Tiger and Dragon

Posted on July 1, 2016 by | Posted in about LibriVox, Blog, Books, For Volunteers, Monthly Picks, News | Comments: Comments Off

It’s the time of the year when people start thinking about vacation, and many turn to the Far East in search of exotic adventures. Let’s have a look at 10 gems from our catalog by Asian authors.

Tigers were probably present at the 금수회의록 (Assembly of Animals) that was called in to criticise and judge mankind. Author Ahn Guk-seon, born in 1878, served in the Korean military for about 20 years, and one cannot help wondering whether he got his inspiration there…

His childhood in India at the turn of the 20th century certainly served as inspiration for Dhan Gopal Mukerji. Born in a small village near Calcutta, he eventually left for the US where he became a writer to sustain himself. Kari the Elephant was one of the children’s books for which he received the Newbery Medal.

Another Indian prize winner – the 1913 Nobelprize – is poet and writer Rabindranath Tagore. The Bard of Bengal was virtually unknown outside his country for a long time, and he wrote his first work in English when he was 50 years old: My Reminiscences.

Cao Xueqin had a long heritage to look back upon. His ancestors had been high officials at court, but had fallen from grace so he had to live in poverty himself. A similar chain of events involving the Chia family is described in The Dream of the Red Chamber, one of China’s Four Great Classical Novels.

More classic than this are only The Nō Plays of Japan, a collection of plays from various authors. They date back to the 14th century and are still performed today in the exact same manner and the exact same language as then, making them almost impossible to understand even for a Japanese audience.

Equally hard to comprehend must have been the concept of Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule. The book by Gandhi is a dialogue between him and the reader to convince the typical countryman of the idea. It was written in Gujarati (and immediately banned) and then translated into English by Gandhi himself, probably the only author on this list who does not need an introduction.

No introduction can be given for Pura L. Medrano, since we do not know anything about this author. However, Nang Bata Pa Kami was written by her (or him?), the story of the secret courtship of two lovers, told from the viewpoints of both. Who knows, there may even be a happy ending in this story from the Philippines.

坊っちゃん (Botchan) does have a happy ending of some sorts. It tells the story of a young teacher on his first assignment at a middle school and is still widely read today. Written by Sōseki Natsume, considered the foremost writer of the Meiji period, if not of Japanese history, it is one of his three best known novels. We also have it in English.

Another teacher, who later became a government employee, was Xun Lu. Born in 1881, he is considered the leading figure of modern Chinese literature. Here, we present 热风 (Hot Wind), a collection of essays and commentaries on China and the Chinese, which redefined the definition of “essay” in Chinese literature.

As we started, so will we end: with animals. Renowned as the Nightingale of Shiraz, Saadi was a major poet of medieval Persia. He was very famous at his time already and has even been quoted in western sources. “Gulistan” is considered among his greatest works, and it is contained in our recording of The Poetry of Sadi.

Enjoy finding new Asian authors in our catalog!


Tulip Fever

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

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

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

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!


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