There and Back again - Henrik's Quest to Mount 1001

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There and Back again - Henrik's Quest to Mount 1001

1Henrik_Madsen
Editado: Fev 15, 12:18pm

Previously I have participated in a couple of monthly group reads here, but now I have decided to sign up for the whole package.

I will base my list on the official spreadsheet combining the various editions, and just for the hell of it I will also include the extra works included in the Danish edition. Partly because it includes some Danish and European classics that definitely belong (like some of Shakespeare's plays and The Odyssey) partly because I have already read a lot of them. Getting off to a good start is not a bad thing.

I don't have a timetable or a monthly goal. My work tends to get in the way of reading, studying for my MPA tends to get in the way of reading for fun and of course there are all those other books tempting me in other directions. But I have enjoyed almost all of the 1001 books I have read so far, so why not focus on books many people have already enjoyed? After all, an Iron Man is just not for all middle-aged men.

Status

1001 combined list:
195 of 1305 books read (14,9 %)

Pre 1700s Read 2 of 27 = 7 %
1700 Read 7 of 47 = 15 %
1800-1849 Read 11 of 55 = 20 %
1850-1899 Read 22 of 133 = 20%
1900-1949 Read 50 of 305 = 16%
1950-1979 Read 42 of 328 = 13%
1980-1999 Read 44 of 301 = 15%
2000s Read 12 of 109 = 11 %

Masochist Additional Danish list (MAD):
33 of 62 books read (53 %)

2018 edition new books:
2 of 10 (20 %)

2Henrik_Madsen
Editado: Ago 6, 2016, 11:45am

1001 list:

1. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
2. Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
3. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
4. The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith
5. A Sentimental Journey by Laurence Sterne
6. The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
7. Jacques the Fatalist by Denis Diderot
8. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
9. Emma by Jane Austen
10. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
11. Le Père Goriot by Honoré de Balzac
12. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
13. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
14. Hard Times by Charles Dickens
15. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
16. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
17. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
18. Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev
19. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
20. Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
21. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
22. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
23. Hunger by Knut Hamsun
24. The Kreutzer Sonata by Leo Tolstoy
25. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
26. Effi Briest by Theodor Fontane
27. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
28. The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells
29. The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells
30. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
31. Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann
32. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
33. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
34. The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers
35. Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
36. Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence
37. The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan
38. Amok by Stefan Zweig
39. The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann
40. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
41. The Trial by Franz Kafka
42. Orlando by Virginia Woolf
43. Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin
44. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
45. War with the Newts by Karel Capek
46. Out of Africa by Karen Blixen
47. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
48. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
49. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
50. The Tartar Steppe Dino Buzzati
51. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
52. The Outsider by Albert Camus
53. Chess Story by Stefan Zweig
54. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
55. The Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andrić
56. Bosnian Chronicle Andrić, Ivo
57. Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
58. Animal Farm by George Orwell
59. Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
60. The Plague by Albert Camus
61. The Third Man by Graham Greene
62. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
63. Barabbas by Pär Lagerkvist
64. Malone Dies by Samuel Beckett
65. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
66. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
67. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
68. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
69. Saturday Night and Sunday Morning by Chinua Sillitoe
70. The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
71. Henderson the Rain King by Saul Bellow
72. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
73. The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
74. Closely Watched Trains by Bohumil Hrabal
75. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
76. 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
77. The Quest for Christa T. by Christa Wolf
78. The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles
79. Surfacing by Margaret Atwood
80. The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum by Heinrich Böll
81. Autumn of the Patriarch by Gabriel García Márquez
82. Fateless by Imre Kertész
83. Interview With the Vampire by Anne Rice
84. The Shining Stephen King
85. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
86. The World According to Garp by John Irving
87. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
88. Burger's Daughter by Nadine Gordimer
89. A Bend in the River by V.S. Naipaul
90. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
91. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
92. Baltasar and Blimunda by Jose Saramago
93. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
94. Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes
95. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
96. Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis
97. Contact by Carl Sagan
98. Watchmen by Alan Moore
99. The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
100. Billy Bathgate by E.L. Doctorow
101. The History of the Siege of Lisbon by José Saramago
102. Regeneration by Pat Barker
103. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
104. Smilla's Sense of Snow Peter Høeg
105. Black Dogs by Ian McEwan
106. Jazz by Toni Morrison
107. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
108. The Ghost Road by Pat Barker
109. The Moor's Last Sigh by Salman Rushdie
110. The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
111. Beloved by Toni Morrison
112. The God of Small Things Arundhati Roy
113. Amsterdam by Ian McEwan
114. All Souls Day by Cees Nooteboom
115. The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa
116. I'm Not Scared by Niccolo Ammaniti
117. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
118. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
119. Snow by Orhan Pamuk
120. The Book about Blanche and Marie by Per Olov Enquist
121. The Plot Against America by Philip Roth
122. The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

3Henrik_Madsen
Editado: Ago 6, 2016, 3:34am

MAD list:

This list is based on the Danish edition from 2010. I will list all the works (those read will be in bold) if anyone wants to see, what is included. It's mostly Danish litterature, but the editor has also added both Athenian and Elizabethean plays as well as some medieval and miscallenous texts.

Gilgamesh
Iliaden by Homer
Odysseen by Homer
Agamemnon by Aischylos
Ødipus by Sofokles
Medea by Euripides
Lysistrate by Aristofanes
Symposion by Platon
Æneiden by Vergil
Satyricon by Petronius
Bhagavadgita
Rolandskvadet
Gesta Danorum by Saxo Grammaticus
Njals saga
Den guddommelige komedie by Dante Aligheri
Dekameron by Giovanno Boccaccio
Romeo og Julie by William Shakespeare
Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Kong Lear by William Shakespeare
Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Misantropen by Molière
Jammers Minde by Leonora Christine Ulfeldt
Fædra by Jean Baptiste Racine
Jeppe på Bjerget by Ludvig Holberg
Erasmus Montanus by Ludvig Holberg
Levnet og meninger by Johannes Ewald
Labyrinten by Jens Baggesen
Hakon Jarl Hin Rige by Adam Oehlenschläger
En Landsbydegns dagbog by Steen Steensen Blicher
Sildig Opvaagnen by Steen Steensen Blicher
Adam Homo by Fr. Paludan-Müller
Forførerens dagbog by Søren Kierkegaard
Fru Marie Grubbe by J.P. Jacobsen
Niels Lyhne by J.P. Jacobsen
Stuk by Herman Bang
Himmerlandshistorier by Johannes V. Jensen
Kongens fald by Johannes V. Jensen
Lykke-Per by Henrik Pontoppidan
Pelle Erobreren by Martin Andersen Nexø
Den farlige alder by Karin Michaëlis
Hærværk by Tom Kristensen
Midt i en jazztid by Knud Sønderby
Det forsømte forår by Hans Scherfig
Barndommens gade by Tove Ditlevsen
Løgneren by Martin A. Hansen
De nøgne træer by Tage Skou-Hansen
Den kroniske uskyld by Klaus Rifbjerg
Det by Inger Christensen
Slangen i brystet by Henrik Stangerup
Vangede Billeder by Dan Turell
Fodboldenglen by Hans-Jørgen Nielsen
Himmel og helvede by Kirsten Thorup
Rejsen til Ribe by Peter Seeberg
Fortælleren blev senere sig selv by F.P. Jac
Den åbne dør by Anders Bodelsen
Undtagelsen by Christian Jungersen
Den femte årstid by Henning Mortensen
Hundehoved by Morten Ramsland
Rødby-Puttgarden by Helle Helle
Bavian by Naja Marie Aidt
Eksil by Jakob Ejersbo
Mordet på Halland Pia Juul

4Yells
Ago 1, 2016, 9:52pm

Welcome!

5Simone2
Ago 2, 2016, 12:48am

Welcome! Nice to have someone Danish here. I am looking forward to your reviews of books of both lists.

6Henrik_Madsen
Ago 2, 2016, 11:22am

7hdcanis
Ago 2, 2016, 3:11pm

Welcome to the group!
Seeing the Danish list is interesting, it came up recently in discussion that even though Denmark is not too far away I knew very little of Danish literature (I'm from Finland), especially since I don't care for modern Scandinavian detective novels...but from the books listed I have read En Landsbygdens Dagbok and Kongens Fald.

8Henrik_Madsen
Ago 2, 2016, 4:24pm

Thanks!

The feeling is mutual. I don't know much about Finnish literature either (Kari Hotakainen, Kjeld Westö and Sofi Oksanen come to mind as authors I have read) and it just doesn't get the same amount of attention as books from the other Nordic countries in our newspapers. A combination of a bit more distance and the language barrier, I guess.

Two very good choices from the Danish list. Kongens fald was chosen as the Danish "novel of the century" - which immediately sparked a very Danish debate about whether it really represented acceptable Danish values.

9hdcanis
Ago 3, 2016, 8:44am

Yea, I noticed Kongens fald was especially highly appreciated in Denmark, though it was a bit mixed read...it was obviously well written but at the same time I felt there was a good deal of historical and cultural context that was flying over my head (in school we of course learn Swedish history so Stockholm Massacre was familiar but otherwise the historical period from Danish side is less so).
So I figured it was somewhat similar as Täällä pohjantähden alla, a major classic here but not really easy to get if one doesn't know the historical period it describes...

10M1nks
Ago 3, 2016, 12:28pm

Hello! I love seeing other nationalities here; I'm always so impressed at the extra commitment it must take to read so many books outside of your home tongue - some of them are difficult enough for English speakers!

At some point I plan to try reading one of the simpler works of French fiction just to compare with how the translation sounds, but I'll have to keep working on my French for a while yet...

11Henrik_Madsen
Editado: Ago 3, 2016, 12:51pm

>9 hdcanis: Actually, I'm not too thrilled about it myself. The writing is great, but the mysticism and characters never really got to me.

But your point still stands, of course. Some novels are very much part of their time and their historical setting, and if you know that, you can appreciate it much more. We all know the French revolution, so it is easy to appreciate books dealing with that, but books on the Finnish revolution has a taller hill to climb.

12Jan_1
Ago 3, 2016, 3:07pm

welcome! looking forward to your reviews

13Henrik_Madsen
Ago 3, 2016, 3:23pm

>10 M1nks: Thanks! Most of the books are translated, so it's not like I have to read the 1303 non-Danish books in English. That is generally a good thing, even though litterature has done a lot to improve my language skills. My English teacher had nice support from Stephen King in highschool, though she was more eager to push highbrow litterature down our throats.

If the translation is well done, it doesn't subtract too much from the work, I think. But there are exceptions, of course. The beautiful sentences of Thomas Mann are very difficult to translate into Danish (or English), just to name one example.

Reading in other languages only gets easier by doing it, so I definitely think you should give one of the French books a go. In my experience The Little Prince is a good place to start. The Stranger is not!

14Henrik_Madsen
Ago 3, 2016, 3:24pm

>12 Jan_1: Thanks.

