Recenzie: Don Quijote de La Mancha de Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

Titlu: Don Quijote de La Mancha

Autor:  Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

Traducători: Ion Frunzetti, Edgar Papu

Gen: Aventură, Realism, Satiră

Anii apariției: Vol I în 1605 și Vol 2 în 1615

Anul apariției acestei ediții: 2011

Editura Adevărul Holding

Colecția: 101 cărți de citit într-o viață

Rating: 5/5 stele

                                                                        
Multă lume a auzit și a folosit măcar o dată expresia livrescă „a se bate/lupta cu morile de vânt”, al cărei sens este „a întreprinde acțiuni inutile, ridicole” sau „a se lupta cu dușmani ireali”. Totuși mi se pare injust să ne amintim de Don Quijote doar prin intermediul acestei expresii, adesea golită de conținut. Din această cauză și datorită faptului că am prins drag de Cavalerul Tristei Figuri, m-am gândit să vă vorbesc despre binecunoscutul roman al lui Cervantes.

Romanul Don Quijote de La Mancha, opera literară a scriitorului spaniol Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra a apărut în două volume – Iscusitul hidalgo Don Quijote de La Mancha (El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de La Mancha) publicat în 1605 și Ingeniosul cavaler Don Quijote de La Mancha (El ingenioso caballero Don Quijote de La Mancha) în 1615 și reprezintă o satiră la adresa romanelor cavalerești, populare în Spania sfârșitului de secol XVI și începutului de secol XVII, și la adresa societății spaniole a acelor vremuri. Romanul este considerat o capodoperă a literaturii universale, fiind tradus în aproximativ 50 de limbi.

La întrebarea „cum s-a născut Don Quijote?”, trebuie să ne îndreptăm atenția asupra epocii în care a trăit și a scris autorul spaniol. În Spania mijlocului de secol XVI, romanele cavalerești erau încă foarte populare, mai ales în rândul claselor sociale inferioare, care se delectau cu aventurile pline de elemente miraculoase ale bravilor cavaleri și cu dragostea domnițelor virtuoase. Așa cum se întâmplă și în literatura de azi, temele și eroii acelor cărți medievale și-au pierdut treptat valoarea literară devenind doar o literatură puerilă, plină de înflorituri și de melodramă ieftină. Văzând că oamenii își pierdeau timpul cu astfel de cărți, în loc să își vadă de treburile zilnice, regele Spaniei a interzis aceste cărți. Nu doar regelui îi displăceau aceste istorisiri ficționale, ci și Bisericii Catolice, ai cărei slujitori considerau că acele cărți conțineau numai minciuni și erau nocive pentru oameni, astfel îndepărtându-i de morala creștină.

Sătul de mediocritatea cărților și de ignoranța cititorilor, printre care se afla și soția sa, Doña Catalina, o iubitoare a genului menționat mai sus, Cervantes decide să scrie un roman în care ia în derâdere și ridiculizează cavalerismul și curtoazia. În Don Quijote de La Mancha, intenția autorului era „de a trezi oroarea cititorilor pentru istoriile închipuite și pline de insanități din cărțile cavalerești.” (p 13)

Cervantes, mai spune George Călinescu, vrea o literatură întemeiată pe verosimil, încărcată de observație morală și socială, cu eroi pozitivi și critică a celor negativi, fiindcă numai o astfel de literatură poate fi educativă și exemplară: „ejemplo de las costumbres”. „Creatorul lui Don Quijote este așadar unul din părinții realismului și ca atare foarte aproape de noi. Spre a face dorit verosimilul și a dezgusta de fabulos a inventat un nebun făcând tot soiul de isprăvi rizibile”. (p.13)

