Writers: the magicians of words

“The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.” Gustave Flaubert

What makes a good writer?  Some people say that a good writer is a talented imagescommunicator who elicits emotion and empathy in the reader through her/his writing. Others say good writers are those who put their soul somehow in their writing and pursue their own excellence. Frankly, the way I see it, good writers are those who feel PASSION in capital letters for the art of writing while having the ‘formula’ for connecting the audience with their story. Of course, it is not that simple, but it is a beginning to describe the art of making imaginations fly!

maxresdefaultOn the other hand, good writers have something in common: a skilled use of vocabulary since no one enjoys reading the same words and expressions over and over again. Hence, a robust lexicon represents an asset when it comes to writing. Incorporating riveting and unusual words and expressions in a work helps to keep readers’ interest. Puns, figurative language, the combination of smooth and plain prose, and even made up words enrich the writing. But, what elevates writing to its most greatness? The understanding of what it is written because the latter does not make sense if the reader cannot understand the writer’s ‘voice’. Thus, the success lies in captivating the audience with a fresh voice no matter whether it uses big words or resorts to a more simple vocabulary provided that it reflects a charming identity.

Let’s take a look at some fragments of great writers and their vibrant technique:

“I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep your eyes close.” Pablo Neruda, 100 Love Sonnets

“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita. Did she have a precursor? She did, indeed she did. In point of fact, there might have been no Lolita at all had I not loved, one summer, an initial girl-child. In a princedom by the sea. Oh when? About as many years before Lolita was born as my age was that summer. You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, exhibit number one is what the seraphs, the misinformed, simple, noble-winged seraphs, envied. Look at this tangle of thorns.” Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

“He allowed himself to be swayed by his conviction that human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.”  Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” Frank Herbert, Dune

How can this magic be done? First of all, brilliant authors write about what moves abracadabra-484969_1280-1024x392them emotionally either it is love, sadness, melancholy, hate, passion, pain, intrigue…  Another tip renowned writers point is the importance of reading. Even though it may sound like a cliché this habit must not be overlooked, as prolific authors consume tones of books for it becomes easier to create brilliant outputs if you read the best inputs. And the most significant feature of the practice of writing is without any doubt the fact that writers must take pleasure and enjoy what they do otherwise there is no point in writing.

“Writing is not a serious business. It’s a joy and a celebration. You should be having fun with it. Ignore the authors who say ‘Oh, my God, what word? Oh, Jesus Christ…’, you know. Now, to hell with that. It’s not work. If it’s work, stop and do something else.” Ray Bradbury.

Finally, if you are endowed with the gift to do magic with words come to Tierra Trivium and publish with us, because as Tony Morrison says: “if there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

(The images contained in this article are not a property of Tierra Trivium)

Speaking of literature…

“That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.” F. Scott Fitzgerald

descargaThis adage condenses in a splendid way the sense of belonging offered by literature to both writers and readers, creators and consumers, society and its context… Nevertheless, everything becomes more complicated on reading a piece of literature written in a time far from us. How can this pitfall be overcome? Well, it could be solved by contextualising the work itself in its appropriate frame and prevailing ideology.

Literature: a mirror of its time. It goes without saying that the understanding of Essay-on-Literature-is-the-Mirror-of-Society-630x310literary texts is greatly enhanced by deepening into the context within which their authors lived and worked. For that purpose, biographical and literary influences on the writer, and even the creative afterlife of the work are sometimes needed to be addressed if we want to grasp the hidden meanings among the pages. Let’s take Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own as a model to depict the interaction between literature and its context and the necessity to know the latter to understand the former.

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf is an extended essay articulated by a prime message “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction”. Woolf makes her indictment on the patriarchal and ‘phallocentric’ society of her time with the help of an imaginary narrator and fictional and semi-fictional characters and settings. In short, this work underlies how the patriarchal mainstream inhibited and confined women’s literary potential on depriving them of rights and opportunities within the ‘walls’ of the institutionalised sexism.

Let’s take a look at the different contexts to keep in mind…

virgiThe writer’s social context vs. the readers’ social context. “Call me Mary Beton, Mary Seton, Mary Carmichael or any other name you please, it is not a matter of importance.” While a current reader may find these words senseless when learning about Woolf’s social context one realises the meaning behind the evident. How is that? Because the author rejects to give a single name to the narrator in order to make her complain applicable to all women, not just one. Additionally, with this brilliant technique, her message transcends one voice so that every woman has her say.

