This week in the Great Books List
Fathers and Sons. Ivan Turgenev. 1862
Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev, novelist and playwright, was one of the most important writers in 19th Century Russia, a notable achievement given the prominence of his rivals Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. His novel Fathers and Sons is considered one of the foremost novels of the century and remains a standard in Russian Lit courses. Read more here.
Book of the week
When Kenzaburo Oe won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1994, he made a startling claim: Henceforth, he would abandon the autobiographical style that had previously characterized his work. The fruit of that declaration, a sprawling novel about religious sects and nuclear catastrophe called "Somersault," was published in English translation in 2003 to widespread criticism. Although Oe had lost none of his ambition to explore Japan's complex quest for a postwar identity, the characters were hollow, the plot was middling and the few rewards were lost among the muddle of the book.
Oe's next novel, "The Changeling," has just come out in English, and it offers evidence that the Japanese master has regained his footing. The first volume of a trilogy, it finds Oe maintaining the stripped-down, third-person prose he adopted in "Somersault" while returning to the autobiographical sources that have, for decades, served him well.
Read Scott Esposito's LA Times review here.
Articles of note
As another Alice in Wonderland film hits the theatres Lewis Carroll is garnering new attention. This week sees the release of Jenny Woolf's The Mystery of Lewis Carroll. According to Seth Lerer in this month's Slate review..."Toward the end of his life, in 1896, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (also known as Lewis Carroll) published a survey of his professional work as an Oxford mathematician. Symbolic Logic set out to clarify the confusion he saw at work among the academic logicians of his day. Logic emerges, in this volume, as something of a game: rule-governed, yet arbitrary. It is not the dry purview of the pedant, but the imaginative landscape of a creative mind. Indeed, the book concludes, logicians often think of things like the cupola of a proposition "almost as if it were a living, conscious entity, capable of declaring for itself what it chose to mean." But Dodgson warns that we should not simply "submit" to the "sovereign will and pleasure" of these terms. Instead, "any writer of a book is fully authorized in attaching any meaning he likes to any word of phrase he intends to use."
Read the review here.