Currently Reading: The Woman Destroyed by Simone de Beauvoir

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Everyone’s heard of Simone de Beauvoir (or at least everyone should have). She’s mosty known as a feminist, social theorist, and political activist. She’s the author of The Second Sex, a book on women’s opression which became one of the most important feminist works.

Simone de Beauvoir was also a fiction writer, though her works read almost like memoirs. The Woman Destroyed is a collection of three long stories, and so far I’ve finished the first one, “The Age of Discretion”, and since the description says all of the stories deal with similar themes, I thought it would be interesting to share my thoughts of this story, before reading the others, as an introduction to de Beauvoir’s fiction.

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“The Age of Discretion” is written in first person, and it follows the intimate thoughts of the unnamed main character. Both the main character and her husband are intellectuals, she’s a writer and he a scientist. Their conversations are interesting and at times philosophical, as is the entire story. “The Age of Discretion” is, therefore, a quite erudite read, but at the same time it’s very sincere and human. It deals with everyday thoughts, insecurities, selfishness, and vanity. It’s about those little thoughts we have, but never dare express. Thoughts that belong to us, even though we don’t want to admit it.

Maybe it was during those moments, as I watch him disappear, that he exists to me with the most overwhelming clarity: his tall shape grows smaller, each pace marking out the path of his return; it vanishes and the street seems to be empty; but in fact it is a field of energy that will lead him back to me as his natural habitat: I find this certainty even more moving than his presence.

The story deals with the main character’s relationship with her husband, her son, and her own self – the past and the present, the constant change and passing of life. When it comes to her husband, she ponders on many questions. Does he still love her? Is he tired of her? Would another woman have made him happier? She cannot answer those questions, and sometimes her insecurities create more problems. She thinks too much which leads to misunderstandings.

The relationship with her son is even more complex, since he decided to take a past she did not intend for him. She feels he had made a mistakke, and cannot accept his decisions. She wants him to be a different man than he is now, and it’s hard for her to accept that. He decides not to be a professor, not to become an intellectual, and she acuses him of being greedy and only thinking about earning more money. Was that the real reason? It’s hard to tell, but for the main character it’s a great disappointment. She is watching her son become the kind of person she despises. He is not the person she tried to shape. He is his own person now, not a reflection of her ideals, and she feels that she’s losing him.

He will turn into a stranger.

The main character also struggles with her work, as her new book gets bad reviews. She sees that she’s getting old and fears she can no longer produce anything fresh and important. The world around her is changing. She is changing.

The sight of the changing world is miraculous and heart-breaking, both at the same time.

The “discretion” from the title really captures the tone of the story well. This story is mostly about things left unsaid, things we presume, though sometimes falsely, and things we are afraid to admit to ourselves. Expectations versus reality. It’s a wonderfully written story of human nature, without sugar-coating, but, in the end, still somewhat hopeful. It also shows how fragile we all are, how full of doubts.

What is an adult? A child puffed with age.

I feel like I don’t have to emphasize that I really liked the story, but, yes, I did, and I’m looking forward to reading the other two in the collection. What do you think? Have you read The Woman Destroyed? Are you interested in reading it?


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Quote for Thought: Nature in Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis

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Well, I may be misusing the title. Yes, this quote might spark some questions, but more than anything it’s a quote so beautiful you’ll want to simply enjoy it.

“Society, as we have constituted it, will have no place for me, has none to offer; but nature, whose sweet rains fall on unjust and just alike, will have clefts in the rocks where I may hide, and secret valleys in whose silence I may weep undisturbed. She will hang the night with stars so that I may walk abroad in the darkness without stumbling, and send the wind over my footprints so that none ay track my hurt: she will cleanse me in great waters, and with bitter herbs make me whole.”

De Profundis is a long letter Oscar Wilde wrote to his lover Lord Alfred Douglas, whom he called Bosie, while he was imprisoned in Reading Gaol.

I may not agree with Oscar Wilde on everything, but I found De Profundis very captivating. I loved reading Wilde’s thoughts on art as much as I liked reading about his feelings and the way he’s coping with his imprisonment. His final words, the ones quoted, left a lasting impression on me. Just a paragraph ago, I was reading his interpretation of Hamlet, and than he turned it all around, and became very personal. The entire text is like this. It’s scholarly and emotional at the same time, it’s personal but with many universal thoughts.

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The idea of finding comfort in nature has always co-existed with alongside the idea of technological progress. Humans have always tried to separate themselves from nature. We built houses, towns and walls. We developed a civilisation (or civilisations). But, of course, we cannot live completely divided from nature. Sometimes, it seems like we’re not aware of that. We are destructive. We suck the life out of our planet. And, apparently, we choose to deny that any of the problems we’ve created even exist, or we just don’t care. Yes, there are many people who are trying to make a difference, but they are still just individuals. Not much is changing on the global scale.

