Book review: Wish Lanterns: Young Lives in New China by Alec Ash

Wish Lanterns: Young Lives in New ChinaWish Lanterns: Young Lives in New China by Alec Ash
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

From BBC Radio 4 – Book of the Week:
The stories of young Chinese lives, particularly those young people born under the one-child policy of the 1980s, as they seek to negotiate the expectations of those around them and their own inner desires for self-fulfilment.

Dahai is a military child and a rebel, Fred is a daughter of the Party and Xiaoxiao grew up in the far north and longed to travel south. All were infants when the tanks rolled through Beijing in 1989 and none really know much about their country’s recent past. But the way China develops in the future is very much something that will affect their lives – and their behaviour and decisions will affect ours.

There are approximately 322 million Chinese aged between 16 and 30 – a group larger than the population of the USA and destined to have an unprecedented influence on global affairs in the coming years. The one-child policy has led to a generation of only children. There is intense competition for education and jobs, and a tug-of-war between cultural change and tradition, nationalism and the lures of the West. We know the headlines of their lives, but what of the details?

Written by Alec Ash
Read by David Seddon
Abridged and Produced by Jill Waters
A Waters Company production for BBC Radio 4.

Book review: Something Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter by Carmen Aguirre

Something Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary DaughterSomething Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter by Carmen Aguirre
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From BBC Radio 4 – Book of the Week:
Born a week after the death of Che Guevara, Carmen Aguirre was always destined to become a revolutionary. After Pinochet’s violent coup in Chile in 1973, her family is forced to flee to Canada. And when, a few years later, the Chilean resistance calls for exiled activists to return to fight the cause, Carmen’s mother heeds the call. Determined to make mini revolutionaries of her two daughters, she takes them with her – and so Carmen’s double life begins. Posing as a westernised teenager by day, at night she is drilled in surveillance techniques, cryptography and subterfuge, not to mention political theory and revolutionary history. It is a time of high excitement, but also one of fear and paranoia, of who to trust, and who to fear.

From Pinochet’s repressive rule in Chile, to Shining Path Peru, dictatorship-run Bolivia to post-Malvinas Argentina, this is a darkly comic coming-of-age memoir is a rare first-hand account of a life as teenage revolutionary. It is also the story of a young girl trying to reconcile her commitment to the cause with her very unrevolutionary new interests in boys, music and fashion.

1/5: dressed as an all-American teenager, Carmen returns to Latin America with her mother and sister to join the underground, and a new life of subterfuge and danger.

2/5: After a perilous visit to her beloved Chile, Carmen finds herself questioning her commitment to the cause.

3/5: when the situation in Bolivia becomes to dangerous, Carmen finds herself in rural Argentina in the depths of a harsh winter.

4/5: a mission across the Andes goes perilously wrong, and Carmen is forced to risk all.

5/5: secret police, paranoia and mistrust, as the resistance begins to falter…

Author: Carmen Aguirre is a playwright and actor, now living in Vancouver.
Reader: Mia Soteriou.
Abridger: Richard Hamilton
Producer: Justine Willett.

Book review: Eight Months On Ghazzah Street by Hilary Mantel

Eight Months On Ghazzah StreetEight Months On Ghazzah Street by Hilary Mantel
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

From BBC Radio 4 – Book at Bedtime:
Nearly 30 years on from its original publication, Hilary Mantel’s third novel is still as disturbing, incisive and illuminating as ever. In an unusual collaboration, the author has revisited the book to create, with the abridger, this new ten-part serialisation.

Frances Shore is a cartographer by trade, but when her husband’s work takes them to Saudi Arabia she finds herself unable to map either the ever changing landscape or the Kingdom’s heavily veiled ways of working. The regime is corrupt and harsh, the expatriates are hard-drinking money-grubbers, and her Muslim neighbours are secretive and watchful.

She soon discovers that the streets are not a woman’s territory. Confined in her flat, she finds her sense of self beginning to dissolve. She hears footsteps, sounds of distress from the supposedly empty flat above. She has only constantly changing rumours to hang on to, and no one with whom to share her creeping unease.

Reader: Anna Maxwell Martin
Author: Hilary Mantel
Abridger: Sara Davies
Producer: Alexa Moore
A Pier production for BBC Radio 4.

1* Beyond Black
3* The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher
3* A Place of Greater Safety
3* The Present Tense
3* Kinsella in His Hole
3* Eight Months On Ghazzah Street

Thomas Cromwell Trilogy:
4* Wolf Hall (Thomas Cromwell, #1)
4* Bring Up the Bodies (Thomas Cromwell, #2)
TR The Mirror and the Light (Thomas Cromwell, #3)

Book review: Monsignor Quixote by Graham Greene

Monsignor QuixoteMonsignor Quixote by Graham Greene
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From BBC Radio 4 – 15 Minute Drama:
Dramatised by Stephen Wyatt

Graham Greene’s comic ‘entertainment’, set in rural Spain a few years after the death of Franco.
Father Quixote makes a friend of an Italian bishop, with unexpected consequences.

