Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Cousin Bette

Another masterpiece from the Master of Society Honore de Balzac, and the book named COUSIN BETTE. I have read many of his books either in English or other languages, but so far this novel has captivated my mind and my soul with his wittiness and sophistication regarding the human condition in the society. Are women really that devilishly clever and strong survivors; are men really so weak and totally depended on their sexual needs???

“Hortense was the wife and Valerie was the mistress. Many men want to have these two editions of the same work, although it is a clear proof of inferiority in a man if he is unable to make his wife his mistress. The need for variety in this respect is a sign of inadequacy.

Fidelity will always be the essence of love, the indication of an enormous power, the power that makes the poet. A man should find all women in his wife, as the starveling poets of the seventeenth century made Irises and Chloes of their Manons.”

“Only her knowledge of the law and of the world enabled her to control that the natural quickness of temper with which country people, like savages, pass from feeling to action.

And that, perhaps, is the whole difference between natural man and civilized men. The savage has feeling only, the civilized men has feelings and ideas. Moreover, the savage’s brain receives, as it were, few impressions. He is than entirely at the mercy of the feeling that pervades him, while in the civilized man ideas descent into the heart, which they transform. The civilized man has a thousand interests, several feelings, while the savage accepts only one idea at a time. That is the cause of the momentary advantage of a child over his parents, and advantage which is no longer there once his desire is satisfied. In man in a state of nature, however, the cause persists.”

“The moralist cannot deny that, generally, well-bred, very dissolute people are much more agreeable than the virtuous. Having crimes to compensate for, they seek indulgence in advance by being lenient with their judges’ failings and have the reputation of being delightful. Although there are charming people amongst the virtuous, virtue thinks itself fine enough on its own, so that it can dispense with making any special effort. And than the genuinely virtuous (for we must except hypocrites) are nearly always a little unsure of their position. They think they have been cheated in the great market of life and they speak a little sharply, like people who claim to be misunderstood.”

“A man of the Empire, accustomed to the style of the Empire, Hulot could know nothing of the ways of the modern love, the new scruples, the different modes of conversation invented since 1830, in which the poor, weak woman succeeds in being considered the victim of her lover’s desire, a kind of sister of charity tending wounds, a self-sacrificing angel.

This new art of love uses an enormous number of pious words to do the devil’s work. Passion is a martyrdom. Love aspires to the ideal, to the infinite, and both parties want to become better through love. All these fine phrases are a pretext for being even more ardent in practice, more frenzied in the final surrender, than in the past. This hypocrisy, characteristic of our age, has debased the art of love. Love claims to be two angels but they behave like two devils if they have the chance.”

Enjoy the rest of the book :)

Saturday, 29 May 2010

The Prince

Niccolo Machiavelli needs neither an introduction, nor comments upon his work. The majority of you out there know about his legacy, and even for those who have not read yet one of his books are aware of his reputation.

For those who pursue a career in Politics, I’m quite sure that this book is the first they read!!

For the Romans did in these cases what all wise princes should do: they not only have to have regard for present troubles but also the future ones, and they have to avoid these with all their industry because, when one foresees from afar, one can easily find a remedy for them but when you wait until they come close to you, the medicine is not in time because the disease has become incurable.

When those states that are acquired, as has been said, are accustomed to living by their own laws and in liberty, there are three modes for those who want to hold them: first, ruin them; second, go there to live personally; third, let them live by their laws, taking tribute from them and creating within them an oligarchic state which keeps them friendly to you.

Therefore, one who becomes prince through the support of the people should keep them friendly to him, which should be easy for him because they ask of him only that they not be oppressed. But one who becomes prince against the people with the support of the great must before everything else seek to gain the people to himself, which should be easy for him when he takes up its protection. And since men who receive good from someone from whom they believed they would receive evil are more obligated to their benefactor, the people immediately wish him well more than if he had been brought to the principality with their support.

From this a dispute arises whether it is better to loved than feared, or the reverse. The response is that one would want to be both the one and the other; but because it is difficult to put them together, it is much safer to be feared than loved, if one has to lack one of the two. And men have less hesitation to offend one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared; for love is held by a chain of obligation, which, because men are wicked, is broken at every opportunity for their own utility, but fear is held by a dread of punishment that never forsakes you.

Enjoy the rest of the book :)

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Three Daughters of China

This book take the reader into a world where democracy and capitalism were never heard, ans is the real life story of JUNG CHANG. Reading the novel, people that have never lived through Communism, have the opportunity to learn many historical fact through three generations, and most of all the cost of life distruction because of futile beliefs and hollow idealisms!!

My grandmother's feet had been bound when she was two years old. Her mother, who herself had bound feet, first wound a piece of white cloth about twenty feet long round her feet, bending all the toes except the big toe inward and under the sole. Then she placed a large stone on top to crush the arch. My grandmother screamed in agony and begged her to stop. Her mother had to stick a cloth into her mouth to gag her. My granmother passed out repeatedly from the pain.

The general's wife told her to sit down. My grandmother had to make a split- second decision. In a traditional Chinese household, where one sits automatically reflects ones's status. General Xue's wife was sitting at the north end of the room, as beffited in her position. Next to her, separated by a side table, was another chair, also facing south: this was the general's seat. Down each side of the room was a row of chairs for people of different status. My granmother shuffled backwards and sat on one of the chairs nearest the door, to show humility. The wife then asked her to come forward- just a little. She had to show some generosity.

One factory just outside the city made insulating circuits. Living conditions there, as in every other factory, were apalling, with scores of women sleeping in a huge shack build of straw and babmoo. The food was woefully inadequate: the workers got meat only twice a month, even though they were doing exhausting work. Many of the women had to stand in cold water for eight hours at a stretch washing the porcelain insulators. Tuberculosis, from malnutrition and lack of hygiene, was common. The eating bowls and chopsticks were never properly washed and were all mixed up together.

