Asterix and the Cauldron (Asterix #13) ★★★☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Asterix and the Cauldron
Series: Asterix #13
Authors: Goscinny & Uderzo
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Comics
Pages: 53
Words: 3K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

The story introduces Chief Whosemoralsarelastix, the chief of a neighboring Gaulish village: a miser who often does business with the Romans. When the Romans levy new taxes, Whosemoralsarelastix asks the people of Asterix’s village to guard a cauldron full of sestertii, ostensibly to keep the money away from the imminent visit of the Roman tax collectors. Despite Asterix keeping watch, the cauldron is stolen during the night, whereupon the strict laws of the Gauls demand that Asterix be banished until he has atoned for his negligence. Obelix immediately “banishes” himself to accompany Asterix, until they find money to refill the cauldron and repay Whosemoralsarelastix.

Asterix and Obelix engage in many futile attempts to earn back the money: questioning the Romans at Compendium (only to start a riot when the Romans know nothing about the theft), attacking the pirates in the belief that they stole the money (after the pirates have converted their ship into a restaurant), selling boars (at a ridiculously low price), prize fighting (only to win worthless statuettes), acting (foiled when Obelix insults the audience and ruins the company), gambling on a chariot race (only to lose their money on false information), and even trying to rob a bank (which is empty of money after the recent tax increases). With little else to gain or lose, they take the cauldron back to Whosemoralsarelastix’s village, Asterix hoping to save the village’s honour by clarifying that he alone is responsible for the loss. En route they rob a Roman tax collector of sufficient money to fill the cauldron; and Asterix catches an onion-like scent on the coins, recalling that the cauldron had previously been used for cooking onion soup, and thus proving that these are the very coins seized from Asterix’s care.

At Whosemoralsarelastix’s village, on a high cliff at the coast, Asterix confronts Whosemoralsarelastix with the onion-smelling money, having correctly guessed that Whosemoralsarelastix stole back his own money in the hope that Asterix, to repay the supposed debt, would reimburse him. Here, Asterix and Whosemoralsarelastix duel with their swords (Asterix having exhausted the magic potion granting him superior strength), while Obelix repels Whosemoralsarelastix’s followers. When Whosemoralsarelastix wins the duel and prepares to kill Asterix, a section of the cliff beneath his feet suddenly gives way, and the cauldron falls toward the ocean while Whosemoralsarelastix hangs above. Asterix then rescues Whosemoralsarelastix and re-unites with Obelix, with whom he returns home.

The money itself falls into the ship and possession of the pirates. At Asterix’s village, a celebration is held for the return of the two heroes and the recovery of their honour.

My Thoughts:

Yeah, as soon as the other chieftan walked into the village, it was obvious he was a schemer, scraper and general ne’erdowell. So of course he stole his own money and tricked Asterix into returning even more money to him. Losing it all at the end was about the worst punishment he could get.

And the pirates get a stroke of good luck for once! The first time in 13 stories 😀 They deserved it, hahahahaa.

Otherwise this was the funny adventures of Asterix and Obelix trying to earn money, or in one case steal it from a bank, and failing absolutely miserably. Their strengths and weaknesses are on full display and it’s pretty amusing.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Asterix at the Olympic Games (Asterix #12) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Asterix at the Olympic Games
Series: Asterix #12
Authors: Goscinny & Uderzo
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Comics
Pages: 53
Words: 3K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

At the Roman camp of Aquarium near the Gauls’ village, Gluteus Maximus, an athletic Roman legionary, is chosen as one of Rome’s representatives for the upcoming Olympic Games in Greece. Gaius Veriambitius, his centurion, hopes to share in the glory of Olympic victory. While training in the forest, Gluteus Maximus encounters Asterix and Obelix, who unintentionally outdo him at running, then javelin and boxing, thanks to the power of the magic potion. Demoralised, he consigns himself to sweeping the Roman camp instead of training. When Veriambitius asks Vitalstatistix that Gluteus Maximus be left alone, Vitalstatistix decides the Gauls should enter the Olympic Games as well. Veriambitius argues they cannot, as Romans are the only non-Greeks allowed, but Asterix rationalizes that as Gaul is part of the Roman Empire, they are technically Romans (despite their resistance to Roman rule), making them a Gallo-Roman team, demoralising the centurion and his legionary further. The Gauls hold trials that prove inconclusive as everyone is dosed with the magic potion and thus do everything at the same top speed and strength. Eventually, they decide to register only Asterix and Obelix as competitors.