2/10: Father Quixote receives some unwelcome – and very surprising – news from his bishop.

3/10: Newly appointed a Monsignor, Father Quixote and his friend Sancho set off on their quest for purple socks.

4/10: Father Quixote and his friend Sancho arrive in Madrid to buy purple socks – and attract the unwelcome attention of the Guardia Civil.

5/10: Father Quixote and his friend Sancho arrive in Madrid to buy purple socks – and attract the unwelcome attention of the Guardia Civil.

6/10: Monsignor Quixote and Sancho help a robber – and pay an unexpected price.

7/10: Monsignor Quixote wakes from a drugged sleep to discover that he has been kidnapped and taken back to El Toboso.

8/10: Imprisoned in his own house, Father Quixote is at the mercy of his bishop – unless his friend Sancho can pull off a daring rescue.

9/10: Having escaped El Toboso, Monsignor Quixote and Sancho go in search of wine but find themselves in a battle to save the honour of the church.

10/10: Monsignor Quixote and Sancho are taken in by the monks at the monastery of Oseira and their journey comes to an end.

Directed by Marc Beeby.

3* The Third Man
4* The End of the Affair
4* Our Man in Havana
3* The Captain and the Enemy
3* The Quiet American
4* The Ministry of Fear
4* The Power and the Glory
4* The Honorary Consul
3* Orient Express
4* Monsignor Quixote
TR Brighton Rock
TR Travels With My Aunt
TR The Tenth Man
TR The Heart of the Matter

Book review: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy #1) by Douglas Adams

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, #1)The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From BBC Radio 4 Extra:
Arthur Dent is trying to stop his house being demolished to make way for a by-pass. But his friend, Ford Prefect (who hails not from Guildford, but somewhere near Betelgeuse), is more concerned about the imminent destruction of the Earth. Ford is a writer for the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, “the most successful book ever to have come out of the great publishing corporations of Ursa Minor” and he may just know how to avoid being evaporated by the Vogons…

The global multi-media success story that is “Hitchhiker’s” started life as a Radio 4 series in March 1978. The original scripts by the late Douglas Adams then went on to spawn a series of novels, a feature film, at least three stage shows, a TV series, a computer game, a collection of comic books – and various towels.

The Guide helpfully informs us that the most obscene expletive in the galaxy is “Belgium”.

Douglas Adams was born in Cambridge and died in 2001 aged 49, after a fatal heart attack in his gym in California.

The answer to the meaning of life, the universe and everything is 42.

With Peter Jones, Simon Jones, Geoffrey McGivern and Jo Kendall. Produced by Simon Brett.

First heard on BBC Radio 4 in March 1978.

New ebook available @Project Gutenberg: The Autobiography of Goethe. Truth and Poetry: From My Own Life, Vol. I by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, John Oxenford (Translator)

The Autobiography of Goethe. Truth and Poetry: From My Own Life, Vol. IThe Autobiography of Goethe. Truth and Poetry: From My Own Life, Vol. I by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Title: The Autobiography of Goethe
Truth and Poetry: From My Own Life

Author: Johan Wolfgang von Goethe

Translator: John Oxenford
A. J. W. Morrison

Release Date: July 26, 2016 [EBook #52654]

Language: English

Produced by Laura N.R. and Marc D’Hooghe at (Images generously made available by the Internet Archive.)

Free download available at Project Gutenberg.

I made the proofreading this book for Free Literature and it is published by Project Gutenberg, probably in 2 volumes as the original version.

The original files are provided by Vol 1: InternetArchive

Page 32:

Thus, the Frankforters passed a series of prosperous years during my childhood; but scarcely, on the 28th of August, 1756, had I completed my seventh year, than that world-renowned war broke out, which was also to exert great influence upon the next seven years of my life.

Page 71:

It now seems necessary to state more circumstantially, and to make intelligible how, under these circumstances, I made my way with more or less ease through the French language, which, however, I had never learned. Here, too, my natural gift was of service to me, enabling me easily to catch the sound of a language, its movement, accent, tone, and all other outward peculiarities. I knew many words from the Latin; Italian suggested still more; and by listening to servants and soldiers, sentries and visitors, I soon picked up so much that, if I could not join in conversation, I could at any rate manage single questions and answers. All this, however, was little compared to the profit I derived from the theatre.

page 78:

Thus, after an unquiet Passion-week, the Good-Friday of 1759 arrived. A profound stillness announced the approaching storm. We children were forbidden to quit the house: my father had no quiet, and went out.

page 267:

At this time the Lives of the Painters, by D’Argenville, was translated into German; I obtained it quite fresh, and studied it assiduously enough. This seemed to please Oeser, and he procured us an opportunity of seeing many a portfolio out of the great Leipzig collections, and thus introduced us to the history of the art. But even these exercises produced in me an effect different from that which he probably had in mind. The manifold subjects which I saw treated by artists awakened the poetic talent in me, and as one easily makes an engraving for a poem, so did I now make poems to the engravings
and drawings, by contriving to present to myself the personages introduced in them, in their previous and subsequent condition, and sometimes to compose a little song which might have suited them; and thus accustomed myself to consider the arts in connexion with each other.