Acum să părăsim domeniul criticii literare, pentru a ne îndrepta atenția asupra firului narativ. Protagonistul romanului este Alonso Quijano, un hidalgo sau mic nobil de la țară, din regiunea La Mancha. Obsedat de cărțile cavalerești, el ajunge să trăiască într-o lume imaginară, construită pe baza lecturilor sale, o lume  plină de regi, cavaleri, domnițe, vrăjitori, dragoni și uriași. Astfel, el se crede cavaler rătăcitor, în slujba binelui și decide să pornească la drum, în căutare aventurii, a pericolelor și, nu în ultimul rând, pentru a dobândi faimă. El își schimbă numele în Don Quijote de La Mancha, se îmbracă într-o armură veche, își botează mârțoaga Rocinante și împreună cu ea pornește la drum, având asupra sa arme de carton. La fel ca în cărțile citite de el, Don Quijote se hotărăște să dedice viitoarele sale victorii, unei domnițe – Dulcinea del Toboso – care are ca sursă de inspirație o țărancă dintr-un ținut vecin, pe numele ei adevărat, Aldonza Lorenzo. În realitate, ea nu era nici nobilă și nici frumoasă, iar Quijano o văzuse doar de câteva ori, cu mulți ani în urmă. Mai târziu, Don Quijote convinge un țăran credul și fără carte, pe numele său Sancho Panza, să îi devină scutier și să i se alăture în aventurile sale. În schimbul serviciilor sale, cavalerul rătăcitor îi promite o insulă, unde Sancho va fi guvernator. Împins de sărăcie și naivitate, Sancho acceptă cu bucurie propunerea.

În călătoriile lor, Don Quijote și Sancho Panza întâlnesc hangii, păstori, soldați, preoți, condamnați și nobili. Don Quijote intervine violent în povești care nu îl privesc, fapt ce duce adesea la umilințe și bătăi, pe care atât el cât și Sancho le îndură. Din multitudinea de aventuri, voi aminti doar câteva mai cunoscute și mai reprezentative, cu scopul de a ilustra nebunia protagonistului.

În prima aventură, Don Quijote se oprește la un han, unde le confundă pe prostituate cu domnițele virtuoase din cărți, iar pe hangiu cu un castelan; astfel îi cere hangiului să îl învestească în calitate de cavaler, iar acesta din urmă, dându-și seama că drumețul său nu este în toate mințile, îi face pe plac, simulând o ceremonie în grajdul său.

Cea mai cunoscută scenă din roman este lupta cu morile de vânt, pe care Don Quijote le confundă cu niște uriași. Chiar dacă Sancho încearcă să îl convingă pe stăpânul său că se înșală, Don Quijote nu îl ascultă, ci se îndreaptă în galop spre prima moară care îi iese în cale. Din păcate, vântul puternic sfărâmă lancea bravului cavaler și îl trântește la pământ cu tot cu cal.

Mai târziu, Don Quijote și Sancho văd doi nori imenși de praf, iar cavalerului rătăcitor i se pare că vede două armate în luptă (armata împăratului maur Alifanfaron și armata regelui Pentapolin). Îi enumeră lui Sancho toți regii și cavalerii despre care a citit în cărți, iar apoi decide să intre și el în bătălie, pentru a lupta împotriva maurului. Sancho nu înțelege despre ce vorbește stăpânul său, deoarece scutierul nu vede nicio armată, ci doar două turme de oi. Nici de data asta Don Quijote nu îl ascultă pe Sancho, astfel el este atacat cu pietre de către ciobanii turmelor. De fiecare dată când Sancho încearcă să îl aducă la realitate pe Don Quijote, acesta neagă, replicând că tot ceea ce vede scutierul nu este adevărat ci opera vreunui vrăjitor, care dorește să îl păcălească pe cavaler.

