This mind wrestling after bidding farewell to ”Middlemarch”

I complete reading “Middlemarch” a few days ago, much faster than my expectation. Overall I take about two months reading the masterpiece’s 688 pages. It isn’t the thickest novel I have read so far. ‘’Wives and Daughters” runs more than 800 pages. But ‘’Middlemarch” is way more difficult to read. It takes a lot of efforts than the other title which is written by Elizabeth Gaskell. A lot more characters, more serious issues, much more detailed descriptions about the people and the places in ‘’Middlemarch” are some of the things that make Eliot’s way above ‘Wives and Daughter’. Anyway, I am not going to compare the books in the post, well ever, because each of them gives different nourishment to me, or readers in general.

It has been two days since I close the last page of “Middlemarch”. Call me sentimental but I feel like I have lost my best friend in the past two months, especially when I commute. The fact is I read almost all of its content in a train and public transport vehicle. I carry it when I go to the office. I intentionally use it to shield me away from my smartphone. The book is so thick that I find it hard to put it into my brown bag. So I bring it on hand.

Something breaks my heart when the book is coming to an end. A small crack that still lasts until now. The novel leaves mixed feelings. I am contented that Eliot provides clear and fair fate to each of the book’s major and semi major characters, particularly about Dorothea and Will Ladislaw. I feel so, so sorry with the life of Dr. Tertius Lydgate (will talk about this topic later on in a separate post). Even when I write this I don’t know exactly how to properly express my feeling about the book.

The novel is so remarkable, a wholeness that gets me thinking “how she does this?”

I can’t imagine her writing process hence she can put her imagination into this sort of complete tale. She creates vivid places as the settings of the book. Each and every character is described in detailed ways that they look as if they were real. Eliot also mentions political and social backgrounds that happen in larger scale, not only in Middlemarch. Small gossips, scenes in gambling house are alive, too. Eliot pays a lot of attention to even what look like trivial things.

Every time I get bored when it comes to minor figures which I am hardly able to memorize, the plot quickly shifts to major people whom I follow closely. So the boredom immediately goes away.

Eliot puts quite a lot of wise sentences, which miraculously don’t bother me, as a reader who doesn’t like books that sound preachy. And the most praised aspect of the book is character development. Eliot invites readers to get knowing very humane characters that for myself, will stick at my heart for very long time.

Whenever I look for a female character who is generous, overwhelmed with her wealth, I quickly come to the name of Dorothea. Her interest of helping others is so great that she makes it as one of the factors that makes her accepting the marriage proposal from Edward Ladislaw. She wants to make her life useful to her husband. The reason that later on proves inadequate to make her marriage life a happy one.

When I think about a figure who is too social that he becomes poor, I put Caleb Garth as the perfect example.

Rosamund Vincy, later Rosamund Lydgate, is the typical model for a beautiful woman who cares much about image, social pride, levelling.. as in ‘he is on par with my level’ sort of thing.

I can’t believe there is a man namely Fred Vincy who, despite his gorgeous looking that becomes his mother’s pride, is such a useless man. The kind of person who doesn’t know what to do in life.  An undecisive person, a dumb one. It is so sweet that he has Mary Garth by his side. She is not pretty but her intelligence and vision of life rescues him. Fred and Mary are such a perfect blend where Fred’s physical beauty meets with Mary’s intelligence and cleverness. Thank God, their strong love unites the two. Thank God.

And personally, the character that suits me most is Edward Casaubon. I write about much about him in previous two posts, much earlier than Dorothea and Tertius. I haven’t written about the two leading characters in details (will later work on them).

I can’t think how Eliot makes this book, her creative process. How many books she read so that she can come up with fragments from a lot of poems, proses not only in English Language but also in French Language. How many hours per day she dedicates her time making this story. Does each and every character that she puts into the book goes through thorough research?

Those are some questions that emerge when I read the book then after I conclude it. Too many questions, curiosities that I wish I could get her answers as the book is done reading. The last one is I would like to know how she can make this balanced overall story that makes it so round that finishing reading the novel leaves me a void I don’t know how to fill it up. The book is so exceptional that I find it hard to part with no matter how relieved I am that it ends fairly.

 

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Farewell, Edward Casaubon. Never think you will end that much miserable

I wish Edward Casaubon can make it longer than he is in Middlemarch. There is a kind of disappointment that he passes away much sooner than I expect. If you have read my previous post you know why I hope the clergyman lives longer in the masterpiece. Yes, he reflects so much about my personality. It is not because that he says so much about my trait that I wish him surviving through his deadly illness. But it is more because I look forward how he deals with his pride, jealousy, and seriousness in his marriage with Dorothea, his wife.

Yet, George Eliot ends this character too soon, at least according to my opinion. He dies in the morning while sitting in a bench under a tree. Peacefully on the surface but full of turmoil on the inside. The night before his passing, Dorothea can’t decide whether or not she is going to keep her words of obeying her husband’s will. She is confused thus delays telling her decision to her husband. Before she says her words, Edward passes away.

From Dorothea’s point of view, she must be glad that she doesn’t say anything about it. Had she known the will, she would regret it so much because the will declares she would not inherit all the properties left by her husband if she marries Will Ladislaw.

Eliot ends the fate of Edward in such depressing, wicked way. His envy and hatred to Will Ladislaw swallows him so much that he doesn’t want to see his wife happy. Eliot brings such unthinkable finale to the character, much worse than my expectation. He dies while holding a deep grudge. An inexplicable one. I think that is the worst ever fate an individual can withhold.

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I wish I were Austen’s Elinor Dashwood

I wish I were a mysterious being like Elinor Dashwood. I hope I have a lot of masks to put on whenever I need it the most just like her. Of all fictional heroines that I have enjoyed so far, Elinor is the one who makes me envious. She is the one of the kind who knows how to handle her heart with so much care. You can call her a hypocrite for frequently hiding her emotions. Once you realize letting them out in whatever moments you are in may cost you a lot, you understand Elinor behaves the way she does.

Elinor is a very interesting character because she is so reserved. She is the sort of person everyone loves being around with. She knows how to interact with the so-knowing-it-all-people affairs like Mrs. Jennings. She can, too, befriend with the woman who steals the heart of the man Elinor admires so much, Lucy. As much as she wants to cry it all out when she knows Lucy is engaged and later is married to Edward Ferrars, Elinor keeps her promises of not telling every one about the secret engagement.

When her heart is still broken because of Lucy and Edward, Elinor manages to console her sister, Marianne, as Willoughby leaves her for another woman. Elinor puts forward her brain and logic when it comes to love that results in the despises from her mother and Marianne. It turns out that Elinor’s suspicions about Willoughby are indeed true.

The way Elinor is so patient with everything happening to her life and those around her is amazing. She isn’t trapped in materialistic view of the people surrounding her. Elinor is very strong woman, so tough that she can withshield the sadness in her heart for months. Even so, her life is so full of patience. On the surface, Elinor’s life seems flat and boring as she has to wait and see for all things to come into her life. Not many active actions she actually does to pursue her dreams, unlike Marianne to Willoughby.

Yet in her circumstances, she has no other better options. She can’t force her feelings to Edward while Colonel Brandon, as I come to the page of 279 out of 367, remains attached to Marianne. So Elinor keeps trying being cool and patient while watching things turning out as they are. And that is the damn difficult thing one can ever have to do.

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.