Melodrama

In 1827, in the small village of Polstead in Suffolk, England, a local farmer called William Corder killed his lover, Maria Marten, the daughter of the village mole catcher.

So what? A common place tale, of interest to nobody apart from the killer, the victim and their respective families and friends. Yet for some reason the story caught the imagination of the public and the press to such a degree that it immediately spawned ballads (one supposedly by the very murderer) and plays (still performed on stage). In fact, the first play was penned before the trial was even held!

Come all you thoughtless young men, a warning take by me,
And think upon my unhappy fate to be hanged upon a tree;
My name is William Corder, to you I do declare,
I courted Maria Marten, most beautiful and fair.

(The Murder of Maria Marten by W. Corder)

There are various macabre details to the story, some of which concerns a book I saw this weekend in the town museum of Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk – occasioning this post. Do you know what anthropodermic bibliopegy is? If not, I dare you to read on!

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Hungary in Ten Books

In a few hours time I’ll be taking a late night flight to Budapest; by the time you’re reading this I might have even arrived. This latest visit home prompted me to write a long overdue book list for you. 🙂

The Széchenyi Chain Bridge in Budapest in winter fog. Photo by Noval Goya via Flickr.

One good way to get to know a people is by reading their literature.  Unfortunately, in the case of the Hungarians this is not easy as the language is obscure and difficult (and no, it’s bloody not related to Polish, or Russian, or German!¹) and not a lot of the country’s literature has been translated into English, let alone into other languages.

So what follows here is not any kind of representative list of Hungarian literature – it is, nevertheless, a list of ten good books which were all translated into English. If you ever decide to visit Hungary, you could do much worse than reading one of them on the flight there. 🙂

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Nine Books to Get Your Kids Off the Sofa

It’s a dark and stormy night… no, actually, it’s just a dark and miserably wet January afternoon. It’s that time of the year when hardly anybody can be bothered to get off the sofa; the new year’s resolution crowd has already disappeared from the gym. The same is true for our children, who are far too addicted to their electronic gadgets anyway and would do well to spend more time outdoors.

So perhaps this a good time to offer them a good book in exchange for those gadgets; and why not make it a book that will encourage them out of doors? By the time they finish reading, spring will be just round the corner.

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El lector de un solo libro (The Reader of Only One Book)

Empezamos el año nuevo con un consejo de uno de mis autores favoritos.

Si piensas en ello…

We start the new year with a piece of advice from one of my favourite Spanish authors.

When you think about it…

La cita de la semana / Quote of the Week:

Arturo Pérez-Reverte (1951-)

“…desconfíen siempre vuestras mercedes de quien es lector de un solo libro.”


“Never trust a man who reads only one book.”

(Arturo Pérez-Reverte: Limpieza de sangre / Purity of Blood)

Si un libro los aburre (If a Book Bores You)

La cita de la semana / Quote of the Week:

Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986)

Si un libro los aburre, déjenlo, no lo lean porque es famoso, no lean un libro porque es moderno, no lean un libro porque es antiguo. Si un libro es tedioso para ustedes, déjenlo… ese libro no ha sido escrito para ustedes. 

(Jorge Luis Borges: Borges profesor – curso de literatura inglesa en la Universidad de Buenos Aires)


If a book bores you, leave it, don’t read it because it’s famous, don’t read a book because it’s modern, don’t read a book because it’s ancient. If a book is tedious to you, don’t read it… that book was not written for you.

(Jorge Luis Borges:Profesor Borges – A Course on English Literature)

Muchísimas gracias, profesor. 🙂

Thank you, Professor. 🙂

Dark & Moody

Or Books for Moody Teenagers

The universal cry of Not Fair! can be heard all of over the land wherever there is a moody teenager, usually accompanied by sulky looks and followed by petulant silence. Well, we’ve all been there; contrary to what moody teens believe, it’s a familiar territory for all of us. And like us, they will come out the other end, (hopefully as civilised adults).

