Paris in February (in April): Part II

notredamebackThis is Part Two of my Paris trip. If you’d like to read the first part, please click here.

You might be wondering, amidst all this talk of Irish, American and Argentinian writers, whether there is actually anything to see in Paris for those fans of French literature. Fear not, world literature lovers; there is plenty to keep the French lit-lover happy. You could start a little bit away from the centre of town, at the Maison de Balzac. This is the place where the author lodged for several years. It’s now a nice little monument to the writer, though if you don’t speak French you might find the signs a little difficult to read, as there is no English translation. I managed to muddle through on the basis of about five years’ worth of high school French. Here is what I managed to pick up: Continue reading

Paris in February (in April): Part I

eiffeltowerWell, it’s been a while, but I’m happy to report that this is the final instalment in my Lit Major Abroad segment for the time being. It took me a little longer to put together these last two posts, but I hope you enjoy them. So without further ado, I give you… Paris in February (in April).

Here’s a little confession. When they hear the word ‘Paris’, most people think of romance: the Eiffel Tower at night, walks along the Seine, laughing in the rain, our last summer….

Oh, dear. Do excuse me. I believe I’ve had another Abba outburst. Or, as I like to call them (at least in my head), ‘Abbursts’.

But while most people’s heads turn to candlelit restaurants and sipping coffee with their significant other, some people (myself included) prefer another side of Paris. Specifically, the literary side.

There’s no getting around it. Paris is simply the city that every literature lover has to visit at least once in their lives. Some of the greatest minds in French literature lived and worked here. Continue reading

Classics Club April: Thoughts on Science, Ageing, Modern Technology, and Frankenstein (In No Particular Order)

classicsclub1This month The Classics Club asked: “Contemplate your favorite classic to date. When was this book written? Why would you say it has been preserved by the ages? Do you think it will still be respected/treasured 100 years from now? If it had been written in our own era, would it be as well received?”

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was published in 1818. This was, as you’ve probably realised already, a very long time ago. Just shy of two hundred years ago, in fact. And, like any good two-hundred-year-old, it often gets asked the same question many grandparents get asked (though not the two-hundred-year-old ones, for obvious practical reasons):

Are you even still relevant any more?

Luckily, in the case of Mary Shelley’s classic novel, the answer is a resounding yes. In fact, I’d argue that Frankenstein is one of those rare books that is even more relevant now than it was when it was first written. A very ambitious claim, I hear you say. I hope you have some proof to back it up. And I do. Allow me to elaborate…. Continue reading

Top Ten Tuesday: The Most Unique Books I’ve Read

Charlotte_Ramsay_LennoxEvery week over at The Broke and the Bookish readers are given a theme for a Top Ten list. This week the theme is ‘Top Ten Most Unique Books I’ve Read’. This can be anything that stood out from the herd. Style, characters, plot and/or structure – it all counts. Many of the books I’ve listed below aren’t necessarily completely unique, but at the time I read them I’d never seen or experienced anything similar. So here’s my Top Ten.

The Top Ten Most Unique Books I’ve Read

  1. In the Skin of a Lion, by Michael Ondaatje. This was probably the first postmodern novel I’d ever read. Once I got over the choppy structure and confusing changes in point of view, it made for a very rewarding read.
  2. The Merry-Go-Round in the Sea, by Randolph Stow. For an Australian, I don’t actually read all that much Australian literature. Randolph Stow wasn’t just Australian; he also lived in the city where I live, and part of this book is set there. Continue reading

Top Ten Tuesday: My Bookish Bucket List

litt-shirtsTop Ten Tuesday is a regular feature over at The Broke and the Bookish. This week the theme is ‘Top Ten Things On My Bookish Bucket List’. I have to preface this by saying that I don’t yet have an ordinary bucket list, mostly because I felt a bit silly making one up after the movie came out. But I couldn’t resist this week’s theme, because there are quite a lot of book-related things that sound too fun (or impossible; see below) to go unmentioned.

So, here goes…

Top Ten Things On My Bookish Bucket List

Continue reading

The Top Five Things Goethe Can Teach Us About Travel

goethesdisguiseI recently read Goethe’s Italian Journey, an account of the famous German writer’s trip to Italy in the 1780s. At the end of my review, I promised I’d share a few pieces of wisdom that I picked up from reading Goethe’s account. It’s amazing how recognisable some of his experiences are. Close your eyes, and you can almost imagine nothing has changed. This got me thinking, and I ended up going through the text looking for a few lessons Goethe might have been trying to impart on his readers. So, without further ado, I’d like to present…

The Top Five Things Goethe Can Teach Us About Travel

#1: Enjoy the Ride Continue reading

Review: Italian Journey (1816-17), by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

goetheitalianjourneyHere’s a question: what does an eighteenth-century gentleman, with a fair amount of money, a comfortable desk job, and a passion for rocks and plants do when he finds himself suffering through the throngs of a mid-life crisis?

My natural answer, of course, would be this: he buys a racing carriage and starts wearing leather coat-tails.

If, however, that eighteenth-century gentleman happens to be Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and the desk job happens to be a post working for the Weimar government, and the passion for rocks and plants happens to be – well, a passion for rocks and plants – then he might very well drop everything he’s doing and run away to Italy. We’ve all been there, right gents? Your hair starts receding, you go to Italy. It’s been done so often it’s almost a cliché.

However, while most gentlemen in this position content themselves with new haircuts and a little harmless flirting with the girl who brings their coffee every morning, Goethe went one further. In 1786, he set out from Weimar in the dead of night, possibly elaborately disguised (at least I’d like to think so), and using a fake name. Continue reading