Page 310:

Yet this dissipation and dismemberment of my studies was not enough, they were to be once more seriously disturbed; for a remarkable political event set everything in motion, and procured us a tolerable succession of holidays. Marie Antoinette, Archduchess of Austria and Queen of France, was to pass through Strasburg on her road to Paris.

Page 408:

Ecclesiastical history was almost better known to me than the history of the world, and that conflict in which the church–the publicly recognised worship of God–finds itself, and always will find itself, in two different directions, had always highly interested me.

Page 420:

From his youth upwards, Voltaire’s wishes and endeavours had been directed to an active and social life, to politics, to gain on a large scale, to a connexion with the heads of the earth, and a profitable use of this connexion, that he himself might be one of the heads of the earth also. No one has easily made himself so dependent, for the sake of being independent. He even succeeded in subjugating minds; the nation became his own. In vain did his opponents unfold their moderate talents, and their monstrous hate; nothing succeeded in injuring him. The court he could never reconcile to himself, but by way of compensation, foreign kings were his tributaries; Katharine and Frederic the Great, Gustavus of Sweden, Christian of Denmark, Peniotowsky of Poland, Henry of Prussia, Charles of Brunswick, acknowledged themselves his vassals; even popes thought they must coax him by some acts of indulgence.

page 422:

Diderot was sufficiently akin to us, as, indeed, in everything, for which the French blame him, he is a true German. But even his point of view was too high, his circle of vision was too extended for us to range ourselves with him, and place ourselves at his side. Nevertheless, his children of nature, whom he continued to bring forward and dignify with great rhetorical art, pleased us very much; his brave poachers and smugglers enchanted us; and this rabble afterwards throve but too well upon the German Parnassus. It was he also, who, like Rousseau, diffused a disgust of social life–a quiet introduction to those monstrous changes of the world, in which everything permanent appeared to sink.

Page 470:

The resolution to preserve my internal nature according to its peculiarities, and to let external nature influence me according to its qualities, impelled me to the strange element in which Werther is designed and written. I sought to free myself internally from all that was foreign to me, to regard
the external with love, and to allow all beings, from man downwards, as low as they were comprehensible, to act upon me, each after its own kind. Thus arose a wonderful affinity with the single objects of nature, and a hearty concord, a harmony with the whole, so that every change, whether of place and region, or of the times of the day and year, or whatever else could happen, affected me in the deepest manner. The glance of the painter associated itself to that of the poet, the beautiful rural landscape, animated by the pleasant river, increased my love of solitude, and favoured my silent observations as they extended on all sides.

Book review: The Periodic Table by Primo Levi, Raymond Rosenthal (Translator)

The Periodic TableThe Periodic Table by Primo Levi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From BBC Radio 4:
Janet Suzman introduces a major new dramatization of Primo Levi’s short stories about our human relationship with the chemical elements that make up our universe – a book the Royal Institution of Great Britain named ‘the best science book ever’. Starring Henry Goodman, Akbar Kurtha, Erich Redman and Juliet Aubrey. Dramatized by Graham White from the translation by Raymond Rosenthal.

1/11 Vanadium: In the course of his work as a chemist in a paint factory in the 1960s, Primo Levi receives a letter from one of the factory’s German clients, signed by a Doktor Muller. Could this be the Doktor Muller who had overseen Levi’s work as a prisoner in the lab at Auschwitz?

2/11 Argon: Primo imagines a fantasy meeting with his Piedmontese ancestors, who share a number of characteristics with the noble, rare and inert gases, such as Argon.

3/11 Sulphur – Ben Crowe plays a boiler man who saves Primo’s factory from disaster; Titanium – Evie Killip reads this short story about a little girl who is fascinated by a man painting with white paint.

4/11 In ‘Lead’, set in the ancient world, a prospector travels from northern to southern Europe in search of the valuable, but toxic, lead rock. Read by Paul Copley.

5/11: Mercury 1820s – an English captain and his wife live on a remote Atlantic island, with strange chemical properties.

6/11 Iron: The story of Primo Levi’s early life as a chemist in Mussolini’s Italy, from his student days, his early crushes and his first experiences as a professional chemist, at a time when it was increasingly hard for Jewish Italians to find work.

7/11 Gold: The Nazis invade Italy and Primo’s friends are forced to scatter. Primo and Vanda head into the mountains in order to join the partisans.

8/11 Cerium: Primo’s training as a chemist helps him to survive the terrible conditions of Auschwitz.

9/11 Arsenic and Silver: At his retirement party, Primo recounts amusing stories from a professional chemist’s life.

10/11 Vanadium Part 2: In the course of his work as a chemist in a paint factory in the 1960s, Primo Levi has received a letter from one of the factory’s German clients, Doktor Muller. The same Doktor Muller who had overseen Levi’s work as a prisoner in the lab at Auschwitz. And now Muller wants to meet.

11/11 Carbon: Levi imagines the incredible, centuries-long journey of a single atom of carbon.

Produced and directed by Marc Beeby and Emma Harding.