quinta-feira, 14 de fevereiro de 2013

The Joke - Milan Kundera

This was Milan Kundera's first novel written and it is excellent!!! 
This story begins with a main character, Ludvik who is expelled from college and as a member of the Communist Party because of a stupid joke - a joke that would cost him many years of suffering and hard labor at a coal mine he was sent to. In this grey dull city he meets Lucie: a young, quiet and well behaved young woman who appreciates flowers and movies. And from this point on the book starts revealing itself and becoming extremely interesting. 
Once again Milan Kundera knows how to undress people's minds to the full leaving the reader very thoughtful - in this book he does so by writing in monologues. Four different characters expressing their point of view, their faiths, feelings and past history which is what brings them to do certain actions and decisions in the present. Both men and women's minds are unraveled and revealed in this story which takes place so long ago - in a different era; when the Check Republic was dominated by the Red Party and everyone's lives were affected in some way or the other, for better or worse.
Being this only my second Milan Kundera book I now am certain to go on to more books of his - definitely worth reading!!!

"The Joke" - By Wikipedia:

The novel is composed of many jokes, which have strong effects on the characters. The story is told from the four viewpoints of Ludvik Jahn, Helena Zemánková, Kostka, and Jaroslav. Jaroslav's joke is the transition away from his coveted Moravian folk lifestyle and appreciation. Kostka, who has separated himself from the Communist Party due to his Christianity, serves as a counterpoint to Ludvik. Helena serves as Ludvik's victim and is satirical of the seriousness of party supporters. Ludvik demonstrates the shortcomings of the party and propels the plot in his search for revenge and redemption.
Written in 1965 Prague and first published in Czechoslovakia in 1967, the novel opens with Ludvik Jahn looking back on the joke that changed his life in the early 1950s. Ludvik was a dashing, witty, and popular student who supported the Party. Like most of his friends, he was an enthusiastic supporter of the still-fresh Communist regime in post-World War II Czechoslovakia. In a playful mood, he writes a postcard to a girl in his class during their summer break. Since Ludvik believes she is too serious, he writes on the postcard, "Optimism is the opium of the people! A healthy atmosphere stinks of stupidity! Long live Trotsky!" His colleagues and fellow young-party leaders did not see the humor in the sentiment expressed in the postcard. Ludvik finds himself expelled from the party and college and drafted to a part of the Czech military where alleged subversives form work brigades and spend the next few years working in mines.
Despite the interruption in his career, Ludvik has become a successful scientist. However, his treatment at the hands of his former friends has left him bitter and angry. An opportunity arises when he meets Helena, who is married to Pavel Zemanek, the friend who led the efforts to purge Ludvik from the party. Ludvik decides to seduce Helena as a means of exacting his revenge. In essence this is the second `joke' of the novel. Although the seduction is successful, things do not quite play out the way Ludvik expects (this is the novel's third joke), and he is left once more to sit and think bitter thoughts. Ultimately he decides that these sorts of jokes and their repercussions are not the fault of the humans who set them in motion, but are really just a matter of historic inevitability. Ultimately, then, one cannot blame forces that cannot be changed or altered.

segunda-feira, 4 de fevereiro de 2013

Banco - Henri Charriere

"Banco" is the sequel to the book Papillion and tells the continuation of Papillon's many adventures after finally fleeing from a lifelong prison sentence in French Guiana. 
Once free and regaining his liberty in Venezuela he tells the tales of trying to get back to "normal life" after so many years locked up. Adapting to once again being around people, having to support himself, learning the new Spanish language seem hard enough - but even all that put together isn't as hard as keeping away from trouble and maintaining an honest lifestyle. 
As the book proceeds Papillion finds the love of his life and with her support and help he is finally able to return to France, reunite with his family and finally find the redemption and forgiveness his soul claimed for to be able to start again.
Not as exciting and heart rendering as his first book, but Henri Charriere is still able to conquer the hearts of his readers by his passion and intricate description of how the human heart works. 
At the end of this book you are once reminded that no matter how far down someone has gone there is always hope of him finding his way up.

Henri Charrière

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Henri Charrière (French pronunciation: ​[ɑ̃ʁi ʃaʁjɛʁ]; 16 November 1906  – 29 July 1973) was convicted as a murderer by the French courts, and was chiefly known as the author of Papillon, a hugely successful memoir of his incarceration in and escape from a penal colony in French Guiana. While Charrière claimed that Papillon was largely true, modern researchers believe that much of the book’s material came from other inmates, rather than Charrière himself. To his final days Charrière strenuously denied his murder conviction, however he freely admitted to having committed various other petty crimes prior to his incarceration.

Early life

Charrière was born at Saint-Étienne-de-LugdarèsArdèche, France. He had two older sisters; his mother died when he was 10 years old. In 1923, at the age of 17, he enlisted in the French Navyand served for two years. After leaving the Navy, Charrière became a member of the Paris underworld, and later married and had a daughter.