Ideological context. “It would have been impossible, completely and entirely, for any woman to have written the plays of Shakespeare in the age of Shakespeare”. Whereas this passage can be shocking by the 21st-century reader it was really significant back then since men were justifying the lack of remarkable literary works on the part of women by pointing to females’ incapability instead of their deprivation of opportunities. Hence, so as to defend her reasoning, Woolf invents the figure of Judith Shakespeare, William Shakespeare’s fictional twin sister. By including this character, the writer exemplifies the fact that Judith did not accomplish William’s literary achievements not for lacking talent but for the unequal opportunities they enjoyed. Judith is shown as a woman who leads a tragic life of unrealized genius as society scorns her attempts to make something of her brilliant mind. At the same time, the suicide of this character reflects the tragic fate suffered by a highly intelligent woman due to the unfair circumstances which surrounded her. On the other hand, it is worth mentioning that with the quote which inaugurates this paragraph, Woolf pursues to undermine the fallacious and rooted mantra which stresses that men are superior to women.

Cultural and historical contexts. “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” Again, although a reader of this time could find this quote surprising, at the beginning of the 20th century, women were saddled with householdwe duties and motherhood where there was no room for literary creation. Equally, they kept an unavoidable financial and legally bound to their husbands who denied them the time and their own space to create literary works. After writing these words, the narrator exposes her belief that this gender-consciousness which conceived women as inferior and men as superior is an impediment itself which oppresses women’s creativity since her mind is not free from men’s underestimation.  Lastly, with the quote aforementioned, Woolf stands out the indisputable truth about the society of her time: women would have been as brilliant as their male counterparts if they had had the same privileges and possibilities.

Finally, from Tierra Trivium we would like to emphasise that it is about time for women to stand up and reclaim their rights and their voice so that when they say ‘NO’ is ‘NO’.

“Women have served all these centuries as looking-glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size.” Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

(The images contained in this article are not a property of Tierra Trivium)

The English language: the queen of the entire world

“English is now ours. We have colonized it, too.”  Gemino Abad

As lovers of literature, from Tierra Trivium we pay a homage to the vehicles which make it possible: languages. This article focuses its attention on the current lingua franca: our dear English. But what happened to this original Germanic language so that today it is so different from its sister German?

What was the trigger which turned English into the hybrid language it is nowadays? One event answers this question: The Norman Conquest of England by William the mqdefaultConqueror in 1066. It is worth mentioning that this historical point began the transition from Old to Middle English since the effect which this socio-political change brought about was the subjugation of the English language under the France prominence during the Norman-ruled period. This Conquest could be pointed as the reason why English speakers have both a quite fixed word order to express themselves and a hybrid vocabulary which provides them with the opportunity to say: wish and desire, ask and demand and help and aid (among others).

“We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.” Booker T. Washington

Let’s take a look at the story of English narrated by the language itself.

“This is the story of my life, a story which proves that languages are closer to a living entity than a finished book; since as long as we have speakers who use us, there is always a place for a new chapter in our lives. A chapter which speakers write mediated by the socio-political context which surrounds them. My story begins as follows: I was born in the fifth century from the Germanic Angles, Jutes and Saxons tribes. These “parents” provided me with a strong and determined character so that I never gave up; while taught me to be hospitable with visitors either friendly or belligerent; hence I was prepared when foreign invaders came to “visit” me. First, Old Norse, my distant relative, appeared and although at the beginning we had some misunderstandings we both managed to get rid of all of that which jeopardized our good relationship and we had a successful long-lasting “partnership”. Besides, my relative was really generous and gave me some incommensurable presents which I have used ever since, among others: my dear third plural personal pronoun, and some verbs which have been really productive over the years such as get, take or give.

Later, in the eleventh century a fierce stranger showed up, and it sidelined me inside itsnorman conquest enormous castles; even kings in my own land gave up on knowing me. This enemy was not familiar, some called it Norman-French others only French, in addition, it had come accompanied by its mother, Latin, an old acquaintance of mine. They demoted and degraded me for centuries, but far from becoming intimidated, I made the most of that time to enrich myself, to absorb from the invaders all the features I found beneficial for me; I made mine lots of their words and this way my speakers can among other many things: hide and conceal or smell a stench and an aroma. At the same time, due to the fact that my old “teacher” West Saxon was no longer in charge, I enjoyed a great freedom, or the way these strangers said a great “liberty”, thus as I had no standard to hold me back I decided to threw away some features I had inherited from my forefathers which were a burden rather than an advantage for my lower class speakers; and that is why I regularized my inflectional endings, and in doing so I also got rid of that grammatical gender which made my speakers so confused when they have to think of a ‘woman’ as masculine, or the ‘sun’ as feminine. And this is how I abandoned my former synthetic typology and descarga (2)embraced the analytic one. With this change, I became more strict with my word order while gave prepositions an opportunity to prove themselves. Eventually, when my speakers realized that it was about time to chase out those foreigners and give me a new chance, I rose from my ashes like the Phoenix. Yet this time I was stronger and willing to prove the world that I would never be the conquered again and that one day I would conquer the world and become: the global lingua franca.