15Henrik_Madsen
Editado: Ago 10, 2016, 4:03pm

124. Silas Marner by George Eliot: Silas Marner

Silas Marner is the shortest of George Eliots novels and my first encounter with her work. Marner is an honest weaver who is falsely accused of theft and forced to wander the lands until he settles in Raveloe. It is a typical English village with craftsmen, farmers and a squire Cass who is richer but not totally detached from the others. His sons are disappointments. Godfrey is weak and cannot assert himself, Dunstan is both lazy and immoral.

There is wealth, a pub and a strong community. Marner wants none of that. He works and spends his evenings counting coins until the fateful day, when it is all stolen from him. Finally he is forced out of his cocoon and becomes a part of village life.

I very much enjoyed this book. 19th century novels are sometimes too long, seemingly growing in length and scope for no good reason, but this is tight and focused story. Most of the characters are nuanced and believable, and I felt in good company even though the story is both highly moral and tends to paint village life in an overly idyllic light.

4 stars

16puckers
Ago 4, 2016, 5:07pm

>15 Henrik_Madsen: Nice review of one of my favourite list books. Welcome to the group.

17Henrik_Madsen
Ago 5, 2016, 2:13am

>Thanks. It's a shorter version of my review in Danish (posted as a LT-review and on www.beldenak.wordpress.com ). Probably not accessible to many, but a full translation would be too much work.

18Henrik_Madsen
Ago 6, 2016, 10:02am

125. Crime and Punishment by Fjodor Dostojevskij

The arc of the narrative is wellknown: Rodion Raskolnikov, a young student in Skt. Petersburg, murders a pawn shop owner (crime) and must ultimately face the consequences (punishment). But there is so much more to the story. We follow his actions, listen to his doubts, meet the people he meets and watch him break down under the weight of his family at risk, the Marmeladov family pushed to the brink of existense, and his own consciousness.

It is a breathtaking novel. Dostojevskij's portrait of Raskolnikov is incredible. Not a particularly sympathetic character but very human and so distinguishable that I felt like I could see him before my eyes. The style is modern. I just read Silas Marner which is just 5 years older but through and through 19th Century whereas Dostojevskij feels contemporary.

Without a doubt my best read this year.

5 stars

19japaul22
Ago 7, 2016, 8:57am

>18 Henrik_Madsen: that's one I'd like to reread sometime in the near future. I remember loving it, but I'm foggy on the details.

20Henrik_Madsen
Ago 9, 2016, 1:56pm

>19 japaul22: That's the thing with this group. You don't just get inspired to read new books. You get inspired to reread old ones!

21Henrik_Madsen
Ago 10, 2016, 4:06pm

126. Call of the Wild by Jack London

Buck is a big family dog enjoying himself in California when the gold rush in the Klondike in the 1890s creates a huge demand for strong, tough animals to pull the sleighs. Buck turns out to be an exceptional dog and he soon challenges the lead dog to take his place. But he also hears the call of the wild and is drawn towards the wild life of the wolf packs.

London is great at making Buck's development and sentiments believable without turning him into a human on four legs. The novel could be interpreted as an allegory of the battle between instinct and civilization in human nature but I actually think it works best when it is "just" read as a great adventure story.

Fast and satisfying read.

4 stars

22Henrik_Madsen
Ago 24, 2016, 4:12pm

127. Under fire by Henri Barbusse

Published in 1916 this book was next in line in my "anniversary" reading. It is also a fitting reminder of the brutal realities of war, which tore through Europe a century ago. It is just sad, that the Great War didn't in fact become the war to end all wars.

Barbusse tells the story of a company of men at war. The highlight is the charge, which kills so many of them, but most of the novel focuses on everyday life in the army: Scouting, resting behind the front, digging, bitching about the food, being forever dirty in the endless mud. Death is never far away, though. Men are killed or wounded, and rotting bodies on the battle field is too common to generate much notice.

Character building wasn't anything special, but Under Fire is still a good read due to the first-hand account of battles and trench life told in an expressive language.

4 stars

23Yells
Ago 24, 2016, 9:53pm

I just got a kindle version of that book - just waiting for the right moment to read it. Sounds interesting!

24Henrik_Madsen
Ago 25, 2016, 3:44pm

>23 Yells: It is - and my short-version review in English doesn't really do it justice. I really enjoyed it - as much as you can enjoy stories of death and suffering.

25Henrik_Madsen
Set 13, 2016, 3:53pm

X.1 Swann's Way by Marcel Proust

This novel is not just about remembering the past. Proust attempts to revive a world which doesn't exist anymore, and he will not settle simply for what happened. He investigates emotions and experiences, at the same time identifying the feeling of past life and analyzing those emotions with the benefit of later experience.

Swann's way is the first volume of In Search of Lost Time. It is not without plot - included is a novella telling the story of Swann's intense relationship with Odette de Crécy - but it's greatness is mostly a result of an exceptional power of observation and the mastery of language to bring it to life.

4 stars

26Henrik_Madsen
Editado: Set 16, 2016, 11:38am

128. The Music of Chance by Paul Auster

My very first Paul Auster and a good one at that. Jim Nashe is drifting through life and physically travelling through America as he slowly but surely squanders his inheritance. Once he picks up Pozzi, who is a professional gamler, the story changes gear. Nashe invests his remaining money in Pozzi, and soon they are literally caught in a situation they can't get out of.

Many themes are touched upon in the novel (freedom, the place of work in our lives, meaninglessness of modern life, the relationship between fate and chance) but it is also an improbable roadmovie. I enjoyed the straighforward language and a story which is initially simple and realistic but actually both strange and disturbing.

I'm no longer worried about the large number of Auster novels on the list!

4 stars

27Henrik_Madsen
Out 1, 2016, 3:46pm

129. Enduring Love by Ian McEwan

Joe Rose's world is turned upside down, when he becomes involved in a fatal accident. One of the other participants mysteriously declare him his love and starts stalking him. This is not pleasant, and soon his whole life as well as his until now very happy marriage to Clarissa starts to fall apart. The book is also a thriller so I will not reveal more about the plot.

I have had very different experiences with Ian McEwan. I loved On Chesil Beach and Black Dogs but didn't really enjoy Amsterdam. Unfortunately Enduring Love is like the latter. The basic idea is interesting, but then McEwan starts forcing things and making his characters act in ways, I don't believe they would. Generally I'm ready to accepts any idea in a book, if the story seems coherent. This one didn't.

3 stars

28Henrik_Madsen
Out 15, 2016, 12:02pm

130. Of Love and Shadows by Isabel Allende

Francisco and Irene work together as photographer and journalist during the dictatorship of general Pinochet i Chile. He is also engaged in secret activities against the regime. She is from a more privileged background, but once they start investigating the vanishing of a young girl, they soon find themselves facing repression and danger. They are also on the verge of finding evidence which can seriously undermine the authority of the military.

Along the way they fall in love, which is hardly surprising. The story is interesting, but I don't think the execution was very good. It's as if Allende couldn't bother finishing all the scenes and just settles for a short write-up of what happens to fill in the blanks. It could just be me, but I was really disappointed in the second half of the book.

2½ stars

29Henrik_Madsen
Out 17, 2016, 1:23pm

131. Conversation in Sicily by Elio Vittorini

On a whim Silvestro Ferrauto decides to leave Milan and travel back to Sicily where he grew up and his mother still lives. He has lost his sense of meaning and for a while it looks like he can regain it on his travel back, but it soon becomes clear that the world he left behind is forever gone. Facing this harsh reality, the story becomes increasingly absurd as he discusses sex-life with his mother and faces ghosts on the cemetery.

It is obviously a veiled critique of fascism and the glorification of war - it was written in the late 1930s as a sequel and published as a novel in 1941 - but I kind of lost interest in the second half. It was just to strange to really keep me interested.

3 stars

30Henrik_Madsen
Nov 21, 2016, 2:11pm

132. Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth

Alexander Portnoy is 34 years old, and his life is a mess. He is lying on the coach in a psychiatrists office where he tells his story or, more precisely, rambles on about his growing up in a Jewish neighbourhood in Newark in the 1930s and 40s, about his complicated relationship with his mother, his complicated Jewish identity and his complicated relationship with women.

He is obsessed with sex and his language is very graphic - just a warning - but Portnoy's ramblings barely covers a huge insecurity and a deep pain. Who is he supposed to be? Why can't he escape - or embrace - his Jewish upbringing?

Part of the novel is funny, laugh out loud funny, actually, but the story is told like it's Woody Allan on speed. It get's a bit tiring, and Portnoy's self-righteous mistreating of all the women who actually cares for him is annoying.

3 stars

31Henrik_Madsen
Dez 10, 2016, 3:07pm

133. The Lover by Marguerite Duras

Duras grew up in the French colony of Indochina before WWII. Her father died early and her mother fought a loosing battle to keep the family respectable. None of her brothers were any good, and especially her eldest brother was downright scary. When she was 15 she had an affair with a Chinese banker who was 12 years older - but in the eyes of the community first of all not white.

The novel mentions the scandal but doesn't really dwell on it. It tells the story of a girl who decides to become a woman and take any way possible out. It also tells the story of a dysfunctional family which forever puts its mark on the writer in spe.

I really liked this book. Duras has an uncanny ability to write melancholy in a passionate way - or maybe its passion in a melancholy way. Even though she continually switches between the story of affair, the story of her family and her later reflections the novel is so well composed that you never loose your way.

4 stars

32Henrik_Madsen
Jan 2, 2017, 3:24pm

134. In the First Circle by Alexander Solsjenitsyn

I have always been a sucker for epic novels but I seldom feel I have the time to really embrace them. I do like to remember the beginning until the end so reading this book around Christmas was good timing for me.

Solsjenitsyn has firsthand experience of the Soviet Camp system in the late Stalin era, and it definitely shows here. He knows how prisoners think and how the system works, but he also understands the worries of the guards and their leaders. Even Stalin himself is a prisoner of the system, and everyone in the party and even the secret police is just one anonymous tip away from being a prisoner themselves.

The title refers to Dante. The philosophers of antiquity had to be condemned as heathens but they were still admirable characters who were treated better than most in the first circle of hell. The story takes place in the Soviet equivalent, a 'sjaraska' where well-educated prisoners work on scientific projects. The food and housing is better, but the repression is just as bad as elsewhere. All communication is censored, snitches are everywhere and better conditions also mean much more to lose.

The prison is terrifying but the book is also absurd and in some chapters funny. I especially enjoyed Stalin's many ridiculous nicknames - Best Friend of the Electricians - which adds some comic relief but also reveals the crazy Soviet cult.

4½ stars

33Henrik_Madsen
Jan 7, 2017, 4:48am

135. The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon

This book is tough to review. Oedipa Maas is appointed executor after the death of her former lover, and as she travels to San Narcisco to sort out the mess left behind she also descends into a hidden world of deception and conspiracy. Is there perhaps a secret communications network in opposition to the governmental postal service? As she follows the leads - which would only be leads in a conspiracy novel - her world is turned upside down and the men in her life drifts away from her.

