I wish I don’t know that Hardy is a sad married man

thomas hardy

I have long known some bad rumors regarding Thomas Hardy, one of my most favorite authors. He is said to have neglected his wife, Emma Gifford, as they aren’t blessed with any children. They grow apart, emotionally. Hardy is told to have visited other women, including Florence Dugdale, whom later becomes his wife after Gifford passes away.  Hardy regrets of making his wife unhappy then spends his remaining years living in remorse. This state of emotion is told as one of the factors that shade his second marriage with Gifford.

As much as they are true, I wish I don’t know about that. Now I know but I don’t want to make the fact lessens how much I adore Hardy’s writings. Thankfully, I know about all of this after I read his masterpieces. Fortunately. It is like knowing you were actually in danger after you escape from it.

Because I don’t know how would that be if read the books knowing Hardy is unhappy with his marriage. Probably I would discontinue reading his books.

It is still hard to believe that Hardy is a sad married man. That is probably reflected from his books’ tone, which is gloomy, realistic cum pessimistic. Looking at the ways he portrays his heroines, I disbelieve that he is responsible of making his wife unhappy. In my opinion, Hardy’s women are feminists who have super power. The women in his fictions are stubborn but with intelligence, rare ones when they are created in the 19th or early 20th century.

That is why I hardly digest Hardy’s real romance life is quite saddening. That his marriage doesn’t make him satisfied as well. One can barely tell personal lives, problems don’t influence their writings. But I find it difficult to grasp his unhappy marriage life in his novels have I not known about his real life via Wikipedia.

May be Hardy can skillfully separate between the two (his own life and his artificial worlds in his books). Or probably I just don’t get that enough. I am too absorbed into his words. All I know his stories are all very realistic. That’s why I love him so much.

And sometimes I wish I don’t know about his own doomed marriage. Sometimes all I know is his beautiful words, poetic phrases and such. And now, I try to not remember Hardy’s life each time I enjoy his words. I hope I can do this as long as I can.

The picture is taken from this.

I read an Indonesian novel again, at last!

batavia 1936

I have been reading ‘Batavia 1936’ for the past a few weeks. This is the first novel in Bahasa Indonesia, my second language (my first one is Javanese language) that I read after Ayu Utami’s Lalita back in 2012/2013, if I’m not mistaken.

As I write in this post, I have been struggling reading novels in Bahasa Indonesia because I spend much time reading books in English language. Reading books in Bahasa Indonesia feels awkward.  It really is.

I can’t remember how enjoyable reading novels in Bahasa Indonesia when I was a university student, which means some 10 years back. Pragmatically, since I want to write books in Bahasa Indonesia, I have to read novels in the language, whether or not I like the idea. Yes, I know. The motivation sounds money-oriented. Sometimes I feel guilty reading books in Bahasa Indonesia out of money. Genuine writers who happen reading this piece will hate me. I’m sorry.

Anyway, I want to regain the delight of reading local literature though, yes again, it’s more because of money. What you may think as incorrect motivation has guided me learning again how to read stories in Bahasa Indonesia. I kind of enjoying the process.

‘Batavia 1936’ is a romance story that takes social background in Menteng area, Jakarta’s elite neighborhood when Indonesia is still under the Dutch occupation. Batavia itself is the old name of Jakarta before Indonesia gains independence from the Japanese troops on August 17, 1945.

The novel, which sadly doesn’t sell well, is quite rare. The writer, Widya W. Harun, opts writing a novel that doesn’t match with Indonesia’s literary enthusiasts preference who mostly like reading books about modern love story.

I salute the author for sticking at what she believes in. I bet she does a hard job matching her idea with the historical and background at the time. I believe she works hard collecting information to support her book. This makes me liking her already.

‘Batavia 1936’, as I read so far, tells about Kirana and Kirani, two siblings who have their hearts set on one man, Hans van Deventer, a Dutch doctor whose mother is a Javanese. While the essence of the story is not something extraordinary,what makes the novel worthy of my time is because the author brings me back to what happens in Jakarta before it is freed from colonialism.

As I go through page by page, my mind attempts to visualize the houses where the major characters live. I let my imagination wanders through time and space when Jakarta, which is now so crowded, is once a peaceful city. No bus, no trains. But horses and carriages.

As I read the book I try to put myself at the era where women, although like Kirana and Kirani who come from wealthy family, are restricted. I mean the two figures aren’t described as having jobs to do.

Male figures take the helms of the families. They work to make ends meet. While women, for instance, the mother of Kirani and Kirana, is skilled at household; cooking and sewing. The life of the rich people in the book is so glamorous even when television doesn’t exist. They throw expensive parties. They are like celebrities.

