#junebookbugs June 23rd – Classics TBR

So the main classic novel on my To Be Read list is probably Arabian Nights. We bought this beautiful copy from Barnes & Noble some years ago, but we wanted to buy a copy in Arabic as well, so my husband could brush up on the language. We planned to read them together. We’ve never bought an Arabic copy! So it still sits on my shelves, looking beautiful and unread. I might have to hunt down an Arabic copy for his Christmas present. (And yes, I photographed it in front of our language shelf, my husband speaks Arabic, Pashto, Spanish, and a smattering of other languages in addition to our native English. He’s a little crazy. I keep trying to learn something, but my pronunciation is always terrible, and I keep switching between Spanish and Swedish.)

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You can find my first #junebookbugs post (I started partway through the month), as well as links to the rest of my #junebookbugs posts, here.

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Book Review: The Odyssey

odysseySo with John Green starting his second run of Crash Course Literature, I realized there are a few classics I’d never read. The Odyssey by Homer being one of them. I snagged Robert Fitzgerald’s translation from the library and became enthralled. I wasn’t expecting it to be so easy to read! For being a 462 page poem, it flowed incredibly well and kept my attention the entire way through.

The Odyssey is the story of Odysseus, the king of Ithaca, who went away to fight in the wars in Troy caused by the abduction of Helen. This story takes place after the war is over, when everyone – or almost everyone – has gone home. Odysseus, through a series of mistakes and misfortunes, has been marooned on an isle for many years, and his family has begun to think he’s dead. Sons of most of the nobles in Ithaca have taken residence in Odysseus’ palace, courting his queen while eating his food and drinking his wine. His queen still waits for him, and puts off her suitors in a variety of ways. (The most famous of which being her claim that she must finish a weaving before taking a suitor, and while she weaves every day, she unweaves her work at night, but the suitors figure that one out and make her finish it.)

One thing kept bugging me through the entire story, though – while much is made of Odysseus being gone, and his trials, and the people waiting for him at home – the fact that his ENTIRE CREW OF SHIPMATES, heroes all, dies on the journey is somewhat glossed over. Maybe it’s my history as a military spouse, but what about THEIR families? There are surely women and children waiting in Ithaca for them as well, but nary a mention is made of them. Only the King’s story is important enough to talk about. In a 400 page book, is a paragraph about the other families too much to ask? I suppose, given how long ago the book was written, the fact that Homer writes sympathetically (albeit briefly) about a woman’s suffering for her husband might have been revolutionary on its own, and asking for some concern for anyone lower than a Prince would be unheard of.

That aside, it’s an amazing story. Here’s John Green’s take on it:

Book Review: Chronicle of a Death Foretold

deathforetoldChronicle of a Death Foretold
by Gabriel Garcia Márquez
120 pages
Published 1982
Fiction

I’m honestly not sure what I just read. I’m used to fiction plots having twists, or making you wonder what’s going to happen, or having a moral lesson. This – didn’t really do any of those things. You’re told what’s going to happen in the first sentence of this novella. There’s only one question, and it’s never answered. I’m not really sure what the lesson is, if there is one. I’m just baffled at the entire thing.

Chronicle of a Death Foretold, by Nobel prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez, is a novella about a man’s death. A woman gets married, her bridegroom discovers she’s not a virgin, returns her to her family, and her brothers kill the man who stole her virginity. That’s really all there is to the story. The brothers are completely open about what they plan to do – the narrator thinks they didn’t really want to carry out the murder and were hoping the townspeople would prevent them from doing so. The narrator is one of the townspeople, a friend of the victim, who is investigating the entire incident some twenty years later, trying to figure out why it happened and why exactly no one was able to prevent it.

Garcia Marquez writes well; his descriptions flow beautifully, his characters are interesting. Chronicle of a Death Foretold was not very linear, starting on the morning of the man’s death and hopping between the events of that day and twenty years later. I don’t mind slightly non-linear books, but this one annoyed me a bit. (Strangely, I loved The Time-Traveler’s Wife, which is not linear in the least.)

I’ll be reading another Garcia Marquez book soon – Love in the Time of Cholera – and plan to watch the movie, too, before I review it here. So I’ll give him another shot. But Chronicle of a Death Foretold just…confuses me.

From the back of Chronicle of a Death Foretold:

A man returns to the town where a baffling murder took place 27 years earlier, determined to get to the bottom of the story. Just hours after marrying the beautiful Angela Vicario, everyone agrees, Bayardo San Román returned his bride in disgrace to her parents. Her distraught family forced her to name her first lover; and her twin brothers announced their intention to murder Santiago Nasar for dishonoring their sister. 

Yet if everyone knew the murder was going to happen, why did no one intervene to stop it? The more that is learned, the less is understood, and as the story races to its inexplicable conclusion, an entire society – not just a pair of murderers – is put on trial.