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Tulip Fever

Posted on June 1, 2016 by | Posted in about LibriVox, Blog, For Volunteers, Monthly Picks, News | Comments: Comments Off on Tulip Fever

Since we have a very strong Dutch speaking community on LibriVox, let’s have a look at 10 gems from our catalog written by Dutch authors.

Probably the most famous one we have is Vincent van Gogh. Yes, to be fair, he was not an author, but one of the greatest painters who ever lived… Still, some letters to his brother and his friend E. Bernard have survived and are collected in The Letters of a Post-Impressionist.

Then there is Louis Couperus, one of the foremost figures of Dutch literature who wrote more than 40 books, not including his poetry and short stories. In his Langs Lijnen van Geleidelijkheid, 23 year old divorcee Cornelie de Retz goes to Italy in search of a new life. The English version caused quite a stir because of the explicit eroticism of the book.

Not quite so explicit is Goena-goena about a woman willing to do anything to take the man she loves from his wife. It was written by Paul Adriaan Daum who, despite having received very little education, founded the largest newspaper in the Dutch East Indies.

Via their colonies in the East Indies, the Dutch were involved in the slave trade. Twee redevoeringen tegen de slavernij in de Nederlandse koloniën contains two pamphlets written by the historian Julien Wolbers and the theologian Nicolaas Beets, where they make their case for abolition.

Whether they did it in The Imitation of Christ is not known, even though they might have read this book in Dutch even. It was written by Thomas a Kempis, a Dutch canon reguar, in the 15th century and remains the best known manual of Christian devotion. We also have a Latin version of it.

Alphonse Olterdissen wrote in a completely different language: the local dialect of Maastricht, a town in the south of the Netherlands. The final stanza of one of his operas even became the local anthem of the city. Here we present you with Drei korte verhaole in ‘t Meestrechs.

Maarten Maartens also did not write in Dutch but in English, and because his frail health forced him to move all through Europe, he is all but forgotten in the Netherlands. His books were popular in England though, for example God’s Fool about a deaf and blind man who becomes the richest man in town and now has to keep his brothers in check…

A much larger following in his own country has Herman Heijermans, the son of liberal Jews born in Rotterdam. Although mainly a playwright, under the pseudonym Samuel Falkland he wrote hundreds of short stories. His book Gevleugelde Daden is a humorous story about the first Dutch pioneers of flying.

A pioneer of a different kind was Christiaan Huygens. He was a 17th century mathematician and natural philosopher, and considered one of the leading scientists of his time. He is especially remembered for his wave theory of light, which he published in the 1690 work Treatise on Light, the largest book on optics before Newton’s book of 1704.

Hieronymus van Alphen was a lawyer in Utrecht, who became the minister of finance towards the end of the Dutch Republic. In his spare time he wrote mostly religious poetry, but the tiny book of 66 Kleine Gedigten voor Kinderen is his most famous legacy.

Enjoy discovering Dutch authors in our catalog!


La Dolce Vita

Posted on May 1, 2016 by | Posted in about LibriVox, Blog, For Volunteers, Monthly Picks, News | Comments: Comments Off on La Dolce Vita

Romance is the big theme in May, and where better to go and find it than in Italy? Let’s have a look at 10 gems from our catalog written by authors from Italy.

When talking about Italian romance, the Betrothed Lucia and Renzo come to mind. Deeply in love with each other, they are still prevented to marry in the masterpiece by Alessandro Manzoni. Interestingly, before Manzoni started writing at age 15, he was considered a dunce, but already his first sonnets were highly acclaimed.

The above book was a milestone in developing modern Italian, something the Renaissance humanist scholar Sperone Speroni would have been proud of. His Dialogo delle lingue is a defense of the vernacular languages of Italy instead of Latin, which was still favoured when he lectured on philosophy in Padua.

Another philosopher, this time of the Age of Enlightenment, was Cesare Beccaria. Appalled at what he saw as a jurist, he penned An Essay on Crimes and Punishments, condemning torture and the death penalty. Beccaria was considered a most talented jurist, and his ideas are known to have influenced the Founding Fathers of the United States.

Giovanni Verga was also set to become a jurist, but while officially studying law, he used his fathers money to publish his first novel. Under the Shadow of Etna: Sicilian Stories is a selection of his short stories that revolve around rural life in Sicily as he knew it from childhood.

Cuore, the diary of a 10 year old boy, sends us back to childhood as well. It was published when school began in 1886 and became an immediate success amongst children (and possible adults too). It is the most acclaimed work of Edmondo de Amicis, an officer in the Army of the Kingdom of Italy, who turned novelist, journalist, and short story writer.

Hundreds of short stories and more than 40 novels came from the feather of Luigi Pirandello, who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1934. Here we offer you Il fu Mattia Pascal, who, unhappy with his life, sneaks away to Monte Carlo where he makes a fortune. On the way back home he discovers that his wife had declared him dead, which leaves him free to go wherever he likes…

Equally fond of travelling was Emilo Salgari. Born in Verona, he wanted to explore the sea, but he never graduated from his studies of seamanship, thus ending his dream. Instead, he turned to writing, for example Le meraviglie del Duemila, a brilliant science fiction story where two men from 1903 travel to 2003 and explore railroads under ground and cities under water.

Guido Gustavo Gozzano did travel quite a bit between the Riviera and mountain villages, but it was not done for amusement, but to improve his health. Unfortunately, it did not work as hoped, and he died when only 32. What a loss, because his book of poetry I Colloqui, published only 5 years before, was an acclaimed success.