Our political meetings now included an examination of how we were observing 'the disciplines in foreign contac'. It was stated that I had violated these because my eyes looked 'too interested', I 'smiled too often', and when I did so I opened my mouth 'too wide'. I was also criticised for using hand gestures: we women students were supposed to keep our hands under the table and sit motionless.

Wherever we went as we traveled down the Yangtze we saw the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution: temples smashed, statues toppled, and old towns wrecked. Little evidence remained of China's ancient civiliziation. But the loss went even deeper than this. Not only had China destroyed most of its beautiful things, it had lost its appreciation of them, and was unable to make new ones. Except for the much-scarred but still stunning landscape, China had become an ugly country.

There were so many other fragments that I had underlined, but it's impossible to include all of them.
Enjoy the rest of the book :)

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea

Adventures under the sea, mysterious Captain Nemo, grand life experiences for the invicible enterprises NAUTILUS-the crew and the 3 "life prizoners".
This novel finds the question, asked six thousand years ago by the book of Ecclesiastes:" Who has ever fathomed the depths of the abyss?"

The sea is a vast reservoir of nature. It was through the sea that the earth, so to speak, began, and who knows but what it might not come to an end through the sea!
Here we have perfect tranquillity, for the sea does not belong to despots.
"On the surface, they can still exercise their iniquitous laws, flight, devour each other, and indulge in all their earthly horrors. But thirty feet below its surface their power ceases, their influences fades, and their dominion vanishes! Ah, monsieur, to live in the bosom of the sea! Only there can independence be found! There I recognize no master! There I am free!"

At about midday, I was on the platform with Council. I was initianting him into the mysteries of the Gulf Stream. When I was through with my explanations, I asked him to put his hands in the water.
Council obeyed, and was very surprised to feel no sensation of cold or heat.
"The reason for that" I told him " is that the temperature of the Gulf Stream, as it leaves the Gulf of Mexico, differs very little from that of the human body. The Gulf Streams is a vast distributor of warmth, which enables the coast of Europe to be continually decked in green. If it were fully exploited, would supply enough warmth to prevent a river of molten metal as big as the Amazons or the Missouri from solidifying".

The unfortunate Council had attacked an electric ray of the most dangerous kind, the cumana. This strange animal, immersed in water, which is an exellent conductor of electricity, can electrocute fish at a distance of several yards, so great is the power of its electric organ, whose two surfaces are not less than twenty-seven square feet in area.

Enjoy the rest of the book :)

Monday, 1 March 2010

The Misanthrope

To be flawlessly monstrous is, thank heaven, not easy!!

In certain cases it would be uncouth
And almost absurd to speak the naked truth;
With all respect for your exalted notions,
It's often best to veil one's true emotions.
Wouldn't the social fabric come undone
If we were wholly frank with everyone?
Suppose you met with someone you couldn't bear;
Would you inform him of it then and there?

In this regard there's none I'd choose to spare.
All are corrupt; there's nothing to be seen
In court or town but aggravates my spleen.
I fall into deep gloom and melancholy
When I survey the scene of human folly,
Finding on every hand base flattery,
Injustice, fraud, self-interest, treachery....
Ah, it's too much; mankind has grown so base,
I mean to break with the whole human race.

Enjoy the rest of the book :)

Friday, 29 January 2010

Old Goriot

Another masterpiece from Honore de Balzac, regarding the ruthless society and its victims who dazzle to taste a glimpse of the fake luxury and happiness!!

"your Paris is nothing but a slough..
and a very queer slough too, replied Vautrin. If you get splashed with its mud riding in a carriage you're an honest fellow, while you're a rogue if you get dirty on foot. If you have the bad luck to nab something from someone you become a peep-show for the crowd at the Place du Palais de Justice, but you are pointed out in the salons as virtue itself if you steal a million: and what's more you pay thirty millions to the police force and the law- courts to maintain this system of morality.
It's a pretty state of affairs"

"If i have one more piece of advice to give you, my sweet lad, it is this- don't stick any more firmly to your opinions than to your work. When you are asked for them, sell them. A man who boasts of never changing his opinions is a man who forces himself to move always in a straight line, a simpleton who believes he is infallible. There are no such things as principles, there are only events; there are no laws, there are only circumstances: the man is wiser than his fellows accepts events and circumstances in order to turn them to his own ends"

"Believe whatever evil you may hear about the world, it's all true"

"Youth, moreover, when it turns to wrong-doing dares not look at itself in the mirror of conscience, while maturity has itself been there: the whole difference between these two phases of life lies in that"

Enjoy the rest of the book :)

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Lost Illusions

Currently i am reading one of my FAVOURITE writers of the French Literature: HONORE DE BALZAC- Lost Illusions.

Above, i will highlight some important thoughts and mottos which i really believe remain still in the present's like nothing changed from the previous centuries up till now; only the clothes changed whereas human behaviour remains the same!!

"Society disdain you: disdain society. Take refuge in a garret, write masterpieces, acquire some sort of prestige and you will have society at your feet"

"Genius is patience. Patience is indeed the quality in man which most resembles the process which Nature follows in her creations. And what is Art, Monsieur? It is Nature in concentrated form"

"The more mediocre a man is, the sooner he arrives at success; he can swallow insults, put up with anything, flatter the mean and petty passions of the literary sultans.....

By keeping on the right side of everybody, that fellow will edge in between rival ambitions while they are scuffing"

....and to close my today's writing:

"Conscience, my dear, is a kind of stick that everyone picks up to thrash his neighbour with, but one he never uses against himself"

Enjoy the rest of the book :)