Book reviews Critiques littéraires Books recently published in english and french.

samedi 24 octobre 2009

Notice sur Haruki Murakami

Cet auteur japonais contemporain,lu et traduit dans le monde entier et qui aurait dû être Nobelisé depuis longtemps, connait un succès incroyable en Asie et en Occident .Il est toujours traduit assez tard en français et ses deux romans les plus politisés, « Underground », 2001 et «  1Q84 « ( parodie de » 1984 »de George Orwell), 2009 , e sont pas encore traduits ; tous deux sont inspirés par 2 évènements catastrophiques dans la vie nipponne : le tremblement de terre de Kobe et l'attentat au gaz sarin dans le métro de Tokyo qui eûrent lieu tous les deux en 1995 .

Kobe est la ville natale de Murakami et depuis cette date, ses romans sont empreints d'une conscience politique et existentielle de la vie urbaine de notre époque : face à la violence moderne et à ce » totalitarisme doux »et insidieux existant dans les démocracies comme dans d'autres régimes , on voit des consciences déstabilisées , vivant dans un malaise indéfini attendant quelque chose ( de salvateur évidemment ) qui ne survient jamais .. D'où son succès incroyable chez la jeunesse éduquée partout dans le monde et spécialement en Asie càd Chine, Corée de sud ,Viet Name, Singapour , pays bénéficiant de traductions immédiates à la publication japonaise originale .Cet auteur difficile, réussit l'exploit de dépasser Harry Potter, en millions d'exemplaires publiés car çà l »evidence, il incarne uns exigence moderne de trouver un sens à un monde globalisé dépourvu de valeurs traditionnelles et ouvert à tous les fondamentalismes, monde sans défense ,sans parler des dérives incroyables et dangereuses d'Internet .

Son livre «  Balade de l'Impossible «, le Seuil, 1992 , l'a fait connaitre en France et les pays francophones ( in english «Norwegian Wood « ).

mercredi 21 octobre 2009

Haruki Murakami, Sputnik sweetheart,1999

This is not the latest book of Murakami, but one I have just re- read after viewing all these gorgeous Chinese ink paintings at the Brussels exhibitions " Europalia China" ; so I wonder if these crazy characters in these metaphysical novels, are seeking only beauty in their constant searching , or is the quest for literature, as the only important thing in life, the answer.. . Because literature allows one , just like dreams , to touch to the other side ; the other side of everyday life or the material life. ( it is a matter of" crossing the mirror" as the proverbial Alice ) . Obviously, such notions are elusive , this metaphysical angst being the leitmotiv of all Murakami's novels, yet they are without pretention, simple and clear to read since they are sunk in the most everyday life imaginable, and naturally they are obscure to the rational mind , even open to poetical visions… Is this not frightening and leading to inanity , to predictable boredom , o r bad existentialism . Curiously ,not at all.

Here we have 3 lonely characters: The first one is K. the writer-narrator, then Sumire, a crazy sort of hippy , childlike waif, who writes all the time, convinced of the rightness of her quest, and lastly an older woman , Miu, a sophisticated business woman, who hires Samire . All three are like satellites orbiting around, lost in a void , loosely connected : K. falls in love with Sumire who feels no desire for him but falls in love herself with the married and frigid Miu. Love or sexual desire is not working,, no one knows what they are after except a form of solidarity . Both women have had dreams or visions which point to the famous other side of life, the disappearing reality . How can one get out of one's consciousness and have one's personality split in two if this is the only way to reach the true life ?

All three share this obsession but these vain dreams are suddenly shattered : Sumire disappears one night on a Greek island while vacationing with Miu : no one can find her . Is she dead, no one knows, but one day months after, K. receives a phone call in Tokyo : Samire's voice is on the line . We do not know whether she comes back or not. Murakami always leaves loose ends and life continues inexorably ,a long voyage toward an evanescent meaning, not unlike the spiritual solitude of these Chinese scrolls displaying monumental mountains in empty skies, with one single flying bird.


mardi 13 octobre 2009

Philip Roth, Exit Ghost, 2007

Roth in one of his latest autobiographical novels ( the next Zuckerman volume ," Humbling " , his 30th book, is already out) reaches a poignancy and a sense of failure rarely attained in his work.Here our hero has to deal with the horrors of old age in the modern male, i.e. the American Jewish male who survived prostate cancer surgery. Possibly the creative artist suffers more than the average man since he needs recognition in order to survive . We can recognize immediately some famous Rothian themes, namely shame and humiliation , in the decline and disintegration of the body. This decline is spelled out frankly , both incontinence and impotence happen, in one stroke at the age of 60 , irremediably. Some escape this consequences , but to Zuckerman it is instant old age for a man used to strength, sexual capacity and perfect use of his body functions, not to mention the delight of female intimacy . Zuckerman becomes a ghost and an exile who flees his old urban life and goes away to write all alone in an isolated western Mass cabin, but he is at peace. We read a meditation on death in " Everyman" by Roth, one of his great books , but not the becoming of the ghost of oneself. This is it.

Sexual potency and the erotic life having always been capital to the author of "Portnoy's complaint" of yore, are now withdrawn and acknowledged fully,as an humiliation of the first order , which is a difficult confession with the inevitable pathetic details of wetting oneself, of wearing diapers ,of having to clean oneself as an infant etc…No vulgarity or self pity here; it is simply abominable and one has to accept it . Physical losses are rarely or never confessed by women writers that I know of, which brings to the point the novelistic need to describe faithfully old age and its travails as Rembrandt did for ex . in his auto portraits .Old age is an extraordinary rich theme for novelists apart from the famous wisdom of old Nestor in the "Iliad", and sexual humiliation or shame is less felt by older women who have notably the pleasure of grand motherhood to sustain them and are less affected by sexual desertion, it seems.

The second remarkable thing of this harrowing novel is the plot and its New York city flavor ; Zuckerman having gone to the city to see an urologist , and having a vague hope of recovery, loses his peace of mind because of a series of irresistible impulses . Impulses , or bad Instincts are lethal , serve only the young and should be resisted absolutely, Roth insists on this point .
He falls crazily in love with a young female writer, a rich Texan Wasp , beautiful and vain: first disaster . Then he quarrels ridiculously with a young male rival, a literary fraud: second disaster .Finally he finds an old flame who is disfigured by brain cancer and also loses her memory plus her dead husband's manuscript : third disaster. All these are followed by a flight back to the mountain cabin or the life of a Zen monk which he should have never left , as big cities with their fury,are an impossible challenge for the old. But It is not enough suffering and humiliation , as he finds now that he is affected by memory losses and is quite certain that his intellect will fail him also.
What a book to write but what a book to read .We can now look forward to reading the last of the Zuckerman series, already announced : "Nemesis." We can hardly wait.


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Brussels, Belgium
Née à Bruxelles, mère résistante et sculpteur, père homme d’affaires, études à l ’Université libre de Bruxelles ( Philosophie et Lettres ; arts primitifs), puis à Harvard ( anthropologie), Rutgers New Brunswick, Duke University .N.C. USA ( littérature comparée, Masters et Doctorat.) Thèse publiée (Ph.D) sur Valéry et Mallarmé. Enseignement universitaire aux USA, en France (Aix en Provence) et au Liban (comme coopérant) ,littérature et philosophie , en français ou anglais. Mariée en premières noces à un avocat américain G.Robert Wills et puis à un peintre et publiciste Français, Jean- Pierre Rhein (décédé). La plupart des publications sous le nom de Wills.Vit à Bruxelles.