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Adventures in Writing, Reading & Book Culture

Read Lately

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Zafon takes the mystery into the steps of literary fiction. Such wondrously crisp language, full-bodied sentences, wit to appreciate on every page, and an ending that fits the story. Shadow is more a character study of many different people who populate this novel. So many that surely you can get lost in them if you don’t pay attention.

We’re in the world of Spain as it bridged the gap between Franco-ruled and post-Franco democracy. Books are its milieu, and love is its literature. The twists and back-tracks and suspense are only outnumbered by the snappy dialogue that’s found in this “tale.”

The Sleepwalkers by Hermann Broch

This is a trilogy, over 300,000 words, and a scintillating read from a master of existentialism.

The Romantic (1888) – A Prussian officer is filled with neuroses from an overbearing military father, and can barely function in a conventionally-driven German society under the Kaiser. Boring reading at some moments, but lots of deep psychological churning vis-a-vis the German mind.

The Anarchist (1903) – A bean counter patriot becomes an anarchist when he doesn’t get what he wants. Life amidst an apathetic system that doesn’t look after the common man. A real character tritese on Capitalism run amok.

The Realist (1918) – A WWI deserter takes refuge in a town where the sheep are ripe for the slaughter. This is the best of the trilogy, and where the other stories’ protagonists converge to create an existentialist dilemma that betters Kafka, Borges, Nabokov, Svevo, et al. A real gem of a tale.

Ah, so why “sleepwalkers”? In the process of being tamed by society’s conventions – money, position, consumption, obeying laws, accepting whatever government gives you/tells you – people fall into sleepwalking through their lives. When this happens, the decay of values takes hold, and bad government makes good (or decent) people do horrible things: witness Communist governments of the 1920s 30s & 40s (and beyond!), witness Nazi Germany, Fascist Spain, Fascist Italy, Militaristic Japan, Consumeristic England & America; witness America under Ronald Reagan, or the complete disintegration of values under George W. Bush. The American people accepted his talk of war … not enough people discounted his words; and none was willing to kill him, his people, or the American Congress for what they allowed.

This is sleepwalking.

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