Friday, 27 February 2009
Is this the first day of Spring that I see before me? I can't help but believe that it is, as the hot sunlight streams once again through my little office window. It feels like poem season again, as the the sun evokes feelings of warmth and longing. The daffodils in the recent frost bitten soil are ready to explode and the crocuses have already set forth into the light in their forests of blues, purples and yellows, almost looking like little drops of sweets.
I thought I would take a break from the manuscript and feed the birds and squirrels (old crisps, biscuits and potato) then i procrastinated a little further by standing still and listening to the birds sing. Spring is definitely in the air, there is no doubt about it, I am quite tempted to remove the tarpaulin from the swing chair in the garden, and this is always a good sign. Although I have a mighty headache, the desire to write is strong, so as with the spring breaking forth upon us once more, so must my work, but not before having a little read of Wordsworth to get us all in the mood.
Wordsworth - Lines Written in Spring
I heard a thousand blended notes,
While in a grove I sate reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.
To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.
Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And ’tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.
The birds around me hopped and played,
Their thoughts I cannot measure:--
But the least motion which they made
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.
The budding twigs spread out their fan,
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.
If this belief from heaven be sent,
If such be Nature’s holy plan,
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?
Thursday, 26 February 2009
Literature │Better Late than Never
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Austen’s ability to depict the society in which she was born into are as well developed as the fine detail in a Rembrandt painting, however, to my great shame, I hadn’t managed to read any of her romances, and when I did, it was quite evident that Austen had created the very skeleton of any successful, humorous romance that it around today. Austen’s ability to stay with us is clearly evident in the way that the her stories are retold repetitively, after all, was it not the BBC’s version of Pride and Prejudice that made many delve into the books of Austen, it would be a lie if the dark and brooding image of Mr Darcy, played by Colin Firth did not make you sit up in your seat and make you feel hope and despair at the strong headed Elizabeth Bennet who’s prejudice could not see through Mr Darcy’s pride until the very end. Off course you did, along with millions of other people.
And so it is, my fellow reader, my confession, that until the age of 23, I had not read an Austen romance, and I had not experienced the “Mr Darcy madness”, but long at last, I did, and I too wanted to be as strong willed as the great Elizabeth Bennet who just like people in real life, is heavily flawed, but discovering a lighter side to Austen was as though I had entered a personal enlightenment in my repertoire of literature. What one must do when reading much of Austen, is to merely hang in there, and I say this due to the fact that she tends to introduce something like ten characters within the first three short chapters, and one becomes immediately bombarded by a vastness of description and affliction for one to meditate upon, but this is achievable. Austen uses contrast in order to develop her characters, she makes Mrs Bennet an unstoppable, clucking, excitable, silly woman whilst Mr Bennet is calm, and seeks sanctuary in his library, after all, the poor man has been inflicted by an overwhelming number of women, Austen repetitively draws our attention to Mr Bennet’s ability to seek safety within a space of his own, something which was not available to women who only hoped to seek some sort of peace in marriage which was more like a business deal, Charlotte tries to explain this to Elizabeth when she accepts Mr Collin’s proposal, “I am not romantic you know. I never was. I ask only a comfortable home…I am convinced that my chance of happiness with him is as fair, as most people can boast on entering the marriage state.”
Austen proves in this book which she originally called First Impression, and had written before the age of twenty-one, that her exceptional ability to bring characters and situations to life is paramount, it is as though we can hear them breathing and watch them as they take a turn of the room. I am grateful that she was not discouraged from writing, as this novel like many after, was rejected and put to the side, but nothing would stop Austen from having her word which has lasted 192 years after her premature death at the age of 42, so I implore you, if you have not yet read the works of Austen, then it is not too late, after all, it is better late than never.