Pynchon obviously masters what he is trying to do, and some parts are actually quite funny. I especially enjoyed the Shakespeare pastiche by the fictive Jacobean playwright Wharfinger. Still, there are so many things that are unexplained or just hinted at, that the reading left me estranged and a bit unsatisfied.

3 stars

34Henrik_Madsen
Jan 16, 2017, 3:24pm

136. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

I enjoyed this book much more than I expected to. Mary Smith is a young woman who visits her friends in the small town of Cranford, where she takes part in their social life and we learn about their small sorrows as well as the tragic undercurrent of their lives. Smith / Gaskell isn't blind to their weaknesses but the overriding feeling of the novel is sympathy with her characters who are mostly good people. Mattie Jenkyns in particular is a lovable person who has retained her good-natured way even though she has suffered several losses in her life.

Cranford is a small town, and on the surface not much goes on. That is reflected in the novel, but stories of love and loss are to be found everywhere.

4 stars

35Henrik_Madsen
Fev 14, 2017, 11:30am

137. Ormond by Maria Edgeworth

Ormond depicts the development of a gentleman. As a young boy he is left in the care of Ulick O'Shane and later send to the the Black Islands to be raised by the simpler but more noble Cornell O'Shane. He miraculously acquire a fortune - of course he does! - and begins his mental journey into the world of gentlemen. Will his morals hold up, faced with all kinds of temptations?

The book hasn't held up well. The coincidences are too thick and Ormond is too boring af character to pull the story off. The problem is not a lack of action, but the author moralizes too much for my taste. It is understandable, that it was dropped from the later editions.

2 stars

36Henrik_Madsen
Fev 14, 2017, 12:01pm

138. Intet nyt fra Vestfronten by Erich Maria Remarque

All Quiet on the Western Front has become the most notorious novel on the Great War. It depicts the suffering of common soldiers in the trenches in Northern France where they are faced with the emptiness of the nationalistic rhetoric, which put them there in the first place, and especially with the horrors of modern warfare. Death has many faces in the trenches, mercifully striking some down immediately while others suffer for days or weeks before their lives are finally clamed. Death is everywhere, among the recruits especially but in the end seeking out even the savviest veteran.

It is brutal, and this horrible experience is forever cutting the soldiers off from the life of civilians at home. Remarque paints the horror in gruesome detail, but at the same time he manages to keep Paul Bäumer and his friends both human and likeable. They kill, because they have been trained to do so and because they are part of a war machine, which they cannot escape.

It is a brilliant, horrible book. Everyone should read it, people who advocate the necessity of war should read it twice.

5 stars

37Henrik_Madsen
Fev 19, 2017, 5:08am

Olof Lagercrantz: At læse Proust

Last year I finally started reading In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust, and thought I could use a guide to the next volumes, which are now sitting on my shelves waiting for my attention. Lagercrantz is a Swedish critic who has written on various subjects, and I remembered really good reviews on this book on Proust.

Lagercrantz makes no attempt to interpret In Search of Lost Time as a whole. Instead he offers his own readings of various important chapters and themes. Occasionally he refers to the wealth of literature on Proust, but it is always used to support or expand on his own readings. A lot of it was new to me - though undoubtedly not to scholars of Proust - such as his inspiration from John Ruskin, while other parts mostly discussed or expanded on themes I had encountered before, such as his relationship to his mother, his homosexuality and his Jewish background.

I thought he was very spot on in his interpretation of love in the work by Proust. Using examples - such as Swann's relationship with Odette - he describes how the lover often has too pictures of the loved one in front of him: The actual persons with all his or her less virtuous traits and an idealized version. Deep and true love always involves choosing the idealized version - even though it is a more or less conscious turning down of reality.

The book is a very personal meeting with a great work of art. I enjoyed the readings and I found reading the book right now, when I know some of Proust's work but not all of it, was a good idea. I could recognize something while others will be on my watchlist. Most of all it made me want to read more Proust, which is a good thing.

I would definitely recommend it to other Proust-readers, but I don't think it is available in English. (There is a German translation, though.

38Simone2
Fev 19, 2017, 12:20pm

>37 Henrik_Madsen: I would be very interested in reading that one! I can read German but I don't think well enough to understand a book like this one.

39Henrik_Madsen
Editado: Mar 30, 2017, 3:02pm

139. Thérèse Raquin by Emile Zola

This is a great study of the psychological consequences of murder. Thérèse is married to the feeble Camille, and after engaging in an affair with his acquintance Laurent they decide to kill him. At first they seem to get away with it, but once they are married and supposed to enjoy the benifits of their evil deed, they are overwhelmed with guilt. Every time they are together, they are reminded of the third person who is no longer there, and they practically tear each other apart as their minds spiral out of control.

Last year I read Crime and Punishment and I don't think Zola's novel is quite as good. You're not invited more or less directly into the mind of the murderer, but his depiction of the destructive dynamic between Thérèse and Laurent in the second - and by far the best - half of the book is breathtaking.

The title annoyed me by the way. Thérèse is obviously not innocent, but by naming the book after her, Zola seems to imply that the tragic events were mainly her fault even though Laurent is the actual murderer.

4 stars

40Henrik_Madsen
Mar 29, 2017, 3:30pm

140. The Golden Ass by Apulejus

This is the only novel from antiquity which has survived in it's entirety, and it's not too difficult to see why. It is a collection of good stories connected by the travels of narrator Lucius. After enjoying himself with a young girl, Fotis, he wants to crank up the experience by being transformed into a bird. Sadly he is instead turned into an ass and has to go through much hard work and many a beating before he is finally restored through the grace of Isis.

The Danish translation is very good. The writing felt fresh and I really enjoyed the stories which are mostly fun but also includes a romantic gem like the story of Amor and Psyche.

3½ stars

41M1nks
Mar 30, 2017, 2:56pm

You don't think Zola's novel is quite as what? Good? Cold? Something else?

42Henrik_Madsen
Mar 30, 2017, 3:06pm

>41 M1nks: Quite as good. (Edited now, thanks for the tip.)

That can still be pretty good, though, since I thought Crime and Punishment was the best book I read last year. Seeing the world from the disturbed mind of Rodion Raskolnikov just blew me away.

43Henrik_Madsen
Abr 24, 2017, 10:09am

141. Growth of the Soil by Knut Hamsun

Isak is a young man striving to make his way as a homesteader in far-off Northern Norway around 1900. Using only his hands and his strength he clears land and builds a farm, always trying to improve production and master the wilderness around him. He soon marries Inger and they are happy until she gives birth to a handicapped girl, which she promptly kills. It does not appear, though, that it is the crime itself, which disturbs the family. Much worse is the air of city life and civilization which clings to her as she returns from imprisonment many years later. She has a hard time readjusting to rural life, and the city, even the small town several days march away, is generally presented as a source of corruption threatening not just Inger but also their son Eleseus.

I loved Hamsun's novel Hunger which is a modernistic classic giving an unforgettable description of modern life and the infinite loneliness as an outsider in a large city, but I was much less fond of this book. I don't believe living on the land is in and of it self better than living in a town, and I didn't appreciate the writing of the book much. It just seemed like the kind of language a very intellectual writer would make up for people living a life which in his eyes was "original" and "natural".

2½ stars

44Henrik_Madsen
Abr 30, 2017, 12:36pm

142. The Good Soldier Svejk by Jaroslav Hasek

In 1914 most countries in Europe are swept into The Great War. Millions of men are mobilized and send into horrible battles. That is also the fate awaiting Josef Svejk, a dog trader from Prague who is supposed to fight for the Austro-Hungarian Empire against the Russians. He doesn't seem keen on that future, but he knows very well that he cannot resist openly. Instead he protests against the war by adhering very literally to every protocol and every order. He also tells an unending amount of anecdotes, which are most of all supposed to remove attention from the strange things he has actually done.

The novel would have benifited from an editor as it does get a bit repetitive, but the absurdities of military life are well portrayed and parts of the booke are charming. Svejk has become such a wellknown part of public culture that I'm glad to have read it.

3 stars

45Henrik_Madsen
Maio 6, 2017, 6:00am

143. Spring Torrents by Ivan Turgenjev

Spring Torrents is a story of young love and an old man's reflection on it. Dmitri Sánin goes on the traditional tour of Europe in the middle of the 19th century and meets the beautiful girl Gemma and her family in Frankfurt. He was really on his way home, but he let's himself be distracted and fall in love with the young girl. It is not, however, a story of young love accomplished - but it is not really a tragic story of young love gone wrong either.

Dmitri is ready to marry Gemma within a week, or so he thinks. The story is a memory told 30 years later, so we know it never works out - but the how and why is for the reader to discover on his own.

The novel is very well written, and I enjoyed the way Turgenjev depicts the relationship of the young couple. Is Dmitri in love with Gemma or is he just in love with the thought of being in love? And does it really matter?

4 stars

46ELiz_M
Maio 6, 2017, 7:05am

>45 Henrik_Madsen: What a perfect review!

47Henrik_Madsen
Maio 6, 2017, 1:06pm

>46 ELiz_M: Thanks!

48Henrik_Madsen
Maio 27, 2017, 7:00am

144. Embers by Sándor Márai

The General is living in solitude in his castle i rural Hungary. He is now an old man whose existence continues to revolve around a dramatic incident 41 years earlier. One day, he gets notice that his old friend Konrád is finally going to visit him and during a dinner and a long night they finally try to settle the score. And as they sit in the same dining room, drink the same wine, and talk about the past, the candles, much like their lives, slowly burn down. What actually happened all that time ago - and why has it defined their lives afterwards?

The novel is just beautifully written. Wonderful prose - exceptionally well translated into Danish - and a perfect composition made this a thought-provoking and surprising highlight on the list.

4 ½ stars

49Henrik_Madsen
Jun 25, 2017, 4:20pm

145. What I loved by Siri Hustvedt

Leo Hertzberg meet Bill Wechsler in a gallery. Hertzberg is an established art historian and Wechsler is a young aspiring artist. When Hertzberg decides to buy one of his paintings it is the beginning of a lifelong friendship which also encompasses their wives and their sons who are born just a little apart. As the boys grow up, the parents advance and despite the irregularities of life this is a golden age. It is all that Leo ever wanted or loved. The title is in past tense and the second part of the book details how he lost it. It is heartbreaking, but it is equally recognizable as life with all its twists and turns.

It is a fascinating story and though it turns tragic it is still extremely well written.

It was also a slow read which surprised me. I don't think it was very academic, but it was dense in a good way. Lots of things to think about and a cast of characters who really deserved careful thinking.

4½ stars

50Henrik_Madsen
Jun 26, 2017, 3:43pm

146. The Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar

This is certainly one of the original works on the list. Instead of writing Hadrian's biography, Yourcenar writes his memoirs. He is lying on his deathbed in Tibur outside Rome where he reflects on his adventurous life. He touches on his rise to power through his kinship with Trajan and an undeniable talent as an administrator and organizer. He relates his major policies - primarily stabilizing the borders and promoting growth through reforms - and tells about the doubts connected with choosing his successor.