“The English language is nobody’s special property. It is the property of the imagination: it is the property of the language itself.” Derek Walcott

(The images contained in this article are not a property of Tierra Trivium).

 

My Dear Literature…

“Literature is one of the most interesting and significant expressions of humanity.” Phineas Taylor Barnum.

20-citas-de-amor-literariasThe power of Literature. It could be argued that one of the most important functions of literature, is its capacity to open our mind and enrich our viewpoint. But, how does it do this? In the first place, it takes us into other minds as they are the author and the characters’ minds. In that manner, we are provided with the chance to experience the world from different perspectives, angles, times, locations…  Hence, we can grasp those aspects which join us as well as those which set us apart from others.

Likewise, literature is found among one of the true forms of magic we have within our reach. It can be regarded as an escape, a kind of gateway to enjoy many lives. On opening a book many possibilities are presented in front of us. For instance, there are plenty of opportunities to fall in love as in Anna Karenina, to travel and live in a desert island with curious people in Robinson Crusoe, to laugh with the witty Buscon by Quevedo, or even to solve a crime in The Big Sleep following Raymond Chandler’s clues. Moreover, there is also room for fear as in The Shining where Stephen King incites us to take part in the tense atmosphere and freaky supernatural occurrences which make the readers doubt about their own grip on sanity.

Equally, it is worth mentioning one of the most outstanding virtues of literature as it is Amor_en_la_literaturathe chance to know the voice of remarkable people such as Olaudah Equiano. This man suffered the plight of slavery first-hand and wrote his own story despite all the difficulties he underwent. His atrocious story sought to appeal to the sentiments of his readers while denouncing the execrable practice of enslavement. In order to foster empathy Equiano employed first-person narration and detailed the events that had happened to him recalling both his past life in Africa before becoming enslaved and his torment as a slave. What else offers literature? It can also establish a literary dialogue through time as it happens with the idyllic Jane Eyre. It was not until a century later when Jean Rhys responded to Charlotte Brontë with her Wide Sargasso Sea. This novel is a postcolonial version which questioned the Victorian mainstream and told the world that Bertha Mason, the woman in the attic, was not a mad woman, but a woman to whom her abusive husband and her stifling circumstances drove crazy.

Finally, from Tierra Trivium we would like to encourage you to cultivate the love for literature as a source of knowledge and pleasure.

“Literature led me to freedom, not the other way round.” Ismail Kadare

Just below it appears my humble homage to literature in the form of a poem (both in English and Spanish).

“My Faithful Friend”

Daughter of the imagination

that was born without the pretences of other arts.

Intrepid, provocative, stoic, reviled,

sometimes even burned,

they still cry Ovid, Catullus and also Dante’s ashes,

on evoking the Florentine ‘Bonfire of the Vanities’.

You, brave that never kept silence,

you even invented to read between the lines

to outwit the bigots.

Sheltered by your leaves bold minds

were hidden under pseudonyms

better viewed by intransigent thinking.

How many lessons did you give us

struggling with your army of books

holding an unbeatable weapon:

the word.

To you daring literature

they could not silence you,

not chain yourself,

because you are immune to the shackles of tyrants.

Blessed are Gutenberg and his printing press!

which came to approach you to the world.

How much we owe you and those ‘ships’!

that Emily Dickinson already mentioned to travel far …

And so through Homer’s mouth

you made us suffer an ‘Odyssey’

until returning to Ulysses’ home

next to his beloved Penelope.

Centuries later we alienated ourselves

with Hamlet to avenge his father.

Then we travel in the pages of Swift

with Captain Gulliver in his misunderstood satire,

it was not for children, no!

it denounced the social vices of its time.

There was also room for love,

and holding Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy’s hands,

we learned that neither ‘pride’ nor ‘prejudice’

are good counsellors.

Nor do we forget the distance travelled

with the great Machado who from his mastery

taught us to make ‘way to walk’.

