Book Review: “The Overcoat” and “The Nose” by Nikolai Gogol

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Hi everyone! I hope you are all doing all right. Here I am once again with a book review. As I had promised in my last one, I’m going to talk about “The Overcoat” and “The Nose” by Nikolai Gogol.

This was my first book by Gogol and I absolutely loved it. They are both short stories but they are both meaningful and very deep in my opinion.

Let me start with “The Overcoat”, which is my favorite of the two. I guess the main character of the story, as the title suggests, is the overcoat that Akaky Akakievich Bashmachkin, a rather poor government copyist, has to buy in order to keep himself warm during the cold St. Petersburg winter. Basically what happens is that Bashmachikin, a dedicated worker who is the subject of his coworker’s jokes for his overly used coat, takes his coat to the tailor to have it repaired but the tailor says that he needs to buy a new one. Since Bashmachikin lives a very basic life and does not have a lot of money he doesn’t really know what to do but, in the end, he finds a way to get the money he needs for his new overcoat.

Now I’m not going to reveal the ending because you have to read it, seriously, but somehow this story spoke a little bit to my heart. Probably because I could relate to Bashmachikin situation, which is what I really loved about this story because as I understand Gogol drew a lot from his personal experiences in order to write it.

This is a universal story, and it reminded me a little bit about Dostoyevsky’s “White Nights”. I think that it’s because both of these stories are about a feeling of isolation from the rest of society, and I think that everyone who ever felt alienated or alone will really love them. In fact, there’s a famous saying attributed to Dostoyevsky: “We all come out from Gogol’s Overcoat.”

This is my favorite quote from “The Overcoat”:

“And for a long time afterwards, even during his gayest moments, he would see that stooping figure with a bald patch in front, muttering pathetically: “Leave me alone, why do you have to torment me?” And in these piercing words he could hear the sound of others: “I am your brother.” The poor young man would bury his face in his hands and many times later in life shuddered at the thought of how brutal men could be and how the most refined manners and breeding often concealed the most savage coarseness, even, dear God, in someone universally recognized for his honesty and uprightness…” – Nikolai Gogol.

The other short story is called “The Nose”, and frankly, it’s one of the strangest stories I’ve ever read. It kind of funny, but it’s a very dark sense of humor I guess. It’s an absurd story about a man who basically loses his nose and has to go through a lot of tribulations to get it back to its place since the nose has decided to wander around the city.

It was really fun to read, I recommend it. Here’s my favorite quote:

“But nothing is permanent in this world. Joy in the second moment of its arrival is already less keen than in the first, is still fainter in the third, and finishes by coalescing with our normal mental state, just as the circles which the fall of a pebble forms on the surface of water, gradually die away.” –  Nikolai Gogol.

Now I just want to say something about Russian literature, in general: the more I read about it the more I love it. It’s so dark and twisted but also incredibly deep, it’s really amazing, I have no idea why I thought it was too hard to read I’m completely fascinated by it, and I recommend it to everyone.

As always if you want to tell me something about your thoughts let me know in the comments.

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Book Review: The Queen of Spades by Alexander Pushkin

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Hi everyone! How have you been doing? Today I’d like to write about a book I finished recently. The book is called “The Queen of Spades” and it’s by the famous Russian author Alexander Pushkin. In the book edition that I got there was also another short story, also by him, called “The Shot”.

I really liked both of these short stories, particularly “The Queen of Spades” which is a story about a young officer, named Hermann, who watches other gamble but never play himself. One night one of his friends tells him the story of his grandmother, who a long time ago was able to win back the fortune she had lost at cards by using the secret of the tree winning cars. The countess never played again and Hermann becomes obsessed with learning the trick from her.

I’m not going to reveal the ending but I have to say it was quite unpredictable to me, I mean I thought it was going to end in a certain way and it ended in the opposite way. I really like Pushkin style so far, I find it easier than I expected it to be, yet it always kind of sophisticated, and it’s never boring. I highly recommend this short story.

The other one, “The shot” was the story of a retired soldier named Silvio, who seeks revenge against a man who disrespected him a long time ago.

I really liked this story as well, it was very short, even shorter than the first one but it was still entertaining. What I have found interesting is that, sadly, Pushkin life ended tragically in a duel, and I thought about what a sad set of circumstances had to take place in order for that end to happen. It’s such a shame that one of the greatest writers of all time had to die in such a way, I think of what more he could have done if things would have been different.