So far, the novel is a pleasant one to read. Because I can wholly sense the restriction of culture in it. Though Kirani and Hans love each other they don’t touch or kiss. People at that time holds culture so much that they can respect each other before they tie the knot.

The language is so soft, much different from today’s novels. From it, I can draw the conclusion that the language itself has grown so much. Although I am still a little bit struggling putting all of my heart into the book, I’d love to know how the story unfolds. Will Hans be with Kirani or her sister, Kirana?

Guess my efforts of making a good comeback as a national literary lover has been proven fruitful so far. Yeah, I think myself so.

The picture is taken from this

‘Pot-Bouille’, the big laugh I have this weekend

pot-bouille

I have had Pot-Bouille for several years. But I abandoned the novel until just last weekend when I was cleaning my small room, rearranging books in the bookshelf then I found it. At first, I didn’t want to read it (still). I attempted to read the novel but catching the first page cushioned me away. The words were not beautiful, I thought at the time. It was a translated version nonetheless (the original one in in French language written by Emile Zola).

So I never considered giving it another try. Until last Saturday when I didn’t know why my hands got the book then opened it. My eyes were sparkling reading the first page. They were quite entertained by the words; short, descriptive. More than enough to get me through the weeks.

So, the first page that used to be very narrow and unpleasant turned to be literary-worthy. The novel has become a good companion on my daily commute. How comical!

I was happy at that day. The money that would be used to purchase Thomas Hardy’s novels are still in the wallet. That’s trivial advantage by the way. The relieved one is that this has become the second or may be the third time I have given myself a chance to prove myself wrong.

For a person who mostly believe in first sight, what happens between me and Pot-Bouille and me and The Return of the Native serves like an anomaly, which is a good thing because my experiences with the two novels show me that my mind can change. I am a reader on a progress. Anything can happen in terms of reading preference.

What used to be the most-avoided reading materials can nourish my soul later on. The thing is letting myself open to any kind of books although the writing styles do not match up my taste. It is important becoming a flexible reader because I still have a lot of things to learn. It is too soon to close my eyes, limited only to things that catch my attention from the beginning only.

So, Pot-Bouille has been nice so far. The plot moves quickly. The language is straight-forwarded. The theme so far has been about the manner and the lives of middle-class people in Paris, probably in the middle of the 19th century. I really love this sort of theme by the way.

The first pages of the book introduces me to the grand apartment where the characters reside. I can visualize how magnificent and elegant the place is and Paris in general. The extravagant life it has to offer, the rich people and the problems they have to face amidst the wealthy lives they experience.

So, I currently enjoy reading the book. Wish me luck guys! What books are you in right now? I’d love to read from yours.

The picture is taken from this.

Five things I learn about Robert Louis Stevenson from his short stories

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I was biding farewell to Robert Louis Stevenson as I closed the final page of ‘The Treasure of Franchard’, the last piece of his popular short stories anthology a few weeks ago.  Thanks to ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’, ‘The Merry Men’, ‘Will O The Mill’, ‘Markheim’, ‘Thrawn Janet, ‘Olalla’ and ‘The Treasure of Franchard’, I gather these following ideas about this beloved Scottish author:

  1. Philosophical and reflective

Reading Robert Louis Stevenson can be a hard task. His works invite me to reflect so much, even when he writes something funny. It’s like watching Adam Sandler’s dark comedy, the kind of laugh that tears my heart because something serious and ironic is in it, too. ‘Will O The Mill’ proves me this. This tells a story about Will, a very generous and kind-hearted person, who spends his lifetime staying in the same place until the day he dies. For me, Will is the type of person who is very close to all of us, the sort of a good-boy-next-door, the man whom you would like to make friends with. He is so nice that he doesn’t fight for the girl that he loves when another man approaches her. His story is very touching, a kind of calm, sombre one that leaves very impressive mark in my reading list.

  1. You reap what you sow

Although wrapped in cheerful tone, ‘The Merry Men’ teaches me a lot of life lessons, each and every thing that I throw will come back to me in abundant ways. Gordon Darnaway, the uncle of Charles Darnaway, is the perfect example of this. From the very beginning of the short story, it prompts me to think how can this old man is very serious about his life. He seems distant and takes everything so heavy. After I read on the part where he murders now I understand that he probably reaps what he sows. He feels uneasy because of the crimes he does before. His life seems unpleasant because he runs away from his guilty for so long. The last scene where he is seen jumping off the sea makes my heart breaks. So ironic for his life.

