Monthly Picks

French Kiss

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

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!


From Russia With Love

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

Russia is a huge country with an enormous diversity of her people and their customs. The following 10 gems from our catalog highlight a few of our Russian authors.

Leo Tolstoy, a nobleman turned social reformer in his later years, is regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time. This makes it difficult to choose from his work, but War and Peace, an epic novel spanning 15 years, is probably his masterpiece.

Another one of the great Russian authors is Fyodor Dostoyevsky. He wrote his first of 11 novels at age 25, and his books were translated into more than 170 languages. We have not done all of them yet, but his short novel Белые ночи – White Nights we can offer to you in Russian, English, and German.

Germany and France were the countries where Ivan Turgenev preferred to live. The son of landowners was opposed to serfdom, and his first collection of stories A Sportsman’s Sketches, detailing the lives of the poor, is a milestone in Russian realism.

Lev Shestov is another expatriate, but instead of leaving voluntarily, he had to flee in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution. The main work of the then well-known existentialist is All Things Are Possible, or Apotheosis of Groundlessness from 1905.

The revolution caused many people to leave their homes. Roman Gul was conscripted into the Tsarist Army in 1916, but joined the White Volunteer Army only a year later. He took part in the Ice March (Ледяной поход) of 1918, one of the defining moments in the Russian Civil War.

Even when it was over, things did not settle down, and regime critics were persecuted for decades. One of them was Osip Mandelstam, forced into exile within Russia in 1934, and sentenced to correction camp in 1938, where he died the same year. The Stone – Камень is his first poetry collection from 1916.

The anarchist Mikhail Bakunin, one of the most famous European activists of his time, also had his own thoughts about God and the State. This text is fragmentary and for this reason not easy to read, but it is still one of the best explanations of the anarchist philosophy of history.

Back to the Silver Age of Russian history, and to Leonid Andreyev. Coming from a middle class family, he eventually became the most prolific and representative writer of short stories of this age. His last work is Satan’s Diary about an unfortunate holiday trip the devil takes in Europe.

The physician Anton Chekhov is the author of what critics believe are the best short stories in history. He also wrote numerous plays in realist style, and the one-act play Der Bär, by himself called a joke, deals with the visit of a money lender to a recently widowed woman. An English version is available.

Katerina, Die Lady Makbeth des Mzensker Landkreises, will not wait until her husband dies before taking a lover, and from there things go downhill. This is one of the major works of Nikolai Leskov, who was praised for his unique writing style even by some of the more famous writers mentioned above.

Enjoy finding new Russian authors in our catalog!


American Graffiti

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

Happy New Year!

LibriVox is 10 years old, and this year we’ll highlight our contributions to literature from all over the world. Let’s start with 10 gems from our catalog devoted to American authors.

When Emerson felt the need to find a uniquely American poet, Walt Whitman stepped up to the challenge, and devoted his life to Leaves of Grass. First published in 1855, the collection grew from 12 to 400 poems in the Deathbed Edition of 1892.

Equally famous and prolific was Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery. She published more than 350 short stories and 20 novels; the most famous one being Anne of Green Gables. The spunky heroine has inspired our readers to no less than 7 versions, this is our dramatic reading.

A lot of drama can be found in the books by Anna Katharine Green, one of the first writers of detective fiction in America, rivaling even Conan Doyle. Of her 40 highly acclaimed books, That Affair Next Door introduces nosy spinster sleuth Miss Emilia Butterworth.

Two elderly spinsters play a supporting role in the love story between Rodolfo and Angelina. The book was written by Rafael Delgado, a Mexican poet and novelist from Cordoba, who became a member of the Mexican Academy of Letters when he was in his early 40s.

Honoré Beaugrand fought in the Mexican Intervention before becoming a writer in the US, buying a newspaper in Ottawa, and finally being elected mayor of Montreal. His version of La Chasse-Galerie, a French-Canadian legend of an unwise deal with the devil, is the best known one.

Another politician boasted equally varied interests and achievements: The lifelong naturalist Theodore Roosevelt was the youngest US president at his election. His public addresses and essays are collected in The Strenuous Life.

Certainly so was the life of Charles Alexander Eastman, born as Ohiyesa. The Native American writer and reformer strove throughout his life for the rights of the American Natives and better opportunities for their youth. From the Deep Woods to Civilisation is the second part of his autobiography.

Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins writes from a similar point of view. She was once considered the most prolific female African American writer and a sought-after editor. Her first novel Contending Forces explores the difficulties of black people in post Civil War America.

Fitting to the above is The Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice. Although best known for his humorous pieces, The Canadian Stephen Leacock – the most widely read English speaking author 1910-1925 – held a doctorate in political science and political economy.

Gertrude Atherton a was strong willed and independent minded woman. Despite being ostracized by her family for becoming an author, she wrote more than 50 novels, mainly set in California. In The Avalanche, a once highly eligible bachelor resolves in his fourth year of marriage to unveil the mystery of his wife’s past.

Enjoy finding new American authors in our catalog!


Seeking Refuge

Posted on December 1, 2015 by | Posted in about LibriVox, Blog, Books, For Volunteers, Monthly Picks, News | Comments: Comments Off

December 18 marks International Migrants Day. While nothing to celebrate, let’s take a closer look at the issue with 10 gems from our catalog.

Robert Bruce is driven from Scotland by the English. When he tries to return, he lands on hostile shores, and immediately polarises a wedding party. Will he find enough support to become The Lord of the Isles? Read the narrative poem by Sir Walter Scott for the historical details.

Not only war drives people from their homes. As The Flood slowly rises in the village of Saint-Jory and destroys the wealthy farm of the Roubien family, they must leave. This short story of man’s defeat at the merciless hand of nature is told masterfully by Emile Zola.

Wouldn’t it be good if we knew about such catastrophes in advance? As a form of self-help, people have always resorted to things like Tea Cup Reading and Fortune-Telling By Tea Leaves. In this little book, A Highland Seer teaches his craft to anybody interested.

Equally fantastic is the story of Master Flea, who escapes a flea circus and takes refuge in Peregrinus’ house. The pretty Dörtje tries to find him, but isn’t she really a princess from Famagusta? E.T.A. Hoffmann’s story – also available in German – mixes fantasy and reality.

Safely rooted in reality is the life of My Ántonia, the eldest daughter of Bohemian immigrants, who just arrived in rural Nebraska. Neighbour Jim, who is smitten with her, watches over her ups and downs in the book by Willa Sibert Cather.

A much more complicated web of love forms around the Exiles Rowan and Bertha upon their return to England. In the play by James Joyce, everybody seems to love the one person they cannot be with. Probably, the two would have preferred to stay in Rome after all.

What does become of those that stay behind when everybody is leaving? George Moore describes the aftermath of the Irish mass emigration of the 19th century, and the hold of the clergy on those who remained, in his collection of short stories The Untilled Field.

Those who leave are often torn between their old culture and new influences. Israel Zangwill describes the life of Children of the Ghetto in the London Jewish East End of the 1890′s, where they must navigate between Eastern European traditions and attempts of assimilation.

When Edward A. Steiner had to make the same decision, his choice was clear. His way From Alien to Citizen led him from hard labour in immigrant sweat shops to becoming a Christian minister and immigration scholar at an American university.

People in need often seek solace in religion. Hundreds of religions are practised today, but at this time of the year, let us highlight Christianity with our reading of The Gospel of Luke, from the King James Version.

Enjoy – and may there be shelter when you need it!


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