The next stories I will be reading next are two short stories by Gogol: The Overcoat and The Nose. I don’t think it will take me that long to finish them because they are very short as well, so expect a review in the next few days.

This is it for now, let me know in the comments if you have read these stories and what did you think about them, and also if you have any suggestion about what to read next, I not sure if I should start with some of the longer novels first, for example, I want to start reading “The Brothers Karamazov”, “The Idiot” and “Demons” by Dostoyevsky, “War and Peace” by Tolstoy, or if I should go for other short stories first, if you have any suggestion please let me know in the comments below, thanks.

I live you with my favorite quote from “The Queen of Spades” (if you haven’t read the story yet, let me warn you that it contains a spoiler):

“Lizaveta listened to him in terror. So all those passionate letters, those ardent desires, this bold obstinate pursuit—all this was not love! Money—that was what his soul yearned for! She could not satisfy his desire and make him happy! The poor girl had been nothing but the blind tool of a robber, of the murderer of her aged benefactress! … She wept bitter tears of agonized repentance. Hermann gazed at her in silence: his heart, too, was a prey to violent emotion, but neither the tears of the poor girl, nor the wonderful charm of her beauty, enhanced by her grief, could produce any impression upon his hardened soul. He felt no pricking of conscience at the thought of the dead old woman. One thing only grieved him: the irreparable loss of the secret from which he had expected to obtain great wealth.” Alexander Pushkin.

Book Review: Teutoburgo by Valerio Massimo Manfredi

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Hi everyone! I hope you guys are doing all right. Today I want to talk about a book I just finished reading. The book is called “Teutoburgo” and it’s from the Italian author Valerio Massimo Manfredi, I don’t know if the book has already been translated into English yet, I read the Italian version.

Overall I liked this book, I had never read anything by this author before and I enjoyed his style. This is a historical book that revolves around the famous Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, an event in Roman history that has always interested me. For those of you who don’t know what it was, basically, it was one of Rome’s greatest defeat. Three entire legions were destroyed by an anti-roman alliance, made up of different German tribes and led by Arminius, a prince from the Cherusci Tribe who was taken hostage in his youth and served in the Roman Army after receiving military education and the Roman citizenship.

Since I have found out about Arminius, a few years ago, I have always been fascinated by him. In fact, he fascinates me so much that I decided to use him as a character from in of my books. So, when I saw this book about the Teutoburg Battle at the library I immediately decided to pick it up.

The book is a fictionalized version of the events, it starts with Arminius and his brother getting captured by the Romans, as young boys, and it basically ends with (spoiler alert) Arminius death.

It basically covers that part of the story which led to this incredible battle, and then, of course, it covers the battle and the aftermath. The writer is also a historian and archeologist so his fictionalized version is pretty accurate historically. I saw that he has written a lot of other novels so I might check them out in the future, some of them look particularly interesting.

How about you guys? Have you heard of this battle before? Does anyone have some suggestions about books from this author? What do you think of him? And what do you think about historical book? As always, let me know in the comments.

Right now I just started another book by Pushkin and then I have a few more by other Russian authors but I’m always open to suggestions if you have some let me know in the comments below, until next time.

Who would be on my dream panel of authors?

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Hi everyone! For this blog post I’m writing about something that was brought to my attention thanks to Eventbrite, an event planning software company that helps people find and plan events. If you want to check out their website here’s their online event registration page.

So the idea is very simple: Who would be on my dream panel of authors?

Let me just say that it’s hard to choose only a few authors because I’m such a bookworm and there are just too many authors that I love and admire. I chose to make a list with only living authors because otherwise, it would be too long to fit into one blog post XD… Okay so let’s get right to it, here’s my list:

  1. NEIL GAIMAN

Neil Gaiman is probably my favorite author, I’ve had the honor of listening to him speak live in Mantova, nearly ten years ago, and to this day I still remember vividly the night I went to listen to him. Hearing him read his words is a unique experience, I just love his dark and twisted imagination. He is a very inspiring artist, I could listen to him speak for hours.

  1. GEORGE R.R. MARTIN

George R.R. Maring is probably “the author” of the moment, so I definitely would love to have him on my dream panel. He is very wise and clever, nothing he does or says is accidental. I love how rich his characters are, so I would ask him lots of question about how he builds characters.