  1. Oh, the Gothic style

‘Olalla’ brings me back all about Gothic things, the stuff that I learn during my university years. The mysterious, horror, thrilling tones are strongly felt in the story. Although some of key questions remain unanswered, the short story successfully keeps me going completing it. Robert Louis Stevenson is really good at presenting the Gothic idea in it although does not executing it all as smooth as I expect.

  1. ‘Markheim’ proves his work can be unsatisfying

From ‘Markheim’ I learn that even a master like Robert Louis Stevenson can produce deficient writing. I can feel his writing misses a number of scenes. Disorganized. The last scene when Markheim indicates he will surrender himself to the police after a thoughtful conversation with a man doesn’t make any senses to me.

  1. ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ remains his exceptionally masterpiece

‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ is by far his brilliant work, which completely sticks in my heart in different ways despite the fact ‘Of Mice and Men’ is my most favorite book and ‘Wuthering Heights’ is the best novel I have read so far. ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ stands out from the crowd not only because of it tells about someone’s split personality but also because of his very, very subtle language with huge focus on details. This story runs really delicate that if you don’t pay enough attention, big things will slip away.

Thank you Mr. Robert Louis Stevenson!

Thanks for providing the picture.

The missing piece: Thomas Hardy’s less popular books

bored

I completed reading the short story anthology by Robert Louis Stevenson a few weeks ago and I haven’t bought any new novels. This makes me feel a little bit hollow. On one side, I feel lighter because I have no commitment of reading a number of pages within a day or a week. I have no self-appointment to be met. I can read online articles whenever I want without feeling guilty.

On the other hand, something is missing. An important piece of my life is wandering, waiting to be found. And I know I need to read a decent book. In particular, I want to read another title by one of my most favorite authors, Thomas Hardy. I want his books BADLY. The problem is I don’t know how I can find them in the offline bookstores in Jakarta. The store I frequently visit sells only his popular works, such as The Mayor of Casterbridge, Jude the Obscure and Tess of the D’Urbervilles. I read all of them years ago.

The point is I have to buy his lesser known stories via online, something that I haven’t done. May be you wonder why should Hardy’s books? Well, I have to admit that there are no writings that suit my taste better than his. I like Robert Louis Stevenson’s writing style and his descriptive writing technique yet his chosen themes don’t match up with my likeness. They are incomplete, some things remain unresolved, as seen in Olalla and The Treasure of Franchard. Although, yes, they definitely entertain me so much.

In addition, I think it is because Hardy’s works or say, Hardy’s viewpoints are similar with my own; idealistic, realistic and pessimistic (I am working on the latest point to be more positive tone). His view of life and society and romance are comprehensive and contains a lot of critics. His writings are very reflective, prompting me to think on issues in broader ways possible. Romance in his eyes are not just a matter of feelings. And I am always captivated by his fictitious characters, so humane with flaws here and there.

For the sake of enjoying good writings, I am going to buy Hardy’s books. Let’s see how can they fill up the voids in my heart for I can’t take it anymore. I am really in dire need of beautiful words, thoughtful writings.

The picture is taken from this.

“The Treasure of Franchard” by Robert Louis Stevenson

Doctor Henri Desprez meets with Jean-Marie in such unlikely ways. The kid works for a mountebank whom he boldly admits as unkind man. The philosopher and the child come together on the mountebank’s place where the sick man lies sick. Doctor Desprez comes to cure him. It isn’t the mountebank’s worsening health that surprises him but the kid instead.

He looks ignorant about the poor man’s health. He is very honest when he says he dislikes him. After the first meeting, the doctor runs into the child then they both converse, much to the doctor’s irritation. For him, Jean-Marie is too straight-forwarded, unafraid to attack his principles. Plus, Jean-Marie says he used to be a thief.

The story takes drastic turn when the doctor says to his wife, Anastasie, to adopt him. Despite her strong opposition, Doctor Desprez brings Jean-Marie to the house after the mountebank passes away. Jean-Marie turns out being a slow-learner and quite timid, the facts that disappoint the doctor. For Anastasie, Jean-Marie is the object of her play given his sluggish learning pace. She teases him much to her amusement. While for the doctor, Jean-Marie is his prime listener to his theories and rumbles. He prefers talking to the kid to his wife.

One day the doctor and his adopted son goes to Franchard with the intention of snatching what people say as a treasure. The doctor gets it, in forms of luxurious goods and money. He returns home with dreams of coming back to Paris with his wife dressed in fancy dress. He says he will telegraph Casimir, Anastasie’s brother, on their planned departure. Jean-Marie, on the other hand, doesn’t care much on the money. He says money can be harmful.

When they both reach home again, the doctor informs Anastasie on his overall plan. They both visualize how wonderful will their life be if they are rich. After that, they go to their deep slumber happily, knowing tomorrow will be their big day. But as they open their eyes, the pair is shocked.