The entire (male) population of the village travels to Olympia (aboard a galley where they have to do the rowing), where Asterix and Obelix register as athletes (with Getafix as their coach) and the others all enjoy a holiday. When Gluteus Maximus and Veriambitius discover that the Gauls have come to compete, they are left in despair (Vitalstatistix telling them “We’re not stopping you entering, it’s just that we’re going to win”), and this despair spreads among all the Roman athletes. They give up training and spend all their time having elaborate parties, washing their uniforms and sweeping the whole area. The scent from their feasts eventually causes the Greek competitors to complain about their own healthy food. Alarmed, the Greeks send a judge to warn the Romans that even if they think drinking will somehow make them better athletes, it will be held against them as all artificial stimulants are forbidden, prompting Veriambitius to tell him about the Gauls’ magic potion. The Gauls are dejected by the news that victory is not as certain as they had expected, but Asterix decides to compete anyway. Obelix, being permanently affected by the potion, now cannot compete and anyway doesn’t quite understand what’s going on – he thinks he’s been dismissed just because he fell into a cauldron and wonders if telling the officials he fell into a regular pot or amphora will change anything.

At the games, Asterix and the Roman athletes are beaten at every turn by the Greeks, causing a dilemma to the Olympic officials. Although their victories prove what they’ve believed all along (that Romans are decadent barbarians and the Greeks are perfect beings), too much success will reflect badly on the country’s reputation, so they announce a special race for just Romans. After the announcement, Asterix and Getafix start talking, very loudly, about a cauldron of magic potion left in an unguarded shed. Eager to win, the other Roman athletes steal the potion that night.

The race begins, and the Roman athletes easily beat Asterix – they all overtake him and cross the finish line simultaneously. After the race, Getafix accuses them of having used magic potion and, when the Romans deny the accusation, Asterix sticks his tongue out at them. When the Romans return the gesture, it is revealed that Getafix had added an extra ingredient to this particular batch of potion and the Romans now have blue tongues from drinking it. They are disqualified, and Asterix is declared the winner.

The Gauls return home for their traditional banquet. Getafix notices Asterix hasn’t brought his Palm of Victory home. Asterix explains he gave it to someone who needed it more: Gluteus Maximus. Gluteus’ apparent victory is shown to have greatly pleased Julius Caesar, who promotes Maximus to centurion and Veriambitius to tribune.

My Thoughts:

Ok, so Goscinny and Uderzo get cute here and put the Gauls in a situation where they can’t use the potion but end up coming out on top anyway. And then to top things off Asterix gives the golden laurel to the romans anyway.

I am guessing this was written and published during some year the Olympics were going on, but I didn’t care enough to go look up any data. I’ve never cared for the Olympics and nothing over the last 20 years has changed my mind. So an Asterix story about them was amusing but nothing more.

In most of these stories there is at least one page that just cracks me up. This time it is Getafix the druid telling Obelix what a well balanced diet is. It really gave this story that half-star bump up:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Asterix & the Chieftain’s Shield (Asterix #11) ★★★☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Asterix & the Chieftain’s Shield
Series: Asterix #11
Authors: Goscinny & Uderzo
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Comics
Pages: 53
Words: 3K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

The book begins with Vercingetorix conceding defeat to Julius Caesar. His surrendered weapons remain at Caesar’s chair for several hours, until a Roman archer steals Vercingetorix’s famous shield, which he loses in a game of dice to another legionary, who then loses it to a drunken centurion, in return for the centurion not reporting him for a military offence. The centurion himself uses the shield to pay for a jar of wine at a nearby Gaulish inn; later, the shield is given by the innkeeper to a survivor of the Battle of Alesia.

Following this prologue, Chief Vitalstatistix is made helpless by a sore liver, a consequence of overeating and drinking at his last banquet. Having demonstrated this, and temporarily eased the chief’s pain, the druid Getafix sends Vitalstatistix to a hydrotherapeutic center in Arverne to be cured, with Asterix and Obelix (and Dogmatix) as his escort. On the way, they stop at various inns, where the heavy food revives the chief’s sickness. At Arverne, the Gauls initially remain together; but because Asterix, Obelix, and Dogmatix are in no need of special diets, they feast on wild boar and beer while everyone else eats “boiled vegetables”. When other patients complain, Vitalstatistix sends Asterix, Obelix, and Dogmatix to Gergovia.

Along the way, the Gauls are offended by Roman envoy Noxius Vapus, and vanquish his guards. In the aftermath, Asterix, Obelix, and Dogmatix befriend the local tavern-keeper Winesanspirix, who retains them thereafter as guests. When Noxius Vapus makes his report to Caesar in Rome, Caesar plans a triumph on Vercingetorix’s shield to “show them who’s boss”, and orders Vapus to search Arverne for it. When the initial investigations fail, the Romans send a spy, Legionary Pusillanimus; but on drinking too much wine at Winesanspirix’s tavern, the latter discloses Caesar’s plan and reveals his own knowledge of the shield’s history, whereupon Asterix, Obelix, and Dogmatix set off in search of the shield themselves. To that end, they interrogate the archer, Lucius Circumbendibus, who now owns a wheel manufacturing business; the second legionary, Marcus Carniverus, who worked at a health resort before opening a restaurant; and the drunken Centurion Crapulus. Vapus and his men in turn search in vain for both the shield and Asterix and Obelix, as a running gag dirtying themselves with charcoal dust while searching the coal heaps belonging to Winesanspirix and their neighbors.

