Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Way of the World

I take a brief break from crime with this post, with a tip of the hat to the crime writer who directed me toward its subject.

The subject is Nicolas Bouvier's The Way of the World, and I'm reading it slowly. That's just as well; though the book is a journal, a factual account of the author's trip from Switzerland to the Khyber Pass in 1953, it is full of images redolent of poetry and mystery — a song about a soldier "who, on returning from the war requested a pancake to be kneaded until it was `as white as this man's shirt.'"

or

"We set up the machine and looked up to meet a hundred pairs of magnificent eyes; the whole tribe was on tiptoes around us."

I can read those lines and feel I've read an entire story. What lines make you feel that way?

© Peter Rozovsky 2010

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17 Comments:

Blogger Jose Ignacio Escribano said...

"Many years later, in front of the firing squad, colonel Aureliano Buendía would remember that distant afternoon his father took him to see ice."
(Gabriel Gacía Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude)

April 13, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Oh, yes, that's a good one. I might call it less a story in itself than a potential story waiting to burst forth. Is there any difference? Don't ask me! I'd rather spend my time reading than pondering such a question.

April 13, 2010  
Blogger Jose Ignacio Escribano said...

I see your point and you are probably right.

April 13, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Why argue the point, though? It's a scintillating opening, and that's what matters.

April 13, 2010  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

It's a gorgeous book isn't it? The prose, the translation, the cover and the drawings make it a delight to the senses. I doubt you could get an experience like that with a kindle.

If I could read a book like The Way of the World every few months I'd almost start being hopeful.

April 13, 2010  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Jose

I loved 100 Years of Solitude, but near the end I did begin to get a bit weary. I think it was Borges who said that "maybe 90 years of solitude would have been enough."

I know this is a minority opinion but I think Love in the Time of Cholera is the more perfectly realised book.

April 13, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I think my favorite illustration so far has been the one I take to depict that great lying madman...I forget if he's in Serbia or after they've crossed into Macedonia.

And the discussions of music. And the refreshing humanity of peoples regarded today as pariahs or at the very least with suspicion.

One or two tiny bits, usually at the end of a section, strike me as a bit precious. But I mean tiny bits -- a sentence or less. But the author was, what, twenty-three years old, and I'm still near the beginning of the book, so I'll forgive him.

April 13, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

In re the translation, I don't know the original, but the English version reads seamlessly. The only glaring sign so far that Bouvier is not an English or American native is his amusement at being thanked so profusely for Rousseau, as if he and his companion were personally responsible for him.

April 13, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

And is it emerging from this discussion that I ought to bone up on my magical realism?

You've quoted the "maybe 90 years of solitude would have been enough" quip before. It's a marvelous line.

April 13, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

April is a bit too full, but come May, I plan to read this too.

My v word is 'squander'. Yikes. The word veriier has become a bit judgmental lately.

April 13, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Perhaps the v-word generator was addressing you in the imperative mood.

April 13, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

Maybe, but I actually don't need any help with that activity.

April 14, 2010  
Blogger Jose Ignacio Escribano said...

Adrian
I like very much both 100 years and Love in the Time of Cholera. For me the difference is probably that when I read 100 years I was much younger.

April 14, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Is squandering one of the sins? If so, it is one oft-committed, I think. It might even top the list.

What do you get when you cross pedants with pediatricians? My v-word: peditics

April 14, 2010  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

This is slightly off topic but just to put it in somewhere: Am finishing, "Death Wore White," the start of a new series by English writer Jim Kelly.

It's very cleverly done, the main police protagonists are interesting fellows, creative plot.

Also, want to start reading Ken Bruen's books and know they're liked well here. Jen's Book Thoughts has a lively interview with him and his new book is referenced.

Where should I start? I like humor, character development, good plotting and dialogue, but a lot of violence--not so much.

And at least I can start reading about my other ancestors, from county Sligo, though Bruen is from Galway, I believe.

April 14, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Kathy, you may have to choose your Bruen carefully, then. Violence may not be the focus of his books, but it is decidedly a component.

For character portrayals, you might try the heart-rending "Priest," one of the Jack Taylor series.

Lighter in tone, very funny, but with bursts of violence, are the three novels Bruen wrote with Jason Starr: "Bust," "Slide" and "The Max."

April 14, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

And you're right. Bruen is from Galway.

April 14, 2010  

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