25 February, 2012

Le Grand Meaulnes by Alain-Fournier (1912)

Perhaps because Alain-Fournier died in action in WWI this, his only novel, is lauded in France. I might have enjoyed it more as a 12 year old. Perhaps then I could have put up with the absurd coincidences, obsessions, unrequited passions and self-defeating decisions surrounding Augustin Meaulnes. I get that this book speaks of the lost idealism of youth and that in post WWI France this would certainly have struck a chord, but there was just too much else besides in this convoluted plot. One for the young and yearning, not the old and cynical.

11 February, 2012

Kokoro by Natsume Soseki (1914)

I suspect you need to be Japanese to really understand the nuances of this novel. Narrated by a young university student, Kokoro tells the story of an older man who feels compelled to face the wrongs he thinks he has committed in his life. The inter-generational conflict between old and new values is at play throughout this work, mirroring the emergence of Japan from isolationism during the Meiji Restoration. Now I like to think of myself as one who can handle a slow, deep novel, but this really is ponderous. Honestly, it's like a never-ending tea ceremony.