But the emperor is also a human, which becomes abundantly clear when he meets the young Antonous. He loves him so much that he almost goes mad when the boy commits suicide at a young age. It is a love, we can still try to understand, because Hadrian introduces a cult to Antonous' memory. Many busts were made and a lot have survived.

The style is philosophical and the prose is tense. I was fascinated by the portrait, and I'm glad I have read the novel, but it was more good than great.

3½ stars

51Henrik_Madsen
Jul 24, 2017, 4:02pm

147. The Tin Drum by Günter Grass

Oskar Matzerath is the narrator of this famous novel. He is born in 1924 in Danzig and writes the story down in Western Germany in 1954. Oskar is no ordinary human. His consciousness is fully developed at birth, but he soon decides that growing up is not for him. At three he stops his growth and lives through the war as a child, who insists on communicating mainly through banging his drum. Telling the story from this very peculiar point of view gives an alternative approach to the world and the novel relates important and familiar events in a new and touching light.

Grass manages to write the novel in his chosen style. The merit of the book hinges mainly on the voice of Oskar who I experienced as mostly innocent observer but also part self-obsessed nuisance.

4 stars

52Henrik_Madsen
Jul 28, 2017, 4:32pm

35. Death in Venice by Thomas Mann

This was a re-read. On my vacation I brought a volume of Thomas Mann's early stories, and one of them was this amazing novella. Gustav von Aschenbach is an established and honored author, who has spend most of his life praising the life of the hardworking men of "die Gründerjahre" but who now finds himself in uncharted waters. Feeling an urge to get away he ends up in Venice, where he scandalously falls in love with the godlike Tadzio, a just fourteen year old boy.

Actually it reminded me a bit of Hadrian's fascination with Antonous, but Europe of the early twentieth century doesn't like homosexuel love, and the boy's age is outrageous no matter how you look at it, and Aschenbach knows all this. He also sees all the ominous signs of impending demise. It's not just the epidemic, which the authorities try to cover up, his own personality and beliefs are falling apart and he can't do anything about it.

The prose is all Mann, beautiful, dense and just wonderful.

5 stars

53Henrik_Madsen
Ago 9, 2017, 3:26pm

148. The Charterhouse in Parma by Stendhal

Fabrice del Dongo is only 15 when he takes off to join Napoleon at Waterloo. He never really achieves his ambition of adventure and conquest, and once he returns he has to go into exile for joining the wrong party in the war. Instead he moves with his aunt to Parma where the family is enrolled in various shenegians at court until. When he finally finds the woman he loves, he is in prison and it is hard to see how they could ever become happy.

The book reminded me a bit of Dickens: Great characters, some really unforgettable scenes and an overall plot which doesn't really come together. Stendhal is more poetic, though, but despite some memorable parts the overall impression was pretty average.

3 stars

54Henrik_Madsen
Ago 27, 2017, 5:07pm

149. The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene

Henry Scobie is a policeman in a small colony in Western Africa during the second world war. He is honest and good at his job, but he is also desperate. His wife, Louise, wants out, and he has to break a lot of principles to find the money to help her to South Africa. And once he takes a mistress, all his troubles only get worse. He cannot let any of the women down, and all of the obvious answers are impossible because of his catholic fate and his many obligations.

It is soon clear, that things will not turn out good. It is one of the most depressing books I have read, but I couldn't really care about the characters. The religious sentiments are shouted out so loud, that it becomes annoying.

3 stars

55Henrik_Madsen
Ago 31, 2017, 2:23pm

150. The Invention of the Curried Sausage by Uwe Timm

The narrator was born at the beginning of the second world war in Hamburg - much like the author. Many years later he sits down with Mrs Brücker, who used to live in his neighborhood and make the best currywursts. Maybe she is even the inventor of the dish and now he wants to know.

She takes us back to the end of the war. In the last few weeks everything was falling apart and despite the risk she decides to hide a young soldier named Bremer and keep him out the unnecessary slaughter of a last stand. Falling in love with him was not planned, however, and to keep him around after the surrender of the city she tells him that the German army has joined forces with the Western allies against the Russians. How long she can keep that up is the question.

I have read a couple of books by Timm and I enjoy his writing which is mostly an attempt to understand and process the horrible Nazi period. I also enjoyed this one, even though the actual discovery of the currywurst was a bit lost in the love story. Then again, the old Mrs Bremer probably thought that was a lot more interesting.

4 stars

56gypsysmom
Ago 31, 2017, 8:36pm

>55 Henrik_Madsen: That sounds like a book I would like to read. Thanks for the review.

57Henrik_Madsen
Set 14, 2017, 5:05pm

>56 gypsysmom: Glad you liked it. 8-)

58Henrik_Madsen
Set 16, 2017, 2:50pm

151. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The novel is a classic within the genre of magical realism - in a sense it founded the genre and ensured an international breakthrough for Latin American litterature. José Arcundo Buendia leaves his home and establishes the village / town of Macondo with twenty other families. He is passionately in love with Ursula, who is also his cousin, and intense eroticism within the family is one of the themes of the book. Another theme is political protest and the ultimate failure of liberal critique and protest.

Marquez can definitely create characters and interesting situations, but in this book it was just too much. Every time I got involved with a theme or a character, another magical element was introduced or characters were unceremoniously thrown aside to introduce new ones.

3 stars

59Henrik_Madsen
Set 26, 2017, 4:58pm

152. The Laws by Connie Palmen

Marie is studying philosophy in Amsterdam where she meets seven men who represent different ideas about the "laws" that govern human life. The chapters are named after each man's characteristic (the astrologist, the epileptic etc.) and that pretty much illustrates the problem with this book: Read as philosophy the book is superficial and read as a novel, none of the characters are interesting or brought to life.

Overall a disappointing read. Of course, I might have just missed the point entirely, but I thought it was boring.

2 stars

60Henrik_Madsen
Out 7, 2017, 4:45am

153. The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

In the last days of WWII the young nurse Hana is taking care of a mysterious English patient in a villa north of Florence. He is burned all over and he has no recollection of what happened to him before he crashed with his plane in the desert and was rescued by beduins. They are both hurting and so are her father's old friend Caravaggio and the young soldier Kip when they join them in the villa. Step by step we learn their background and the story of the mysterious English patient and a dramatic lovestory in Cairo before the war.

I enjoyed the story and the non-heroic description of war, but at times the writing was too winded and the story got a bit lost.

3 stars

61Henrik_Madsen
Editado: Nov 8, 2017, 5:32pm

154. Metamorphoses by Ovid

The book recounts Greek and Roman mythology from the creation of the world to the time of Augustus. It is not a work of history, however, since the bulk of the book is a retelling of stories of the gods, Theban and Homeric myths. As is indicated in the title, focus is on the ever-changing world and the strange changings of gods and men, as they are under the spell of love or in the claws of jealousy and ambition.

The stories are very well translated by Otto Steen Due, who has also written the witty and useful companion to the book. I enjoyed the stories and the poetic writing. Sometimes emotions or situations are captured perfectly, but the huge number of stories and characters makes it a bit hard to identify with them.

3 stars

62Henrik_Madsen
Nov 13, 2017, 3:42pm

155. The Last World by Christoph Ransmayr

Augustus forced Ovid into exile at the Black Sea coast and in this novel his friend Cotta travels there to find him and his apparently lost work The Metamorphoses. Nothing is like he expected, however. Ovid has disappeared and after a short encounter with his waiter Pythagoras, he is back in the small city of Tomi. It is a place outside normal chronology - e.g. a circus arrives and shows movies once a year - where the inhabitants have the same names as characters in Ovid's book and are more or less forced to repeat their fates.

It is a strange but also quite fascinating book. Ransmayr constructs a world that is both strange and familiar as he samples ideas from Ovid and transforms his place of exile into the last resting place of tortured souls.

3½ stars

63Henrik_Madsen
Dez 3, 2017, 5:07pm

156. City of God by E.L. Doctorow

Reading this book took me a long time, and it was not just because work kept interfering. Father Pembroke's faith is already crumbling under the pressure of modern physics and the bloodshed of the 20th century, which doesn't really suggest the existence of any benevolent presence watching over humankind. When a cross is stolen from his church and shows up at the roof of a newly established synagogue he is slowly drawn towards Judaism - even though giving up religion as such would seem much more logic to me.

Of course, that would mean giving up pursuing rabbi Sarah...

The novel is composed of a lot of different voices intersecting with each other in short chapters. Some of them are straight-forward stories, others are philosophical essays, the writer taking a peak into the mind of Wittgenstein and lots of other ideas. Not all of them seem to add much to the story and even though there are truly beautiful and well-written parts, the overall experience was frustrating.

2½ stars

64Henrik_Madsen
Dez 9, 2017, 7:00am

157. Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels

Jakob Beer is just seven years old when his parents are murdered by nazis during the occupation of Poland. He miraculously escapes and is saved by the Greek Archeologist Athos who brings him to Greece where they weather the storm before emigrating to Canada.

Athos is a loving parent but it is not easy dealing with the gruesome memories. Jakob battles depression and his first marriage falls apart under the weight of this burden. Still, he manages to live and he slowly discovers a way to honor the dead and preserve his past by turning it into poetry.

The second part of the book is narrated by Ben. He is younger than Jakob, born after the war in Canada, but his parents are camp survivors and they are traumatized by their experiences. This burden also becomes Ben's to bear, and much like Jakob he has a hard time making his marriage work.

The writing is amazing. Poetic and full of beautiful imagery. It is also a very thought-provoking book about the burden laid upon the survivors who both have to live their lives and preserve the memory of the dead.

4 stars

65Henrik_Madsen
Dez 31, 2017, 6:46am

158. Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad

The young sea officer Jim is involved in two situations which both seem to embody the ideology of the white man's burden and the failings of human nature which undermine the ideals. First he is on board the Putna which is sailing pilgrims in the Red Sea when disaster strikes and the four principal officers abandon the ship and leaves the passengers to their fate. Only the ship doesn't actually sink and Jim - who jumped in spite of his principles - must face serious charges. Afterwards he is set up in a remote Asian country where he swiftly becomes Lord Jim as he brings peace and prosperity - at least initially because he is once again undone by the gulf between his ideals and reality.

Reading Conrad can be at bit annoying. The ideology of imperialism just seems so dominant everywhere that it makes you want to scream - but it was still a good read because Conrad writes so well, especially about the sea, and because the ideology after all is collapsing beneath it's own burden.

3½ stars

66Henrik_Madsen
Jan 19, 2018, 12:28pm

159. The Moon and the Bonfires by Cesare Pavese

The narrator returns to his home in a distant mountain region in Northern Italy after many years in America. He is wealthy now but grew up in extreme poverty. As he sees the old places and the people he knew before, he realises that much has changed. The second world war has come and gone. In the end it developed into a civil war which tore local society was torn apart. Wounds are far from healed and in the spring new bodies are discovered and old fights relived.