Inițial, Cervantes a scris doar un volum despre faimosul cavaler, numai că, după câțiva ani de la apariția Iscusitului hidalgo Don Quijote de La Mancha, un alt autor a publicat o continuare a aventurilor lui Don Quijote. Acest fapt l-a determinat pe Cervantes să scrie al doilea volum al cărții, care tratează teme mai serioase precum tema identității, a iluzionării și a ficționalizării. Astfel, în Ingeniosul cavaler Don Quijote de La Mancha continuă aventurile celor doi eroi, care deveniseră cunoscuți prin intermediul unei cărți (volumul analizat mai sus). Don Quijote este recunoscut oriunde merge, dar de cele mai multe ori ajunge batjocura tuturor, inclusiv a lui Sancho. Spre exemplu, Don Quijote îi cere lui Sancho să îl ducă la casa Dulcineei, iar scutierul, neștiind ce să facă, găsește trei țărăncuțe urâte și încearcă să îl convingă pe cavaler că aceste femei sunt Dulcinea și domnițele ei. Don Quijote nu crede inițial, dar, la insistențele scutierului, cavalerul îngenunchează în fața uneia dintre ele. Crezând că cei doi bărbați râd de ele, țărăncile pleacă.

Într-o altă aventură, Don Quijote și Sancho Panza sunt invitați de către un duce și o ducesă la castel, eveniment care îl face pe Don Quijote să se creadă un cavaler adevărat, pentru că gazdele sale îl tratează ca pe cavalerii de odinioară. Ducele și ducesa știu că Don Quijote este nebun și că Sancho este ușor de păcălit; astfel ei născocesc câteva situații absurde, pentru a râde de cei doi musafiri. De exemplu, ducele știe din primul volum că Sancho își dorește să guverneze o insulă, așa că îl informează pe scutier că îl va face guvernator peste Barataria, o insulă, care, de fapt, este un sat din domeniu ducal. Sancho pare a fi un guvernator destul de cumpătat, dar când i se înscenează un război proaspătului guvernator i se face frică și preferă să renunțe la insulă.

În cadrul altei farse, Don Quijote și Sancho trebuie să încalece un cal zburător de lemn, pentru a-l înfrunta pe vrăjitorul Malambruno. Cei doi se urcă pe cal sunt legați la ochi și chiar cred că zboară prin văzduh, din ce în ce mai aproape de soare, în timp ce ducele, ducesa și ceilalți curteni se amuză de naivitatea lor. Pentru a încheia aventura celor doi eroi, curtenii dau foc cozii calului, care explodează și îi trântește la pământ pe Don Quijote și pe Sancho. După ce își revin, cei doi observă o lance înfiptă în pământ, pe pergamentul căreia scrie că Don Quijote și-a dus la bun sfârșit misiunea.

George Călinescu afirmă că, prin Don Quijote, „Cervantes creează un nou tip de personaj — înțeleptul nebun sau nebunul înțelept, care dorește și încearcă să schimbe lumea într-una mai nobilă. Cervantes a încercat să promoveze o serie de idei neacceptate în epocă, precum moralitatea, libertatea sau dreptatea, pe care le-a pus cu prudență în gura unui nebun iresponsabil” (p.16). Don Quijote vede cavalerul ca pe o persoană pusă în slujba umanității, un justițiar, care luptă pentru libertate. În esență, protagonistul aleargă după himere, pentru că detestă și nu este în stare să vadă realitatea. Pe de altă parte, Sancho Panza este un om simplu, fără știință de carte, dar care îl urmează pe stăpânul său în aventuri, pentru că îi este loial. Inițial, Sancho încearcă să-i deschidă ochii lui Don Quijote, dar pe parcurs începe și el să creadă în fantasmele stăpânului său.

Chiar dacă sunt foarte diferiți – Don Quijote fiind visător prin excelență, iar Sancho Panza vocea realității – cu timpul, cei doi devin prieteni și încep să se înțeleagă reciproc, pentru că însușirile unuia compensează lipsurile celuilalt. De exemplu, dacă Don Quijote folosește înțelepciunea livrescă – are un discurs solemn, amplu, plin de fraze înflorite – Sancho folosește înțelepciunea populară pentru a-și spune punctul de vedere.