© Zehra Mustafa
Wednesday, 25 February 2009
Thursday, 19 February 2009
Virginia Woolf’s The Years
The Years was going to be something new; it was going to “…take in everything, sex, education, life etc and come with the most powerful and agile leaps like a chamois, across precipices from 1880 to here and now”, wrote Virginia Woolf, and this, she certainly achieved. As I edged closer to the end of this novel, my fingers gripping to the pages, hoping that it was not going to end yet, even after 410 pages or so, I knew that it was going to have to. As I put the book down, I let out a sigh; it was a sigh of fulfilment, and anticipation to read more books written by Woolf. Woolf’s books tend to be expressed by readers as confusing, boring and not altogether there, but trust me my readers, this woman is completely there, sharing with us a story that gives deep insight into the minds of others; their thoughts and feelings shared with us like a little secret whispered into out ears. What a breath of fresh air” I thought immediately and then laughed at myself, because it is actually quite old air which has the ability to be revived over and over again since its publication, finally, in 1937. I say finally because it took Woolf five years to write and re-write this novel until she was satisfied with it.
The Years follow the lives of the Pargiter family from 1880 to the present, which is the mid-1930s; noting all the changes that society undergoes, such as the use of the horse drawn cart which diminishes as the first automobiles are introduced. We also experience England being under attack during world war one, in which a sense of eeriness is aroused, here is a description of a blacked out London; “No light shone, save when a searchlight rayed round the sky, and stopped, here and there, as if to ponder some fleecy patch.” As we go through the years, we watch the Pargiter’s grow old and move away from the Victorian era. In “The Present”, we discover the way in which women have gained more freedoms, as Peggy is able to be a doctor, which was completely unheard of in the era the book sets off in. There are not only social advancements in terms of freedom, but also ones to do with the Victorian family. As with Virginia’s own father, Elizabeth, who is the eldest, the glue of the family, is heavily relied upon by her father, it is with her father’s death that she is able to experience true freedom, freedom from the patriarchy and freedom from the Victorian values that Woolf has always tried to sever herself from. She is finally able to live out the life she deserved. Woolf does not only write the female parts exquisitely, but is able to form the shape and mind of a man’s too, displaying her ability to move fluidly between the two.
Thursday, 12 February 2009
Literature │The Poetess
(published in "Avrupa" newspaper)
My discovery of Sylvia Plath was by accident at the age of fifteen; I had been browsing the shelves of WHSmith for anything that would catch my attention, when I found a book lying on its front, wedged on top of another book, almost falling to the back of the shelf. I turned it around to find it was The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. It was the first time that I had heard her name, and therefore knew absolutely nothing about her. I read the back, and it was these words that intrigued me, “…it broke existing boundaries between fiction and reality and helped to make Plath an enduring feminist icon. It was published under a pseudonym a few weeks before the author’s suicide.” The fact that this was possibly one of the last things that she had written made me believe that I could somehow unravel a mind that was so near the edge. Yesterday, the 11th February was the anniversary of Sylvia Plath’s death, had she not tragically taken her own life in 1963, she would have been 77 years old this year. Many question her integrity as a writer, whether she would have been as famous had her life not been cut dramatically short at the age of 31, or if she was pitied for being married to the great poet Ted Hughes who had cast a shadow upon Plath’s writing career and claimed to have mistreated her. The best advice, from one reader to another, is to look at her work for what it is.
Her words of poetry bleed from the page onto the reader’s heart as she gives us the keys into the secret life of a daughter, a wife, a mother, and a poetess. When I first read her poetry, it was completely different to anything that I had ever read; it was different to pastoral images conjured up by Wordsworth, or lost innocence by Blake. What I read was something different altogether, it was raw, full of anguish and anger, yet there was a strong sense of a calm voice in the midst of it such as the poem “Lady Lazarus” published in Ariel, after her death; the poem is an account of her failed suicide attempts, in which she declares; “Dying, Is an art, like everything else. I do it exceptionally well” Just through these lines, we are able to understand that life for her has become one long, tedious job. As her depression takes a hold of her, Plath’s life turns immediately into a struggle in which she finds herself drowning in, but not completely, she hangs on long enough to share her experiences with us.
