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3 literary masterpieces that I either didn’t understand or just didn’t like, so much so that they turned out to be my “flops” of 2021
The prefaces to the lists are always extremely important to understand their rationale and purpose, especially in one of the genre, in which, unlike the usual, I don’t go to see texts that I loved, but with which I found myself in difficulty. The first clarification is that here I will not speak of “bad books” but of works that, much more simply, I did not understand. All the writings that you will see here are not in fact texts that I “disgusted” and / or that I abandoned halfway, but books that I have read and finished in the hope of including them on Medio Oriente e Dintorni, but which for a whole series of reasons you will hardly see appear on the site unless a new order and / or collaboration.
Another very important note is that all these texts are considered real masterpieces in their respective literatures and that therefore only and only for my taste and lack of understanding are placed here and not in the place that is rightfully right. Finally, as for all the previous lists, the order is not dictated by “beauty” or “ugliness” but only and exclusively at the technical moment in which I have finished reading. Have you understood the beauty and the meaning behind these or, even better, are there some that I have included in my tops and you did not like them? Let me know, I will be happy to discover your tastes and to better compare myself with you. Enjoy the reading.
“Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad (UK)
Marlowe says he was commissioned to replace a river captain killed by natives in Central Africa. He embarks on a French ship and, arriving at the station of the company, sees how the natives are dying of starvation and exploitation. After a long journey of two hundred miles on the river, he tracks down Kurtz, a legendary agent capable of procuring more ivory than any other. In reality, Kurtz, a lonely and now insane man, is almost dying. He is persuaded to leave, but dies on the boat that carries him, after having delivered a speech that cannot hide “the darkness of his heart”.
Reading it felt like I was watching one of those American series in which a “super-villain” appears described as the evil of the universe and then, when you finally expect an epic “final battle” with many twists, it turns out that with a caress he is already lying on the ground. The book is obviously very well written, but it makes me angry that throughout the novel we speak almost only of Kurtz and, when we finally manage to meet him, it turns out that in reality he is no longer a machine of blood and evil, but a dying man who just has time to say goodbye before closing the text. It is as if Conrad made us try smells of all kinds and shapes and then, when we arrived at the table, we discover that everything is actually a cooked white pasta finished in a hurry. I bought it to compare it to Tayeb Salih’s “The Season of Migration to the North” but, to my taste, the Sudanese writer composes a much richer and more varied work than the naturalized British Pole even if, of course, it is the text of this one. last to have inspired the African writer.
“The Epistle of Forgiveness” by Abul-‘ala Al-Marri (Syria)
Written in the 11th century, al-Ma’arri’s The Epistle of Forgiveness is a satirical text of the first magnitude, a very lively and theatrical narration. The afterlife that is described there is populated by pedantic writers, hypocritical flatterers, crafty and crafty who wander among improbable angels and virgins of varying dimensions according to the desire of the blessed. The satire of al-Ma’arri is addressed both to men, in particular to ambitious scholars and clumsy poets, and more generally to popular representations of the Islamic Paradise. A highly cultured poet, one of the greatest intellectuals of his time, al-Ma’arri reveals, beneath his irony, a question of meaning accompanied by a disruptive theological message: divine forgiveness is greater than one thinks. To be admitted to Heaven, a good deed in life may suffice; for a poet, a real good verse in the midst of so many fake ones. This first Italian translation reveals a free thinker of his time, one of the greatest figures of Arab culture of any age.
It is like when you are invited to dinner by people infinitely more cultured than you and in the middle of the evening you begin to feel like a particularly ignorant farmer from some remote village. The text is as brilliant as the author, but it is objectively almost impossible to grasp the overwhelming quantity of specific references to the high and ancient Arabic poetry, also because the text, being a translation without the original in front, cannot even reproduce exactly the verses so famous and declaimed, leading the reader to spend more time on Wikipedia or on the notes than on the Epistle itself. However, great note of merit goes to the mammoth and wonderful work of Martino Diez, who thanks to his beautiful introductory essay manages to transform the book into a sort of introduction to Arabic poetry and to the figure of Al-Marri, a truly unique and incredible figure in literature. Classical Arabic. It must be said that thanks to the introductory essay, we understand that even for Arabic speakers it is a very difficult text and in these cases one can only say “badly common means joy”. If it were possible, I would really like to do a direct with Martino Diez, in order to better discover this text and in general classical Arabic poetry, little celebrated in Italy compared to the Persian one, yet a fundamental part in Arab culture even before the arrival of Islam.
“Scars” by Juan José Saer (Argentina)
First published in 1969, “Scars” is a novel that Saer wrote in twenty nights, inspired by a real fact. Four parts, four first-person narrators: Ángel, a young reporter; Sergio, a lawyer devoured by the habit of gambling; Ernesto, a misanthropic judge who persists in the umpteenth translation by Oscar Wilde; Luis Fiore, worker who commits an inexplicable murder. Four lives, each obsessed with something, which have a single point of intersection: the crime committed by Fiore. Saer writes a spiral novel, to recreate through circularity an illusion of order that does not exist in the functioning of the world, because in the continuous conflict between chaos and order “it is not you who wins, it is chaos that complies”.
I did not get it. The book is really beautiful and perfectly transport the author into this magical atmosphere that is very reminiscent of that of American noir, too bad that, having reached the conclusion, the author concludes the work with a sentence that according to him should be the connection with the four stories, too bad I don’t have the slightest bit of what he meant and what he was referring to. The aforementioned sentence is “Nam oportet haereses esse”, a sentence pronounced by St. Paul in his Letters to the Corinthians, in which de facto he affirms that it is appropriate to have heresies to verify who was of proven virtue. I will certainly miss some fundamental and essential cultural references, but until my conversion to Islam (at the age of 15) I attended catechism school and in general I almost always went to school with the nuns, it makes me strange that I did not really understand what he meant and, even more, that I was unable to connect it to the novel; the fact is that without understanding this sentence the four stories, however beautiful, are almost unrelated and this does not allow me to make a sensible analysis regarding the work. I bought it because in Argentine literature Juan José Saer is considered second only to Jorge Luis Borges but, unlike the latter, Saer was of Syrian origins.
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