Stilul cărții este ironic, presărat cu ideile lui Cervantes despre literatura valoroasă și cea mai puțin valoroasă. Romanul este complex, prezintă fire narative secundare sau digresiuni și poate fi citit în trei chei – comică, tragică și absurdă – găsindu-se din belșug elemente pentru toate cele trei interpretări.

Voi încheia aici, nu înainte de a spune că, prin Don Quijote, Cervantes ne sugerează să nu citim cărți lipsite de valoare literară și ne învață să fim cititori raționali și responsabili. În cazul contrar, există riscul de a ne quijotiza.

Review: George the Orphan Crow and the Creatures of Blossom Valley by Helen Fox

Title: George the Orphan Crow and the Creatures of Blossom Valley

Author: Helen Fox

Genre: Children’s Books, Middle-Grade

Published by AG Books

Year of Publication: 2016

Rating: 2/5 stars

Note: I was provided with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, Helen Fox, for sending me this book for review.

Towards the end of July, I received a message through my contact form from Ms Helen Fox, an author from the UK, who asked me to review her middle-grade book and I gladly accepted it. The book I will be reviewing today is entitled George the Orphan Crow and the Creatures of Blossom Valley and it was published in 2016.

This is the story of George, an orphan crow who loses his parents at the beginning of the book, but he soon finds shelter in the enchantingly beautiful Bloom Valley and his new friends keep him company and make him forget about his grief. Bloom Valley is not only a magical place, but a welcoming community comprised of hardworking and friendly animals. George learns a few things about the valley, its inhabitants and their customs. As time goes by, he becomes more courageous through a series of events which take place both inside and outside of Bloom Valley. The magical valley is said to be linked to a legend of a bygone kingdom, but George is a newcomer, so Thelma the spider, who is the head of the creatures, hesitates to tell him this secret; therefore George will have to learn about it the hard way.

I like the way Penny Wood, Bloom Valley and other lands were built with the exception of the legend. For example, Bloom Valley has villages, schools, a hospital where Tawny Owl takes care of her patients and the ambulance cart is pulled by four hares; there is a Music Hall which also serves as a court, the squirrels protect the ivy surrounding the valley like sentinels and all animals gather on every evening before sunset to sing their Good Night Song. Even if this beautiful valley is full of animals that welcome and help the ones in need, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any tensions between them. The ladybirds think they are discriminated by Thelma who protects the butterflies from harm: therefore Rosa the ladybird and her daughter Heather plot to kill the butterflies, especially Princess Estella, to hurt Thelma whom they despise to death.

Though Thelma has her reasons to protect the precious butterflies, I still don’t understand why the ladybirds, the grasshoppers and the wood flies want to destroy them. Those butterflies are harmless and not very intelligent if you ask me. I mean we seldom hear the princess speak and when she does, it’s not enough to be considered an important character in the story. When it comes to the villains, they are pretty cartoonish, especially Rosa and Heather who seem evil just for evil’s sake: they are vain, egoistic and manipulative. They hate everyone and feel they are persecuted because Heather attempted to drown Prince Orpheo, her secret crush and Thelma was apparently rude towards Heather, accusing her that she was bullying the butterflies. Ever since Rosa came to Bloom’s Valley, she had been questioning Thelma’s authority and dismissed the veridicality of the legend. On the other hand, Gaspar the grasshopper and his gang talk like old-fashioned gangsters, while Hugo the wood fly and his gang talk funny too but they are also pretty annoying. They seem like extremists or an anarchical group who love to fight no matter if they are right or wrong.

‘We mustn’t let the privileged walk over the ordinary. The spider needs to learn that the wood flies are as important as any of her creatures and we have a right to invade anywhere, if it means a better life for our people.” (Page 109)

But now, let’s return to the good guys. Though George talks a bit maturely for his age (yes, he lost his parents prematurely, but still), I like the fact that he easily befriends other inhabitants of Bloom Valley such as Bond the squirrel and head of the guards, Conti the tenor frog, Speedo the snail who loves entertaining and telling stories on the White Rock, Alphie a fellow crow, Thelma whom I’ve mentioned before, and also a character who doesn’t live in the valley, Plato the wise Owl. Though I felt sorry for George’s loss, I liked Plato a little more because he knows the entire history of the place, he has the role of a judge when an animal crosses the line and he has always something wise to say. Most of the other characters are developed and have a back-story of their own. The funniest characters are Conti and Speedo. Conti makes strange quacking sounds when he speaks, but he is one of George’s most loyal friends who would do anything for the crow; while Speedo is afraid of heights, but he is grateful for what George did to help him to fulfil his greatest wish.