But in another sense everything is the same. The hope of social change has been dashed, the poor are still fighting to make a living, and children are still growing up in families without love.

Pavese has written a novel full of melancholy and reflection. There is a bit of plot, but the book is mostly about capturing moods and about showing the discrepancy between the narrator's memories and the present.

3 stars

67Henrik_Madsen
Fev 4, 2018, 8:21am

160. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Jane Austen's first novel is a study in the lives of the upper class of her time. The not-so-rich sisters Elinor and Marianne embodies sense and sensibility, but neither is a sure way to happiness. Social norms keep everyone in check, and though they fall in love with Edward Ferrars and the charming Willoughby in the first part of the novel, they must endure many complications before they can happily settle in marriage. I never really believed Austen's resolution for Marianne.

Austen wrote stunning dialogues and her books are great studies in the psychology of men and women. This was a very good book but I still prefer Pride and Prejudice

4 stars

68Henrik_Madsen
Editado: Mar 10, 2018, 8:47am

161. The Idiot by Fjodor Dostojevskij

Dostojevskijs style is amazing. He effortlessly combines philosophical discussions with intrigue and are-they-all-insane? dialogue. In this book nobleman Leo Mysjkin returns to Russia and soon finds him entangled in a game of love and passion. Leo is naive and tries very hard not to harm anybody, but it turns out to be hard. You cannot get involved with other people without influencing them, so even the innocent become guilty in the dirty game of human interaction.

Dostojevskijs style is unique. His characters winds themselves up, says strange things and generally seems to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. It is fascinating.

4½ stars

69Henrik_Madsen
Mar 14, 2018, 5:53pm

162. Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan

Cécile is just seventeen years old and live with her playboy father and his various lovers. On a beautiful summer holiday in the Mediterranean she discovers desire and their neighbor Cyril, but things quickly detoriate when her father ditches his girlfriend Elsa for the elegant Anne Larsen. She is independent, beautiful and actually cares about Cécile and her future.

Cécile, however, does not want a new mother. She wants to be free, and she uses her newfound understanding of sexuality to manipulate the people around her. If she can tempt her father with Elsa, she might end the relationship she fears. Conspiracies come with a price, however, and as the story ends in tragedy, Cécile realises she has paid a terrible price for growing up.

The open sexuality and manipulations of such a young girl turned the novel into a scandalous success, but it is the wonderful writing of Sagan which makes it worthwhile even now. Cécile is sweet and cruel, thoughtless and cunning, but it is all told in a melancholic voice. Cécile the narrator knows the results of the actions of the character Cécile. Turning adult meant a goodbye to innocence and a hello to consequence. Bonjour tristesse, indeed.

4 stars

70Henrik_Madsen
Mar 29, 2018, 6:49am

163. Underworld by Don DeLillo

The novel is an ambitious attempt to capture the whole of the cold war in one book. The story is stretched between 1951, where a famous baseball match took place as the Soviet Union went through with its second nuclear test, and 1992 where Klara Sachs is working on a huge art installation consisting of more than 200 discarded bomber planes. The main story is told backwards from 1992 but DeLillo intersperses this story with bits about the aftermath of the baseball match and he mixes his own characters with historical figures like J. Edgar Hoover and Lenny Bruce. It is a book full of ambition and sometimes that is a bit too obvious.

Overall I did enjoy the novel and there were some stunning elements like the prologue focusing on the baseball match between the Dodgers and the Giants, which were both New York teams at the time. But some of the main characters never came to life for me and the book just wanted to do too much at times.

3½ stars

71Henrik_Madsen
Abr 9, 2018, 12:06pm

164. Remembering Babylon by David Malouf

The scene is set at the frontier in Queensland i the middle of the 19th century. Gemmy, an Englishman who has lived many years with the Blacks, settles in a village that has just been established and is trying to find its own way. He embodies the border between new and old, "civilized" and "primitive" and forces the community to face itself. Not all that is seen in the mirror is pretty.

Malouf introduces a lot of characters in the village. Their backgrounds make up a collage of the dreams, fears and coincidences which brought people to any frontier town at the time, but they also step forward in their own right. Not all characters are developed, however, and the writing put me a bit off in the first third. The novel is short and in the end I felt that many themes were not developed as much as they could have been.

3 stars

72Henrik_Madsen
Maio 9, 2018, 4:16pm

165. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

The Moonstone is one of the first modern detective novels. After Rachel Verinders birthday her expensive diamond is stolen during the night. It is a complete mystery how it has disappeared, and at first even the great sergeant Cuff has problems understanding what has happened. The story is told by a number of distinct voices, who have each personally seen important aspects of the story. Layer after layer of the brilliant plot is revealed as we get to know the characters and the world they live in.

The story is suspenseful and the writing is wonderful. I enjoyed it from the very first pages, and I enjoyed it throughout.

4½ stars

73Henrik_Madsen
Jul 4, 2018, 12:51pm

166. The Case of Sergeant Grischa by Arnold Zweig

Grischa is a Russian soldier who during WWI escapes from German prison camp and heads home. Unfortunately, he is not clever enough to avoid being captured again and after mistakenly pretending to be another Russian soldier he is sentenced to death as a spy. This is only the starting point for a long battle between different German authorities over his fate. Should the (wrong) sentence be upheld or should he be returned to prison camp and whatever punishment might wait for him there?

The novel is slowpaced and you really get a feeling for Grischa and some of the other main characters. There is room to develop them, but it could probably be done in fewer pages. My main problem with the book is a moral one, however: Is it really realistic that leading German officers would devote so much time and energy debating the fate of one Russian soldier? Considering the horrible killings on both sides and the brutality of the war on the Eastern front, it makes the German army sound more morally sound than it probably was.

3 stars

74Henrik_Madsen
Editado: Jul 28, 2018, 5:11am

167. The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West

Another WWI novel which proves that there is an unlimited amount of angles to handle it from. There are no battle scenes here, as it is seen exclusively from the home front. When Chris returns he suffers from shell-shock. In a desperate act of defense his mind has suppressed all memory of the last 15 years. He has no recollection of his life as a business man or his wife Kitty. Instead he is focused on the memory of Margaret Allington, a young girl he met in a beautiful summer on the Thames.

Meeting Chris is obviously incredibly painful for his family and especially Kitty who is treated as a complete stranger. To help him they agree to let him meet Margaret again, and they watch in horror as it becomes evident, that they reestablish their old connection. In a sense, Chris is happy, but living without his memories, even the horrible ones, is obviously not a solution either.

I really enjoyed the novel, which is an original take on a war, which affected everybody and not just the soldiers at the front. It is also becoming increasingly clear to me, that there is a different feel to literature written during and after an event. Under Fire and The Return of the soldier were written as it happened. I really enjoyed both, but they feel like snapshots whereas books written later like All Quiet on the Western Front and Regeneration have the benefit of hindsight and reflection. Both have their merits, they just feel different.

4 stars

75Henrik_Madsen
Editado: Ago 17, 2018, 8:04am

168. The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O'Connor

This is a dark tale of fanatic religion and the limited freedom of men. Raised by his uncle young Francis Tarwater tries to stand on his own feet and avoid the future as a baptizing prophet predicted before the uncle's death. As he looks up his other uncle Rayber and his son, the innocent but handicapped Bishop, he is torn apart by the struggle between the prophecy and his own wish to escape his fate. This struggle i mirrored in Rayber who wants to believe he has escaped the grip of the prophet.

The book is powerfully written and reads like a Greek tragedy. The characters are hardly sympathetic but you still feel with them as they unsuccesfully struggle with fate and faith, unable to take control of their own lives.

4 stars

76Henrik_Madsen
Ago 23, 2018, 3:41pm

169. Under the Net by Iris Murdoch

Jake Donaghue is a young author roaming around London. He willingly describes himself as "talented but lazy" but there is perhaps more the fact that he is mostly translating French bestsellers. After he his return from London hes is thrown out of the apartment where he has lived for years, and with his friend Fin he begins a quest through London to find a new place to live, a new woman to love and - as it turns out - a new beginning where he finally gets things straight with a few people from his past.

The book is humorous with lots of comical characters and a good deal of slapstick action. I enjoyed reading it, but afterwards it hasn't really left many marks on me. Murdoch can write, though, and I look forward to some of her other books on the list.

3½ stars

77Henrik_Madsen
Ago 25, 2018, 3:27pm

170. An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro

After the second world war Japanese artist Masuji Ono reflects on his life. The war has taken away his son, his wife and his career, since his patriotic propaganda is no longer in demand. He longs for they days when he painted motifs from The Floating World of geishas, but he doesn't really seem to regret the things he has done, and he just doesn't understand the anger of the young generation.

It is hard to tell what Ono really thinks, because he is very unreliable as a narrator but it seems evident that he doesn't really regret the role he has played - even thought results has been terrible for the nation and for him personally.

This was my first Ishiguro. I'm glad it's not my last, because it was a very interesting read told in a very classical manner.

4 stars

78Henrik_Madsen
Set 29, 2018, 1:10pm

171. The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse

This is such a hard book to do justice in a short review. Hesse has made up a whole new world set well after the disasters of the 20th Century. Is a place where a learned republic has finally been established apart from the hustle of normal politics. The best students are brought to elite schools and taught a combination of philosophy, arts and eastern selfcontrol. Most return to the world as teachers but some join the Order and devote their lives to studying.

The most abstract art is the glass bead game, where artistic and scientific insights have been destilled into symbols which can be combined in different ways. It is the old dream of a universal philosophy - but it is also an example of thinking totally separated from the practical world.

Josef Knecht is discovered as a young kid, and we follow his rise within the republic. He reaches the most important position as Magister Ludi - and then decides he wants to do something else.

I enjoyed the thought-provoking writing. It is a slow read and it seems oddly oldfashioned that women are totally absent from the new order, but overall I enjoyed it.

3½ stars

79Henrik_Madsen
Out 28, 2018, 1:36pm

172. The Marble Faun by Nathaniel Hawthorne

I enjoyed this book more than I expected - perhaps because my main image of his writings is an angry (isn't she always?) Demi More in The Scarlet Letter. The novel was written after a lengthy stay in Rome, and parts of it reads like a beautiful travel guide to the eternal city and its many collections of art.

The two Americans Kenyon, a sculptor, and Hilda, a pure New England girl, enjoy themselves with the mysterious Miriam, who is also a gifted painter, and Donatello, a young Italien, whom they tease with his likeness to the ancient Faun by Praxiteles. It turns out, however, that Miriam has a dark past and when a mysterious man shows up to plague her, everything changes. Donatello is madly in love with her, and he tries to save her by killing her tormentor.

This abrupt fall from innocense is the theme of the rest of the novel, which shows that Hawthorne is not an unreflected defender of puritan faith. In fact he shows some interest in Catholic theology and sort of endorses a life which has both good and bad.

Lots of romantic reflections of stuff, but I enjoyed it - even though there are som Plymouth Rock-sized holes in the plot.