The search eventually leads the two Gauls back to Winesanspirix, to whom Crapulus had given the shield in the prologue. Upon the protagonists’ reunion with him, Winesanspirix confesses having given the shield to a dispirited Gaulish warrior, who is thereupon identified with the arrival of a newly cured and much slimmer Vitalstatistix. Vitalstatistix reveals he had the shield the whole time and it is the very one he is always carried upon. Upon Caesar’s arrival at Gergovia, Asterix and the locals organize a triumph in which Vitalstatistix is carried on Vercingetorix’s shield. Caesar then deports Vapus and his troops to Numidia, and Caesar promotes Centurion Crapulus to command of the garrison of Gergovia, and Legionary Pusillanimus to Centurion, on the grounds that they are the only “clean” legionaries present (despite both being visibly drunk). The Gauls return to their village (Vitalstatistix regaining his customary weight at the inns visited earlier in the story) to celebrate; but Vitalstatistix is forced into abstinence from the latter by his wife Impedimenta.

My Thoughts:

Hmm, this one was hard to get enthused about. The word plays seemed even worse than normal (or I just might be reaching the end of what I’ll accept anymore), the plot was utter nonsense (not bonkers funny, but just nonsense) and no pirates were sunk.

This felt very dated, ie going to a health farm to lose weight. This was originally done in ’68 and that kind of thing was way more prevalent then. It would have been like if Asterix and Obelix had made jokes about 8track tapes or something. It didn’t help that the Chief was pretty much forced to do this by his wife and that the Druid wouldn’t keep fixing him up. He was a middle aged man trying to still act like a 20 year old and it hit home, and not in a nice comfy way either!

With all of that complaining, this was still a good riotous story. Julius Caesaer wants a shield to hold a Triumph with and Asterix and Obelix have to find the shield first to prevent that from happening. So of course their Chief has the shield all along, sigh. While no pirates were sunk, plenty of romans were biffed and bammed and ol Julius Caesar himself shows up only to slink away when the boys parade their chief Vitalstatistix on the shield.

I was amused the whole time but just barely and if I feel this same way for the next book, I’m going to take it as a sign that I need to take a break. There can be too much of a good thing and my refined literary palate can only take so much cleansing after all.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Asterix the Legionary ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Asterix the Legionary
Series: Asterix #10
Authors: Goscinny & Uderzo
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Comics
Pages: 53
Words: 3K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

Asterix and Obelix are setting off for a wild boar hunt when they encounter Panacea, a former childhood resident of the village who has since moved to Condatum, and Obelix immediately falls in love with her. Some hours later, Panacea receives word that her fiancé Tragicomix has been conscripted into the Roman army and shipped to North Africa; and Obelix, although heartbroken, promises to bring him back.

Asterix and Obelix travel to Condatum, where they learn that Tragicomix has already left for Massilia, the Mediterranean port from which the soldiers depart, and themselves enlist in the army to follow him, alongside Hemispheric the Goth; Selectivemploymentax the Briton; Gastronomix the Belgian; Neveratalos the Greek; and Ptenisnet, an Egyptian tourist who spends the entire book believing himself to be in a holiday camp.

After completing basic training (and repeatedly and comically driving their instructors to the verge of tears), the newly formed unit sets off as reinforcements to Caesar against Scipio, Afranius, and King Juba I of Numidia. Asterix and Obelix soon find out that Tragicomix has gone missing in action after a skirmish, and raid Scipio’s camp to recover him. This results in the Battle of Thapsus, in which the confusion over the Gauls’ unorthodox assault and the similarity of both armies’ uniforms cause a default victory for Caesar after the frustrated Scipio sounds the retreat. The Gauls are cornered by Caesar after the battle is over; but released and sent home for their assistance in his victory. Asterix and Obelix thereafter celebrate at home, while Panacea and Tragicomix return to Condatum to marry

My Thoughts:

Questions that popped into my head when reading this story:

  1. Why aren’t Asterix and Obelix married men? They seem old enough.

Upon thinking for about 30seconds, the answer is obvious. The authors know that if Asterix and Obelix settle down, their adventuring days are over. Both would take their responsibilities as husbands seriously and their wives and eventual kids would take precedent in their minds.

  1. The Romans just can’t catch a break can they? They try to hide from Obelix and end up trampling on the flowers he wants for Panacea.

