The New Forum Book Club thread 2019. OCTOBER: Three Tales/Quo Vadis

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Re: The New Forum Book Club thread 2019. February: Metro 2033

Postby David27 » Tue Mar 05, 2019 2:31 am

Cèid Donn wrote:I probably won't be able to finish Metro 2033 early, as I hoped, but I should be done by the end of this month. I personally have been enjoying it a lot. Some questions/points of discussion I've been thinking about while I have been reading:

  • How motifs/ideas/imagery that are intended to evoke and parallel Cold War/Soviet-era Russia, in particular "underground" culture in Moscow at that time as well as references to Soviet-era wars, contribute to the kind of post-apocalyptic, end-of-the-human-race atmosphere and environment the author is trying to create

  • The different ideologies/worldviews/philosophies represented by Артём/Artyom/Artjom's companions throughout of the story, i.e. Hunter, Bourbon, Khan, etc. and how they are responses to the novel's universe

  • If you have previously read Orson Scott Card's Ender Game, to what extent to you think Artjom's relationship with the Чёрные (the "black ones" -- die Schwarzen in the German edition) parallel and contrast Ender's relationship with the Buggers? (this might be hard to discuss here without spoilers, but I think it's worth thinking about if you have read both books)

  • What do you think about how violence is shown to be everywhere in the novel's universe, and although Artjom witnesses it and seems prepared to engage in it (as shown by how he almost always is carrying a weapon), he largely does not engage in violence himself, and even seems to naturally avoid it, as seen from the very first paragraphs of the book?



SEVERAL SPOILERS AHEAD!!!!!!

Hello! Sorry for the delay!!! I voted for the book and I am still ~200 pages to the finish :(. I perhaps overestimated my Russian abilities and my time, to think I could finish it all in one month. I get tired after 30 minutes to an hour of reading in Russian, and I'm much slower as well, plus wanting to look up words and occasionally write them down, study/learn them... it all is making for quite slow progress. Because I voted for it and I said I would read it I read summaries of the last bit just to be able to discuss, and then I'll go back and finish the book in the next weeks at a slower leisurely pace.

I also am enjoying the book. I like sci-fi and fantesy novels, and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys the genre. Though a unique and part of the biggest charm of the book is the setting of being in the Moscow metro. Artyem follows the classic "Hero's journey". Call to adventure: meets Hunter and gets a vague mission with little detail and departs his home of ВДНХ... He has a god-like protector (not physically, but throughout the novel there is a sense of a supernatural force keeping him alive through the encounters) that keeps him safe throughout his many side stops, almost like a modern Russian Odyssey, with instead of cyclops and harpies and multi headed monsters there are capitalists and religious zealots and communists and cannibals. My only qualm with them is each stop's/group's ideology feels to me a bit rushed/under developed in it's motivations and a bit flat (or even a bit cliché?).

I can definitely understand why it is so popular in Russia. Millions use the vast amazing (it truly is) Moscow metro daily, and the fact that this story is built around the metro with a lot of cultural references partially driving the adventure is compelling. I was in Moscow in 2011, and I had fun reminiscing, and would look up what stations look like to remind myself of the stations and lines myself (I forgot a lot! but it came back as I was reading so that was a lot of fun).

For your questions, before having read the summary of the end, I thought of the черные/die Schwarzen/Black Ones more as dementors from Harry Potter to be honest. Creatures that solely embody or personify fear, which also makes sense in the end that the author is saying that fear is what drives destruction (my interpretation at least). I'm interested as I continue to read how they reconcile this to making them want to contact humans to co-operate with them, or even why they would want to do so. The main difference I see with Orson Scott Card's Buggers superficially is that the Buggers initial attack was for war (if my memory serves me correctly), and they reached out to Ender in order to attempt to gain a mutual understanding to prevent genocide/their destruction. Here they only are attempting to make contact to work together with the humans in an altruistic manner??? A main difference for me is that I understand the Buggers' motive, I don't understand the motive of the black ones. Why do they want to cooperate? We'll see if I understand better once I finish.

I don't really know much about Soviet counter-culture movements, so can't comment.

For the other characters (Hunter, Khan, Bourbon) , they seem to me more of a reason to drive Artyem through the metro, I didn't tie any larger meaning to them. They seemed to give him reason to take one path over another... to further explore the metro and hit certain stations and routes. And I still don't understand SPOILER ALERT ************ why/how Bourbon died. I didn't feel like re reading around it to try to understand what or analyze it. For me, it was just so and I moved on.

As far as violence in the book: the author is making a pacifist stance. The world is ended by a terrible nuclear waste caused by human suspicion and mistrust. The few remaining survivors huddle in the formerly beautiful metro to scrape a living by literally harvesting the mushrooms grown off their own excretions and turn it to "tea" lol. They live a miserable existence due to human violence, then continue the partisanship and violence in the metro. Another life form comes to try to contact and work together with the humans in the metro, and humans hate the unknown, fear them, and in the end blow them to pieces. Artyem being our main hero, is not a violent character per-se by nature, as this would be against the main message of the author.

