Book Review: Hell by Henri Barbusse

“I do not recall my own first glance of love, my own first gift of love. Yet it happened. Those divine simplicities are erased from my heart. Good God, then what do I retain that is of value?”

48180Read: 16th October, 2017

Estimated Reading Time: 7 minutes 40 seconds. Contains 1534 words.

Add to Goodreads

My Rating: 5 Stars

Description:A young man staying in a Paris boarding house finds a hole in the wall above his bed. Alternately voyeur and seer, he obsessively studies the private moments and secret activities of his neighbors: childbirth, first love, marriage, betrayal, illness and death all present themselves to him through this spy hole. Decades ahead of its time, “Hell” shocked and scandalized the reviewing public when first released in English in 1966. Even so, the New Republic praised “the beauty of the book’s nervous yet fluid rhythms… The book sweeps, away life’s illusions.”

It was a strange little book and it hit me in a good way. Its been a few months now, but I remember how I cherished this book and I would totally love to experience what this character experienced, I’m a sucker for slice of life stories and here in this book there were many. I love watching people, people are fascinating that way. I don’t think I ever get bored while waiting for someone or while standing in the queue or even while traveling, I either read or there are always so many people to watch.

“There is no paradise except that which we create in the great tomb of the churches. There is no hell, no inferno except the frenzy of living.”

Hell, a novel by Henri Barbusse was written in the year of 1908(I’m not sure though, it might be the year of publication), also know as The Inferno, is story of an unnamed narrator who lives in a boarding house and there he finds a hole pierced in the wall which gives him access to look into the adjacent room, and there he gets to see the life of people unfold in front of him without them having any clue. The whole story occupies less than a month of time but makes the narrator, as well as the reader, reflect upon the philosophy of life and most importantly reflect upon their own life. So, this man in this book confronts the realities of life.

“Like everybody else, I am a copy of the truth spelled out in the room, which is, “I am alone and I want what I have not and what I shall never have.” It is by this need that people live, and by this need that people die.”

I’m going to divide this review based on different topics, like love, or rather, lack of it, death and innocence. There are many things in this book that one can talk about; however, I’m going to talk about the ones that moved me and touched me.

I like how James Joyce once wrote that: “For myself, I always write about Dublin because if I can get to the heart of Dublin I can get to the heart of all the cities of the world. In the particular is contained the universal.”

Similarly, in this book through a small hole on the wall we get to see life, not the grand aspect of it if we consider the whole world, but how it can be contained even in the stories of people we come across in our lives. It is true, in the particular is contained the universal.

In this book, the reader along with the narrator, get to witness, incest, marriage, adultery, birth, lesbianism, lost passion, young love, the first kiss, illness and death and the emotions associated with them.

On Love:

WP_20180219_20_38_33_Pro (3)

I feel strange about this, but if I really extract from all that I have read, then I can say that Barbusse played with this theme on very many different levels.

“We deceive ourselves a good deal about love. It is almost never what they say.”

Adultery and lost passion: Here we get to see a husband and wife, and the strangeness that creeps between them.

You think you know a person, you enjoy being with them, and you feel safe in their company and, one day out of nowhere the strangeness creeps in, you look at that familiar face that you loved for months or for years, but somehow now you see a stranger in them and you no more feel safe and somewhere deep down you know that you lost something and that is how it is with everything that transcends time. If I talk about myself then I can say that I hate that strangeness and I find it absurd.

Other person doesn’t have to be your lover, it can be a friend, maybe a best friend, your sibling or even your parents.

“Perhaps she denied herself to him.”

Here we come across lost passion between husband and wife, and their loveless marriage.

“Because he did not know her, because she was different from the one whom he knew. To have what one has not.”

Narrator: “I’m sorry for the men and women who go through life together in the chains of indifference. I am sorry for the poor heart that has what it has for a short a time. I am sorry for the men who have the heart not to love any more.”

The reader also gets to see, the lover of the wife, but even there I don’t find the fulfillment, they might have had a wonderful start, like every other love affair, but like every other love affair, it ends in disappointment.(I may be generalizing a lot here, sorry)

“Do you know what we are?

he murmured. “Everything we say, everything we think, everything we believe, is fictitious. We know nothing. Nothing is sure or solid.”

Old man’s Young Love:

“Everything reminded me of her. I was full of her, and yet she was no more!”