This is one of the repeated gags that never gets old for me. Seeing fully armed and armored soldiers getting the stuffing knocked out of them by a midget and a fatman always makes me laugh!

  1. Bureaucracy portrayed here, is it any different today? And if we could just biff and bam the parasites who give us the runaround now, would it change anything? Hint, yes!

Man, I had to cry. Bureaucrats are as unhelpful today as they obviously were when this was written. Something about a bureaucracy seems to attract a certain kind of person and personally, I think the world would be a much better place without those kinds of people. Give me a license to use a boxing glove on that jackass sitting behind the desk at the Department of Motor Vehicles, please!

  1. What did you think of Asterix’s insistence on going through the Legion training as quickly as possible?

I actually wondered why Asterix and Obelix went through all the trouble. Wandering around causing havoc and mayhem seems to be their trademark so it was almost out of character for them to “try” to abide by the rules. Of course, them selectively obeying the rules made for some really funny scenes.

  1. Is Tragicomix a pansy? Why didn’t he biff and bam his way out of the Legion like a good Gaul?

Tragicomix IS a pansy. Despite a chin that would make Bruce Campbell green with envy, Tragicomix doesn’t lift a finger at any time to help himself. In many ways he reminds me of spoiled young kids of today with Asterix and Obelix as helicopter parents taking care of every single thing. Being in the army would have made a man out of him. Well, as the Princess Bride always says, Twue Wuv….

  1. Julius Caesar is always doing favors for Asterix and Obelix. Should they get a loyalty rewards membership? Save Julius 3 times and get a free attack on a Roman Patrol kind of thing?

I realized after I wrote this question that the boys are already getting free attacks on Roman Patrols, so that idea was kind of pointless. However, a lifetime supply of free boar seems called for. Since Obelix seems to eat at least 3-9 boars a day, ol’ Julius is going to need a hog farm!

  1. Finally, just where DOES Tragicomic pin that clasp for his cape?

Dude doesn’t even have any hair on his chest, so just what is that clasp clasping onto? I would have said he’s pinned it into his own flesh, but since we’ve established he is a bona fida PANSY, that isn’t possible. I’m going to go with superglue. Probably a magic super glue that will last for a whole year. And without any chest hair he doesn’t even have to worry when he eventually pulls it off. Yeah, like I said, PANSY.

I did a buddy read with Alex, Fraggle and Sharon. Go check out their reviews and read what they have to say about this story 🙂

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Dead Souls ★★☆☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Dead Souls
Series: (The Russians)
Author: Nikolai Gogol
Translator: CJ Hogarth
Rating: 2 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 570
Words: 155K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Book One

The story follows the exploits of Chichikov, a middle-aged gentleman of middling social class and means. Chichikov arrives in a small town and turns on the charm to woo key local officials and landowners. He reveals little about his past, or his purpose, as he sets about carrying out his bizarre and mysterious plan to acquire “dead souls.”

The government would tax the landowners based on how many serfs (or “souls”) the landowner owned, determined by the census. Censuses in this period were infrequent, so landowners would often be paying taxes on serfs that were no longer living, thus the “dead souls.” It is these dead souls, existing on paper only, that Chichikov seeks to purchase from the landlords in the villages he visits; he merely tells the prospective sellers that he has a use for them, and that the sellers would be better off anyway, since selling them would relieve the present owners of a needless tax burden.

Although the townspeople Chichikov comes across are gross caricatures, they are not flat stereotypes by any means. Instead, each is neurotically individual, combining the official failings that Gogol typically satirizes (greed, corruption, paranoia) with a curious set of personal quirks.

Setting off for the surrounding estates, Chichikov at first assumes that the ignorant provincials will be more than eager to give their dead souls up in exchange for a token payment. The task of collecting the rights to dead people proves difficult, however, due to the persistent greed, suspicion, and general distrust of the landowners. He still manages to acquire some 400 souls, swears the sellers to secrecy, and returns to the town to have the transactions recorded legally.

Back in the town, Chichikov continues to be treated like a prince amongst the petty officials, and a celebration is thrown in honour of his purchases. Very suddenly, however, rumours flare up that the serfs he bought are all dead, and that he was planning to elope with the Governor’s daughter. In the confusion that ensues, the backwardness of the irrational, gossip-hungry townspeople is most delicately conveyed. Absurd suggestions come to light, such as the possibility that Chichikov is Napoleon in disguise or the notorious vigilante ‘Captain Kopeikin’. The now disgraced traveller is immediately ostracized from the company he had been enjoying and has no choice but to flee the town.

Chichikov is revealed by the author to be a former mid-level government official fired for corruption and narrowly avoiding jail. His macabre mission to acquire “dead souls” is actually just another one of his “get rich quick” schemes. Once he acquires enough dead souls, he will take out an enormous loan against them and pocket the money.