You, a plethora of excellence,

patron of my dreams,

you even allowed me to participate of you,

and embrace you in my writings.

Fire of my spirit,

warm melody of my eyes

that you came to stay.

Perennial hobby,

serene ambition,

in you, I discovered a good day

a lover that with its adventures, intrigues and romances

I would stay in love thereafter.

“Mi Amiga Fiel”

Hija de la imaginación,

que nació sin las ínfulas de otras artes.

Intrépida, provocadora, estoica, denostada,

a veces hasta quemada,

aún lloran las cenizas de Ovidio,

de Catulo y también de Dante,

al evocar la florentina ‘Hoguera de las vanidades’.

Tú, valiente que nunca callaste,

incluso inventaste eso de leer entre líneas

para burlar a los intolerantes.

Al abrigo de tus hojas

se ocultaron mentes osadas

bajo seudónimos mejor vistos

por el pensamiento intransigente.

Cuántas lecciones nos diste

luchando con tu ejército de libros

ese que empuña un arma imbatible:

la palabra.

A ti arrojada literatura

no pudieron acallarte,

tampoco encadenarte,

porque eres inmune

a los grilletes de los tiranos.

¡Benditos sean Gutenberg y su imprenta!

que llegó para acercarte al mundo.

¡Cuánto os debemos a ti y a esas ‘naves’!

que ya mencionaba Emily Dickinson

para viajar lejos…

Y así por boca de Homero

nos hiciste sufrir una ‘odisea’

hasta regresar a Ulises a casa

junto a su amada Penélope.

Siglos más tarde

nos enajenamos con Hamlet

para vengar a su padre.

Luego viajamos en las páginas de Swift

con el capitán Gulliver en su sátira malentendida,

que no era para niños ¡no!,

que denunciaba los vicios sociales de su tiempo.

Hubo también espacio para el amor,

y de la mano de Elizabeth Bennet y el señor Darcy,

aprendimos que ni el ‘orgullo’ ni el ‘prejuicio’

son buenos consejeros.

Tampoco olvidamos el trecho recorrido

con el gran Machado

que desde su maestría nos enseñó

a hacer ‘camino al andar”.

Tú, plétora de excelencia,

mecenas de mis sueños,

que me permitiste incluso participar

de ti y abrazarte en mis escritos.

Fuego de mi espíritu,

cálida melodía de mis ojos

que viniste para quedarte.

Afición perenne,

ambición serena,

en ti descubrí un buen día a una amante

que con sus aventuras, intrigas y romances

me mantendría enamorada

de allí en adelante.

“Literature is the art of discovering something extraordinary about ordinary people, and saying with ordinary words something extraordinary.” Boris Pasternak

(The images contained in this article are not a property of Tierra Trivium).

 

Inferno, Purgatory and Paradise: the redemption journey of The Divine Comedy

“The secret of getting things done is to act!” Dante Alighieri

descargaDante Alighieri and The Divine Comedy. The Florentine Dante Alighieri was a poet and a philosopher best known for his epic poem The Divine Comedy. This poem is regarded as the greatest literary work created in Europe in the medieval period, and the basis of the modern Italian language since it was written in Italian vernacular rather than in Latin. But, what hides this literary landmark? To begin with, on the author’s personal level, The Divine Comedy pictures Dante’s own experience of exile from Florence, his native city. In the same way, on a more comprehensive level, it may be read as a religious allegory, which depicts a visionary journey through the Christian afterlife. It is worth mentioning that following the profound Christian vision of the poem, ‘Comedy’ does not mean ‘funny’ here, but it expresses the poem ending in a kind way.

Let’s take a look at the journey, the poem begins in medias res on Good Friday in 1300,  and it is broken into three canticles which represent stages to eternity. First,  Hell, “Inferno”, Dante finds himself in the Valley of Evil. He is rescued by the spirit of Virgil, who tells Dante that he has been sent to guide him out of Hell because of prayers by Beatrice, the woman who Dante loved his entire life. Then, Purgatorio, “Purgatory”, after emerging from Hell just before the dawn of Easter Sunday, Dante, guided by Virgil, starts the difficult ascent of Mount Purgatory, the place where occurs the renunciation of sin. Lastly, Heaven,“Paradise”, Dante’s imaginative conception of Heaven. And, who takes Dante through the nine Spheres of Heaven? Of course, it is his beloved Beatrice. On the other hand, did you know that the last word in each of the three sections of The Divine Comedy is the word ‘stars’?

