Philosophy, mythology, humor, and love blend comfortably in this novella, which won the 1993 European Literary Prize for Dutch author Nooteboom (The Knight Has Died, 1990, etc.). When bookish bachelor Herbert Mussert awakens in Lisbon, his last memory is of going to bed in his solitary apartment in Amsterdam. Troubled and bemused by his amnesiac journey to the city—indeed the very hotel room—where 20 years earlier he shared a passionate sojourn with a lover now lost, he contemplates and discards one explanation after another. Then he sets out to revisit the cafes, boulevards, and harbor where he and Maria Zeinstra dallied two decades before. A teacher of biology in the same school where he taught classical languages, Maria mesmerized Herbert with her ability to transform the usual into the unique. Transfiguration—whether of a homely intellectual classics professor into a besotted lover or of the Latin language into sublime poetry—has always fascinated Herbert. Maria's elucidation of the ultimate metamorphosis from life to death and its essential link to love is rendered in a deadpan description of her classroom lecture on mating, death, and birth among a species of beetles; its flattened tone makes an unlovely subject fresh and slyly funny. Herbert also remembers his gifted student Lisa d'India, whose affair with Maria's doltish husband led to a tragedy of classic scope, diminished by the survivors' banal responses. One day, as inexplicably as he arrived in Lisbon, Herbert boards a boat bound for Brazil with a handful of other passengers. As they approach Brazil, each passenger reveals the hidden event that has led to their common destiny, and the mystery of Herbert's journeys is solved. Nooteboom scores with a pleasantly textured tale whose subtle mysteries keep the reader alert through all its diverting wanderings.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-15-100098-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1994

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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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