Book Two

In the novel’s second part, Chichikov flees to another part of Russia and attempts to continue his venture. He tries to help the idle landowner Tentetnikov gain favor with General Betrishchev so that Tentetnikov may marry the general’s daughter, Ulinka. To do this, Chichikov agrees to visit many of Betrishchev’s relatives, beginning with Colonel Koshkaryov. From there Chichikov begins again to go from estate to estate, encountering eccentric and absurd characters all along the way. Eventually he purchases an estate from the destitute Khlobuyev but is arrested when he attempts to forge the will of Khlobuyev’s rich aunt. He is pardoned thanks to the intervention of the kindly Mourazov but is forced to flee the village. The novel ends mid-sentence with the prince who arranged Chichikov’s arrest giving a grand speech that rails against corruption in the Russian government.

My Thoughts:

Book One was amusing and was almost a 4star read. Book Two wasn’t the complete text and from what I understand, was never fully finished. It was fragmented and disjointed and Gogol let his characters speechify for pages and pages.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Asterix and the Normans ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Asterix and the Normans
Series: Asterix #9
Authors: Goscinny & Uderzo
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Comics
Pages: 53
Words: 3K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

The story begins with Vitalstatistix receiving a missive from his brother Doublehelix in Lutetia (Paris), to ask for the education of Doublehelix’s teenage son, Justforkix. Justforkix then arrives in a sports car-like chariot. The village holds a dance in honour of his arrival; but he is unimpressed by the traditional way of dancing, snatches Cacofonix’s lyre, and sings and plays in the manner of Elvix Preslix (the Rolling Menhirs in the English version). Some of the younger villagers dance to this new form; but Cacofonix tries to show off his own skills, and is struck down by Fulliautomatix. Justforkix thereupon suggests that Cacofonix’s talents would be better appreciated in Lutetia.

Meanwhile, a Norman crew arrive in Gaul to discover “the meaning of fear”, on grounds that they are fearless to the point of not understanding the concept, but have heard of people “flying in fear”, and believe that being afraid will grant them the ability to fly. Most of the Gauls welcome the chance of a fight; but Justforkix is horrified and decides to return home. Viewing Justforkix as an expert in fear, the Normans kidnap him to teach them; but this fails, and he remains their prisoner until Asterix and Obelix come to the rescue. A small Roman patrol is also involved in the resulting fight. At length, Norman chief Timandahaf orders an end to the battle and explains his mission to the Gauls. To teach the Normans fear, Asterix sends Obelix to fetch Cacofonix, while himself remaining as a hostage. When Obelix reaches the village, he finds Cacofonix gone to perform in Lutetia, and pursues him through a series of tell-tale clues.

Meanwhile, Timandahaf becomes impatient and tries to force Justforkix to teach the secret of flight by tossing him off a cliff. Just before this can be carried out, Asterix challenges the Norman warriors; and seeing him surrounded, Justforkix gains the courage to fight as well — albeit to no visible effect. Obelix and Cacofonix stop the fight, and Cacofonix’s discordant songs are exhibited to the Normans, which provokes their first real fear, and an immediate retreat to their homeland. When Asterix questions the Normans’ interest in fear, Getafix replies that courage is achieved only by having first been afraid, and superseding the fear to the desired effect. Thereafter Justforkix is claimed to have gained courage himself, and the story ends with the customary banquet, but with Cacofonix as guest of honour and Fulliautomatix tied up, with his ears filled with parsley.

My Thoughts:

Goscinny and Uderzo use the “hip young kid who is pretty dumb” trope (I wanted to say “again”, but looking at my other Asterix reviews Justforkix hasn’t been in any of them) and they use it well. Justforkix is the absolute epitome of a 60’s teenager and to be honest, a teenager from almost any modern era. He’s brash, rude, thinks he knows everything and won’t listen to his elders.

The Normans were just as amusing as the Gauls. They were trying to find out what “fear” was and as such they were talking about it like it was an artifact. They thought it could make them fly, as they had heard the phrase “fear gives you wings”. It made for some very amusing back and forth conversations.

Sadly, there were several times where I could tell that the characters were making word play jokes but it completely passed over my head. I couldn’t tell if it was me being ignorant of a situation, the translators doing a bad job or if it was referencing something from the 1960’s that I had no knowledge of. Usually Hock&Bell have done a bang up job of translating the jokes into something a modern reader can understand. And I can’t believe I just wrote that. 1967 is not some ancient and hoary mystical time that we don’t know about. While I wasn’t to be born for another decade, it’s part of the modern age. And since this translation was done in 2005, that really negates the “1960’s is Ancient Mystical History” idea.