According to his book, Papillon, Charrière was convicted on 26 October 1931 of the murder of a pimp named Roland Le Petit, a charge that he strenuously denied. He was sentenced to life in prison and ten years of hard labour. After a brief imprisonment at the transit prison of Beaulieu in Caen, France, he was transported in 1933 to the prison of St-Laurent-du-Maroni on the Maroni River, in the penal settlement of mainland French Guiana. According to the book, he made his first escape on 28 November 1933, [1] 37 days later, joined by fellow prisoners André Maturette and Joanes Clousiot, who would accompany him throughout much of his time on the run. The trio shipwrecked near the village of Riohacha, northern Caribbean Region of Colombia, and was imprisoned. Charrière subsequently escaped during a rainy night and fled to the La Guajira Peninsula, where he was adopted by an Indian tribe. He spent several months living with the natives, but felt that he had to move on, which was a decision he would ultimately regret. Upon returning to civilization, he was quickly recaptured and sent back to French Guiana to be put into solitary confinement for the next 2 years.
While in French Guiana he spent 11 years in prison, during this period he attempted to escape several more times resulting in increasingly brutal responses from his captors. He stated that he was then confined to Devil's Island, a labor camp that, at the time, was notorious for being inescapable.(French authorities later released penal colony records that contradicted this; amongst other details, Charrière had never been imprisoned on Devil's Island.) However, he finally achieved his permanent liberation in 1941, by using a bag of coconuts as a makeshift raft and riding the tide out from the island. He sailed for miles and eventually arrived in Venezuela, where he was imprisoned for one year then released as a Venezuelan citizen.[2]

[edit]Later life

After Charrière's final release in 1945, he settled in Venezuela where he married a Venezuelan woman identified only as Rita. He opened restaurants in Caracas and Maracaibo. He was subsequently treated as a minor celebrity, even being invited frequently to appear on local television programs. He finally returned to France, visiting Paris in conjunction with the publication of his memoir Papillon (1969). The book sold over 1.5 million copies in France,[3] prompting a French minister to attribute "the moral decline of France" to miniskirts and Papillon.[4]
Papillon was first published in the United Kingdom in 1970, in a translation by the novelist Patrick O'Brian. Charrière played the part of a jewel thief in a 1970 film called The Butterfly Affair. He also wrote a sequel to Papillon entitled Banco, in which he describes his life subsequent to his release from prison.
In 1973, his book Papillon was made into a film directed by Franklin Schaffner, in which the actor Steve McQueen takes the title role (Charrière). Dalton Trumbo was the screenwriter, and Charrière himself acted as consultant on location. An interview with Henri Charrière is included in the documentary, Magnificent Rebel, which describes the making of the film.
There are scenes in the film that were not mentioned in the book, an example of which is when Papillon and friends were forced by the guards to catch a crocodile.
On 29 July 1973, Charrière died of throat cancer in Madrid, Spain.[5]


Charrière's 1970 best-selling book Papillon, which Papillon said was "75 percent true,"[6]details his alleged numerous escapes, attempted escapes, adventures and recaptures, from his imprisonment in 1932 to his final escape to Venezuela. The book's title is Charrière's nickname, derived from a butterfly tattoo on his chest (papillon being French for butterfly). Modern researchers, however, believe that Charrière got much of his story material from other inmates, and, thus, see the work as more fictional than autobiography. In his book "Les quatre vérités de Papillon", Georges Ménager, a former Paris-Match reporter claims that Charrière was in fact a police informer and a pimp before his incarceration, and lived off the proceeds of his girlfriend's prostitution and that he later tried to blame her for the murder of Roland Legrande. Charrière claims to have been incarcerated in Saint Laurent and may have escaped from there, but according to French officials, he never served any time on the Devil's Island. The book and movie both present Devil's Island as having rocky cliffs, when in fact, though the entire island is rocky, it gently slopes into the surrounding sea. A French justice ministry report said Charrière's book included episodes that were imagined or involved others and "should be divided by at least 10 to get near the truth".[7]In 2005, a 104-year-old man in Paris, Charles Brunier, claimed to be the real Papillon.[8] Critics tend to agree that Charrière's depictions included events that happened to others and that Brunier was at the prison at the same time. Critics claim that the heroic rescue of a guard's young daughter from sharks, which Charrière describes graphically in his book, was in fact carried out by another convict named Alfred Steffen who lost both legs and subsequently died.[9]When some critics questioned the veracity of his story and said he erred on some of the dates, Charrière replied: "I didn't have a typewriter with me."[10]French journalist Gerard de Villiers, author of "Papillon Épinglé" (Butterfly Pinned) maintains that "Only about 10 percent of Charrière's book represents the truth."[11]