For female characters, I don't necessarily need a gun-slinging female character that shatters gender roles for me to enjoy a novel, but I was more bothered by the fact that women seem almost non-existent! They should make up half the population, but I can't think of a single female character's name, which just makes it feel like an older military novel, or (literal) man against nature novel, but it's supposed to show a whole society in the metro so I don't understand what all the women are doing! lol.


In any case I was excited to read the book and discuss here! Sorry I fell behind. For at least next month at least I'll have to sit it out until I've finished metro 2033. I may rejoin sometime in April or later, but I won't try to join again in Russian until I prove to myself I can actually finish the full novel in 1 month! If it is in English, French or Spanish, I can get it done (I promise) :D. When I was younger I would read 20-40 books a year, now with life I struggle to finish 5 book, and it makes me sad that I don't read as much as I used to.
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David27
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Re: The New Forum Book Club thread 2019. February: Metro 2033

Postby David27 » Tue Mar 05, 2019 2:50 am

PS. Are there fans of tarkovsky here? I am not, I maybe am too concrete minded and could not really follow his themes and my mind would wander during the slower pace of the movies. But the stalkers name must be a nod to his movie Stalker.
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Re: The New Forum Book Club thread 2019. February: Metro 2033

Postby Maiwenn » Tue Mar 05, 2019 8:39 am

I'm reading Les Hirondelles de Kaboul in Arabic (I read it in French in the past).

February was unexpectedly busy for me, so I wasn't able to participate in Metro 2033 as much as I would have liked to (and I still haven't finished it...). I'll be more present this month since I nominated Les Hirondelles de Kaboul. :)

Edited to add: Found these discussion questions (in English) for the book: https://www.readinggroupguides.com/revi ... abul/guide The questions are mostly spoiler-free, aside from perhaps #15.
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Re: The New Forum Book Club thread 2019. February: Metro 2033

Postby javier_getafe » Tue Mar 05, 2019 8:51 am

kanewai wrote:
javier_getafe wrote:Omg, I can't actually stand El Quijote. It was a compulsory read in the school. I can't think in any other book more boring. Sorry. Aaaag. However, it is a matter of taste, of course. :) :)
This article from El Cultural might interest you - one of the reasons Andrés Trapiello gives for his new translation is that so many people in Spain don't read the novel, and that's it's more popular overseas, in places with modern translations.


I'm afraid that I am gonna disappointing you. The Quijote is a "rollo". It is slow and boring. haha. Even with modern translations. I know that here and there it is an object of worship. But.. not for me. I hate it from my school days :).
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Re: The New Forum Book Club thread 2019. February: Metro 2033

Postby Maiwenn » Tue Mar 05, 2019 9:12 am

Image

A few words on the author: Yasmina Khadra is the pen-name for Mohammed Moulessehoul, a former officer in the Algerian army. He was born January 10, 1955 in the Algerian Sahara. His pen-name, Yasmina Khadra, is the two given names of his wife. (Well, her name is actually Yamina, but the editor added an 's' believing that he was correcting a mistake and he just rolled with it.) His published writing career began in 1984. To avoid problems with his military career, he used different pseudonyms before settling on Yasmina Khadra definitively.

Les Hirondelles de Kaboul is part of a trilogy comprising L'Attentat and Les Sirènes de Bagdad (though they each treat different subjects).

Taken from an interview with the author (English translation and any faults my own), he discusses his choice of pen-name:
Vous, vous avez pris aussi un pseudonyme féminin dans un monde arabo-musulman. C’est assez transgressif.

Il n’y a aucun héroïsme. Je pensais que j’allais mourir, sincèrement. J’étais en guerre. J’attendais juste cette balle qui va me foudroyer ou cette bombe qui va me déchiqueter. Donc, au départ, je voulais que les prénoms, des lettres, que je chéris le plus au monde, ornent un petit peu mon travail d’écrivain. Par la suite, c’est devenu un combat parce que beaucoup de gens ont protesté de voir ça, surtout dans le monde arabe, ils étaient outrés. Moi, je suis fier de porter un pseudonyme féminin. Il y avait même un prince, à Koweït, qui pensait que j’étais homosexuel.

Interviewer: You took a female pen-name in an Arab-Muslim world. That's rather transgressive.

There's no heroism in it. I honestly thought I was going to die. I was at war. I was just waiting for that bullet that would strike me down or the bomb that would shred me to bits. So, in the beginning, I only wanted that those names, those letters, which I cherished most in the world, would adorn my work as a writer. Following that, it became a fight, because a lot of people objected to seeing that, especially in the Arab world, they were outraged. Me, I'm proud to use a female pen-name. There was even a prince in Kuwait who thought I was gay.

http://www.rfi.fr/culture/20180417-ecri ... ulessehoul
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Re: The New Forum Book Club thread 2019. February: Metro 2033

Postby javier_getafe » Tue Mar 05, 2019 10:03 am

Maiwenn wrote:Interviewer: You took a female pen-name in an Arab-Muslim world. That's rather transgressive.