People get scared of spiders, flys, and other insects, though most of them are completely harmless. We fear nature. We always have. We don’t want anything to disturb our secluded lives, without relizing that the world we have created is probably just as dangerous. Society doesn’t treat everyone fairly. “Society, as we have constituted it, will have no place for me”, Oscar Wilde says. How many people have felt the same?

I’m not pretending to be better or more intelligent that other people. I’m exactly the same. (Except for the fear of spiders. I like spiders, but there are insects that make me feel uneasy.) I don’t have a solution, nor do I think there really is one. A perfect world doesn’t exist. Still, we should think about it. Try to do little things, or even big things, that may make a difference. The idea of nature as something wild and dangerous may be woven into the very fabric of our being, but the idea of nature as a nurturing mother is just as powerful. And I think it’s a very important part of who we are.

Quote for Thought: The Handmaid’s Tale

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“We lived, as usual, by ignoring. Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.”

– Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

This quote really rings true to me. Most people see the bad things that are going on, but choose to ignore it. Especially if it’s something that’s happening to someone else. While I was reading The Handmaid’s Tale, some parts reminded me of the famous WWII-related poem by Martin Niemöller:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

And, in the end, what can one little voice do? How can I stop something that is so much larger than me? That’s a question no one really has an answer to. Turning the head away is the easy way. It gives us the comfort of not being seen, the freedom to live on, without danger.

We were the people who were not in the papers. We were the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom.

– Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

I’m not an optimist, or an idealist, so I can’t really find a good answer to all of this. To be honest, sometimes I don’t have faith in people, at all. But, hopefully, everything that’s going on in the world right now is not leading to another horrible period in history. And hopefully, we will always be able to speak up when we feel the need to.

Top 5 Wednesday: Favourite Polarizing Books

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There are certain books that people seem to either love or hate, with no in between. For this Top 5 Wednesday, I was supposed to chose 5 of those books that I like. Honesty, I’m not completely sure if these fall into this category, but from what I’ve heard I think they do. Also, some of these are not really favourites of mine, but I don’t hate them as some people do.

Let’s start!

1. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

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I love this book and it’s one of my absolute favourites. I know a lot of people who share these feeling, but I’ve also come across a lot of people who kind of hate it… Which makes me a bit sad… Those people often say that characters are unlikeable, but I think the part of what makes this book great is the flawed characters. I did come to care for them, in spite of their flaws.

2. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

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I can understand why some people don’t like this book. It’s not a pleasant one to read. But I still loved it! I already mentioned it in a post about my favourite villains – the way it’s written is just amazing!

3. Medieval sagas

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I don’t think this is a case of love-or-hate, it’s more like: some people enjoy these sagas and others don’t read them at all. I loved The Song of the Nibelungs (or the Nibelungenlied), The Saga of the Volsungs (Völsunga saga) and I loved Beowulf. There’s just something about these stories that fascinates me. I’m kind of a medieval geek. XD

4. The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown

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You don’t read books like this for the wonderful prose, you read them for the fun and mystery. I was still in high school when I read it and I found it very interesting then. I also liked Angels and Demons. It was a perfect fast-paced summer read.

5. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

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I didn’t know which book to choose next, so here’s one I don’t actually like, but I don’t hate it as much as some do. Twilight is a book that really gets a lot of hate and a lot of love at the same time. And yes, it’s not a book I love, but I did like it when I first read it (this was also in high school) and I wanted to know what would happen next. The books get worse and worse as the series progresses, that I have to admit, but the first one wasn’t that bad.

So, do you have any thoughts about these books? I’d like to hear from you! 🙂

 

Top 5 Wednesday: Books I Want to Re-Read

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I’ve found out about the Top 5 Wednesday group on Goodreads quite some time ago, and I always wanted to participate but never did… Now it’s the time to start doing it! Maybe not every Wednesday, but as often as I can. They have some very interesting ideas, just like this one.

So, here are the five books I’d like to re-read:

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1. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.

I loved this book! I’ve already read it two times, but I feel the need to re-read it. And soon!

2. The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo

I’ve read this book in college and it immediately became my favourite. And favourites have to be re-read. 😉 I don’t own a copy, though, but I’ll get it soon.

3. The Cemetery of Forgotten Books series by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

These books are so lovely, dark and cosy at the same time. I would definitely like to re-read them.

4. Just Kids by Patti Smith

An amazing book like this one has to be read many times!

5. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

My all-time favourite, I’ll probaby read it many, many times more. 🙂 As you can see in the picture, the book is already very battered.

I hope I’ll have the time to actually read them all again in the near future. 😉

Colours of Good Morning

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It was time for school, and the boy left his home with the bag on his shoulders. The boy. That’s how he came to think of himself. Yes, he had a name, and not a bad one, but not everyone knew it. As he walked through the farmer’s market each day, people would call after him. And they called him boy.

