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Poetry

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Title: 我的心中每天開出一朵花
English title: A Garden in My Heart
Author: 幾米
Year: 2000

I bought 我的心中每天開出一朵花 roughly one year ago, just after I arrived in Taiwan, because I wanted to have some texts to read that was completely unrelated to my text books and that wasn’t written for foreigners. Jimmy (幾米) is quite famous in Taiwan, first for his drawings, but now also for his poetry. At the time I bought the book, though, my Chinese was only good enough to roughly understand the meaning of the texts, but I had no means to really understand and appreciate the poetry. This has changed.

Jimmy combines a unique way of painting and writing with an intimate understanding of the world. His pictures are simple, sometimes cute, and always effective in conveying a certain feeling. His writing style is minimalistic (I understand almost everything he writes, so he really doesn’t use fancy language), but yet profound. With these two tools, he tells stories in the form of poems, stories about life, able to communicate keen insights with just a handful of characters. It’s difficult to explain why I like this book so much, because I would need to reproduce pictures and poems (with a translation to English). However, doing a quick search on Google, you can at least see what his pictures look like.

I often complain about books being wordy and authors not knowing when they’re overdoing something, but in this case, there is nothing to criticise. Jimmy is a writer who can use simple means to convey deep insights into human nature, something I envy and admire. In short, this book is brilliant and I will definitely read more (and re-read this one, for that matter). If you’re studying Chinese, try to pick up 我的心中每天開出一朵花 (or any other book by Jimmy) whenever you feel like it, because it will give something to everyone, from the extreme beginner to the native speaker.

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Title: Paradise Lost
Author: John Milton
Year: 1674

I find it somewhat difficult to approach texts held in very high esteem by a lot of people, especially if the work is considered a classic of some kind. On the positive side it can be said that these works often have at least some sort of merit that makes them worthwhile, even though that aspect might not tally well with my own preferences. John Milton’s Paradise Lost is one of the most highly esteemed works in the English language, which made me tremble a little before reading it. Would my taste be in line with legions of scholars, readers and critics?

It turned out I had no reason to worry. I have read the Norton Critical Edition of Paradise Lost. I bought it because I thought extensive comments would be needed in order to understand anything at all (as in some Shakespeare I have read, a good guide is essential). This proved not to be the case. Paradise Lost is written in iambic pentameter, familiar to me since studying Macbeth. The verse is somewhat tricky and the grammatical composition is ofter far from obvious, but I still felt that this text is something that is possible to read without much help. More than that, it is enjoyable to read, even when missing most of the good bits because of sheer ignorance.

The story is taken from Genesis. Satan has rebelled against heaven, and, defeated, has been cast down to hell, where he plans his revenge on God. Knowing that he cannot win outright war against an omnipotent power, he sets about corrupting one of God’s creations, mankind. He persuades Eve to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, leading to her and Adam’s expulsion from Paradise.

There are many interesting aspects of this epic poem, many more than I care to note here. On the whole, the poem is extremely well composed in every imaginable way. Reading  critique on the poem afterwards further deepened this impression. Everything seems to have a meaning, from the composition of the verse to the choice of words. I find it somewhat troublesome that the comments in the footnotes are a bit too scarce and about the wrong things; I would have liked to have more on what I just mentioned (technical details) rather than explanations of the grammar. I read most of the poem aloud and it sounds nice as well.

All of these positive things were to be expected. However, I did not expect Paradise Lost to be truly interesting when it comes to actual content, but it was. Following Satan’s soliloquies and the discussions of Adam, Eve and the angels is intriguing. There are many accurate and thought-provoking portrayals of human nature, something that sounds like a cliché, but is true in this case. Also, they feel relevant today, more than three centuries later, because they are indeed discussions of the essence of being human.

I feel I should spend more time on Paradise Lost than I have done so far, but it shall have to wait. I have other things on my mind at the moment. Still, this Norton Critical Edition contains many essays and musing on the text, so it will be easy to know where to look for more next time (I did not read all of the essays this time around). I am very impressed by Milton thus far, much more impressed than by Shakespeare. It feels good to be able to appreciate a genuine classic straight away, but I still feel that the true greatness lies beyond my understanding at the moment, so four tentative snails will have to do for John Milton and Paradise Lost.

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Titel: Aniara
Författare: Harry Martinson
Utgivningsår: 1956
Recenserad: 2006-04-24
Status: I bokhyllan

Aniara är Harry Martinsons berömda rymdepos; en av de stora anledningarna till att han många år senare tilldelades nobelpriset i litteratur. Den består av 103 verser och handlar om en besättnings öden och äventyr i rymden. Rymdskeppet, eller goldondern, de färdas i heter Aniara och hon missar sitt mål och råkar ut för en olycka. Genom dikter av varierande längd och stil får vi följa skeppets öden och äventyr.

Aniara handlar om många saker. Den handlar om människans ovissa framtid, den handlar om miljöförstöring och kärnvapenkrig, den handlar om människor. En stor del av boken handlar om människornas sätt att söka tröst, då de är oåterkalleligt förlorade i evighets tomrum. Genom filosofi, religion och sex söker de skapa sig en mening. Om man så vill kan man överföra denna skildring på mänskligheten i stort och se Aniara som en beskrivning av mänskligheten och vart vi är på väg.

Språket är otroligt genomarbetat. Verserna är inte bara rimmade, utan är dessutom skrivna på vers och kan stoltsera med ett synnerligen kreativt språkbruk. Det sista anser jag vara Aniaras stora värde. Jag gillar inte riktigt alla nonsensord för tekniska saker, då det får mig att tänka för mycket på Star Trek. På ett sätt är det dock charmigt. Bokens innehåll är inte det mest intressanta i mina ögon, men det duger. Det totala intrycket är därför blandat, men helt klart övervägande positivt. Eftersom den är så kort och går snabbt att läsa tycker jag att ni ska ge den en chans. Fyra sniglar till Martinson!

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