Two hundred years and counting

I didn’t realise til I read this blog post by Calmgrove that 2017 is the bicentenary of Jane Austen’s death. Should I re-read her novels? I haven’t read any (apart from my favourite, Persuasion) in years, but I know, from experience, that planning to re-read more than one novel doesn’t work with me. I shall, perhaps choose one title and see how it goes.

I love Persuasion because it’s about second chances and remaining steadfast in love. My favourite quotes:

Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant.

and

All the privilege I claim for my own sex (it is not a very enviable one: you need not covet it), is that of loving longest, when existence or when hope is gone!

Is it stupidly romantic of me to believe in true love? Is it naive to hope that my partner will remain constant?

I may re-read Persuasion again after all.

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Persuasion watercolour illustrations by C. E. Brock

 

It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over …

… as the mediocre lyricist Lenny Kravitz once said.

I will be fifty tomorrow. My mother died when she was fifty six. If I were to follow suit, I have six years to make my mark or erase it. I have done both, simultaneously, for as long as I can remember.

I dreamt of a fresh start this year. It should have begun by now. But here I go again, feeling sorry for myself, wringing my hands and imagining the worst.

Has the worst already happen? Is it to come? Is it happening right now? Who can tell? In twenty years, if someone chooses to remember this time, if someone tells this story, they will be in a better position to judge. Perhaps the phone will ring tonight, and there will be good news. Perhaps we will overcome. Perhaps we will choose to have an adventure instead of believe we are doomed. People face and survive worse. Evey day.

So stop. Just stop.

 

In Which I Come to a Screeching Halt

Debbie George. Lion Jug and Dandelions
‘Lion Jug and Dandelions’ by Debbie George

I am posting this picture because it’s a happy picture: look at the lion’s smiling face; look at the determinedly bright yellow of the dandelions.

I am not happy. Things are not going well. Nothing is certain, although you could argue that nothing ever is. Still, it’s one thing to not know where one is going, but be, nevertheless, on one’s way. and quite another to feel that one has come to a sudden halt, with no prospect of starting moving again. For the first time in a long while, I am not on my way and I am wondering if I ever was. Have I been fooling myself?

I don’t want to speculate on what has been and what might be. Stress does dreadful things to people. It makes them say the silliest, most irrational and rather unkind things. Don’t think about it. Don’t analyse. I will distract myself with happy pictures and the Moomins.

Tove Jansson’s series of books is being discussed by a Facebook group I belong to and I am supposed to lead the discussion on two of them: The Exploits of Moominpappa and Moominpappa at Sea. I thought I liked them the least of the books, but I’m enjoying my current re-read of Exploits. I shall post a review when I’m done. In the meantime, isn’t Edward the Booble the most fabulous name for a ferocious sea serpent?

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Edward the Booble from ‘The Exploits of Moominpappa’, story and illustrations by Tove Jansson.

 

 

 

The Mystery of Tutu

This morning I listened to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on BBC Radio 4’s Cultural Exchange programme (in which creative minds choose their favourite cultural work) and learnt about Ben Ewonwu, the Nigerian artist ( 1917 – 1994). Adichie spoke about Ewonwu’s painting Tutu, of a Yoruba princess. The original painting has been missing for years, but when Adichie was growing up in Nnusuka, in South-east Nigeria, a print of the work was in practically every middle-class Nigerian household. It is still on the wall of her parents’ home.

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‘Tutu’ by Ben Ewonwu

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Review: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

things-fall-apartTHINGS FALL APART

By Chinua Achebe

(Anchor Books, 209 pages)

THIS was not my first reading of the book, but my third. I read Things Fall Apart for the first time in my teens, but I admit to only skimming then. The second time I read it was in 2014. For some reason, it was a hurried read and I did not retain much of the story.

Certainly, the first time I read it, I was a very silly girl who only read white authors. My Pinterest record of the books I read in 2014 has me completing the novel on 22nd Feb. Later that year I read other African authors like Gabriel Okara, Elechi Amadi, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Sefi Atta. I believe that was the year I decided to make a big effort to read out of my comfort zone, i.e. more Asian and African authors. However, as it was early days, the part of my brain that handles reading was stuck in a rut. It still had to be kicked in the rear out of its literary ditch.

Three years on and I think I’ve succeeded in getting to a place where it’s not just stories by dead white women that make sense to me. And yes, my ‘problem’ with Things Fall Apart was that I couldn’t ‘make sense’ of it. The writing style, the content – including setting and characters – the language, nothing about it was what I was used to. Thus, I found it hard to relate to, or made no effort to try. Sure, I had read and loved Maru by Bessie Head twenty eight years before, but that was probably due to it being an A-level text, i.e. reading it maybe fifty times over, and discussing it with my tutor would have ensured that that story made complete sense.

chinua achebe
Chinua Achebe (1930-2013)

My partner, Don,  is Igbo, which is the ethnic group of the characters in Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe was also Igbo). I think this has made a difference to my recent reading of the book. This time round, the story seemed familiar. I recognised details from what Don has told me about Igbo cultural traditions. The way of life described was still strange, but it was easier to empathise with the characters and not completely dismiss their actions as outrageous or nonsensical.

It also helped being able to discuss the book with Don. He offered a different perspective and put things into a context I would have found it hard to imagine on my own.

The story is heartbreaking, on the level of it being the tale of a man’s downfall, and also in a larger historical and social context, as the story of the colonisation of Africa. The final sentence of the novel struck me to the core. It sums up the reality of the situation – in the novel, in history, and in race relations today.