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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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Be my Valentine!

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

February 14 is Valentine’s Day and depending on where you live you will buy or receive Valentine’s chocolates, cards, flowers… We also let our romantic side show this month with 10 gems from our catalogue.

Let’s start with twelve French Medieaval Romances from the Lays of Marie de France. Written in the 12th century, the stories idealize the then popular concept of courtly love, complete with noble ladies and fearless knights on white steeds.

Knight Huldbrand is stranded by a flood at a fisherman’s hut and falls in love with and marries Undine. When the waters recede, the newlyweds move to town, where old loves wait for him. But Undine is a water spirit, and they take their vows very seriously… We also have an English translation of this classic by German author Friedrich de la MotteFouqué.

Even more complicated is the romance by Abbé Prévost: The chevalier de Griaux elopes with Manon Lescaut, and they live in sin until he loses all his money and Manon leaves him for somebody who can support her lifestyle. Griaux follows Manon all the way to the US – but will he finally be able to marry her?

When hearing complicated stories like that, the best advice is probably: Don’t Marry! or at least, be very picky as to the partner with whom to tie the knot until death. In this book, author James W. Donovan shares insights on how to choose a matching spouse.

James and Alida don’t need that kind of advice, as they are entering into their marriage strictly as business partners: He because he needs help on his farm, and she because she wants security. Everything goes well in the book by Edward P. Roe – until He Fell in Love With His Wife

Who knows all the details of how this turned out, maybe he is even writing love poems like George Parsons Lathrop did. The collection Rose and Roof Tree is dedicated to his wife, of whom he says “…every line here shall in some sense breathe of thee, and in its very face bear record of her whom, however unworthily, it seeks to serve and honor.”

Instead of poetry, Hester Lynch Piozzi – a well known British author – wrote Love Letters – and that at the age of 80! Twice widowed and mother of twelve children, she fell in love with English actor William Augustus Conway, 48 years her junior, to whom these letters are addressed.

She certainly did not need any instructions in The Art of Kissing. And probably neither do you, but William Rossiter’s manual also covers other interesting aspects, like the origin of kissing, the different kinds of kisses, or how people kiss in different countries.

People in Finland probably kiss in the ordinary way. For couples to meet at work is not unusual either, so the parents of Samu invite Hetvi to the communal haymaking on their farm and hope for the best. However, things don’t quite turn out as planned in the Finnish novel Salmelan heinätalkoot by Olli Wuorinen.

Already loved is Cornelia, The Maid of Maiden Lane; unfortunately she has one suitor too many… Facing opposition from parents and friends, her choice will not be easy, and she should certainly not have made that blunder either. Find out what she will do in our dramatic reading of the story by Amelia E. Barr.

Enjoy – and have a nice Valentine’s Day!

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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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Shakespeare in Love

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

British literature has a long history, and many of the best known stories of all times originated on the British Isles. This time, however, we are after the lesser known authors for this year’s final 10 gems from our catalogue.

For almost 200 years, Thomas Kyd had fallen into obscurity, even though the playwright from the 1580s was among the most important figures of Elizabethan drama. Here, we present his most famous play The Spanish Tragedy, where a man (or rather: a ghost) takes revenge…

Winston S. Churchill also saw many people die – he was British Prime Minister during WWII. Besides that, he was a renowned writer of nonfiction and even received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953. During his long term in parliament, he had to give many public addresses, some of which are collected in Selected House of Common Speeches.

Being the British Prime Minister does not seem to hinder one’s private pursuits. Another one – Benjamin Disraeli – was a well known literary figure and is credited with the invention of the political novel. One of his best known is Sibyl, or the Two Nations, tracing the plight of the working classes in England.

Definitely not working class was Charlotte Yonge. She was homeschooled by her father, and started writing in 1848. She wrote about 160 novels in her life time, many of them with a historical theme that she painstakingly researched. Her book The Litte Duke is based on the life of Richard, Duke of Normandy.

Samuel Pepys had a number of highborn family members, but he spent his childhood in relative poverty. Only through fastidious studying, which earned him a scholarship at Cambridge, did he climb the ranks and finally became Chief Secretary to the Admiralty. He is best known for The Diary of Samuel Pepys, which he kept from 1660 – 1669.

Rita (pen name of Eliza M. Humphreys) on the other hand, received little education. Even so, she became a famous author and wrote 120 novels – one of them even sold 160,000 copies! In The Mystery of a Turkish Bath the guests of an exclusive Hampshire hotel witness the strange and dangerous display of occult powers…

Marie Corelli, an illegitimate child, started writing in 1886 and became the most widely read author of fiction of her time. She even outsold A. Conan Doyle, but was always belittled by critics. In The Secret Power, the female inventor of an airship and the male holder of destructive powers get involved romantically – but question marks remain for both of them.

No question marks are there about the new teacher at Dr. Wortle’s School: It is clear that she is a bigamist. The religious school deals with it in the style of Anthony Trollope. He was one of the most renowned authors of Victorian England, and is best known for the Chronicles of Barsetshire.

Also from the Victorian era hails Sir Henry W. Lucy, a political journalist. He taught himself shorthand and French and worked as a reporter from 1864 for a number of different newspapers. Faces and Places is a collection of articles on travels he made in various countries.

Dora Sigerson Shorter was an Irish Poet and a major figure of the Irish Literary Revival. Sadly, she died at only 51 years of age. The Sad Years is a collection of her poetry concerning WWI, from 1914 – 1918.

Enjoy discovering new British authors!

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