“The Commedia, it must be remembered, is a vision of the progress of man’s soul toward perfection.” The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri.

Who guides Dante towards this journey to redemption? He chose none other than thethe-divine-comedyinferno-2-638 great Virgil to guide him through this challenging trip because Dante considered the Roman poet as his teacher. This fact is quite explanatory for the references in form of characters, facts, and creatures from the classical culture. For instance, an obvious reference occurs in “Inferno”. In this canticle, after being alone and disoriented, Dante descends into Hell escorted by Virgil. Suffice it to say that the descent itself is a noticeable reference pulled from Homer’s Odyssey and Virgil’s Aeneid. Additionally, the presence of Virgil, a classical figure, becomes indispensable as Dante constructs his vision of the underworld by means of Virgil’s poem. Let’s see how Virgil introduces himself to Dante with pertinent biographical details: “I was a poet and sang of that just man, son of Anchises, who sailed off from Troy after burning of proud Ilium.” The Divine Comedy (I, 73-75).

“Be as a tower that, firmly set, shakes not its top for any blast that blows!” The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri.

Why did Dante write The Divine Comedy? The author himself wrote in a letter that his purpose in writing this poem was “to remove those living in this life from their state of misery and lead them to the state of felicity.” Furthermore, The Divine Comedy was greatly influenced by the politics of late-thirteenth-century Florence. The struggle for power between the church and the state for temporary authority in this city was a reflection of a crisis that affected both Italy and most of Europe from the twelfth to the fourteenth century, a fact which was echoed in Dante’s masterpiece. It should be noticed that the author was exiled from Florence, where he served as one of the six priors governing the city, due to his political activities. It was during his time of exile when he conceived the idea of The Divine Comedy, as a virtual wanderer, seeking protection for his family in town after town.

“Remember tonight… for it is the beginning of always.” Dante Alighieri.

dante_gabriel_rossetti_-_salutation_of_beatrice_-_2-4461Dante Alighieri & Beatrice Porinari. It was at the age of nine when Dante met Beatrice Portinari in a gathering at her father’s palazzo in Florence. She was a few months younger than him and dressed in a crimson dress. Beatrice captivated him completely, in Dante’s words “from that time forward love fully ruled my soul.” Upon his second meeting with her, the poet remarked: “she greeted me, and such was the virtue of her greeting that I seemed to experience the height of bliss.” Unfortunately, arranged marriages were really common back then, especially amongst the upper classes, to which both Dante and Beatrice belonged. So, at the age of 21, Dante got married to Gemma Donati, to whom he had been betrothed when he was 12 and Beatrice married a year later too, only to die three years later, at the age of 24. Dante was devastated and remained devoted to Beatrice for the rest of his life. After her death, she became his muse for much of his well-known work, such as La Vita Nuova and The Divine Comedy. The love which Dante felt for Beatrice represented a spiritual ideal for the poet, a fact that is amply supported by his “Paradise, in which Beatrice serves as the poet’s guide in Heaven. Finally, let’s finish this article by Tierra Trivium with a fragment of the first sonnet of Dante’s La Vita Nuova where the author portrays vividly his feelings for his beloved Beatrice:

“And when this most gracious being actually bestowed the saving power of her salutation, I do not say that love as an intermediary could dim for me such unendurable bliss but, almost by excess of sweetness, his influence was such that my body, which was then utterly given over to his governance, often moved like a heavy, inanimate object. So it is plain that in her greeting resided all my joy, which often exceeded and overflowed my capacity.” La Vita Nuova XI by Dante Alighieri.

(The images contained in this article are not a property of Tierra Trivium).

Madame Bovary: the character who named a syndrome

“Never touch your idols: the gilding will stick to your fingers.”  Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert.

What made Madame Bovary so special? Even though it was Gustave Flaubert first 724.jpgnovel, Madame Bovary became Flaubert’s most accomplished and admired work, a masterpiece! It could be argued that the novel provided the blueprint for the genre of the modern novel. How did Flaubert achieve this? He was a pioneering stylist, matching the style of his prose to the action of his story in an outstanding new way. Where other realist novels of the mid-nineteenth century used detached and objective narration, Flaubert’s prose reveals the characters’ mood. When Emma Bovary is bored and restless, the prose trudges dully. On the contrary, when she experiences sensual pleasure, it moves ecstatically and swiftly. In line with the latter, it could be stated that he is the precursor of the technique so commonly used in novels today. Equally, it is worth mentioning that when Madame Bovary was serialized in a newspaper, the French government sued Flaubert and the novel’s publisher on charges of immorality, eventually, the government lost. Paradoxically, after being published as a novel, the work was widely admired.

