Friday, December 23, 2011
The difference between literature and journalism is that journalism is unreadable and literature is not read.
It's a long way to the top (if you want to rock 'n roll). Liverpool Street, Hobart. December 2011.
A couple of books this week as we near the end of the year. These two represent numbers 98 and 99 for the year and I should finish Martin Amis's Times Arrow shortly to crack the hundred!
First Love by Ivan Turgenev was first published in 1860 and concerns the memory of the narrator’s first love. I have read that the novel is regarded as a Russian 'classic' and an important book in teaching young Russians. The conclusion itself is masterfully done, not really a surprise as such, but it does force the reader to reassess what had happened up to that point.
While the romantic tensions inherent in First Love might seem somewhat naive to present sensibilities, it has a restrained charm that makes it an enjoyable read. Highly recommended.
The second book is Revolutionaries is a collection of reviews and essays by Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm written through the 1960s. I have read most of these before, but not much since Henry has been around.
There’s no doubt that Hobsbawm's style is among the most accessible and lively of historians, and Revolutionaries covers all sorts of topics related revolution, high politics and (or course) socialism. As with any such collection, the quality varies a bit, but it is generally high. Obviously the content is somewhat dated (the world has changed a little since 1968), but there remain some really pertinent points.
For example, the essay on Vietnam – first published in 1965 just as the United States was escalating its commitment of troops – succinctly and presciently maps out the reasons why the victory of the Vietnamese Communists was inevitable. In many respects, *some* of this logic can be extended to the Afghanistan situation today.
So, if you are into that sort of thing, this should be well worth picking up and giving a go.