Picking from my 4th list of books for The Classic Club, my plan was to read 8 novellas this month for the Novellas in November event.
I managed to read them all, but have been bad at posting reviews recently.
I did post a short review for these three (click on the cover), the three reviews are on the same post:
The Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, by Nikolai Leskov (1865)
The Lifted Veil by George Eliot (1859)
The Snow Goose, by Paul Gallico (1951)
And here are now a few words on the 5 other novellas I have read.
I may end up writing more and more super short “reviews” of that type. Would you still be interested in this blog if I did?
The 39 Steps, by John Buchan (1915)
This was a spy story on the light side, though set just before WWI.
There were lots of scenes on the moor, so that word itself gives the atmosphere.
Back from South Africa, Richard is bored with London life. But then one day, events accelerate faster than expected: a mysterious American warns him of a political assassination plot, and asks for shelter. And then, Richard finds him murdered.
Lots of smart disguises, as Richard tries to understand what this plot is all about, and what these 39 steps are.
I watched the movie by Hitchcock some time ago, but I couldn’t really connect the two stories.
Crimson Sails, by Alexander Green (1922) – sometimes entitled Scarlet Sails
Oh, I did review this one. Click on the cover.
It’s a beautiful Russian fantasy
The Heart of a Dog, by Mikhail Bulgakov (1925)
Another Russian classic, but so very different:
“A rich, successful Moscow professor befriends a stray dog, whom he names Sharik, and attempts a scientific first by transplanting into it the testicles and pituitary gland of a recently deceased man”.
The surgery has unexpected results, and the new creature is… a dig? Aman? Both?
Well, I won’t reveal what he does, but there are some really hilarious passages.
The beginning and end of the story is told by the dog himself.
Bulgakov is great at political satire. Ultimately, this one is actually a parable of the Riussian Revolution. And maybe also on what is to be human. And how dangerous it could be to be playing with genes!
Where There’s Love, There’s Hate, by Adolfo Bioy Casares (1946)
I had really enjoyed The Invention of Morel by the same autho.
This novella, coauthored by his wife, is very different in genre.
Like Bulgakov’s novella, it’s a parody, though lighter in tone. The target here are authors and detective stories.
Dr. Humberto is on his way to a seaside resort, to find peace and time to write a mystery. But soon, he’s deeply involved in finding who murdered Mary, one of the residents. Add another murder to that! Could he be next on the list?
I actually figured out the culprit fairly quickly, and the motive as well, but still, it was fun, especially the reflections on authors and pseudo-detectives.
“I am a literator, a reader, and as often occurs with men of my class, I confused reality with a book.”
There were some great scenes in a sand storm. It felt as scary as walking by night on the moor (as in a book mentined above), and the ambiance then reminded me of The Woman in the Dunes, by Kobo Abe.
And the very last sentence is neat in connection witht the title, but revealing it here would spoil most of the plot.
Il visconte dimezzato, by Italo Calvino (1952). Translated as The Cloven Viscount
At the time I’m writing this post, I haven’t actually finished it yet. Am at 77%, but I’ll be done for sure before the end of November.
It is a novella (143 pages), but I’m reading a bit more slowly than usual, as this is my very first novel in Italian. And there are lots of specific groups of vocabulary (military, and aromatic planst) that I have to look up. And this is not easy Italian.
Still, I have been thoroughly enjoying the experience, many months with Duolingo have paid and allowed me to reach my goal: to read books by Calvino in Italian!
This is a very weird (and hilarious too) book, about a viscount (and the narrator’s uncle), who gets split into two by a cannonball during battle. So now, we have two viscounts, a good one and a bad one. The story follows both, and makes us reflect I believe on human nature.
Some passages reminded me of The Satanic Verses, with also two popposite characters, especially at the beginning of the story.
This has been a wonderful international (American, English, Russian, Italian, and Argentinian) foray into novellas, and a fun way to mett three new authors.
Several focused on what it means to be human, and were really hilarious.
They all showed how powerful a short book can get when it’s well done.
These novellas look great. I’ve definitely seen a movie rec for The Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, which I’m eager to get my hands on. And George Eliot is one of my favorite authors, so The Lifted Veil as well.
By the way, I remember you discussing Inugami Curse some time back and I recently watched the Japanese movie version — it was such a brilliant plot! Thank you for the recommendation there. 🙂
Oh wow, so happy for you! And I had no idea all these were made into movies!!
So you know Japanese, right? What are your favorite learning tools?
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Great novellas. I was inspired by you and have read Leskov and downloaded Eliot (still to read). It seems I must read Bulgakov and Adolfo Bioy Casares. I read The 39 Steps some years ago. It is a great plot I think. Calvino’s name pops up everywhere, so I am looking for something by him. Congratulations for reading him in Italian.
I am glad I made you read some of these. Really good stuff
I wish I enjoyed Where There’s Love, There’s Hate more but it fell so short of my expectations. I did feel there were two writers there pulling the material in different directions, and that is exactly the case.
I was not able to feel this different pull, but I admit I prefered The Invention of Morel
A great selection of novellas there! I’ve read 39, Where There’s Love, Heart of a Dog and the Calvino, and they’re all huge favourites – though I am impressed with you being able to read the Calvino in the original language!
That was definnitely a great step forward, thanks
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