“An infinity of passion can be contained in one minute, like a crowd in a small space.” Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert.

What is Madame Bovary Syndrome? It is a behavioural disorder that came after the appearance of 19th-century romantic novels. Since then, idealization of love has driven thousands of people to constant frustration and disappointment. It should be noted that although a couple of centuries ago it was more common in women, today the rates have balanced out. What triggers this syndrome? The search for “perfect love” sold in novels always ends up crashing into the realistic perception of a relationship. Emma, Madame Bovary’s main character, was the perfect stereotype of a person suffering this chronic affective dissatisfaction.

“Love, she thought, must come suddenly, with great outbursts and lightnings. A hurricane of the skies, which falls upon life, revolutionises it, roots up the will like a leaf, and sweeps the whole heart into the abyss.” Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert.

Who is behind this astonishing novel? The French novelist Gustave Flaubert, the man maxresdefaultwho despite the fact that he studied law, he was born to be a novelist. A diagnosis of epilepsy forced him to abandon his legal education, which conveniently gave him the opportunity to pursue a literary career. His debut novel Madame Bovary, originally serialized in the French literary magazine La Revue de Paris in late 1856, established Flaubert as a master of French realism. In the same way, Flaubert has often been credited as being the Father of Realism. Madame Bovary, his first and most classically plot-driven novel, has been labelled as “realist” because of the author’s choice to depict mediocre and vulgar protagonists circling around a subject as hackneyed as adultery. Nevertheless, one of the most remarkable aspects of his life was his eight-year on-again, off-again relationship with Louise Colet, a woman eleven years older than him, of immense courage who had none of the educational or professional opportunities of her male counterparts and even so managed to make her way in the literary sphere. After the final rupture, Flaubert began Madame Bovary.

In relation to the aforementioned novel, many scholars support that the character of Emma Bovary was based on three different women. While the story of the suicide was inspired by the real-life story of the wife of a Norman doctor, Delphine Delamare, the characterisation of Emma borrowed massively from Louise Colet and Ludovica Pradier. The latter was a woman who had become quite notorious in Paris and the wife of the sculptor in whose studio Flaubert had first encountered Louise. Once the confrontational Colet recognised herself as Emma, she retaliated in her novel Lui depicting Flaubert and his friends in a snide way.

Gustave Flaubert & Louise Colet. No matter how the story ended, Louise Colet was the only recipient of Gustave Flaubert’s love and their relationship one of true feelings and passions. Fortunately, the story has vividly spread to us thanks to the love letters which have survived.

“One’s duty is to feel what is great, cherish the beautiful, and not to accept the conventions of society with the ignominy that it imposes upon us.”  Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert.

True love. Despite the mysteries and gaps surrounding the couple the intensity of their flaubert-2love is unquestionable, especially on reading the lines below contained in a letter from Gustave Flaubert to his beloved Louise Colet. It would be really challenging to overcome this declaration of love since each word exudes passion and affection in a magnificent manner.

“I will cover you with love when next I see you, with caresses, with ecstasy.  I want to gorge you with all the joys of the flesh so that you faint and die. I want you to be amazed by me, and to confess to yourself that you had never even dreamed of such transports…  When you are old, I want you to recall those few hours, I want your dry bones to quiver with joy when you think of them.“ A fragment of a letter from Gustave Flaubert to Louise Colet, August 1846.

What has to do Edgar Allan Poe with Sherlock Holmes?

“Never trust to general impressions, my boy, but concentrate yourself upon details.”  The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

T.S. Eliot said once “Every writer owes something to Holmes”, but is Holmes in debt to anyone? Let’s go back to the origins of the detective genre. Who hit on the winning formula of this successful genre? There is only a name needed to answer this question: Edgar Allan Poe. He is the undisputed ‘Father’ of the modern version of one of the most acclaimed and enduring literary genres: the detective one. It could be argued that he created the template for all the detective fiction which has come afterwards.

What supposed the turning point? The writing of the short story “The Murders in theDupin Rue Morgue”, and its sequels “The Mystery of Marie Roget” and “The Purloined Letter”, represented the milestone of this genre. In just three stories, Poe created the amateur detective and his narrator friend, and a key feature of the detective genre: the recurring character. Even though mysteries were not a new literary form, Poe was the first to introduce a character who solved the mystery by analyzing the facts of the case. Poe’s fictional detective the Chevalier C. Auguste Dupin is a reclusive man who is contacted by the police when they are unable to solve a crime. Together with Dupin’s keen powers of observation, Poe made clues available throughout the story offering the reader an opportunity to solve the mystery.