Other positive aspects of this novel are the scenes from the first chapter which are filled with terror and grief and the way the animals see their fellow birds drop dead made me think of a shooting or a massacre seen from their perspective. The trial scene was very interesting with both female and male representatives of each family sitting in one of the three tiers and taking the role of the jury, while Plato the Owl was the judge. The writing was pretty good with visual and audible imagery added to the descriptions of all the places in the book. Also, the characters have great names such as Plato, Bond, Thelma, Conti, Speedo, Alphie, Orpheo, Swift, Gaspar, Willard, etc.

And now I’m going to reveal the main reasons for this low rating. After the consequences of the trial, the plot went in a very strange direction that didn’t make a lot of sense to me. It’s true that the plot was pretty disjointed from the first chapters, but I thought it would get better eventually. Yes, I liked how George took action in a few scenes and saved the lives of innocent animals, but from those scenes to wood flies invading Bloom’s Valley just because of a lie that got out of hand it’s a bit far-fetched  I know that this is a fictional story, but that invasion felt surreal and unbelievable. The second part of the book was very confusing because no one told us why those butterflies are so important and why everyone wants to kill them. I understood that they have royal blood, but, in most cases, the villains attempt to destroy them just to take revenge on Thelma. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy twists in any story, but I didn’t understand the necessity of that invasion. Was it added just to show how spiteful the wood flies are and how brave the inhabitants of Bloom Valley are? Maybe the author wanted to show how easily a misunderstanding can lead to conflict and the intention might have been good, but the conflict ended abruptly and anti-climactic.  Furthermore, I wonder, how many wood flies does it take to injure or fight against larger animals like birds, squirrels or spiders?

“Stop it! What are we fighting for? Our leaders lied to us. They have led us into death and destruction. I don’t want to die. No one wants to die.” (Page 113)

As for the legend of the lost kingdom, it is a strange mixture of fairy-tales, Greek Myths and witch stories that confuse the reader even more. “I am the High priestess of the Council of Tartarus. At long last, we now have your land and shall reign over it for many years to come.” The High Priestess, circled the valley on her broomstick examining the surroundings. Then she raised her wand and cast her spell. (Page 128)

Unfortunately, this is not the only identity crisis this novel has. Besides the confusing legend, the book wants to be a fable comprising of themes such as grief, environmental issues, friendship, animal rights, gender equality, the problem of refugees and conflict. I would be all for those themes if they were woven well into the story, not forcefully stuffed into the plot confusing the reader. Because this book is targeted towards younger readers, it’s a no-brainer that morals play an important part in the story. However, I felt that the book was a bit too preachy at times and I’m not sure how kids would react to that. Also, even though I liked a few characters, the story was pretty hard to get into, not only because of the plot but also because of the dialogues that didn’t sound natural. Kids have shorter attention spans than adults; therefore if the story doesn’t keep them engaged, they abandon it and read something else.

“It’s all the humans’ fault”, an old crow said. ‘Mindless young folk throwing live cigarettes on the forest floor. No respect for nature, no regret for lost life. Don’t they listen to their parents and school teachers who tell them that without nature there won’t be life? Look at what they’ve done to us, the misery they’ve caused.” (Page 33)

In the end, I will let you decide if you want to pick up this book or not. Personally, I felt very confused and disappointed after finishing it.

