Fiction, Finished reading, In Search of Lost Time, Literature, Marcel Proust

Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust

Reading status: Finished

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Blurb: Swann’s Way is one of the preeminent novels of childhood-a sensitive boy’s impressions of his family and neighbors, all brought dazzlingly back to life years later by the famous taste of a madeleine. It also enfolds the short novel Swann’s Love, an incomparable study of sexual jealousy, which becomes a crucial part of the vast, unfolding structure of In Search of Lost Time. The first volume of the book that established Proust as one of the finest voices of the modern age-satirical, skeptical, confiding, and endlessly varied in his response to the human condition-Swann’s Way also stands on its own as a perfect rendering of a life in art, of the past re-created through memory.

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Currently Reading, Fiction, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Literature, The Idiot

The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Reading status: Currently reading

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Blurb: Inspired by an image of Christ’s suffering, Fyodor Dostoyevsky set out to portray “a truly beautiful soul” colliding with the brutal reality of contemporary society. Returning to St. Petersburg from a Swiss sanatorium, the gentle and naive Prince Myshkin—known as “the idiot”—pays a visit to his distant relative General Yepanchin and proceeds to charm the General and his circle. But after becoming infatuated with the beautiful Nastasya Filippovna, Myshkin finds himself caught up in a love triangle and drawn into a web of blackmail, betrayal, and, ultimately, murder. This new translation by David McDuff is sensitive to the shifting registers of the original Russian, capturing the nervous, elliptic flow of the narrative for a new generation of readers.

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Currently Reading, Fiction, Leo Tolstoy, Literature, War and Peace

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Reading status: Currently reading

war and peace leo tolstoy

Excerpt (p. 97):  I have never been able to understand the passion that some people have for befogging their thoughts by cleaving to the study of mystical books which can only awaken doubts in their minds, while inflaming the imagination and inclining them towards exaggeration, which goes right against Christian simplicity. Let us read the Apostles and the Gospel. Let us not speak to penetrate what they contain that is mysterious, for how dare we presume, miserable sinners that we are, to admit ourselves into the terrible and holy secrets of Providence while we still wear this mortal flesh that raises and impenetrable veil between us and the Eternal?

Blurb: Considered by many to the greatest novel ever written, Tolstoy’s masterpiece is a story of family life set against the backdrop of war. The novel begins in 1805 in the crowded and gossip-filled rooms of a St Petersburg party and follows the fortunes of the aristocratic Bolkonsky and Rostov families as Napoleon’s armies sweep through Europe, culminating in the French invasion of Russia in 1812 and Napoleon’s defeat. Tolstoy’s vast novel takes in both the epic sweep of national events and the private experience of individuals, from the keen young soldier to Napoleon himself, and at the heart of it all the complicated triangle of affection that binds his central characters.

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Cancelled reading, Iain M. Banks, Literature, Science Fiction, The Algebraist

The Algebraist by Iain M. Banks

Cancelled reading: The Algebraist by Iain M. Banks

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Reason: Didn’t manage to hold my attention after getting halfway through. I may attempt to go back to it in time.

Blurb: 

It is 4034 AD. Humanity has made it to the stars. Fassin Taak, a Slow Seer at the Court of the Nasqueron Dwellers, will be fortunate if he makes it to the end of the year.

The Nasqueron Dwellers inhabit a gas giant on the outskirts of the galaxy, in a system awaiting its wormhole connection to the rest of civilisation. In the meantime, they are dismissed as decadents living in a state of highly developed barbarism, hoarding data without order, hunting their own young and fighting pointless formal wars.

Seconded to a military-religious order he’s barely heard of – part of the baroque hierarchy of the Mercatoria, the latest galactic hegemony – Fassin Taak has to travel again amongst the Dwellers. He is in search of a secret hidden for half a billion years. But with each day that passes a war draws closer – a war that threatens to overwhelm everything and everyone he’s ever known.

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Finished reading, Iain M. Banks, Literature, Science Fiction, The Hydrogen Sonata

The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks

Reading status: Finished

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Excerpt (p. 142):

She shook her head. “Better to be remembered for the wrong thing than for nothing at all.”

“No. As well… not to be remember at all as… that is the… state that will apply to all of us… in time.”

Comment: In The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks, the 10,000 year-old Culture man QiRia says it is our experiences and memories that make us who we are; without them we would not be ourselves. Banks is trying to impress on the reader that this oldest-living entity of the Culture would be almost infinitely wise having lived longer than any other known being; a living, breathing Zen master, if you will. Yet my question is: Are we really so bound to our memories and experience when searching for an explanation of ourselves? Or is this QiRia missing something despite his grand old age?

Blurb: An ancient people, organized on military principles and yet almost perversely peaceful, the Gzilt helped set up the Culture ten thousand years earlier and were very nearly one of its founding societies, deciding not to join only at the last moment. Now they’ve made the collective decision to follow the well-trodden path of millions of other civilizations; they are going to Sublime, elevating themselves to a new and almost infinitely more rich and complex existence.

Amid preparations, though, the Regimental High Command is destroyed. Lieutenant Commander (reserve) Vyr Cossont appears to have been involved, and she is now wanted – dead, not alive. Aided only by an ancient, reconditioned android and a suspicious Culture avatar, Cossont must complete her last mission given to her by the High Command. She must find the oldest person in the Culture, a man over nine thousand years old, who might have some idea what really happened all that time ago.

It seems that the final days of the Gzilt civilization are likely to prove its most perilous.

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Art, Comment, Iain M. Banks, Science Fiction

Iain M. Banks General Thread

Comment: This is the Culture GSV (General Systems Vehicle) “Inappropriate Response” from around the time of the Idiran-Culture War, according to a deviantART fan artist of Iain M. Banks’ Culture novels. I always found it hard to imagine what these impossibly large ships would look like. I thought this was a good vision, though, and worth a share. Is it close to what you had in mind?

Culture_GSV_and_escorts_by_ex_pacifist

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