Well, this was a productive quarter of reading. I completed two novels, Herta Müller’s The Hunger Angel and the second volume of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, titled “Marius. I’m treating each volume of Les Misérables as a novel onto itself since the tome is incredibly long. I’ve read one full length non-fiction book, Vision of Fatima by Fr. Thomas McGlynn, O.P. I’ve read six short stories and two books from the Old Testament.
Müller’s The Hunger Angel I would say falls into the genre of concentration camp literature, which may come in either non-fiction or fiction. This is a work of fiction, though based on the true life of Müller’s friend Oskar Pastior. I didn’t post on this novel, so let me describe the work in a little more detail than I normally would do in a quarterly wrap up. The prisoners of the concentration camp here are ethnic Germans from Romania, taken and deported to the Soviet Union after the end of the Second World War. Seventeen year old Leo Auberg is the central character, and we follow him for the five years of his internment, and then subsequent to his release in a summary rendering of his life. The concentration camp section, the core of the work, has all the elements of the genre, examples of man’s inhumanity to man, the struggle to survive, and the relationships between prisoners and between prisoners and authority. What’s special about The Hunger Angel is Müller’s prose, which rises to poetry. Her ability to contrive an image and metaphor is exceptional. The title refers to how Leo envisions his pervasive hunger that looms over his life in the camp. The malevolent hunger angel defines his life and actions. I have to say that Philip Boehm’s translation is outstanding. I can’t speak to the original German, but the poeticism comes through in English. One thing I did not understand how it fit into the novel was Leo’s infatuation with perverse sexual experiences. They began before the imprisonment—perhaps the reason for being sent to the camp—disappeared while in the camp, perhaps because the struggle to survive so dominated his life, and then returned after being released. Is there a message there about human nature? I’m not really sure. This is a bleak and disturbing novel, but wonderfully written. Herta Müller won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2009, the same year this novel was published.
Volume III of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables follows the life of Marius, who falls in love with Cossette and comes into contact with her father, Jean Valjean. Volume III also brings back the wicked Thénardier couple, only this time their evil has been elevated into that of criminal enterprise. Most people know the story. The novel is brilliant.
The other full length book I read was a non-fiction work, Vision of Fatima, by Fr. Thomas McGlynn O.P. on the creation of the statue representing our Blessed Mother as Our Lady of Fatima. The statue was based on the witness to the apparition of one of the children at the appearance, Lúcia dos Santos, and the work is a near collaboration between McGlynn the sculptor and Lúcia the visionary. I posted several times on this book, and you can find the posts here, including pictures of the statue I was personally able to take.
I completed my planned 2017 reads in the Old Testament with the books of Wisdom and Sirach. The simple listing of aphoristic sentences in sentences without context gets a little boring after a while. But there were gems every so often, and those gems were precious.
Finally I read six short stories over these three months, and I mixed between classics, well known writers, and new writers. Malamud’s “The Magic Barrel,” Hemingway’s “A Clean Well-Lighted Place,” and Conrad’s “The Secret Sharer” are three well-known classic short stories. “God’s World,” by Najib Mahfuz and “Vitamins,” by Raymond Carver are stories by well-known authors, but neither of these may be categorized as classics. “Bobcat” is a short story by a relatively newly published writer, Rebecca Lee. The three stories I identified as classics deserve the label and are clearly superior to the other three.
What are my plans for this next quarter? I had started E. M. Forster’s novel A Room with a View and D. H. Lawrence’s short novel The Virgin and the Gypsy before Lent but had to put them down for other priorities. I’ve picked up Forster’s novel again and should finish it shortly. I’ll pick up Lawrence’s short novel right after. I’ve picked up my annual book on the life of a saint, this year being Hildegard of Bingen. I’m reading an anthology of her Selected Writings. I’m still reading the Julius Caesar bio and the poetry of the World War One poets. My next phase of biblical readings will be Paul’s letters, of which I want to complete by the end of the year. I’ll read more short stories, both classics and contemporary and I’ll be reading whatever will be selected as the next read for my Goodreads book club on Catholic books. And of course I’ll be sneaking in more short stories.
If there is anything I’ve listed as read that anyone wants me to create a post on, please let me know. I’ll see what I can do.
Hope you, my dear readers, are reading good works as well.
Completed Second Quarter:
“The Magic Barrel,” a short story by Bernard Malamud.
The Book of Wisdom, a book of the Old Testament, Ignatius Translation.
“The Secret Sharer,” a short story by Joseph Conrad.
The Hunger Angel, a novel by Herta Müller.
The Book of Sirach, a book of the Old Testament, Ignatius Translation.
Vision of Fatima, a non-fiction book on his sculptures of Our Lady of Fatima by Fr. Thomas McGlynn.
“God’s World,” a short story by Najib Mahfuz.
“Vitamins,” a short story by Raymond Carver.
“Bobcat,” a short story by Rebecca Lee.
Vol 3 of Les Misérables, “Marius,” a novel by Victor Hugo.
“A Clean, Well-Lighted Place,” a short story by Ernest Hemingway.
Completed First Quarter:
The Book of Ecclesiastes, a book of the Old Testament, KJV Translation.
The Book of Song of Songs, a book of the Old Testament, KJV Translation.
The Iman’s Daughter: My Desperate Flight to Freedom, a confessional memoir by Hannah Shah.
The Future Church: How Ten Trends are Revolutionizing the Catholic Church, a non-fiction book by John L. Allen Jr.
The Book of Proverbs, a book of the Old Testament, KJV Translation.
Compassionate Blood: Catherine of Siena on the Passion, a non-fiction devotional by Romanus Cessario, O.P.
What Jesus Saw from the Cross, a non-fiction devotional by Antonin Gilbert Sertillanges, O.P.
The Wife of Pilate, a short novel by Gertrude von Le Fort.
Julius Caesar: Life of a Colossus, a biography by Adrian Goldsworthy.
Some Desperate Glory: The First World War the Poets Knew, a book of history and collected poetry by Max Egremont.
The Virgin and the Gipsy, a short novel by D. H. Lawrence.
A Room with a View, a novel by E. M. Forster.
Hildegard of Bingen: Selected Writings, a collection translated and edited by Mark Atherton.
“Gods,” a short story by Vladimir Nabokov.
“The Light of the World,” a short story by Ernest Hemingway.
Letter to the Galatians, an epistle from the New Testament by St. Paul, KJV and Ignatius RSV translations.
Letter to the Ephesians, an epistle from the New Testament by St. Paul, KJV and Ignatius RSV translations.
Letter to the Philippians, an epistle from the New Testament by St. Paul, KJV and Ignatius RSV translations.
Letter to the Colossians, an epistle from the New Testament by St. Paul, KJV and Ignatius RSV translations.