Review: Social Anxiety by Grant Anderson

 Stories of Those With Social Anxiety And How They Overcame Shyness

 

Title: Social Anxiety

Subtitle: Stories of Those With Social Anxiety And How They Overcame Shyness

Author: Grant Anderson

Genre: Non-Fiction, Psychology, Self-Help

Year of Publication: 2015

Rating: 5/5 stars

In a world where social interactions are crucial, whether you are involved in your school or college projects, at work with your colleagues or practically anywhere else, you need to have social skills if you want to be noticed. But what happens with those people who don’t feel comfortable around new people or in social situations that seem normal for most of us? Things, like speaking in public or eating with your boss and colleagues, are very challenging and stressful for those suffering from social anxiety disorder, those who feel more comfortable avoiding certain situations than confronting them.

As a shy and socially anxious person myself, I picked up Grant Anderson‘s book Social Anxiety: Stories of Those With Social Anxiety And How They Overcame Shyness hoping that I will learn how to be more confident and, if possible, not make a fool of myself that often when I’m speaking in front of a group of people, as it usually happens. However, the best part about reading this book is that the author himself suffered from social anxiety, but he worked very hard to overcome his biggest fears. So come with me on a journey where you will learn more about this life-threatening disorder because it can easily ruin your social life and I guess that nobody wants that.

Mr Anderson’s book comprises of an introduction, four chapters with several subchapters, a conclusion and two bonuses. Because this is a nonfiction book, I’m going to briefly present the chapters and the sub-chapters in order to let you decide if this book is for you or not. In the Introduction we learn that millions of people suffer from social anxiety, being unable to control their fear regarding social situations and to live a normal life. As I mentioned before, the author himself suffered from this disorder, but he sought professional help, tried many methods of treatment and reduced his anxiety. Now he is a psychologist who supports people who are struggling with the same problem as he did. Anderson shares with the readers what he knows about social anxiety and how other people learnt to break free from it.

The first chapter is An Introduction to Social Anxiety, a mental disorder that usually occurs between adolescence and early adulthood and it seems to be a result of a combination of biological, psychological and environmental factors linked to the way a person’s brain is wired, emotional traumas or “being overprotected as a youth and not forming proper skills to deal with social situations” (Loc. 124). The psychologist also presents a few lists of the main triggers of social anxiety, emotional symptoms, physical symptoms and behavioural symptoms from which you can highlight the responses your mind and body gives you in certain stressful social situations you encounter. I have to say that it feels a little strange when you read about things you experienced several times in your life, but admitting that you have a problem is part of the process, as Mr Anderson wrote. He also advises us to seek professional help in order to understand how severe our disorder is and what type of treatment works for us.

In the second chapter, the author presents the methods of treatment and medication for social anxiety disorder. The methods of treatment the psychologist talks about are: Challenging Negative ThoughtsLearning to Control Your Breath, Facing Your FearsBuild Stronger RelationshipsChange Your Lifestyle and CBT – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. In the third chapter, you can read about Social Anxiety Setbacks and Maintaining Your Progress. Your problem will not go away in the first sessions of therapy or in a few days after you begin practising the techniques mentioned above. Though the skills you achieved through time can keep your anxiety under control – if the treatment is constant – the slips or setbacks will occur, but you can overcome them by analysing each thought rationally and seeing if it is worth worrying about your fear or dark scenario. Avoiding negativity in these situations is very important for your progress. The fourth chapter is about Social Anxiety Triggers And Stories on How People Were Able to Overcome Them and there is also a Conclusion and two bonuses at the end of the book, which I’ll let you discover on your own.

To wrap it up, this book was amazing and I’m glad that I read it at the perfect time in my life. Even though I knew a few techniques to control my anxiety, the down-to-earth language used by the author, the style and the examples he gives, they really make me feel better and makes me believe that my fear of public speaking can be defeated through perseverance and support.   

Review: Passion, Power & Sin by Mike Wells

 

Book 1 of Passion, Power & Sin

 

Note: Passion, Power & Sin is a freebie as well as all of Mike Wells’ first instalments in this series!