3 stars

80Henrik_Madsen
Out 30, 2018, 5:16pm

173. Cigarettes by Harry Mathews

The novel consists of 14 chapters, each centered around a pair. Maybe they are mother and son or father and daughter, but most of the time they are lovers. The characters know each other and together they tell the story of a wealthy group of people in New York from the 1930s to the 1960s. Some of the stories are quite moving, and there are som really interesting characters. Elizabeth is living her life as she pleases and she has sex with the men she wants (and dump them when she has had enough of them). But I was also fascinated by the complex relationship between Owen and his daughter Phoebe whereas the relationship between Lewis and Morris was a bit over the top.

Overall a satisfying read.

4 stars

81Henrik_Madsen
Nov 24, 2018, 3:39pm

2018:1 The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

2018:2 The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner

Reno, a young artist, leaves her home in the Midwest to become a part of the New York art scene in the 1970s. She succeeds and starts dating Sando Valera who is the who is both a successful artist and part of the Italien Valera-family that produces tires and motorcycles. Reno herself is an enthusiastic motorcyclist and the part where she goes to the salt lakes for speed driving is one of the highlights of the book. But I also enjoyed their travel to Italy where his mother meets her with cold contempt and she gets involved with the red brigades in Rome.

I really enjoyed parts of the book, but the New York art scene got a bit long in the tooth.

4 stars

82Henrik_Madsen
Dez 8, 2018, 8:22am

174. A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh

I'm somewhat split about this novel. The satirical portrait of upper class life in Britain between the wars has its strengths, but I just never bought into the characters. Part of the critique was making them superficial, but somehow it made me lose interest in their struggles. The decline of Tony and Brenda Last's marriage, them losing their son i a freak hunting accident and her desire to lead an independent life with a lover just never moved me. I didn't think they were interesting at all, and some of their actions seemed inexplicable. Why did Brenda choose Beaver of all people for an affair? Why did Tony run off to Brazil when things got complicated?

The story is paced and well-written, so reading it was not a bad time. It was just not thrilling either.

3 stars

83Henrik_Madsen
Dez 15, 2018, 11:03am

175. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

Rick Deckard works as a future day bounty hunter. He is not concerned with ordinary criminals but with artificial humans, androids, who have escaped from their designated roles as workers for colonists on the planets. Unfortunately it is increasingly difficult to distinguish the advanced models from humans, even using empathy tests.

The hunt for six androids is a chock for Rick, who has to face tough questions about himself and the world as he falls in love ved an android, and the reader is forced to wonder what humanity really is.

I loved the book which is thrilling, disturbing and makes you think.

4½ stars

84Henrik_Madsen
Jan 1, 2019, 3:20pm

176. The Man who Loved Children by Christina Stead

It took me many pages - like 200 - to relate to the story of the dysfunctional Pollitt-family where mother Henny threatens suicide every ten pages and father Sam suffers from a Peter Pan syndrome. He talks babytalk with his children and even though he claims to love children it is obviously as an object of his own plans, not as individuals in their own rigt. In short, he is one of the most annoying and self-absorbed characters I have ever read about.

That is what makes the story so compelling, however. As Sam is fired from his job the family economy goes from bad to terrible, and as they try to battle through their poverty, the unsound dynamics of the family propels it towards a dramatic and tragic climax.

There is much not to like about the book and its characters. But it turned out compelling and thought-provoking.

4 stars

85Tess_W
Jan 3, 2019, 4:50pm

>79 Henrik_Madsen: Have you read The Scarlet Letter, yet?

86Henrik_Madsen
Jan 4, 2019, 3:28am

>85 Tess_W: No, not yet. But I feel encouraged to do so after reading The Marble Faun. Should I look forward to it?

87Tess_W
Jan 13, 2019, 9:11pm

88JayneCM
Jan 13, 2019, 10:48pm

>86 Henrik_Madsen: I am re-reading The Scarlet Letter at the moment - fabulous!

89Henrik_Madsen
Jan 20, 2019, 6:06am

177. The German Lesson by Siegfried Lenz

Siggi Jepsen is a boy during the nazi regime. He lives with his parents in the small village of Rugbüll on the coast of the North Sea. On the surface, life seems pretty ordinary, but of course it isn't. In 1943 Siggi's father, the local policeman, is asked to enforce a painting prohibition on the local painter, Max Ludwig Nansen. This is a task which the policeman fulfills with great care and considerable joy as his family falls apart around him.

The novel is a wonderful portrait of a local community and a family under stress, but it is also a critique of post-war Germany. In the early 1950s Siggi is sitting in a youth institution where he has to write essays on "the joys of duty" while his father is still enforcing law in Rugbüll as if nothing had happened.

4½ stars

90Tess_W
Editado: Jan 20, 2019, 8:47am

>89 Henrik_Madsen: Going to look for this one!

91gypsysmom
Jan 21, 2019, 2:20pm

>89 Henrik_Madsen: >90 Tess_W: Me too. My library doesn't have it so I'll have to see if it shows up at some book sales.

92Henrik_Madsen
Fev 2, 2019, 12:47pm

178. Operation Shylock by Philip Roth

The narrator, who is also the author Philip Roth, is contacted by people he knows in Israel. They report that another Philip Roth has shown up, claiming to be the real Philip Roth and campaigning for 'Diasporism', an ideology arguing that Jews should abandon Israel and move back to Europe to save themselves from either physical or moral annihilation in a confrontation with the Arabs. Roth travels to Israel where things get ever more complicated as he is confronted with the legacy from the Holocaust (both survivors and the war criminal Ivan Demjanjuk who is on trial), Palestinians he knew from Chicago and who are now bitter enemies of Israel, and - in the shadows - Mossad.

He is forced to ask himself what being Jewish really means and he has to confront the fact that being loyal to Israel is also being loyal to a country who might not always have the moral upper hand.

I really enjoyed the writing and the way Roth constantly questions his own as well as the reader's notions.

4½ stars

93Henrik_Madsen
Fev 17, 2019, 4:54am

179. Ada or Ardor by Vladimir Nabokov

The novel tells the story of Ada and Van Veen, who fall in love when they are very young (12 and 14) and keep loving and desiring each other passionately even though their love is forbidden. Problem is, they are raised as cousins but they are actually brother and sister. This might be the least disturbing aspect of the novel, however, since their family is a highly dysfunctional one, an the novel is filled with dekadent desire, aristocratic arrogance and way too many words.

In the end I wasn't provoked by Van's and Ada's love but by the depravity of practically all men in the novel, since they apparently all desire small girls and are either week or insufferable.

Now, provoking the reader is something, and Nabokov's mastery of prose is impressive once the first couple of confusing chapters are behind you. The novel was just too long. I lost interest in Van and his family long before reaching the end.

2½ stars

94Henrik_Madsen
Mar 2, 2019, 8:26am

180. The House in Paris by Elizabeth Bowen

Henrietta, an eleven-year old girl, is in transit in Paris. She is on her way to her grandma in Southern France but has to spend a day with the Fisher family. There she meets Leopold, who is nine years old, and has come to Paris to finally meet his mother, who has left him in the care of an American family in Italy. The two children are mostly left to themselves and despite the advice of the adults their conversations circle around their complicated families.

The second part tells the story of Leopold's parents who met and fell in love ten years before. Both of them were engaged to other people but a casual meeting, which might not have been all that casual, complicates things. They are irresistibly drawn to each other, but tragedy gets in the way of their happiness.

In the last part we are back in the Fisher house where Leopold learns more about his family and a surprising guest shows up.

I really enjoyed this short novel. There is not a word too many and every character is written with psychological insight and complexity. The love story was beautiful and the interactions between the children interesting.

4½ stars

95Henrik_Madsen
Mar 14, 2019, 6:08pm

181. The Colour by Rose Tremain

Lots of things are going on in this historical novel. Joseph Blackstone emigrates to New Zealand in the 1860s with his wife Harriet and his mother Lilian. They settle on a farm outside Christchurch, but they don't have the capital of the talent to pull it off. As the relationship between Harriet af Joseph grows sour, he decides to follow in the footsteps of other adventurous men to the west coast where gold has been found. He struggles in the mud to fulfil his dream he has to confront his troubled past and Harriet has to find her own way in life.

I enjoy a good historical novel, but I have to believe the illusion of a past that is both recognizable and different. The Colour never managed this. I could never let go of a distinct feeling that the characters were made up by a 21st Century author.

I have no idea why this book is on the list, since it seems like a very run-of-the-mill historical novel. It could be replaced by hundreds of equally deserving novels - og by a really good one like Wolf Hall

2½ stars

96Henrik_Madsen
Maio 1, 2019, 3:03pm

182. At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O'Brien

This is such a hard book to say anything about, really. The narrator is a young man living with his uncle in Dublin, where he drinks stout, writes literature and argues with the uncle about his work ethic. A young man suffering and throwing his life away is hardly original - but it is an original trait that the life style is a cover for a serious young man!

Most of the book is made up of his writings. It is not a novel but a deconstruction of the idea of the novel. Three separate starts come together as made-up characters starts plotting against their author and finally puts him on trial to gain their freedom. It's a bit wacky but it's humorous and well-written and I enjoyed it. I think I would have stopped enjoying it if it had gone on another hundred pages.

3 stars

97Henrik_Madsen
Maio 11, 2019, 6:59am

183. In the Forest by Edna O'Brien

The novel is inspired by a true 1994-crime. Mich O'Kane is released from prison, but he is already deeply marred. His mother died when he was young, and he was abused during internment in some institutions run by the Catholic church. The history of child abuse is well-known now, but was still a touchy subject when the novel was published in 2002. There might be some bad in Mich from the beginning, but his psychopathic traits are brought to the surface by the abuse and he is a ticking bomb, when he is released.

Previously he had seen a cottage in the woods as his base, and when he learns that a young mother with a small child has moved in, he is both aroused and enraged. Eily Ryan is a modern woman living a normal, modern life as a teacher getting back on her feet after leaving the child's father. She knows what will happen, when Mich shows up one morning, and it only adds to the terror of reading the book.

The novel is a sharp comment on a society that collectively and individually lets a young boy down and afterwards fails to protect an innocent woman and her child from his madness. It is also a well-written novel and an interesting portrait of a small town and the anatomy of a crime.

4 stars

98Tess_W
Editado: Maio 13, 2019, 5:04am

>97 Henrik_Madsen: a great review and you are also making great progress on the list!

99Henrik_Madsen
Maio 13, 2019, 10:27am

>98 Tess_W: Thanks. The 1001-project is moving forward, but it's going a bit slow these days - maybe I'll have more time and energy for reading in the fall?

100Henrik_Madsen
Maio 25, 2019, 3:57pm

184. Sentimental Education by Gustave Flaubert

The young Frédéric goes to Paris to study law but much more to fulfill his dreams of romantic conquest. Much like another Flaubert character, madame Bovary, he is crammed with ideas about how life should be, and even though he tries hard his romantic ideas are constantly keeping him from actually doing anything.

