In the last three weeks or so, although I’ve been living with a book perpetually by my side, I’ve fallen into the habit of allowing my thoughts to evaporate as I read. And so another month has passed by. It’s all very liberating, I must admit, but not so pleasant now that I’m sitting in front of the screen with nothing to rely on but my faulty memory. How fickle we are to be so impressed by a book, and then to forget it entirely in a matter of days, weeks, months.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera certainly made an impression on me. From its first sentence to its very last, this book emanated with the sweet sultry fragrances of summer, of beautiful Latin America. That’s what drew me in at first. In fact, to be entirely honest, for the first half of the book I took everything – from Marquez’s supposed infatuation with carnality to his ‘romantic’ depiction of Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza’s courtship – at face value. Then, all of a sudden, it struck me as bleedingly obvious that this was a book called Love in the Time of Cholera not because of a writer’s whim, but because it portrayed love as a sickness. One that leaves its victims feverish and delirious and covered in all sorts of nasty things.
If this book makes sense to any of you, let me know ASAP. I say it left an impression on me, but I’m not entirely sure what kind of impression. Of course it’s foolish to try and fully ‘understand’ the thoughts/motives of the writer behind a piece of literature, but with this book I really, truly could not understand what Marquez was trying to get at. On the one hand, if he was attempting to express that love was a disease everything became mockery, and a satire. On the other hand, the poeticism with which the novel was written (more than merely an appropriation of the flowery romance novels which Ariza reads) made the relationships appear so sincere. Maybe all Love is madness and it should not be thought about at all. It may be a sickly invading disease if you chuse it to be, and it will be a wonderful poetic thing if that is how you see it (ever since I picked up Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, I’ve been spelling words funny).
» M for Marquez: this book was read as a part of the A to Z challenge
On to reading notes for this month – i.e. new purchases, hahah! I’ve ordered four books from The Book Depository! It’s quite funny how my orders have been steadily increasing in size (and price). This month I decided on two novellas, an anthology of short stories and a contemporary novel. I had such a hard time cutting down those novellas to just two. Aside from all the great titles, the colours – oh my. At one moment of insanity, I considered buying all the ones in different shades of pink, but took one look at the price and decided against it. In the end I chose Honore de Balzac, who I’ve never read before (the title was alluring) and the delightful Marcel Proust! Still haven’t been able to satiate my Proust-cravings, as I’ve been unable to find a satisfactory copy of Swann’s Way, which (I think) is the first volume of In Search of Lost Time. There is no shortage of Hugos and Dumases, but I’ve been having a hard time locating Proust, and also a good copy of Le Grand Meaulnes. Even the Book Depository has failed me here.
Though I’ve never been a short story person, chose to branch out into Russian short stories (as opposed to Crime and Punishment, or whatever other epic novels Russia has to offer) after beginning Tolstoy’s War and Peace. I’m finding that War and Peace, despite its magnitude, is much easier to fall into than Anna Karenina. As for Cloud Atlas, I don’t know what prompted me to suddenly purchase a copy, after being repulsed by the idea of its cleverness for the last few years. I was mostly drawn to the shiny cover.
Other books lined up for September:
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Susanna Clarke – I remember when a lot of bloggers were reading this book a few years ago. Never made it onto my bookshelf, but then a friend lent me her copy and I’m liking it a lot :)
The Consolations of Philosophy, Alain de Botton – so, so entertaining.
Orientalism, Edward Said: still only halfway through this. Sometimes I read a page or two on the train, but as it’s not directly related to what I’m studying this semester, I’ve basically put it on hold until summer comes along.
I’ve also been reading Hyungto wa Muni, a contemporary Korean novel. While I’m not yet proficient enough in Chinese to read novels (waiting for the day when I can read Soul Mountain in the original), I’m still a-OK with Korean, which I suppose is my first language (though I’m terrible at writing it). Being a book lover, language naturally fascinates me, and reading novels in languages other than English has truly led me to appreciate literature. While I’m not saying that translating a novel degrades it, to truly experience a book, I’ve realised it has to be read in its original language. Whether it be idioms, grammar, whatever – there are always those things which can only really be expressed in a certain way in a particular language. For instance, there was a phrase I particularly liked in the first chapter, but when I tried to translate it so I could post it here, I couldn’t get it to sound right. In the end, I gave up at this:
Marks are imprinted here and there like faint scribbles on my cheek
It just doesn’t resonate in English. That’s why I wish I could read (if not speak) Russian and German and French. Unfortunately, all I have is a bit of rusty Spanish left over from high school. Hmm, then again, I suppose because I’m not a native speaker, the effect of all those things would be lost on me anyway.
Wow, long post today. I should probably post regularly instead or exploding into gigasmic rants like this, but time itself seems to be passing in great big dollops these days. I can hardly believe I’m already at the latter end of 2009.