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Posts Tagged ‘tragedy’

Book Review: Farewell by Honore de Balzac

February 21, 2011 1 comment

Picture of BalzacSummary:
Philip, a colonel in the military, lost his love Genevieve in Siberia when retreating from the Russians.  Years later, he randomly stumbles upon her in a country house with her uncle, having lost her mind from her horrible experiences in Siberia with the military after they lost each other.  She is only capable of saying one word.  “Farewell.”

Review:
I decided to read a Balzac work due to a reference in the musical The Music Man.  The elderly ladies of the town think the librarian is scandalous because she keeps works of Balzac in the library.  Clearly I needed to know what all the fuss was about, so I decided to see for myself.

My first instinct is that this classic work of tragedy shouldn’t actually be that scandlous, which perhaps was the point in The Music Man.  These elderly ladies are *so* ridiculous to object to Balzac.  In any case, however, in retrospect I can see what is so shocking.  The incredible weakness of mind and character demonstrated by both Philip and Genevieve are both irritating and depressing.  I’m not sure what point Balzac was trying to make, but all I could think was that both of them needed to man up.

That’s not to say the book isn’t well-written though.  The translation is lovely, and I’m sure in the original French it is even prettier.  Just imagining Genevieve only being able to say “Adieu” sounds prettier than “Farewell.”  The scenes are vividly described, and the reader is certainly engaged.

Overall, it is a well-told tragedy that suffers a bit from weak characterization.  I recommend it to fans of tragedies and classic French literature.

3.5 out of 5

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Book Review: The Duchess of Malfi by John Webster

January 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Summary:
The Duchess of Malfi has been widowed young.  She wants to remarry, but her brothers wish for her to remain single.  She enters into a secret marriage and is blisfully happy…..until her brothers find out.

Review:
This classic play, first performed in 1614, is everything you’d expect from the early tragedies.  There’s greed, vengeance, mysterious children, weeping women, and more.  This one is slightly different in that it is drenched in Catholicism and contains a truly evil brother.  I wish I could say this play made me think the way A Doll’s House did, but honestly the only thing I thought was “Man, it sucks to be her.”  It is quite possible that this is one of those plays that comes across better when you see it performed than when you read it.  I found it neither enjoyable nor unenjoyable, and I think that may simply be because at this point in time the tragedy plot seems overdone and completely not shocking.

However, if you find the plot appealing and enjoy a good, old-fashioned tragedy, then you should give this play a shot.

3 out of 5 stars

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