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Saturday, February 27, 2016

***The Vegetarian, A Novel by Han Kang

  • Originally published in South Korea
  • ARC edition for publication in February 2016
    • Early Reviewer's program
    • S. Korean Literature 

  • Han Kang's book runs into a peculiar problem. The entire story is based on a premise and a premise by its very meaning demands a resolution. The Vegetarian lacks resolve. The ending is merely a continuation of the story. The book does not fall apart, it simply does not fulfill its implied objective. It is otherwise a strong, beautifully elegiac and poetic work of fiction.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

****The Dwarf by Pär Lagerkvist

  • Pär Lagerkvist, 1891-1974, Sweden
    • received the Nobel Prize for Literature,  1951
  • The Dwarf was first published in 1945
    • was written at the height of Hitler's powers
  • pasquinade - a satire or lampoon,  especially one posted in a public place
  • jackanapes- an impertinent presumptuous person, especially a young man
  • jeremiad - a long, mournful complaint  or lamentation; a list of woes; 

Setting: Renaissance, Italy (approx. late 15th c. to early 16th c.)

  • Piccoline -  dwarf; narrator; an evil misanthrope; is dedicated to Prince Leone, only; hates anything to do with love or bodily functions
  • Prince Leone - Teodora's husband and the dwarf's master  
  • Princess Teodora - adulterous wife; involved romantically with Don Riccardo for many years.
  • Angelica- daughter of Prince & Princess, in love w/ Giovanni Montanza (Prince's enemy)
  • Bernardo (The Great Master) - a painter hired by the Prince (is patterned after Leonardo Da Vinci)
  • Don Riccardo - of noble lineage, the Princesses' lover
  • Boccarossa-  originally condottiere for Prince Leone, but switches sides and joins Lodovico's men after certain events occur
  • Lodovico Montanza il Toro - Prince of Montanza (Prince Leone's ancestors have battled with them for last two centuries.)
  • Beatrice - revered wife of Lodovico who died 10 years prior.
  • Giovanni - son of Prince Lodovico & Princess Beatrice. In love with Angelica (father's enemy)
Theme: Evildark side of human nature, faith vs reason

Quotes & Notes 
Quotes are from Piccoline (except where noted).
  • I have heard tell that we dwarf's are descended from a race older than that which now populates the world,  and therefore we are old as soon as we are born. (p. 6) Separates Piccoline from the human race he hates - self-deception.
  • Love is something which dies and when dead it rots and becomes soil for a new love.  Then the dead love continues its secret life in the living one, and thus in reality there in no death in love. (pp. 22-23) Part of Piccoline's self-defense mechanism - by hating anything to do with "humans" and the emotion of love, he is able to live in a world that ostracizes him and treats him as something "other". In essence, and as part of his self-defense mechanism, he is ostracizing and treating man as "other".
  • I have noticed that I frighten people; what they really fear is themselves. They think it is I who scare them, but it is the dwarf within them, the ape-faced manlike being who sticks up its head from the depths of their souls.
  • Bernardo:  Our are fates predetermined? If so, all our efforts to seek truth & attempts at happiness are in vain.  God is like a falconer whom allows freedom of thought and exploration, but only as far as his leash allows. 
    • it not the secret of our being that we are always subject to the hand of the falconer?
    • What use are our wings when they can never be spread? They become a burden instead of a release. They weigh us down,  we trail them and finally we hate them. (p. 55)
  • He has painted her exactly as she is, like a middle-aged whore. It is really like her, diabolically so. The voluptuous face with the heavy eyelids and the vague lustful smile, everything is like her. And he has put all her soul into the picture; it is uncannily revealing.  (p. 56)
  • Piccoline on war:
    • Warfare...It is a marvelous life! Body and soul feel liberated when you take part in war...Never in all my life have I been so happy. (p. 77)
    • ... I crave combat with all my soul...War is no game to me, but grim reality. I want to fight, I want to kill! Not for the glory of it, but for the deed alone. 
    • I think the world has gone mad! Lasting peace! No more war! What flummery, what childishness!  Do they think they can change the cosmic system? What conceit! And what infidelity toward the past and the great traditions.  (p. 121)
  • Love is always disgusting. 
  • The guests stuffed themselves with food and I began to feel the discomfort,  the vague nausea from which I always suffer when I see people eating, especially when they are gluttonous. They gaped in the most disgusting manner in order to make room for the too large bits and their jaw muscles champed in constant unison, while one could see the tongue moving about the food inside the mouth. (p.137)
  • A people without a leader is nothing but a miserable flock of sheep.  (p.162)
  • Human beings like to see themselves reflected in clouded mirrors.  (p. 225)