Frédéric is attracted to Artoux, an art dealer, and his wife, whom he falls hopelessly in love with. The novel is the story of his pursuit of her and his (failed) education to become a superfical dandy, but it is also a portrait of a city and a society build on deception and resting on shallow ground as revolution is first a possibility and then a reality.

Flaubert writes brilliantly and even though Frédéric is an annoying main character, I really enjoyed this book.

4½ stars

101Henrik_Madsen
Jun 15, 2019, 9:58am

185. Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee

David Lurie is a middle aged literature professor in Capetown that has lost touch with the world around him. His academic career is pretty much over, and after his second divorce he gets sexual satisfaction with a prostitute. He seems content but he really isn't. When he recognizes the woman in the street she breaks off the connection and he discovers he is much more attached to her than he thought. After being turned down he starts a relationship with one of his students even though he knows it is wrong and that he is taking advantage of her. After admitting his guilt but refusing to give an apology he is dismissed and goes to his daughter, who lives in the countryside where she shares a small farm with a black man who is her helper / rival / protector. David doesn't understand their relationship and after a brutal attack it becomes ever more obvious that he has lost touch with society around him.

Disgrace is a brilliant portrait of a man and a society who have drifted apart. He doesn't understand that admitting wrong is not enough and he doesn't understand the new world that is emerging after apartheid. I both liked, loathed, and understood him - and often all three things at the same time.

5 stars

102Henrik_Madsen
Editado: Ago 30, 2019, 3:39pm

xxx - part I. The 42nd Parallel by John Dos Passos

I really understand why the first part of the U.S.A. trilogy is on the list. Passos experiments with small segments - especially the 'latest news' where bits of newsstories are integrated to mosaics of words seems like a novel idea - and the story is rather compelling as well. Five characters embodies the development of the US from the end of the 19th Century to American entrance into world war I. Their quest for better lives takes them through the country but in the end they all converge on New York, the city on the 42nd parallel. The city where immigrants came in - and soldiers sailed east.

The novel was interesting and a fast read.

4 stars

103Henrik_Madsen
Ago 30, 2019, 3:40pm

Whoops - just discovered that it is the whole trilogy and not the The 42nd Parallel that is on the list.

104Henrik_Madsen
Set 4, 2019, 5:03pm

MAD #33 De nøgne træer by Tage Skou-Hansen

The year is 1943 and the young student Holger Mikkelsen is drawn into the resistance against the German occupation. His choice is radically different from his old friend Kjeld, who argues that war as such is terrible and that the world needs spiritual contemplation and poetry instead of more fighting. The book obviously sides with Holger, who is recruited to a group of saboteurs. As they become more efficient, security is tightened and the job gets a lot more dangerous.

Sabotage is just one of Holger's passions. He is also drawn to his group leader's wife Gerda, and this forbidden passion is somehow also made possible by the suspension of peacetime norms.

The novel is a Danish classic and deservedly so. Holger embodies the dilemmas of occupation but also the need to act.

4 stars

105Henrik_Madsen
Set 14, 2019, 5:21am

186. Fictions by Jorge Luís Borges

Fictions is a book unlike most other books I have read. (It did make me think of Italo Calvino, but otherwise it is rather unique.) It is a collection of short stories which Borges himself describes as resumés of larger, unwritten books. The first half is made up of mostly philosophical reflections. There is the story of the invention of the lottery in Babylon which becomes a metaphor for the role of chance in human life and the library which holds all the books which can theoretically be constructed with the available letters. The stories in the second half are more character-driven but still very symbolic.

Many novels have an intersected story which symbolically plays out the theme of the larger book. This felt like a collection of such intersected stories and even though I appreciate Borges' cleverness I prefer reading the whole stories instead.

3 stars

106Henrik_Madsen
Set 26, 2019, 4:43pm

187. Great Apes by Will Self

The well-known MAADD (Middle-Aged Artist Doing Drugs) Simon Dykes wakes up after a night out. He is horrified, because his girlfriend has turned into a chimpanzee, he has turned into a chimpanzee, and alle the world around him has turned chimp. It is a world where the famous psychiatrist Zack Bushner tries to cure him of the illusion that he is human, and as the book progresses Simon slowly finds his inner ape.

Self has thought up a whole world formed by chimpanzees. They live in groups, use violence to establish hierarchies and have sex with everyone around them. But they also drive Volvos, work in hospitals and goes to the opera even though chimpanzees mostly use signs.

The book is too long. The inconsistencies in the chimp society becomes obvious, the relentless talk about mating, praising asses and doing things which are mostly there to provoke becomes boring because the book is at least twice as long it should be. I also thought the ending was unsatisfactory.


2½ stars

107Henrik_Madsen
Out 22, 2019, 4:57pm

xxx Part II Nineteen Nineteen by John Dos Passos

This is pretty much a direct continuation of The 42nd Parallel There are new characters and the novel focuses on the years of war and peace negotiations but the style is the same. Five characters and some special segments are used to paint an interesting picture of America as the country became modern, industrialized and a world power. It was also a time of radical politics and fierce battles between workers and authorities.

Passos writes with passion and ambition, and overall I did enjoy this second book in the trilogy, even if some parts are more engaging than others. There just happens so much to the main characters that it is hard to keep track.

4 stars

108Henrik_Madsen
Nov 23, 2019, 12:16pm

188. The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg

This is one of the gems you read 1001-books for. Without it I had probably never found Hogg's gothic novel from 1824, which was also largely forgotten in Scotland until rediscovered by Jean Genet a hundred years later.

It is a warning against (religious) fanatics, because the sinner in the title almost until the end believes his vicious acts are justified because he is pre-destined for heaven. But it is most of all a gripping and well-told horror story where things go from bad to worse as strange things happen and people die. Hogg masterfully combines humor with literary references and a solid dose of blood and decaying bodies.

4½ stars

109Henrik_Madsen
Dez 28, 2019, 11:02am

189. Mr Vertigo by Paul Auster

Walter Rawley is a small kid growing up in Saint Louis in the 1920s. One day he is discovered by Master Yehudi, a mystic man who claims he can teach Walt how to fly. Walt doesn't have much to lose so he accepts and becomes part of Yehudi's family of friendly outcasts. Ma Sue is Indian and Aesop is a black boy, just a few years older than Walt, whom Yehudi is preparing for university.

It is quite a tale and the fact that Walt actually finds himself levitating one day is hardly surprising. He and Yehudi starts preparing his great act, but when everything is set for succes, tragedy strikes.

I really enjoyed the story about growing up and learning to love the family you can get. The last parts about what happened after the story was less interesting but not bad.

4 stars

110Henrik_Madsen
Fev 8, 2020, 10:30am

190. The Daughter by Pavlos Matesis

In most European countries literature on the second world war has moved on from the celebration of the heroes of the resistance to much more complex tales about an extreme period where moral boundaries were blurred and people had to make desperate choices.

Raraú is a young girl at the beginning of the war and a young women at liberation. Her father died fighting in Albania, and her mother has to take an Italian lover to feed the children. After liberation she is publicly humiliated and the family flees to Athens, but they are all marked by hunger, witnessing violence and facing the traumatizing revenge by their neighbors.

The narrator tells her story in a naive style, and she is probably not to be relied upon. Her memories of the time af the war seems especially strange and untrustworthy, and the best part of the book is about growing up, starving, fighting and surviving in the shadow of war. I think Matesis did that part pretty well.

4 stars

111Henrik_Madsen
Fev 11, 2020, 2:34am

191. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Are all books about the second world war? Right now it feels like it, but Slaughterhouse-Five still feels completely new and different from anything else I read about the war. The author experienced the devastating attack on Dresden in early 1945 but to relay that happening he has to tell an incredible story. The main character, Billy Pilgrim, is a laughable soldier. He isn't even a real soldier but the helper of a priest when he is captured in the Ardennes. Along with other prisoners he is transported east to work in the German industry, and he is mocked by friend and foe alike. In Dresden he witnesses the attack and the smoldering ruins of the city.

But he is much more than that. He is also a time-traveller, moving in and out of different periods of his life in random fashion, he becomes a succesful businessman after going back to America, and he is abducted by aliens and put on display in a zoo on some far-off planet. This sounds pretty crazy, but the story isn't hard to read, and despite the strange premises it all makes sense. In a backward way, Vonnegut really do manage to tell about the horrors of war.

4½ stars

112Henrik_Madsen
Abr 25, 2020, 11:22am

MAD #34 Gilgamesh

Gilgamesh was composed as a complete work about 1100 years b.c. but it still seems fresh and readable in this new Danish translation. Gilgamesh may be larger than life and 2/3 god, but he is also very human. Always restless, always emotional and always looking for glory, he is rampaging around the city of Uruk, until the Gods create the wildman Enkidu to be his friend and (almost) equal. They go on many an adventure until Enkidu dies and Gilgamesh is left to mourn him much like Achilleus mourns Patrokles in the Iliad.

This story is very old, but even Gilgamesh exists in a world that is already ancient. The city of Uruk is large and established, and on his quests he learns that his world only exists because the gods destroyed another world with a flood eons ago.

I really enjoyed this book, which was both dynamic and quite easy to read even though I didn't know any of the myths or gods it refers to.

4½ stars

113Tess_W
Abr 25, 2020, 3:40pm

>112 Henrik_Madsen: I love Gilgamesh. I have my students in Western Civ I read it as part of their classwork.

114Henrik_Madsen
Out 25, 2020, 10:45am

192. Professor Unrat by Heinrich Mann

Professor Raat has been a school teacher for a lifetime. He is an authoritarian, and his main aim seems to be to instill obedience in his pupils and punish them when he doesn't succeed. One day he meets Rosa Frühling, an attractive cabaret singer, and he cannot let her go. He becomes obsessed with her and soon it is the end of his career. It is not the end of the novel's criticism of German society, however, as they end up hosting parties where the local bourgeoisie can gamble and drink.

Heinrich Mann doesn't write the exquisite prose of his brother, but his satire has teeth and this study of authoritarian personalities is sadly relevant today.

4 stars

115Henrik_Madsen
Jan 5, 3:31pm

193. Ben Hur by Lewis Wallace

This is partly a retelling of the story of Christ - mostly his worship by the three wise men and his eventual entry to Jerusalem and crucifixion - partly the dramatic story of the young Jew Judah Ben Hur. Hur is an ancient Jewish family, and the young man Judah is heir to a large fortune. He is wrongfully acused of murder and send to the galleys as a slave. Luckily the ship sinks - luckily because Ben Hur can save the captain and begin af new life as a free man. Eventually he gets a chance to get even with his old rival Massalla and return to Jerusalem.

I liked the parts about Ben Hur. There are a lot of chlichés and flat characters but it is well-written and just plain entertaining. I was less happy about the retelling of the life of Jesus and the religious motives which were just to missionary for me.