The money is gone. Only the beautiful dress and some goods that are left. Somebody must have stolen the money! The doctor is very furious. Not long after that, Casimir comes. He suspects Jean-Marie who takes it all. The boy says yes after being forced by the businessman. It takes the wife to convince the kid to stay with them under one condition that they won’t bring the issue up again.

They agree. The house of the doctor and his wife falls down, literally, after years of decaying. They no longer have any roofs under their heads to keep them warm. They are homeless now. Thankfully, a good neighbor provides them a shelter, something that raises the doctor’s sense of humanity after all the years long.

Casimir visits them again. Instead of paying sympathy or the like, he calculates the value of the fallen house. The doctor can’t help it anymore, he is so angry with his brother-in-law. As they calculate, Jean-Marie is seen walking from across the street where the house stands.

It is Jean-Marie who actually takes the money then bring it back to this father and mother after they become humble, trustworthy of receiving it.

 

Goodbye ‘Janet’ now welcome ‘Olalla’

happy

I finally bid farewell to ‘Thrawn Janet’, the first short story ever that confuses me because of its writing style. You can read about the reading struggle of this writing here. I get through it, eventually, after a few weeks.

I can’t tell you how relieved I am now. It feels as if I just pass very dark, dense forest with no helps at all. All in front of my eyes are now clear path with the sound of river nearby where I currently stand. The sun shines so bright. The land looks so vast.

I am so ready to resume the journey of this short story collection by Robert Louis Stevenson. Well, in fact I have been enjoying the first three pages of ‘Olalla’ another short story in this book anthology. And I quite like it.

At least, the writing style is my kind of favorite. No Scottish dialect, all is written in formal language. And oh yes, what I have been missing from this author shows up again; his beautiful writing style, the one that contains vivid descriptions that encourage my mind to visualize.

I can’t tell you much about what this story is all about other than the protagonist of the story is a handsome man from well-to-do family who wishes to seek therapy in a fresh, beautiful village in Spain in exchange of better health condition.

‘Olalla’ is the name of the characters in the story, the wife of Felipe, the narrator’s servant. What goes after this? I don’t know yet. I am going to share it all after I complete reading it. In the meantime I just want to say that I am happy I fulfill my commitment to finish reading ‘Thrawn Janet’ which completely confuses me. But I manage to keep my words and somehow I am proud of myself because of that. Also, I am happy to say here that I enjoy reading ‘Olalla’ so far.

Thank you for providing the above happy picture.

How Reading Teaches Me A Lot About Self-Commitment

reading

Currently, I am reading ‘Thrawn Janet’, still by Robert Louis Stevenson. It has been taking me a few weeks for reading the short story which is just less than 20 pages. Worse, I don’t even really understand what I am reading about. It’s a triple embarrassment. I have never been this awful.

The hard thing about this short story is that the author, again and again, writes so many dialects in it. It also presents so many writing symbols, such as . Then, it writes the words exactly as they are uttered, like ‘likit’ for ‘like it’. I think they are all about the Scottish language. And you know what? I am so dizzy reading all about that. I really am.

As much as the author wishes to compose the story as original as it is, the method completely drives me insane. But I keep reading it despite the adversity. The experience has been torturing me in the past few weeks but I have kept doing it.

Why?

Because I want to be a damn responsible person. I have to complete what I start, no matter how miserable thing turns out to be. I never expected one of the author’s short stories would be this full of Scottish dialect, how would I know back then?

But deciding purchasing the collected short stories means I have to finish reading all works. I don’t want to put this book into the list of the unfinished novels in my book shelf. There have been some titles and I hope this book won’t be one of them. I am so sick with myself if I don’t keep my promise of reading books that I buy. I can get angry with myself because of that. I can feel so guilty to myself each time I don’t finish reading books.

After years reading books, I have learned how much I can value my self-commitment. In fact, you can measure the level of the self-commitment or train your own commitment through reading books, any kind of reading materials that you purchase then stick at it until the last page.

As a result, I can shamefully tell you that my self-commitment is fluctuating, but mostly I can keep my own words. There are amazing titles that I miss, including Middlemarch by George Eliot, Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes and Bleak House by Charles Dickens. Really, I don’t know how I can resume reading the titles. I did try continue reading them but gave it all up, partly because I wasn’t into the writing styles.

If I can give comparison my reading commitment level is 80% to 20%, the lesser percentage is for those partial reading trips. Still pretty good score but I need to work on and reduce the 20% into a lower point.

What about you guys? Do you feel ugly if you don’t finish reading the books you decide buying?