  1. STEPHEN KING

I cannot have a dream panel of authors and not invite Mr. King. He is an amazing writer that I respect and adore. Unfortunately, I haven’t read a lot of his writings but what I would love to see is him interact with both Gaiman and Martin, that would be awesome.

  1. J.K. ROWLING

Yes, I am a Potterhead and of course, I would have J.K. Rowling on my dream panel. She is such a great writer. She is so inspiring and also very witty, I just love reading her replies on twitter. I’d love to ask her what is she working on right now, and if there are any other stories, not set in the Harry Potter world, that she would like to tell.

  1. MARGARET ATWOOD

I discovered Margaret Atwood only recently actually, and I really like her. “The Handmaid’s Tale” is such an interesting novel. But I think I would rather ask her about her life and her view on things, what does she think about our society and stuff like that.

  1. CHUCK PALAHNIUK

I’d love to have also Chuck Palahniuk on my panel, he is a unique author and I love him, and even if I’m not that familiar with his writings I would just love to hear his point to view on things.

  1. KHALED HOSSEINI

I’d like to have Khaled Hosseini just because I love his books so much, they are very sophisticated in my opinion. I have to hand it to him that he was able to completely change my point of view on something, and trust me, make me change my mind about something is not easy… I think I would ask him about Afghanistan and how it was before the war.

  1. NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON

Last but not least I would have Neil deGrasse Tyson as a moderator, and I would just let him talk about the stars and the universe. It’s just amazing listening to him speak about those subjects.

This is it. What an exciting panel this one would be. What do you guys think? What would be your dream panel? Which author would you choose? Let me know in the comments below.

Book Review: The Captain’s Daughter by Alexander Pushkin

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Hi everyone! Guess what I was finally able to finish in the last few days? … *drumroll*… “The Captain’s Daughter” by Alexander Pushkin!

I know it has been a while since I had promised you a review but for a number of reasons I wasn’t able to finish the book up until now.

The book itself it’s not long at all, you can easily read it in just a few days, and as I said in one of my previous posts, the reason why I wasn’t able to finish it was that I wasn’t actually reading it, I read the first chapter and then I stopped. By the way the version I’ve read was the Italian translated one.

As for the story, I wasn’t expecting how engaging and captivating it could be, I swear that in some parts I just couldn’t wait to turn the page and find out what was going to happen. I was deeply invested in those characters, which was something I wasn’t expecting since it’s just a short book.

This is a historical novel, set during Pugachev’s Rebellion against Catherine II of Russia, during the second part of the 18th Century. The main character, Pyotr Andreyich Grinyov, is a noble young man who gets sent to the army by his father in order to strengthen his character. During his service, he meets Masha, the daughter of Captain Ivan Mironov, the commanding officer at Fort Belogorsky, which is the place where he is serving. The two fall in love and their love story is the main theme of the whole story. Things get complicated when the rebel Pugachev and his army of Cossacks attack the Fort and manage to kill Masha’s parents in the process.

I won’t reveal the ending, if you are interested I strongly advise you to read it, because I  found it to be a very interesting and compelling reading. I learned a little bit more about Russian history, and in the book edition I got there’s also another historical novel, also by Pushkin, called: “History of Pugachev” which I’m currently reading now. It is a less romanticized and more historical description of the events that led to the Pugachev’s Rebellion.

This was also my first book by Russian writer Alexander Pushkin. I was curious to find out whether I would like his style or not, and I have to say that I really, really like it. I know he is considered one of the greatest in Russian literature, like in Italy we have Dante, in England there’s Shakespeare and in Russia there’s Pushkin, so I know he was one of the big ones. I have to say that I’m truly enjoying my journey through Russian Literature, I have yet to find one book that I did not like at all. They are all unique, mysterious and deep in my opinion and I can’t wait to read more.

Right now I’m reading “History of Pugachev” and a novel by Valerio Massimo Manfredi, an Italian author, which is called “Teutoburgo”, I don’t know how the title is going to be translated in English, I guess: “Teuterburg”. After this, I have got three other books by Russian writers, “The Queen of Spades” also by Pushkin, “The Overcoat” and “The Nose” by Gogol and “Day of the Oprichnik” by Vladimir Sorokin. I’m very looking forward to reading all of them, if you have any suggestions please let me know in the comments below, and also if you want to share your thoughts and opinions about Pushkin please do.

