Short reviews of classics

With this last week of the year, here are some more short reviews, which I think will allow me to finally present to you all the books I have read this year.
Today two classics which have basically nothing in common, they were not even written originally in the same language, but they are


  My Antonia Sodome et Gomorrhe

My Ántonia, by Willa Cather

This is a classic (written in 1918) that about everyone except me must have read, so I don’t pretend to review it, I just want to share a few of my impressions.

It is presented as the story written by Jim, retelling his own presentation of the life of Ántonia. He met her when he was 10, in Nebraska where he lived with his grandparents. It was he who taught Ántonia her first English words when she arrived in the village as a Bohemian immigrant.
This is a book about life, about friendship.

What I really loved about it is all the awesome descriptions of life in Nebraska, about the prairie, the land, nature. This is what attracted me, even more than the presentation of this strong woman.

In Book 3, when Jim is at the university, there are also neat passages on discovering the world of ideas, on Greek and Latin classics.
The ambiance reminds me a bit of Le grand Meaulnes (written in 1913, so just 5 years before), as for the theme of friendship and the land.

I really found it beautiful and definitely plan to read the whole Great Plains trilogy, as well as other books by Willa Cather.

If you want to know more about this author and her books, I highly encourage you to visit Chris at WildmooBooks who has read almost all her books.
Her thoughts on My Ántonia are worth reading.

Sodome et Gomorrhe, by Marcel Proust

As you may remember, I’m in the process of reading the whole of A la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time).
I dragged my feet with the previous volume, and this 4th one was a bit better, though I didn’t like much his spirit when talking about and describing the homosexuals of his time.
There were still, like in the previous book, a few looooooooooong social scenes at dinner and receptions, and I really have enough of those.
But as usual with Proust, I still think it worthwhile to drag my feet along 368 pages because here and there you have beautiful gems of descriptions (though alas not as many as in volume 1) or reflections.
I enjoyed in this time some great passages on the fact of dreaming, and the connection between dreaming and memory.
As of today, I’m in my last 25% of volume 5, so I will need 2015 to finish the whole thing.

I hope this does not sound pedantic, this is definitely not my intention, but really the beauty of Proust is in his writing, his mastery of the French sentence, so seriously, if you can’t read French, skip it, I really don’t think it’s worth reading in translation, however good a translation can try to be.
I would like to hear your opinion on his point actually.


12 thoughts on “Short reviews of classics

  1. I have read A La Recherche but in English ….definitely some books are better than others. Maybe one day i will tackle Swann’s Way in French ….i am sure it would be even more beautiful .


  2. Antonia sounds lovely. I’m still trying to get my first copy of a Willa Cather novel. I’ve been trying to decide between O Pinoneers and My Antonia. I might go for the latter first, now that I have an inkling as to what it is about. I have read a few of Cather’s short stories online and really enjoy her writing style.

    As for Proust, I don’t know that I ever intended trying to read In Search of Lost Time. But I did recognise the temptation to try it when I spotted a couple of volumes in the book store the other day. However, if you say the real beauty of Proust lies in his language and style then I absolutely get you when you say there is no point in reading this book unless I read it in French (which I know at an incredibly rudimentary level! :-/ ).


    • glad I checked on the link and looked a bit around, to discover who you are! thanks for stopping by, good to have you back, I enjoyed a lot your previous book blog.
      My Antonia is actually the 3rd book of the Trilogy, so maybe it makes more sense to read O Pioneers! first? I’m personally really good at reading series in the wrong order!!
      Proust, some may be horrified by what I said here, though it is based on my own experience as a translator. Maybe the 1st volume is ok in English? I think you should try to get a 2nd opinion

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m happy to hear you enjoyed My Antonia…I knew you would! Thank you for recommending my blog. My Antonia is often taught in high schools (and colleges) for its depiction of immigrants, which is why so many people have read it. Of course I like it, but it’s not my favorite Cather novel. I’ve not yet read any Proust, but he is on my list to get to–I’m a little intimated.


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