Saturday, June 23, 2012

Holiday reading

It is hot in Italy so the prospect of sitting late on the balcony waiting for the cool to sleep and reading (reading even more than usual)...what to take?

The Kindle has Broch's 'Sleepwalker' trilogy: three novels charting the disintegration of values that led to the horrors of the Second World War from which Broch was a refugee. They were translated by my beloved Edwin and Willa Muir.  I have read them before: they are haunting and complex.

But I fear too that I am still wedded to the earlier technology of the 'book'!

There are the two (of three) volumes of C.S. Lewis' science fiction trilogy to read and the biography of his friend, Dom Bede Griffiths, to finish. I will take a slim volume of Dom Bede's essential writings because the biography has re-energised my love of his way of allowing 'Eastern' traditions to illuminate and deepen a Christianity both contemplative and interested in re-imagining the world as a peaceable kingdom, lived in but not exploited. It is a vision much needed after a week at work exploring social justice in a resource constrained world, exploring our planetary limits, and how to balance human need with our greed and a fragile earth.

I have included in the burgeoning suitcase Rosamund Bartlett's biography of Chekov that takes as its conceit his love of place (and his nomadic nature) as the lens through which to see his life and work and in recognition that one of his closest friends was Issac Levitan, the great Russian landscape painter. We think of Chekov as a writer of people yet those people populate very particular places to whose shaping life they respond.

Two further slim volumes have made the cut. A series of essays by Helen Luke that extraordinarily prescient and wise Jungian analyst who only began to write in her late fifties and whose sentences slow you into pondering and illuminate both the literature she is exploring and the reader. She has a five page essay on Lear in her book, 'Old Age' that says more about what it means to transit from productive working age to the contemplations of ageing than any number of 'helpful' books.

The second is Thomas Hardy's Selected Poems (never leave home without poetry). The poems are the achievement of the second half of his life and are beautiful explorations of the myriad ways of being human against the backdrop of a traditional, rural society. It is rare to be both equally accomplished as poet and novelist: Hardy is the greatest.

Days of art, evenings of reading: holiday.

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