Monday, April 27, 2009

Light and Darkness - Natsume Soseki (Japanese)
In rigorous detail Soseki examines the minds of two characters through their words and their thoughts. I had to take the novel in small doses – it’s that concentrated. But this approach reveals the desires and fears and everything else that goes on between a husband and wife. Selfishness, in its various manifestations, dominates. I suppose this is the darkness of the title – the darkness of the human heart, shown not on a dramatic stage but in everyday encounters and occurrences. And the light? The last word on the last page is “unfinished.” The author died at age forty-nine, before he could complete the novel. It’s thought that about fifty more pages remained to be written. I can’t imagine what light Soseki could bring to his story. *

Troubles - J. G. Farrell
The author died in his forties. A shame, for he was gifted with the ability to entertain. That said, the trouble with Troubles is that Farrell employs tactics that are too obviously manipulative. He uses eccentric characters that exist merely to amuse and baffle. The setting – a crumbling, once-glorious hotel in Ireland – is falling apart, grotesquely. The novel is filled with crises. The Major stoically tries to keep order in the mess around him. He has a crush on Sarah, who’s confined to a wheelchair (why? – we never find out, but soon she’s walking just fine). She acts erratically towards the Major, sometimes sweet, more often sour (mean and hurtful, actually). What’s her problem? We don’t know. But she drops him – hard – and any normal man would make an exit and get on with his life. But the Major hangs around until some Sinn Feiners attempt to kill him (in a quite horrible manner). The demise of the Majestic Hotel comes when the mad butler sets fire to it (it goes up in grand fashion, including burning cats leaping out the windows). Sarah marries a brutish military man, the Major drifts to London. On the last page, after many years have passed, he’s still mooning over her. I have no idea why.

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