There's no heroism in it. I honestly thought I was going to die. I was at war. I was just waiting for that bullet that would strike me down or the bomb that would shred me to bits. So, in the beginning, I only wanted that those names, those letters, which I cherished most in the world, would adorn my work as a writer. Following that, it became a fight, because a lot of people objected to seeing that, especially in the Arab world, they were outraged. Me, I'm proud to use a female pen-name. There was even a prince in Kuwait who thought I was gay.


Absolutely gripping! Thank you so much.

In spite the fact I have read a lot during my whole life, never read anything written from arabic world. The book is really fascinating me.

Nevertheless, I have to admit that the used of english is very tough to me. Lots of news words here and there. In fact, it is the most difficult book I've read in the last times. Maybe, I would have quit it if I hadn't have my kindle and its easiness to search for new words.
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Re: The New Forum Book Club thread 2019. February: Metro 2033

Postby Maiwenn » Tue Mar 05, 2019 12:24 pm

javier_getafe wrote:In spite the fact I have read a lot during my whole life, never read anything written from arabic world. The book is really fascinating me.

I'm embarrassed to admit that prior to meeting my partner, I hadn't ever read anything by an Arab author, either. I began with Tahar Ben Jelloun and Yasmina Khadra who both write in French. I'm now slowly dipping my toes into works originally written in Arabic. It's exciting to get to "discover" new literary traditions and familiarize myself with different authors.
javier_getafe wrote:Nevertheless, I have to admit that the used of english is very tough to me. Lots of news words here and there. In fact, it is the most difficult book I've read in the last times. Maybe, I would have quit it if I hadn't have my kindle and its easiness to search for new words.

Yasmina Khadra's books are filled with extraordinary richness. At the end of reading one, I always feel like I'm coming away with a sharper mastery of whatever language I'm reading in. So, yes, it's going to be a tough read, but it's well worth it. (Helpfully, The Swallows of Kabul is also on the shorter side. ;) )
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Re: The New Forum Book Club thread 2019. February: Metro 2033

Postby MamaPata » Tue Mar 05, 2019 1:08 pm

Cèid Donn wrote:Well, Ok. That's rather disappointing after spending 5 weeks reading the book and genuinely looking forward to discussing it. If people weren't going to read it, how did it win the poll? <sigh> I have no nominations to offer. I'll read the next book, because I already bought it, but after this I think I might pass on the book club. Sorry.


That is obviously your prerogative, but I will be sorry to see you go. You raised very interesting points and I think you will contribute much to future discussions. Unfortunately, most people do not seem to have read Metro 2033 perhaps due to the length.

Also, just to clarify (in case), I wasn’t suggesting anyone should stop talking about Metro 2033. It seems to me that one of the resounding benefits of a forum book club is that we can return to old books and bring them back up at any point - if someone reads something months after the fact, if something else they read brings up new thoughts. I just wanted to remind people about this month’s book so we all have time to read it.

I do have some nominations and will try to post them this evening.
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Re: The New Forum Book Club thread 2019. February: Metro 2033

Postby MamaPata » Wed Mar 06, 2019 7:37 am

Nominations:

- Le Grand Meaulnes, Alain-Fournier (French)
Gentle coming of age French classic. Fifteen-year-old François Seurel narrates the story of his friendship with seventeen-year-old Augustin Meaulnes as Meaulnes searches for his lost love. It’s the only book Alain-Fournier wrote as he was killed at the very start of the Second World War.

- Prince of Mist, Carlos Ruiz Zafon (Spanish)
Young adult mystery novel. 1943. As war sweeps across Europe, Max Carver's father moves his family away from the city, to an old wooden house on the coast. But as soon as they arrive, strange things begin to happen: Max discovers a garden filled with eerie statues; his sisters are plagued by unsettling dreams and voices; a box of old films opens a window to the past.

- First Love, Ivan Turgenev (Russian)
Coming of age Russian classic. Shockingly, it’s about a first love. Fairly short (you can decide if that’s a plus or not)!

All of them have been widely translated as far as I can tell.
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Re: The New Forum Book Club thread 2019. February: Metro 2033

Postby javier_getafe » Wed Mar 06, 2019 10:03 am

MamaPata wrote:- Prince of Mist, Carlos Ruiz Zafon (Spanish)
Young adult mystery novel. 1943. As war sweeps across Europe, Max Carver's father moves his family away from the city, to an old wooden house on the coast. But as soon as they arrive, strange things begin to happen: Max discovers a garden filled with eerie statues; his sisters are plagued by unsettling dreams and voices; a box of old films opens a window to the past.


As a Spanish, I am going to break a spearhead on Carlos Luís Zafón ("to break a spearhead" Spanish saying. speaking in favour. It works in english?? I don't know). The author is well-known in Spain and their books usually are widely accepted among a large spectrum (range) of people.
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