“Let him talk,” said Dupin, who had not thought it necessary to reply. “Let him discourse; it will ease his conscience, I am satisfied with having defeated him in his own castle.” “The Murders in the Rue Morgue and Other Tales” by Edgar Allan Poe.

sherWhat happened next? After Poe introduced to the genre the concept of a single detective whose cases span several stories, Wilkie Collins furthered the genre with his serials. Nearly forty-five years after Poe’s death, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle popularized the detective story when he gave life to Sherlock Holmes, a character with peculiarities similar to Poe’s Dupin. In addition to Dupin’s excellence, Holmes included science as a part of his investigation.  Doyle himself recognised Poe’s influence when he stated that Poe’s stories were “a model for all time.”

Are you Sherlock Holmes? Elementary, my dear Watson. Let’s delve into this alluring character and his author. Among the curiosities surrounding Mr Holmes it should be pointed out that he is the most filmed fictional character after Dracula. His name was chosen in honour of Nottingham cricketers Sherwin and Shacklock. Originally it was Sherringford Holmes, and more surprising, not once in any of Doyle’s stories did Holmes ever utter the exact words “Elementary, my dear Watson.” He said, “Elementary” or “My dear Watson”, but never together! Now, it is Doyle’s time. He studied medicine at the University  of Edinburgh and wrote stories during study breaks. After graduating from medical school, he served for a while as a ship’s doctor. He was also a boxer, Deputy Lieutenant of Surrey and a first-class cricketer playing under a pseudonym. Likewise, he was responsible for popularising skiing in Switzerland and also an amateur sleuth who, like Holmes, once helped free two men who were wrongly charged with murder.

“My name is Sherlock Holmes. It is my business to know what other people do not know.” The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle by Arthur Conan Doyle.

After Doyle created Sherlock Holmes in 1887, Agatha Christie followed with her Hercule Sherlock-Holmes-Hulton-GettyPoirot and Miss Marple, and Raymond Chandler came with Philip Marlowe and thereby the detective genre kept growing and is still going strong nowadays. Moreover, the genre has spawned other subgenres, with police officers, forensic scientists, FBI agents and a long etcetera which have given rise to television shows, films, and even video games. It goes without saying that Poe’s imagination eventually has united literature and television and entertained and captured the interest of generations of readers trying to solve the mysteries right alongside their heroes.

“As a poet and as a mathematician, he would reason well; as a mere mathematician, he could not have reasoned at all.” “The Purloined Letter” by Edgar Allan Poe.

Was Gulliver’s Travels meant to be a children’s book?

“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.”

Jonathan Swift

Once upon a time… Oh, no! Gulliver’s Travels was not meant to be a children’s book. The story was conceived by its author as a mordant satire mocking English customs and the politics of his day. Then, what led to this misunderstanding?  Let’s take a look at its fantastical elements: little people (Lilliputians), big people (giants twelve times bigger than a normal human), talking horses (Houyhnhnms) and feral animals (Yahoos). With the latter in mind, one might think that the misconception of this work as a children’s book is more than justified.

So, what underlies this four-part story? In each part, Lemuel Gulliver, a ship’s surgeon, Gulliverstitleembarks on a voyage and is cast upon a strange land. In the first book, he becomes the giant prisoner of the six inches high Lilliputians, the characters who symbolise humankind’s excessive pride in its own feeble existence. In the second, he arrives in Brobdingnag, a land of giants. These giants epitomise the dimension of human existence visible at close range, under detailed scrutiny. Book three takes Gulliver to Laputa, a floating island whose inhabitants are so preoccupied with higher speculations that they are in constant danger of collision. The Laputans embody the pursuit of a form of knowledge that is not directly related to the improvement of human life. In the fourth book, Gulliver travels to the utopian island of the Houyhnhnms, grave and rational horses devoid of any passion, even sexual desire. The island is also inhabited by Yahoos, vicious and repulsive creatures used by the Houyhnhnms for menial work. Gulliver initially pretends not to recognize the Yahoos but eventually admits that they are human beings. The last, it is quite illustrative of the author’s conception of humankind. Hence, whereas the Houyhnhnms represent an ideal of rational existence, a life governed by sense and moderation of which philosophers since Plato have long dreamed, the Yahoos (humans) reflect the more disgusting side of humanity.

