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Old 04-26-2008, 08:05 PM   #5
zelda_pinwheel
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very nice idea ! looking through my books to find a couple of good ones i found these. i don't know whether any of these authors / titles will be obscure enough for you, but i seem to be the only one who knows them in my circle of friends at least, so i hope they will be unknown to others here as well... this has reminded me that i have not read any of these in several years ; i think it is time to go back to them again. therefore my recommendations are probably rather superficial, since unfortunately i do not have the details very fresh in my mind.

Sławomir Mrożek : Polish absurdist playwright. i first read his play (do plays count ? i like reading plays but i know some people don't) Tango. here is the quote from the back cover (i am translating from my edition in french, so bear with me if it is not word for word the same as the real english version....)
Quote:
If you had lived through that time, you would understand what you owe us. You don't know what life was like before us. To dance the tango, you needed some kind of courage ! Do you know that the proportion of fallen women was incredibly small, I don't know, two per cent, maybe ? Do you know that people went into ecstasies over naturalist paintings ? And over bourgeois theater ! bourgeois theater, can you imagine, what a horror !
hilariously funny, yet disquieting (more so if you read between the lines...), like all good absurdist theater. according to an online biography, Tango is "a biological and psychological observation of creation of totalitarian mechanisms, the play which made him internationally famous, was staged for the first time in 1965." Could be a good companion piece to Rhinoceros.

Frigyes Karinthy : another representative of the eastern bloc, from Hungary this time. a great humorist who also was the first proponent of the concept of 6 degrees of separation, in a short story called Chains (which i was not able to find the last time i looked for it, although i admit i did not look very hard, but if anyone comes across a copy, please let me know...). i read a book of his short stories called (i beleive) "Je dénonce l'humanité", which i had to give up reading in the métro because i was laughing too much during some of the stories. hilarious and at the same time quite incisive. he has a profound love of humanity, and is disposed to give them the benefit of the doubt, but this does not stop him from seeing (and making fun of) all its flaws. not very easy to find ; the one i read was a library book. he also wrote Reportage céleste : de notre envoyé spécial au paradis (Heavenly Interview), a humorous account by a reporter sent to interview dead souls in heaven, and "Voyage around my skull", a documentary novel about his struggle with a brain tumor (including brain surgery under local anaesthetic). Two for one special on this recommendation : he is the father of the writer Ferenc Karinthy, who wrote Epépé, about a linguist going to a conference in Helsinki who gets on the wrong flight by accident and mischance and finds himself stranded in a country he cannot identify, with people speaking a language he is incapable of comprehending ; on a par with Kafka.

Alessandro Baricco : an italian writer, for a change. perhaps a bit too well-known for this list, since his monologue Novecento was made into a film with Tim Roth (which was abysmal, whatever you do don't see it, however definitely read the monologue, it's amazing), about a pianist who has spent literally his entire life on an ocean steamer. he writes beautiful, poetic stories which are full of hope and wonder at the beauty of life and the world, very silly and surreal sometimes, and profoundly sad at other times. the first book i read by him was Castelli di rabbia, french title "les Châteaux de la colère", english title "Lands of glass" ; eccentric and fantastical story about the inhabitants of a small imaginary town called Quinnipak in the middle of the 19th century and their interwoven existences. watch out for Oceano Mare (Océan Mare / Ocean Sea), about a raft of shipwrecked people ; i was not prepared for how unbearably tragic it was, in a painful, hopeless way. it is beautifully written though.

i think that will have to be all for now ; it is getting quite late and i think i should go to bed now.
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