Thank you so much for providing the thumbnail.

I’m afraid of reading ‘Lolita’

lolita

“Lolita, a light in my life, the daughter of my wife. My friend, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: a slippery trip for the tip of my tongue, tough and rewarding, like our friendship, and fun to say, even in anger. Try it: Lo. Lee. Ta.”

The first lines of the novel have stuck in my head ever since I knew it. I know they sound a bit cheesy but somehow they are beautiful, poetic, aren’t they? I have been thinking of reading the book for quite a long time but each time I go to my favorite bookstore then find the title lingering at the bookshelf my hands don’t carry it to the cashier.

The thought of knowing the essence of the book discourages me. As much as I love the language put by Vladimir Nabokov, the author of the book, my brain isn’t yet ready to dig deep into the book.

Although I have been actually trying to dissociate my mind from any displeasing feelings that may come up while reading the book, I still find it a little bit too challenging. I have been attempting to put my mind as mere literature reader but the thought of an elderly man falling in love then possessing a girl much younger than he is remains so disturbing.

And despite the fact that I once read Nabokov’s introductory statements for ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ then knowing how magical his words are, I remain reluctant to give ‘Lolita’ a shoot. (Nabokov’s statements are really amazing. Witty, smart ass, thought-provoking. I love him already).

I hope one day I have the gut to read it or to be precise, I am brave to try enjoying the book under one condition that my heart and my brain are united to view ‘Lolita’ as a beauty, a good art, an expression of literature brilliancy a la Nabokov.

One day, one day.. till now. I am still with Robert Louis Stevenson.

The picture is taken from this.

The hard life of a distinctive reader

Last Sunday, I and my best friend, who is also a bookworm, headed to my favorite bookstore. The bookstore was located in an upscale shopping mall in the heart of Jakarta. The mall is such a high class one that I go to the place because of the bookstore and its food court. Only the products at the two chains that are affordable for my pocket, LOL! Others are luxurious materials, too expensive for me.

My pal was coming back home bringing two novels, one of which was my recommendation; ‘Wuthering Heights’. I was happy she purchased the book. I told her the novel was by far the best novel that had ever been written. She trusted me.

She seemed joyful but I was not.

The bookstore is the only place in Jakarta where I usually find my treasures (best classics I have always been looking for). While I found it amazing the bookstore was still flocked by visitors since reading habit in Indonesia is saddening, particularly for imported books, I was disappointed that it didn’t provide various book titles from the Victorian Era that Sunday. It was displaying famous novels, the ones that had been reproduced into a lot of versions, such as Jane Austen’s popular books and those of Charles Dickens.

If not the popular titles, the bookstore sells overlooked short stories, which are not my thing. I prefer novels anyway.

I was sad because no more titles by Thomas Hardy other than those I had read; ‘Jude the Obscure’, ‘Far from The Madding Crowd’, and so on. I was hoping his lesser-known books were there, like ‘Two on A Tower’ or ‘Under the Greenwood Tree’ yet they weren’t.

I have been longing for reading those unpopular novels by Hardy for quite so long. And I was not really surprised that I didn’t get what I wanted that day. The trouble being a classic reader like I in Indonesia is that I always feel like an anomaly.

Either my fellow bookworms are lovers of novels in Bahasa Indonesia or most of my pals are not avid readers, I always find it difficult whenever I want to read novels by my favorite authors. I can buy them online but for a conventional reader like I, coming to a good bookstore then looking for titles that I like is such a bliss. Looking at the many titles, admiring the books’ covers then feeling my eyes sparkle whenever I find books that I want to buy or new titles suddenly capture my eyes..

You can call overly dramatic but I always love going to a bookstore. It feels like I am about to have an adventure.

I almost bought ‘Sylvia’s Lovers’ by Elizabeth Gaskell that day but I cancelled it because it was too pricey. Sadly, there was only one book at the shelf, which made me even more sober. I also almost purchased ‘Jane Eyre’ but the faces of Mia Wasikowska and Micheal Fassbender really disrupted my intention. The thought they were on a screen for a movie adaptation of ‘Jane Eyre’ was not my favorite.

I went home empty-handed. I preferred not reading books that didn’t completely fit my interests to being forced enjoying novels that were so-so. If you guys living in countries where reading is very common you guys are so lucky because in Indonesia, reading habit is quite alarming.

Most youngsters here tend love reading popular books, the kind of stories that ‘sell’ romance or motivation. Canon literature is an alien, especially those in English Language. Reading books in public parks is very rare here. Book clubs are scarce, too. I am happy with my reading preference though despite the fact that I have to struggle finding my desired novels.