough, we shall look at a banned short story in the next post.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Icy Wastes, Peril at Sea and Gold at Rainbow's End

The Worst Journey in the World was one of my father's favourite books. It is an epic account of a polar adventure.
Cherry-Garrard’s memoir of a miserable Antarctic expedition, The Worst Journey in the World, was ranked number one on National Geographic’s list of the 100 greatest adventure books of all time. “As War and Peace is to novels, so is The Worst Journey in the World to the literature of polar travel: the one to beat,” wrote the magazine.






While you can dip into the book using the cover picture above, you can also listen to the book here.

And, if you're in the mood for more, here is a drama documentary based on the book.


This is a book that is worth adding to your bookshelf, even one that is virtual.


While you build up the courage to face that longer read, try a short story about a kayaker’s peril at sea:

He swings the fish from the water, a wild stripe flicking and flashing into the boat, and grabs the line, twisting the hook out, holding the fish down in the footrests. It gasps, thrashes. Drums. Something rapid and primal, ceremonial, in the shallow of the open boat.
Fact and fiction aside, poetry has always celebrated adventure and has even created fantasy worlds that draw the imagination on and colour drab reality with magic hues:

Listen to Poe's El Dorado, composed to music: 



From reviewing books I return to a strategy I've adopted earlier: showcasing readings under various themes - I'd appreciate your feedback, dear reader. Does this kind of enterprise please you?

Visit next week for a look at some writings that were considered for banning. 


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Thursday, August 01, 2019

Jealousy and Revenge - How a Count Counters Conspiracies

As a young girl, I was enchanted with Alexandre Dumas' Le Comte de Monte CristoThe Count of Monte Cristo remains one of the few works that I read in French. It is, basically, a tale of revenge.

Revenge is a dish best served cold, some say. Though the story is old, the relish remains fresh. Read the story to enjoy the recipe - the link also provides an audio version. I'm sure you will enjoy it as the tale has fared well across time, even made and remade as movies and TV series across the world.  



At his happiest moment in life, a young man is thrown into prison by a jealous rival. And that is it, in a nutshell. Of course, there is the second course - the hero emerges from the depths of a dungeon to avenge himself bitterly and mercilessly. Jealousy and revenge - as old as mankind.
The story of Edmond Dantès is inspired by the real life story of François Piçaud, an innocent man denounced as a spy and jailed for seven years. Similar to Edmond, a prison friendship led him to acquiring a great fortune, and upon his release, he sought revenge on those who'd accused him. In Alexandre Dumas's fictionalized version, the innocent Edmond escapes from prison, finds a fortune his dying friend tells him about, feigns the identity of a wealthy count, and sets about the business of a thousand pages worth of revenge.

How Revenge and The Count of Monte Cristo Capture Our Eternal Need for Closure


Apparently, that's not the only connection with historical incidents and people:
Dumas’ appetite for action-packed tales led him to the 1838 publication Memoirs from the Archives of Paris Police, a collection of true crime stories arranged by author Jacques Peuchet. Among the accounts featured was the particularly macabre tale of Nîmes-born shoemaker Pierre Picaud, who was framed for treason by three men who lusted after his wealthy fiancée.



But it was not all taken from the darkness. According to another account, there was a scientist Who Inspired the Count of Monte Cristo.

There is also the fact that the novel has inspired all sorts of research. One such explores the Geographies of Vengeance: Orientalism in Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo.

Not far from port of Marseille (France) this castle built in an island became famous because of Alexandre Dumas's novel "Le Comte de Monte-Cristo. Philippe Alès [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]
And another that examines Cerebrovascular disease in The Count of Monte Cristo. If that is all related to the past, we also have an article about What the Count of Monte Cristo Can Teach Us About Cybersecurity.

So I do hope you will read the story and perhaps watch the upcoming New Version of ‘Count of Monte Cristo’.
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