“That was the moment when he grasped that nobody wanted to use their minds. People wanted peace. They wanted to eat and sleep and have other people be nice to them. What they didn’t want to do was think.”
Alexander von Humboldt
(1769-1859) was a German scientist and adventurer who mapped Latin-America.
He also collaborated and corresponded with another great German scientist, Carl Friedrich Gauss
(1777-1855). Gauss was nicknamed the Prince of Mathematics and he also did great things for physics.
Kehlmann has written an exciting and accessible account of their friendship and Humboldt’s travels. Yet I felt that it should be something more to this book, because it felt too light and easy. I think it is because I never got mesmerised and involved with the story as I usually do, but this time I never really connected with the story. And three days later I don’t remember much of the book. Which is weird, because it should be right up my alley.
And now it sounds like the book is awful, but it’s definitely not! I enjoyed it there and then and I definitely learnt a lot about Germany at that time in history. I just wish it was more to it.
I picked this up after reading Rose-Marie‘s glowing review, and I read it for Ingalill’s biography reading circle where this round’s theme was crossovers.
“Any hawk looking down on the orchard’s cloistered square, hoping for the titbit of a beetle or a mouse, would see a patterned canopy of trees, line on line, the orchard’s melancholy solitude, the jewellery of leaves. It would see the backs of horses, the russet, apple-dotted grass, the saltire of two crossing paths worn smooth by centuries of feet, and two grey heads, swirling in a lover’s dance, like blown seed husks caught up in an impish and exacting wind and with no telling when or where they’ll come to ground again.”
The Village is just a few houses inhabited by the families who work at the estate owned by Master Kent. When three strangers arrive, Walter Thirsk sees it as an ominous sign. The same night, a barn burns down, and the strangers are accused of the fire. The week following the fire sees dramatic and unforgivable changes in the Village.
A dark tale with the beautiful and rhythmic language. You get pulled right in and you are just waiting for disaster to strike. I learnt so many new words while reading this. I could probably have quoted the entire book. And as with every good book I read, I have trouble praising it. You just have to take my words for its greatness. Needless to say that Jim Crace is an author I will read more of.
“I am excused, I think, for wondering if I am the only one alive this afternoon with no other living soul who wants to cling to me, no other soul who’ll let me dampen her. The day has ended and the light has snuffed. I’m left to trudge into the final evening with nobody to loop their soaking hands through mine.”
Cain by José Saramago (2009)
“The history of mankind is the history of our misunderstandings with god, for he doesn’t understand us, and we don’t understand him.”
After killing his brother, Cain, is condemned to walk on the earth for eternity. He is lead from one major event in the Old Testament to an other, while witnessing the wickedness of God.
Cain is the last novel the Nobel Prize winner wrote before his death, and it is hard to not read it as a personal argument with God. That doesn’t mean that this isn’t an interesting or good book. I really enjoyed reading it, probably because I always teach the kids about God’s bad side in the Old Testament.
Another thing which stuck with me after reading the book, was the style. The first letter in the sentences were written with capital letters, the rest not. And the chapters didn’t have any paragraphs. At first it was hard to get used to, but it totally fits with the story and makes it more intriguing.
I kept comparing the book to the Testament of Mary because of the obvious Bible retelling, and I definitely liked Cain better. I think it is because Saramago dared to be personal and controversial and went a long way with the interpretation and retelling of the famous Bible stories. And the ending is brilliant.
This is the third book by Saramago that I have read, and my favourite. I definitely must read the Gospel According to Jesus Christ one day.