3 stars

116Henrik_Madsen
Fev 7, 9:05am

194. Ivanhoe by Walter Scott

The story is set in the reign of Richard 1. Lionheart. Templars and knights return from the crusades to an England beset by confrontations between Normans and Saxons, and where prince John tries to get his hands on the throne. A young knight defies him at the tournament in Ashby, where he is wounded and treated by the young Jewess Rebecca. Soon, they will need help from outlaws lead by Robin Hood and even from Richard, who is anonymously activating his followers.

I did enjoy the novel which is quite well written with an interesting plot. There are a bit more descriptive details than you would wish, but it is the continuous antisemitic sentiments which really makes part of the reading frustrating.

3½ stars

117Henrik_Madsen
Editado: Fev 28, 12:01pm

195. Fuglene by Tarjei Vesaas

Mattis is a mentally disabled person living with his sister in a small Norwegian village. Her destiny seems tied to her brother, who cannot work or support himself, and it fills her with despair. Mattis is a thoughtful person, his mind just wanders in other directions than the "smart" people, and often he is sad and frustrated because others don't see the meaning or the greatness in the things he experiences, like birds flying over their house.

One day a woodsman shows up and moves in with the sieblings. The fragile equilibrium between them is shattered. The sister, Hege, is thrilled with the new prospects but Mattis don't know what is to become of him. Things don't end well...

In enjoyed the book quite a bit. It is not easy to tell a story from the point of view of a mentally disabled person, but I think Vesaas makes it work here.

4 stars

118Henrik_Madsen
Fev 28, 12:02pm

196. Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernières

Lovestory set in Greece during the Second World War. The Italian officer Corelli is placed with doctor Jannis and his beautiful young daughter Pelagia as the occupation forces settle in. Despite being enemies they fall in love, play mandolin and enjoy life with singing and motorcycle tours. After the overthrow of Mussolini the Germans take over military operations and tragedy follows.

I enjoyed the portrait of Corelli and the family, and there were interesting parts about the disastrous Italian war effort as well as the complex Greek society where the story took place. But there were also parts that I found annoying. Was it really necessary to make ALL Italiens passionate opera fans and ALL Germans coldblooded killers? And even though there are plenty of good reasons to throw the communist rebels under the bus, the Italians just get off too easy. Being bad at fascism is an excuse that can only get you so far.

Those are gripes about the interpretation of history, but the novel also annoyed me. The last third is a "what happened to everybody later" part where the Civil War and earthquake in 1953 are rushed through. It really made a pretty good story a lot worse. It's not a bad book, but I don't see why it has to be on this list either.

P.S. How in the world was Nicholas Cage casted for the role of Corelli in the movie? Ridiculous.

3 stars

119Henrik_Madsen
Mar 12, 11:22am

197. The Book of Evidence by John Banville

Freddie Montgomory is on trial, and the novel is his confession. Well, actually it is not a confession. There is no doubt, that he is guilty, and he gladly says so, but to confess you have to understand that you havde done something wrong and he really can't do that. He is so caught up in narcissistic self-pity that he really only feels sorry for himself.

The novel is unpleasant and claustrophobic. Banville succeeds in making you believe in the narrator, but the mind you get to experience feels much more like a prison than the building Freddie is put in. Well done, but not enjoyable.

3 stars

120Henrik_Madsen
Mar 20, 5:52am

198. Persuasion by Jane Austen

This is my fourth novel by Austen and it was one of the best.

Anne Elliott once turned Captain Wentworth down because she (and her friend lady Russell) thought she could do better. Well, eight years later she is still single and when the family have to cut back expenses, the captain suddenly reappears in her life. Meeting him is awkward but it also brings fuel to a fire that has never been extinguished.

I thought the first half of the book was really good, but the second half was brilliant. I loved that Austen really upped the ante in this novel. Her critique of the hypocracy of the upper class is even more direct than usual and I especially enjoyed that Anne didn't just wait for Wentworth to show his hand. She took action herself action to secure the life and the man she wanted.

5 stars

121Trifolia
Mar 21, 1:17pm

>120 Henrik_Madsen: - It has been a long time since I read this one, (pre-LT) but I can remember I liked every book I read by Jane Austen. Sometimes I think it's a pity that as people of the 21st century we no longer fully understand the small references to life at the time, but Jane Austen's books are always worth reading.

>117 Henrik_Madsen: - Oh, that reminds me I should finish this book. I started it a few months ago (and liked it) but did not get to finish it.

Btw, I enjoy following your reading experiences. You are far more dedicated than I am at tackling Mount 1001 and at reviewing them thoroughly. I like to read your titles and reviews in Danish. (I've dabbled in Danish with Duolingo for a while and I can almost understand your reviews without Google Translate if I read very slowly. And it helps if I read the book itself). They are very thoughtful and engaging.

122Henrik_Madsen
Mar 23, 4:47pm

>121 Trifolia: Thanks - I'm really glad that you enjoy my reviews in Danish. I doublepost them here and on my blog, and it's nice that there are also readers for them here. Not many read Danish (besides the Danes of course) so I think it's very cool that you do.

(Whenever I see Flemish or Dutch I always think it looks really familiar so I think I SHOULD be able to understand it, but thinking so and doing so is two very differnet things.)

Re: Austen. Obviously there is a lot of social code which has changed since the early 1800s, but I'm always surprised how modern and fresh her writing is.

123Henrik_Madsen
Mar 28, 2:03pm

199. Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow

Ragtime is placed in New York in the first decade of the twentieth century. The story is partly centered around a familiy, where the members are just called Father and Mother etc., partly tells the story of some very prominent persons of the time such as the banker Piers Morgan, the anarchist Emma Goldmann and the magician Harry Houdini. Sometimes the family and the famous people meet, sometimes we meet them separately.

The result is a comprehensive portrait of the USA as the first phases of modernity unfolded with mass production, mass media, nationalism and inequality. Most shocking is the story about Coalhouse Walker, a black man who is treated unfairly even though he just insists on his own worth and treats white people as equals.

I liked this book much more than City of God which was a group read a couple of years ago.

4 stars

124Henrik_Madsen
Mar 31, 5:25pm

200. Sylvia Plath: The Bell Jar

Esther Greenwood is 19, intelligent and suffocating in the rigid society of 1950s America. She works so hard to become a good student and dreams of becoming an author but all that's expected of her is to become a wife - or a secretary and then a wife.

Esther can't have it. She is doing an internship in the New York fashion industry, when things start falling apart and she is back home with her mother when everything unravels and she is admitted to a psychiatric hospital.

The writing is great. I absolutely felt like I moved into Esther's mind and I really felt her despair and her anger.

4½ stars

125puckers
Mar 31, 6:06pm

Congratulations on reaching 200 books! I always enjoy reading your reviews.

126paruline
Abr 1, 10:56am

Congratulations! You're making great progress!

127Henrik_Madsen
Abr 2, 1:47pm

Thanks. I have had a couple of slow years, so it’s taken some time to get here.

128Trifolia
Abr 4, 12:07pm

Congratulations for reaching 200. It seems there's still hope for me, further down the hill.
Do you use one version of 1001 or the combined version? And is there a Danish version?

>122 Henrik_Madsen: - Flemish (and Dutch) does look very familiar and it's obvious that a lot of words have the same root, but some words are strangely different. One of the first different words I learned was edderkoppen which I though was sweet. It's also fun to follow Danish series, but you all talk so fast :-) And I really haven't figured out how to pronounce the "d" in Danish.

129Henrik_Madsen
Abr 4, 12:47pm

>128 Trifolia: Thanks - I think you are making good progress yourself. I read from the combined list using the spreadsheet. There is a Danish version as well with some extra books (mostly Danish books, of course) which I report as MAD.

And, yes. The Danish d is tough for pretty much all foreigners.

130Trifolia
Abr 4, 1:20pm

>129 Henrik_Madsen: - Ah, I took a look at the MAD-list and there are some interesting books there! I read Niels Lyhne a while ago, which I liked very much (but it's not included in my 1001-list unfortunately so it did not count). Apparently (and fortunately) Danish literature is not all scandi-crime.

131Henrik_Madsen
Maio 9, 4:12pm

201. A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka

Nadja is feuding with her sister Vera, but they have to join forces when their father decides to marry Valentina, who has come to England in search of a better life. Valentina is a rather nasty character, but their father is still enchanted by her, mostly because he is still grieving and plain lonely. As the story unfolds, we learn about the dramatic backstory as the family lived in Ukraine during the famine of the 1930s and later the nazi occupation.

There is much to tell and I don't think the author really succeeds. She wants to do too much at the same time, and some of the characters - Valentina especially - are more charicature than human.

Some of the newer books on the list are ok reads, but it's hard to see, why they are on the list. This is one of them.

3 stars

132Henrik_Madsen
Maio 10, 4:23pm

202. Heartbreak Tango by Manuel Puig

When Juan Carlos Echeparte dies from tubeculosis, old secrets and desires resurface again. He was a handsome man, and many women were attracted to him. His story - which frankly feels just as uninteresting as he seems selfabsorbed - is told through letters, fragments from newspapers, police reports etc. The result is an intervowen portrait of the little town and the circle of friends.

The book is well done and the use of fragments is interesting, but in the end I didn't care much about he characters. Only Nene's fate was interesting and the ending was thoughtful and moving.

3 stars

133Henrik_Madsen
Maio 30, 3:56pm

203. Women in Love by D.H. Lawrence

The Brangwen sisters Ursula and Gudrun fall in love with Rupert Birkin and Gerald Crich. The women are young and independent - a teacher and an artist - and they don't really see marriage as something inevitable. They are, however, attracted to the two men who are friends and occasionally rivals. Birkin is a nihilist who likes to lecture about the meaninglessness of life and Gerald is head of a mining company looking for firm ground to stand on.

Lawrence is no romantic. The relationship between the couples are filled with mixed emotions, and they couples are alternately love and despise each other. It is not at all clear that they will all get out of it without scars.

It is a long novel (my edition was 540 pages) and at times Birkin acting as mouthpiece for the author's views is just too much, but overall I enjoyed it.

4 stars

134Henrik_Madsen
Maio 30, 4:55pm

204. Hideous Kinky by Esther Freud

The narrator is just five years old when her mother takes her and her two years older sister Bea to Morocco. Mum is desperate to get away from her family and an English society where she cannot breathe. She wants spirituality and to give her children a different life and upbringing than her own. They settle in Marrakech where the girls make friends with the children on the street and look for replacement fathers. Bilal, a young local man, seems to be the best bet, but how he and their mother can have a life together is unclear.

Mum is fascinated by the Sufi tradition and decides to look out a monastary, where she can study it. The girls have no interest in it, and the whole moving to Morocco thing is obviously Mum's idea and not theirs. Still, it is not just a novel about neglected children, because she loves her daughters and want to give them a good life even though she sacrifices them too much searching for her own happiness.

I never believed that the story was told by af five-year old girl, but maybe by a grown woman thinking back on life as it looked when she was that age. In the end I liked it quite a lot. A little, unusual story about quite common dilemmas of family life.

4 stars