New Year’s Resolutions

I need to do a bit [ a lot] of catching up. I don’t think I blogged about my new year’s resolutions… and now that we’re already a quarter and a bit of the way through, it seems a bit late to start now.

But help is at hand, gentle reader, for I believe that I have blogged once before about the fact that the year can start anew whenever you wish it to do so. Admittedly, January 1st is the traditional start to the calendar year but lots of other traditions start their new year on different  dates… Chinese New Year, for example. (There are others, I just can’t dredge them out of my sluggish brain right now).

April 1st this year had a New Year-ish feel to it for me… it was the end of a long period of uninterrupted projects (great in one way..i.e. I got paid, but it meant working for what felt like months without a break.. not even a measly weekend to relax in). So, when the piles of work were finally finished, it felt like the end of term; Easter also gave it that ‘new’ feeling but I was so poleaxed I didn’t get round to blogging.

Now it is the beginning of my own personal new year… so I will tell you about one of the slightly more successful resolutions I made at the end of December. If , after reading it, you are entirely unimpressed, this will merely serve to underline the failure of the other projects I decided to undertake and have not yet tackled.

I thought it was time to tackle my reading. Although I read quite a lot of books, I realised that I have managed to neglect the World Classics.  I am ashamed to say that I have reached the age I am without ever reading any works by Russian, Italian or Spanish authors (or if I have, I cannot remember which they were). There are authors from beyond Europe I have not read. So the objective was to read World Classics in Translation [WCiT] (or in French and German if I Felt Up To It Which I Probably Wouldn’t).

So, how have I done? Pretty miserably on the “In Translation” part of the exercise, truth be told. And pretty abysmally on the World Classics bit, too. So here is a list of what I have read. I’ve stumbled over the following…rather than followed a neat list of What I Should Read. Ah well, judge not, lest ye also be judged.

Mansfield Park – Jane Austen (re-read). Not a huge amount of action over 500 pages if I’m honest.

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte (re-read). Great story. You will know it. If you don’t, then read it.

The Vicar of Wakefield – Oliver Goldsmith. Pretty tedious. Style did not appeal. Plot did not engage me.

The Shiralee – Darcy Niland. Modern classic. Australian. Beautifully written story of a swagman who takes his four-year old daughter on his travels with him. He learns a lot about himself, life and little girls on the way.  Classed as modern classic, so doesn’t quite fit the original parameters, but who cares?. A gem. Loved it.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie – Muriel Spark. Did not warm to the protagonist; found her to be rather too smug and self-satisfied to be likeable.

Slaughterhouse 5 – Kurt Vonnegut – About the bombing of Dresden. Not sure it’s quite my kind of book but at least it comes under the heading of (American) modern classic.

The Assistant – Robert Walser. Bookgroup book. Modern classic by Swiss writer in translation (so getting closer to the original aim). Gave up at page 100. My bookgroup seemed to like it on the whole, so I may resume if I feel life has nothing better to offer but it can’t be described as a page turner.

Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert. Woah – hang on to your hats. A World Classic in Translation. Found the eponymous heroine to be rather dull and self-centred. Did not feel that she was experiencing the great love of her life but perhaps that’s the point – she didn’t know when she was happy.  A bit disappointing.

My Childhood – Maxim Gorky. A World Classic in Translation. Autobiographical story of Russian author’s childhood (bet you didn’t guess that bit!) which was pretty miserable (think: David Copperfield). Poor family, no father, lots of beatings for minor misdemeanours. It is part of a trilogy. May seek the others out – but not just yet.

One thing I’ve realised rather belatedly in my quest is that the Real Classics are usually no fewer than 500 pages each. My aim to read one a month may not be achieved. The local library does not seem to stock WCiT, so I shall appeal to my gentle readers to recommend some that I can order. In the event that there is a mighty list those under 250 pages will be given priority. My grateful thanks 😉

7 thoughts on “New Year’s Resolutions

  1. The Assyrians celebrate New Year on our April 1 so you can be an honoury Assyrian this year. 🙂

    Wondrous to hear from you again. And I’d say you’re doing rather well on the reading; I too have not read many ‘classics’; you have, and some others have, spurred me on to try. I have to read some Austen; I’ve seen enough BBC productions. 🙂 Hope to get some more recommendations from your learned readers.

    Interesting, as an Aussie, to hear of “The Shiralee”; haven’t read it or seen the miniseries.

    I’ve got “The Brothers Karamazov” which I need to start again [I stopped due to reasons not at all related to the story which was gripping], though someone suggested “Crime and Punishment” may be a better place to start. Sadly neither are 250 pages or less.

  2. Ian, The Shiralee mini series starred Brian Brown and is a classic – worth looking out for.

  3. You want World Classics in translation?

    One of my absolute favourites is The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (forever remembered in my mind as dumb-ass thanks to a film whose title escapes my memory). This probably doesn’t come in under 500 pages, but it rips along at a cracking pace when I read it – I read fast!

    Another world author I discovered a few years ago is Jorge Luis Borges, an Argentinian. His stuff is very often under 50 pages – he didn’t have the patience to work his ideas out in full and would sometimes write a book review of a book he wanted to write rather than the full book. His creativity is above and beyond anything else I have read. I would suggest starting with his Fictions (ISBN 0141183845). I also have a collection of non-fiction called The Total Library – also by Penguin – much recommended.

    I’ve not yet managed to get more than about 20 pages into any Russian Literature so I’d be interested to hear any you recommend.

  4. I’m hopeless at the classics too – apart from a few Dickens/Brontes/Austen/Hardy I don’t think I’ve read any others at all. Started “The Woman in White” for book group and did really like the bit I read, but didn’t have time to read it at the time. Will go back to it though, definitely.

    I’ve been thinking recently how I really ought to read something Russian (in translation).

  5. You do have to read “War and Peace”, don’t you (which happens to be one of the few WCiT which I have managed to read) …

  6. Thanks for your comments everyone!
    Ian: if you haven’t read any Austen, I’d suggest you start with Pride and Prejudice. Something happens in every chapter and cracks along – which is more than can be said of Jane’s other works (very good generally but a little lacking in the action stakes). Thanks for reminding me about The Brothers Karamazov: have I got the energy for it… may need to wait for a holiday…
    Farli: thanks for reminding me about Dumas – and the Jorge Luis Borges recommendation.. will see if I can find him.
    JtL: I remember liking the Woman in White (Wilkie Collins?). Suggest you continue when you have time.
    Chas: I did think of War and Peace but crumbled under the sheer length of the thing (I started it many years ago and gave up because all the characters seem to use half a dozen diminutives of their names and I got lost as to who was who!) You have reminded me that I once read “A day in the life of Ivan Denisovich (sp?) by Solzhenitsyn…which was nice and short.. perhaps I should seek out another…

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