Books

Love that dare not…

Posted on March 1, 2017 by | Posted in about LibriVox, Blog, Books, For Volunteers, Monthly Picks, News | Comments: 2 Comments

“I love you” – three easy words to say, no? Not if you’re judged by others for saying them. This month we honour authors from the LGBT community and their struggles with 10 gems from our catalogue.

Life was easy in ancient Greece and Rome, when gay men could show their love openly. Gaius Petronius Arbiter tells in The Satyricon about the misadventures of Encolpoius and his young lover Giton.

Some 1900 years later, things had changed: Homosexuality was seen as a pathological perversion that needed to be cured or at least suppressed. One of the most influental doctors of this time, Sigmund Freud, details his views in the first essay in Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex.

This often led to an enormous struggle to try and reconcile public image with privately held desires. Federico Garcia Lorca, a well known Spanish poet, suffered greatly for what he could not change, and was assassinated in 1936. We have 67 of his poems in Libro de Poemas.

One way of dealing with this was to confide in close friends only. This is what E. M. Forster did. His first book Where Angels Fear to Tread still deals with a mesalliance: An English widow falls in love with an Italian – something her husband’s family cannot let happen…

Another example of “for friend’s eyes only” is Lytton Strachey. Openly gay to his friends, he kept his sexual orientation quiet otherwise. It is likely that his subtle mocking of four Eminent Victorians would not habe been so well received otherwise.

Those two at least were not betrayed by their friends. Once officially outed, The Trial of Oscar Wilde took place, and he was sentenced to two years of hard labour. This is a dramatic reading of an anonymous, contemporary court report.

Given the possible outcomes of being marked as “deviant”, it was best to keep quiet. Marcel Proust never admitted to be gay and even his housekeeper appears to have been unawares, other than his friends. A l’ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs is part of his masterpiece A la recherche du temps perdu.

Public opinion was apparently always kinder to lesbian couples, especially in recent times. Gertrude Stein was already able to live an open life as lesbian. Her book Geography and Plays contains experimental stream of consciousness essays.

Of course, it was never a good idea to flaunt one’s lifestyle, no matter what it might be. The Autobiography I, Mary MacLane of an openly bisexual feminist caused a major scandal. Today, Mary MacLane would be described as the first blogger ever.

Even though extemely popular, Marie Corelli had no notions of living a public life. Although she never described herself as lesbian, she lived with her lover for 40 years and left her all her property. Among it was Ziska, a book about an alluring Egyptian princess wreaking havoc among a party of European travellers…

Enjoy – and keep saying “I love you!”

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Time to get started!

Posted on January 1, 2017 by | Posted in about LibriVox, Blog, Books, For Volunteers, Monthly Picks, News | Comments: Comments Off

Happy New Year everyone! A new year has just begun, and we are also looking at beginnings in 10 gems from our catalogue.

The Prelude is always a good start, and this particular one has the distinction to be the first major narrative poem dealing with a spiritual journey. In this case, it’s the journey of William Wordsworth, and although begun in 1798, it was refined throughout his life and published only after his death, more than 50 years later.

Good things do take time, and Prehistoric Men lived for thousands of years without ever learning how to write. However, they did leave us exciting artifacts, and Robert J. Braidwood explains how we can learn from them – through then brand new methods like carbon dating – about the lives of our ancestors.

A very important step in human history was taken by John Gutenberg, First Master Printer, who invented the movable letter press. He has set in motion (no pun intended) widespread literacy with his easy way of reproducing books, and Franz von Dingelstedt sketches the last few years in Gutenberg’s life.

One small step for a human – a giant leap for mankind. That’s what Adam Crag wants to be: First on the Moon. However, there is a traitor amongst his crew, and it is vital to find out who it is before he can sabotage the mission. Read whether he is successful in the short novel by Jeff Sutton.

Seaman Redburn’s First Voyage does not take him quite that far, only from London to New York. However, the fact that he has never set foot on a merchant ship before makes this a very exciting and difficult endeavour. Herman Melville worked his own first experiences on board a ship into this story.

Edward Ormondroyd tells the lovely story of David and the Phoenix. When they first met, the Phoenix was shocked about Davids’ ignorance in many fields, so he took it upon himself to further his education. When this is firmly on its way, they need to thwart the designs of a scientist to catch the Phoenix – will they succeed?

Lady Sarah Wilson did get caught by the enemy, but she came free in a prisoner exchange. She was the first female war correspondent and covered the Boer War for the Daily Mail. Her South African Memories, part of that coverage, tell further details about the Siege of Mafeking and her capture.

Together with Goethe Friedrich Schiller is responsible for creating the Weimar Classicism.  He was the founder of the Weimar theatre, which greatly influenced theatre all over Germany.  One of Schiller’s most famous dramatic works is Mary Stuart, about the ill fated Queen of Scots. You can also listen to the German original of this drama.

Even the big ones have to start somewhere, and usually it’s small. When Jane Austen was but 14 years of age, she penned the short epistolary novel Love and Freindship for her friends and family. Spelling errors notwithstanding, she turned into one of the most beloved authors of her time.

He is credited to be a pioneer of the self-help movement, and has written many books on various topics during his lifetime: James Allen. The Divine Companion is the last book of his to be published, and he writes about it: “The story of my soul … should be read last of all my books…”

Enjoy – and let’s get started!

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The Man From La Mancha

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

Spanish is the second most spoken native tongue on the planet – and this month, we will celebrate our Spanish speaking librivoxers with 10 gems from our catalog written by Spanish authors.