Who was the prodigious mind hidden behind Gulliver’s Travels? Gulliver’s Travels gulliver-s-travels-197was written by the Irish Jonathan Swift, a poet, satirist and clergyman who devised this story as an audacious satire on the society of his day and a warning about human folly. It should be noticed that Gulliver’s Travels, which made fun of the political scene and certain prominent people in England, was published anonymously in order to avoid retaliation and was a great success. Is there anything else? Of course, there is! Among the many curiosities discovered by Lemuel Gulliver during his travels are mysterious and nonsensical languages. Nonetheless, it has been put forward a theory that suggests that these languages were not nonsense at all, but they were in fact based upon Hebrew! Additionally, Swift anticipated prescient visions of the future by naming and providing the exact size and speeds of rotation of the two moons of Mars (Phobos and Deimos) 151 years before they were discovered by Asaph Hall. Just below it is shown the moment when Gulliver was speaking to the Laputian astronomers:

“They have likewise discovered two lesser stars, or satellites, which revolve around Mars, whereof the innermost is distant from the center of the primary exactly three of his diameters, and the outermost five: the former revolves in the space of ten hours, and the latter in twenty-one and a half (Gulliver’s Travels).”

Finally, whether read as a novel, a travel fantasy, or a caustic satire, Gulliver’s Travels is one of the most thought-provoking reads and remarkable encounters between the literary imagination and science ever penned. In order to conclude, it is echoed one of Swift’s more encouraging quotes to keep in mind every sunrise:

“May you live all the days of your life.”

Jonathan Swift

Mary Wollstonecraft: The mother of women’s rights

“I do not wish women to have power over men, but over themselves.”

A Vindication of the rights of woman, Mary Wollstonecraft

In a week in which expressions such as ‘women’s rights’ and ‘gender equality’ have led a key role, this column is inaugurated by saying a tremendous THANK YOU to every single woman who has made possible for their female fellows to enjoy their current rights. Hence, these lines will pay homage to the woman regarded by most people as the Mother of Feminism: the great Mary Wollstonecraft.

Who was she? Born in 1759, she was one of the first people to advocate for gender equality. During her childhood, while her older brother, Ned, received an extensive formal education, Mary spent just a few years in a day school. This disparity was the trigger of her fight. Why should she be denied the opportunities afforded to her brother just because she was a girl? She resolved, with high determination, to educate herself. “Such indeed is the force of prejudice, that what was called spirit and wit in him, was cruelly repressed as forwardness in me.” With these words, Mary Wollstonecraft contrasted the way she and her brother were treated in The Wrongs of Woman (1798).

Mary was not only a writer but also a war reporter, a teacher, a spiritual seeker, in short, a woman far ahead of the social taboos of her time. She is best remembered for A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792).  This landmark essay argued for the rights of women to be educated. According to her, only when woman and man are equally free and equally dutiful there can be true freedom. The paramount reform for such equality is an equal and quality education for women. An education which recognizes to be an equal partner with her husband in the family, and which admits that women, like men, are creatures of both thought and feeling: creatures of reason:

“I wish to see women neither heroines nor brutes; but reasonable creatures…”

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Mary Wollstonecraft

What else is behind her life? She saw the harsh side of being female. Raised by a tyrannical, abusive, and alcoholic father she had to perform several tough jobs, and even so, she became one of the first women to work as a writer. Together with her baby born out of wedlock, she went heartbroken and depressed on the high seas trying to track down her disappeared boyfriend. This adventure crystallised in a successful travel book, a delicious a provocative read, a brilliant story! Mary had no breaks, no advantages, and even made an attempt to commit suicide, but she tirelessly fought for all women’s rights. Fortunately, she had time for true love as well and married the social philosopher, political journalist and novelist William Godwin. This deeply in love couple had a child, who was this little girl? Nothing more and nothing less than Mary Shelley!, Frankenstein’s writer, but that is a story for another day. Sadly, Mary Wollstonecraft died two weeks after her daughter’s birth of puerperal fever.

“This light was lent to me for a very short period, and is now extinguished forever!”

William Godwin’s memoir of Mary Wollstonecraft, 1798

Finally, from Tierra Trivium Group we honour this brave woman who paved the way for future generations of women to abandon the category of second-class citizens and we will keep working since in this fight:

“The beginning is always today”

Mary Wollstonecraft