In the meantime, perhaps we can try to make the life of our moody teens – and our own – a bit more tolerable. Reading is fun and can be a solace (not to mention instructive and character forming). So here are a few books to add to a moody teen’s library – all suitably full of dark and gloomy landscapes, sinister occurrences, brooding heroes, monsters, misfortune, madness, ghosts and star crossed lovers… the lot. If they show a slight feminine bias, it’s because, well, I’m a female and so are my children – the younger of whom is currently in the moody teen phase. (Moody Friend of the Elephants, this is for you!)

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Pretentious Beginnings

It’s hard to believe – especially given how small the readership is – but the blog is actually turning 3 years old this month. This prompted me to look back on the early days and I have to admit: I was the typical swaggering, pretentious, self-important blogger who thinks that her opinion matters.

Er… nothing changed there then.

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Six Books, Six Continents

Africa

Red Strangers by Elspeth Huxley

Africa has a lot going for it as a continent – like elephants – but somehow it doesn’t often feature among my readings. (That could be because I don’t keep re-reading Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.)

I read Red Strangers for a reading challenge a couple of years ago and boy, was it a challenge!… But the last paragraph made up for it all.

⇒ A Girl Called Aeroplane

(Do let me know what you think of it!)

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Submarine!

Visits to Chatham Historic Dockyard, home among others to the diesel-electric submarine HMS Ocelot, and to the Royal Navy Museum in Portsmouth, home to HMS Alliance, a submarine built at the end of World War II, means I’ve got some photos of the outside and inside of the submarines to share. (Click on the gallery to enlarge photos.)

This being primarily a book blog, the photos are accompanied by a book list – half a dozen books set on submarines. Not a definite list, by any means; I have heard of several others well spoken off (but I haven’t got round to reading them yet). If you’d like to recommend a book on submarines that you enjoyed, please leave a comment below.

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Seven Snowy Stories

The winter’s first – and in these parts possibly only – snowfall put me in mind of books in which winter features prominently. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the ones that came to mind immediately were children’s stories. So here are seven snowy stories to surprise your children (nieces, nephews, grandchildren, your best friend’s horrible brat…) with. Perhaps for Christmas? 🙂

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Palabra mágica (Magic Word)

The library of Pannonhalma Archabbey, Hungary. Photo by Thaler Tamás via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 4.0]
En septiembre 1931, el poeta Federico García Lorca hizo un discurso por la ocasión de la inauguración de la biblioteca pública en su pueblo natal, Fuente Vaqueros en Granada.

In September 1931, the poet Federico García Lorca made a speech on occasion of the inauguration of the public library in his hometown, Fuente Vaqueros in Granada.

La cita de la semana / Quote of the Week

¡Libros! ¡Libros! He aquí una palabra mágica que equivale a decir amor, amor, y que debían los pueblos pedir como piden pan o como anhelan la lluvia para sus sementeras.

(Federico García Lorca: Medio pan y un libro)


Books! Books! Here is a magic word that is equivalent to saying love, love, and what people should ask for like they ask for bread or yearn for rain for their crops.

(Federico García Lorca; Half a Bread and a Book)

A Book with a History

The book is green with golden letters, cloth bound. Sunlight faded the spine into autumnal yellow so that you can no longer make out the title and the author very well. When you open it, the yellowed pages rustle, feeling slightly stiff to the fingers. The title page is followed by the picture of the author printed on smooth, glossy paper that contrasts with the coarser pages that follow it. I turn the pages and think: they don’t make books like this anymore.

And then there’s the way it smells. The smell of decades which lingers on  your fingers even after you put the book down.

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The Book Vargas Llosa Dares Not Re-Read

Picking up where I left off on Monday night… that is, the problem of re-reading books.

The Dangers of Re-Reading
Or
The Book Vargas Llosa Dares Not Re-Read

A few days ago on Zenda Libros I read the transcript of a group interview with three authors: Mario Vargas Llosa, Arturo Pérez-Reverte and Javier Marías. One of these I’d follow to hell, another won the Nobel Prize and the third one is still on my to be read pile.

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