Successful were certainly those who made it into the Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects by Giorgio Vasari. He himself was a painter and architect, and a friend of Michelangelo’s, but he is most remembered for the book above, which is considered the ideological foundation of art-historical writing; and that despite a certain bias in favour of the Florentines.

The Venitian catholic priest Lorenzo da Ponte may not have cared for fame very much. Still, he left us 28 librettos that were turned into operas by 11 composers. Among them is Don Juan, which Mozart famously renamed Don Giovanni and set to unforgettable music.

Enjoy finding new Italian authors in our catalog!


Conquest of Paradise

Posted on April 1, 2016 by | Posted in about LibriVox, Blog, For Volunteers, Monthly Picks, News | Comments: 3 Comments on Conquest of Paradise

This month, we put authors from all over Latin America in the spotlight. Experience the diversity of a whole continent with 10 gems from our catalog.

Let’s start with Padre Antonio Vieira who, born in Portugal, moved to Brazil as a child and there became a renowed Jesuit preacher. He felt that the ideal sermon should make the listeners feel discontented with themselves. Find out for yourself from a collection of his Sermões.

Since he was seen as the fulfillment of a catholic prophecy, Garcia Moreno, President of Ecuador 1821 – 1875 was equally revered. Under him the country made a substantial leap forward – until he was assassinated. This biography was written by Augustine Berthe, about whom nothing further seems to be known.

Much more famous than her is Olavo Bilac, since he wrote the lyrics for the Brazilian Flag Anthem. Contos para Velhos are short stories and poems about adult themes, published under a pseudonym.

From adults to stories for boys and girls with La Edad de Oro by José Martí. He was a symbol of Cuba’s independence movement from Spain and to this day is called its apostle. Although he died at only 42, he is an important figure of Latin American literature.

José de Alencar, a lawyer, politician, and writer is probably the most famous representative of Brazilian Romanticism as well as Indianism. In Senhora, Aurélia takes bitter revenge on her fiancé Fernando who left her to marry money instead.

There’s not much money in poetry, so José Hernández earned his keep as journalist and politician in Argentina. Today however, he is best known for the long narrative poem El Gaucho Martín Fierro, considered the pinnacle of gauchesque literature.

The Brazilian Lima Barreto started to write for newspapers in 1902. Already in 1911, at the age of 30, he wrote his pre-modernism masterpiece Triste Fim de Policarpo Quaresma. In it, we follow the life of an army bureaucrat whose patriotism finally leads to his own destruction.

Horacio Quiroga from Uruguay also started writing early, when only 22, although he had many other interests as well like photography, chemistry, philosophy,… In South American Jungle Tales he uses the supernatural and bizarre to showcase every beings struggle for survival.

The greatest writer of Brazilian literature is Machado de Assis. However, the multiligual novelist, playwright, and poet is virtually unknown outside his own country. Esaú e Jacó tells the story of two brothers finding themselves on different political sides in post-independence Brazil.

There are many more Latin American writers that remain to be discovered (and recorded for LibriVox). Some of their finest work has been collected in Pan-American Poems: An Anthology. They were translated into English by Agnes Blake Poor.

Enjoy discovering Latin American authors in our catalog!


French Kiss

Posted on March 1, 2016 by | Posted in about LibriVox, Blog, For Volunteers, Monthly Picks, News | Comments: Comments Off on French Kiss

In celebration of the International Francophonie Day on March 20th, let’s have a look at authors from France with the following 10 gems from our catalog.

What better person to represent the nation than one who shares its name. Anatole France won the 1921 Nobelprize for literature for “a nobility in style, a profound human sympathy, grace, and a true Gallic temperament”. Read his novel The Revolt of the Angels and judge for yourself.

Judging people and their quirks may have been a reason for Michel de Montaigne to write his Essays. Born into a wealthy family and brought up in Latin, he was a famous philosopher and statesman of the French Renaissance.

Marguerite de Navarre lived around the same time, and her patronage of humanists and reformers earned her the title “first modern woman”. She has written The Heptameron, a string of tales telling of love, lust, and infidelity.

Paquita Valdez, La fille aux yeux d’or, is seduced by Henri de Marcay who wants to kill her when he finds out she has another lover. But he is not the only one in this book which is part of La Comédie Humaine, considered the masterpiece of Honoré de Balzac. We also have an English translation of this book.

The masterpiece of Pierre Corneille, one of the three great dramatists of 17th century France is Le Cid. The tragicomedy in five acts is based on a medieval legend and in turn inspired operas by Handel and Massenet.

A tragic topic treated tongue-in-cheek is L’ Art de payer ses dettes et de satisfaire ses créanciers sans débourser un sou. French historian, writer, and feuilletonist Emile Marco de Saint-Hilaire has written this manual in 10 lessons.

Since his family was poor, lessons were something Jean-Henri Fabre never had; still the autodidact became a teacher when only 19, and later on France’s best known entymologist. Read his book on one of the few insects working for mankind, The Mason-Bees.

A genius of a different kind was Paul Verlaine. His first book of poems – Poèmes saturniens – was published when he was only 22, and at his early death with 51 he was hailed as one of the greatest representatives of the fin de siecle in French poetry.

At that time, Emile Gaboriau was equally famous. The journalist and novelist was a pioneer of modern detective fiction. His most famous character was Monsieur Lecoq, a young police officer, whose numerous cases kept people in suspense. An English version is available in Part 1 and Part 2.

Another literary pioneer was Madame de La Fayette, who wrote France’s first historical novel and one of the earliest novels in literature. Many of the characters involved in the intrigues at the court of Henri II are historical figures – except the heroine herself, La Princesse de Clèves.

Enjoy discovering new French authors in our catalog!


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