The dying old man talks about the girl he loved when he was young and who he lost to some disease(I forgot which one). I really liked his story, and since I don’t want to spoil it for you, I’ll just say, whatever they both created together had a great value for him because that contained the love they had for each other, only that now when he looks back, he doesn’t feel same about them, those things were no exception, it was only the experience that they both shared with each other that made those things worth it.  Nothing is really exceptional, it is only what you associate it with that makes it exceptional. You have to read the book to see what I’m talking about.

Two young lovers:

In the book, we also come across the innocence of young lovers and their vulnerability to the newness of things and first experiences.

“Once more their lips joined. Their mouths and their eyes were those of Adam and Eve. I recalled the ancestral lesson from which sacred history and human history flow as from a fountain. They wandered in the penetrating light of paradise without knowledge. They were as if they did not exist. When – through triumphant curiosity, though forbidden by God himself – they learned the secret, the sky was darkened. The certainty of a future of sorrow had fallen upon them. Angels pursued them like vultures. They grovelled on the ground from day to day, but they had created love, they had replaced divine riches by the poverty of belonging to each other.”

On Death: I don’t have much to say here, but I can quote all that I liked.

“We do not die. Each human being is alone in the world. It seems absurd, contradictory to say this, yet it is so… All we can say is: I am alone.

And that is why we do not die. Once, bowed in the evening light, the dead man had said, “After my death, life will continue. Every detail in the world will continue to occupy the same place quietly. All the traces of my passing will die little by little, and the void I leave behind will be filled once more.”

        He was mistaken in saying so. He carried all the truth with him. Yet we, saw him die. He was dead for us, but not for himself…

“Every human being is the whole truth.”…. We do not die since we are alone. It is others who die. And this sentence, which comes to my lips tremulously, at once baleful and beaming with light, announces that death is a false god.

         But what of others? Granted that I have the great wisdom to rid myself of the haunting dread of my own death, there remains the death of others and the death of so many feelings and so much sweetness. It is not the conception of truth that will change sorrow. Sorrow, like joy, is absolute.”

And this is how the book ends, “I believe that the only thing which confronts the heart and the reason is the shadow of that which the heart and the reason cry for. I believe that around us there is only one word, the immense word which takes us out of our solitude, NOTHING. I believe that this does not signify our nothingness or our misfortune, but, on the contrary, our realization and our deification, since everything is within us.”

I loved reading this book and I must say this book is so human and one of my favorite books from the year of 2017. To end this, I would just say, “Don’t look around because everything you need is within you.”

Advertisements

Book Review: The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy

“Death is finished,” he said to himself.  “It is no more!”

18386My Rating: *4 Stars*

I read this book few days back before going to sleep and I must say that this book made me think a lot.

The only reason I don’t pick up Russian books is because they are fully loaded with Russian names and in the end, I end up calling people whatever name I want to. So, the only name I remember is Ivan Ilych.(I know you don’t have to know this, but it literally sucks.)

So as the title suggests and you can totally make this out that it’s about death of a person named Ivan Ilych.

The theme of this book is Death and just so you know I love reading books that deals with death.

This book makes you think inward and ponder upon the subject of life and death, sure it does. When I started reading it, the tone of the writing was really cold and it does suit the setting that was of a funeral with some slap on the face humor which I wonder was there or it was just an effort made my Tolstoy to bring the readers out of the depressive setting that he created in his book.

Tolstoy did talk about morality and there were few situation where even I gave out a chuckle or two and then I thought how inappropriate it was. He starts with how when someone dies people for a very brief time show their sympathy, they feel a bit sad for the person who died, but they feel more happy for they didn’t, for they are alive and it’s not their time, yet.

I want to quote few lines from the funeral part of the story…

His acquaintance…

“Schwartz was waiting for him in the adjoining room with legs spread wide apart and both hands toying with his top-hat behind his back.  The mere sight of that playful, well-groomed, and elegant figure refreshed Peter Ivanovich.  He felt that Schwartz was above all these happenings and would not surrender to any depressing influences.”

Schwartz didn’t give a hoot. He was there just to mark his presence.


His wife…

“Oh, terribly!  He screamed unceasingly, not for minutes but for hours.  for the last three days he screamed incessantly.  It was unendurable.  I cannot understand how I bore it; you could hear him three rooms off.  Oh, what I have suffered!”

And then his wife said that she suffered. I ask from what? The screams of her husband that she couldn’t tolerate? OH MY GOD! Reading those lines made me feel worse.


His friend…

“The service began:  candles, groans, incense, tears, and sobs.  Peter Ivanovich stood looking gloomily down at his feet. He did not look once at the dead man, did not yield to any depressing influence, and was one of the first to leave the room…

…Peter Ivanovich found the fresh air particularly pleasant after the smell of incense, the dead body, and carbolic acid.”