Title: Passion, Power & Sin

Subtitle: The Victim of a Global Internet Scam Plots Her Revenge

Author: Mike Wells

Genre: Financial Thriller

Year of Publication: 2014

Self-Published

Series: Passion, Power & Sin

Rating: 3.5/5

Have you ever wondered what would you do if you fell behind on your mortgage and you were to lose the house of your parents? This is the situation Heather Bancroft from Passion, Power & Sin has to face. Because she is in desperate need of money to save her North-Carolina house, the twenty-four-year-old woman moves to New York City hoping to get a good job fast, solve her financial issues and live a far better life than she did at home. Unfortunately, she ends up having a poorly paid job at a PR firm where her bosses belittle and treat her like their servant. Being stuck in a rut and with the approaching foreclosure procedure, Heather takes a leap of faith and enters into the world of illegal gambling with the help of an anonymous Friend in Need who sends her strange emails with obscure betting information and accurate predictions.

“If these predictions kept coming in as steadily as they had been, and she could keep betting on them, she might be able to save her mother’s house.” (Loc. 2613)

At first glance, Heather is clearly naïve and a dreamer, but she’d rather gamble and win a significant amount of money than asking her wealthy boyfriend David Windsor to help her, which is a sign of pride because she would feel humiliated and in more debt to do such a thing. However, even if Heather is an independent woman who wants to take matters into her own hands, she also makes mistakes, some of which are pretty stupid, but, I can’t blame her because she is in a desperate situation and she needs money fast regardless of her safety. For example, one of the emails she receives force her to go to a well-known metropolis, where she wants to bet on a sporting event, but she ends up tangled in the underbelly of that city. Though this part of the story was the most gripping and suspenseful, I think that your safety is more precious than anything else in the world and it’s not worth risking it. Though it’s pretty hard to root for Heather because she got involved in illegal betting, even if it was for a noble cause, I wanted to see her safe and I was curious to read about how much money she would win in order to save the house.

I love the way we enter into Heather’s mind and we observe how the psychology of addiction works. Though Heather does this questionable activity to save her family from debt, we cannot overlook the thrill she gets and the addictive effect of gambling just like in the case of narcotics or alcohol.  Similarly to a drug addict, Heather hides her shady activities from everyone else, including her roommate Percy or her boyfriend David. This book outlines scary yet fascinating aspects of the human mind; motivation and what despair can do to you. I also think that this story is pretty realistic because any naive or desperate person under financial pressure can fall victim to an Internet scam which may seem benign at first, but very nasty later.

I enjoyed the pacing of this novel, the suspenseful moments that drove me crazy with anticipation, the characters are morally grey and pretty realistic, the simple writing that makes the book easy to read and vivid descriptions of New York City and of another famous metropolis whose culture is very different from the one Heather grew up in. As for what I didn’t like about this book, I anticipated a twist by the end of the novel to turn everything upside down and to prepare the reader for the sequel. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any resolution for the first instalment and I was a bit disappointed. Also, I couldn’t find a section of the blurb in this book. Therefore, without a clear-cut resolution, the story was left hanging in mid-air as well as my expectations. However, I’m still interested in picking up the second book just to see what happens next to Heather.

Did any of you read this book? What do you think about it?

Review: Four Plays of Aeschylus by Aeschylus and E. D. A. Morshead

Title: Four Plays of Aeschylus

Author: Aeschylus

Translator: E. D. A. Morshead

Genre: Tragedy

Year of Publication of this Edition: 2012

Public Domain Books

Rating: 3/5 stars

Though I’ve already written a review in Romanian for Prometheus Bound, it would have been strange if I didn’t write something about the entire volume that includes four of Aeschylus’ tragedies: The Suppliant Maidens, The Persians, The Seven Against Thebes and Prometheus Bound.