“Hey, boy, do you want some sweet strawberries?”
“Little boy, a few lovely apricots to take to school!”
“Come, boy, buy an apple! You now what they say about apples and doctors!”

The word started to sound right to him, though a bit disheartening. That was what he was. A boy. Just a boy. A nobody. Most people were nobodies, pretending to be somebodies by wearing a name. Only a few really became more than what the people in the market place called them. The rest – just numerous boys, girls, ladies and sirs. The boy wanted more than that. He hated monotony. He yearned for something exciting, something new, something magical. As he passed through the market, it seemed painfully dull to him, despite all the orange apricots, red apples, yellow lemons and green cucumbers. Colours were nothing in comparison to what he hoped for. He dreamed of dragons, fairies, and evil forces that had to be defeated. He wished to be a hero, brave and kind, loved by all.

Suddenly, an old man caught his attention. The man was wearing dirty, shapeless clothes, and begging for some money. He seemed completely grey, standing not so far from the colourful market. Some people passed by, but no one seemed to notice him.
The boy had nothing in his pockets. He wanted to become a hero, but now, he couldn’t even give some change to the poor old man. He felt embarrassed.

Well, the boy thought,  I may have no money, but at least I’ll show him that I see him. I will show him that I care.

With the widest, kindest smile, the boy turned to face the old beggar.
“Good morning!” he greeted him.
The old man raised his eyes, and the boy saw that he was smiling. The lines on his face started to fade. The old beggar jumped from joy, but when his feet touched the ground, he wasn’t an old man in rags anymore. His clothes were clean and white, and on his now golden hair proudly stood a royal crown.
“Magic!” the boy gasped.

A single “good morning” turned the beggar into a prince.

New York Times “By the Book” Tag

I haven’t done a fun book tag in a while, and I’ve come across this one (among others) many times and thought: Well, this one sounds fun. So I finally decided to do it. J The tag was originally created by booktuber Mary Berg.

So, let’s get to the questions!

What book is on your night stand now?

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab, and I’m almost finished with it. It’s really fun! There’s also Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft & Mary Shelley by Charlotte Gordon, a double biography of the two wonderful Marys. I love them both, and I love the book as well.

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What was the last truly great book that you read?

The Vegetarian by Han Kang! I loved that book! It’s so beautifully written, and it’s very methapohorical, it almost feels like reading poetry.

But I also want to mention Alice by Christina Henry, for entirely different reasons. This retelling of Alice in Wonderland is truly disturbing, violent and bloody, but so sooo interesting. I love how Christina Henry deals with the characters, and makes entirely different stories for them, but they still have some of the essence of the original characters.

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What books might we be surprised to find on your shelves?

I don’t think anything’s too surprising… I read different kinds of books, and I think I talk about different kinds of books here on the blog. But I don’t think I’ve mentioned that I really like superheroes, so maybe you wouldn’t expect me to own some comics. Spider-man is my favourite.🙂

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How do you organize your personal library?

In a way only I understand, and is impossible to explain.😄 But I know exactly where every book is, so it seems it works well.

What book have you always meant to read and haven’t gotten around to yet? Anything you feel embarrassed never to have read?

Slaughterhouse-five by Kurt Vonnegut, a book I’ve wanted to read for so many years… I would actually like to read more Vonnegut in general. But I’m also quite embarrassed that I don’t read almost any contemporary Croatian authors, and I’m from Croatia. I definitely should…

What kinds of stories are you drawn to? Any you stay clear of?

I actually like to read different things, depending on my current mood. Classics are always a go-to when I’m not sure what to read next, and I like to read about history. I’m also drawn to magic, in its different shapes and forms. And I like to read about different cultures… So, when I think about it, I guess I like to read about anything that I can’t experience myself, anything different and unknown.

The only thing I don’t read are contemporary romances. I just don’t find them interesting… Romance is fine as a part of the story, but I don’t like it to be the entire story.

If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be? 

That’s an interesting question.😄 I don’t really like our (Croatian) president. (Sorry, not sorry.) She should read something nice and heart-warming, maybe something about a different culture, to make her more open-minded. For example A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. That’s such a beautiful, sad book… Or, if I was feeling mean, I’d give her something really, really boring to read.😉

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What do you plan to read next?

I’ll probably continue with the Shades of Magic series, and after that – who knows! I don’t usually plan ahead, it’s best to read the books you’re in the mood for. And who knows what mood I’m going to be in after A Gathering of Shadows.😄

And that’s it! Since I wasn’t tagged to do this, I won’t tag anyone, but if the questions seem interesting to you, I’d like to hear your answers. 🙂