All posts filed under: The Noble Nobel Project

Mysteries by Knut Hamsun

The Man in the Yellow Suit – Mysteries by Knut Hamsun

Mysteries is a novel about Johan Nagel, a man who suddenly lives in a small Norwegian town and who gets the townspeople going with his eccentric thoughts and impulsive acts. With no apparent reason for sojourning in the town and then leaving it just as soon as he arrived, Nagel probes into the deep recesses of the people’s souls, thereby disrupting the peace of the people and turning everyone against him while he goes closer to his own destruction. It is a psychological novel that begins with loose ends and finishes with more loose ends that will  remain as they are: mysteries. One summer, Nagel arrives at the town wearing a yellow suit. From the port, he sees flags fluttering, and instead of continuing his journey at the sea, he decides to stay. Nagel is rather short, his upper body is quite big for his build, he is in his late twenties, and he has a couple of suitcases and a violin case that contains his soiled clothes. That last bit raises the eyebrow: why …

Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda

A Hundred Feelings – Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda

Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair is the second collection of poetry published by the Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda. The poems in this collection strongly depict love in very personal, intimate, erotic, and artistic ways. Published when he was only 19 years old, the critically acclaimed collection gave him international fame and set his place among men of letters as an emerging South American poet. I didn’t know how to read this. Should I read the poems in one go? Should I wait for a certain mood before I start? Should I only read one poem a day to process each one effectively? Should I read aloud? I only did the last item, and it proved to be helpful. It further convinced me that poems are meant to be read aloud, to be whispered to the wind, to be heard within someone’s hearing. Typing this alone makes me nervous because as much as I want to capture the feelings that I have for this book, they just remain as they are: feelings. And while reading, …

The Tin Drum by Günter Grass

6 Months, 3 Books, 1 Drum – The Tin Drum by Günter Grass

The Tin Drum is the first book in the Danzig Trilogy. It tells us the story of Oskar Matzerath with reminiscences from his birth up to his 30th birthday. A person who hast the power to break glass using his voice, Oskar willfully stopped his body from growing at the age of three, which is also the same year that he received his first tin drum from his mother. He spends his pre and post WWII years in the body of a child until he gets locked up in a mental institution. So how did he end up there and tell his story to us? I was more than excited to read The Tin Drum when I first got it. In fact, I went out of my way to get a copy of Breon Mitchell’s translation for the novel’s 50th anniversary. The Ralph Manheim version, I gave it away. I imagined this book to be fun because the protagonist is a very interesting character. My expectations were not in vain; the first chapter delivered. However, something …

No One Writes to the Colonel and Other Stories by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

Unmagical Realism – No One Writes to the Colonel and Other Stories by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

No One Writes to the Colonel and Other Stories consists of one novella, which is the title story, and eight other ones. These are dense with the seemingly insignificant lives of people living in a South American village. The unnamed villagers, each portrayed separately among the stories, are portrayed as despondent people who could either be hanging on to hope or resigned to utter hopelessness. After every story, the mood seems to get bleaker, but the compassionate writing of one of South America’s best writers makes the reader go until the end. Readers familiar with the Nobel laureate’s books, particularly One Hundred Years of Solitude, will find this a strange departure from the regular Marquez oeuvre. Elements from the school of magic realism are rarely found and, in fact, only present in one of the stories. Readers who are looking for those must prepare themselves to prevent disappointment, but this collection will not go as far as that. Cross out magic and you get realism. People and places are depicted as they are seen by the …

The Fish Can Sing by Halldór Laxness

A Quiet Lullabye – The Fish Can Sing by Halldór Laxness

The Fish Can Sing is the coming-of-age tale of Alfgrimur Hansson, a boy orphaned since birth and left to the care of grandparents unrelated to him. Although he is the narrator, the novel does not merely revolve around him. The chapters shift between the different events in the town of Brekukkot and the people that are etched in Alfgrimur’s memory particularly Gardar Holm, an Icelandic opera singer with worldwide fame. We witness Alfgrimur’s relationship with the singer grow thanks to his own developing singing talent, but what happens when he finds out the story behind Gardar’s fame? My first encounter with the Nobel laureate Laxness is through his epic novel Independent People. It’s still unknown to me why I bothered to read it; perhaps it’s the cover art painted by Louisa Matthiasdottir that features a house on a knoll with sheep grazing about. I’m very grateful that I did read this because otherwise I wouldn’t bother to explore his other works. This second encounter seems, strangely, both a similar and different experience. The Fish Can Sing …

Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner

Why do you hate the South? – Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner

It is not without trepidation that I returned to reading Faulkner just a couple of months back. I say trepidation because I know how mad and meandering and mentally debilitating Faulknerian narrative can. And I say returned because I’d like to believe that Faulkner was one of the authors who greatly influenced my literary tastes during my early college days. Yes, I know that’s very presumptuous of me to claim for I have only read one short story (A Rose for Emily) and one novel (The Sound and the Fury) of his, but these two are enough for me to appreciate flair and style in novels. He also instilled in me the love for one hundred commas within a one thousand word write-up. And after finishing this novel, Absalom, I approached our resident Hemingway scholar in our book club, asked him if he has ever read Faulkner, and when he answered no, I apologized and proclaimed myself to be a fan of the Faulknerian School of Narrative. But between my proclamation and the turning of the …

The Land of Green Plums by Herta Müller

Belt, window, nut, rope – The Land of Green Plums by Herta Müller

Christmas Party 2011. I wished for this book. Bookish little buddy bought this book and will give it to me if the person who picked my name for the exchange gift gives me a different title. I got it. Buddy kept her copy for herself and gave me a backup gift instead. We read it together last May. I was a little anxious. I didn’t know how she will react to it. I myself didn’t know how I’ll react to it. It was a grope in the darkness, a leap of faith. God bless the IMPAC committee if this turns out to be a wonderful book. It’s a little hard to get into it. The words just flow on and on, not giving us any clue on where it will lead. Objects are mentioned repeatedly. Belt, window, nut, rope. Tin sheep, wooden melons, mulberry trees, sacks of leaves, green plums. Ah, motifs. These, along with the short chapters, form the façade of this haunting novel. Why and when and how does tightly tied love get mixed up …