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Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather (1927, M) – Father Latour and Father Vaillant take the mission to build a diocese in New Mexico, a place still occupied by Native Indians. The two priests have different temperaments, but they work in perfect harmony. This is a portrait of the rustic life in New Mexico after the American-Mexican war in the early 1800s, and an almost sacred marriage of religion and culture.
A Death in the Family by James Agee (1957, M) – How does a young child perceive a person’s death? How can one describe their grief or the approximation of it during such an event? What are children taught about the fate of the dead, of the society’s norms during deaths, of the afterlife, and of God? Based on Agee’s own experience as a young boy, this novel is one of the few unfinished manuscripts that do not feel incomplete, and that is a strong testament to the author’s talent.
The Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen (1938, H) – Portia, orphaned and sent to live with her stepbrother, falls in love with Eddie, a family friend. She keeps a diary to understand the people that surround her in the new household. Her sister-in-law finds and reads it, and she is unsettled, enraged. Set right between the two world wars, it captures the mood of that period, a period when people thought that everything was fleeting.
Deliverance by James Dickey (1970, L) – This novel is like an action movie that borrows heavily on the themes of Joseph Conrad. Ed and his friends plan a canoeing adventure for the upcoming weekend. What is unplanned is the presence of hillbillies who crash their trip down the river. The novel tells us of a man’s transformation after he is given a huge dose of adrenaline rush, one that puts their lives at stake.
Dom Casmurro by Machado de Assis (1899, M) – A resurgence of interest in this Brazilian work is witnessed in the past few years, and why not? It’s a classic tale of love, jealousy, and adultery. Told from the unreliable point of view of the cheated husband, it’s an entertaining dark comedy without the magical realism that we usually associate with South American literature.
Fatelessness (Sorstalanság) by Imre Kertész (1975, H) – This is an important concentration camp literature largely based on the author’s own experiences in Auschwitz. One day, Gyuri is sent to a labor camp, first resisting the fate that descends upon him and then finally accepting it. The forced labor becomes his life. He finds his happiness in it. When the war ends, he faces the world outside the camp, and this is just the part where the real strength of the novel lies. What does Gyuri make of it?
[Image to follow; my copy is lent to a friend.]
Fear of Flying by Erica Jong (1973, M) – I can already imagine eyebrows raising in the air, but I stand with the belief that Isadora Wing’s whinings on the zipless fuck, loosely a noncommittal sex, is something to consider given the context of the novel’s publication. Had this been written by a man, it could have quickly sunken into obscurity. And forty years later, accompanied by an anniversary publishing, how many Erica Jongs have followed? Exactly my point.
The Fish Can Sing (Brekkukotsannáll) by Halldór Laxness (1957, H) – As if Laxness’s sweeping Independent People isn’t deserving enough, I still went on to select a less popular work. Shorter but just as beautiful, this is an idyllic tale of a small-town boy who dreams of taking on the world but at a cost that will take him away from the things that he holds dear to his heart. Will he make it? Is it going to be worth it?
[Image to follow; I lost my copy.]
The Food of the Gods by H. G. Wells (1904, H) – This might seem like another surprise entry, but what of it? It is one of the minor works of the author, but it is a classic science fiction nonetheless. In the novel, scientists have developed food that can make creatures grow. What’s interesting is not this discovery but the aftermath of the boomfood’s introduction to humans. It’s not so tragic in the common notion of a tragedy, for the tragedy lies in how the normal people treat the giants.
[Image to follow; my copy is lent to a friend.]
Four Quartets by T. S. Eliot (1943, H) – This is one of the few poetry collections in this list, and it’s the main reason I opted to include poems and plays. Its themes on time transcends time itself. When reading this, one should expect stuff heavy on one’s intellectual faculties, but the meditations are so worth going through. The cosmos is held in the spaces between the line breaks. Let the four poems sweep you away.
Stay tuned for Part 3.
Format: [Title] ([Original Title]) by [Author] ([Publication Year, LSS Meter Level])
This is part of the Literary Snobbery Series (LSS).