But the important thing is that Asterix and Obelix got to do a lot of biff’ing and bam’ing of somebody new (the poor Romans, they need a break from all that thumping after all) and roast boar was enjoyed. That’s pretty much all I really want from these books.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

A House of Gentlefolk ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: A House of Gentlefolk
Series: (The Russians)
Author: Ivan Turgenev
Translator: Constance Garnett
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 228
Words: 62K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The novel’s protagonist is Fyodor Ivanych Lavretsky, a nobleman who shares many traits with Turgenev. The child of a distant, Anglophile father and a serf mother who dies when he is very young, Lavretsky is brought up at his family’s country estate home by a severe maiden aunt, often thought to be based on Turgenev’s own mother, who was known for her cruelty.

Lavretsky pursues an education in Moscow, and while he is studying there, he spies a beautiful young woman at the opera. Her name is Varvara Pavlovna, and he falls in love with her and asks for her hand in marriage. Following their wedding, the two move to Paris, where Varvara Pavlovna becomes a very popular salon hostess and begins an affair with one of her frequent visitors. Lavretsky learns of the affair only when he discovers a note written to her by her lover. Shocked by her betrayal, he severs all contact with her and returns to his family estate.

Upon returning to Russia, Lavretsky visits his cousin, Marya Dmitrievna Kalitina, who lives with her two daughters, Liza and Lenochka. Lavretsky is immediately drawn to Liza, whose serious nature and religious devotion stand in contrast to the coquettish Varvara Pavlovna’s social consciousness. Lavretsky realizes that he is falling in love with Liza, and when he reads in a foreign journal that Varvara Pavlovna has died, he confesses his love to her and learns that she loves him in return.

After they confess their love to one another, Lavretsky returns home to find his supposedly dead wife waiting for him in his foyer. It turns out that the reports of her death were false, and that she has fallen out of favor with her friends and needs more money from Lavretsky.

Upon learning of Varvara Pavlovna’s sudden appearance, Liza decides to join a remote convent and lives out the rest of her days as a nun. Lavretsky visits her at the convent one time and catches a glimpse of her as she is walking from choir to choir. The novel ends with an epilogue which takes place eight years later, in which Lavretsky returns to Liza’s house and finds that, although many things have changed, there are elements such as the piano and the garden that are the same. Lavretsky finds comfort in his memories and is able to see the meaning and even the beauty in his personal pain.

My Thoughts:

The “official” title of this book is actually The Home of the Gentry. If you search for A House of Gentlefolk on wikipedia, you end up on the page for Home. Obviously Garnett did a bang up job of translating back in the late 1800’s. Which of course makes the rest of the book completely suspect and while it didn’t ruin my read, it did make me cranky and suspicious the whole time that what I was reading wasn’t actually what I was supposed to be reading. I feel like I got gypped out of 99 cents from buying this “Complete Collection” on amazon.

This was ALL THE DRAMA! If you’ve ever seen a spanish soap opera, add a mega-dose of melancholy and nothing working out and you’ll get this story. Lavretsky gets cuckolded, then used by his wife, abandons his daughter, falls in love with a woman only to have his wife return from the dead, and gets cuckolded again. And then the woman he loves becomes a nun and his wife lives her life out in society in Paris or something and the kid either dies or is so sickly that you know she is going to die. And the book ends with Lavretsky returning to his village and having memories. Ugh.

With all of that it would seem that this should have been a 2star book for me. And this is where the power of the russian writing shows its power over me. I enjoyed every second of this book.

In many ways this seemed the opposite of Turgenev’s Rudin. Rudin is brash, impulsive, self absorbed and willing to fight anyone on any point and as such he dies in France in one of their many “revolutions”. Lavretsky on the other hand doesn’t want conflict with anyone, ever, under any circumstances, to the point where he gives his wife a massive amount of money to go live her life and to leave him alone when she first cuckolds him. Lavretsky SHOULD have killed her lover in a duel and then given her the choice of honorably taking her own life or casting her out into the streets ignobly. Then when his wife returns, he has no fire to fight her on any point and just lets her slide back into his life. It was a complete contrast in people and I rather enjoyed that contrast, as a study.

One thing I have noticed is that the russian writers tend to have their women be the ones who are religious and try to convert the men they are interested in. In this book, Lisa is very God oriented and while Lavretsky isn’t, she’s convinced she can lead him to God after they are married. Once again, a lack of knowledge about what the Bible says on a subject seems to form the majority of the religious in these books. They, the characters have an idea that is kind of Biblical, but not actually based on it and then go with it however it seems to fit the circumstances instead of using the Bible as their yardstick and plumbline. I guess that’s what one would expect to see if Christianity was just a cultural thing instead of a personal thing. It is very disconcerting to me though and I suspect it will continue to be that way through all the russian books I read.