What you need to know about Aeschylus is that he is one of the three emblematic figures of Greek tragedy along with Sophocles and Euripides. It is said that Aeschylus wrote around one hundred plays during his lifetime, but only seven survived the test of time, four of which I’ve mentioned above, while the other three form the Oresteia Trilogy. Aeschylus is also known for introducing the second actor on the stage. He gradually diminished the role of the chorus and he shifted the focus from the lyricism of the composition to the dialogue – an important change that gives the tragedy its dramatic characteristics we all recognize even today. For his artistic achievements, Aeschylus is also called the Father of Tragedy and he is praised by the Greek philosopher Aristotle in his famous work, Poetics.

The Suppliant Maidens (Ἱκέτιδες) is the earliest play of Aeschylus’ that survived to the present day, but it is less known in contrast with his other works. I actually read this one last because the subject didn’t appeal to me that much and I found the play pretty mediocre in theme and ‘action’. The subject has its roots in Greek mythology and it is the story of Danaus’ daughters who flee from Egypt to Argos, in order to avoid their incestuous marriages to the sons of Aegyptus, who were their cousins. The maidens (escorted by their father) find shelter in Argos hoping not to be captured by their suitors. In order to help the newcomers, Pelasgus (the King of Argos) asks his people to vote and their decision is crucial for the maidens’ destinies. Though the other two parts of the trilogy are lost, there are some scarce references to what happens to the maidens in Prometheus Bound and in one of Horace’s Odes.

E. D. A. Moreshead wrote about The Persians (Πέρσαι) that it “was brought out in 472 B.C., eight years after the sea-fight of Salamis which it commemorates” (p. 5), a play that had a great significance for those who fought against the Persian Empire in the Battles of Termopilæ, Marathon, Salamis and Plataea. The Persians might be the second play of a trilogy “standing between the Phineus and the Glaucus” (Idem.), Phineus being a prophet like Tiresias, who foreshadowed the conflict that is depicted in The Persians. I won’t spoil your read, but I will only add that, through this play, Aeschylus sends a patriotic message to his fellow Athenians and he revives their past victories against the Persians or the triumph of civilisation against barbarism, as Ovidiu Drîmba writes in his study of the history of theatre.

The Seven Against Thebes (Ἑπτὰ ἐπὶ Θήβας) depicts the siege of Thebes along with the cruel fate of the two brothers, Eteocles and Polynices, who were cursed by their father, the late King Oedipus, for not taking care of their blind parent and for their selfishness and thirst for power. From my point of view, the most lyrical and heartbreaking parts of the play are those recited by the Chorus of Maidens, who depict the terrific battle scenes and address helpless and desperate prayers to the gods to protect the city and not let it fall into the hands of their enemy. The irony is that the name Thebes doesn’t appear anywhere in the text, but Cadmea or Cadmus. The one that gave the play the name we all know was actually Aristophanes, who referred to it in his comedy Frogs as “the Seven against Thebes, a drama instinct with War, which anyone who beheld must have yearned to be a warrior” (p. 6).

In Prometheus Bound (Προμηθεὺς Δεσμώτης), Titan Prometheus is punished by Zeus for creating the first humans, for stealing the Sacred Fire from Mt. Olympus and for giving it to the earthlings to start the process of civilisation. Though Prometheus is bound to a rock on Mt. Elbrus and Zeus uses various types of torture to make the titan repent, Prometheus stands tall and doesn’t have any reason to be ashamed or to apologize for what he has done. He has the power to predict the future and that future will not be a bright one for Mighty Zeus. Prometheus is not afraid of Zeus because he is immortal; therefore, all he has to do is to endure all the torture until his saviour will fulfil the prophecy. Unfortunately for us, the second and third plays of the Promethean trilogy are lost, but we can find out who the saviour is by reading the Greek myths.

Overall, the plays were very interesting, due to their unique structure and well-known characters from history and myths, but the language was pretty old and sometimes difficult to understand – a factor that made the reading too slow for my liking. I’m sure that I would have enjoyed this volume a little more if the writing had been a bit more modern, but this is a matter of taste.