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A long, long time ago

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

The 21st century has its ups and downs, but in fact, life has always been like this. Let’s look back at history with 10 gems from our catalog.

Best to start at the very beginning with The Tree Dwellers or “The Age of Fear”. Katharine E. Dopp explains in 32 lessons for elementary school children the life and development of early humans.

Even before science came along to put the matter to rest, people speculated about the beginning of it all. One of the numerous creation stories is The Kalevala, the Epic Poem of Finland, where everthing started from a single egg. This version was written down by Elias Lönnrot.

Starting from ancient beliefs, the kings of Egypt traced the legitimacy of their reign back to the gods. So did Rameses XIII, the Faraon in Boleslaw Prus’ novel, which follows the 20th dynasty until its downfall. An English version is available.

Much of the above story was literally dug up by archeology. The Manual of Egyptian Archeology, written by Gaston Maspero and published by the British Museum, was aimed at the 19th century British tourist with lots of time and money on their hands.

However, the earliest list of “best places to visit” is surely The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Originally written for the hellenic traveller, a new description by Edgar J. Banks gives us a glimpse of ancient travel destinations, of which only the pyramids remain today.

Definitely not on a pleasure trip is The Young Carthaginian Malchus. A cousin to Hannibal, he is an officer in his army which is on the way to attack Rome on their own territory. Read all about the Punic Wars in the exciting story by G. A. Henty.

An equally important and decisive war was the one between England and Spain in the 16th century. Amice MacDonell describes in her play The Story of the Armada the atmosphere in England and at the court just before the arrival of the Spanish ships.

War with the Romans leads vandal Ingo into Thuringia. There he finds shelter in the house of his father’s friend – but only until he falls in love with the young lady of the house… Find out if he can survive another attempt on his life in Gustav Freytag’s first volume of Die Ahnen.

Around the same time in Gaul, the chief Joel and his son invite a traveller to supper in exchange for stories. When he refuses, they find ways to force him to speak, and the stories told begin to center on freedom and what it is worth. Read The Gold Sickle by Eugene Sue to see at what conclusion they arrive.

Different lands, different minds: Written by Dandin in the 6th century, Hindoo Tales or the Adventures of 10 Princes tells about 10 noblemen on a trip through ancient India and their encounters with demigods and maidens, ghosts, gambler, robbers and many more.

Enjoy – but don’t get stuck in history!

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Laughter is Universal

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

Nothing is more conducive to international understanding – and should be practiced much more often – than laughter. Have fun with 10 gems from our catalog.

Why laugh, you might ask. Because “Folly is the part of intellect that makes life worthwhile.” Thus wrote Erasmus of Rotterdam in 1509 in the essay Das Lob der Narrheit. The book influenced rhetoric – and even landed on the index of forbidden books! An English version is available.

It’s two weeks before their wedding and Allan Harroby’s fiancee is forbidden to change her mind. So, Allan comes to Lloyds to take out Love Insurance… Read the book by Earl Derr Biggers to see if things go as planned in the next two weeks.

In Russia, things are not according to plan: A government clerk is sent to a small town to end corruption there, and the villagers are worried. When a man at the inn refuses to pay, it is clear: He surely must be The Inspector General… Have fun with Nikolai Gogol’s classic play.

Another classic was taken as the basis for He by Andrew Lang and Walter H. Pollock. From there, the original “She” has to bear hit after hit… Can you decipher all the references in this side-splitting parody?

Bill Nye doesn’t go quite that far, but he does add a number of sarcastic and humorous remarks to the bare facts in order to produce a Comic History of the United States from the European settlement through the Civil War.

Laughing after everything is over is always easy. Henry E. Warner thinks so too and shares his story of That House I bought; a Little Leaf of Life. Read it carefully – you might learn something useful for when you buy your next house!

Knowing how to convey ideas in writing is always useful. The anonymously published book English as She is Wrote teaches you exactly that; and if you want to know how not to write or how to obscure your ideas, you should definitely read it!

We do not know whether Theophile Gautier ever took writing classes. However, the eight stories of his Contes humoristiques certainly turned out well and very funny. Read for example “Two actors for one role”, “About obesity in literature” or “A nightly visit”.

Harry Graham pays a visit to many famous people in his satirical poetry. Teddy Roosevelt, Joan of Arc, and Adam are just three of the Misrepresentive Men he has a sometimes scathing, closer look at.

That’s what the inhabitants of Huckley should have done as well. But now it’s too late, they are an international laughing stock as The Village that Voted the Earth Was Flat. Read the story by Rudyard Kipling to find out if and how this might have been prevented.

Enjoy – and keep laughing (at yourself ;-) )

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Gather ’round, it’s storytime!

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

Although it is slowly getting spring, April weather can be fickle, and kids may be disappointed when they have to stay indoors. Why not entertain them with 10 gems from our catalog.

When you can’t play outside, what better than having a grandmother who tells fairy tales? Poor Jupp has one – and he makes a deal with rich Otto who would like to have one. In Die verkaufte Großmutter by Hanns Heinz Ewers, the two boys first listen, but soon invent their own stories…

The littlest One – His Book is a little boy’s own life story. In 30 humorous verses, Marion St. John Webb tells of various adventures a little boy can have in- and outside of the house, regardless of the weather.

Another exciting adventure story is The Lion of St. Mark. In the 14th century, the city of Venice is threatened by the surrounding cities, especially rivalling Genoa. Will a mere boy from England be able to save the day in G. A. Henty’s story?

Out there in space, a day can be very long, a feeling our Young Readers Science Fiction Stories by Richard Mace Elam convey perfectly. Written in 1957, they are not always factually correct, but they still convey the charm of empty, unexplored space.

The Frozen North is still mostly empty, and the book by Edith Horton tells about the explorations that took place in the Arctic region. Part biography, part history, it tells of real adventures from the beginning of the 20th century.

Some 600 years did it last, the Roman Empire. H. A. Guerber gives a comprehensive Story of the Romans from their myth-shrouded beginnings with Romulus, their peak around the reign of Julius Ceasar, until the fall of the Western Empire in 480.

When kings go missing, it is never a good sign for anyone. Robin Hood knows that – and is prepared to fight the establishment taking advantage of the situation. Amice MacDonell took one version of the popular English tale and turned it into a play for children.

It’s not easy to say whether Robin was right in what he did, since morals and virtue are not easy things at all. Better teach them early, as Rev. Wilfrid J. Diamond tries with 51 short sermons for each week of the year, collected in Sunday Morning Storyland.

When kids start asking difficult questions, it is hard to stop them – and sometimes, to give the right answers. In Madam How and Lady Why, Charles Kingsley is answering questions about common natural phenomena like coral reefs, volcanoes, earthquakes, etc.

The question of Kashtanka is much easier: How do I get home again? The little dachshund mix was separated from her family and is taken in by a vaudevillian where she meets many other intelligent animals. Read the story by Anton Chekhov to find out if she ever sees her family again.

Enjoy – and stay young at heart!

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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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