21 February, 2007

Bandes dessinées

The first three parts of Joann Sfar's Le chat du rabbin series of bandes dessinées, La bar-mitsva, Le Malka des lions, and L'exode. These were brilliant, funny, thoughtful books about an Algerian rabbi between the wars, narrated by his cat. The cat is very cat-like and smart-arsed - when the rabbi realises the cat can speak and agrees to instruct him for his bar-mitzva, the cat objects to Genesis by discussing Carbon-14. It's a lovely way of showiung the life of Sephardic jews, which I didn't really know about; a lot of Maghreb jews emigrated to Israel after it became a state. There's a lovely moment when the rabbi visits Paris and decides to try eating the most un kosher meal in the world: ham, blood pudding, snails, shellfish, swordfish. The drawings are just beautiful; the cat is very catty and the heat and slowness of Algeria comes across gorgeously. [10] [11] [12]

Edit: I've just seen it's available
in English, if anyone is interested. I'm also off to see Joann Sfar in discussion with Quentin Blake on Saturday at the Institut Français, which should be interesting.

13 February, 2007

Bedside table

Currently on my bedside table:

Grimm's fairy tales
Kapital volume 1
Christa Wolf's Kindheitsmuster
Joann Sfar's Chat du Rabbin bandes dessinées
Racine's Andromaque
Henri Barbusse's Le feu
Hannah Arendt's On revolution
Adorno's The culture industry
German poetry, 1910-1975 : an anthology edited by Michael Hamburger
Poésie : 1946-1967 by Philippe Jaccottet
Literary theory by Terry Eagleton
Seven types of ambiguity by William Empson

12 February, 2007

More course books

Candide, which is brilliant, but I had already read in English (I had a short stage of reading all the short but intellectual books I could find). And Nietzsche's On the use and abuse of history for life which I'm not sure I understand yet. I also have it in German as my tutor said he is one of the greatest German prose writers, but whether I'll get round to reading it... [8] [9]

11 February, 2007

Human nature

An interesting pair of course books last weekend: Rousseau's Discours sur l'inégalité and Freud's Civilisation and its discontents. Interesting because they both draw similar conclusions about human nature, namely that social problems stem from the conflict between the anti-social nature of humanity (in Freud's case, the difficulties that arise from primal family conflicts between father and son, or brother and brother) when humans start to live together. [6] [7]

My lecturer claims that Rousseau is the most important writer in Western culture between St Paul and Karl Marx. There's a claim to live up to...

08 February, 2007

Oh dear oh dear

I seem to have accidentally bought rather a lot of books in the last week.

Yesterday in Waterstone's second hand dept:

Echoes down the corridor, a collection of Arthur Miller's essays.
Under my skin and Walking in the shade, the first two volumes of Doris Lessing's autobiography.
The photo book, a little fat book with photos by lots of different famous photographers and a short description of each one.
Thomas Mann and his family by Marcel Reich-Ranicki

From the library sale (it's iniquitous how many good books they sell off for pennies)

Six days: how the 1967 war shaped the Middle East by Jeremy Bowen. Hardback, and in perfect condition.
Life: a users manual by Georges Perec
Poems of Federico Garcia Lorca

These were all in good condition and were being sold off at ten p each, buy one get one free. Now I don't have any objection to the libraries selling off old crime thrillers or 'family sagas' (those books with a bad watercolour of a working class street on and a pretty woman in the foreground who will be Womanly But Strong throughout the books, coping heroically with the Trials and Tribulations Of Life through the support and love of the Closely Knit Community around her) - these are books which readers read once and then move on to a different book.

But for the libraries to throw away (after all, the sales don't recoup any of the price of the book) history books, poetry books and classics - books which are expensive and will be used repeatedly for a long time - is really terrible. My sister worked in a library in one of the London inner city boroughs, where presumably they didn't have an unlimited budget, and they discarded books if they were 'tatty'. Never mind if they were useful for schoolchildren, students, anyone interested in looking things up; they didn't look as nice as the shiny copies of the Trinny and Susannah TV programme tie-in book or a nice Nigella Lawson cookbook - twenty recipes, each adorned with several large and glossy pictures of the author in quasi-erotic poses. After all, the most important thing in a public library is that the shelves look as attractive as those of your local Waterstones! It makes my blood boil.

From Amazon Germany and Amazon France

Vom Nutzen und Nachteil der Historie für das Leben by Friedrich Nietzsche
Das Unbehagen in der Kultur by Sigmund Freud
Discours sur l'inégalité by Rousseau, all course books, and two poetry anthologies:
Poèmes à dire: une anthologie de poésie contemporaine francophone and Pièces détachées: une anthologie de la poésie française aujourd'hui.

Ok. That's enough books now for a good long while. I have run out of bookshelves! (see below)

Also, I have just found a blog I started in 2004, did one post on, and then forgot about. What can I use it for, I wonder? Suggestions on a postcard...

04 February, 2007

More bookshelves

No, I'm not bored of this yet.

Kitchen 'shelf' (top of the microwave):

Novels, in the sitting room. Top half:

The tottering stack on top is children's books.

Bottom half (I couldn't get far enough away to get the whole thing in). Note E.'s small part-shelf at the bottom:

Study bookcase: French and German books, linguistics, history, philosophy, feminism and politics:


Because I'm so pleaased with our new digital camera, here are some pictures of my bookshelves:

New little bookshelf in the bedroom. I was very pleased that the poetry books precisely fitted on it and then I remembered how much poetry is still at mum's.

One of the sitting room bookshelves. Literary criticism, a few books about music, and reference books. The incredibly ugly software manuals aren't mine:

See my other photos on Flickr and the strangely fascinating bookshelves pool, which I could look at for hours.