He just wanted to get out of the awkward situation that he was in, the funeral. So, that at least he can feel happy about his life and that he was alive.


I suffered from all insensitivity these characters showed, made me think for once that how people really do that kind of shit all the time. Some of them feel sad when other people suffer but they feel more happy for themselves because they are all well and fine, then there are few people who don’t give a hoot about anyone, they only think about what they can get out of others suffering, how others suffering can benefit them. And some of them feel relieved that at least it’s all over so that they can move on in life.

Ivan was a nice man, he lived a well to do life, he owned a good house, had a good career, money, a good position in the society and a family. If you look at the surface he had it all. But one day when death announced itself to him, everything came crashing down.

“Ivan Ilych’s life had been most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible.”

When pain and agony made him question his life, when he looked back in time, he realized he lost all the joy with time and he started questioning life. All that he had was what the society was expecting from him, not necessarily what he wanted out of life.

“False. Everything by which you have lived and live now is all a deception, a lie, concealing both life and death from you.”

“And in imagination he began to recall the best moments of his pleasant life.  But strange to say none of those best moments of his pleasant life now seemed at all what they had then seemed—none of them except the first recollections of childhood.  There, in childhood, there had been something really pleasant with which it would be possible to live if it could return.  But the child who had experienced that happiness existed no longer, it was like a reminiscence of somebody else.

 As soon as the period began which had produced the present Ivan Ilych, all that had then seemed joys now melted before his sight and turned into something trivial and often nasty.”

Alone while suffering and waiting for his death he questioned himself and his soul. He saw his life in a different light. He suffered his destruction all alone and died everyday a little thinking that no one really cared to understand his sufferings.

“It can’t be that life is so senseless and horrible. But if it really has been so horrible and senseless, why must I die and die in agony? There is something wrong!”

And then he died and we came to an end.

“Death is finished, he said to himself. It is no more!”

And there it was “The Death of Ivan Ilych”.

It’s a short book but I believe one should read this book, it can be a heavy read for some people but worth reading. Once you’ll start reading it, I’m sure you won’t be able to put it down.

Short Story Review: The Flood by Émile Zola

“Everything was misty. It was the terrified end of a day melting into the night of death.”

the floodMy Rating : *4 Stars*

Depressing, quite depressing.

This story is based on the 1875 flood of the Garonne River in Toulouse, France and as it was reported nearly 3000 lives were lost. This event inspired Zola to write this short story, The Flood, which is set in the village of Saint-Jory.

It’s a story of a seventy-year-old farmer, Louis Roubien, who lives with his family: his brothers, grandchildren, sisters and his children.

Zola tells how Roubien family, after struggling for a very long period of time finally tastes prosperity and become one of the richest family(or maybe the only richest family) in the village. They own vast lands that they use for farming and cattle farms and how they have it all in abundance. When the story begins, it is shown that this is their best year.

To quote Roubien:”For fourteen years I battled with the earth for my daily bread. At last, prosperity smiled on we, and last month I was still the richest farmer in the parish. Our house seemed blessed, happiness resigned here. The sun was our brother, and I cannot recall a bad crop.”

Zola used powerful imagery to describe the beauty of the village, of setting sun and imagery which ensue peace.

“The sky was blue, an immense blue sheet of profound purity, in which the rays of the setting sun were like a golden dust. Never had I seen the village drowsing in so sweet a peace.”

But then the evening transcended to the blind wrath  of nature and it’s beauty turned itself into a devil that brought destruction and death for the villagers.

5afe4232d5f08aae8d43ec959ccdf315

Not a very accurate depiction.

And the events that followed it were quite disturbing for me. Death engulfed everyone one by one and throughout the night, they faced loss.

In the hour of darkness, Zola through his story portrays, fear and desperation to get out of the clench of death and how in the hours of destruction individuals show their heroism, and do everything to save their loved ones.

Louis lost his whole family by the break of dawn and he felt the pure loss as a single night took away everything from him: his family, his prosperity, and happiness. And he was so weak that he couldn’t do anything and there he was left all alone mourning his loss.

“Then nothing, nothing, a black pit, oblivion.”

I loved this story and totally worth reading.

You can download it, The Flood.

Alfred Sisley-328373

5 Brilliant Short Books That You Can Read in One Sitting

adorable-art-beautiful-book-books-Favim.com-279714

Image Source: Favim.com

Oh! So you don’t read books because you don’t get time?

You might be a really busy person, I believe.

Or you don’t like big fat books? Because time consuming and not worth the effort,eh?