I think that’s enough for me. I’m right around the 600 word mark and that seems to be my happy place, at least according to the statistics that wordpress supplies me.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Asterix in Britain ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Asterix in Britain
Series: Asterix #8
Authors: Goscinny & Uderzo
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Comics
Pages: 53
Words: 3K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

Julius Caesar has invaded Britain and succeeded in his conquest; but a single Gaulish village in Kent remains independent. One member of the village, Anticlimax, is dispatched to Asterix’s village to enlist the help of Getafix the druid in providing magic potion for the British rebels. It is decided that Asterix (Anticlimax’s first cousin once removed) and Obelix should accompany him, to help transport a barrel of the potion; but while beating up a Roman galley in the English Channel, Obelix mentions the mission, which is reported to the Roman high command in Britain.

In Britain, the barrel containing the potion is confiscated from a pub cellar owned by Dipsomaniax, along with all the barreled “warm beer” (bitter) and wine in Londinium, by the Romans, who set about tasting the barrels to find the right one. Soon the whole unit assigned to the testing is hopelessly drunk; whereupon Asterix and Obelix steal all the barrels labelled with Dipsomaniax’s name, but Obelix is himself drunk and starts a fight with some passing Roman soldiers. During the commotion a thief steals the cart with the barrels. Anticlimax and Asterix leave Obelix at Dipsomaniax’s pub to sleep off his hangover; but while Anticlimax and Asterix go in search of the thief, the Romans capture the sleeping Obelix and Dipsomaniax, and raze the pub.

In the Tower of Londinium, Obelix wakes up and frees himself and Dipsomaniax out of the jail, and the three heroes, after a search, find the potion in use as a pick-me-up for a rugby team. After this team wins their game, the protagonists seize the potion and escape on the river Thames, where the Romans destroy the barrel and release the potion into the water. At the independent village, Asterix eases the Britons’ disappointment by feigning to remake the potion, with herbs Asterix got from Getafix (later revealed to be tea). With a psychological boost, the village prevails against the Romans, and Asterix and Obelix return home to celebrate.

My Thoughts:

This was a lot of fun. English, Irish and Scottish people are made fun of quite a bit and I laughed my head off. There is one scene where Asterix, Obelix and Asterix’s cousin order ONE cup of wine to see if it is wine or the missing magic potion. The innkeeper assumes they are Caledonians (scots) because they are so cheap. I roared with laughter. Since this was written well before the movie Braveheart was made, I knew there weren’t going to be any blue bottoms being flashed.

Then you have a scene where Obelix gets drunk testing out all the wine barrels and he turns into a sloppy, sentimental drunk who is afraid that Asterix won’t be his friend anymore. And then jumps a whole patrol of romans because he thinks they are gong to take Asterix away. Once again, I laughed out loud.

I don’t know if this book was actually funnier than previous ones or if the subject of making fun of the English just hit the right note, but my goodness, I was smiling through the whole story. And the whole “how the english became tea drinkers” was great!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Asterix and the Big Fight ★★★☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Asterix and the Big Fight
Series: Asterix #7
Authors: Goscinny & Uderzo
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Comics
Pages: 53
Words: 3K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

The Romans having been humiliated many times by the rebel Gauls, Felonius Caucus, advisor to Centurion Nebulus Nimbus, suggests a single combat between Vitalstatistix, chief of Asterix’s tribe, and the Gallo-Roman Chief, Cassius Ceramix of Linoleum. According to ancient Gaulish customs, the loser would forfeit his entire tribe to the winner. When Ceramix argues that Vitalstatistix would surely win with Getafix’s magic potion of invincibility, Caucus sends a patrol to capture Getafix before the challenge is confirmed. Whilst attempting to scatter the attackers, Obelix accidentally strikes Getafix with a menhir, the impact of which causes amnesia and insanity.

Following Cassius Ceramix’s challenge, Asterix and Vitalstatistix attempt to restore Getafix’s mind by experimenting in potions; but this produces only a whimsical sub-plot, in which the Roman soldier Infirmofpurpus, captured by Obelix as a test subject, is temporarily rendered weightless. Thereafter Asterix and Obelix consult Psychoanalytix (original French name is Amnesix), a druid who specializes in mental disorders; but when asked to demonstrate what caused the problem, Obelix crushes Psychoanalytix with a menhir, leaving him “in the same state as Getafix”. As the two crazed druids concoct a number of skin-coloring potions, Asterix tries to get Vitalstatistix into good physical shape for the fight, mainly by jogging. Meanwhile, the Romans plan to arrest Ceramix after the fight, lest he thereafter challenge their control of Gaul.