As always, here is my favorite quote of the book:

“Young man! If my notes should fall into your hands, remember that the best and most enduring changes are those which stem from an improvement in moral behavior, without any violent upheaval.” Alexander Pushkin

Book Review: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

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Hi everyone! Guess what? I’ve finally finished “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood. I know I’ve promised you a review a while ago, but I’ve been kind of busy lately and I wasn’t able to finish this interesting book until now.

When the tv series came out I was so intrigued that I decided to read the book. I saved the last episode, so now that I’ve finished the book I can finally see the ending of the first season. I guess that I’ll write my opinions about the show in a separate post, let me just say that I really enjoyed it and I think Elisabeth Moss is amazing.

As for the book, I didn’t know anything about the story but since I’m such a book worm I’d stumbled a couple of times on the most famous quote of the book as I was going through famous quotes and literary tattoos on the web. The quote I’m referring to is obviously: “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum” which is mock Latin for “Don’t let the bastards grind you down”. You’d be amazed to know how many people have those words tattooed on their skin.

After reading the book those words have taken a whole new meaning to me. In the book, they are a sort of mantra that the main character, Offred, keeps repeating. She is holding on to those words when she is having a hard time, and things are never particularly easy for her.

“The Handmaid’s Tale” is set in a dystopian society called “The Republic of Gilead” run by a totalitarian religious regime (The Sons of Jacob). The main protagonist, Offred, basically tells the stories of her life as a handmaid mixed with her memories of how things were before this totalitarian regime seized the power. In this ultra-religious society, since a lot of men and women are barren, fertile young women are used for reproductive purposes, they are stripped of their name and they basically become property of their masters, or Commanders as they are called in the book (the names the handmaids are given literally mean they belong to their Commanders: Of-Fred). The handmaids live inside the house with the married couple and their sole purpose is to bear children for them. Once a month there’s a “ceremony” based on Rachel and Bilhah’s story from the Old Testament, where basically the handmaid has to have sex with her commander in front of the wife.

For a lot of things, this novel is similar to another famous dystopian novel: “1984” by George Orwell, another book that I’ve loved so much.

I really enjoyed this book, I liked Offred a lot, I liked how strong she is in spite of everything, I loved the very subtle things she has to come up with in order to survive without letting anyone know what she thinks and how she feels.

I definitely recommend this book, I’ve found it very interesting and clever. The only thing that confused me a little was the use, or better, the lack of quotation marks. I didn’t understand it and I found it a bit frustrating sometimes, but other than that everything else was captivating. If you want to let me know your thoughts about this interesting novel please do, I always look forward to your comments.

My favorite quote is this one of course:

“Nolite te bastardes carborundorum. Don’t let the bastards grind you down.” Margaret Atwood.

 

Twenty years of Harry Potter

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Where to even begin? As many of you probably know the first Harry Potter book was published twenty years ago today. It’s hard for me to put into words how much this series has meant to me. Harry Potter is the story that has accompanied me as I was growing up.

I remember the excitement and the trepidation before the release of the books. I remember the wait. I remember the joy of going through them, reading the pages for the first time, not knowing what to expect. It was something unique and I don’t think I will ever find another series that I will love as much as this one. I sure you know this feeling, but I associate the books with what was going on in my life at the time. I mean there are other books that mean a lot to me but Harry Potter will always hold a very special place in my heart.

I passed the love for this series down to my little sisters, and even if the didn’t read the books, or at least not all of them, they became big fans of the movies. Every year, the day the movie came out, we always had the tickets for the first show. If I will ever have children I’m sure I will pass the love for the series down to them as well.

When it comes to books or movies, what matters to me is the story, and Harry Potter is one of the most captivating stories I have ever read.

Also, another important thing for me, since I also like to write or create stories, is that when I read something I truly love, I feel inspired to create, to make something on my own. So yeah, I will probably be professing my love for this book series until my last day.

There are just some many things about it that I love, my favorite character is Snape. I know there are people out there who say he was abusive to Harry and so on, but I don’t care, he still remains my favorite character. The way his character was developed is something amazing in my opinion. To me he is one of the best-written characters ever, I love how until the very end we didn’t truly know what his nature was. My sister got me his wand for my birthday once and it was the best gift ever.

So for all the Potterheads out there, this one is for you, spread the love, and if you want to leave in the comments what this series has meant for you, please do, I’d love to read your thoughts about it.