Or you just find books intimidating?

Well what is it?

Okay what if I say, size really doesn’t matter and you can consider reading brilliant short novels. Books that you can read in one sitting, and then after reading them you won’t feel disappointed, and they will also give you this immense satisfaction of finishing a book in a single day!

Now how wonderful is that? A lot, I know! (now please don’t come up with short stories and novellas are not books, you’re kidding me, right?)

If you are person who think reading is boring, difficult and intimidating. You just need to find a right book because reading can be for everyone, believe it.

And children what is the matter? Summer vacations are up! Now catch up on some reading.(If you want some fun stuff to read, you can always ask me.)

“Short fiction seems more targeted – hand grenades of ideas, if you will. When they work, they hit, they explode, and you never forget them. Long fiction feels more like atmosphere: it’s a lot smokier and less defined.”

– Paolo Bacigalupi

So, here are few of my favorite short novels that are quick reads, brilliant and worth reading! In this post I’m adding just 5 novels and I’ll add more book in another post(because there are many), for the time being enjoy these.

1. The Stranger by Albert Camus

49552.jpg

You can read full review here: The Stranger 

Here are the opening lines: “Mother died today Or, maybe, yesterday; I can’t be sure. The telegram from the Home says: YOUR MOTHER PASSED AWAY. FUNERAL TOMORROW. DEEP SYMPATHY.” A telegram, not a personal phone call or someone on staff from the old-people’s home actually making the hour trip in person to inform her only son, but a terse three line businesslike telegram – cold, insensitive, almost callous; a telling sign of the mechanized times.

You want something socking? Go read this! And wait, wait! Truth to be told you’ll be surprised. Now, carry on…


2. The Loser by Thomas Bernhard

92570

The Genius, the Philosopher, the Loser.

Bernhard is amazing, he’s what I call a twisted brilliant guy.

This book will make you think twice. Whether you consider yourself a genius or maybe if you want to be one.

“Every person is a unique and autonomous person and actually, considered independently, the greatest artwork of all time…”


3. Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

2475185

“They all saw him come out, and they all understood that now he knew they were going to kill him”

This is my favorite book. Like when people ask what books you like the most, this book always tops the list. I still have few questions that are unanswered and I don’t know why I haven’t yet wrote a review(because I don’t know how to write it and where to start, but I’ll write soon…it’s in the draft, ya.)

This is one of that book, that I just force-feed on people. I have brought a whole lot of copies of this book and I seriously giveaway to people when they ask me this question, “Can you suggest me a good book?

Story of a potentially innocent man who is murdered for the honor of a woman who lost her virginity. (Yes, seriously.)


4.Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

9889

“You call yourself a free spirit, a “wild thing,” and you’re terrified somebody’s gonna stick you in a cage. Well baby, you’re already in that cage. You built it yourself. And it’s not bounded in the west by Tulip, Texas, or in the east by Somali-land. It’s wherever you go. Because no matter where you run, you just end up running into yourself.”

You can read full review here: Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Goodreads book description: In this seductive, wistful masterpiece, Truman Capote created a woman whose name has entered the American idiom and whose style is a part of the literary landscape. Holly Golightly knows that nothing bad can ever happen to you at Tiffany’s; her poignancy, wit, and naïveté continue to charm.

“It’s better to look at the sky than live there”

 


5. Animal Farm by George Orwell

7613

As I said I’m only adding 5 books in this post out of many wonderful books, but I can’t afford to miss this book.

“His answer to every problem, every setback was “I will work harder!” —which he had adopted as his personal motto.”

This book may change your perspective and may open your eyes.

The people in power change the rules as they want and the Common people are made to believe that is better for them.

“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”


This is it for now, I’m done with my list and I hope you’ll enjoy these books. As I said I’ll add other books later in a different post that will come up next month.

Happy Reading!

 

 

Short Story : The Last Leaf by O. Henry

1936084-256-k279663

This story is really beautiful and one of my favorite short story written by this author.

“The Last Leaf”, this story symbolize a lot of different aspects of life:hope, friendship, sacrifice , pessimism, optimism and death.

There were four characters, Johnsy, Sue, doctor, and old Behrman.

Johnsy was a pessimist, while Sue was an optimist. Old Behrman here in this story was a friend , who sacrificed. All three of them were artists.

Old Behrman had never painted a masterpiece, but he said that, one day he’ll paint a wonderful picture, a masterpiece.

img-9669

And he did, he painted the last leaf on the vine, before he died, and saved a life of an ill friend, Johny, who binds herself with a fancy that she’ll die with the fall of last ivy leaf.