When discussing Spanish writers, you cannot pass over Miguel de Cervantes. Living in poverty throughout his childhood, and never able to live from his writing, he is now considered the greatest novelist in the Spanish tongue. His Exemplary Novels are a collection of his shorter writings – also available in the original Spanish.

Instant fame was bestowed upon Fernan Caballero on the publication of the first novel. However, behind the pseudonym hides Cecilia Böhl de Faber, who, widowed three times, nevertheless wrote all thorugh her life. Cuentos, Adivinanzas y Refranes Populares collects 39 of her short stories and poems.

By far not so lucky was Doña Juana of Spain, daughter of the Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella. She was devastated at the loss of her husband and was thenceforth known as “the Mad”. Historia de la célebre Reina de España Doña Juana, llamada vulgarmente La Loca is a short biography of hers, written by an unknown author.

Another autobiography on our list is The Life of St. Teresa. St. Teresa of Avila (or: St. Teresa of Jesus) was a Roman Catholic mystic from Spain, and her books about contemplative life are an integral part of Spanish Renaissance literature as well as of Catholic literature. We also have a Spanish recording of this book.

An important writer of the Spanish Golden Age is Pedro Calderón de la Barca. Orphaned as a child, he wanted to take orders, but studied law instead. He finally became a playwright and wrote more than 70 plays, some of which were already translated into English in the 17th century. In the comedy La Dama Duende he pokes fun at the prevalent superstition of his age.

Another law student turned writer is Juan Ramón Jiménez, born in Andalucia. He was a very prolific writer as well: His first books were published when he was only 18, and with 74, two years before his death, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. Platero y Yo is a cute little prose diary – of a donkey.

You may not know him by name, but many of his stories were made into Hollywood movies: Vicente Blasco Ibañez. Born in Valencia, he studied law, and became a politician, journalist, and best selling author. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is a ripping yarn about two Argentinian families in WWI.

Of equally grave consequences was the death of general Francisco Franco of Spain. The Constitución Española de 1978 is the major document to ease the transition from dictatorship to democracy – even more so since this change was supported by both the people, and the royal court in Madrid.

Also set in Madrid is Insolación about a short lived love affair in the city’s unbearable summer heat. It was written by Emilia Pardo Bazán, who was born in Galicia. She counts among the chiefs of the naturalistic movent in Spain, as well as of feminist literature.

There are many more interesting Spanish authors, we cannot list them all here. However, 50 more and their poems are collected in Las Cien Mejores Poesías de la Lengua Castellana.

Enjoy getting to know authors from Spain!

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Man spricht deutsh

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

LibriVox has quite a large German speaking community who has been reading numerous works by German authors. This month, we honour both with 10 gems from our catalog.

Alexander von Humboldt
was a major figure in German science, and he is credited with founding the fields of biogeography. Homeschooled like his brother, he was always interested in nature and was finally able to travel extensively in South America where he wrote Personal Narrative of Travels to the Equinoctial Regions of America During the Years 1799 – 1804.

Kasperl in der Türkei is also a travel narrative, although it is by far not politically correct. The main character is Kasperl Larifari, a brainchild of Franz Graf von Pocci, who was a court official of Ludwig I. of Bavaria. However, he is better known as the founder of the Munich Marionette Theatre, for which he wrote numerous plays like the above.

When Gottfried Keller was young, he wanted to become a painter, but despite having talent, he turned to writing instead. In 1876 he retired early from a government job to write full time. His most famous novel is Der grüne Heinrich – dealing with the life on an impoverished young artist – which is considered autobiographical.

Carl von Ossietzky was a German pacifist who worked as an investigative journalist. He was convicted for treason in 1931, and received the 1935 Nobel Prize for Peace – a controversial decision. His collected writings Sämtliche Schriften 1911-1921 for various newspapers are as relevant today as they were 100 years ago.

Another German journalist was Jakob Wassermann; he worked as copy editor for the Simplicissimus in Munich and released his first novel in 1896. His novel Caspar Hauser oder die Trägheit des Herzens attempts to solve the mystery surrounding the famous foundling of Nuremberg.

A mystery also shrouds Die Frau mit den Karfunkelsteinen by Eugenie Marlitt, a very popular German novelist. As a young girl she was adopted by Princess of Schwarzenberg-Sondershausen and sent to Vienna to study music. However, Eugenie became deaf and eventually, at age 38, turned to writing novels.

Not quite so drastic a change of occupation was that of Martin Luther. The monk, disgusted by some practices of Catholicism, became a seminal figure in the Protestant Revolution, and was excommunicated in 1521. His book Der Kleine Kathechismus was meant to teach Bible basics to common people, and is – with small modifications – still in use today. We also have an English translation of this book.

Theology, amongst others, was one of the studies Carl Spitteler engaged in. The Swiss poet then became a teacher in Russia and started publishing in 1881. He won the Nobelprize for Literature in 1919, and his Balladen is a good collection of his poems.

Poetry stood at the beginning of Annette von Droste-Hülshoff’s literary career. A precocious but unencouraged child, she became one of the most important German poets. Her most famous novella is Die Judenbuche about a murder that is avenged only years after the deed…

Some 100 years after her, Stefan Zweig was one of the most popular writers world wide. Of Jewish descent, he left Austria after the Nazis came to power. He committed suicide together with his wife in 1942. Brennendes Geheimnis deals with a young boy who cannot understand his mother’s attraction to another man. An English version is available.

Enjoy our selection of German authors!

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