Posts Tagged ‘Classic Novel’

The English Translation, “Philosopher or Dog?,” was originally written in Portuguese under the title “Quincas Borbas.” This Portuguese title is perhaps more applicable to the narrative; at the least it does not lead the reader to believe the dog is in any way a philosopher, nor does it suggest that the dog plays a vital role in the novel. The dog’s name is Quincas Borbas, named after it’s original owner Quincas Borbas who was a philosopher. I can only speculate that the English translation title was a simple question in the translator’s mind: did the original title, Quincas Borbas, refer to the philosopher or the dog? Don’t make the same mistake I did, looking for the dog to have any importance in the novel whatsoever. It was a character that was really inconsequential to the narrative.

Although this novel was written more than a hundred years ago, the prose is fresh and interesting. The narrator is occasionally intrusive, and the point of view changes often. This is a fabulous technique because it allows the reader to see differing viewpoints. For example, the reader knows that Rubaio is in love with the beautiful, sophisticated (and married) Sophia, but we might have read the entire novel believing it was mutual if Rubiao’s voice had spoken to us alone. This technique allows the reader to watch the protagonist’s mental decline through the vision of his social climbing leach-like friends.

De Assis did a fabulous job displaying love in the fashion they would have found enchanting in “Love an the Time of Cholera.” His use of chapter breaks is interesting, and I might reread this novel at some point to try to understand what de Assis was attempting. Sometimes a day or several months elapse between chapters, but sometimes they break up a scene. And finally, the end was odd. After also having read Gogol’s “The Overcoat” and Flaubert’s “A Simple Heart” recently, I’m not sure what to make of the ending of this novel. At the same time, I don’t want to give any spoilers. If you love literature, then I recommend reading Philosopher or Dog?. He is considered one of the greatest classic writers in Brazil [thanks Melissa, for noting my mistake in writing Portugal], and his work is assigned for almost every schoolchild. Unfortunately, not all of his work has been translated into English.

Purdue’s link about de Assis

NYT Article on de Assis

Ray Bradbury is my hero.

This novel was first published (as a shorter version in Galaxy Magazine) in 1950, before we had the Internet, video games, and satellite television. Some people might even say that this novel was prophetic. We may be in the age of information, but this would more aptly be described as the age of information overload. And too much information results in lots of data but very little contemplation and careful consideration of that data. We fill our days with media of many different sources, and now many people even carry phones that operate as miniature computers, so that they never have to be too far from their beloved information. We have forgotten how to sit on the front porch and chat with our neighbors. We have forgotten how to spend family time other than sitting next to each other watching the TV and eating microwaved dinners. Maybe it’s not quite that bad, but I do know many people whose lives are very similar to what I’ve just described.

Most importantly, we’ve forgotten about the importance for reading. It takes too much time, the classics are hard to understand, reading shouldn’t be work it should be fun, why read when we can just watch a movie?

Bradbury’s vision of people burning books, of not being allowed to read is terrifying because it really does happen. Why does it happen? Because books create lasting impressions, books teach us to think, books teach us diversity, humanity, compassion, and respect. Books are influential. That is why they are burned. But there are always rebels who will risk their lives to preserve artwork, and I’m not talking about books alone. I watched a documentary earlier this year that showed a group of men who strategically walled off a room in a building that housed a voluminous collection of Afghan films. They protected the artwork from being destroyed by the Taliban. Several years ago I was in Cambodia and made a comment about all of the ancient statues whose heads were missing or faces destroyed, my motorbike driver told me that the Thai army had done that damage during the war, but according to my lonely planet that damage was actually done by the Khmer Rouge. I’m more likely to believe that latter after reading Luong Ung’s memoir First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers. Ung explained her first hand accounts of the people’s need to throw away items like prescription eye glasses and jewelry as they were marched from their homes to the labor camps. The soldiers killed anyone who appeared educated before even getting to the labor camps.

The point from my rambling is that Bradbury’s novel may be 59 years old, but it is still just as fresh and contemporary today as it was the day he wrote it. Teaching our children to read is how we teach them to be human. And I absolutely LOVE the fact that he wrote Fahrenheit 451 while sitting in a public library.

Ray Bradbury’s Website

After several failed attempts to read this book during my childhood, I picked it up a couple of days ago and have found it difficult to put down. I had even tried watching the movie a couple of times but quit with disinterest, although I had Gwynneth Paltrow and Ethan Hawk burned into my mind as I read the novel this time.

This novel was a page turner for me. I had a strong inkling of where the story was heading, and was delighted to find that I knew who Pip’s true benefactor was, and yet none of this foreknowledge detracted my enjoyment of the story. There were spots that were slow to read through, but they were easy to skim until getting back on course with the meat of the story. The characters were rich and well rounded. I especially loved the depictions of Mrs. Havisham and her dwelling amongst her shattered dreams.

Great Expectations is a fabulous rendering of the much loved rags to riches motif. And yet it didn’t include the typical perfect happily ever after ending. For me this makes it a superior read, because it becomes a plausible rendering of possibilities, of hopes and dreams, of unrequited love and unfulfilled relationships, of humanity wandering and searching, and of contentment and pleasure in the mundane that truly makes life spectacular.

I read the Bantam Classics version which includes Dickens’ original ending (which he changed just before the story was published). I found both endings perfectly suitable, although the published one is a bit more fulfilling because it allows Pip to remain the wholehearted character that he is, rather than reflecting a spiteful side, which he never exhibited during the novel.

A classic well worth investing the time to read!

About the Author

The evocative images and underlying message in this powerful novel are unforgettable. Orwell delves into the ugliness that humans resort to when faced with fear for their own survival. This story is a timeless must read for any lover of literature.

BBC on Orwell

Orwell Bio, Interpretation, Forum

Orwell Bio, Quotes, Complete Works