According to me in this particular story the leaf symbolize life, death and hope. The life of a tree can be guessed by looking at its leaves, also the last leaf in this story signifies hope of life for tree and as it falls it conveys death.

I love the twist and ironic circumstances in O. Henry’s stories and this short story was worth reading.

You can also read the story here, The Last Leaf by O. Henry

You can also watch this short film.

Book Review : If I Stay by Gayle Forman

“Sometimes you make choices in life and sometimes choices make you.”

3bbe9-21911416

My Rating : *3 stars*

Okay before talking about this book I want to share a memory. 
In 12th standard we read this poem called “Curtain” by Helen Spalding, this poem is about separation and end .

It goes like this :

  Curtain

Goodbye.

 Incredulously the laced fingers loosen,

Slowly, sensation by sensation, from their warm interchange,

And stiffen like frosted flower in the November garden.

Already division piles emphasis like bullets;

Already the one dark air is separate and strange.

Goodbye.

There is no touch now. The wave has broken

That for a moment charged the desolate sea.

There is a word, or two, left to be spoken

– Yet who would hear it ? When so swiftly distance

Outmeasures times, engulfs identity ?

Already like the dreamer startled from sleep

And the vivid image lost even in waking,

There is no taste now for the shrunken sense to keep,

And these, the dreamer’s eyes, are not alive to weep,

And this, the clinic heart, the dreamer’s, is not breaking.

It is so easy, then? Goodbye no more than this

Quiet disaster ? And is there cause for sorrow

That in the small white murder of one kiss

Are born two ghosts, two Hamlets, two soliloquies,

Two worlds apart, tomorrow ?

So, I guess after reading this poem you might have got an idea, that this is about the separation of lovers and when I read this poem, I felt the emotions, this poem pulled those emotions out of me, of sadness, of loss and what not!

 

But that was not enough, we had a discussion on this poem, a “Class Discussion”, and my literature teacher made it even more dramatic, talking about loss, grief, separation and she made this poem relatable to everyone. She talked about separation  of a parent and a child, about brother and sister, about husband and wife. And that obviously made it even worse.

Well, ma’am I love you, but this is also true :/

Let me tell you, I’m a very strong person, I don’t cry easily, but this poem and my teacher’s dramatic tone, made me weep. I was hiding my tears and after the class, I had a conversation with one of my friend who was sitting with me.

She : Eti, were you crying ?

Me: No, I was not!

She : No! you were, I saw.

Me : Then why the fuck you are asking.

She : Well, because I never saw you crying.

Me : What do you expect, she was making me to think about the death of my parents. Hell! I felt bad.

Yes! she did make me cry 😦

Now, about the book. This book was about a girl, Mia. She had a nice family of four. One day they decided to make a visit to Mia’s parents’s friends house on a cold February morning….

And then they met an accident….and in a single moment everything changed, she watched her own damaged body taken away from the accident point, at that moment she could not understand that what just happened to her family. No idea if her parents and her younger brother are dead or alive.
Then she faced the reality, about the loss of her family, she was alone, she lost everything she once had and now was the time to make a decision, that if she want to Stay or not. 
The writing wasn’t perfect or outstanding, but at times I found it beautiful ,for me this book was not very sad, as people explained in their reviews. I think Forman’s writing is very simplistic and to make those emotions that Mia’s was feeling, it should have been made a bit dramatic. For me it didn’t pull out those emotions of loss and separation and I didn’t feel sad about her situation, yes I did feel a bit, but this did not make me cry or weep like it was said! (The reason I talked about my teacher and the poem:D)
Mia for me was quiet relatable as a person, and from all those glimpses of her family, it looks perfect, sweet little family. I wanted to know more about Adam,Mia’s boyfriend, I wanted to know more of what was going inside his mind.
I didn’t find myself very attached to any of the characters and all the time I was expecting something even more reckless to happen to her, I wanted this book to be even more sad, I like tragic and sad endings. And the romance between Mia and Adam was fine, nothing great.

But but but! This book had an wonderful ending! I loved the book when it came towards it’s ending, made the reading worth it and I basically loved this book for its ending.

 I think characterization in this book could have been better, there is a need of improvement in characterization department and things could have been made a bit more dramatic and sad.(as I said before)
Though the ending did the justice! Well mind you,not a sad ending.
82870-tumblr_nas9lctwbp1sq493xo1_500

And she did!

So this book is basically about  appreciating all that you have, all that you have lost- and all that might be.

1db2e-tumblr_nnlr1dayp91usdbiko1_500