As the fight begins, Getafix accidentally makes a potion which restores his mind, and retains sanity despite being hit by another menhir (thrown by Obelix in an attempt to cure Getafix by repeating the cause of the original accident). Getafix quickly proceeds to brew a supply of magic potion. Meanwhile, the fight has turned into a bore: Vitalstatistix, exploiting his superior physical condition, is running circles around the ring while Ceramix tries in vain to catch him. After hearing of Getafix’s recovery, Vitalstatistix defeats his exhausted opponent with a single blow. The Romans do not accept this victory, but are crushed by the Gauls, who had drunk Getafix’s magic potion. When Ceramix is reduced to amnesia by a third menhir that was thrown by Obelix during the battle, Vitalstatistix declines his right to take over Ceramix’s tribe, and sends him home in honour. Psychoanalytix returns to business despite his amnesia, but remains professionally successful despite “side effects” of his medicines. Ceramix, now in the same mental state as Psychoanalytix, becomes “the most courteous chief in Gaul” and the probable originator of French courtesy. His tribe returns to Gaulish ways and the fight against Rome, while Vitalstatistix’s tribe celebrate their victories.

My Thoughts:

While the story itself was no worse than the previous one, I knocked off a star for all the horrible word plays that simply infested this volume. It felt like every other page was an over the top bad joke on purpose. Just read the middle where the soldiers are talking:

Once or twice in the book I can deal with. But almost every other page? Too much.

The story is pretty amusing though. Getafix the druid gets knocked on the head by one of Obelix’s menhirs and loses his memory. The romans decide to take advantage of the situation and shenanigans ensue. It was hilarious. Then Obelix has the bright idea of hitting Getafix with another menhir to fix what he originally broke. Of course, Getafix has just fixed himself with a potion by accident. So there he is, back to normal, when a menhir comes sailing out of nowhere and buries him in the ground. Again. I laughed my head off. Silly situations like that really do amuse me 😀

Mrs B was looking over my shoulder occasionally and pointed out that the good guys all had mustaches and you could always spot a bad guy because he didn’t. Now I’m going to be looking out for that in future volumes. Makes me wonder what Goscinny and Uderzo had against clean shaven’ness? I mention that because I had a mustache in highschool and have a picture of it. Mrs B says it is very “awkward” looking, which is very generous of her 😀

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Double ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Double
Series: (The Russians)
Author: Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Translator: Constance Garnett
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 215
Words: 62K





Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

In Saint Petersburg, Yakov Petrovich Golyadkin works as a titular councillor (rank 9 in the Table of Ranks established by Peter the Great.), a low-level bureaucrat struggling to succeed.

Golyadkin has a formative discussion with his Doctor Rutenspitz, who fears for his sanity and tells him that his behaviour is dangerously antisocial. He prescribes “cheerful company” as the remedy. Golyadkin resolves to try this, and leaves the office. He proceeds to a birthday party for Klara Olsufyevna, the daughter of his office manager. He was uninvited, and a series of faux pas lead to his expulsion from the party. On his way home through a snowstorm, he encounters a man who looks exactly like him, his double. The following two thirds of the novel then deals with their evolving relationship.

At first, Golyadkin and his double are friends, but Golyadkin Jr. proceeds to attempt to take over Sr.’s life, and they become bitter enemies. Because Golyadkin Jr. has all the charm, unctuousness and social skills that Golyadkin Sr. lacks, he is very well-liked among the office colleagues. At the story’s conclusion, Golyadkin Sr. begins to see many replicas of himself, has a psychotic break, and is dragged off to an asylum by Doctor Rutenspitz.

My Thoughts:

This was extremely confusing. I’m used to being confused by russian stories as the authors simply think differently than I do but this just felt even more so than usual.

I can chalk that up to 3 possibilities. First, this is a novel about a man going insane and as we’re in his head, the journey to madness makes no sense itself. The second is that this was Dostoyevsky’s second novel and so it was unpolished and not as well put together as his later works. The option is that the translator bunged things up, badly. I really can’t say which option is correct but if all 3 played a part it wouldn’t surprise me one bit.

Reading this so closely after finishing In the Court of the Yellow King was a mistake. That book was all about madness in phantasmagorical terms while this was “real” madness. It simply overloaded me in terms of what I could handle. Many of the situations were supposed to be humorous but they never struck me that way. It was simply sad seeing a man going insane and not knowing what was going on. It rang all too true to life too. I’ve dealt with a couple of people on meds and when they got off their meds they were just like Golyadkin. It was scary.

I am glad this was as short as it was. By the end when Golyadkin is committed to an insane asylum I was ready for this to be over, as I couldn’t handle it any more. Probably a good thing I’m not a therapist or something, hahahahaa 🙂 Despite my issues, I am glad I read this and it has in no way deterred me from continuing on with this Russian journey I have begun.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.