Plath should not be thought simply as the depressed poetess, as she is more then capable of producing funny and witty poetry as seen in “The Applicant” where she delves into the roles within a marriage, “Now your head, excuse me, is empty. I have the ticket for that.” The woman is turned into an object that is put on the earth to fulfil her marital obligations, “To bring teacups and roll away headaches, And do whatever you tell it. Will you marry it?” This use of imagery in which a human is dehumanised is a constant theme through her poetry, especially of women. The theme of a women being trapped in a man’s world is a theme that runs deep in The Bell Jar as her fate lies in their hands at the end of the book, as they are the ones to decide if she is sane or insane.
When one reads much of Plath’s work, they find themselves reading it at a fast pace, much of her poetry becomes a chant as she controls the rhythm and beat of each stanza. Her voice becomes forceful in “Daddy” as she talks about the Nazis, we can even see their shiny black leather boots stomping and crashing, what Plath is able to produce is a strange sense of controlled rage and agony. Through much of her pain which becomes clear throughout her poetry, she remains, at all times a true master of her poetry’s dialogue, as well as her prose which too is submerged in poetic image. With poetry in mind, and the words of a brilliant poet, I leave you with an extract from The Bell Jar; “Piece by piece, I fed my wardrobe to the night wind, and flutteringly, like a loved one’s ashes, the grey scraps were ferried off, to settle here, there, exactly where I would never know, in the dark heart of New York.”
© Zehra Mustafa
Thursday, 5 February 2009
A Review of Turgenev’s First Love
(Published in "Avrupa" Newspaper)
The scene is set, after a party of guests have left and two friends remain seated, they decide to tell one another the stories of their first loves. First loves are meant to be sweet and charming, but as with much Russian literature, we know that nothing is going to be clear cut and easy. The novella’s protagonist, Vladimir Petrovich declares, “My first love was certainly not at all ordinary”, and it is then that we know for sure that we are in for an unusual story.
The story follows Vladimir’s dizzying love for an old princess’s daughter, 21 year old Zinaida, who lures the 16 year old Vladimir with her charming beauty. However, as we read on, we learn that Zinaida is in fact, not as charming as the 16 year olds eyes detect; but it is hard for a boy at such a young age to look too far beyond beauty. Yet, then again, it seems that age means nothing when it comes to beauty, as Zinaida has men of all ages trying to win her affections, but she only loves one, and that person remains a mystery till the end.
Ivan Sergeyavich Turgenev was born in Oryol, Russia in 1818, and was one of Russia’s greatest playwright and novelists to have lived. He was born into a very wealthy family; his father was a colonel in the Imperial Russian Cavalry, and his mother was born into wealth. Turgenev’s family life was an unhappy one, which can be detected through his character, Vladimir. Turgenev was very conscientious of the social system and the inequalities experienced by the serfs, and believed very strongly in western society, as repressive Russia stifled the individual’s social and political rights. It was this way of feeling and thinking that lead him later to be exiled to his estate. What made Turgenev popular and unpopular at the same time, was that he painted a realistic picture of Russian society, and by doing so, he brought his characters to life, as we see in First Love.
Turgenev sets the novella to a fast pace, which starts out with a quick picture painted of Vladimir’s family and their situation, but Turgenev does not miss anything out by doing this. His words take on a phantasmagorical beat; he does this in a number of ways, and one example is when Vladimir is riding his horse, Turgenev makes each word echo to the softening, then hurrying gallops of his horse. He also shows his talents as a writer and a sociologist by his ability to capture youth with a great sharpness, by being able to cut away all emotions attached to adulthood, and it is this ability to tap-in with each character that makes his writing a worth while read. Although much of the book is focused on his fixation with Zinaida, we also find out just how unhappy he is with his relationship with his father, who will not show any emotion to a son who desperately seeks his love. Turgenev portrays Zinaida as a strong woman who is able to turn grown men into lap-dogs, whilst her mother is an illiterate woman, who was lucky enough to become a princess through marriage, and through each character, a picture is painted of their social status and emotional ineptness. Turgenev too received very little love from his parents, and it seems as though when he created the image of the father and mother in First Love, he was exorcising some lingering demons, but by doing so, he captured both sides of love in a very short space and time.
© Zehra Mustafa
Sunday, 1 February 2009
Wintering - Sylvia Plath
I have my honey,
They have got rid of the men,